A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A Cornish Affair by Jo Lambert- Feature and Review


Even in your hometown, you can feel like an outsider 

In the close-knit community of Carrenporth in Cornwall everyone knows everyone else’s business. Luke Carrack is only too aware of this. He’s been away for two years but nothing has changed – from the town gossips who can’t see past the scandal of his childhood, to the cold way he is treated by some of his so-called family.
The only person who seems to understand is local hotelier’s daughter Cat Trevelyan, although even Luke’s new friendship with her could set tongues wagging.
But Carrenporth is about to experience far bigger scandals than the return of Luke Carrack – and the secrets unearthed in the process will shake the sleepy seaside town to its core



A Cornish AffairA Cornish Affair by Jo Lambert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Cornish Affair by Jo Lambert is a 2019 Ruby Fiction publication.

A unique combination of mystery and romance-

Cat and Luke DO NOT have a ‘meet-cute’ experience. From there, every encounter solidified their feelings. But, after pitching in together to help an acquaintance, they forge an unexpected bond.

However, despite the building chemistry, Luke’s history leads him to believe Cat’s family would never accept him. In the meantime, both Cat and Luke will discover secrets and revelations from their past giving them both long overdue answers. But, a tragic unforeseen series of developments will tear the couple apart- maybe forever.

I tore through this book in record time. I couldn’t put it down! The story reflects on class distinctions, family secrets, and regrets, as well as featuring a slightly angsty love story and complex mystery. There is a lot going on, and occasionally, things got a little too busy, but everything came together quite nicely in the end.

This is a compelling and engrossing story fans of contemporary romance will love, but if you enjoy romantic suspense, this one might appeal to you as well.

Overall, a lovely story, with wonderfully well drawn characters, surrounded by all that lovely scenery!

4 stars

View all my reviews






Jo Lambert lives east of Bath and writes full time. She is the author of seven books. Five are collectively known as The Little Court series which chart the loves and lives of four Somerset families over four decades. 

When Tomorrow Comes
Love Lies and Promises
The Ghost of You and M
Between Today and Yesterday
The Other Side of Morning 
are part saga-part romance-part drama. 

Summer Moved On and Watercolours in the Rain are two linked novels collectively known as The South Devon Duo. They are published under Jo Lambert, a name which she now writes under. In June 2018 Jo signed to Choc Lit and her eighth novel, The Boys of Summer a coastal romance set in North Cornwall will be published in 2019. She is currently working on book No 9.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Great Pretenders by Laura Kalpakian - Feature and Review


The daughter of Hollywood royalty, Roxanne Granville is used to getting what she wants--even if she has to break the rules. But after a falling-out with her grandfather, a powerful movie mogul, she has to face life on her own for the first time....

Roxanne forges a career unique for women in the 1950s, becoming an agent for hungry young screenwriters. She struggles to be taken seriously by the men who rule Hollywood and who often assume that sexual favors are just a part of doing business. When she sells a script by a blacklisted writer under the name of a willing front man, more exiled writers seek her help. Roxanne wades into a world murky with duplicity and deception, and she can't afford any more risks.

Then she meets Terrence Dexter, a compelling African American journalist unlike anyone she's ever known. Roxanne again breaks the rules, and is quickly swept up in a passionate relationship with very real dangers that could destroy everything she's carefully built.

Roxanne Granville is a woman who bravely defies convention. She won't let men make all the rules, and won't let skin color determine whom she can love. The Great Pretenders is a riveting, emotional novel that resonates in today's world, and reminds us that some things are worth fighting for.



The Great PretendersThe Great Pretenders by Laura Kalpakian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Great Pretenders by Laura Kalpakian is a 2019 Berkley publication.

As the heir to Empire Pictures, Roxanne only need play by the rules and her life of privilege and glamour would go on as usual. But, when her grandfather demands she accept the young Hollywood starlet he’s married, she refuses. Now, for the first time, she’s on her own, determined to make it as an agent for screenwriters. However, in 1950s Hollywood this is a job few women hold, and Roxanne isn’t taken very seriously.

To complicate matters, many talented screenwriters have been blacklisted due to the ‘red scare’. Although, Roxanne carves out a niche by finding a way to help these writers, it’s a bold and dicey deception.

But when she meets African- American journalist Terrence Dexter, she takes an even bigger risk, by falling in love with him.

Everything thing Roxanne is involved in, every decision she makes could put her in terrible jeopardy.

But this spoiled little rich girl rises to the occasion, refusing to sacrifice her convictions.

She fights for her unconventional career with one fist and for the love of her life with the other.

