Category: New Books

Strangers She Knows
September 19th, 2019 by diane92345

My review of Strangers She Knows:

 

In the stunning conclusion to the Cape Charade series, brain-damaged Kellen must fight with betrayed serial killer Mara. This is one case where the Strangers She Knows are not better than the devil she doesn’t know.

Kellen, Max, and Rae are finally settling into family life. Then three things happen to breach their peaceful life. First, Kellen still doesn’t have full use of her dominant right hand. Second, ten-year-old Rae is hitting the turbulent teens three years early by acting petulant and throwing dramatic tantrums. Worst of all, Kellen’s nemesis, Mara, has escaped from prison and is looking for revenge.

To avoid Mara, the family travels a circular route to a family-owned island off the California coast. The island is remote with no connection to the mainland other than a helicopter. No cellphone towers. No Wi-Fi. No telephone. No harbor. No mail. The family must rely on themselves for entertainment…and, if necessary, protection.

I loved the beginning of this book. It has almost gothic or historical fiction feel with the old mansion filled with convoluted rooms and secret passages on a desolate island. Rae and Kellen find a diary of a young girl explaining her restricted life during World War II and how a controlling father was embarrassed by his Japanese wife and half-Japanese daughter. That portion of the book was easily a 4.5 star read.

But then we get thrown into a standard thriller with Kellen fighting Mara to save herself and her family. It seemed formulaic to me. Plus most of the thriller’s plot was in the previous book in the series. This book resolves the cliffhanger from that book. However, I didn’t read the former book so it left me rather flat and seemed like only about a 3.5 star read.

Combining the two plots into one book is innovative but I don’t think it worked very well here. But as long as you know the book will seem languorous initially and picks up the pace at the midpoint, I think you will enjoy the characters and plots within Strangers She Knows. 4 stars!

Thanks to HQN, Harlequin Books, Partners In Crime Book Tours, and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Strangers She Knows

by Christina Dodd

September 17, 2019

on Tour September 17 – October 1, 2019

Synopsis:

Perfect for fans of Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Linda Howard, and Jayne Ann Krentz, New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd returns with the chilling finale to the Cape Charade trilogy.

I have three deadly problems:

    1. I’ve seriously offended a maniacal killer.
    2. I just had a bullet removed from my brain.
    3. My new daughter is growing up too fast—and she’s in the line of fire.

Living on an obscure, technology-free island off California means safety from the murderer who hunts Kellen Adams and her new family…or does it? Family time becomes terror time, until Kellen finds herself alone and facing an all-too-familiar psychopath. Only one can survive, and Kellen knows who must win…and who must die.

Be sure to also check-out the rest of the Cape Charade series, starting with DEAD GIRL RUNNING and WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER, available now wherever books are sold.

Series STARRED reviews from Booklist

“From the unforgettable heroine with a past to the incisively etched cast of secondary characters to the brilliantly imaginative plot, Dodd is at her most wildly entertaining, wickedly witty best.” -Booklist STARRED review on DEAD GIRL RUNNING

“Featuring an unforgettable protagonist…who makes Jack Reacher look like a slacker when it comes to dispatching trouble, and an ingenious plot that includes plenty of white-knuckle twists and turns as well as some touching moments of mother-daughter bonding.” -Booklist STARRED review on WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER

“Dodd continues her addictively readable Cape Charade series featuring Kellen Adams with another white-knuckle tale that simply begs to be inhaled in one sitting. With a fascinating island setting that includes a spooky old mansion, a secondary storyline involving World War II, and an antagonist who could give Villanelle from Killing Eve a pointer or two, this is Dodd at her brilliant best.” -Booklist STARRED review on STRANGERS SHE KNOWS

