Monthly Archive: June 2014

Blog Tour & Review: All Day and a Night

All Day and a Night

All Day and a Night

by Alafair Burke
Published by Harper
368 pages
Genre: mystery; suspense
4 / 5

Summary from Goodreads:

A new murder case with ties to a convicted serial killer leads Detective Ellie Hatcher into a twisting investigation with explosive and deadly results in this superb mystery from the “terrific web spinner” (Entertainment Weekly) Alafair Burke.

When psychotherapist Helen Brunswick is murdered in her Park Slope office, the entire city suspects her estranged husband—until the District Attorney’s office receives an anonymous letter. The letter’s author knows a chilling detail that police have kept secret: the victim’s bones were broken after she was killed. Her injuries were eerily similar to the signature used twenty years earlier by Anthony Amaro, a serial killer serving a life sentence for his crimes. Now, Amaro is asking to be released from prison, arguing that he was wrongly convicted, and that the true killer is still on the loose.

NYPD Detectives Ellie Hatcher and JJ Rogan are tapped as the “fresh look” team to reassess the original investigation that led to Amaro’s conviction. The case pits them against both their fellow officers and a hard-charging celebrity defense lawyer with a young associate named Carrie Blank, whose older sister was one of Amaro’s victims.

As the NYPD and Amaro’s lawyers search for certainty among conflicting evidence, their investigations take them back to Carrie’s hometown, where secrets buried long ago lead to a brutal attack—one that makes it terrifyingly clear that someone has gotten too close to the truth.

 

My Review:

This is the first book written by Alafair Burke that I’ve read, and I’ve got to say that I am hooked.

On the way Burke writes, on heroine Ellie Hatcher, on her boyfriend (and Assistant District Attorney) Max, on her partner Rogan, and on Carrie Blank.

Burke cracks several eggs into this omelet, skillfully blending them to create a feast for us readers. (How about that metaphor, faithful readers!) The central focus is on Amaro, a man jailed for murdering five women. Is he a serial killer, or was he wrongfully accused? The recent murder of Helen Brunswick would make the latter appear to be the case, so much so that the District Attorney sides with Amaro’s flamboyant, bombastic attorney Linda (shades of Nancy Grace). Linda’s typical MO is to blame the cops. She actively seeks out ammunition, regardless of its relevance, to use against the police as a means of exculpating her clients.

Linda is an interesting character herself. She reminds me of some of the defense attorneys I saw back in the OJ Simpson days, the sort of people who blamed victims or police in hopes of incurring reasonable doubt. In Linda’s case, it’s also in hopes of incurring a settlement. She doesn’t charge her clients up front, preferring to take a percentage of any monies awarded. Linda is, quite simply, a vulture.

She also preys on Carrie’s emotions, promising the young attorney that by helping Linda help Amaro, Carrie will finally find out who murdered her sister. Carrie isn’t so much naive as she is hopeful. She’s toiling in a high-powered law firm, one of the nameless, faceless associates pulling all nighters for fat cat clients they never meet. It isn’t that Carrie doesn’t like her job – she does – but given the chance to get some closure on her sister’s death, Carrie accepts Linda’s job offer.

You get the sense that Carrie is Adam, taking a bite out of Eve’s apple. Nothing good will come from this association with Linda Moreland.

When Ellie’s live-in boyfriend Max directs her and Rogan to serve as “fresh eyes” on Amaro’s case, we get to the meat of the mystery: if Amaro didn’t kill those women, who did?

Burke leads us down several dead-end alleys, although one of the solutions is fairly obvious. Even then, though, while your suspicions may be founded, the reasons behind this character’s actions are something else entirely.

What impressed me most about Burke’s writing wasn’t so much her pacing (which is excellent) or her ability to be detailed without being tedious as it was the way she writes her characters. I really cared about Ellie, Max, and Carrie, and I came to wish I worked with a guy like Rogan. Burke respects her characters – even Linda Moreland – and she crafts them in a way that emotionally invests us in them. Not only do we turn the pages to find out answers to the mysteries, we also turn the pages to find out what happens to Ellie, Max and Carrie.

This is an excellent, compelling, dynamic mystery that you will enjoy. It’s part of a series, but you do not need to have read the previous books to enjoy this one. (I didn’t.) You might, though, find yourself wanting to know more about Ellie Hatcher, and if you do, make sure to check out the other novels in her series.