However, society may never accept her in either role…

Roxanne is my kind of gal! I loved her right from the beginning and took great pleasure in watching her blossom into a strong, ground- breaking heroine. The old Hollywood setting is always a draw for me, but this time the glamour is not the focus of the story. The dark side of 1950s Hollywood is on display, as is the racism and fear in the decade we often look back on with fond nostalgia. This novel reminds us of the tension and segregation of the era, which was fraught with many uncertainties and taboos.

We need more spirited, strong willed women like Roxanne. She’s passionate and full of life, occasionally naïve, but also fierce in her determination. Many people talk a big game, but when met with the consequences of their decisions, they lack the courage of their convictions. But, not Roxanne. She talked the talk and walked the walked.

Roxanne may no longer be the darling princess of Hollywood, but what she gains is worth more than fame, glory or anything that money could buy.

Overall, this is a fast -paced piece of historical fiction, full of intrigue and well-drawn characterizations, with many nice historical details added in, giving it another layer of authenticity.

Naturally, I enjoyed the love story best of all, but I also loved the way Roxanne carved out a niche for herself in a climate unaccustomed to career driven women. Roxanne was a true trailblazer, well ahead of her time.

This story also carries a strong cautionary message for the present day, as we continue to battle the same demons now, more than ever, as we did back in the fifties.

Roxanne is a true inspiration, and her story is one we can all learn something from.

4 stars

View all my reviews






Laura Kalpakian was nominated for the prestigious International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for American Cookery. She won a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, the Pacific Northwest Bookseller's Award (twice), the Anahid Award for an American writer of American descent, the PEN West Award, and the Stand Internations Short Fiction Competition. She has had residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Montalvo Center for the Arts, and the Hawthornden Cast in Scotland. She is the author of thirteen novels and over a hundred stories published in collections, anthologies, literary journals and magazines in the USA and the UK. 

Monday, July 29, 2019

MANGA MONDAY: Manga Classics: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Stacy King


As an orphaned child, Jane Eyre is first cruelly abused by her aunt, then cast out and sent to a charity school. Though she meets with further abuse, she receives an education, and eventually takes a job as a governess at the estate of Edward Rochester. Jane and Rochester begin to bond, but his dark moods trouble her. When Jane uncovers the terrible secret Rochester has been hiding, she flees and finds temporary refuge at the home of St. John Rivers. Charlotte Bronte’s classic tale of morality and social criticism takes on an entirely new life in this Manga Classic adaptation of Jane Eyre.


Jane Eyre: Manga ClassicsJane Eyre: Manga Classics by Charlotte Brontë
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jane Eyre: Manga Classic by Charlotte Bronte and Stacy King is a 2016 UDON Entertainment publication.

If are reading this review on Goodreads, then you can tell from my profile pic/avatar that I’m a huge fan of Jane Eyre. So, with my developing interest in Manga/Comics/Graphic Novels, choosing this book was a no- brainer for me.

Yet, at the same time, I might have been taking a risk, since the story is one my favorites. What if the graphics didn’t live up to my expectations or what if the story was restructured in a way that disappointed me? Well, I need not have worried. Stacy King has been the illustrator for several other Manga Classics and has always done a wonderful job of formatting these beloved stories into the Manga format. This one was no exception.

I’ve read Jane Eyre several times, have seen several movie adaptations, as well, but reading it with these vivid illustrations truly brings the story to life in a way anyone can appreciate and enjoy.

I won’t rehash the plot, as it is familiar to most everyone. I will say that this book is part of the reason I developed a love for Gothic fiction and is one of the reasons why it holds a special place in my heart.

So, enjoying this story again, in a new format has been a real treat. The artist did an amazing job with the characters’ facial expressions and period clothing, while adhering to the unique Manga art form. Although, I must admit, Jane isn’t really all that plain, in this book- she’s simply adorable!! The book is structured in such a way the reader is truly engaged and the story flows at a nice fresh pace.

Overall, this is another outstanding addition to the Manga Classics library.





Charlotte Brontë was a British novelist, the eldest out of the three famous Brontë sisters whose novels have become standards of English literature. See also Emily Brontë and Anne Brontë.

Friday, July 26, 2019

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: The Body on the Beach by Simon Brett- Feature and Review


A brilliant new addition to the Berkley Prime Crime list ...

Berkley Prime Crime is proud to welcome one of mystery's most esteemed masters to its line-up of bestselling writers. This brand new series showcases Simon Brett at his charming best -witty, cozy, and sophisticated ... all at the same time.

In the English seaside village of Fethering (located next to the town of Tarring), recent retiree Carole Seddon just wishes to live a quiet, sensible life with Gulliver, her Labrador Retriever. But when she discovers a dead body on the beach while walking the dog, her sensible life is suddenly quite complicated. And with the help of her bohemian neighbor Jude, Carole finds a new purpose in life - as a detective.



