A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Friday, March 30, 2018

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier- Feature and Review


Bored and restless in London's Restoration Court, Lady Dona escapes into the British countryside with her restlessness and thirst for adventure as her only guides.

Eventually Dona lands in remote Navron, looking for peace of mind in its solitary woods and hidden creeks. She finds the passion her spirit craves in the love of a daring French pirate who is being hunted by all of Cornwall.

Together, they embark upon a quest rife with danger and glory, one which bestows upon Dona the ultimate choice: sacrifice her lover to certain death or risk her own life to save him.



Frenchman's CreekFrenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier is a 2003 publication. (This novel was originally published in 1941)

Adventurous and unique side of Daphne du Maurier-

Bored in her marriage, Dona heads to her husband Harry’s estate in Cornwall for some time to herself. Right away, she becomes embroiled in the adventure of the pirate 'Jean-Benoit AubĂ©ry.' She dares to let her true nature emerge, wearing men’s clothes, and joining in the intrigue and a little romance.

However, her fun is often foiled by Rockingham- a friend of her husband, who is determined to capture the pirates, while harboring designs on Dona of his own.

Meanwhile, Harry arrives to help Rockingham, which inspired Dona to intervene on behalf of her pirate, but… it’s complicated.


This is yet another fantastic story by Daphne du Maurier. While the setting is in Cornwall, the oft chosen location for moody Gothic tales, this book has an entirely different tone.

At once an adventure, a romance, a literary endeavor, this book embodies a hint of styles and genres to come.

Dona has come to Cornwall for some serious soul searching, but she got the adventure of a lifetime for a woman of the aristocracy in the 18th century.

Although, she takes some enormous risks, throws caution to the wind, and finds just what she needs to quicken her monotonous life, she also must consider the cost.

It’s hard not to like Dona. She’s spirited, bold, and rebellious, thirsting for more from life, but trapped in a dull marriage, and bored with the aristocratic life she is bound to. Before all is said and done, she lives through some tense and suspenseful adventures, which on the surface is like reading a swashbuckling pirate tale, replete with romance and intrigue.

The pirate in question, is a bit of a romantic for a man of his occupation and is just the type of ‘bad boy’ Dona might go for considering her feelings for her husband.
In some ways, it sounds like this is a torrid historical romance, but I assure you this is more of a literary novel, written in a beautiful lush prose.

While the story is lightest du Maurier book I’ve read, and was actually a fun, sort of scandalous novel, there is a moral reckoning, if you will, and Dona’s character ends up going through some startling changes, coming out on the other side a very different person from the one we were first introduced to, and has its fair share of serious tones and profound insights, especially the allegorical messages, which speak to how women often feel confined by certain strictures, but who long to be as free as men, but who must often make the hard choices and sacrifices that rob them of that pleasure.
‘are you happy?"

"I am content."

"What is the difference?"

"Between happiness and contentment? Ah, there you have me. It is not easy to put into words. Contentment is a state of mind and body when the two work in harmony, and there is no friction. The mind is at peace, and the body also. The two are sufficient to themselves. Happiness is elusive--coming perhaps once in a life-time--and approaching ecstasy."

"Not a continuous thing, like contentment?"

"No, not a continuous thing. But there are, after all, degrees of happiness.”

The ending is a bittersweet surprise , but still very fitting.





If Daphne du Maurier had written only Rebecca, she would still be one of the great shapers of popular culture and the modern imagination. Few writers have created more magical and mysterious places than Jamaica Inn and Manderley, buildings invested with a rich character that gives them a memorable life of their own.

In many ways the life of Daphne du Maurier resembles a fairy tale. Born into a family with a rich artistic and historical background, the daughter of a famous actor-manager, she was indulged as a child and grew up enjoying enormous freedom from financial and parental restraint. She spent her youth sailing boats, travelling on the Continent with friends, and writing stories. A prestigious publishing house accepted her first novel when she was in her early twenties, and its publication brought her not only fame but the attentions of a handsome soldier, Major (later Lieutenant-General Sir) Frederick Browning, whom she married.

Her subsequent novels became bestsellers, earning her enormous wealth and fame. While Alfred Hitchcock's film based upon her novel proceeded to make her one of the best-known authors in the world, she enjoyed the life of a fairy princess in a mansion in Cornwall called Menabilly, which served as the model for Manderley in Rebecca.