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Suspense Published by: HQN Books Publication Date: September 17, 2019 Number of Pages: 352 ISBN: 1335468331 (ISBN13: 9781335468338) Series: Cape Charade #3 Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Yearning Sands Resort Washington’s Pacific Coast This Spring Rae Di Luca stacked up her Level Three lesson books, opened the piano bench and put them away. She got out the Adult Course Level 1A book, opened it to “Silver Bells,” and put it on the music rack. “Mom, you have to practice.” Kellen didn’t look up from her book. “I know.” “When?” “When what?” “When are you going to do it?” “I’m at the good part. Let me finish this chapter.” “No, you have to practice now. You know it helps with your finger dexterity.” When had their roles reversed, Kellen wondered? When had ten-year-old Rae become the sensible adult and Kellen become the balky child? Oh yeah. When she had the brain surgery, her right hand refused to regain its former abilities, and the physical therapist suggested learning the piano. But there was a reason Kellen hadn’t learned to play the piano earlier in her life. She loved music—and she had no musical talent. That, added to the terrible atrophy that afflicted her fingers, made her lessons and practices an unsurpassed agony…for everyone. She looked up, saw Rae standing, poised between coaxing and impatience, and the Rolodex in Kellen’s punctured, operated-on and much-abused brain clicked in: RAE DI LUCA: FEMALE, 10YO, 5‘0″, 95LBS. KELLEN’S DAUGHTER. HER MIRACLE. IN TRANSITION: GIRL TO WOMAN, BLOND HAIR TO BROWN, BROWN EYES LIGHTENING TO HAZEL. LONG LEGS; GAWKY. SKIN A COMBINATION OF HER ITALIAN HERITAGE FROM HER FATHER AND THE NATIVE AMERICAN BLOOD FROM KELLEN; FIRST PIMPLE ON HER CHIN. NEVER TEMPERAMENTAL. KIND, STRONG, INDEPENDENT. Kellen loved this kid. The feeling was more than human. It was feral, too, and Kellen would do anything to protect Rae from threat—and had. “I know. I’m coming. It’s so much more fun to listen to you play than practice myself. You’re good and I’m…awful.” “I’m not good. I’m just better than you.” Rae came over and wrapped her arms around Kellen’s neck, hugged and laughed. “But Luna is better than you.” “Don’t talk to me about that dog. She howls every time I sit down at the piano. Sometimes she doesn’t even wait until I start playing. The traitor.” Kellen glared at the dog, and once again her brain—which had developed this ability after that shot to the head—sorted through the files of identity cards to read: LUNA: FEMALE, FULL-SIZED POODLE/AUSTRALIAN CATTLE DOG/AT LEAST ONE OTHER BREED, 50LBS, RED COAT, BROWN EYES, STRONGLY MUSCLED. RESCUED BY RAE AND MAX WHILE KELLEN RECOVERED FROM SURGERY. FAMILY MEMBER. RAE’S FRIEND, COMPANION, PROTECTOR. MUSIC LOVER. Luna watched Kellen in return, head resting on her paws, waiting for her chance to sing a solo protest to Kellen’s inept rendition of “Silver Bells.” “Everybody’s a critic.” Rae set the timer. “Come on. Ten minutes of scales, then you only have to practice for thirty minutes.” “Why do I have to practice ‘Silver Bells’? Christmas isn’t for seven months.” “So you’ll have mastered it by the time the season rolls around.” “I used to like that song.” “We all used to like that song.” Rae took Kellen’s left hand and tugged. “Mom, come on. You know you feel better afterward.” Kellen allowed herself to be brought to her feet. “I’m going to do something wild and crazy. I’m going to start learning ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’ It’s the next song in the book, and I like it.” “You can learn anything you want after you practice your scales and work on ‘Silver Bells’ for fifteen minutes.” No one wanted to be inside today, certainly not Rae Di Luca, certainly not Kellen Adams Di Luca, certainly not upstairs in their private quarters in the Yearning Sands Resort. Not when spring had come to the Washington state Pacific Coast. April and May’s drenching rains turned the world a soggy brown. Then, on the first of June, one day of blazing sunshine created green that spread across the coastal plain. Kellen made her way through the ten minutes of scales—the dog remained quiescent for those—then began plunking out “Silver Bells.” As she struggled with the same passage, her right hand fingers responding only sporadically, Luna started with a slight whine that grew in intensity. At the first high howl, Kellen turned to the dog. “Look, this isn’t easy for me, either.” Luna sat, head cocked, one ear up, one ear down, brown eyes pleading with her. “I would love to stop,” Kellen told her and turned back to the piano. “How about a different tune? Let’s try ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’” She played the first few notes and out of the corner of her eye, she saw the dog subside. Then, as she worked on a tricky passage, made the same mistake, time after time, the dog sat up again, lifted her nose and howled in mourning for the slaughter of the song. Rae giggled, and when her mother glowered, the child controlled herself. “Come on, Luna, I’ll take you outside.” The dog didn’t budge. “She thinks she’s helping you,” Rae explained. “Come on, Luna. Come on!” She coaxed her out the door, turned back to Kellen and said sternly, “Twenty more minutes!” “Yeah, yeah.” Kellen struggled on, trying to make her recalcitrant fingers do her bidding. Even when she finally got the notes right, it wasn’t a piano tune so much as jack-in-the-box music. When at last the timer went off, she slumped over the keyboard and stared at the fingers of her right hand. They were trying to atrophy, to curl in and refuse to do her bidding ever again. But the physical therapists assured her she could combat this. She had to create new nerve ways, train another part of her brain to handle the work, and since two hands were better than one and her right hand was her dominant hand, the battle was worth fighting. But every day, the forty minutes at the keyboard left her drained and discouraged. Behind her, Max said, “Turn around and let me rub your hands.” She noticed he did not say, That was good. Or even, That was better. Max didn’t tell lies. Kellen sighed and swiveled on the piano bench. Again that Rolodex in her brain clicked in: MAX DI LUCA: MALE, 38YO, 6’5″, 220LBS, ITALIAN-AMERICAN, FORMER FOOTBALL PLAYER. HANDSOME, TANNED, CURLY BLACK HAIR, BROWN EYES SURROUNDED BY LONG BLACK LASHES. ONCE HIGH UP IN THE DI LUCA FAMILY CORPORATION, STEPPED DOWN TO RAISE HIS DAUGHTER, NOW DIRECTOR OF THE FAMILY’S YEARNING SANDS RESORT ON THE WASHINGTON COAST. KIND, GENEROUS, RESPONSIBLE, LOVING. A STICKLER FOR DUTY. FAR TOO MUCH WILLPOWER, WHICH WAS IRRITATING TO KELLEN IN MATTERS RELATING TO THEIR MARITAL STATE. He took her right hand gently in both of his and, starting at the wrist, he massaged her palm, her thumb, her fingers. He used a lavender-scented oil, and stretched and worked the muscles and bones while she moaned with pleasure. He listened with a slight smile, and when she looked into his face, she realized his lips looked fuller, he had a dark flush over his cheekbones and his nostrils flared as he breathed. She looked down at his jeans, leaned close and whispered, “Max, I’m done with practice. Why don’t we wander up to our bedroom and I’ll rub your…hand, too.” He met her eyes. He stopped his massage. Except for the rise and fall of his chest, he was frozen in that pose of incipient passion. Then he sat back and sighed. “Doctor says no.” “Doctor said be careful.” “Woman, if I could be careful, I would. As it is, nothing is best.” “I am torn between being flattered and frustrated.” She thought about it. “Mostly frustrated.” “I’m just fine.” Max didn’t usually resort to sarcasm, so that told her a lot. Married almost two years and no sex. He was a good man, but he was coming to the end of his patience. “If we’re refraining because we’re worried I’m going to pop a blood vessel while in the throes of passion, I’d like to point out there are solutions that you might enjoy.” “That isn’t fair to you.” “You’re massaging my hand. That’s pretty wonderful.” “Not the same.” Again he took her tired hand and went to work. Bitterly she said, “Kellen’s Brain. It’s like a bad sci-fi fantasy.” He laughed. “It’s improving all the time.” When he had made her hand relax and Kellen relax with it, he said, “I’ve been thinking—the Di Luca family owns Isla Paraíso off the coast of Northern California. The family bought the island seventy years ago with the idea of placing a resort on the island, but now that doesn’t seem likely. Someone needs to go there, look things over, make decisions about its fate.” Kellen nodded. “You want to go there? See what you think?” “Actually, I thought we should all go there.” He was still working her hand, but with a little too much forcefulness and concentration. “Ouch,” she said softly. He pulled away, horrified. “Did I hurt you?” “Not at all. Except that you’re treating me like a child.” “What do you mean?” “You’re not telling me what’s really going on. Why do you want to go to this island?” “I told you—” “I don’t doubt that what you told me is the truth. But it’s not all the truth. Max, what’s wrong?” Max sighed, an understatement of a sigh, as if he dreaded what he was about to say. “You’re not going to like it.” “I gathered that.” “Mitch Nyugen.” “What about him? He’s dead.” She remembered she couldn’t always trust Kellen’s Brain. “Isn’t he?” “Yes. He was buried in the Cape Charade cemetery.” “Was buried?” Unease stirred in her belly. “This week, his widow arrived from Wyoming.” “He wasn’t married.” That brain thing. “Was he?” “No.” Max was as sure as Kellen was not. “Yet the woman who claimed to be his widow had all the necessary paperwork to have his body exhumed.” “Oh, no.” “She had the coffin placed in the chapel. Last night, the undertaker, Arthur Earthman, found her there, with the coffin open. She murdered him, and almost killed his wife, Cynthia. The widow escaped ahead of the sheriff, and she left her calling card.” Kellen knew. She knew what Max was going to say. “She cut off Mitch’s hands.” “And took them.” Max looked up at her, his brown eyes wretched with fear. “Mara Philippi is back. And she’s here.” *** Excerpt from Strangers She Knows by Christina Dodd. Copyright 2019 by Christina Dodd. Reproduced with permission from HQN Books. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Christina Dodd New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd writes “edge-of-the-seat suspense” (Iris Johansen) with “brilliantly etched characters, polished writing, and unexpected flashes of sharp humor that are pure Dodd” (ALA Booklist). Her fifty-eight books have been called “scary, sexy, and smartly written” by Booklist and, much to her mother’s delight, Dodd was once a clue in the Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle.

