Favorite Quotes on Books and Reading

"A book is a gift you can open again and again." Garrison Keillor

Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.” Jane Yolen

"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." Oscar Wilde

Monday, May 18, 2015

Book Showcase: DEAD IN DUBAI by Marilynn Larew

Dead in Dubai

by Marilynn Larew

on Tour April 27 - May 31, 2015


Book Details:

Genre:  Thriller, Espionage

Published by:   Artemis Press

Publication Date:   April 30, 2015

Number of Pages:   283

ISBN:   978-0-9910912-4-9

Purchase Your Copy:  


Why is CIA officer George Branson dead?

Out of the Agency and looking for work, former CIA analyst Lee Carruthers accepts the request of George's wife that Lee go to Dubai and find out what really happened. When she arrives, she walks into a deadly war between rival Merchants of Death for market share. She learns that George had worked for each man under a different name, one in Dubai and one in Istanbul. With his own, that gave George three identities. Which man was murdered? Had George really been working for the Agency, or had he sold out and, if so, to whom? Who are the men following her? And why does she keep finding diamonds?

Read an excerpt:

Is there life after the CIA? I wondered as I stamped my foot into the bindings of first one ski and then the other. I was among the few early birds on the slopes; we were hoping to avoid the rush of celebrities modeling their designer ski togs. The view was spectacular! Snowy hills covered with pine trees stretched away and away. I lowered my goggles and pushed off. As I gathered speed I laughed aloud at the awesome feel of the wind in my face, the best antidote to my time in the Algerian desert I could think of. Halfway down the piste, something buzzed past my face. Then I heard a crack. Somebody was shooting at me? I bent as far down as I could and snowplowed to the side of the run, stopping just before I got to the trees. Great! Nothing. Not even a knife.

I ripped off my goggles and kicked out of the bindings. Stepping carefully into the woods, bent almost double, I advanced with a ski pole in each hand. I wish my gear wasn’t burgundy, I thought. On the other hand, I hadn’t expected to have to channel the Fourth Mountain Brigade that morning. I heard steps crunching toward me in the snow and ducked behind a tree. A man in black wearing a black face mask, his rifle held lightly in his right hand, slipped carefully forward, scanning to the left and to the right. He was looking too high to see me. When he was half a meter away, I yelled and launched myself at him with the ski poles thrust forward, but he deflected them with the rifle. He raised the rifle for another shot. I threw myself at him again, and he dropped the rifle. I grabbed it, and swung it hard, hitting him in the left shoulder. I reversed the rifle, backed up and fired. Off balance. Tried again.

He turned and ran. Should I follow him? What would I do with him if I caught him? I considered the rifle. I could hardly take it back to the ski lodge with me. I dropped the clip and whacked it up against the side of a tree, sending a jolt all the way down to my toes, and buried it in the snow by the side of the trail, throwing the clip as far as I could into the woods. I retrieved my ski poles and stood panting, heart pounding. I started to tremble and told my body it would have to wait until I got to the bottom of the slope, but it paid no attention, so I trembled.

“Who?” I asked myself.  “Who?” I sat down with my back against a tree for a count of five hundred before I stopped shaking. Blowback from Morocco?

I stomped the snow off my boots and slipped them into the ski bindings. I couldn’t find my goggles, but I wanted to be in cover as soon as possible so I didn’t spend much time looking for them. With a shooter in play, I felt terribly exposed. Maybe the shooter had a friend. Unarmed. I was unarmed. Not even a nail file. I wanted a gun and badly. Where could I get a gun in the peaceful countryside of Switzerland? Breaking into a gun shop was always an option.

At the bottom of the slope, I kicked my way out of my skis and carried them back into the rack. I felt cold deep down inside, and gin seemed advisable. A drink in the lounge? Too public. Back in the room I made one of my very dry martinis—gin and a cube of ice. Maybe that would help me unscramble my brain. I looked at my watch. Ten thirty. Drinking in the morning was a sure sign of something or other. I finished the drink, but I was still cold. I took a long, hot shower and lay curled up under the duvet remembering.