Buy Links:Alafair Burke

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Author Links:

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Review: The Teashop on the Corner

teashop

The Teashop on the Corner

by Milly Johnson
Published by Simon and Schuster UK
512 pages
Genre: women’s fiction; romance
4 / 5

Summary:

At her beloved husband’s funeral, Carla Pride discovers that Martin never divorced his first wife and has been living a double life with her. And his other wife, Julie Pride, is determined to take everything from Carla – her home, her money, and her memories.

When Will Linton’s business goes bust he at least thinks that with the support of his trophy wife Nicole he will rise to the top again. But Nicole isn’t going to stick around with ‘a loser’ and Will finds himself at rock bottom.

Molly Jones is being bullied into going into a retirement home by her ‘concerned’ daughter-in-law Sherry and son Gram. Then the love of Molly’s life walks in through her door – a man who broke Molly’s heart into little pieces many years ago. But he says he is dying and wants to spend the time he has left with her.

All people in need of a little love and compassion which they find by chance in the stationery and teashop on the corner run by the ever-cheerful Leni, a woman that site developer Shaun McCarthy finds annoying beyond annoying for her ability to remain unrealistically upbeat about everything.

But is the world of Leni Merryman as full of rainbows and sparkles as everyone thinks? Or is her smile papering over many cracks in her heart that will soon be shattered unwittingly by her new friends?

My Review:

When it comes to families, there are, you might say, variations on a theme. Perhaps you share a fractious relationship with your parents or your siblings. So you find mother figures and father figures, and you think of your friends as your brothers and sisters.

That is the heart of this book: family.

Carla’s certainly implodes when her husband – the man she loved and thought loved her – dies. Sad though that is, Carla’s grief is interrupted with a woman storms into the funeral and announces that she is his wife, the result of a youthful marriage that was never legally ended.

Who was the man Carla married? Her friends tell us that he wasn’t all that and a bag of chips, and Carla herself seems a bit mystified as to why she married him. It appears his is no tremendous loss, although it forces Carla to evaluate her life and life’s decisions. She moves into a quirkily designed home and is forced to take on a boarder, and she also has to figure out how she can incorporate her love of flowers into a job.

Fortunately for Carla, Will’s life is imploding as well. His business goes belly up, and he seeks succor and comfort in his wife’s arms. She, however, is spoiled and pampered, and a broke husband with little to no income does not fit her idea of success. Carla’s quirky home offers a place to live … and perhaps more.

Carla and Will find friendship and shelter together as well as at The Teashop on the Corner, where proprietor Leni serves up weekly book discussions, tasty confections, and kinship. Molly joins them, eventually bringing the man she loved when she was a young woman, a man who broke her heart, crushed her, and left her nearly emotionally ruined. A man who has returned, announcing that he has days left to live.

Together, this bunch forges a new family, including successful retired doctor Mr. Singh, Shaun, the carpenter who built Leni’s shop, and teenager Ryan, whose home life is tough, troublesome, and not at all something that brings him comfort.

Each character faces challenges, emotional and otherwise. Can Carla get past her husband’s betrayal and believe in herself enough to find happiness and fulfillment? Can Will overcome the hit to his ego and checkbook that came with his business’s demise? Will Milly forgive her former lover? Will Shaun open himself up to the family at the Teashop on the Corner? And Leni. Oh, sweet, caring, Leni, the mother hen to this disparate brood. Leni’s zen-like demeanor belies a sadness and melancholy that can crush her. Can she survive the emotional trauma she suffered?

A talented writer can incorporate different characters and storylines, and make you feel as if you know each one. This book, then, is in capable hands, because Milly Johnson knows and respects her characters. She keeps each one distinct from the other, never dwelling too long on their sadnesses but rather focusing on their hopes and potential for happiness.

A warning: some of the scenes will break your heart, so have a hanky handy. But some of them will make you smile and feel warm and happy.

The whole point is that you can, in fact, choose your family. And in doing so, you can choose whether or not to be happy, and how you’re going to achieve it.

Life can be sweet and comforting, or if can be lonely and miserable. The choice is yours, Milly Johnson tells us in this lovely, affecting book.

