A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Friday, July 31, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory - Feature and Review


A generations-spanning family of psychics--both blessed and burdened by their abilities--must use their powers to save themselves from the CIA, the local mafia, and a skeptic hell-bent on discrediting them in this hilarious, tender, magical novel about the invisible forces that bind us.

The Telemachus family is known for performing inexplicable feats on talk shows and late-night television. Teddy, a master conman, heads up a clan who possess gifts he only fakes: there's Maureen, who can astral project; Irene, the human lie detector; Frankie, gifted with telekinesis; and Buddy, the clairvoyant. But when, one night, the magic fails to materialize, the family withdraws to Chicago where they live in shame for years. Until: As they find themselves facing a troika of threats (CIA, mafia, unrelenting skeptic), Matty, grandson of the family patriarch, discovers a bit of the old Telemachus magic in himself. Now, they must put past obstacles behind them and unite like never before. But will it be enough to bring The Amazing Telemachus Family back to its amazing life?



SpoonbendersSpoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory is a 2017 Knopf publication.

This book was a real treat for me! It’s eccentric, hilarious, a madcap family saga, and a thoroughly entertaining fantasy.

I am showing my age here, but I do remember stage shows during the 1970’s where people performed variations of telekinesis, such as bending spoons with their minds. I had forgotten all about these stage/magic shows until I saw the title of this book and I knew I had to read it.

This story is centered around ‘The Amazing Telemachus family’, featuring Teddy Telemachus, the family patriarch, who is, in truth, a con artist. But, his wife, Maureen, is the real deal. She really is psychic and their children have inherited her paranormal abilities. Irene can tell if someone is lying or telling the truth, Frankie can move objects with his mind, and Buddy can see the future.

The family stage act was amazing indeed, until they were outed as frauds on the ‘Mike Douglas Show’.
From there the family tragically spiraled into relative obscurity.

The book is set in 1995, where we find that Maureen has passed on at a tragically young age, Teddy is still running his tried and true scams, Irene is a divorced single mother who has moved back into her family home with her son, Matty, and Frankie is married with three daughters. But, Buddy, seems to have lost his sanity, constantly beginning a project, but never finishing it, and is pretty much mute. No one seems to know quite what he’s up to.

Employing the use of flashbacks, we learn how Teddy and Maureen met, and how the government became aware of her unique gifts, why she decided to work with them, the profound affect her life and death had on her children, and how their unusual abilities shaped them into the adults they became.

Matty becomes a central character in the story as he is seemingly the one grandchild who has inherited his family’s paranormal gifts. He is the one who needs to discover his family history, especially that of his grandmother, and must be protected from government employees who would like to use his abilities to their advantage.

In one way, this is Matty’s coming of age story, but it is mostly a family saga, which spans over three generations.

I loved the nostalgia this story brought back. The seventies, The Mike Douglas Show, the hardcore fascination with psychic phenomenon and ESP and so on, but the nineties! OMG! AOL disc, online chat rooms, Gateway computers and VHS tapes- no- I can’t say I miss any of those things, but it was fun to have a book set in this decade.

“Nothing killed nostalgia for your childhood home like moving back into it”

This family is not exactly role model material. They have trouble with the mob, run cons, and curse up a blue streak sometimes, and many other quirky flaws and general strangeness.

‘Once a man had committed emotionally to the con, it was near impossible to claw his way back to objectivity.”

At the heart of the story is the emerging connection between Maureen, who, although she’s been gone for many years, still communicates with Teddy, via letters that arrive in blue envelopes, and her grandson, Matty.

The author did an amazing job of building a charming and fantastical story around connecting time frames and family generations.

I rarely say anything about content, mainly because we are dealing with art and context, but I couldn’t help but think how much broader the reach such a book might have if not for the language used. It wasn’t necessary, in my opinion, and took away from the story’s charisma.

There were a few other questionable scenes, but with just a small tweak here or there, this book really could have a mass appeal, for young or old alike.

Besides this one complaint, I thought the characters are very well constructed, believable, and although quite dysfunctional, I liked them, warts and all.

There are a few poignant moments, a little romance, and some hilarious antics and dialogue, a little mystery and suspense, plenty of action and adventure, and lots and lots of intrigue, mingling with the paranormal whimsy I found myself completely wrapped up in.

“The thing about skeletons was, you never knew how much space they were taking up in the closet until you got rid of them.”

The plot may appear to ramble down various dead -end paths, making one wonder where all this is leading, but amazingly, the threads all converge into one huge grand finale that really did feel like pure magic.

Overall, this is an offbeat, but utterly charming and delightful tale. Even if you don’t normally indulge in the paranormal or fantasy genres, I think the deeper implications will resonate, and before long you just might find yourself as enchanted by it as I was.