Daphne du Maurier was obsessed with the past. She intensively researched the lives of Francis and Anthony Bacon, the history of Cornwall, the Regency period, and nineteenth-century France and England, Above all, however, she was obsessed with her own family history, which she chronicled in 'Gerald: a Portrait', a biography of her father; 'The du Mauriers', a study of her family which focused on her grandfather, George du Maurier, the novelist and illustrator for Punch; 'The Glassblowers', a novel based upon the lives of her du Maurier ancestors; and 'Growing Pains', an autobiography that ignores nearly 50 years of her life in favour of the joyful and more romantic period of her youth. Daphne du Maurier can best be understood in terms of her remarkable and paradoxical family, the ghosts which haunted her life and fiction.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara- Feature and Review


Introduction by Gillian Flynn
Afterword by Patton Oswalt

A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer—the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade—from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

"You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark."

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called "the Golden State Killer." Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

At the time of the crimes, the Golden State Killer was between the ages of eighteen and thirty, Caucasian, and athletic—capable of vaulting tall fences. He always wore a mask. After choosing a victim—he favored suburban couples—he often entered their home when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layout. He attacked while they slept, using a flashlight to awaken and blind them. Though they could not recognize him, his victims recalled his voice: a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic—and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.


      MY REVIEW:

 I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State KillerI'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara is a 2018 Harper publication.

No butler, no second maid, no blood upon the stair. No eccentric aunt, no gardener, no family friend smiling among the bric-a-brac-and murder. Only a suburban house with the front door open and a dog barking at a squirrel, and the cars passing. The corpse quite dead. The wife in Florida. Consider the clues: the potato masher in a vase, the torn photograph of a Wesleyan basketball team, scattered with the check stubs in the hall; the unsent fan letter to Shirley Temple, the Hoover button on the lapel of the deceased, the note: ‘To be killed this way is quite all right with me.” Small wonder the case remains unsolved, or that the sleuth. Le Roux is now incurably insane, and sits alone in a white room in a white gown, screaming that the world is mad, that clues lead nowhere, or to walls so high their tops cannot be seen; Screaming all day of war, screaming that nothing can be solved- Weldon Kees, “Crime Club”

What a fitting epigraph!

This book sincerely scared the crap out of me. I grew up in the seventies, one of the creepiest decades, filled with terrifying serial killers and rapists, but I was not familiar with this case. This book reminded me of how taut the atmosphere was in those days, as the author details her hunt for a prolific serial rapist, which eventually escalated to murder, who went on a virtually unchecked rape and murder spree in California in the seventies.

The author dubbed the killer ‘The Golden State Killer’, as she slowly pieced together the evidence and the many victims, working tirelessly to put a face and a name to the moniker she’d give him. Michelle was a true crime journalist, who started the website, ‘TrueCrimeDiary.com, as this case became an obsession with her.

The crime wave and the horrifying details sent chills down my spine and made the hair stand up on the back of my neck on more than one occasion. The rapist was smart, and planned his attack down to the smallest detail, having stalked the unsuspecting victims for a good while, knowing them intimately before making his move.

Eventually, the crimes ceased, but no one knows exactly why. The author has her theories, and I would have to agree with her assessment.

The disheartening thing here is the feeling that McNamara was closing in, making progress, despite the roadblocks, setbacks, and dead ends that comes with this type of investigation. As everyone knows, Michelle died before this book was completed, which adds yet another haunting layer to this book.

Her passion seeps through the pages, along with her single- minded determination, that did border on obsession. I can see how that could happen, as this case was never solved and there is a sense of urgency about the book. The clock is ticking, and the feeling is one of being ‘so close, yet so far’, with time is running out for justice.

Michelle's private life musings, added a more personal touch, something that might not always come off so well in the true crime arena, but I think the author was attempting to share with readers how her obsession and desire to see the case solved influenced and bled over into her personal life, taking up her every waking thought. It lends a poignancy, and occasionally a little humor, to the book that does offset the gruesome revelations unearthed about the crimes and the victims.

One quick note about how the book was written, since it was published posthumously, and Michelle had not completed the book before her death. It is my understanding that her lead researchers pieced the book together using what Michelle had already written, along with her extensive notes. Unfortunately, the organization, and presentation, is not great. In true crime, disorganization is a huge pet peeve of mine and I would, under ordinary circumstances, have been more than a little exasperated and disappointed. In this case, I was a lot more forgiving, but I still think someone should have polished it up a little better. I would not let that deter you from reading this book, however, as, despite the bumpy ride, it is still quite an effective read.

Unless you have nerves of steel, I don’t recommend reading this book alone at night, because it will certainly give you the heebie jeebies. But, I do hope the book generates enough attention that someone might come forward with new information or will pick up the torch and continue the search for the elusive ‘Golden State Killer’.