I had been sent to Morocco to find a missing colleague and wound up fighting my way out of a terrorist camp. They killed Kemal. I touched the bloodstained pearl hanging around my neck. I killed his killer, but Kemal was still dead.

Would the Pure Warriors of Islam send an assassin all the way to Switzerland to get me? Possibly, but it seemed unlikely. Whoever he was, he knew me, and I didn’t know him. I went to sleep listing the people who might want to kill me.

When I woke, I ordered lunch from room service. The waiter who delivered it looked like an Arab. Arab guest workers in Switzerland? The shooter could disappear into the crowd of Arab workers. He might even be one of them. If I couldn’t find and neutralize him, I was going to have to cut and run. I hate to do that, but I disapprove of assassination, particularly my own.

Author Bio:

MARILYNN LAREW is a historian who has published in such disparate fields as American colonial and architectural history, Vietnamese military history, and terrorism, and has taught courses in each of them in the University of Maryland System.

Before settling on the Mason-Dixon line in southern Pennsylvania, she lived in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Georgia, Wisconsin, Ohio, South Carolina, Maryland, in Manila, and on Okinawa. It’s no surprise that she likes to travel. When she’s climbing the first hill in Istanbul to Topkapi Palace, strolling around Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi, or exploring the back streets of Kowloon, she is not just having fun, she’s looking for locations for her next novel.

When she’s not traveling, she is writing or reading. She writes thrillers and likes to read them. She also likes to read Vietnamese history and Asian history in general, as well as military history. She lives with her husband in a 200-year-old farmhouse in southern Pennsylvania.

She belongs to Sisters in Crime, the Guppies, and the Chinese Military History Society.

Catch Up:


This is a giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Marilynn Larew. There will be TWO winners of an ebook copy of Dead in Dubai by Marilynn Larew. The giveaway is open to US residents only. The giveaway begins on April 27th, 2015 and runs through June 2nd, 2015. Visit the tour stops for additional giveaways!
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Sunday, May 17, 2015

2015 Book 143: THOSE GIRLS Review

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens
ISBN: 9781250034588 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250034595 (ebook)
ASIN: B00R1AWE1A (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Chevy Stevens is back with her most powerful, emotional thriller yet — a story of survival…and revenge. 
Life has never been easy for the three Campbell sisters. Jess, Courtney, and Dani live on a remote ranch in Western Canada where they work hard and try to stay out of the way of their father's fists. One night, a fight gets out of hand and the sisters are forced to go on the run, only to get caught in an even worse nightmare when their truck breaks down in a small town. Events spiral out of control and a chance encounter with the wrong people leaves them in a horrific and desperate situation. They are left with no choice but to change their names and create new lives. 
Eighteen years later, they are still trying to forget what happened that summer when one of the sisters goes missing and they are pulled back into their past. 
This time there's nowhere left to run. 
As much of a thriller as it is a deep exploration of the bonds among sisters, Those Girls is an unforgettable portrait of desperation, loyalty, and evil. 

Jess, Courtney, and Dani Campbell now that life is hard. They've suffered the loss of their mother, the loss of their home, and the constant abuse at the hands of their alcoholic father. After living in foster care for a few months after their mother died, the girls vow to do whatever is necessary to ensure they never have to return to foster care. Their father often leaves them alone for weeks at a time with little money for food and other necessities. All three girls work hard on the ranch to help offset their rent. Life gets much harder for the girls when they run away from their abusive home and find themselves in an even more abusive environment. Fortunately, they are able to escape and begin their lives over in Vancouver with new identities. Those Girls asks just how far are you willing to go to protect your family? 

Those Girls starts off in 1997 with Jess, Courtney, and Dani struggling to survive. They steal food when necessary and often steal other incidentals to get by. Jess is the youngest and the most studious. Dani is the oldest and strives to provide for her sisters and keep them in check at all times. Courtney is the middle sister and the wild child. Courtney knows she's attractive and uses her physical beauty to get boys and men. It is this behavior that causes their father to go off and attempt to kill Courtney. After doing everything possible to get their father to stop, the unthinkable happens and the girls run away in a dilapidated truck heading to Vancouver. They don't have enough money for gas or food and steal what they can on their road trip. When their truck breaks down, they accept an offer to work on a local ranch to get money for repairs. What followed is the worst thing imaginable — abduction and repeated rapes at the hands of two evil and sadistic young men. After five days of rapes and brutality the girls escape and a local pub owner provides them with bus fare and the name of someone that can help them in Vancouver. It is in Vancouver that they became Jaimie, Crystal, and Dallas. And a few months after they arrive they learn that Jaimie is pregnant.