Enter Christina’s worlds and join her mailing list at: christinadodd.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook!

Tour Participants:

 

Tour Giveaway:

TThis is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Christina Dodd and HQN Books. There will be one (1) winner. The winner will receive an Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on September 17, 2019 and runs through October 2, 2019. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Posted in Book Tour, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: ,

Once Upon a Time in France
September 18th, 2019 by diane92345

Once Upon a Time in France tells the, so unbelievably it must be true, story of Romanian Jew Joseph Joanovici.

After immigrating to France in the 1920s, scrap metal makes him rich. When World War II begins, he slowly starts supplying the Nazis with metal after they occupy France. He uses his money and connections to the Germans to save his family and many other Jews if France from death. He also contributes some his war profits to the French Resistance. When the war ends, society has a difficult time characterizing him as either a hero or a villain. In truth, he was just a man making hard decisions. War truly is hell.

Joseph is a complex character stuck in a bad situation. After World War II, people wanted to glorify war heroes and vilify its villains. Unfortunately, Joseph was a little of both. The story is enthralling and little known in popular culture. Once Upon a Time in France does an excellent job drawing the reader into a completely different time and place. It forces contemplation of what the reader would do if in Joseph’s place. The artwork is beautiful and really enhances the feeling of immersion in French culture and the shock of war. 4.5 stars!

Thanks to Dead Reckoning, Naval Institute Press and Edelweiss+ for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Graphic Novel, New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: , ,

Land of Wolves
September 17th, 2019 by diane92345

Sheriff Walt Longmire is back home in Wyoming and deep in the Land of Wolves, both the four and the two-legged kind.

Walt is still suffering both mentally and physically from his horrendous trip to Mexico in his last book, Depth of Winter (my review is here). He continues to have body aches, which slows down his investigation of a Chilean sheep herder’s murder. More disturbing are the fugues where his brain shuts off for several minutes and his body remains staring into space. And who, or what, is the gigantic wolf that only appears to him? The townspeople want to kill it but Walt’s buddy Henry Standing Bear is convinced it is a reincarnated shaman sent to help Longmire.

