A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Watch the Girls by Jennifer Wolfe- Feature and Review


I've been watched all my life. I'm used to being stared at. Observed. Followed.

Fame and obsession collide in this darkly twisted novel from an incredible new voice in suspense.

Washed up teen star Liv Hendricks quit acting after her beloved younger sister inexplicably disappeared following a Hollywood party gone wrong. Liv barely escaped with her life, and her sister was never heard from again. But all this time, someone's been waiting patiently to finish what was started...

Now fifteen years later, broke and desperate, Liv is forced to return to the spotlight. She crowdfunds a webseries in which she'll pose as a real-life private detective--a nod to the show she starred on as a teen. When a mysterious donor challenges her to investigate a series of disappearances outside a town made famous by the horror movies filmed there, Liv has no choice but to accept.

Liv is given a cryptic first clue: Follow the white wolf. And now a darker game is about to begin. Through social media, someone is leaving breadcrumbs to follow. As Liv makes increasingly disturbing discoveries, her show explodes in popularity. A rapt internet audience is eager to watch it all--perhaps even at the cost of Liv's own life...

Filled with provocative twists and turns as the line between plot and reality blurs in this inventive tour-de-force from breakout writer Jennifer Wolfe.



Watch the GirlsWatch the Girls by Jennifer Wolfe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Watch the Girls by Jennifer Wolfe is a 2018 Grand Central Publication.

Lots of chills and thrills with a quasi-satirical spin on reality tv and horror films-

Liv Hendrick’s Hollywood career crashes and burns after her youngest sister goes missing. Now she stars in a reality tv show with a ‘Scooby Doo’ style format as a she and her team attempt to solve old mysteries.

Then Liv puts a nail in the coffin of her career by giving a drunken interview that goes viral. She’s let go from the show- but… she has an idea- a web-series where she challenges people to try her detecting skills.

When one potential sponsor dares her to try and solve a small town’s string of disappearances tied to a horror movie that was once filmed there, Liv is in no position to turn down that kind of cash.

Thus begins an intense, atmospheric investigation, that plays out in real time via the internet. The story unfolds almost like the plot of a horror movie, with some key revelations popping up along the way, and some very lurid scenes that made me want to keep my eyes covered.

The story paints a dark picture of social media engagement, the bullying, trolls, and the fickleness of fans and followers, as well as unhealthy celebrity obsessions.

This is a fantastic modern, sardonic horror story/ mystery with a conclusion that hammers home the various points the author has embedded within the story from the beginning. The execution is spectacular, even though I did have a few suspicions along the way- I was never able to fully figure out how it would all end.

Overall, this is a clever, twisty tale with layers of dark humor and irony, proving the main terror is embedded in society as we know it today.

*More than average, and quite explicit sexual content, with some intense graphic violence- ala- old school seventies horror films- so proceed with caution.



YA author Jennifer Wolfe (as Jennifer Bosworth) makes her adult debut with a devastating novel.

Jennifer Bosworth lives in Los Angeles, California. She is the author of the young adult novel Struck and is the writer half of a writer/director team with her husband, Ryan Bosworth.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

The Gentleman and the Thief - by Sarah Eden- Feature and Review


A gentleman scribes penny dreadful novels by night and falls in love with a woman who is a music teacher by day—and a thief at night.


From the moment Hollis Darby meets Ana Newport, he’s smitten. Even though he’s from a wealthy, established family and she isn’t, he wishes he could have a life with her by his side. But Hollis has a secret: the deep coffers that have kept his family afloat for generations are bare, so he supports himself by writing penny dreadfuls under a pseudonym. If not for the income from his novels, he would be broke.

Ana Newport also has a secret. Though she once had a place in society thanks to her father’s successful business, bankruptcy and scandal reduced his fortune to nothing more than a crumbling town house. So Ana teaches music during the day, and at night she assumes the identity of the “Phantom Fox.” She breaks into the homes of the wealthy to reclaim trinkets and treasures she feels were unjustly stolen from her family when they were struggling.