Michelle McNamara was a screenwriter, journalist and true crime writer. She was the founder of the website True Crime Diary. The site covers lesser-known crimes and cold cases. In 2005, she married comedian Patton Oswalt. They had one daughter together, born in 2009.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Darkling Bride by Laura Andersen- Feature and Review


Three generations of Irish nobles face their family secrets in this spellbinding novel from the award-winning author of the Boleyn King trilogy.

The Gallagher family has called Deeprath Castle home for seven hundred years. Nestled in the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland, the estate is now slated to become a public trust, and book lover and scholar Carragh Ryan is hired to take inventory of its historic library. But after meeting Aidan, the current Viscount Gallagher, and his enigmatic family, Carragh knows that her task will be more challenging than she’d thought.

Two decades before, Aidan’s parents died violently at Deeprath. The case, which was never closed, has recently been taken up by a new detective determined to find the truth. The couple’s unusual deaths harken back a century, when twenty-three-year-old Lady Jenny Gallagher also died at Deeprath under mysterious circumstances, leaving behind an infant son and her husband, a renowned writer who never published again. These incidents only fueled fantastical theories about the Darkling Bride, a local legend of a sultry and dangerous woman from long ago whose wrath continues to haunt the castle.

The past catches up to the present, and odd clues in the house soon have Carragh wondering if there are unseen forces stalking the Gallagher family. As secrets emerge from the shadows and Carragh gets closer to answers—and to Aidan—could she be the Darkling Bride’s next victim?



The Darkling BrideThe Darkling Bride by Laura Andersen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Darkling Bride by Laura Andersen is 2018 Ballantine publication.

I had a feeling I’d would like this one!

A seven- hundred- year old Irish castle, multiple family tragedies, mysteries, unsolved crimes, a legendary author, an unpublished manuscript, a dash of romance, and a library to die for- Be still my heart!

This story is, in many ways, an ode to Gothic mystery and romances, especially those written back in the sixties and seventies by such acclaimed writers as Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt.

The story has three separate timelines, but while that does sound daunting, it is very easy to follow and not at all confusing. The Darkling Bride, a dangerous woman, said to haunt Deeprath Castle, is an old Irish legend. Some believe she was behind the sad and mysterious death of Jenny Gallagher back in 1880. After her death, Jenny’s husband, famed author, Evan Chase, left his young son in the care of his wife’s family, then left Ireland a bereft and broken man. Evan never published another book.

In 1992, yet another tragedy occurred in the form of a murder/suicide, leaving young Aidan Gallagher and his sister to be raised by their staid great aunt. The circumstance surrounding the deaths was extremely murky, at best, and the case was never closed.

Fast forward to 2015 where Aidan has decided to put the old castle in a public trust and in the process discovers his parent’s case is still open and has been assigned to an eager cold case detective, who has requested an interview with him and the other members of his family.

Not only that, his aunt has hired Carragh Ryan to inventory the library, where there are still private family papers he doesn’t want the public to have access to. But, Carragh is also on a secret mission to find Evan Chase’s unpublished manuscript.

It’s hard for me to write a review of a book like this one without giving in to the irresistible urge to lecture on how this type of story would have been right at home forty years ago when Gothic mysteries were all the rage.

I’m worried the modern reader, who may not be familiar with that style, will misunderstand the effect the author was trying to achieve here. The writing style was different back then, and while there was a romantic element, it was not the focal point of the story. In fact, there was barely any touching or kissing, and not until the very last chapter. The pace usually started out slow, steadily increasing, building the suspense in the process. This tactic worked to create a thick atmospheric tension, as the heroine always managed to find herself in danger and unable to trust those around her, including her possible love interest. It was good stuff, I assure you.

I think the author was trying to capture some of that old magic, but unfortunately, the story is just too ambitious and falls short of the goal she was striving for.

There's just too much happening, an enormous cast, running across three timelines, even blending older Gothic elements into the mix, as well as a mystery, and historical fiction, which left the characters underdeveloped, leading to a probable disconnect with readers.

The pacing is slow, which may have been deliberate, mimicking the books the novel is obviously paying homage to, but in this case, it falls flat. Once again, it might have been more effective if the book hadn’t been so busy, but it might also be that most of us have become spoiled to a much brisker pace.

Having said that, as a HUGE fan of Victoria Holt, a name the author mentioned a couple of times in this book, I ‘got’ what the author was trying to accomplish. I understood every single nuance, every single twist, the folklore, the haunting, the suspicions, the slow burn, the chaste romance, and the untrustworthy characters. In fact, this book has me craving an old Gothic story so much, I’m planning to put everything else on hold, so I can read at least one of my VH novels, immediately, and maybe even a Mary Stewart novel, too.