It seems like a relaxing trip home when I read a Longmire book. Relationships begun many books ago continue to morph and grow. As Walt ages, he gets even more philosophical. Is he really ready for retirement? Can he create a bridge back to his family after their terrible Mexican ordeal? I can’t overemphasize the importance of reading this series in order. If you do start with Land of Wolves, you will find an enthralling police procedural but will miss many of the subtle reflections on the nature of life. 4 stars!

Thanks to Viking and Edelweiss+ for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: ,

Strangers She Knows
September 17th, 2019 by diane92345

Strangers She Knows

by Christina Dodd

September 17, 2019

on Tour September 17 – October 1, 2019

Synopsis:

 

Perfect for fans of Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Linda Howard, and Jayne Ann Krentz, New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd returns with the chilling finale to the Cape Charade trilogy.

I have three deadly problems:

    1. I’ve seriously offended a maniacal killer.
    2. I just had a bullet removed from my brain.
    3. My new daughter is growing up too fast—and she’s in the line of fire.

Living on an obscure, technology-free island off California means safety from the murderer who hunts Kellen Adams and her new family…or does it? Family time becomes terror time, until Kellen finds herself alone and facing an all-too-familiar psychopath. Only one can survive, and Kellen knows who must win…and who must die.

Be sure to also check out the rest of the Cape Charade series, starting with DEAD GIRL RUNNING and WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER, available now wherever books are sold.

Series STARRED reviews from Booklist

“From the unforgettable heroine with a past to the incisively etched cast of secondary characters to the brilliantly imaginative plot, Dodd is at her most wildly entertaining, wickedly witty best.” -Booklist STARRED review on DEAD GIRL RUNNING

“Featuring an unforgettable protagonist…who makes Jack Reacher look like a slacker when it comes to dispatching trouble, and an ingenious plot that includes plenty of white-knuckle twists and turns as well as some touching moments of mother-daughter bonding.” -Booklist STARRED review on WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER

“Dodd continues her addictively readable Cape Charade series featuring Kellen Adams with another white-knuckle tale that simply begs to be inhaled in one sitting. With a fascinating island setting that includes a spooky old mansion, a secondary storyline involving World War II, and an antagonist who could give Villanelle from Killing Eve a pointer or two, this is Dodd at her brilliant best.” -Booklist STARRED review on STRANGERS SHE KNOWS