Daryl Gregory is an award-winning writer of genre-mixing novels, stories, and comics. His latest novel, SPOONBENDERS, about a down-on-their-luck family with psychic powers, was published by Knopf in June, 2017, and is being developed for television by Paramount and Anonymous Content.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Poison Flood by Jordan Farmer- Feature and Review


A captivating, gritty, and tender story of a reclusive musician and the environmental disaster that threatens his small town and changes his life forever.

Hollis Bragg lives on the fringes. The hunchbacked son of a West Virginia hill preacher, he now resides in rural isolation next to the burned-out husk of his father's church, and earns his living ghostwriting songs for a popular band that left the poverty and corruption of Appalachia and never looked back. It's the life he prefers, free from the harsh glare of the spotlight and attachments that lead only to heartbreak.

Then, much to his consternation, he's discovered by Russell Watson, a local musician and fan who also happens to be the rebellious son of the local chemical company magnate. When a devastating toxic spill at the Watson chemical plant poisons the local water, it sets off an unpredictable series of events as Hollis witnesses a murder, faces a shocking betrayal, and begins to come to terms with his body and his past. Soon Hollis will find that in losing his anonymity and reclaiming his music, he can transform his future; and in opening himself up to the world, he might find redemption.



The Poison FloodThe Poison Flood by Jordan Farmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Poison Flood by Jordon Farmer is a 2020 G.P. Putnam’s Son’s publication.

Disjointed, by very innovative…

The premise of this book intrigued me because I thought the story would primarily focus on environmental issues.

However, the plot is mostly centered around Hollis Bragg, a musician whose ghostwritten songs have provided his childhood friend, Angela, with a successful and lucrative music career.

Hollis, however, is isolated, living off the beaten path in West Virginia. His hunchback is a source of great physical pain and mental anguish at times, and is a major factor in his decision to stay in the background and avoid taking credit for his music.

But, when a combination of events take place, almost simultaneously, one being a massive chemical spill, and the other being recognized by a fan, which leads to even further complications, Hollis’ quiet life is suddenly upended.

Despite the stress of the upheaval, which forces Hollis out of his protective bubble, he finally receives long overdue liberation and confidence.

The story is offbeat, original, and truly shines in some ways, but is often uneven and fails to connect the various themes in a solid cohesive manner.

Still, at the end of the day, Hollis’ journey is a wonder to behold. He battles demons from his past, copes with romantic entanglements, and dubious characters out to use his talent to their advantage.

As Hollis takes stock of his life, he steps outside of his comfort zone and learns to take up for himself and forge his own little place in the world with a stronger sense of self worth.

This is a quick read, somewhat erratic and unstable with all the subplots and eccentric characters, but despite some rough edges it works for the most part. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but it was a rewarding read, overall.






Jordan Farmer was born and raised in a small West Virginia town, population approximately two thousand. He earned his MA from Marshall University and his Ph.D. at The University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Lost Hills by Lee Goldberg- Feature and Review

A detective’s brutal first case could make or break her career in an exhilarating thriller by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Goldberg.
A video of Deputy Eve Ronin’s off-duty arrest of an abusive movie star goes viral, turning her into a popular hero at a time when the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is plagued by scandal. The sheriff, desperate for more positive press, makes Eve the youngest female homicide detective in the department’s history.
Now Eve, with a lot to learn and resented by her colleagues, has to justify her new badge. Her chance comes when she and her burned-out, soon-to-retire partner are called to the blood-splattered home of a missing single mother and her two kids. The horrific carnage screams multiple murder—but there are no corpses.
Eve has to rely on her instincts and tenacity to find the bodies and capture the vicious killer, all while battling her own insecurities and mounting pressure from the media, her bosses, and the bereaved family. It’s a deadly ordeal that will either prove her skills…or totally destroy her.



Lost Hills (Eve Ronin #1)Lost Hills by Lee Goldberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lost Hills by Lee Goldberg is a 2020 Thomas & Mercer publication.

This new series is off to an impressive start!

Eve Ronin has leveraged the viral YouTube video of her off duty arrest of a famous Hollywood actor into a promotion to robbery/homicide. Everyone knows that, although she might be capable, her promotion was mainly police department cosmetics, and her colleagues don’t bother trying to hide their resentment towards her.

Eve is partnered with a jaded, worn out, veteran detective about to retire. Her first case brings her to a home saturated in blood- but the occupants- a mother and her two children, and the family dog, are nowhere to be found.

As Eve doggedly pursues leads, slowly building her case, she must also contend with her mother’s constant criticisms and aspirations, while wildfires rage in the background.