When Hollis’s brother needs to hire a music tutor for his daughter, Hollis recommends Ana, giving him a chance to spend time with her. Ana needs the income and is eager for the opportunity to get to know the enigmatic gentleman. What neither of them expects is how difficult it will be to keep their respective secrets from each other.

When a spree of robberies rocks the city, Ana and Hollis join forces to solve the crimes, discovering that working together deepens the affection between them. After all, who better to save the day than a gentleman and a thief?



The Gentleman and the Thief (The Dread Penny Society #2)The Gentleman and the Thief by Sarah M. Eden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Gentleman and the Thief by Sarah M. Eden is a 2020 Shadow Mountain publication.

A gentle, sweet story, full of wit and adventure!

Hollis Darby carries a torch for Ana Newport. The difference in their station in life doesn’t matter to him. He’s a gentleman born into wealth, but Ana has lost her place in society after her father lost his fortune. Little does she know that Hollis is no better off financially than she, earning his living by writing Penny Dreadfuls under a pseudonym.

As it turns out, Hollis is not the only one with a secret- What would he think if he discovered that Ana, the sweet music teacher, he is in love with, was in fact, the infamous thief- ‘The Phantom Fox’!!
This is the second book in the Dread Penny Society series.

I do love the premise of this series, and enjoy the light, clean, format. The pacing is brisk, and the dialogue is wonderfully smart and flirty. I enjoyed he chemistry between Hollis and Ana, both of whom were trying super hard to keep their secrets from one another.

Once again, the author gives us snippets of the Penny Dreadful stories, which were so easy to get into and is a nice, unique element, adding more adventure and intrigue to the novel.

The story has all the elements for a fun escape- mystery, adventure, and a sweet romance. While the plot features some heavy topics and crime elements, the tone, as with the first chapter in the series, is very light.

If you are looking for a story that is both heartwarming and entertaining- this one should fit the bill!



Sarah M. Eden is a USA Today bestselling author of multiple historical romances, including AML's "2013 Novel of the Year" and Foreword Review's 2013 "IndieFab Book of the Year" gold medal winner for Best Romance, Longing for Home, and the Whitney Award's "2014 Novel of the Year," Longing for Home: Hope Springs. Combining her obsession with history and affinity for tender love stories, Sarah loves crafting witty characters and heartfelt romances set against rich historical backdrops. She holds a Bachelor's degree in research and happily spends hours perusing the reference shelves of her local library. Sarah lives with her husband, kids, and mischievous dog in the shadow of a snow-capped mountain she has never attempted to ski.

Friday, June 25, 2021

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood- Feature and Review


In the vein of Fiona Barton's The Widow and Renée Knight's Disclaimer, a psychological thriller about a war reporter who returns to her childhood home after her mother's death but becomes convinced that all is not well in the house next door—but is what she’s seeing real or a symptom of the trauma she suffered in Syria?

The One Person You Should Trust Is Lying to YouKate has spent fifteen years bringing global injustice home: as a decorated war reporter, she’s always in a place of conflict, writing about ordinary people in unimaginable situations. When her mother dies, Kate returns home from Syria for the funeral. But an incident with a young Syrian boy haunts her dreams, and when Kate sees a boy in the garden of the house next door—a house inhabited by an Iraqi refugee who claims her husband is away and she has no children—Kate becomes convinced that something is very wrong.

As she struggles to separate her memories of Syria from the quiet town in which she grew up—and also to reconcile her memories of a traumatic childhood with her sister’s insistence that all was not as Kate remembers—she begins to wonder what is actually trueand what is just in her mind.

In this gripping, timely debut, Nuala Ellwood brings us an unforgettable damaged character, a haunting , humanizing look at the Syrian conflict, and a deeply harrowing psychological thriller that readers won’t be able to put down.



My Sister's BonesMy Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood is a 2017 William Morrow Paperbacks publication.

Bleak, atmospheric, somber-

Psychological thrillers are not all created equal. They can come in all shapes, sizes and forms and still solidly fall within the specifications applied to this genre, but with various degrees of success.

While this book adheres to the standard requirements, the author turns the genre on its ear by producing a multi-layered literary piece told from the first -person perspectives of two sisters, both of whom are dealing with immense loss, psychological demons, and emotional scars, but unable to find comfort in each other.