Fast forward to the summer of 2015 and we meet Skylar, Jaimie's teenage daughter. After several incidents involving Crystal, Skylar learns the truth about her birth father and how she was conceived. It is apparent to all that Crystal has become unstable and after an intervention, Crystal takes off. Skylar lies to her mother and takes off after Crystal. Skylar thinks that her aunt has returned to Cash Creek to possibly confront her abductors and rapists. While Skylar investigates her aunt's disappearance, she unknowingly places herself in serious danger as she thinks about confronting her birth father and meets her half-brother and half-sister. The more Skylar learns the more dangerous the situation becomes until she is abducted at the hands of her birth father's brother. 

I began reading Those Girls at approximately 6 PM on a Thursday evening and didn't put it down until I had finished it at approximately 11 PM that same evening. Okay, I took a dinner break and then cleaned the kitchen up after eating, but that was the only downtime other than preparing a couple of cups of tea. I found Those Girls to be a fast-paced and engrossing read. Yes, it was difficult to read about the abuse and rapes suffered by Jess, Courtney, and Dani, but Ms. Stevens presented these incidents without hype or sensationalization. There is tragedy after tragedy in the lives of Jess, Courtney, Dani and even Skylar, but there are also periods of hope. The bad guys are not just bad but truly despicable human beings and downright evil. Does good prevail over evil? You'll have to read the book to find out for yourself. Those Girls covers a lot of topics: child abuse, alcoholism, sexual promiscuity, abduction, rape, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, teen runaways, etc. It is easy to think that Those Girls is going to be a dark, depressing, and twisted read, but it isn't. Those Girls is just as much about survival, hope, and family as it is about anything. Just in case you couldn't tell, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found the characters to be well developed and the action to be very realistic. If you enjoy reading thrillers that encompass much more than just the dark and twisted then you'll definitely want to add Those Girls to your TBR list.

Read an excerpt from Those Girls here.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via GoodReads First Reads. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, May 15, 2015

Book Showcase: CATCH US IF YOU CAN by Marc Feinstein

Catch Us If You Can by Marc Feinstein
ISBN: 9780991515318 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780991515301 (paperback)
Publisher: Oldbrook Books
Publication date: September 14, 2014

Catch Us If You Can A time where the explosion of Rock and Roll coincided with, and incited the nexus of youth and the interrogation of the American Dream, Marc Feinstein's new novel is steeped in the rich culture and in the dynamic of America in the late 1960's.
Catch Us If You Can is the coming-of-age story of Gene Gennaro and a tale of urban youth growing up in the small town of Oldbrook New Jersey. 
It's 1967, and in Oldbrook, basketball is a religion and making the high school team is a confirmation. Sailing through his freshman year, Gene is blown along by the steady prevailing innocent winds of the time—sports, girls, and Rock & Roll. After tragedy thrusts him into a new world forever rocked by one fateful day, he begins his journey through the berserk time of the Summer of Love. For Gene, that summer and the next three years are a time of healing, buoyed by The Beatles, basketball and most importantly his friends. His ride through the next three frenetic years of high school are a lifeline as unbreakable as the fidelity of his friendships with five of his basketball teammates; and most of all, his best friend Reuben. But that lifeline at times turns into a rope for a tug-of-war between fate and will, and Gene and Rueben must battle life's tussles together; sometimes testing their classically loyal friendship along the way.
Will Gene become a product of his time and circumstances or will he untangle the answer to life's scrimmages?


I've stared into the emptiness of my mother's eyes and saw the fullness of her heart.  
My life was frozen by the winter rain and warmed by the summer's start.  
Deep in my bones a chill so cold, a heart that felt like stone
A hidden sorrow concealed my fear, I felt so all alone.
They say with time all wounds do heal, but the loss does never leave
We soothe the pain, and in our own way, we learn to live—not grieve.
My friends and family and whoever watches from way up high above
Taught me as John Lennon sang, All you need is love. 