I’ve read this author’s books for years, but mostly his lighter fare. So, this book came as a bit of a surprise.

This is a dark, gritty police procedural which captured the essence of California, which hides a seedy underbelly behind it’s glamorous façade. The story is realistic and very graphic, so be aware- there is blood- buckets of it!

Eve is a great protagonist, though, and I instantly like her. Her inexperience causes her problems, but she’s tenacious, and determined to prove herself, despite her self-doubt. I think she could become a huge fan favorite in the crime fiction category.

Overall, Goldberg has ramped up the ordinary police procedural by mingling vivid scenery with realistic crime procedures and well-drawn characters, along with a tension filled, edge of your seat conclusion. Looking forward to Eve's next case!

*This book is available with your Kindle Unlimited Subscription- with audio. I switched back and forth between reading on my Kindle and listening to the book on my echo device. The audio is very well done too- so if you have KU or subscribe to Audible,  be sure to give the audio a try







#1 New York Times Bestselling author Lee Goldberg is a two-time Edgar Award and two-time Shamus Award nominee whose many TV writing and/or producing credits include "Martial Law," "SeaQuest," "Diagnosis Murder,""Hunter," "Spenser: For Hire," "Nero Wolfe," "Missing." "Monk" and "The Glades." He's also the co-author of the Fox & O'Hare series with Janet Evanovich (The Heist, The Chase, The Job, The Scam, The Pursuit etc), "The Walk," "Watch Me Die," "King City," the "Dead Man" series, as well as the "Diagnosis Murder" and "Monk" series of original mystery novels.

Friday, July 24, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- The EX by Alafair Burke: Feature and Review


Twenty years ago she ruined his life.

Now she has the chance to save it.

Olivia Randall is one of New York City’s best criminal defense lawyers. When she hears that her former fiancé, Jack Harris, has been arrested for a triple homicide—and that one of the victims was connected to his wife’s murder three years earlier—there is no doubt in her mind as to his innocence. The only question is, who would go to such great lengths to frame him—and why?

For Olivia, representing Jack is a way to make up for past regrets and absolve herself of guilt from a tragic decision, a secret she has held for twenty years. But as the evidence against him mounts, she is forced to confront her doubts. The man she knew could not have done this. But what if she never really knew him?


The ExThe Ex by Alafair Burke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The EX by Alafair Burke is a 2016 Harper publication.

The legal thriller has gone through many adjustments, especially over the last five or six years. Courtroom dramas appear to be dead in the water as fewer attorneys actually step foot into a courtroom anymore.

Now, so called legal thrillers have lawyers doing all the crime solving, making them more like amateur sleuths than attorneys. No one ever sits on the stand, there are no judges or juries and the nuances of criminal court trials have disappeared entirely.

But, that is not the case with this book and for that reason alone, I intended to give the book a solid rating, but as it turns out this was a very compelling read that went beyond the legal wrangling.

Olivia had a five- year relationship with Jack, but the two were incompatible and she wound up hurting Jack very badly by making some very bad decisions. She hasn’t seen Jack in many years, but she knows he eventually married and has a daughter. However, his happiness was short lived due to the tragic shooting death of his wife.

Now the man Jack holds responsible for the shooting has been shot and killed and of course Jack is suspect number one. Olivia agrees to take his case, despite the obvious conflict of interest, mainly due to her feelings of guilt about how things ended between her and Jack.
Olivia is positive Jack could never do what he is accused of, but the more evidence that pours in, the more people who come forward with tales of Jack’s dark side, the more Olivia begins to suspect her client is guilty.

I was riveted to this story from the get go. The plotting and planning is very rich in details, with several breathtaking twists and turns along the way. I have read many legal thrillers in my day, and I have to admit I had suspected what the outcome would be, but I was never over confident about that, always having a reasonable doubt about what really happened.

Olivia is a character I couldn’t help but like, despite some things she did in her past that were really terrible. She still has some morally questionable traits when it comes to relationship choices and she drinks a lot, beats herself up over how she treated Jack, something I suspect has left her unsettled for many years, but she does her job exceptionally well. She grows as a person throughout this case, and I think maybe she was able to put some lingering demons to rest at last.

This case is perhaps a little bit of a cautionary tale, proving cause and effect. One person’s actions can cause a chain reaction that not only affects their lives but many others. Despite what one might think, at the end of the day, the outcome really gave me something to think about. Of course, I can’t expound on that here without giving anything away, but I think this story has some deeper messages beyond what appears on the surface.

The atmosphere was heavy and tense from the beginning and the conclusion is creepy, and left me feeling as though Olivia will have to deal with the fallout of this case for a long time to come and that someday another shoe will drop and when it does, it won’t be pretty. But, until then, I think Olivia came out of the situation a much more balanced person with a more settled life and at long last has put the past in its proper perspective and place.