Kate is a journalist who has spent the past several years covering the atrocities in Syria. After her mother’s death, she returns home to put her affairs in order. It soon becomes obvious that being back in her childhood home is bringing back torturous memories, on top of being haunted by the images of war, topped off by her sister, Sally’s, alcoholism. The stress manifests itself with vivid nightmares and hallucinations.

Sally’s alcohol issues multiplied after her teenage daughter, Hannah disappears. Now, after the death of her mother, she crawled inside the bottle, not even bothering to hide it or fight it.

The only sane person in this shadowy land of illusion is Sally’s husband, Paul. He takes care of both sisters and they work their way through childhood abuses, PTSD, and their broken relationship with each other.

The imagery is Aleppo is haunting, reminding us that journalists are out there in the crossfire, and can suffer the same ill effects of war as soldiers, and even lose their lives on occasion. What happens to Kate in Syria easily explains her PTSD, and how she ends up in the shape she does.

The subject matter is heart wrenching, harsh, and cruel- so if you are sensitive to scenes of psychological and physical abuse, or the depictions of war - be aware of these possible triggers- most of which occur in the first half of the book.

Sally holds deep resentments toward Kate, who she believes was her mother’s favorite child, and while Kate wishes to help her, Sally resist to the point where Kate feels helpless and hopeless, especially under the circumstances.

While all this is very interesting and is an absorbing character study, there are some odd occurrences thrown in that makes us question our narrator. The author planted seeds of doubt, making me wonder just what is real and what is deceptive. I was very caught up in the story, but the deeper I tread, the more I began to wonder where on earth all this was leading. Wasn’t this supposed to be a thriller?

As a matter of fact, yes, it is, and I’m glad I was patient, because when the twist came, it hit me hard, right in the gut, and I could have kicked myself for not seeing it sooner.

Once the bottom drops out, it’s a harrowing, white knuckled fight that held me enthralled and made me a little jumpy, while totally screwing with my head.

At the end of the day, I was mentally exhausted and stunned emotionally by this moody, melancholy, but exceptional novel. I am impressed with the author’s style, the way she layered the events so I was kept off guard, using a powerful prose to slowly entice me into her web.

This is a novel with much more going for it than most standard thrillers. This book examines thorny issues, made me think, forced me to work at solving the puzzle, and packed an emotional wallop that left me shell shocked.

While the story is very dark, and rarely offers a moment of reprieve, the ending did show much improvement and even a ray oaf hope for those who live to tell the tale.

This is one of the very best psychological thrillers I’ve read this year. So, if you are a fan of this genre, I highly recommend it!!





Nuala Ellwood is the daughter of an award-winning journalist. She was inspired by his experiences and those of foreign correspondents such as Marie Colvin and Martha Gellhorn to secure Arts Council funding for her research into PTSD for her debut psychological thriller MY SISTER’S BONES.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The Girls at 17 Swann Street- by Yara Zgheib- Feature and Review


The chocolate went first, then the cheese, the fries, the ice cream. The bread was more difficult, but if she could just lose a little more weight, perhaps she would make the soloists’ list. Perhaps if she were lighter, danced better, tried harder, she would be good enough. Perhaps if she just ran for one more mile, lost just one more pound.

Anna Roux was a professional dancer who followed the man of her dreams from Paris to Missouri. There, alone with her biggest fears – imperfection, failure, loneliness – she spirals down anorexia and depression till she weighs a mere eighty-eight pounds. Forced to seek treatment, she is admitted as a patient at 17 Swann Street, a peach pink house where pale, fragile women with life-threatening eating disorders live. Women like Emm, the veteran; quiet Valerie; Julia, always hungry. Together, they must fight their diseases and face six meals a day.

Yara Zgheib's poetic and poignant debut novel is a haunting, intimate journey of a young woman's struggle to reclaim her life. Every bite causes anxiety. Every flavor induces guilt. And every step Anna takes toward recovery will require strength, endurance, and the support of the girls at 17 Swann Street.



The Girls at 17 Swann StreetThe Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib is a 2019 St. Martin’s Press publication.

An unflinching and realistic battle to overcome a life- threatening eating disorder.