That was a poem I wrote for 11th grade English class, in 1968, the fall of my junior year, only eighteen months removed from the unnerving tragedy. As I look back on it all, I can't say the years have made me any wiser. I cry as I read this, amazed at the insight of a hurt young boy prematurely thrust into manhood, but gratified at the apparent swiftness of my recovering. I can see that I was at least making some headway toward dealing with things that even now, a lifetime later, I still don't fully understand and about which on reflection it seems like it took so much longer before I was on the mend. 

About the Author:

Born in the Bronx and raised in Ridgefield, New Jersey, Marc Feinstein is a child of the 60's unbound with stories to tell. Feinstein is a graduate from the University of Pennsylvania where he received his Bachelor's in Economics. He went on to law school at the Mc George School of Law at University of the Pacific and then began a long career in law as a Litigation Attorney and Mediator. 

He spent over 30 years of his life in Orange County, California with his wife and two children and now retired resides in Maui with his wife. 

He is an avid basketball enthusiast — from playing it, to coaching it, to the study of its history and evolution as a game.

Feinstein is having the time of his life writing and creating stories that connect and resonate with a broad audience and hopes to one day crossover his books to film. 

Visit him on his website at www.marcfeinstein.com 

Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarcFeinsteinAuthor 

Follow him on Goodreads www.goodreads.com/goodreadscommarcfeinstein

Monday, May 4, 2015


Sweet Talk, Sweet Dreams, Sweet Seduction Boxed Sets 
Publication date: May 1st 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Thriller

Sweet Talk Boxed Set
ISBN: 9781928068235 (ebook)
ASIN: B00R5CZ4ZM (Kindle edition)

Priced at only $9.99, this heart-warming, limited edition collection features ten BRAND NEW contemporary romances by New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors.

Sweet Dreams Boxed Set
ISBN: 9781928068228 (ebook)
ASIN: B00R5CZ53I (Kindle edition)

Priced at only $9.99, this fascinating limited edition collection features thirteen BRAND NEW thrillers by New York Times and USA Today Bestselling authors.

Sweet Seduction Boxed Set
ISBN: 9781928068242 (ebook)
ASIN: B00R5CZ4VG (Kindle edition)

Priced at only $9.99, this stunning limited edition collection features thirteen BRAND NEW contemporary romances by New York Times and USA Today Bestselling authors.

You can make a difference while you read! All proceeds from the sales of these boxed sets will be donated to the Diabetes Research Institute via Brenda Novak's Online Auction for Diabetes Research.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/series/show/142932-authors-to-benefit-diabetes-research

by best-selling author Lee Childs

I'm a thriller writer, and a thriller reader, and hence a sucker for the classic thriller plot, where an ordinary man or an ordinary woman slowly becomes aware of a looming threat: someone or something is out there, close by, infinitely dangerous; or perhaps an intruder is already in the house, mocking, violating a sanctuary, or perhaps – really creepy – he's been living in the attic for a couple of weeks already, camping out, undetected, silent, leaving odd nighttime disturbances…who moved that chair? 

Or perhaps, for added anguish, it's not the ordinary man or woman under threat: it's his or her son or daughter, their child, their responsibility, the intended victim, a helpless target. What mother or father wouldn't fight to the death? And they do…400 pages later, an investigation has been conducted, the bad guy has been identified, close scrapes have been survived, and finally the family is sitting together on the bottom stair, stunned but finally safe, as the bad guy is put in the cop car and driven away. The end. 

Diabetes starts like that. But it doesn't finish like that. 

It's a mysterious malfunction. No one knows the cause. Researchers suspect an element of genetic susceptibility, and in those susceptible it's possible the Coxsackie B4 virus kicks things off. Then a tiny balance among the human body's billion moving parts goes slightly out of whack, and the beta cells in the islets of Langerhans (such an innocent name) inside the pancreas shut down and stop producing insulin, so the body can no longer deal with the kind of sugars we crave. 