I wouldn’t mind seeing her in action again someday.

Overall this one gets 4.5 stars.





Alafair Burke is the New York Times bestselling author of "two powerhouse series" (Sun-Sentinel) that have earned her a reputation for creating strong, believable, and eminently likable female characters, such as NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher and Portland Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid. Alafair's novels grow out of her experience as a prosecutor in America's police precincts and criminal courtrooms, and have been featured by The Today Show, People Magazine, The New York Times, MSNBC, The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Chicago Sun-Times. According to Entertainment Weekly, Alafair "is a terrific web spinner" who "knows when and how to drop clues to keep readers at her mercy."

A graduate of Stanford Law School and a former Deputy District Attorney in Portland, Oregon, Alafair is now a Professor of Law at Hofstra Law School, where she teaches criminal law and procedure. Her books have been translated into 12 languages.

Alafair's work has been praised by some of the world's most respected crime writers, including Gillian Flynn, Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, Karin Slaughter, Harlan Coben, Lisa Scottoline, Lisa Unger, and Nelson DeMille.

Learn more about Alafair at www.alafairburke.com

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Egg Drop Dead by Vivien Chien - Feature and Review


The Ho-Lee Noodle House takes its business to the next level―only to end up in hot water.

It was supposed to be a fancy, intimate dinner party by the pool. Instead, Lana Lee’s first-ever catering event turns into full-course madness when a domestic worker is found dead. Is the party’s host Donna Feng, the sweet-and-sour owner of the Asia Village shopping plaza where Ho-Lee is situated, somehow to blame? That’s what Lana―whose plate is already plenty full with running the restaurant, pleasing her often-disapproving mother, and fretting over her occasionally-serious boyfriend Detective Adam Trudeau―must find out.

Before the police arrived at the crime scene, Donna had entrusted an odd piece of evidence to Lana: a thumb drive shaped like a terra-cotta soldier. Now it’s up to Lana to lead her own investigation, digitally and in real life, into a world of secrets involving Donna’s earlier life in China, whether the victim had a dark agenda, and if the killer is still out there. . .and plans to strike again.



Egg Drop Dead (A Noodle Shop Mystery, #5)Egg Drop Dead by Vivien Chien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Egg Drop Dead by Vivien Chien is a 2020 St. Martin’s Press publication.

Fantastic! This series just keeps getting better!

Lana’s first catering job is for a fancy dinner party, hosted by Donna Feng. But things go horribly awry when Donna’s Nanny is found dead. Donna once again becomes a prime suspect, and is counting on Lana to solve the mystery, while somehow managing to keep her secrets from coming to light. Lana promises to help, but soon finds herself in way over her head …

If you have been following this series, you’ll remember Donna from the previous installment. She’s an intriguing character and I was happy to see her character return. I’m loving the way Lana is progressing with her sleuthing skills and how realistically she approaches this case, knowing she won’t be able to work this one all on her own.

While part of the charm of cozy mysteries is in touching base with the recurring characters, often times the mystery elements run in the background, and can be a little thin. That’s not the case with this series though. This mystery was very well plotted and almost had the tone of an old-fashioned crime drama. It was really good!

Chein creates a nice balance between the Lana’s sleuthing and her personal life, which complements the series’ fresh contemporary approach to the cozy genre.
Overall, I enjoyed this latest installment and am eagerly anticipating the next book in the series.





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

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

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

Monday, July 20, 2020

Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior- Feature and Review


In the rolling hills of beautiful Exmoor, there’s a barn. And in that barn, you’ll find Dan. He’s a maker of exquisite harps - but not a great maker of conversation. He’s content in his own company, quietly working and away from social situations that he doesn’t always get right.

But one day, a cherry-socked woman stumbles across his barn and the conversation flows a little more easily than usual. She says her name’s Ellie, a housewife, alone, out on her daily walk and, though she doesn’t say this, she looks sad. He wants to make her feel better, so he gives her one of his harps, made of cherry wood.

And before they know it, this simple act of kindness puts them on the path to friendship, big secrets, pet pheasants and, most importantly, true love.



Ellie and the HarpmakerEllie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior is a 2019 Bantam Press publication.

Dan, is a Harpmaker who spontaneously gives one of his harps to Ellie, a woman visiting his little out of the way shop one day.

Ellie’s husband, however, insists she return the harp. Instead, she winds up storing it at Dan’s place, scheming behind her husband’s back to visit the harp regularly, secretly learning how to play it. While Ellie and Dan begin developing a friendship, Ellie discovers a shocking secret that will change Dan’s life forever.