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Review: Summer House with Swimming Pool

summer house with swimming pool

Summer House with Swimming Pool

by Herman Koch
Published by Hogarth / Random House
400 pages
Genre: literature
4 / 5

Summary:

When a medical procedure goes horribly wrong and famous actor Ralph Meier winds up dead, Dr. Marc Schlosser needs to come up with some answers. After all, reputation is everything in this business. Personally, he’s not exactly upset that Ralph is gone, but as a high profile doctor to the stars, Marc can’t hide from the truth forever.

It all started the previous summer. Marc, his wife, and their two beautiful teenage daughters agreed to spend a week at the Meier’s extravagant summer home on the Mediterranean. Joined by Ralph and his striking wife Judith, her mother, and film director Stanley Forbes and his much younger girlfriend, the large group settles in for days of sunshine, wine tasting, and trips to the beach. But when a violent incident disrupts the idyll, darker motivations are revealed, and suddenly no one can be trusted. As the ultimate holiday soon turns into a nightmare, the circumstances surrounding Ralph’s later death begin to reveal the disturbing reality behind that summer’s tragedy.

Featuring the razor-sharp humor and acute psychological insight that madeThe Dinner an international phenomenon, Summer House with Swimming Poolis a controversial, thought-provoking novel that showcases Herman Koch at his finest.

My Review:

I don’t think I have encountered a character like Marc Schlosser in quite some time. He reminds me a little of Nick in Gone Girl in that I can’t decide if I like him or loath him. He’s equal parts good guy and freak, potential friend and abhorrent creature.

Marc himself is ambivalent about so many things, perhaps including his own sense of who he is. On the one hand, he is a successful doctor whose patients include Dutch celebrities. He has figured out how to treat them without truly treating them. He allots a prescribed amount of time for each one (about 20 minutes), asking questions and letting his patients talk about what they need to discuss, then offering a bland treatment. He believes this works; he thinks that most physical ailments are far less severe than the patient does, and what we need is time and empathy rather than a trip to the pharmacy.

He’s also a doctor who does not like to touch people. Marc does everything short of feeling the room to avoid actually coming into physical contact with his patients. He puts on rubber gloves, shudders with disgust (and fear), and heads in for an examination with great trepidation.

Yet he’s something of a success, and his patients keep coming back.

On the home front, Marc may not be quite the fabulous husband or father. He admits that he wishes he had at least one son as opposed to his two daughters. He tries to minimize this by pointing out the insecurities that fathers of daughters face, but once said, his damming wishes can’t be unheard. It isn’t so much that he’s a bad father as not a terribly present one, much like he is in his marriage. Carolyn, clearly, is more than he deserves in a wife, and when he mistreats her – when he betrays her – it makes me despise him.

The trip to the summer house is a bad idea from the start. Carolyn knows it, and since we trust Carolyn, we wish Marc would see what she does. When Carolyn points out that Marc is under some sort of thrall where Ralph Meier is concerned, we know it’s true. Marc, though, can’t see it. And if he can’t see it, then it doesn’t exist.

Something awful happens during the trip, as Carolyn (and we) knew would. Marc’s response again cements him as someone we aren’t sure we like. But the thing is, Marc believes that his actions are utterly justified. He breaches no moral code, he behaves in no way dishonorably.

Can we trust him? I think so. He fully discloses his mistakes and misjudgments, even if he doesn’t see them that way. He’s able to justify everything he does, which, while not endearing, does make us trust him. This isn’t to say that Marc does not manipulate. Watch how he interacts with Judith, Ralph Meier’s wife and widow. That is manipulation in its most selfish, cruelest form.

Compelling writing does not dictate that we have to admire and treasure the characters, though. In fact, some of the most memorable books are those in which it is difficult to find someone worth our affection. Gone Girl may be an obvious choice, but what about the sacred cow that is Catcher in the Rye? Did you like all of those people?

Of course, Marc will tell you that he responds to what happens at the summer house the way he does because he is a devoted father. He conveniently ignores all that he did before that event because those actions were decidedly not akin to a loving father or husband. Marc is selfish, no doubt, and he may wish for sons, but does love his family.

I enjoyed this book so much. It isn’t easy to read because most of the characters are so deplorable, but it’s well-written, and the characters are anything but flat. My biggest – my only – complaint is the ending. It doesn’t hold the dramatic impact that I wish it did.

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Review: White Collared II: Greed

white collared 2

White Collared II: Greed

by Shelly Bell
Published by Avon Red Impulse
120 pages
Genre: erotic suspense
3 / 5

Summary:

In the second installment of Shelly Bell’s four-part serialized erotic thriller, law student Kate Martin enters a world of dark secrets and seductive fantasies at the exclusive sex club Benediction.