Anna is twenty-six years old, originally from France, a former ballerina, now married to a Matthias, living in St. Louis. Matthias, after an eye-opening scene with Anna’s visiting family, heeds the wake-up call and admits Anna into a treatment facility at 17 Swann Street.

Anna relates her story, often in a detached, unemotional manner, but one that gets the message across, nonetheless. Anna is dying from anorexia- make no mistake about it and despite her best efforts, her decision to live, to fight her way out of treatment- for herself and for those who love her- is a long, long, harrowing journey.

The author uses a spare approach to the novel, which I felt was quite effective. It may feel sterile in a way, but I felt removing some of the emotional elements allowed me to focus on the reality of the situation, which was stark, harrowing, and brutal. While normally I prefer to make a closer connection to the characters, in this instance, I was grateful the author kept the reader at arm’s length just a little.

This book has been languishing on my TBR list for a long time. I think the subject matter kept me from starting it a few times, but I also seemed to recall some complaints about the quality of writing. I almost removed this title from the list- but then changed my mind and decided to check out the audio version- which worked out great for me. The narration matched to tone and seemed to fit Anna’s persona quite well. It may have even helped to bring in a stronger emotional element than one might experience otherwise.

Overall, this is a very powerful book, about a very important subject. It opens up an understanding about the disease, about treatment, the difficulty in overcoming such a disorder, and the gut-wrenching pain that loved ones endure, as well. It’s eye-opening in a way non-fictional books on the subject can’t quite capture, and will stick with me for a long time to come.



Yara is a reader, writer, traveler, lover of art and jazz. She was born in Beirut and has pieces of her heart in Paris, London, Boston, and one particularly beautiful Tuscan village.

She is the author of "The Girls at 17 Swann Street" and the forthcoming "No Land to Light On." Also, every Thursday, she posts an essay on "The non-Utilitarian:" thoughts on philosophy, art, poetry, science, literature, travel, and culture. On life in its beautiful ordinary. Her writings are neither practical nor useful. They are a way of being.

Her writing has also appeared in The Huffington Post, The Four Seasons Magazine, HOLIDAY, The European, WS Magazine, HOME Magazine, The Idea List, France Forward, Espresso Economics, A Woman's Paris, The Socio/Log, and elsewhere.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Fatal Fried Rice- by Vivien Chien- Feature and Review


 Lana Lee returns for another delectable cozy set in a Chinese restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio in Vivien Chien's Fatal Fried Rice...

Lana Lee runs her family's Chinese restaurant in Cleveland's Asia Village like nobody's business. When it comes to actual cooking, however, she's known to be about a step up from boiling rice. So Lana decides to go to culinary school on the sly--and prove that she has what it takes in the kitchen after all. But when course instructor Margo Chan turns up dead after class, Lana suddenly finds herself on the case, frying pan in hand.

Since she was the one who discovered the body, Lana must do double duty in finding the killer and clearing her name. Now, with or without the help of her boyfriend Detective Adam Trudeau, Lana launches her own investigation into Margo's life and mysterious death. Doing so leads her on a wild goose chase to and from the culinary school--and all the way back to the Ho-Lee noodle shop, where the guilty party may be closer than Lana thinks.



Fatal Fried Rice (A Noodle Shop Mystery, #7)Fatal Fried Rice by Vivien Chien
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fatal Fried Rice by Vivien Chien is a 2021 St. Martin’s Press publication.

Lana is great at managing her family’s restaurant, but embarrassingly, she does not know how to cook- a shortcoming her sister unfailingly teases her about. Lana is so self- conscious about it, she can’t bring herself to ask Peter to teach her, so she decides to secretly take a cooking class. Her plans go awry when she discovers her instructor dead…. And she becomes a person of interest….

This was another fun installment in the Noodle Shop series. I always love touching base with Lana, her family, and friends. This episode expanded Kimmy’s role a little, and she really brought some humor to the story. Things were a little more tense than usual because Lana is working from a defensive angle, not only trying to find the murderer, but to clear her own name, as well.