While I recognize this book was not as cohesive as it needed to be, in order to really pull of that trademark sinister atmosphere, I do appreciate the effort, and loved the tribute to the Gothic genre. I’m celebrating the fact that someone out there is still reading Phyliss Whitney, Dorothy Daniels, Dorothy Eden, Joan Aiken, Mary Stewart, and Barbara Michaels, and many others, as well as the Bronte’s and other classic Gothic tales. I am also keeping my fingers crossed that interest in the genre will continue. It’s a tiny ‘mini-trend’ right now, but to my mind it’s a long overdue resurrection.





Laura Andersen has one husband, four children, and a college degree in English that she puts to non-profitable use by reading everything she can lay her hands on. Books, shoes, and travel are her fiscal downfalls, which she justifies because all three ‘take you places.’ She loves the ocean (but not sand), forests (but not camping), good food (but not cooking), and shopping (there is no downside.) Historical fiction offers her all the pleasure of visiting the past without the inconvenience of no electricity or indoor plumbing. After more than thirty years spent west of the Rocky Mountains, she now lives in Massachusetts with her family.

Friday, March 23, 2018

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Through the Smoke by Brenda Novak- Feature and Review


A shocking betrayal…

Riches. Power. An ancient heritage of pride. The Earl of Druridge wanted only for an heir. So when he learned that his wife was carrying another man’s child, he was filled with a thirst for vengeance.

But he wasn’t the one who caused Katherine’s death. Or was he? To his horror, he remembers nothing of that dreadful night, when their last confrontation ended in scorching flame and cold blood.

A forbidden love…

Rachel McTavish, the beautiful daughter of a coal miner, knows something about the fire that took Lady Katherine’s life. In secret, the strong-willed girl strikes a bargain with the desperate earl: he must send his physician to help her dying mother or he may go to the devil—and the scaffold. He agrees, but she is still unsure that her revelation will be enough to save him when so many wish him dead.

Passionately drawn to the nobleman, despite all the doubt and mystery that shrouds him, Rachel wonders if he can really be a murderer. Or if he is the only man who will ever own her heart…



Through the SmokeThrough the Smoke by Brenda Novak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Through the Smoke by Brenda Novak  is a 2013 release.

Rachel's life has been hard. She lost a brother to the coal mine, and then her father dies of a lung disease as a result of working in the mines. But, rumors have been swirling over the past two years that her father may have somehow been involved in a fire that killed the wife of the Earl of Druridge, and her unborn child. The Earl himself was burned in an attempt to save her.

The Earl also happened to notice a few priceless paintings had been stolen before the fire had started.
In order to remove the suspicion that he was responsible for setting the fire, since he may have had a good reason to be angry with his wife, he needs to find those paintings, which leads him to Rachel, who wonders if her father may have been involved in the theft.

With her mother in ill heath, Rachel is responsible for her younger brother, which prompts her make a deal with the devil. She will tell the Earl what he wants to hear if he will send a doctor to take care of her mother. However, the doctor doesn't make in it time.

With life already looking bleak for Rachel, the Earl's cousin, Wythe, decides to make her life even harder. Rachel's virtue and reputation is ruined, her previous life all but over, as her parents' secrets come back to haunt her.

Brenda Novak has written many novels across several genres. I've read my fair share of her books over the years, but this one stands out as a historical and one with a decidedly Gothic tone. I am, as most people know, a huge fan of Gothic novels, so this one struck a chord with me.

Set against the imposing Blackmoor Hall, Rachel is an innocent girl in great peril, and with a dark and brooding hero we aren't sure we can fully trust, the scene is set for a traditional style Gothic story. The story has a real whodunit type mystery plot as well as a searing romance, which made this one a real page turner.

Fans of historical romance and mysteries can enjoy this one!

4 stars

GET YOUR COPY HERE:https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1477808760/



It was a shocking experience that jump-started Brenda Novak's career as a bestselling author--she caught her day-care provider drugging her children with cough syrup to get them to sleep all day. That was when Brenda decided she needed to quit her job as a loan officer and help make a living from home.

"When I first got the idea to become a novelist, it took me five years to teach myself the craft and finish my first book," Brenda says. But she sold that book, and the rest is history. Her novels have made the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists and won many awards, including five Rita nominations, the Book Buyer's Best, the Book Seller's Best and the National Reader's Choice Award.