The Body on the Beach (Fethering, #1)The Body on the Beach by Simon Brett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Body on the Beach by Simon Brett is a 2000 Berkley publication.

This is the first in book in the long running ‘Fethering’ Mystery series.

Carole is walking her dog when she discovers a dead body on the beach. After reporting the crime, Carole is furious at the way she was treated by the police. She is also out of sorts because of her new neighbor, Jude. Carole likes her quiet, ordered life and Jude’s presence is bound to be a disruption.

But, much to her surprise, Carole finds herself intrigued by Jude, and discovers she is easy to confide in, although Jude doesn’t really reciprocate in the way Carole would like. The pair decides to investigate the suspicious death on their own, and discover they have a knack for detective work.

The village and all the quirky characters from the local pub add drama, humor, and excitement to the story as the mystery deepens once the ladies uncover more information. They eventually link together a rather complex set of circumstances, and slowly narrow down the suspects in a most disorganized, but effective manner.

This series came to my attention through Netgalley and Berkley publishing. I did not realize, when I was approved for 'The Liar in the Library', that it was part of a very long running series. So, before I tackled a book that deep into the thick of things, I decided to at least read the first few books in the series to get a better feel for the characters. I’m glad I decided to do that, since I have the distinct impression many the characters introduced here will become recurring ones and will develop more fully as the series continues.

As with most ‘first in a series’ mysteries, a lot of time is spent on time and place, and with the introduction of characters. The author created a nice, rich atmosphere in Feathering. It feels like an ideal backdrop for these characters. It’s a charming seaside village, but apparently it harbors a great many secrets and a bit of a sinister undertone.

Carole is an introverted type, while Jude is more gregarious. Jude remains a bit of an enigma, while Carole becomes more sociable. They certainly make an odd duo, but it works.

The mystery plot is a tad busy and messy, but it was the first case for these amateur detectives so I’m sure as they gain more experience they will get much better at playing detectives.

Overall, a solid beginning of the series and I look forward to visiting the quaint village of Feathering again soon.






Simon Brett is a prolific British writer of whodunnits.

He is the son of a Chartered Surveyor and was educated at Dulwich College and Wadham College, Oxford, where he got a first class honours degree in English.

He then joined the BBC as a trainee and worked for BBC Radio and London Weekend Television, where his work included 'Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy' and 'Frank Muir Goes Into ...'.

After his spells with the media he began devoting most of his time to writing from the late 1970s and is well known for his various series of crime novels.

He is married with three children and lives in Burpham, near Arundel, West Sussex, England. He is the current president of the Detection Club.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

TRUE CRIME THURSDAY: Captive: A Mother's Crusade to Save Her Daughter from the Terrifying Cult Nxivm- by Catherine Oxenberg- Feature and Review


Now updated with a new afterword, Captive is an emotional, ripped-from-the-headlines exposé that lays bare the secretive cult that shocked the world—for fans of Leah Remini’s Troublemaker and Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear.

I am a mother whose child is being abused and exploited. And I am not alone.

In 2011, former Dynasty star Catherine Oxenberg joined her daughter, India, at a leadership seminar for a new organization called NXIVM. Her then twenty-year-old daughter was on the threshold of starting her own professional life and they both thought this program might help her achieve her dream. But quickly, Catherine saw a sinister side to the program that claimed to simply want to help its clients become the best versions of themselves.

Catherine watched in horror as her daughter fell further and further down the rabbit hole, falling under the spell of NXIVM's hypnotic leader, Keith Raniere. Despite Catherine’s best efforts, India was drawn deeper into the cult, eventually joining an elite “sorority” of women members who were ordered to maintain a restricted diet, recruit other women as “slaves,” and were branded with their leader’s initials.

In Captive, Catherine shares every parent’s worst nightmare, and the lengths that a mother will go to save her child. Catherine’s efforts finally led the FBI to take notice—and the journey is not yet over. A powerful depiction of a mother’s love and determination, and with horrifying insider details never revealed in any news story, Captive will keep you reading until the very last page.



Captive: A Mother's Crusade to Save Her Daughter from the Terrifying Cult NxivmCaptive: A Mother's Crusade to Save Her Daughter from the Terrifying Cult Nxivm by Catherine Oxenberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Captive: A Mother's Crusade to Save Her Daughter From a Terrifying Cult by Catherine Oxenberg is a 2018 Simon & Schuster publication.
I only follow the news sparingly these days. However, even if one only pops over to Facebook or Twitter for a moment, headlines and trending news or topics are unavoidable. I had seen the story about an actress involved in a sex cult, but didn’t take the bait. However, the story remained a hot topic for several days.