Overall, this installment was just the kind of entertaining, comfort read it is supposed to be and is why we all keep coming back for more! Unfortunately, I am now all caught up with the series and must wait until next year for the next installment. 😢



Vivien Chien first started writing simple stories about adventures with her classmates when she was in elementary school. As she grew up, her love of books and the written word increased, leading to the attempt of her first novel at age 16. After many struggled beginnings and several different genres, she found her passion in the mystery world.

When she's not writing, she can be found frolicking in the bookstore or searching for her next bowl of noodles. She has a soft spot for doughnuts, a healthy love for coffee, and an extreme need to participate in random acts of crafting.

She currently lives in Cleveland where she is hard at work on the third book in her Noodle Shop series and writes side-by-side with her toy fox terrier.

Visit her at www.vivienchien.com

Friday, June 18, 2021

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows By Balli Kaur Jaswal - Feature and Review



A lively, sexy, and thought-provoking East-meets-West story about community, friendship, and women’s lives at all ages—a spicy and alluring mix of Together Tea and Calendar Girls.

Every woman has a secret life . . .

Nikki lives in cosmopolitan West London, where she tends bar at the local pub. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she’s spent most of her twenty-odd years distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community of her childhood, preferring a more independent (that is, Western) life. When her father’s death leaves the family financially strapped, Nikki, a law school dropout, impulsively takes a job teaching a "creative writing" course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community.

Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind.

As more women are drawn to the class, Nikki warns her students to keep their work secret from the Brotherhood, a group of highly conservative young men who have appointed themselves the community’s "moral police." But when the widows’ gossip offers shocking insights into the death of a young wife—a modern woman like Nikki—and some of the class erotica is shared among friends, it sparks a scandal that threatens them all.



Erotic Stories for Punjabi WidowsErotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal is a 2017 William Morrow publication.

A bold, unforgettable story!

No, the title is not misleading. This book does contain erotic stories. But, trust me, this story has much more depth and importance than the title might suggest.

Nikki lives in London, is a modern girl, rebelling against her traditional Punjabi upbringing, which brings sorrow to her family who had such high hopes for her. However, until she finds her true calling, she is living above a pub and tending bar.

On the other hand, Nikki’s sister, Mindi, has decided to take a more traditional path, looking for a marriage arrangement instead of waiting to fall in love. Nikki vehemently dislikes her sister’s choice but agrees to pin Mindi’s profile up on the Temple’s board.

Here she notices a want ad searching for a writing teacher. Nikki applies and is hired to teach a creative writing course. However, she quickly discovers her class is full of widows who are mostly illiterate. Before they can write stories, they must learn to spell and write the alphabet, starting from scratch. Nikki is irritated because she felt misled. But, before she can make headway with her pupils, the widows take over the class by verbally telling erotic stories, as opposed to writing them.

However, the nature of the class must be kept a closely guarded secret. If Kulwinder Kaur, the dour community director, or worse, ‘The Brothers’, a group of bullies enforcing morality, finds out, they will all suffer dire consequences.

As time passes, and Nikki forges a warm bond with her students, she also begins dating someone. However, her new love interest seems to have a few conflicts of interest he isn’t keen on sharing with Nikki. Meanwhile, Nikki has discovered Kulwinder Kaur lost her daughter, Maya, piquing her curiosity. But, by dredging up the details of Maya’s death, Nikki could meet the same fate…

I loved this story!! It is mysterious, with a sinister undertone, but primarily it is charming, funny, and romantic, plus it blends cultures, diversity and generations with a nice feminist slant.

There is a large cast of characters, along with several threads to follow. However, on this one rare occasion, I had absolutely no problem keeping up with who was who. The threads are super easy to follow and so unique, there was no way to get them confused.

The story blazes through conventions with rousing and inspirational aplomb and had me standing at the finishing line cheering on all the characters as they crossed over into the land of happy endings.

I wish I had been able to fit this book into my reading schedule long before now.

It would be easy to presume this book would mostly appeal to the ladies, but I recommend this book to everyone - well, everyone over the age of eighteen, that is.