Brenda and her husband, Ted, live in Sacramento and are proud parents of five children--three girls and two boys. When she's not spending time with her family or writing, Brenda is usually raising funds for diabetes research (her youngest son has this disease). So far, Brenda has raised $2.6 million. Please visit http://www.brendanovakforthecure.org to see how you can help.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong- Feature and Review


Two Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists tell the riveting true story of Marie, a teenager who was charged with lying about having been raped, and the detectives who followed a winding path to arrive at the truth.On August 11, 2008, eighteen-year-old Marie truthfully reported that a masked man broke into her apartment near Seattle, Washington, and raped her, but within days police and even those closest to Marie became suspicious of her story. The police swiftly pivoted and began investigating her. Confronted with inconsistencies in her story and the doubts of others, Marie broke down and said her story was a lie. Police charged her with false reporting. One of her best friends created a web page branding her a liar.

More than two years later, Colorado detective Stacy Galbraith was assigned to investigate a case of sexual assault. Describing the crime to her husband that night--the attacker's calm and practiced demeanor, which led the victim to surmise "he's done this before"--Galbraith learned that the case bore an eerie resemblance to a rape that had taken place months earlier in a nearby town. She joined forces with the detective on that case, Edna Hendershot, and the two soon realized they were dealing with a serial rapist: a man who photographed his victims, threatening to release the images online, and whose calculated steps to erase all physical evidence suggested he might be a soldier or a cop. Through meticulous police work the detectives would eventually connect the rapist to other attacks in Colorado--and beyond.

Based on investigative files and extensive interviews with the principals, An Unbelievable Story is a serpentine tale of doubt, lies, and a hunt for justice, unveiling the disturbing reality of how sexual assault is investigated today--and the long history of skepticism toward rape victims.



  A False Report: A True Story of Rape in AmericaA False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller, Ken Armstrong is a 2018 Crown Publishing Group publication.

In the United States, there’s no saying how many women have been accused of making a false claim of rape, only to have the claim later proved to be true. There is no such statistic kept. But even Marie’s case- the extreme example where persecution becomes prosecution, where a victim is not only accused of lying, but criminally charged with it- does not stand alone. At least three other cases like it have surfaced in media reports since the 1990s.

This book is absolutely harrowing, maddening, and sad. Don’t approach it if you have hypertension because you may find your blood pressure shooting through the roof!

Marie’s life had been difficult, and by eighteen, she had already suffered much. Things got far worse when she became a rape survivor and was brave enough to report the rape to the local authorities. But, after repeating her experience several times, the police noticed her story was not exactly the same every time. Not only that, those who were supposed to stand up for her, doubted her story as well. Finally, after much pressure, Marie recanted her story, then found herself charged with filing a false report.

Meanwhile, one of the most clever, sick, and diabolical, serial rapist was on the loose in Colorado. Thankfully, Edna Hendershot and Sarah Galbraith were tenacious and very thorough. However, this case is an all too familiar accounting of what really goes on once a rape has been reported.

It should not be necessary to add a trigger alert here. The rapist’s habits and state of mind is detailed and it is absolutely sickening, chilling, and very disturbing.

But, the focus of the book is on the investigation, which nearly reads like a police procedural at times, and on the way law enforcement meets a report of rape with instant skepticism, the indignities so many women must endure AFTER a sexual assault. The statistics were startling, the investigation riveting, and the approach to interviewing rape survivors is appalling.

The authors did a great job at fleshing out what was initially a long form newspaper article. Both men are Pulitzer prize winners, and T. Christian Miller has written for ProPublica, one of very favorite investigative publications. Naturally, the work is very detailed, well researched, and organized.

While what happened to Marie and the idea that if she had been taken seriously, if her account had been believed, then it may have spared others, had me fuming, and feeling incredibly frustrated, this is a very important book, one that shines a hot spotlight on the difficulties women face in reporting a rape.

Hopefully, this book will help draw attention to how those who have been sexually assaulted are treated by some members of law enforcement, the stigma, the traumatic procedures women must endure, and the consequences of doubting anyone who comes forward to report a crime.

Marie’s story is infuriating, but, I’m glad she finally found redemption and absolution, although it took irrefutable proof to obtain it.