But, when I saw this book popping up here and there, it never even crossed my mind that the ‘terrifying cult’ spoken of here, was the same one making headlines a few weeks back. Wow.
I was a big fan of the night time soaps for a while in the early eighties. I did watch ‘Dynasty’ for a while, and vaguely remember Catherine Oxenberg from that show. However, I hadn’t thought of her since, well, the early eighties. In fact, it took me a little while to make the connection. So, it wasn't so much that the book was written by a quasi-famous person, but the topic of the book that piqued my curiosity. Cults??

Are cults still a thing? Apparently so.

While they no longer make headlines, well, besides ‘Scientology’, there are still more cults out there than I’d realized.

This one was called NXIVM/ESP. It is marketed as a professional development group, sponsoring seminars designed for self-improvement.
Catherine and her daughter, India, joined the group, but as Catherine remained a skeptic, India bought into the whole ideology hook, line and sinker.

Of course, we all know now that the group was a cult- a sex cult to be more precise, in which women were enslaved and even branded- yes, you read that right- branded!!

I’d never heard of this group until I picked up this book, so all the information provided was news to me. Some readers may have been following those aforementioned news stories about the cult, and as such may not discover anything here you didn’t already know about it.

                                                          CATHERINE AND INDIA

But, even if you have been keeping up with the headlines and are familiar with the lurid goings on in the cult, this book will give you a look at how the brainwashing operation works and the will and tenacity it required for Catherine to get people to listen to her, to see that crimes were being committed, and to hopefully save her daughter in the process.

I added audio for this book, which is narrated by the author. I found Catherine’s British accent to be appealing, and I think she did a good job at keeping her voice and emotions tempered and even.
I’m about as far removed from the life Catherine has led as one could possibly get. This made it hard for me to relate to her and her approach to life and parenting. She admits to having spent a great deal of time on self-help groups, constantly in search of some kind of pat answers, which of course there is none. Yet, she seemed to try everything under the sun, and although she claimed to have finally realized she was wasting her time with all that, she still joined NXIVM with India and remained a part of it for a lot longer than she should have, especially since she blatantly balked at their practices. She may have stayed because India was so involved, but I found myself questioning her actions on more than one occasion. Of course, it’s easy to armchair quarterback, and I did try not to pass judgement- but only won out half the time.

                                                                   KEITH RANIERE

However, once she realized the hold the group had on her daughter, and the true nature of the organization, it would appear she at long last found her life’s purpose- to expose the cult and hopefully free her daughter in the process.

Once she began working to get India away from Keith Raniere, Catherine, whether she realized it or not, seemed to morph into a person with stronger backbone, became more disciplined, focused, and emotionally mature. While I still questioned the approach she took with her daughter, I couldn’t help but admire her determination. By the time all was said and done, she’d begun to prevent other women from falling into Keith’s trap, making it her ultimate goal to see the cult shut down, to free as many women as possible, with the fervent hope her daughter might be one of them. The reality was, though, that her daughter was so entrenched into the cult, she might be one of those facing criminal charges.

Catherine did not give up, and her work to get the media’s attention, to shine a spotlight on this eerie and bizarre cult finally paid off.
The book is not as organized as I’d have liked, and Catherine does spend a lot of time explaining herself or justifying her actions. I think she is grappling with her role in India’s susceptibility to this type of brainwashing, and her initial participation obviously weighs on her.
But, one only need look at the list of people who have at one time or another been associated with NXIVM to see that anyone, no matter what their background, social standing, financial situation, or popularity, might be open to groups like this.

How people become so brainwashed, why they stay in these situations, and why it is so hard to get them to leave, to see reason, is still a mystery, and is beyond my ability to understand. I don’t suppose cults like one will ever go away, as long as people are in search of some kind of enlightenment or way to find peace and fulfillment, or ways to make them more successful or to make them become better people. It is truly frightening, though, to see powerful leaders and businessmen have been a part of this organization, as well as other influential people whose popularity or occupation had the capacity to lure others into the lair of sex trafficking and slavery and forced labor.

Despite some issues with the writing and organization of the book, it is still a chilling story, which prompted me to do some Google searches and additional reading. I’m glad people like Oxenberg fought against this group and am happy to see her efforts rewarded. I hope India, all those victimized, will come around and find a meaningful and productive way to live life from here on out.