Meanwhile, Ellie struggles to convince herself she loves her husband that she is happy in her marriage, all while walking on eggshells around him, hiding her relationship with Dan and her harp lessons from him. But, sooner or later everything comes into the light putting Ellie and Dan’s friendship in jeopardy.

While this is mostly a light, charming tale, it is also one of those stories in which the presentation prevents serious subjects from becoming too heavy, insulating the darker topics behind a whimsical veneer. However, these topics never dig too far beneath the surface, giving the story just the right amount of depth, allowing it to balance the dark undertones and the lighter overtones.

Dan's big, open heart made me want to reach through the pages and hug him. It was easy to see why Ellie was drawn to him.

This is a cute, offbeat romance, a feel good story that is warm and touching, with a sweet ending that will leave you with a smile on your face. Everyone needs a story like this one from to time to take the edge off life’s trials for a while.

Overall, quick, easy, and very enjoyable!






Hazel Prior is the author of ELLIE AND THE HARP MAKER and AWAY WITH THE PENGUINS (UK title)/HOW THE PENGUINS SAVED VERONICA (US title). She is also a freelance harpist. She lives in Exmoor, in England, with her husband and a huge, ginger cat.

Friday, July 17, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell- Feature and Review

Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really?
On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

Dark secrets, a devastating mystery, and the games both children and adults play all swirl together in this gripping novel, packed with utterly believable characters and page-turning suspense.



The Girls in the GardenThe Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell is a 2016 Atria publication.

This is my first novel by this author, but now that she is on my radar I plan to check out her other books, as well.

When Clare’s husband, Chris, has a psychotic episode, and winds up institutionalized, she and her daughters, Grace and Pip, move into a new apartment surrounded by a delightful communal garden. Grace begins to worm her way into the group of kids who hang out in the park, while Pip hangs back, writing letters to her father, telling all about their new life, and observing things from a distance. When Grace makes new friends, Clare finds herself getting a little friendly with her neighbors, Adele and Leo. Leo makes the biggest impression on her with his easy going, slightly flirtatious manner, prompting her to open up about her problems, which seems to lighten her burden considerably.

But, when Grace is found unconscious, and hospitalized, remaining in a coma, leaving everyone unsure of what happened to her, a dark side of the idealistic garden community is exposed, with long buried secrets coming to light, prompting some to take drastic measures to protect one of their own.

In some ways, this story is a little quirky, told from various POV’s, but also does a pretty good job of creating a feeling of unease, and building suspense at a steady pace, with a few very surprising twists thrown in along the way.

Despite the odd presentation and the strange way these characters developed, leaving me unsure of how I felt about them, I enjoyed the book, and found it weirdly absorbing, and kind of unique, which is a good thing!

So, overall, I enjoyed the book, although it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, and think fans of psychological suspense will like this one too.






Lisa Jewell (born 19th July 1968, Middlesex, London) is a popular British author of chick lit fiction. Her books include Ralph's Party, Thirtynothing and most recently 31 Dream Street. She lives in Swiss Cottage, London with her husband Jascha and daughters Amelie Mae (born 2003) and Evie Scarlett (born 2007).

Lisa's Facebook page:

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker- Feature and Review


Sloane, Ardie, Grace, and Rosalita have worked at Truviv, Inc. for years. The sudden death of Truviv’s CEO means their boss, Ames, will likely take over the entire company. Each of the women has a different relationship with Ames, who has always been surrounded by whispers about how he treats women. Those whispers have been ignored, swept under the rug, hidden away by those in charge.

But the world has changed, and the women are watching this promotion differently. This time, when they find out Ames is making an inappropriate move on a colleague, they aren’t willing to let it go. This time, they’ve decided enough is enough.

Sloane and her colleagues’ decision to take a stand sets in motion a catastrophic shift in the office. Lies will be uncovered. Secrets will be exposed. And not everyone will survive. All of their lives—as women, colleagues, mothers, wives, friends, even adversaries—will change dramatically as a result.

"If only you had listened to us,” they tell us on page one of Chandler Baker's Whisper Network, “none of this would have happened."



Whisper NetworkWhisper Network by Chandler Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Whisper Network by Chandler Baker is a 2019 Flatiron Books publication.

A scathing, darkly humorous novel of suspense-

When the CEO of Truviv, Inc. dies suddenly, his probable replacement, Ames, is a man who has been the subject of whispers amongst female employees about his dubious treatment of women. His possible promotion has placed four women, in particular, on edge.

Sloane, Ardie, Grace, and Rosalita have each had a relationship of sorts with Ames over the years. Knowing his proclivities, they decide to prevent him from adding another notch on his belt by protecting the newest female hired at the company from his advances. However, their plans seem to have gone awry...