Ken Armstrong is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and Edgar Award-winning author who has worked all over the country (Colorado, Idaho, California, Alaska, New York, Virginia, Illinois, New Jersey, and Washington), at papers big and small, from the Valley Courier to the Chicago Tribune. He has been a Nieman Fellow at Harvard and the McGraw Professor of Writing at Princeton. In 2009 he won the John Chancellor Award from Columbia University for lifetime achievement. He now works at The Seattle Times, where he has written exposes about hundreds of illegally sealed court files and a community's complicity in protecting wayward athletes, among other subjects. In Chicago, he co-wrote an investigation of the death penalty that helped prompt the state's governor to suspend executions and eventually to empty Death Row. Armstrong has won the George Polk Award twice and the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award five times. With co-writer Michael Berens he won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for "Methadone and the Politics of Pain," a three-part series published in The Seattle Times. Before that he was a Pulitzer finalist four times, in the categories of public service, investigative reporting, national reporting and explanatory reporting. In 2010 he shared in the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting, which was awarded to the staff of The Seattle Times for its coverage of the shooting deaths of four police officers. That same year Armstrong and a fellow Seattle Times reporter, Nick Perry, published "Scoreboard, Baby: A Story of College Football, Crime, and Complicity." The book, about a football team's rise and a community's fall, won the Edgar Award for non-fiction.

T. Christian Miller is an investigative reporter at ProPublica, an independent, non-profit news organization dedicated to writing about stuff that matters. In more than twenty years as a journalist, Miller has covered four wars, a presidential campaign and reported from more than two dozen countries. Miller has published investigative projects in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, This American Life, ABC News 20/20 and PBS' Frontline, among others.​

Miller has spent much of his career covering the military, criminal justice and multinational corporations. He has won accolades for his work in the U.S. and abroad, including the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting with Ken Armstrong and two Emmy Awards for a documentary with PBS' Frontline, Firestone and the Warlord. The Washington Post called his first book, Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives and Corporate Greed in Iraq, one of the "indispensable" books on Iraq. His second book, with co-author Armstrong, is A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America. Author Susan Orleans called it "a deep, disturbing, compelling, important book." One reviewer described it as "an instant true-crime classic, taking its rightful place beside Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter and Dave Cullen’s Columbine."

Miller is a big believer in the power of investigative reporting. He serves on the national board of Investigative Reporters and Editors, teaches data reporting at the University of California at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, and was a Knight Fellow at Stanford University.​

Miller, who goes by "T," a family nickname, does a few interesting things besides journalism. He likes to garden with California native plants, go abalone diving in the cold slate gray waters of Northern California and longboard on smooth, gently sloping surfaces. Miller graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with highest honors. He lives in Kensington, California, with his wife, Leslie, their three children and a goldfish named Goldie.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century by Simon Baatz- Feature and Review


From New York Times bestselling author Simon Baatz, the first comprehensive account of the murder that shocked the world.

In 1901 Evelyn Nesbit, a chorus girl in the musical Florodora,dined alone with the architect Stanford White in his townhouse on 24th Street in New York. Nesbit, just sixteen years old, had recently moved to the city. White was forty-seven and a principal in the prominent architectural firm McKim, Mead & White. As the foremost architect of his day, he was a celebrity, responsible for designing countless landmark buildings in Manhattan. That evening, after drinking champagne, Nesbit lost consciousness and awoke to find herself naked in bed with White. Telltale spots of blood on the bed sheets told her that White had raped her.

She told no one about the rape until, several years later, she confided in Harry Thaw, the millionaire playboy who would later become her husband. Thaw, thirsting for revenge, shot and killed White in 1906 before hundreds of theatergoers during a performance in Madison Square Garden, a building that White had designed.

The trial was a sensation that gripped the nation. Most Americans agreed with Thaw that he had been justified in killing White, but the district attorney expected to send him to the electric chair. Evelyn Nesbit's testimony was so explicit and shocking that Theodore Roosevelt himself called on the newspapers not to print it verbatim. The murder of White cast a long shadow: Harry Thaw later attempted suicide, and Evelyn Nesbit struggled for many years to escape an addiction to cocaine. The Girl on the Velvet Swing, a tale of glamour, excess, and danger, is an immersive, fascinating look at an America dominated by men of outsize fortunes and by the the women who were their victims.



  The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth CenturyThe Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century by Simon Baatz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder and Madness at the turn of the Twentieth Century by Simon Baatz is a 2018 Mulholland publication.

What an incredible true story!

‘These crimes, worse than murder, must be avenged. That there are men of large wealth in this city who have made it a business to degrade womanhood- backing plays and players and using art studios to procure poor young girls… is a new revelation to the public: a new story that wealth has turned its rotting force to the corruption of innocent girlhood, whose misfortune is poverty.”

Sounds eerily familiar to current events, but this story for all intents and purposes begins in 1901, when sixteen-year old actress, Evelyn Nesbit, finds herself wined and dined by one of New York’s premiere architects, Stanford White, a much older man.

One night, Stanford finally got the young beauty alone, plied her with alcohol, possibly adding something extra to her champagne.