Catherine Oxenberg is an American actress of Serbian origin. Best known for her performance as Amanda Carrington on the 1980s prime-time soap opera Dynasty. She is the daughter of Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

A Paris Fairy Tale by Marie Laval- Feature and Review


A wonderful new book from the author of the best selling novel, Little Pink Taxi 
Is Paris the city of happily ever afters? 
Workaholic art historian Aurora Black doesn’t have time for fairy tales or Prince Charmings, even in the most romantic city in the world. She has recently been hired by a Parisian auction house for a job that could make or break her career. Unfortunately, daredevil journalist Cédric Castel seems intent on disrupting Aurora’s routine. 
As Aurora and Cédric embark on a journey across France, they get more than they bargained for as they find themselves battling rogue antiques dealers and personal demons, not to mention a growing attraction to each other. 
But with the help of a fairy godmother or two, could they both find their happily ever afters



A Paris Fairy TaleA Paris Fairy Tale by Marie Laval
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Paris Fairy Tale by Marie Laval is a 2019 Choc Lit publication.


The most romantic city in the world!

Or is it?

For Aurora, Paris harbors no “Prince Charming”, no “Happy ever after”, or fairy tales. She has no confidence in her self-image, in part, due to the scars left behind from a tragic car accident that claimed the life of her parents, when she was a child.

So, no, Aurora hasn’t traveled to France for romantic reasons. As a Paleographer, Aurora is in Paris in a professional capacity, having been hired to authenticate an ancient manuscript. However, she immediately runs afoul of Cédric Castel, a journalist with an adventurous streak. Cédric is convinced Aurora is in on a sinister scheme with her employers, who have hired a group of Russian thugs as guards. No, that’s not suspicious!

But as Cédric begins to shadow her, he realizes she is sincere and very good at her job- which could put her in grave danger. Having gotten off on the wrong foot, the couple is surprised by the level of attraction they share and the chemistry that bounces off them like fire and ice.

Meanwhile, Aurora and Cédric must also cope with various personal issues, while they work to uncover a stunning conspiracy.

I enjoyed every moment of this book! The premise is original and Aurora’s career choice is interesting for starters.

The story moves at a brisk pace, but not at the expense of the characters or plot development. The characterizations are marvelous, as is the dialogue. The banter between Aurora and Cédric is truly delightful and amusing, but at times poignant. There is plenty of mystery and adventure to go along with the romance and was very suspenseful at times.

Overall, this is a well- rounded story, emotive, suspenseful, but packed with plenty of fairy tale charm. Fans of contemporary romance and romantic suspense will especially enjoy this one, but there is a little something in this one for everyone.





Originally from Lyon in France, Marie Laval now lives in the beautiful Rossendale Valley, Lancashire, England. She writes contemporary and historical romance, always with a French twist. Her novels are published by Accent Press, and Little Pink Taxi, her latest romantic comedy novel, is published by Choc Lit

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Body in Question by Jill Ciment- Feature and Review


A spare, masterful novel about a shocking murder trial, a sequestered jury, and an affair between two of the jurors--the woman, in free fall in her life and marriage to a much older man.

The place: central Florida. The situation: a sensational murder trial involving a rich, white teenage girl--a twin--on trial for the horrific murder of her toddler brother, and the sequestered jury deciding her fate.

The setting: a utilitarian marble cube of a courthouse, more Soviet than Le Corbusier; and the court-appointed motel off the interstate.

Two of the jurors: Hannah, a 52 year-old former Rolling Stone, Interview Magazine photographer of rock stars and socialites (she switched to photographing animals when she realized she looked at people "as a species" rather than as individuals), and Graham, a 41 year-old anatomy professor, sequestered (she, Juror C-2; he, F-17), holed up at the Econo-Lodge off I-75.

As the shocking and numbing details of the crime and its surrounding facts are revealed during a string of days and seemingly endless court hours, the nights, playing out in a series of court-financed meals (Outback Steak House; Red Lobster; Domino's pizza delivery), Hannah and Graham fall into a furtive affair, keeping their oath, as jurors, never to discuss the trial.

During deliberations the lovers learn they are on opposing sides of the case and realize that their fellow jurors are wise to their affair. After the trial's end, as Hannah returns home to her much older, now, suddenly, frail husband (they married when she was 24; he, 58) an exploding media fury involving the case catches them all up in a frenzy of public outrage at a jury that seems to have convicted the wrong twin, and a judge who has received an anonymous handwritten letter about a series of sexual encounters ("I feel it is my duty as a juror and a citizen to report that two of my fellow jurors had sexual contact on more than seven occasions during our nights at the motel..."), calling into question their respective verdicts, and announcing she is releasing the jurors' names to the media.

Hannah's "one last dalliance before she is too old" takes on profoundly personal and moral consequences, as the novel moves to its affecting, powerful and surprising conclusion.



The Body in QuestionThe Body in Question by Jill Ciment
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Body in Question by Jill Ciment is a 2019 Pantheon Books publication.

An unvarnished but addictive legal drama!