I've had this book on my TBR list for over a year. I'm still trying to find books that will take my mind off the headlines, which means I'm not always grabbing the newest releases anymore. This book had an interesting premise, so I plucked it out of the middle of the pile, and thankfully it was a good choice. This book challenged me enough to hold my attention from start to finish.

One reason why the story was able to distract me so thoroughly, was the author's unusual presentation, which, apart from using traditional dialogue- depositions, interviews, and other devices are employed to further the story along. This approach kept me guessing and on my toes.

One small downside is that while the book is a mystery and can be suspenseful at times, it's not a thriller in the traditional sense. The pacing in not overly brisk, and there is very little action. It's more of a story that delves into various issues women cope with, in and out of the workplace- both in the past and the present.

While acknowledging some progress, the challenges women face is a constant battle, with lots of room for improvement. It is also a lesson on how to recognize the signs of harassment and bullying to prevent future generations from experiencing the same treatment.

An added bonus for me was the setting- Dallas, Texas- which is within driving distance from my location and so I am pretty familiar with some of the landmarks mentioned.

The book is spot-on in many ways, and definitely depicts the need for a #MeToo movement. It is certainly thought-provoking and I think many women can relate to these characters in one way or another, understanding the pressure to look and behave in a certain way, as well as the subtle and not so subtle forms of harassment that cause so many conflicted emotions and even guilt.

The dialogue is witty, sharp, snarky, and occasionally laugh out loud funny. The characters develop nicely, and the format is fresh and unique.

Overall, this is a timely and relevant story that tackles heavier issues in a stylish and entertaining format.






Chandler Baker lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and toddler. She works as a corporate attorney and is the author of five young adult novels. Her first adult novel, Whisper Network, was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick as well as an instant New York Times Bestseller.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Melmoth by Sarah Perry- Feature and Review


Twenty years ago Helen Franklin did something she cannot forgive herself for, and she has spent every day since barricading herself against its memory. But the sheltered life she has crafted for herself is about to change.

A strange manuscript has come into her possession, and its contents have the power to unravel every strand of her fragile safety net. It is filled with testimonies from the darkest chapters of human history, which all record sightings of a tall, silent woman in black, with unblinking eyes and bleeding feet: Melmoth, the loneliest being in the world. Condemned to walk the Earth forever, she tries to beguile the guilty and lure them away for a lifetime wandering alongside her.

Everyone that Melmoth seeks out must make a choice: to live with what they've done, or be lead into the darkness. Despite her scepticism, Helen can't stop reading, or shake the feeling that someone or something is watching her. As her past finally catches up with her, she too must choose which path to take.

Exquisitely written, and gripping until the very last page, this is a masterpiece of moral complexity, asking us profound questions about mercy, redemption, and how to make the best of our conflicted world.



MelmothMelmoth by Sarah Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Melmoth by Sarah Perry is a 2018 Serpent’s Tale publication.

I have not read ‘The Essex Serpent’ so I had no preset expectations for this book. The main draw for me was the advertised Gothic tone. The book delivers on that front, in spades! The folklore is exquisitely utilized in this crackling good tale of horror and suspense.

Melmoth is a legendary figure said to have witnessed Christ’s resurrection, but then later denied the truth of what she saw. As such, she is now doomed to wander the earth in eternal loneliness, witnessing the dark deeds of humanity. Misery loves company, so Melmoth offers her hand to those at the crux of their darkest moments of despair, imploring them to join her.

Helen Franklin, is an unassuming woman in her forties, working as a translator in Prague. Suddenly, her friend, Karel, hands her a manuscript describing encounters with Melmoth the Witness. The he suddenly disappears, and Helen begins to feel as though she’s being watched.

As the story progresses, it becomes clear that our humble Helen Franklin is hiding a dark secret as she finds herself drawn into the fantastical tales of lore contained in the manuscript.

Oh, my goodness! What a deep, heavy, atmospheric story!! This book is supposed to be based, at least in part, on the 1820 Irish Gothic novel ‘Melmoth the Wanderer’ written by Charles Maturin. I am only slightly familiar with the premise of that book, so obviously, it is not necessary to have read it in order to enjoy this book- although I am very interested in reading it someday.

This is the type of story I can get lost in. It is a very creepy story that continually kept my nerves on edge. The setting and scenery couldn’t have been created a better atmosphere. The spine-tingling horror is delicious, but there is also an exploration of profound topics. The story is about seeing, witnessing and about accountability and redemption, with a conclusion that will knock your socks off.

The writing is superb, capping off this finely layered deliciously chilling story!!