Evelyn woke up in White’s bed, naked, obviously having been taken advantage of. She never spoke of it, and even continued what appeared to be a mutual friendship with White.

But, when Evelyn caught wealthy Harry Thaw’s attention, the two became inseparable, despite the dark rumors surrounding Harry. However, when Harry proposed, Evelyn demurred until he finally coaxed her into confessing that Stanford White had raped her.

Harry and Evelyn did marry, but Harry became obsessed with White, and what he had done to Evelyn. Fuming with rage, Harry shot and killed Stanford White in front of a crowd of theatre goers.

Thus, began a long legal battle where Evelyn was forced to publicly testify to what happened that fateful night with Stanford White, which was so shocking even Theodore Roosevelt implored the press to refrain from printing her testimony verbatim.

However, the bulk of the book is centered around the long legal battle Harry Thaw waged in the attempt to avoid both prison and the mental institution.

I was completely unaware of this case. I can see how it captivated the public as I too was absolutely amazed at the many shocking twist and turns the case took, before Harry Thaw's final verdit was announced, years later. It was the ‘crime of the century’ of its time and morphed into the ‘trial of the century'. It was eventually the basis for a movie made in 1955 starring Joan Collins.

While the details of the case caused a huge sensation, and understandably held the public spellbound, the lurid rumors about Harry were not common knowledge at the time. The public seemed very sympathetic towards Harry, who as they saw it, killed the man who raped his wife.

But, for me, what I found so interesting was all the legal wrangling that decided Harry’s fate, and how that decision caused even more complications years later. Harry was really an enigma, a man who did indeed appear to be demented, but was also crazy like a fox. Some may find the legalities and trials dull by comparison to all the other shocking elements of the crime, but I’ve always enjoyed the legal dramas, which is something we rarely these days.

Evelyn’s story is equally compelling, and there is much mystery surrounding her, as well. What was the truth? I believe her story was sincere, not something made up to cover for Harry, which has been suggested. Although there are large chucks of this book dedicated to the trials, mental stability, apprehension, and future of Harry Thaw, it was Evelyn and all that she endured, and the way her life played out post trial that haunted me.

There are a few issues I feel could hamper the reading experience with this book. Sadly, the author had to piece events together in an unconventional way, which had direct consequences when it came to the organization of facts and the fluidity of the writing.

Many readers have become spoiled to true crime stories that read more like a novel. Unfortunately, this book does not have that smooth quality, and as a result some readers will no doubt find areas of the book tedious, as though reading dry history from a text book.

However, because I was completely unfamiliar with these events, the book held my interest from start to finish. I thought it was a pretty wild ride and the outcome left me shaking my head.

Naturally, I couldn’t help but notice that despite the era of time in which these events took place, there are stunning parallels to current headlines, concerning men of wealth and power, taking advantage of women, which is disturbing on so many levels!!

I didn't search this book out due to recommendations or promotions. I simply stumbled across it in my Overdrive library, thought it sounded interesting and checked it out on impulse. I'm glad now that I did!

If you enjoy reading history or true crime you will want to check this book out.






Simon Baatz was born in London and studied at the University of York and Imperial College London. He first came to the United States for graduate work in the history of science at the University of Pennsylvania and he subsequently taught United States history at George Mason University in northern Virginia. 

His most recent book, THE GIRL ON THE VELVET SWING, was published on January 16, 2018 by Mulholland Books, an imprint of Little, Brown & Co. 

Principato-Young Entertainment, a film and television production company based in Beverly Hills, has optioned his previous book, FOR THE THRILL OF IT, a history of the Leopold-Loeb case. FOR THE THRILL OF IT, a New York Times bestseller, was a finalist for the Edgar Allan Poe Award.

Simon has lived in Tokyo, Frankfurt am Main, and Washington DC and he now teaches American legal history at John Jay College, City University of New York.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Watching Glass Shatter by James J. Cudney- Feature and Review


The wealthy Glass family lost its patriarch, Benjamin Glass, sooner than expected. Benjamin’s widow, Olivia, and her 5 sons each react to his death in their own way while preparing for the reading of his will. Olivia receives a very unexpected confession from her late husband about one of their sons that could shatter the whole family.

Prior to revealing the secret to her children, Olivia must figure out which boy Ben refers to in the confession he left her in his will. While the family attorney searches for the mysterious Rowena Hector whom Ben says holds the answers, Olivia asks her sons to each spend a week with her as she isn’t ready to let go of the past. When Olivia visits her sons, she quickly learns that each one has been keeping his own secret from her. Olivia never expected her remaining years would be so complex and life-altering, but she will not rest until her family is reunited after Ben’s untimely death.