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Suspense Published by: HQN Books Publication Date: September 17, 2019 Number of Pages: 352 ISBN: 1335468331 (ISBN13: 9781335468338) Series: Cape Charade #3 Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Yearning Sands Resort Washington’s Pacific Coast This Spring Rae Di Luca stacked up her Level Three lesson books, opened the piano bench and put them away. She got out the Adult Course Level 1A book, opened it to “Silver Bells,” and put it on the music rack. “Mom, you have to practice.” Kellen didn’t look up from her book. “I know.” “When?” “When what?” “When are you going to do it?” “I’m at the good part. Let me finish this chapter.” “No, you have to practice now. You know it helps with your finger dexterity.” When had their roles reversed, Kellen wondered? When had ten-year-old Rae become the sensible adult and Kellen become the balky child? Oh yeah. When she had the brain surgery, her right hand refused to regain its former abilities, and the physical therapist suggested learning the piano. But there was a reason Kellen hadn’t learned to play the piano earlier in her life. She loved music—and she had no musical talent. That, added to the terrible atrophy that afflicted her fingers, made her lessons and practices an unsurpassed agony…for everyone. She looked up, saw Rae standing, poised between coaxing and impatience, and the Rolodex in Kellen’s punctured, operated-on and much-abused brain clicked in: RAE DI LUCA: FEMALE, 10YO, 5‘0″, 95LBS. KELLEN’S DAUGHTER. HER MIRACLE. IN TRANSITION: GIRL TO WOMAN, BLOND HAIR TO BROWN, BROWN EYES LIGHTENING TO HAZEL. LONG LEGS; GAWKY. SKIN A COMBINATION OF HER ITALIAN HERITAGE FROM HER FATHER AND THE NATIVE AMERICAN BLOOD FROM KELLEN; FIRST PIMPLE ON HER CHIN. NEVER TEMPERAMENTAL. KIND, STRONG, INDEPENDENT. Kellen loved this kid. The feeling was more than human. It was feral, too, and Kellen would do anything to protect Rae from threat—and had. “I know. I’m coming. It’s so much more fun to listen to you play than practice myself. You’re good and I’m…awful.” “I’m not good. I’m just better than you.” Rae came over and wrapped her arms around Kellen’s neck, hugged and laughed. “But Luna is better than you.” “Don’t talk to me about that dog. She howls every time I sit down at the piano. Sometimes she doesn’t even wait until I start playing. The traitor.” Kellen glared at the dog, and once again her brain—which had developed this ability after that shot to the head—sorted through the files of identity cards to read: LUNA: FEMALE, FULL-SIZED POODLE/AUSTRALIAN CATTLE DOG/AT LEAST ONE OTHER BREED, 50LBS, RED COAT, BROWN EYES, STRONGLY MUSCLED. RESCUED BY RAE AND MAX WHILE KELLEN RECOVERED FROM SURGERY. FAMILY MEMBER. RAE’S FRIEND, COMPANION, PROTECTOR. MUSIC LOVER. Luna watched Kellen in return, head resting on her paws, waiting for her chance to sing a solo protest to Kellen’s inept rendition of “Silver Bells.” “Everybody’s a critic.” Rae set the timer. “Come on. Ten minutes of scales, then you only have to practice for thirty minutes.” “Why do I have to practice ‘Silver Bells’? Christmas isn’t for seven months.” “So you’ll have mastered it by the time the season rolls around.” “I used to like that song.” “We all used to like that song.” Rae took Kellen’s left hand and tugged. “Mom, come on. You know you feel better afterward.” Kellen allowed herself to be brought to her feet. “I’m going to do something wild and crazy. I’m going to start learning ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’ It’s the next song in the book, and I like it.” “You can learn anything you want after you practice your scales and work on ‘Silver Bells’ for fifteen minutes.” No one wanted to be inside today, certainly not Rae Di Luca, certainly not Kellen Adams Di Luca, certainly not upstairs in their private quarters in the Yearning Sands Resort. Not when spring had come to the Washington state Pacific Coast. April and May’s drenching rains turned the world a soggy brown. Then, on the first of June, one day of blazing sunshine created green that spread across the coastal plain. Kellen made her way through the ten minutes of scales—the dog remained quiescent for those—then began plunking out “Silver Bells.” As she struggled with the same passage, her right hand fingers responding only sporadically, Luna started with a slight whine that grew in intensity. At the first high howl, Kellen turned to the dog. “Look, this isn’t easy for me, either.” Luna sat, head cocked, one ear up, one ear down, brown eyes pleading with her. “I would love to stop,” Kellen told her and turned back to the piano. “How about a different tune? Let’s try ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’” She played the first few notes and out of the corner of her eye, she saw the dog subside. Then, as she worked on a tricky passage, made the same mistake, time after time, the dog sat up again, lifted her nose and howled in mourning for the slaughter of the song. Rae giggled, and when her mother glowered, the child controlled herself. “Come on, Luna, I’ll take you outside.” The dog didn’t budge. “She thinks she’s helping you,” Rae explained. “Come on, Luna. Come on!” She coaxed her out the door, turned back to Kellen and said sternly, “Twenty more minutes!” “Yeah, yeah.” Kellen struggled on, trying to make her recalcitrant fingers do her bidding. Even when she finally got the notes right, it wasn’t a piano tune so much as jack-in-the-box music. When at last the timer went off, she slumped over the keyboard and stared at the fingers of her right hand. They were trying to atrophy, to curl in and refuse to do her bidding ever again. But the physical therapists assured her she could combat this. She had to create new nerve ways, train another part of her brain to handle the work, and since two hands were better than one and her right hand was her dominant hand, the battle was worth fighting. But every day, the forty minutes at the keyboard left her drained and discouraged. Behind her, Max said, “Turn around and let me rub your hands.” She noticed he did not say, That was good. Or even, That was better. Max didn’t tell lies. Kellen sighed and swiveled on the piano bench. Again that Rolodex in her brain clicked in: MAX DI LUCA: MALE, 38YO, 6’5″, 220LBS, ITALIAN-AMERICAN, FORMER FOOTBALL PLAYER. HANDSOME, TANNED, CURLY BLACK HAIR, BROWN EYES SURROUNDED BY LONG BLACK LASHES. ONCE HIGH UP IN THE DI LUCA FAMILY CORPORATION, STEPPED DOWN TO RAISE HIS DAUGHTER, NOW DIRECTOR OF THE FAMILY’S YEARNING SANDS RESORT ON THE WASHINGTON COAST. KIND, GENEROUS, RESPONSIBLE, LOVING. A STICKLER FOR DUTY. FAR TOO MUCH WILLPOWER, WHICH WAS IRRITATING TO KELLEN IN MATTERS RELATING TO THEIR MARITAL STATE. He took her right hand gently in both of his and, starting at the wrist, he massaged her palm, her thumb, her fingers. He used a lavender-scented oil, and stretched and worked the muscles and bones while she moaned with pleasure. He listened with a slight smile, and when she looked into his face, she realized his lips looked fuller, he had a dark flush over his cheekbones and his nostrils flared as he breathed. She looked down at his jeans, leaned close and whispered, “Max, I’m done with practice. Why don’t we wander up to our bedroom and I’ll rub your…hand, too.” He met her eyes. He stopped his massage. Except for the rise and fall of his chest, he was frozen in that pose of incipient passion. Then he sat back and sighed. “Doctor says no.” “Doctor said be careful.” “Woman, if I could be careful, I would. As it is, nothing is best.” “I am torn between being flattered and frustrated.” She thought about it. “Mostly frustrated.” “I’m just fine.” Max didn’t usually resort to sarcasm, so that told her a lot. Married almost two years and no sex. He was a good man, but he was coming to the end of his patience. “If we’re refraining because we’re worried I’m going to pop a blood vessel while in the throes of passion, I’d like to point out there are solutions that you might enjoy.” “That isn’t fair to you.” “You’re massaging my hand. That’s pretty wonderful.” “Not the same.” Again he took her tired hand and went to work. Bitterly she said, “Kellen’s Brain. It’s like a bad sci-fi fantasy.” He laughed. “It’s improving all the time.” When he had made her hand relax and Kellen relax with it, he said, “I’ve been thinking—the Di Luca family owns Isla Paraíso off the coast of Northern California. The family bought the island seventy years ago with the idea of placing a resort on the island, but now that doesn’t seem likely. Someone needs to go there, look things over, make decisions about its fate.” Kellen nodded. “You want to go there? See what you think?” “Actually, I thought we should all go there.” He was still working her hand, but with a little too much forcefulness and concentration. “Ouch,” she said softly. He pulled away, horrified. “Did I hurt you?” “Not at all. Except that you’re treating me like a child.” “What do you mean?” “You’re not telling me what’s really going on. Why do you want to go to this island?” “I told you—” “I don’t doubt that what you told me is the truth. But it’s not all the truth. Max, what’s wrong?” Max sighed, an understatement of a sigh, as if he dreaded what he was about to say. “You’re not going to like it.” “I gathered that.” “Mitch Nyugen.” “What about him? He’s dead.” She remembered she couldn’t always trust Kellen’s Brain. “Isn’t he?” “Yes. He was buried in the Cape Charade cemetery.” “Was buried?” Unease stirred in her belly. “This week, his widow arrived from Wyoming.” “He wasn’t married.” That brain thing. “Was he?” “No.” Max was as sure as Kellen was not. “Yet the woman who claimed to be his widow had all the necessary paperwork to have his body exhumed.” “Oh, no.” “She had the coffin placed in the chapel. Last night, the undertaker, Arthur Earthman, found her there, with the coffin open. She murdered him, and almost killed his wife, Cynthia. The widow escaped ahead of the sheriff, and she left her calling card.” Kellen knew. She knew what Max was going to say. “She cut off Mitch’s hands.” “And took them.” Max looked up at her, his brown eyes wretched with fear. “Mara Philippi is back. And she’s here.” *** Excerpt from Strangers She Knows by Christina Dodd. Copyright 2019 by Christina Dodd. Reproduced with permission from HQN Books. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Christina Dodd New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd writes “edge-of-the-seat suspense” (Iris Johansen) with “brilliantly etched characters, polished writing, and unexpected flashes of sharp humor that are pure Dodd” (ALA Booklist). Her fifty-eight books have been called “scary, sexy, and smartly written” by Booklist and, much to her mother’s delight, Dodd was once a clue in the Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle.