The intruder is now in the house. 

Untreated, all kinds of complications will follow. Cardiovascular disease, and stroke, and damage to the eyes, kidneys, and nerves. And more. Including death. All in store, unbelievably, for the ordinary parent's beautiful and vulnerable child. No one's fault. Type 1 diabetes is unrelated to lifestyle. Most victims are thin or normal, healthy, well fed, well loved. 

The fight back begins with maintenance. Sometimes diet is enough; more often, insulin must be provided. An endless round begins: testing and injecting, testing and injecting. Most sufferers do OK for a long time, but only OK. Quite apart from the social and organizational burdens of diet and injection, they can feel under the weather a lot of the time. But in thriller terms, we can at least get them barricaded in a safe house, at least temporarily, doors and windows locked, guns drawn, with the bad guy lurking outside in the yard. 

But how do we get the bad guy in the cop car? 

Research is the answer, but it's fantastically expensive. All around the world, teams of biochemists are working hard, but they have to pay the rent. And eat. Their funding comes from governments and institutions and drug companies – but also from hundreds of thousands of concerned individuals. Many of them are parents of diabetic children, and it's easy to see why. The primeval instinct that makes a mother or father fight to the death is a powerful one – perhaps the most powerful among our emotional inheritance. But in the case of diabetes it's frustrated. There's no identifiable antagonist, no role for a gun or a blade. There's no bar fight to be had. If only it was that easy. I know of no parent who wouldn't gladly smash a long-neck bottle and join the fray. But they can't. Such parents have to channel their natural aggression into a long, patient, endless struggle for progress. They raise awareness and money any way they can. 

This anthology is an example. It will help fund the search for a cure. All good. In fact better than good, because whatever else, there are some great authors and some great stories here to enjoy. So if you buy it, you’ll get some excellent entertainment – but also you might just get the chance to be that mysterious character on page 297 of our notional thriller, who contributes the tiny but vital clue that eventually leads to the big reveal on page 397. Your few cents could make the difference. You could be the one.

Lee Child
New York

Read an excerpt from Wanderlust by Roni Loren 
(Sweet Seduction boxed set)

     When the song finished, Lex sauntered to the edge of the stage to address the audience. "How's everyone doing tonight?"
     Screams answered him. He gave an easy laugh, clearly comfortable being the center of attention.
     "I'm glad y'all are having a good time. We are, too. New Orleans definitely knows how to throw a party." He put his hand against his brow to shield his eyes from the spotlights and squinted at the sea of people below him. "Turn up those house lights. I want to see these beautiful faces."
     Female voices reverberated off the walls as the lights above the crowd switched on. A redhead a few steps away from Aubrey lifted up her shirt as soon as Lex's eyes traveled in that direction. Nice. What was this? Mardi Gras? Lex smiled and gave a little nod of acknowledgement to boob-job girl, but otherwise didn’t comment.
     "You know, I'm feeling mighty thirsty, and I heard a rumor that New Orleans is home of the body shot," Lex said, continuing to survey the audience with a sly smile. "So I'm thinking, that maybe I should try one tonight. What do you think?"
     The shouting of the crowd increased.
     "Now all I need is…a willing victim," Lex continued. Bustier girl began her bouncing routine again and waved her hands frantically trying to catch his eye. Lex paced across the stage, taking his time, holding his finger up and preparing to point to the chosen one.
     Aubrey put her money on Miss Augmentation, but he passed that section up without a glance. As he neared Aubrey's end of the stage, his eyes landed on her exuberant neighbor. The girl's scream turned shrill. "Pick me! Me! Me!"
     Lex lowered his hand ready to point and then shifted his gaze, locking eyes with Aubrey. Her breath caught. Oh, shit. Seconds seemed to tick by, but she couldn't pull away from the stare. She managed to wag her head slowly back and forth. No. No. No. 
     He smiled, lowered his finger, and pointed directly at her. "You. The sexy brunette in the black t-shirt."
     Her stomach took a nosedive. 
     "Come on, I won't bite," Lex said, waving her forward. "Unless you ask nicely, that is."
     The girl next to Aubrey shot her a glare that could have curdled milk. The sea of fans parted as if she'd suddenly morphed into royalty, and she forced her leaden feet to cross the few yards to the barricade. Her heart took up residence in her throat, threatening to jump out. This was a disaster. She silently cursed the bouncer from backstage. If she had met the band beforehand, she would've never ended up in this position. Building a professional relationship with the band after this was going to be next to impossible.
     Hands patted her back and shoulders as the two bouncers flanking the stage helped her climb over the metal barrier. Lex squatted at the edge of the stage, all wicked grin and guyliner, and stuck his hand out. He cocked his head, beckoning her closer in a way that spoke without the words. Come on over, lamb, said the wolf. This will only take a minute.