Balli Kaur Jaswal's latest novel is The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters (Harper Collins/William Morrow). Her previous novels include Inheritance, which won the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian Novelist Award, and Sugarbread, a finalist for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize and the Singapore Literature Prize. Her third novel Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows was translated into 15 languages and chosen by Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine book club.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

We Thought We Knew You- by M. William Phelps- Feature and Review


New York Times bestselling author, television personality, and host of the #1 podcast "Paper Ghosts," M. William Phelps is one of America's most celebrated true crime authorities. In WE THOUGHT WE KNEW YOU, he takes readers deep into the murder of Mary Yoder, a popular wife, mother, and healer in Upstate New York -- telling a gripping tale of a family drama, a determined investigation, and a killer with the face of an angel.

In July 2015, Mary Yoder returned home from the chiropractic center that she operated with her husband, Bill, complaining that she felt unwell. Mary, health-conscious and vibrant, was suddenly vomiting, sweating, and weak. Doctors in the ER and ICU were baffled as to the cause of her rapidly progressing illness. Her loved ones--including Bill and their children, Adam, Tamryn, and Liana--gathered in shock to say goodbye.

In the weeks that followed Mary's death, the grief-stricken family received startling news from the medical examiner: Mary had been deliberately poisoned. The lethal substance was colchicine, a chemical used to treat gout but extremely toxic if not taken as prescribed. Mary did not have gout. Another bombshell followed when the local sheriff's office received a claim that Adam Yoder had poisoned his mother. But Adam was not the only person of interest in the case.

Pretty and popular Kaitlyn Conley, Adam's ex-girlfriend, worked at the Yoders' clinic. She'd even been at Mary's bedside during those last terrible hours. Still, some spoke of her talent for manipulation and a history of bizarre, rage-fueled behavior against anyone who dared to reject her.

Had Kaitlyn and Adam conspired to kill Mary Yoder, or was the killer someone else entirely?

In another twist, accusations were hurled at Bill Yoder himself, ricocheting blame in still another direction...

Renowned investigative journalist M. William Phelps details this incredible story piece by piece, revealing a heartless plan of revenge--a scheme that would tear a family apart, divide a community, and result in two gripping, high-profile trials.



We Thought We Knew You: A Terrifying True Story of Secrets, Betrayal, Deception, and MurderWe Thought We Knew You: A Terrifying True Story of Secrets, Betrayal, Deception, and Murder by M. William Phelps
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We Thought We Knew you: A Terrifying True Story of Secrets, Betrayal, Deception, and Murder by M. William Phelps is a 2020 Kensington publication.

An unreal, twisty, very sad, true crime saga...

This book is about the murder of Mary Yoder, a vibrant, active person, who, along with her husband, Bill, ran a chiropractor clinic.

The couple had hired their son Adam's girlfriend, Kaitlyn Conley, to work in the office, and never allowed the couple's on/off turbulence to affect the work relationship they had with Kaitlyn. In fact, it seemed Mary and Kaitlyn got on quite well... Until one day...

Mary came home from work presenting with symptoms of a violent gastrointestinal illness. The initial consensus was that she had a bug, just as Adam had endured a short time ago, but it soon became clear that Mary needed medical attention.

Once admitted into the hospital, the staff also felt her illness was due to what was most likely a short- lived stomach bug. But, Mary's condition quickly deteriorated, taking a serious turn for the worse. She coded, then rallied several times before finally succumbing to death.

Because it did seem very unusual that a woman in perfect health had died so suddenly, an autopsy was performed, where it was eventually discovered that Mary had been poisoned with colchicine, a substance normally used to treat gout- a condition she did not have.

The investigators, as is usually the case, zeroed in on Bill, but an anonymous letter pointing the finger at Adam changed their focus, leading them to conclude that Adam might be the victim of a frame-up.

Who wrote that letter? Who stood the most to gain from Mary’s death? Did Adam kill his mother… or was there a more sinister plot afoot?

Well, this was one strange story. By all accounts, Mary was a wonderful, beautiful, spirited woman. Why on earth were there SO MANY suspects???

My goodness- Mary’s husband, her son, her friend and employee, Kaitlyn-

They were All primary suspects. Mary’s daughters, and law enforcement say all the evidence points to Kaitlyn, but three of Mary’s sisters think it was Bill, while Adam also faced damning evidence and accusations against him, as well.