Restrained by duty …
Reeling from a threatening phone call and frightened that her past will be revealed, Kate turns to the one man she can still trust: Nick. She can’t deny her attraction to him, yet she craves the passionate connection she has with Jaxon.

Bound by passion …
Undercover at Benediction, Jaxon introduces Kate to the sensual pleasures found in exhibitionism and voyeurism. While they mingle with the club’s patrons, Jaxon and Kate unearth clues about his wife Alyssa’s last days that could lead them to her killer. But as she investigates further, Kate is shocked to learn of a cold case that is eerily similar to Alyssa’s murder … and when the evidence ties Jaxon to yet another death, Kate begins to question everything she knows about her enigmatic lover.

My Review:

When last we saw Kate and Jaxon (that name … I just can’t), they were “connecting” through his legal case and through their sexual attraction. Part I of the series introduced us to the twosome, along with Kate’s boss Nick, to whom she also feels an attraction. Jaxon (THAT NAME!) is fighting off a murder charge, and he has enlisted Nick and Kate’s (especially Kate’s) help.

In Part II, we learn a little more about Kate and Jaxon. She has what you’d call A Troubled Past, and it seems like it’s coming to get her. Someone knows about it and is anonymously taunting her about it. She turns to Nick, whom she trusts, and is more than a little attracted to, for help. Nick rides in, all white horse and armor, and saves the day.

But what about Jaxon? As he and Kate delve into the sex club Jaxon’s dead wife belonged to, they start to find clues about what she was up to in those final days. Kate fully believes in Jaxon’s innocence, and she is nothing if not determined to free him. He can’t rock the headboard with her if he’s in the old grey bar hotel, can he?

No, he cannot.

But he CAN while he’s out, and the two avail themselves of his prowess.

The sexy times are hot, hot, HOT. Kate is as sexually adventurous as she is professionally focused, and she enjoys playing submissive to Jaxon’s Dominant. The BDSM (so far) is relatively low key, but I anticipate Bell anteing up the spanky panky factor as the series continues.

Of course the fun ends on a cliffhanger. And of course we only have clues about who killed Jaxon’s wife. But those clues are pretty straightforward, to the point that the killer’s identity is clear. Whether Kate can get out of her own way and solve this crime remains a question, though.

Yes, the mystery is fun (if not a bit obvious and overwrought), and the cliffhanger is a jolt (although not completely shocking – again, Bell lays the foundation for it), so you will want that third book. Which is the point, I suppose, of splitting up one substantial novel into its smaller parts.

 

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Review: White Collared Part I: Mercy

white collared 1

White Collared Part I: Mercy

by Shelly Bell
Published by Avon Red Impulse
176 pages
Genre: erotic suspense
3 / 5

Summary:

he first sexy installment in Shelly Bell’s four-part serialized erotic thriller about a young law student who must go undercover at a sex club to prove her client is not guilty of murder.

Driven by ambition …
Third-year law student Kate Martin outran her tragic past to become an intern for her idol and secret crush, the powerful attorney Nicholas Trenton. She is thrilled when Nick assigns her to represent his best friend and client, millionaire Jaxon Deveroux … the prime suspect in his submissive wife Alyssa’s murder.

Seduced by desire …
Kate knows they have only a few days to find the real killer, and since signs point to a member of the BDSM community, she volunteers to go undercover as Jaxon’s submissive at Benediction—the private sex club where he is a member—to covertly investigate Alyssa’s last few months. For years, Kate has kept her dark fantasies a secret … but a chance to explore them with sexy, dominant Jaxon is just too tempting to pass up.

My Review:

I don’t even know where – or how – to begin discussing this book. Let’s start with this, though: the four and five star reviews this has received? That’s a bigger mystery than the murder in the book.

My loathing of breaking up a book into smaller novellas in order to make money is established. I hate it. This book clocks in about 170 pages, but given that 20 to 30 of those are superfluous, you could say that it’s closer to 150. If this is going to be a four or five book series, then break it into two. Not four or five. It just feels like a money grab.

Okay, now on to the book itself.