Sarah Perry was born in Essex in 1979, and was raised as a Strict Baptist. Having studied English at Anglia Ruskin University she worked as a civil servant before studying for an MA in Creative Writing and a PhD in Creative Writing and the Gothic at Royal Holloway, University of London. In 2004 she won the Spectator's Shiva Naipaul Award for travel writing.

In January 2013 she was Writer-in-Residence at Gladstone's Library. Here she completed the final draft of her first novel, After Me Comes the Flood , which was published by Serpent's Tail in June 2014 to international critical acclaim. It won the East Anglian Book of the Year Award 2014, and was longlisted for the 2014 Guardian First Book Award and nominated for the 2014 Folio Prize. In January and February 2016 Sarah was the UNESCO City of Literature Writer-in-Residence in Prague.

Her second novel, The Essex Serpent , was published by Serpent's Tail in May 2016. It was a number one bestseller in hardback, and was named Waterstones Book of the Year 2016. It was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2017, and was longlisted for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction 2017, the Wellcome Book Prize, the International Dylan Thomas Prize, and the New Angle Prize for Literature. It was broadcast on Radio 4 as a Book at Bedtime in April 2017, is being translated into eleven languages, and has been chosen for the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club 2017.

Sarah has spoken at a number of institutions including Gladstone's Library, the Centre of Theological Inquiry at Princeton, and the Anglo-American University in Prague, on subjects including theology, the history and status of friendship in literature, the Gothic, and Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Her essays have been published in the Guardian and the Spectator, and broadcast on BBC Radio 4.  She reviews fiction for the Guardian and the Financial Times.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

TRUE CRIME THURSDAY- The Kidnap Years by David Stout- Feature and Review

The astonishing true history of the kidnapping open-season that terrorized America

The Great Depression was a time of desperation in America--parents struggled to feed their children and unemployment was at a record high. Adding to the lawlessness of the decade, thugs with submachine guns and corrupt law-enforcement officers ran rampant. But amidst this panic, there was one sure-fire way to make money, one used by criminals and resourceful civilians alike: kidnapping.

Jump into this forgotten history with Edgar Award-winning author David Stout as he explores the reports of missing people that inundated newspapers at the time. Learn the horrifying details of these abduction cases, from the methods used and the investigative processes to the personal histories of the culprits and victims. All of this culminates with the most infamous kidnapping in American history, the one that targeted an international celebrity and changed legislation forever: the Lindbergh kidnapping.

The Kidnap Years is a gritty, visceral, thoughtfully reported page-turner that chronicles the sweep of abductions that afflicted all corners of the country as desperate people were pushed to do the unthinkable.



The Kidnap Years: The Astonishing True History of the Forgotten Kidnapping Epidemic That Shook Depression-Era AmericaThe Kidnap Years: The Astonishing True History of the Forgotten Kidnapping Epidemic That Shook Depression-Era America by David Stout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Kidnap Years: The Astonishing True History of the Forgotten Kidnapping Epidemic That Shook Depression-Era America by David Stout is a 2020 Sourcebooks publication.

Back in the 1930’s kidnapping became almost an epidemic. It wasn't just children and babies that fell victim, but adults too.

This book examines these kidnappings, some familiar, some not- and yes, I suppose it is fair to say, this kidnapping rampage has been largely forgotten about. But, at the center of the book is the infamous Lindbergh kidnapping. It was that case that tipped the scales and forced a hardline crackdown. For me though, it was the lesser known cases that made the book interesting, especially since the Lindbergh kidnapping, as well as one or two others mentioned in this book, has been examined ad nauseum, and as far as I could tell there was nothing new about those cases printed here.

There are other famous or infamous people in this book, though, besides the Lindbergh's. The FBI and Hoover’s involvement were also featured prominently at times. The author stayed on topic, and did not veer into personal commentary, for the most part, which was fine by me.

The organization is a little uneven spreading out some cases throughout the book, instead of putting all the information into one or more chapters, running consecutively. This was a little distracting for me, but a minor quibble.

Otherwise, the book reflects the desperation of the thirties, as well as the way money, greed and politics, all bled together to create the perfect climate for the kidnapping crime sprees of the decade.

Anyone who enjoys history or true crime will want to consider giving this book a try.






David Stout (b. 1942) is an accomplished reporter who has been writing mysteries and true crime since the 1980s. Born in Erie, Pennsylvania, Stout took a job at the New York Times in 1982. He spent nearly twenty-eight years at the newspaper, as a reporter, editor and rewrite man covering national news and sports, and retired in 2009.