What did the jury say? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out the shocking way this case came to a close!

I have my own opinion, and because of remarks made by the author about the Dateline coverage of the case, I looked it up online. Mary’s daughters had interview time, as did Mary’s sisters. I didn’t really pick up on a strong slant. Still, I was disappointed to learn those involved in the Dateline production, seemed to have favored one side over the other. No matter, though, because I’m still with the author on this one.

This is just a horribly sad case. Mary seemed to live life with gusto, with so much more to give, it's just tragic that her life was cut short in such a cold, ruthless way, and that her death has torn her family apart.

As for the organization and presentation of the facts, the author uses multiple timelines, outlining Adam and Kaitlin’s relationship, Bill and Mary’s history, the gathering of evidence and the trial.

For the most part, this approach works well, and prevents the book from becoming too dry, the way a more traditional, chronological approach might have. The downside to this method is that it led to some repetitiveness.

One should also be aware that this book is focused Kaitlyn, who was the person arrested, and who was placed on trial for Mary's murder.

The book, I think, sets out to remove all doubt about who killed Mary Yoder. From that standpoint, it might seem one sided- but in my personal opinion, the evidence bears the burden and law enforcement got this one right.

Overall, true crime fans will find a great deal to puzzle over with this case. The courtroom drama was unbelievable, and the author lays out his case admirably and convincingly. I hope the Yoder family finds some comfort and peace moving forward.



Phelps grew up in East Hartford, CT, moved to Vernon, CT, at age 12, where he lived for 25 years. He now lives in a reclusive Connecticut farming community north of Hartford.

Beyond crime, Phelps has also written several history books, including the acclaimed, New York Times bestselling NATHAN HALE: The Life and Death of America’s First Spy, THE DEVIL’S ROOMING HOUSE, THE DEVIL’S RIGHT HAND, MURDER, NEW ENGLAND, and more.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth - Feature and Review


From the outside, everyone might think Fern and Rose are as close as twin sisters can be: Rose is the responsible one and Fern is the quirky one. But the sisters are devoted to one another and Rose has always been Fern's protector from the time they were small.

Fern needed protecting because their mother was a true sociopath who hid her true nature from the world, and only Rose could see it. Fern always saw the good in everyone. Years ago, Fern did something very, very bad. And Rose has never told a soul. When Fern decides to help her sister achieve her heart's desire of having a baby, Rose realizes with growing horror that Fern might make choices that can only have a terrible outcome. What Rose doesn't realize is that Fern is growing more and more aware of the secrets Rose, herself, is keeping. And that their mother might have the last word after all.


The Good SisterThe Good Sister by Sally Hepworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth is a 2021 St. Martin’s Press publication.

Fern and Rose are fraternal twins. Yet, Rose is stable and mature, while Fern is on the autism spectrum. After a tumultuous childhood, Rose looks after her sister, who works at a library. Because Fern once did something really, really, bad, and because Rose’s marriage has hit a rough patch, Fern wants to make everyone happy again- and she knows just what she can do to make that happen.

While Rose is away, Fern sets her plan in motion…

What could possibly go wrong?

I breezed through this one in record time. For a little while I was not exactly sure where Hepworth was leading me and sat nervously on the edge of my seat waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Obviously, some terrible things have already transpired as we get a glimpse into the twins’ childhood. We also know that the girls were directly involved in a disquieting tragedy as children, and now it looks as if trouble may be brewing again. What is so alarming is that we don’t know WHO will strike, or when, or how…

The only downside to being a lifelong crime fiction loyalist, is that original plots are often far and few between. The good/bad sister trope is hardly original, having been done six ways from Sunday.

Once it became clear which direction the story was headed, the wind went out of my sails a little, but I was so concerned about the characters, I kept turning pages at warp speed. Turns out that although I knew- and I suspect, once most readers reach a certain point in the book, they will have caught on, as well- what the big plot twist was, there were a few stunning developments I did not see coming and the last chapter was truly psycho!!