This giveaway is set by the authors, not by The Book Diva's Reads or Xpresso Book Tours. 

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

2015 Book 129: PLEASANT DAY Review and Excerpt

Pleasant Day by Vera Jane Cook
ISBN: 9781937327613 (paperback)
ISBN: 9783958306691 (ebook)
ASIN: B00TUALPS2 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: February 19, 2015
Publisher: Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC

In the town of Hollow Creek, South Carolina, two separate murders, fifteen years apart, unite fifteen-year-old Pleasant Day and sixty-year-old Clarissa Blackwell. As Pleasant Day struggles with her mother's distance, her father's infidelity and the death of her best friend, she draws closer to Clarissa, an older woman with the secrets to heal her. But Clarissa has struggles of her own as she faces betrayal and seeks to come to terms with old wounds. With her unpredictable psychic ability to 'read people' Clarissa uncovers the answers to a deadly crime and to Pleasant's true identity. In the end, both Pleasant and Clarissa's worlds are transformed by the truths they're forced to accept, and both find solace and strength in the histories that have shaped them. 

Pleasant Day is an atypical teenage girl living in a somewhat atypical family in rural South Carolina. Pleasant is an intelligent and well-read girl with a penchant for profanity when speaking. Her father is her idol, but he likes to go out drinking and he's having an affair. Pleasant is a witness to both as her father generally takes her along on his evening "drives" to the bar and rendezvous with his lover. Her mother comes across as a kind and gentle woman that is emotionally distant from Pleasant. Pleasant's brother, Sawyer, more concerned about his appearance than anything else, feels that Pleasant may be spending too much time reading. Pleasant's life is turned upside down one summer when she learns that one of her best friends has been found dead in unusual circumstances and her other best friend is implicated in that death. Pleasant's summer is about to spiral completely out of control with a chance encounter with Clarissa Blackwell.

I found Pleasant Day to be a fast-paced read. I did have some difficulty getting into this story because my inner prude kept rearing its head with the mild profanity spouted by Pleasant. The more I read, the better I understood Pleasant and began to see her usage of profanity as a shield. Pleasant's family life isn't abusive nor does she live in abject poverty, but her family life is sorely strained by her father's habitual adultery, her brother's "effeminate" qualities, and the passive-aggressive behavior of her mother. Struggling to deal with the impact of learning of one friend's death by murder, she literally runs into a woman that will bring the devastating effects of another murder into her life. This story is told in the alternating voices of Pleasant and Clarissa. As Pleasant and Clarissa become better acquainted, secrets are revealed that may have devastating results (no, I won't tell you what the secret is . . . read the book!). I thought Pleasant Day was part coming-of-age, part family drama (trust me, there's plenty of drama), and part mystery. If you're looking for a unique read for this spring or summer, you'll want to put Pleasant Day on your TBR list.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the author via Virtual Author Book Tours. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Chapter Three Clarissa Blackwell 

Everything had to be put in its perfect place. Everything had a perfect place, forks to the left of the spoons, brooms to the right of the vacuum cleaner and toothpaste always hidden away in the medicine chest, not bludgeoned to death with all of its exposed white blood. Clarissa thought that was the problem with toothpaste, it always wound up looking like it had a drunken binge the night before and was spitting up all over itself. Whenever possible, she purchased toothpaste powder. Life had to have order. Wayward toothpaste and shapeless tubes did not belong in a perfect world. In a perfect world, days had purpose and toothpaste tubes had spines. Clarissa Blackwell was the creator of purpose. Life had a driver's seat and she was in it. Turmoil was unbearable and caused her too many visions she couldn't explain. 