Stout began writing his first novel while working at the Times. Based on the true story of a 1940s double-murder for which fourteen year-old George Stinney was controversially executed, Carolina Skeletons (1988) won Stout an Edgar award for best first novel. After two more well-received mysteries, Night Of The Ice Storm (1991) and The Dog Hermit (1993), Stout turned to writing non-fiction. Night Of The Devil (2003) tells the story of famous convict Thomas Trantino, while The Boy In The Box (2008) is an investigation of one of America’s most famous unsolved murders. Since retiring from the Times, Stout has redoubled his work on his next book.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Followers by Megan Angelo - Feature and Review


An electrifying story of two ambitious friends, the dark choices they make and the stunning moment that changes the world as we know it forever

Orla Cadden is a budding novelist stuck in a dead-end job, writing clickbait about movie-star hookups and influencer yoga moves. Then Orla meets Floss―a striving wannabe A-lister―who comes up with a plan for launching them both into the high-profile lives they dream about. So what if Orla and Floss's methods are a little shady and sometimes people get hurt? Their legions of followers can't be wrong.

Thirty-five years later, in a closed California village where government-appointed celebrities live every moment of the day on camera, a woman named Marlow discovers a shattering secret about her past. Despite her massive popularity―twelve million loyal followers―Marlow dreams of fleeing the corporate sponsors who would do anything to keep her on-screen. When she learns that her whole family history is based on a lie, Marlow finally summons the courage to run in search of the truth, no matter the risks.

Followers traces the paths of Orla, Floss and Marlow as they wind through time toward each other, and toward a cataclysmic event that sends America into lasting upheaval. At turns wry and tender, bleak and hopeful, this darkly funny story reminds us that even if we obsess over famous people we’ll never meet, what we really crave is genuine human connection.



FollowersFollowers by Megan Angelo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Followers by Megan Angelo is a 2020 Graydon House publication.

Dark, clever, and contemplative -

This is the second book I’ve read recently that had a science fiction element. For the record, it’s not the outer space type of sci-fi. It has a dystopian flavor to it- so basically, what qualifies it for the sci-fi category is the futuristic setting. For me this is a big change of pace since I normally prefer historical fiction. As before, I went in blind, thinking this book was more of a current day cautionary tale.

As it turns out, this story has a dual timeline- 2015 and 2051.

The story begins in 2015, with Orla Cadden, currently working as a blogger for Lady-ish.com. Her pieces are usually gossipy celebrity driven articles, but her real goal is to become a novelist- although her goals tend to stay on the back burner due to the many gadgets- based distractions in her life. However, her entire world is upended by her roommate, Floss, who wants to be a star. Orla agrees to work her ‘Influencer’ magic for Floss, creating an image out thin air, which is how talentless celebrity is formed.

Fast forward to 2051-

A catastrophic event called “The Spill’ –an online data breach or meltdown, of sorts has entirely changed the dynamics of society. Yet being famous for being famous, and reality television still reigns supreme, but is now regulated by the government in the form of a village called ‘Constellation’, where all the celebrities reside and are on ad supported camera 24/7.

The residents have multitudes of followers, and their lives are discussed and commented upon, in the same way we are familiar with, except they aren’t allowed to respond or participate in the conversation. But for Marlow- one of the most popular celebrities, with a healthy twelve million followers, makes a shocking discovery that tempts her to go rogue.

This is a wickedly sharp and timely satire that puts our current society in front of a mirror. Do we like what we see? Is it possible for our future to come to his point? Could an event on par with ‘The Spill’ prompt the government to step in and attempt to restore our trust? Are we really this shallow and celebrity obsessed?

Ha! Yes. But the story examines a few other serious topics, along the way, framing the heaviness in a darkly comedic vein. The story is one that required my undivided attention and presented me with a little bit of a challenge. It was a little confusing at times and I had to read slowly and carefully to figure out how the past and the present were connected and to keep up with the people and developments. The pacing is also a bit uneven- but under the circumstances that might have been an advantage for me personally. The slower portions probably saved me from having to re-read passages.

But I have to say I thought the story was brilliant! It will really make you think about the internet and how society has changed since social media has overtaken our world. In many cases it has become the basis on which so many people live and die by its double- edged sword.

Although the future doesn’t look all that pleasant, the story isn’t entirely without hope, and it definitely gave me pause. This is still a cautionary story for the present and the future. It’s a frightening and topical tale, but also highly entertaining!

Overall, this is a smart, impressible debut from Megan Angelo!






Megan Angelo has written about television, film, women and pop culture, and motherhood for publications including The New York Times (where she helped launch city comedy coverage), Glamour (where she was a contributing editor and wrote a column on women and television), Elle, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, and Slate. She is a native of Quakertown, Pennsylvania and a graduate of Villanova University. She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her family.