We all need family. We all want to fit in. We’re all a mix of quirky personalities. Will Olivia be able to fix them or will the whole family implode? What will she do when she discovers the son behind Ben’s secret? Check out this ensemble cast where each family member’s perspective is center stage, discovering along the way who might feel the biggest impact from all the secrets. Through various scenes and memories across a six-month period, you'll get to know everyone, learning how and why they made certain decisions. Welcome to being an honorary member of the Glass family where the flair for over-the-top drama pushes everyone to their limits.



Watching Glass ShatterWatching Glass Shatter by James J. Cudney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Watching Glass Shatter by James J. Cudney is a 2017 Creativia publication.

Engrossing family drama!

I love family secrets and conflict because in real life we all know that family can be hard, but at the end of the day, they are still family, which is the most important thing. But, what is great about books like this one is watching how a fictional family responds to disappointments, mind blowing and life altering secrets, and how they deal with internal conflict and matters of conscience.

Olivia and Ben raised five sons and after many years of marriage are very happy together. But, when Ben dies suddenly, Olivia learns her beloved husband harbored a monumental secret regarding a decision he made many years ago. Now it is up to Olivia to handle this highly emotional bombshell that will forever change the family dynamics if it ever comes to light.

As the story proceeds, the reader learns about each of Olivia’ sons, their wives, girlfriends, their past and current mistakes, desires, and dilemmas. Each of them has a major problem, or two, they must overcome or cope with and some of them will make stunning choices that further complicated an already delicate situation.

As Olivia proceeds to honor her husband’s will, she slowly begins to take charge of her life and make decisions about her own future, as well as a few controversial ones regarding her sons.

But, will her sons manage to salvage the mess they’ve made of their own lives and will Ben’s shocking secret finally be revealed?

Whew! This is one seriously complicated family!! There is a large cast of characters, which normally causes a problem for me, especially with books, but somehow, I managed to keep everyone straight without losing track of the threads that connected them to the story.

Some of the characters I love, some had to grow on me, and the jury is still out on a few others. But, the novel is absolutely absorbing, and hard to put down. I kept worrying about the characters or found myself fuming about something they did or said.

There are some pretty heavy issues to resolve, some tears will be shed, and you will probably need a box of tissues close by on a few occasions, but have no fear, the story ends on a positive note as most of the characters make great strides in either their professional, or personal lives- or both.
The outcome of Olivia’s quest turned out far differently from the way I imagined it might. I kept wondering how each of her sons would react if they discovered their father’s secret. This scenario kept me on edge all the way from the start to very emotional conclusion.

For some reason, while reading this book, I was reminded of a popular weekly family drama which aired on television a few years back. My husband I got hooked on it and never missed an episode. It was very high in dramatics, with a large, loaded cast. The initial set up was slightly similar to the one in this book, and like this novel, was highly addictive. My husband and I were always talking about the characters and wondering what would happen on the next episode, which is very unusual for us.

This book had that same effect on me, and it got me to thinking…. since life is full of surprises, conflicts, dramas and tragedies, maybe the author will keep readers updated on this family from time to time. I’d love to catch up with them someday.




James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City, but I've traveled all across the US (and various parts of the world). After college, I spent 15 years working in technology and business operations in the sports, entertainment and media industries. Although I enjoyed my job, I left in 2016 to focus on my passion: telling stories and connecting people through words. My debut novel is 'Watching Glass Shatter,' a contemporary fiction family drama with elements of mystery, suspense, humor and romance. To see samples or receive news from my current and upcoming books, please subscribe with your email address at my website: https://jamesjcudney.com

What do I do outside of writing: I'm an avid genealogist (discovered 2K family members going back about 250 years) and cook (I find it so hard to follow a recipe). I love to read; between Goodreads and my blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, I have over 500 book reviews which will give you a full flavor for my voice and style. On my blog, I started the 365 Daily Challenge, where I post a word each day that has some meaning to me, then converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dog has a weekly segment called “Ryder’s Rants” where he complains about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real and show how I live every day.

A bit of humor: Everything doubles as something else when you live in NYC. For me, it’s the dining room, my favorite space in the apartment, where more than just my cooking is on display! As I look out the windows onto a 12th floor terrace, various parts of nature (trees, bushes, flowers, bugs & animals) inspire me to write. Ryder, my 10-year old shiba inu, usually lays on my feet, growling when I shift positions too many times or when I forget to share my food! Although he’s only 20 pounds, he’s quite strong and pushy. But how else can you pen the best story possible without these things by your side?