I’m sure you read the summary and thought, “Huh?” Believe me, you will have a similar reaction upon reading this book. Kate is a bit naïve, but only insofar as she isn’t quite sure what (or should I say who) she wants. She likes being an attorney, she likes her job, but she wants more. She just isn’t sure what form that “more” should take. She got the gig with high powered attorney Nick, who is impressed enough with her that he lets her take charge of his BFF Jaxon’s murder case.

Yes, JAXON.

That name. I just … how are we supposed to take him seriously? JAXON? Dear lord.

So Jaxon has been accused of murdering his wife, who was into the spanky panky, as is Jaxon. Kate’s brilliant legal mind decides that the way to spring her client is for the two of them to go undercover at a sex club frequented by the dead wife. (Only there aren’t many covers to be found. GET IT? Rimshot.)

That Kate is attracted to Jaxon is clear. She likes him, and she wants to indulge in some spanky panky with him. Jaxon doesn’t fight her off, even if he’s only been a widow for a few hours. Also vying for Kate’s attention is her boss.

The headboard rockin’ is HOT, and that is the book’s redemption. Yes, there is a mystery, but good grief, if you can’t figure out who the killer is, then bless your heart. I think, perhaps, that this is Shelly Bell’s intent: let’s not muddy the story with the murder. Instead, let’s focus on the sexy times, because those are what Bell writes best.

And thus ends Part I: who killed the wife, will Jaxon learn to spell, and what will come of Kate and her romantic interests?

It’s hot. For 99 cents on a Kindle, it’s worth the splurge. Just don’t ask for much in terms of character development or anything high brow.

 

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Review: The Life You Left

the life you left

The Life You Left

by Carmel Harrington
Published by HarperImpulse
328 pages
Genre: women’s fiction
3.5 / 5

Summary:

Sarah, I’m not coming home tonight.
If you love me, you will give me the space I need…
Tell the children I love them.
Paul

It started out like any other day for Sarah Lawler; getting the kids ready for school, making the pack lunches and juggling baby Ella’s feeds.

There was no way of knowing that her husband, Paul, would leave for work that morning and simply not come home.

Now the questions are piling up quicker than the unpaid bills and, unable to answer her children’s questions about where their Daddy is, Sarah is getting desperate.

But it turns out she isn’t quite as alone as she thought she was. When her beloved childhood friend, Edward, comes back into her life, Sarah thinks she’s finally been thrown a life line.

There’s just one problem with Edward: no one else can see him.

Edward is an angel. And he has a message for Sarah that will change her life and the lives of others forever. For it is only in the most difficult of times that Sarah can discover how strong
she truly is.

Set in a small coastal village on the beautiful Irish coast, The Life You Left is a story of redemption and the strength of love.

My Review:

For Sarah Lawler, life is fairly simple. She works part-time, tends to her three young children, and runs the household while husband Paul works. Yes, it’s simple, but she likes it.

Simple can turn to complicated in the length of time it takes to read a three-lined note, however.

Paul is gone, and there is no telling when he will return. What is Sarah supposed to do now? There are three children to take care of, and her part time job can’t even pay for the groceries. Paul cleared out most of their savings, his income is gone, and that simple life Sarah had in her cozy Irish town has vanished.

First, there is the matter of what became of Paul. This, actually, is dispensed with reasonably quickly. And let’s just say that when you meet Paul, you will wonder what in the world drew Sarah to him in the first place. This is a question she asks herself, and while we do get an answer or two, it is insufficient. She’s a kind, good-hearted woman who strove to give Paul a contented life. What did she get out of it, though? Aside from her children, what did Paul give Sarah?

That’s something she has to answer for herself, and she tries, just as she tries to adjust to her new normal. She is aided by some quirky locals and her mother-in-law, and she’s helped out by her ability to remain optimistic in the face of dwindling hope. That’s one thing you have to admire in Sarah: as quickly as her life seems to swirl down the toilet, she gamely faces her challenges. Publicly, perhaps – she does allow herself sadness and fear when she’s alone – but it’s what she knows her family needs.

Sarah also draws strength on her spirituality. While not an overt member of the God Squad, Sarah knows there is a Higher Power, and she calls on it during her stress.

This is a sweet book with its share of romance and cuteness. It’s also somewhat bittersweet as Sarah faces and adjusts to the reality of her marriage. Is it too sweet? Yes, occasionally, although that isn’t a weakness. Rather, the somewhat tidy resolutions of Sarah’s problems is a drawback to this otherwise fine book.

Read this one if you need to feel good, because that’s what it does. It helps you feel a little sunshine, and sometimes that’s just what we need.