Her house was her pride and joy. Nice expression, pride and joy. It didn't matter who entered her lovely Victorian home, it only mattered that she could read on their faces how they envied her. How perfectly comfortable everything looked. That's the thing about fine things, they couldn't alienate, they had to invite, as hers did. Her garage sale finds had to whisper their desire to be picked up. Her paintings had to demand pleasing stares and the cushions on her chairs had to long for a derrière to deflate their puff. Nothing could utter pretension or scream 'Go Away.' 

Clarissa Blackwell was very much like her house. She demanded notice, as well. Though she was soft spoken and never did anything out of the ordinary, people stared at her. They assumed she must be somebody, like a movie star or surely someone they'd seen on television, like a famous female sports figure. Maybe something or other to the president? A newscaster? They were always a bit distressed to learn that she was no one, no one famous that is. 

Clarissa had the look of a woman who grew up well, the look of confidence, poise, flair, even though the way she felt inside was often a contradiction to her external presence. She was grateful that her intelligent face made her appear worldly and wise. She would have preferred being beautiful to looking as if she were perpetually sucking on sour drops. She would have welcomed a very straight aquiline nose to the one she had, it naturally turned up, nothing she could do about it. But it gave her a condescending demeanor as if she were constantly sniffing something foul. But when Clarissa smiled, she became approachable, like her house and all things in it. Clarissa made a point to smile often. 

She was approaching sixty-six, a little secret she kept from others. Well, why shouldn't she? She believed that the body was a temple one should treat with respect. She looked much younger, she was sure, because her temple of a body had not been abused for years. She ate foods that did not oink or go moo, and she power walked the distance between Summerford and Edgefield two or three times a week, a good mile and a half. Well, she power walked in between stopping at garage sales, visiting a friend or two, and lunching at her favorite coffee shop in Edgefield. 

Clarissa rarely ever went into Hollow Creek. It was another half mile or more out of the way but she'd read about a new health food store opening over there called The Fine Fettle. She assumed she could get almond milk and fish oil and other absolutely fabulous things like pure goat soap and organic face creams. As wonderful as the Edgefield Café was, it was just a café and it was more prone to BLTs and burgers than soy milk shakes and protein bars. 

The Fine Fettle did not disappoint. Clarissa was quite content sitting there in a nice, large comfortable booth with the sun streaming in the window. She'd treated herself to the whole wheat spiced pumpkin pancakes and organic coffee all the way from Maine. She was thinking, as she stared out the window at the picturesque town, that it was worth walking the extra half mile to get into Hollow Creek more often. She'd definitely want to return to The Fine Fettle. As she took a napkin to her mouth to wipe off the remaining homemade maple syrup, she happened to look out the window. A scream immediately caught in her throat and she held her breath—to her absolute horror, there was a girl on a bicycle riding straight toward the little café looking like a demon on fire. She was maybe fifteen or sixteen years old, old enough to know better, Clarissa thought. The girl made a sharp left at the curb and Clarissa breathed a sigh of relief. If she hadn’t made that sudden turn she might have gone through the plate glass window and landed right in her lap. 

It was only for a second that Clarissa had gotten a glimpse of the girl's face. In the glare of the sun the girl had looked just like Chloe Rappaport. It had to be an apparition because Chloe Rappaport had been dead for years, but Clarissa could have sworn she'd just seen her on a blue bicycle racing down the main street of Hollow Creek like a wild savage. Of course, Chloe had died at twenty-three, not at fifteen. But Clarissa had known Chloe at the age of fifteen and this girl could have been her double. 

Clarissa's body shook, as if cold, as if she'd been frightened by something. The girl on the bike had startled her so much. It was like seeing Chloe again. It wasn't the familiarity in the girl's face altogether but something about the attitude of that girl, nothing cautious about her, no sensitivity to the speed at which she was going. She appeared so cocky, just like Chloe had been at that age. How close had she been to the girl, at least twenty feet away? It must have been the glare from the sun. It had made some remote resemblance appear familiar, chillingly familiar.

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