Once I had a little time to think about the story, I realized that, in hindsight, it was much more cunning than I had originally given it credit. Still, the cleverness is in the well-drawn characterizations, without which, the doubts, concerns, and suspense, wouldn’t have been possible.

This is only the third book I have read by this author- but this one is a little different, having an edgier quality, utilizing another form of suspense from what I was expecting. Some of the emotional depth and relatability were lacking here, but overall, this was an absorbing, twisted little page turner!!



Sally Hepworth is the New York Times bestselling author of six novels, most recently The Good Sister, which was an instant bestseller.

Sally's books have been heralded “enchanting” by The Herald Sun, “smart and engaging” by Publisher’s Weekly, and New York Times bestselling authors Liane Moriarty and Emily Giffin have praised Sally’s novels as “women’s fiction at its finest” and “totally absorbing”.

Sally's novels are available worldwide in English and have been translated into 20 languages.

Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton- Feature and Review


After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity--and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution...

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba's high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country's growing political unrest--until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary...

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa's last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth. 

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba's tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she'll need the lessons of her grandmother's past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.



Next Year in HavanaNext Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton is a 2018 Penguin/Berkley publication.

Cuba- 1958

Elisa Perez, a sugar heiress, falls in love with a revolutionary. But, their lives are so far removed from one another the relationship is one that seems doomed from the start. Sure enough, she and Pablo are separated, and Elisa’s family fled to America, never to return to their beloved Cuba.

Fast forward to 2017-

“When I was younger, I begged my grandmother to tell me about Cuba. It was a mythical island, contained in my heart, entirely drawn from the version of Cuba she created in exile in Miami and the stories she shared with me. I was caught between two lands- two iterations of myself- the one I inhabited in my body and the one I lived in my dreams.”

Marisol’s grandmother dies and to honor her last wishes, Marisol smuggles her ashes into Cuba. But, arriving in Cuba is only the beginning of her adventure. She must pick the perfect spot to spread her grandmother’s ashes, so that end, she touches base with Elisa’s best friend, hoping to gain some insight. This is how she meets Luis, who escorts her around the city and helps her play amateur detective as she searches for Pablo, the love of Elisa’s life.

However, Luis’s job as a professor has him under scrutiny and Marisol has been watched since she first stepped foot in Cuba. They begin to fall in love, playing a very dangerous game with their futures and maybe even their lives. Eventually they will face a heartbreaking fork in the road where they will both have to make the most difficult choice of their lives.

This story was absolutely amazing!! It’s epic, grand, sweeping, emotional, and heart wrenching.

The family saga is told in bold, rich details, so vivid I felt like I was there taking in all the sights and sounds of Cuba. The atmosphere is heavy with foreboding and tension, danger always lurking in the shadows. Love, at times, chooses the most inopportune moments to invade one’s heart, but also has a knack for knowing just the right time and place, knowing somehow, someway that it’s now or never. Both scenarios come with hard choices and consequences.

The book is also very informative, giving readers an up close and personal look at what life is really like in Cuba. While I did find all of this very interesting, at times the ‘lectures’ or history lessons slowed the momentum of the story, but I still think readers need to absorb at least some of this information because this knowledge contributes to the high level of anguish and suspense that builds as the novel reaches its climax.

“The world as we know it has died, and I do not recognize the one that has taken its place”

This history also serves as a cautionary tale in many ways, but it is also very complicated, with people making choices they believed were the right ones to make at the time, while others clung to the way of life they had established, suddenly finding themselves in exile.

“You never know what’s to come. That’s the beauty of life. If everything happened the way we wished, the way we planned, we’d miss out on the best parts, the unexpected pleasure.”

Naturally, for me,  the love stories- plural- is what brought out the strongest emotions in me. Their stories parallel one another in many ways, with one being tragic and the other filled with danger- but also one filled with hope for a better outcome and maybe even a better way of life for those living in Cuba.




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Originally from Florida, Chanel Cleeton grew up on stories of her family's exodus from Cuba following the events of the Cuban Revolution. Her passion for politics and history continued during her years spent studying in England where she earned a bachelor's degree in International Relations from Richmond, The American International University in London and a master's degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics & Political Science. Chanel also received her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law. She loves to travel and has lived in the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.