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Review: That Night

that night

That Night

by Chevy Stevens
Published by St. Martin’s Press
381 pages
Genre: fiction; literature; mystery
4 / 5

Summary:

As a teenager, Toni Murphy had a life full of typical adolescent complications: a boyfriend she adored, a younger sister she couldn’t relate to, a strained relationship with her parents, and classmates who seemed hell-bent on making her life miserable. Things weren’t easy, but Toni could never have predicted how horrific they would become until her younger sister was brutally murdered one summer night.

Toni and her boyfriend, Ryan, were convicted of the murder and sent to prison.

Now thirty-four, Toni, is out on parole and back in her hometown, struggling to adjust to a new life on the outside. Prison changed her, hardened her, and she’s doing everything in her power to avoid violating her parole and going back. This means having absolutely no contact with Ryan, avoiding fellow parolees looking to pick fights, and steering clear of trouble in all its forms. But nothing is making that easy—not Ryan, who is convinced he can figure out the truth; not her mother, who doubts Toni’s innocence; and certainly not the group of women who made Toni’s life hell in high school and may have darker secrets than anyone realizes. No matter how hard she tries, ignoring her old life to start a new one is impossible. Before Toni can truly move on, she must risk everything to find out what really happened that night.But in That Night by Chevy Stevens, the truth might be the most terrifying thing of all.

Summary:

This, faithful readers, is a good book, start to finish.

To say that Toni has been struggling is to wildly understate her condition. Prior to her arrest, her life was not quite sunshine and flowers, although sister Nicole’s certainly appeared to be. Toni was the scapegoat of the family, always found guilty before she had a chance to defend herself. Granted, most of the time Toni was guilty. But what about when she wasn’t?

For a teenager, not being able to tell your side of the story is frustrating and galling, and it frequently pushes one into the path of oncoming disaster. In Toni’s case, it sent her straight to the arms of Ryan, her first love. Even as she narrates from prison, she’s still surprised they were ever together. Ryan is gorgeous and charismatic, the object of many of Toni’s peers’ fantasies and desires. Yet Toni got him.

The two indulge in some destructive teenage behavior, but regardless of the drugs or alcohol or sex, they love each other. That much is made clear. Never once while reading Ton’s recollections of her teenage days do you doubt that Ryan loved her.

The problem is that those girls who want Ryan also want to make Toni’s life miserable. At one point, Toni was friends with them. But self-absorbed girls who get everything they want can’t abide by someone not playing by their rules, which makes Toni the target of their attempts to ruin her. This herd makes the “Mean Girls” look like a knitting club.

Nicole’s murder tears apart Toni and Ryan’s tenuous happiness. As she tells us about life in prison, Toni reveals her hardening fragility. She’s still the girl who feels unloved and unwanted, only now she’s surrounded by women determined to break her not just in half, but into as many pieces as possible. The novel begins with Toni’s release, but getting out of jail is not the same thing as being free. Toni realizes that, and she wants us to understand it as well.

As the summary states, there is a mystery here: who killed Nicole? If Toni is to be believed, she and Ryan had nothing to do with it, nor did they have much motive. Toni admits she hardly knew her sister, and what she thought she knew was false. The mystery of who was Nicole is never fully solved, but then again, Toni is the only one who seems to want to understand her.

And there is the secondary, but perhaps more important, focus of this novel: family. Both Toni and Ryan hail from families that shun, disrespect, manipulate, deny, categorize, and denigrate them. Toni’s father supports her, but for her mother, Toni is not the daughter she wanted. Nicole is. That Nicole’s malleability is a façade fractures the relationship between Toni and her mother even more severely. Imagine, then, how this woman reacts when Toni is accused and convicted of killing Nicole.

Family also hovers over the high school girls who strive to make Toni miserable, and family takes different forms. Toni’s prison-mates become a family, and her parole officer becomes a sort of mother figure.

Why four stars and not five? Occasionally Stevens’ writing is a bit overwrought, and sometimes the pacing becomes inconsistent.

They say you can’t choose your family, but in a way, Toni does. Ryan, too. Their own families don’t seem to want them, so they find each other. But can that high school love survive prison? Can it help them find who really killed Nicole? That is the greater mystery of this book, and Chevy Stevens builds the suspense for that question just as intensely as she builds it for the whodunit.

Fantastic, compelling story telling.

Buy Links:

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Interview: Zara Kingsley

a moral dilemma button

As part of the celebration for her new book, A Moral Dilemma, Zara Kingsley stopped by to answer some questions. Here’s a chance to get to know her better, and I thank her for taking the time to join the blog today. Make sure you check out my review of A Moral Dilemma, as well as the buy links below. There is also a giveaway, and you know what I always say: if it’s free, it’s for me.

Now, onto Zara’s interview.

If you could be any age for one week, what would you choose and why?
If I could be any age for one week, I would be 18 again. I see 18yr old girls these days having an absolute ball! They’re enjoying life and are totally aware of how hot they are. With hindsight I realize that I really didn’t fully grasp the joy of 18yr old care-free living. Instead of swanning around in skinny jeans and teeny tiny shorts, I was going through a ‘tomboy’ phase, wearing baggy trousers and Timberland boots! My slender 18yr old thighs never saw the light of day, and have remained covered up ever since. I wish I had at least taken photos!

What kind of student were you when you were in high school?                                     

I was a constant day-dreamer, a bit of a chatterbox in class, and I never quite got the hang of math. On the plus side, high school was also where I fell head over heels in love with literature.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Well, I’m not wildly ambitious, and to be honest, I’m still tickled pink that folks seem to be enjoying my debut novel. I just love that others laugh just as much as I do when reading the book and so I guess that if anything, my ambition would be to continue creating characters and writing stories that entertain others.

Which writers inspire you?

He writes in a completely different genre, but I am completely inspired by Khaled Housini. I also love Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult.

When did you decide to become a writer?

I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember, but I made the decision to become a ‘proper’ writer, 3 years ago,

Why do you write?

Because I absolutely love doing so.

Talk about your writing process. Do you do it daily? Do you make yourself write for a prescribed amount of time, or do you write when you feel inspired?

I usually write most evenings, once everyone’s gone to bed and the house is reasonably quite. Once I have a story mapped out in my head, I then spend quite some time developing the characters first and once the characters have a voice, the story just starts to flow. And once the story starts to flow…I could be up writing all night . 🙂

What are the most and least challenging aspects of writing for you?

The least challenging is plot and character development. The most challenging is knowing when to type ‘The End’!

How much research do you typically conduct prior to writing?

I spend months researching prior to writing. I like to know every single detail about my characters, their personalities, quirks and dark secrets. I need to know and understand them inside out before I even think about bringing them to life on the page. Same with all the other details such as settings, hobbies, interests and jobs.

Give some insight on Rebecca Hardy. What made you want to create this character?

Rebecca Hardy is the heroine in ‘A Moral Dilemma’. She’s a very wholesome girl with old fashioned values, hopes and dreams. She’s in love with the idea of love and relationship, but at the same time disillusioned with the moral breakdown of society all around her. Initially she’s somewhat judgemental of the seemingly poor life choices others around her make, but when faced with her own moral dilemma, she begins to see that life isn’t always black and white. There is a murky grey area where life isn’t about doing what’s right or wrong. It’s about living.

How did you select the setting(s) of your books?

London is my hometown and I absolutely love it. So when deciding on a setting for my debut novel, it just had to be London Town.

When you started on these books, did you know how they would end, or did that come about more organically?

I had no idea how this book would end. It really was an organic and natural development.

Which of the characters in these books would you most like to have as a friend? Why?

I would love to have Abby as a friend. She’s so ballsy and cracks me up every time!

What should readers expect from the books?

A Moral Dilemma really is a light hearted fun read. There’s neither graphic sex nor vampires. Just a crazy trio of girls living, loving and raising all kinds of hell, in London Town. 🙂

a moral dilemma

Buy Links

Amazon USA: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00J23I0S0

Amazon UK:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00J23I0S0

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Release Day Blitz & Giveaway: Desire

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Desire
by Missy Johnson
Publication Date: June 27, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance

Blitz: Desire by Missy Johnson

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Synopsis: I’m a sex worker.

A prostitute. A whore.

Whatever you want to call me, the result is still the same. I sleep with men and I get paid for it. I don’t make excuses for what I do.

Then I learn how fragile life can be; how in an instant, everything can change. My mother disappears and I’m left to care for my two estranged siblings. I can barely manage to look after myself.

How am I supposed to look after a hormonal fifteen year old and a five year old who has no idea who I am?