Enter Christina’s worlds and join her mailing list at: christinadodd.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook!

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The Nobodies
September 16th, 2019 by diane92345

Joan Dixon is having a bad year. She’s an unemployed journalist who can’t even get listicle jobs. This new reality has forced her to sell her car and move in with her parents—at age thirty-six. She truly is one of The Nobodies.

Joan interviews as a junior copywriter at Bloom, a tech company selling digital storage space without using server farms.

Note from my internal armchair detective: how can you sell storage space without any space to sell? Tech, am I right?

Back to review: Bloom is so trendy that its conference rooms are named after dead singers regardless of genre like Tupac, Freddie, and Selena. Not feeling hopeful, Joan is surprised when she gets the job. Unfortunately, once working there, her journalistic Spidey-senses start firing. Is Bloom hiding a deep secret that could be Joan’s way back into journalism?

I have yet to find a Flatiron Book that was not fantastic and innovative. The Nobodies is no exception. Despite being a millennial herself, Joan is a great foil to an entire company full of their nonsense. As the mother of a millennial, I enjoyed the gentle joshing. But if you are 20 and work at Google, you may not. Underlying all the thought-provoking questions bothering Joan, this is a book for women. Joan does find romance at Bloom—and with a younger man. She also finds empowerment in taking control of her own life. 4.5 stars!

Thanks to Flatiron Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Humor, New Books, Women's Fiction Tagged with: ,

Garden Club Murder Book Blog Tour
September 16th, 2019 by diane92345

The Garden Club Murder (A Tish Tarragon Mystery)
by Amy Patricia Meade

About The Garden Club Murder


The Garden Club Murder (A Tish Tarragon Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
2nd in Series
Severn House Publishers (September 1, 2019)
Hardcover: 208 pages
ISBN-10: 0727889443
ISBN-13: 978-0727889447
Digital ASIN: B07TXLVLPP

Literary caterer Letitia ‘Tish’ Tarragon is preparing her English Secret Garden-themed luncheon for Coleton Creek’s annual garden club awards, but when she is taken on a tour of some of the top contenders with the garden club’s president, Jim Ainsley, Tish is surprised at how seriously the residents take the awards – and how desperate they are to win.

Wealthy, retired businessman Sloane Shackleford has won the coveted best garden category five years in a row, but he and his Bichon Frise, Biscuit, are universally despised. When Sloane’s bludgeoned body is discovered in his pristine garden, Tish soon learns that he was disliked for reasons that go beyond his green fingers. Have the hotly contested awards brought out a competitive and murderous streak in one of the residents?

About Amy Patricia Meade

Author of the critically acclaimed Marjorie McClelland Mysteries, Amy Patricia Meade is a native of Long Island, NY where she cut her teeth on classic films and books featuring Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown.

After stints as an Operations Manager for a document imaging company and a freelance technical writer, Amy left the bright lights of New York City and headed north to pursue her creative writing career amidst the idyllic beauty of Vermont’s Green Mountains.

Now residing in Bristol, England, Amy spends her time writing mysteries with a humorous or historical bent. When not writing, Amy enjoys traveling, testing out new recipes, classic films, and exploring her new home.

Author Links:

Webpage: https://amypatriciameade.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amy.patriciameade/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amypatriciameade/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/amypmeade

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/174006.Amy_Patricia_Meade

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Superhero Thought Experiments
September 15th, 2019 by diane92345

A comic book blogger and a philosopher walk into a bar—actually they shared a college copier—and Superhero Thought Experiments was born. They have got to stop meeting like this…

What is the difference between philosophers’ thought experiments and comic book plots? Surprisingly little. Take this short quiz and select the real comic book plots.