The jury has been selected for a sensational criminal trial where a teenage girl is accused of murdering her younger brother. The story follows the shocking developments of the trial, but the primary focus is on the jury, which has been sequestered. The spotlight zeroes in on juror C- 2, a 52- year old photographer, and F-17 – a 41- year old anatomy professor who forge a complicated relationship while being cooped up in an Econo-Lodge. In fact, they are so distracted by their secret dalliance they may not be paying close enough attention to the courtroom testimony.

But when the jury finally begins to deliberate, they are stunned to discover their relationship has yet another repercussion, as it becomes clear the jury is divided. Will their affair effect the outcome of the trial?

A new spin, and maybe even a mini-trend, on the standard legal thriller, is to put the jury front and center. We see the trial through their eyes only. It’s a lurid, and strange case and I had a sinking feeling about it almost from the get-go. However, just like C-2 and F-17, my attention was often diverted from the nuances of the trial, by the drama going on with the jury members.

C-2 is coping with her much older husband’s many health maladies, while worrying the other jurors will catch on that she and F-17 are hitting the sheets. F-17 is taking the relationship seriously, while C-2 considers it a brief fling, one that she intends to end once the trial is over.

Meanwhile, the other jurors, who curiously enough are not given a number, but are instead referenced by descriptive nicknames, brings even more suspense to the drama, as some of them could cause trouble for the lovers. How will they respond when their suspicions about C-2 and F-17 are confirmed?

This is an interesting setup. I could see our scandal obsessed media turning a horrific crime into a circus. It also exposes the flawed court system, forcing a jury to reach a decision without pertinent information, which most assuredly would have had an impact on their final verdict. The public, of course, knows more than the jury, which turns the jury members into pariahs.

But what makes this book so interesting, is the author’s bare bones prose. She presumes her readers are smart, she gives them the credit they deserve by getting straight to the point. We don’t need everything explained in minute detail. However, the drawback of this approach is that the story is colorless. There are no emotional pulls or appeals one way or another.

Still, the result is affecting, as we see how being a part of this trial impacted the lives of the jury, often cruelly and unfairly. The lawyers, the judge, the media, all come under scrutiny, but not in a heavy- handed way. It is up to the reader to make up their own minds about the moral ethics of the jury members, and if they deserve redemption, at the end of the day.

The story gives one plenty to ruminate over about jury ethics, with the legal system. It’s a compulsive read, and because the writing is so spare, it moves at a very brisk pace. I easily read it in one sitting.

As a fan of legal dramas, this book was an easy sell for me. I appreciated the unique approach and the food for thought. Despite the lack of any deep character analysis, I still found myself thinking about the accused, and the jurors, and the complexities of justice or the lack thereof.

View all my reviews






Jill Ciment was born in Montreal, Canada. She is the author of Small Claims, a collection of short stories and novellas; The Law of Falling Bodies, Teeth of the Dog, The Tattoo Artist, and Heroic Measures, novels; and Half a Life, a memoir. Heroic Measures is the basis for the film 5 Flights Up starring Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman. She has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts, a NEA Japan Fellowship Prize, two New York State Fellowships for the Arts, the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Ciment is a professor at the University of Florida. She lives in Gainesville, Florida. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

MANGA MONDAY- Brody's Ghost by Mark Crilley- Feature and Review



Brody hoped it was just a hallucination. But no, the teenaged ghostly girl who'd come face to face with him in the middle of a busy city street was all too real. And now she was back, telling him she needed his help in hunting down a dangerous killer, and that he must undergo training from the spirit of a centuries-old samurai to unlock his hidden supernatural powers. 

Thirteen-time Eisner nominee Mark Crilley joins Dark Horse to launch his most original and action-packed saga to date in Brody's Ghost, the first in a six-volume limited series.


Brody's Ghost, Volume 1Brody's Ghost, Volume 1 by Mark Crilley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brody’s Ghost by Vol.1 By Mark Crilley is a 2010 Dark Horse Originals publication.

This first volume in the Comic/ Graphic Novel gem,  introduces us to Brody, a heartbroken guy pining over the loss of his girlfriend several months back. He’s pretty much let himself go. He’s out of shape, grew his hair long, and works odd jobs, and plays his guitar for tips.

But his life takes a very weird turn when he is approached by the teenage ghost, named Talia. Talia has searched for someone who can help her solve a major crime so she can finally get into heaven. Because Brody can see her, she thinks she’s finally found her guy. But- Brody lacks some key psychic abilities prompting Talia to put him in training.

This graphic novel, illustrated in black and white, is going to be a great series, I can tell. The artwork fits the gritty city and the mood of the characters. The characters are drawn with fantastic expressions capturing their emotions perfectly.

I understand why this graphic novel has such high ratings and glowing reviews. I will be continuing on with this series, for sure.





Mark Crilley was raised in Detroit, where he started drawing almost as soon as he could hold a pencil in his hand. After graduating from Kalamazoo College in 1988, where he was befriended by children's author David Small, he taught English in Taiwan and Japan for nearly five years. His first comic series, AKIKO, was published in 1995, garnering immediate critical praise, including 13 Eisner award nominations during its 53-issue run. In 1998 Crilley was named one of the "100 Most Creative People in Entertainment" by Entertainment Weekly Magazine, leading Random House to invite him to adapt his Akiko comic books as a series of ten prose-fiction novels for young readers. After the two-book BILLY CLIKK series in 2005, Crilley created his first manga-style graphic novel series, MIKI FALLS, a set of four paperbacks published by HarperCollins in 2007. Miki Falls was chosen by the American Library Association as one of the 2007's "Great Graphic Novels for Teens," and it was optioned by Paramount Pictures and Brad Pitt's Plan B Production Studio for development as a feature film. Also in 2007, Crilley launched his highly popular YouTube channel, which would go on to gain him more than 300 million video views, and a following of more than 2.5 million subscribers. In 2010 Dark Horse Comics published the first of six BRODY'S GHOST graphic novels, resulting in Scholastic releasing a special edition of the series for its book fairs, a first for both Crilley and Dark Horse. In 2012 Crilley released his most successful book yet, MASTERING MANGA, an instructional art book that would soon be published in eight languages and rank consistently among the top-selling books of its kind. MASTERING MANGA 2 and 3 would soon follow. 2015 saw the publication of THE REALISM CHALLENGE by Watson-Guptill, a book teaching hyperrealistic illustration techniques, followed by THE DRAWING LESSON in 2016, a graphic novel that blends narrative fiction with art instruction. Crilley's work has been featured in USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, and on CNN Headline News and Comcast On Demand. He lives in Michigan with his wife, Miki, and children, Matthew and Mio.

Friday, July 19, 2019

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommends by Katarina Bivald - Feature and Review


Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen...

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy's funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don't understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that's almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend's memory.

All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town. Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a warm, witty book about friendship, stories, and love.



  The Readers of Broken Wheel RecommendThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommends by Katarina Bivald is a 2016 Sourcebooks Landmark publication.

What a wonderful feel good story!!

If you love books about books, you will want to try this one.

Amy, from Broken Wheel, Iowa and Sara, from Sweden, are pen pals who share a love of books. When Sara loses her bookstore job, she decides to take Amy up on her invitation to visit Broken Wheel if she ever got the chance.

However, when Sara arrives, she is stunned to learn that Amy has died. But, the town goes out of their way to make their only tourist’s stay in Broken Wheel comfortable and pleasant.
Overwhelmed by the resident’s generosity, Sara works to pay it forward, and honor Amy and her love of books by opening a bookshop in Broken Wheel. The longer Sara stays, the more attached she becomes to the small little town that has all but dried up, and the residents love her just as much as she does them, giving them all a renewed sense of optimism and hope. Soon, they all begin to wish Sara could stay with them on a permanent basis. But, will she be able to extend her Visa?
I love offbeat and quirky characters, unconventional love stories, and books that imbibe charm and wit, and add just a touch of whimsy to top it all off. But, as a book nerd, a book that features characters who love to read, who love to share good books with others, is always going to get top marks from me.
So, it goes without saying, this book was simply delightful. It’s quirky, funny, sweet, touching! I enjoyed watching the town wake up, as if from a long slumber, and it was wonderful to feel Amy’s spirit moving through the town, as Sara finds an unexpected purpose for her life doing exactly what she loves most.
If you love small towns, stories about friendship and books, this book has your name on it!





Katarina Bivald grew up working part-time in a bookshop. Today she lives outside of Stockholm, Sweden, with her sister and as many bookshelves she can get by her. She'scurrently trying to persuade her sister that having a shelf for winter jackets and shoes is completely unneccessary. There should be enough space for a book shelf or two instead. Limited success so far. Apparantly, her sister is also stubbornly refusing to even discuss using the bath room to store books. 

Katarina Bivald sometimes claims that she still hasn't decided whether she prefer books or people but, as we all know, people are a non-starter. Even if you do like them, they're better in books. Only possible problem: reading a great book and having noone to recommend it to.

Läsarna i Broken Wheel rekommenderar/The Readers in Broken Wheel Recommend is her first novel.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Chasing Hope by Dana Wayne- Feature and Review + Giveaway


  Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Book Liftoff
Date of Publication: June 10, 2019
Number of Pages: 295
Scroll down for giveaway!

Max Logan longs for the joys of home and family he missed growing up in foster care. He fills that emotional void by becoming a kick-ass Marine, and for eighteen years, led his band of brothers from one hell-hole to anotheruntil the one that nearly destroyed him. Sixteen months of therapy and rehab put his body back together, but some wounds can’t be seen. Some can’t be healed. Skylar Ward dreams of a life that includes someone beside her. Someone to share her life with, to be a father to her young daughter. But if she learned anything from her failed marriage it was that you don’t rush into a relationship. Options in her small town are limited, and those who approach her lack appeal. Only Max Logan sparks her interest. But the handsome, brooding war hero remains aloof. Intelligent and intuitive, seven-year-old Maddie overhears a neighbor tell her mother she needs a male companion, so she Google's it to see what it means. Convinced her mom needs a boyfriend and Max needs a girlfriend, Maddie sets out to make it happen. He needs a family. They need him. If she can make them see that. Can one precocious child be the catalyst that heals a wounded warrior’s soul and brings joy back into her mom’s heart? Or will ashes of the past bury hope once and for all?

PRAISE FOR CHASING HOPE:  "The pace was fast, the love was simple yet energetic, and the dialogues were lively enough to make me want to know more about the characters. To say that I loved this novel is not enough! Absolutely beautiful. It deserves these 5 stars." – Readers’ Favorite
"I could not put Chasing Hope down! From the first few sentences, I was hooked and read over half of it the first night finishing it the following night. The main characters, Sky and Max, intrigued me right off the bat but feisty little Maddie wormed her way into my heart immediately! What a breath of fresh air." - Mary McCormack, ARC reader

Chasing Hope

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chasing Hope by Dana Wayne is a 2019 Book Liftoff publication.

A lovely and realistic romance!!

Former Marine, Max Logan, has always wanted a family of his own, especially after growing up in foster care. But now, he’s putting that goal on a back burner as he struggles to cope with his PTSD.

Skylar is the single mother of a brilliant and precocious seven- year old daughter, named Maddie. Currently working in a diner, she is hoping to renew her nursing career. She also wouldn’t mind a second chance at love after suffering through a failed marriage.

When she and Max meet the chemistry between them sparkles and shines. But Max is still too unsure of himself to pursue it. However, the adorable Maddie becomes a formidable match maker.

As Max and Skylar tiptoe around relationship land mines, Skylar copes with the unwanted advances of Cade Jackson, who will not take no for an answer. As time passes, his aggression becomes more and more sinister.

This love story appealed to me because of how credible it felt. Max and Skylar are the salt of the earth kind of people anyone can relate to. The romance is a slow burn at first and it is not flashy or overly angsty.

Things play out as a real- life romance might, with Max and Skylar meeting challenges, coping with insecurities, and other very common emotions that come with falling in love. They have reservations, worries and distractions, but address them with maturity. However, the relationship proceeds in fits and starts mostly because Max is afraid of exposing Skylar to his PTSD symptoms. It doesn't help that certain people continuously plant seeds of doubt in his mind.

There is a mild romantic suspense element, adding some additional tension to the story. However, the focus is mostly on the emotional growth of the main characters, both individually and as a couple. Watching Max and Skylar learn to work out the bumps and pings, and witnessing all their hopes- and Maddie's- finally realized, is rewarding and very heartwarming.



      more links: BOOKS2READ

Dana Wayne is an award-winning author and 6th generation Texan. She resides in East Texas with her husband (and biggest fan) along with a Calico cat named Katie, three children, and four grandchildren. She routinely speaks to books clubs, services organizations, writers’ groups, and other organizations on writing and publishing, and is a frequent guest on numerous writing blogs. 
"I grew up listening to my father read passages from the stack of paperback westerns beside his chair. I was fascinated at how someone could paint a picture with words so vivid, I saw it in my mind. That's when I knew that one day I would be a writer. It wasn't until I retired in late 2013 that I was able to devote the necessary time to achieving my goal. I published my first book in 2016 and never looked back. My stories are heartwarming, a little spicy, and all about the romance because I believe romance is more about emotion than sex, and the journey is more important than the destination."
A staunch supporter of new authors, she is a member of Romance Writers of America, Texas Association of Authors, and Writers League of Texas as well as several local writers' groups.

FIRST PRIZE:  Signed Copy of Chasing Hope  + Swag bag including fan, tote bag, and throw blanket;  SECOND PRIZE: eBook Copy of Chasing Hope + $10 Amazon Gift Card
THIRD PRIZE: eBook Copy of Chasing Hope + $5 Amazon Gift Card
(US Only)
  July 9-19, 2019

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