I just want my old, uncomplicated life back.

Especially when He shows up.

He’s investigating my mothers disappearance, but I can see that it’s more than that for him.He thinks he can help me. He thinks he can fix me.

Only how can he fix something so broken?

About Missy Johnson

Missy lives in a small town in Central Victoria with her husband, and her confused pets (a dog who think she’s a cat, a cat who thinks he’s a dog…you get the picture).

When she’s not writing, she can usually be found looking for something to read.

Enter the giveaway HERE.

Blog Tour & Review: A Moral Dilemma

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A Moral Dilemma

by Zara Kingsley
Genre: contemporary romance
3.5 / 5

Summary

Think you would never date a married man? … Think again!

Rebecca Hardy isn’t a naturally deceptive person, but it seems her boyfriend might be—and when she theatrically catches him cheating, she decides she’s had it with these modern-day men who can’t commit. She has even less regard for these immoral modern day women, who don’t hesitate to prey on men in committed relationships. What is wrong with them?! Don’t they care that they’re breaking hearts and destroying lives?! Rebecca, with her high morals and family values, would never even consider dating a married man. Which is why her friends are so shocked when Rebecca finds herself doing exactly that—albeit at the fervent request of that man’s very own wife, the notorious Isabella Coombs.

At first, Rebecca likes to think of it as helping someone out—female camaraderie, and all that. But she doesn’t expect Isabella’s husband to be quite so charming…or for things to go quite so far.

My Review

Rebecca is one of those people who tries so hard but isn’t quite sure why she’s trying or what she wants.

She admits that she is a caretaker, ironing boyfriend Jeremy’s clothes, cooking his food, making sure he feels cared for. She also is a fairly stalwart friend, not unwilling to point out her friends’ foibles but always on their sides nonetheless. Professionally speaking, she enjoys her job, although she yearns for her boss to embrace some of her ideas. Sure, there is a coworker whom she holds in low esteem, and her boss is a tad frosty, but Rebecca is a good person. She’s there, she’s present, and she engages.

When she kicks Jeremy to the curb, she surprises herself with her inner strength, something she will need to rely on as she faces single-dom. One thing she knows: she despises cheaters, especially predatory women who make themselves available for men who are taken.

But then Isabella Coombs shows up with this idea – help her prove that her husband is cheating – that she’s willing to pay Rebecca to do, and those scruples Rebecca so meticulously established take a step back in the name of financial survival. And, really, isn’t she doing Isabella a favor? I mean, if Charles is a cheater, shouldn’t Isabella know?

The problem is that Rebecca becomes conflicted. She isn’t sure that Isabella’s scheme is all that fabulous, and she isn’t sure that Charles is a cheater. She also isn’t sure if her feelings for him are … appropriate.

This book is fun and enjoyable and interesting and engaging.

Until the ending.

I was soooo disappointed by the ending because it felt like Zara Kingsley just stopped writing. It’s as if all of the challenges Rebecca and her friends face are solved and tidied up over the course of about three pages. I wish more time had been given to the plot resolutions, and I wish more time had been given to Charles. We don’t really get to know him very well, and that’s a shortcoming.

Still, though, it’s a fun book, and if you’re looking for a breezy beach read, this is a good choice.

a moral dilemma

Buy Links

Amazon USA: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00J23I0S0

Amazon UK:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00J23I0S0

About the Author

Luckily I was born and raised in a City I love living in: London, UK. And it’s just as well, as I can barely afford to go on a camping holiday much less move. I have a gorgeous 9yr old daughter, yeah, I’m a single mom, (judge me later), and I like to think of myself as a yummy mummy, when in reality I’m still working on shifting this damn cellulite of my ass. I do actually make it into the gym from time to time, but mainly to appreciate the…ahem …view 🙂

So what kinda stuff do I write?

Well, I write what I love reading, Romantic Comedy and the original kinda British ChickLit. I don’t do vampires, werewolves, or horror, because sheesh, I wanna sleep at night. In my bed. Not underneath it. So if you like Bridget Jones or Shopaholic, then you might dig my stuff.

My heroines are women in their late twenties / early thirties. My heroes are hot, cute and not too hunky. My stories are about life, love and friendship, with a few twists and turns and tons of fun. They’re not particularly deep, nor meaningful, they’re a lighthearted, easy read, that go well with a glass of wine and a few chocs, and just might make you laugh out loud

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