  1. “What if lightning struck a dead tree in a swamp and transformed it into The Swampman?”
  2. “What if trying to travel to the past transported you to a different universe instead?”
  3. “What if a time traveler returned to his childhood and told his past self about the future?”
  4. “What if a mad scientist removed your brain and is keeping it alive in a vat?”
  5. “What if you and all the universe were just the thoughts of a small child?”

Not as easy to distinguish as you thought, right?

The comic book plots are item number three and five (from 1975’s The Defenders and 1997’s Heroes Reborn: The Return, respectively). The rest were thought up by philosophers. The book’s “goal is to use superhero comics to illustrate philosophy, and in turn use philosophy to analyze superhero comics.” It does that by using the What If questions from above plus five more.

My Review

First up, for those of you partial just to DC or only to Marvel, both are used to illustrate the authors’ points.

It is hard to explain why I liked this book but let me try. I’ve only taken an introductory class in philosophy. My favorite philosopher is Kant, who basically believed if your intention is good, you are morally good regardless of any unintended consequences. According to this book, that is also the attitude of my favorite superhero, Batman. Coincidence or my subconscious mind looking for matching belief systems? Who knows but it is definitely thought-provoking.

I can totally see this book being a textbook for an introductory philosophy course. Conversely, if you liked your philosophy course and read comics, this is an engrossing book that will deepen your understanding of both. Finally, I believe any writer or fledgling writer of superhero comics must read Superhero Thought Experiments. It will encourage compelling plots that reflect enduring questions about the human condition. 4 stars!

Thanks to University of Iowa Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: , ,

Indistractable
September 15th, 2019 by diane92345

“Being Indistractable means striving to do what you say you will do.”

The author presents four steps that fight the major time sucks in your life and how you deal with them. First, there are concrete methods to master internal triggers that distract from the task you should be doing. The author then states how to make time in your busy schedule for tasks that are a better match to your values. Next up are ways to avoid external triggers that lead to distraction. Finally, ways to prevent distraction are analyzed. There are several chapters on how to encourage your children to be indistractable too.

I see a lot of my behaviors in this book. Even though I blame my pesky co-workers for my lack of focus, many of my problems are actually internal. I get bored easily. I can envision using the tips in this book, essentially gamifying my mundane tasks, will help me focus more. I’ve been setting Alexa’s timer for ten minutes to see if I really need to do something different as the book suggests. Often the desire for doing something else vanishes. The book calls this “surfing the wave” and it has worked for me. Reading Indistractable is a great use of your time so you can schedule time for what matters most to you. 5 stars!

Thanks to BenBella Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: ,

Soulful Art of Persuasion
September 14th, 2019 by diane92345

In our modern world of teenage online influencers making six-figure incomes, it is natural to want to learn the Soulful Art of Persuasion.

The book details four traits that make a person more persuasive: originality or genuineness, generosity, empathy, and soulfulness. Soulfulness is further defined as being ethical and an inspiration to others. It also includes eleven habits that can be used to increase your persuasive powers.

It is hard to shake the cognitive dissonance resulting from the conflict between saying “be genuine” and then showing how to “learn” it. However, the author almost convinces me that genuineness can be learned by disagreeing with two frequent mantras of self-help books: be confident, and fake it till you make it. In fact, the book disputes many so-called truisms. Always Be Closing is perceived as manipulation for profit with no concern for the customer’s wellbeing. The idea of personal branding is also dismissed as shockingly old-fashioned. Even corporations are moving away from branding to marketing their values instead.

Overall, the Soulful Art of Persuasion has some thought-provoking ideas. 4 stars!

Thanks to Crown Publishing and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: ,

29 Seconds
September 13th, 2019 by diane92345

“You give me one name. One person. And I will make them disappear. For you.”—from the pulse-pounding new thriller, 29 Seconds.

Sarah is having a bad year. Her husband has run off with another woman and won’t answer her phone calls. Her kids constantly fight. Her boss is refusing to give her tenure and could even fire her because she won’t sleep with him. The only positive thing happening in her life is when she stops a potential child kidnapper by hitting him with her car. The child is the daughter of a mafia kingpin who offers her a one-time deal to make any person she selects permanently disappear. She has only seventy-two hours to decide if she will accept.

I would like to think everyone who hears the offer quoted in the first paragraph of this review immediately pictures the person that they would choose. It’s not just me, right? RIGHT? Ahem, so the novel does feel genuine even with the absurd offer. The cat-and-mouse game with Sarah and her boss is exhilarating. The story effectively propels the reader forward just to see who will win and, more importantly, how. Fast-paced thriller fans will be entranced by this mesmerizing page-turner. 4 stars!

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with:

Mother Knows Best
September 13th, 2019 by diane92345

As gene research and CRISPR gene editing become more common, it may soon be possible to use doctored embryos to create “designer” children. That science, amped up on steroids, is the subject of Mother Knows Best.

Claire and Ethan watch their eight-year-old son die from a rare inherited disease. Claire is a carrier of a bad gene. It is 100% likely that her children will get the disease, though some may be asymptomatic like her. Ethan wants another child regardless of the risk. Claire finds an answer at a mothers’ support group. Using that innovative but illegal option, without telling Ethan, starts off a chain reaction involving family, deception, and prison.

Mother Knows Best starts out as a fast-paced science thriller. I loved the beginning. However, once the science was explained, I quickly lost interest as the typical crazy stalker plot played itself out. Also, Abby is literally the most annoying teenager in a fifth grader’s body ever. I had to grit my teeth through each of her scenes. Why didn’t she just believe her parents? Although this thriller wasn’t my favorite, it is well-written so 3 stars.

Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: ,

Immortal Prudence Blackwood
September 12th, 2019 by diane92345

The Immortal Prudence Blackwood is a historical police procedural with a paranormal/fantasy twist.

Prudence Blackwood is a barren and abandoned twenty-six-year-old when she stumbles into a mysterious and ancient hall in 1785. After cutting her finger on the wall, Prudence dies. Two days later, she arises out of her grave and returns to her family home. Except for her ten-year-old niece, her family rejects her, calling her a demon. After learning she is an immortal, and not the only one, she vows to help her family and their descendants. When Jack the Ripper kills her last remaining descendant in 1888, Prudence decides her new mission is to kill serial killers beginning with Jack.

By 1947, Prudence has learned survival skills and killed at least two other killers. But a new serial killer is stalking Washington DC. When the junior detective on the case hears about Prudence, they work together to find the perpetrator.

I loved the strong female character of Prudence. However, she wasn’t in the book very much. Much more time was spent describing the real serial killers’ cases. I also want to know more about the other immortals and where their power comes from. Luckily, the book’s conclusion hints strongly at a future series. I will definitely read it when it is released. My rating for the Immortal Prudence Blackwood, mainly because of the loss of focus on Prudence, is 3 stars.

Thanks to BHC Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books, Paranormal Tagged with: , ,

Imaginary Corpse
September 12th, 2019 by diane92345

I adored Imaginary Corpse! It is an inventive take on a noir private investigator plot using a fantasy setting.

The Stillreal is where ideas that are too real go when their creator abruptly sends them away. Tippy is a stuffed dinosaur who solves crime in the Stillreal. However, even he is perplexed when Spindleman is beaten to “death” by The Man in the Coat. The problem is ideas can’t be killed in Stillreal, they quickly regenerate. When Spindleman doesn’t, Tippy must investigate.

Wow, I love this clever book! I admit I requested this book more for curiosity than for a great plot. I was surprised by the author’s ability to suspend my initial skepticism by chapter two.

All the noir details are here. Tippy has a root beer problem and drinks it out of a flask. He reads Encyclopedia Brown, the real children’s detective series that started my love of mysteries. Despite being a stuffed dinosaur, Tippy is a fully fleshed-out character haunted by his person’s rejection of him and the rain that caused that rejection.

Setting it in an It’s a Small World-level childhood dream is a brilliant counterpoint to the usually depressing noir world. Who doesn’t love the concept that beloved ideas live elsewhere after their creators abandon them?

Don’t worry that the Imaginary Corpse will be too kitschy. It will suck you into its universe quickly. If you have read one too many standard mysteries or noirs and feel like a palate cleanser, please take a chance on this book. You won’t be sorry. 5 stars and one of my favorite books of 2019!

Thanks to Angry Robot and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Fantasy, Humor, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: ,

Ice Cold Heart
September 11th, 2019 by diane92345

Minneapolis during a freezing snowstorm is the setting for the serial killer police procedural Ice Cold Heart.

Kelly Ramage is stuck in a marriage with boring Todd, an accountant. Todd won’t satisfy her need for bondage play. So Kelly looks elsewhere for satisfaction. Unfortunately, she met James, who took it too far and she died of suffocation. Detective Leo Magozzi and his partner Gino Rolseth investigate.

Petra Juric is fighting PTSD after being victimized by Peter Praljik, a notorious serial killer last seen in Minnesota eleven years earlier. After taking her happy prescribed medication, she walks into the snowy evening. She is saved from freezing by a random neighbor, Roadrunner. Roadrunner works with Leo’s wife Grace at the Monkeewrench software firm.

Peter is holding seven victims hostage in a remote cabin. He decides to kill them when he realizes that an old acquaintance is watching him. When confronted, the man states he wants to set aside their differences and work together. Is Peter’s last name Praljik and who is his unnamed accomplice?

The ice cold setting was so realistic that it cooled me down on a hot September night as I was reading Ice Cold Heart. I haven’t read any other books in the series and it was fine read as a stand-alone. The mystery was relatively is to solve but characters were well-written and genuine. Most police procedural fans will enjoy this tale. 4 stars!

Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: ,

Robert B. Parker's The Bitterest Pill
September 10th, 2019 by diane92345

Jesse is fighting the opioid epidemic, his desire for a drink, and to connect to his newly found son in Robert B. Parker’s The Bitterest Pill.

I read each of Robert B. Parker’s novels as they were released. I’ve only read one of the books by Michael Brandman, which I didn’t care for at all. This is my first book in the series by Reed Farrel Coleman. He does a better job making the writing style sound similar to Mr. Parker’s writing. However, I feel that Jesse’s highly controlled alcoholism was what made him unique. By removing that trait, Jesse doesn’t feel genuine. I also thought the addition of a long lost son was kind of a stretch. It seemed like a plot device rather than a natural shift in Jesse’s world.

Overall, I would recommend Robert B. Parker’s The Bitterest Pill to readers new to the series. The mystery was good and the writing style excellent. But it may be a disappointment to longtime fans of the original author. 3 stars.

Thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with:

Cold Storage
September 9th, 2019 by diane92345

An outer space fungus wakes up due to global warming and attempts world takeover. It reads like a cheesy b-movie script and that’s a compliment. Even the characters in Cold Storage seem to be in on the joke.

“What are you, all science-y and shit?”

It takes some time to realize that the author’s tongue is very firmly in his cheek. Once you do, Cold Storage makes for a fun comic read. 4 stars!

Thanks to Ecco Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Humor, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books, Science Fiction Tagged with: