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"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

"Books have furnished, burnished, and enabled my life." Julia Keller

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Showcase Post: EVENING STARS by Susan Mallery

Evening Stars (Blackberry Island #3) by Susan Mallery
ISBN:  9780778316130 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781488710117 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00FNJVSX6 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Publication date: February 25, 2014

Small-town nurse Nina Wentworth has made a career out of being a caretaker. More "Mom" than their mother ever was, she sacrificed medical school—and her first love—so her sister could break free. Which is why she isn't exactly thrilled to see Averil back on Blackberry Island, especially when Nina's life has suddenly become…complicated. 
Nina unexpectedly finds herself juggling two men—her high school sweetheart and a younger maverick pilot who also wants to claim her heart. But as fun as all this romance is, Nina has real life to deal with. Averil doesn't seem to want the great guy she's married to, and doesn't seem to be making headway writing her first book; their mom is living life just as recklessly as she always has; and Nina's starting to realize that the control she once had is slipping out of her fingers. Her hopes of getting off the island seem to be stretching further away…until her mother makes a discovery that could change everything forever. 
But before Nina and Averil can reach for the stars, they have to decide what they want. Will Averil stay? Will Nina leave? And what about the men who claim to love them? Does love heal, or will finding their happy ending mean giving up all they've ever wanted?



Read an excerpt:

Chapter One
In a battle between Betty Boop and multicolored hearts, Nina Wentworth decided it was going to be a Betty Boop kind of day. She pulled the short-sleeved scrub shirt over her head and was already moving toward the bathroom before the fabric settled over her hips.
"Don't be snug, don't be snug," she chanted as she came to a stop in front of the mirror and reached for her brush.
The shirt settled as it should, with a couple of inches to spare. Nina breathed a sigh of relief. Last night's incident with three brownies and a rather large glass of red wine hadn't made a lasting impression on her hips. She was grateful, and she would repent later on an elliptical. Or at least vow to eat her brownies one at a time.
Ten seconds of brushing, one minute of braiding and her blond hair was neat and tidy. She dashed out into the hall, toward the kitchen where she grabbed her car keys and nearly made it to the back door. Just as she was reaching for the knob, the house phone rang.
Nina glanced from the clock to the phone. Everyone in her world—friends, family, work—had her cell. Very few calls came on the antiquated landline, and none of them were good news. Nina retraced her steps and braced herself for disaster.
"Hello?"
"Hey, Nina. It's Jerry down at Too Good To Be True. I just opened, and there's a lady here trying to sell a box of crap, ah, stuff. I think it's from the store."
Nina closed her eyes as she held in a groan. "Let me guess. Early twenties, red hair with purple streaks and a tattoo of a weird bird on her neck?"
"That's her. She's glaring at me something fierce. You think she's armed?"
"I hope not."
"Me, too." Jerry didn't sound especially concerned. "What's her name?"
"Tanya."
If Nina had more time, she would have collapsed right there on the floor. But she had a real job to get to. A job unrelated to the disaster that was the family's antique store.
"You let your mom hire her, huh?" Jerry asked.
"Yes."
"You know better."
"That I do. I'll call the police and ask them to pick up Tanya. Can you keep her there until they get there?"
"Sure thing, kid."
"Great. And I'll be by after work to pick up the stuff."
"I'll hold it for you," Jerry promised.
"Thanks."
Nina hung up and hurried to her car. After her cell connected to the Bluetooth, she called the local sheriff's department and explained what happened.
"Again?" Deputy Sam Payton asked, his voice thick with amusement.
"Did you let your mom hire this employee?"
Nina carefully backed out of the driveway. Jerry's humor she could handle. He'd lived here all his life—he was allowed to tease her. But Sam was relatively new. He hadn't earned mocking rights.
"Hey, tax-paying citizen here, reporting a crime," she said.
"Yeah, yeah. I'm writing it down. What'd she take?"
"I didn't ask. She's at the pawn shop. Too Good To Be True."
"I know it," Deputy Sam told her. "I'll head out and see what's what."
"Thanks."
She hung up before he could offer advice on hiring policies and turned up the hill. The morning was clear—odd for early spring in the Pacific Northwest. Normally the good weather didn't kick in until closer to summer. To the west, blue water sparkled. To the east was western Washington.
As she climbed higher and higher, the view got better, but when she parked across from the three Queen Anne houses at the very top of the hill, pausing to enjoy the spectacular combination of sky and ocean was the last thing on her mind.
She hurried up the steps to the front porch that was both her boss's home and her office. Dr. Andi, as she was known, was a popular pediatrician on the island. Make that the only pediatrician. She'd moved here a year ago, opened her practice in September and had been thriving ever since. She was also a newlywed and, as of two months ago, pregnant.
Nina unlocked the front door and stepped inside. She flipped on lights as she went, confirmed the temperature on the thermostat and then started the three computers in the front office.
After storing her purse in her locker, she logged in to the scheduling program and saw that the first appointment of the day had canceled. Andi would appreciate the extra time to get herself moving. She was still battling morning sickness.
Nina did a quick check of her email, forwarded several items to the bookkeeper/office manager, then walked to the break room for coffee. Less than five minutes after she'd arrived, she was climbing the stairs to her boss's private quarters.
Nina knocked once before entering. She found Andi, a tall, pretty brunette with curly hair, sitting at the table in the kitchen. Her arms cradled her head.
"Still bad?" Nina asked, walking to the cupboard.
"Hi and yes. It's not that I throw up, it's that I feel like I’m going to every single second." She raised her head and drew in a breath. "Are you drinking coffee?"
"Yes."
"I miss coffee. I'm a wreck. I need to talk to my parents about my ancestors. Obviously I don't come from hardy stock."
Nina took down a mug, filled it with water and put it in the microwave. Then she collected a tea bag from the pantry.
"Not ginger tea," Andi said with a moan. "Please. I hate it."
"But it helps."
"I'd rather feel sick."
Nina raised her eyebrows.
Andi slumped in her seat. "I'm such a failure. Look at me. I'm carrying around a child the size of a lima bean and I'm throwing a hissy fit. It's embarrassing."
"And yet the need to act mature doesn't seem to be kicking in."
Andi smiled. "Funny how that works."
The microwaved dinged. Nina dropped the tea bag into the steaming water and crossed to the table.
The eat-in kitchen was open, with painted cabinets and lots of granite. The big window by the table took advantage of the east-facing views in the old house. The mainland shimmered only a few miles away.
Andi had bought the house—one of three up on the hill—when she'd moved to Blackberry Island. Undeterred by the broken windows and outdated plumbing, she’d had the house restored from the framework out. During the process, she'd fallen in love with her contractor. Which had led to her current tummy problems.
"Your first appointment canceled," Nina told her.
"Thank God." Andi sniffed the tea, then wrinkled her nose and took a sip. "It's the ginger. If I could have tea without ginger I think I could get it down."
"The thing is, the ginger is the part that settles your stomach."
"Life is perverse like that." Andi took another sip, then smiled. "I like the shirt."
Nina glanced down at the pattern. "Betty and I go way back."
One of the advantages of working for a pediatrician was that cheerful attire was encouraged. She had a collection of brightly colored fun shirts in her closet. It wasn't high fashion, but it helped the kids smile and that was what mattered.
"I need to get back downstairs," she said. "Your first appointment is now at eight-thirty."
"Okay."
Nina rose and started toward the stairs.
"Are you busy after work?" Andi asked.
Nina thought about the fact that she was going to have to go by the pawn shop and pick up what Tanya had tried to sell, then spend several hours at Blackberry Preserves, her family's antique store, figuring out what had been stolen, then tell her mother what had happened and possibly lecture her on the importance of actually following up on a potential employee's references. Only she'd been lecturing her mother for as long as she could remember, and the lessons never seemed to stick. No matter how many times Bonnie promised to do better, she never did. Which left Nina picking up the pieces.
"I kind of am. Why?"
"I haven't been to Pilates in a week," Andi said. "It's important I keep exercising. Would you go with me? It's more fun when you're along."
"I can't tonight, but Monday's good."
Andi smiled. "Thanks, Nina. You're the best."
"Give me a plaque and I'll believe it."
"I'll order one today."


About the author:

With more than 25 million books sold worldwide, New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery is known for creating characters who feel as real as the folks next door, and for putting them into emotional, often funny situations readers recognize from their own lives. Susan's books have made Booklist's Top 10 Romances list in four out of five consecutive years. RT Book Reviews says, "When it comes to heartfelt contemporary romance, Mallery is in a class by herself." With her popular, ongoing Fool's Gold series, Susan has reached new heights on the bestsellers lists and has won the hearts of countless new fans.

Susan grew up in southern California, moved so many times that her friends stopped writing her address in pen, and now has settled in Seattle with her husband and the most delightfully spoiled little dog who ever lived. 

Connect with the author: 

Website      |     Facebook      |    Google+     |     Twitter 




Giveaway:

The Book Diva's Reads is pleased to offer one lucky reader a paperback copy of Evening Stars by Susan Mallery, courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA. This giveaway is limited to residents of the United States and Canada. To enter please use the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway ends at 11:59 PM ET on Tuesday, March 4, 2014 and the winner will be announced on Wednesday, March 5th, 2014.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Book Promotional Post: SCARLET REVENGE


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Scarlet Revenge - PROMO Blitz

By Ann McGinnis

Date Published: January 21, 2014

Romantic Suspense





The FBI doesn’t know what to do with Analyst Caycee Scarlet. She’s brash, brilliant & brutally relentless when tracking a serial killer. But she also has a temper, problems with authority figures and recognizing the chain of command.



Things go sideways for Caycee when she uncovers a lead that saves the Omega Killer’s latest victim. Rather than working the system and making nice with her pompous boss, sparks fly and she gets into an altercation with the lead Special Agent on the case, resulting in a transfer to another assignment.



Caycee finds herself transferred to an FBI interrogation facility where she assesses the most dangerous of criminals in custody. She struggles to get over the loss of her dream job, but her new boss, handsome Special Agent Gil Graham, may soften the blow. Sparks, of a different variety, fly between the Special Agent and his new Analyst, as they work together to crack the most difficult cases.



Just when Caycee’s wounds are healing from her expulsion on the Omega Killer team, she is dragged back into the thick of it. Caycee and her new team are front and center, focused on an interview of a bombing suspect, when Omega comes looking for revenge. His attack wounds her team, leaving Caycee with only one option for help—the devastatingly handsome bombing suspect. It will take all of Caycee’s wits, and a kiss for luck, to stop Omega and save her co-worker.



EXCERPT



Chapter One



Our steps echoed down the stark hallway. Clean. Institutional. And utterly amazing. Caycee Scarlet was finally walking along the hallowed hallways of the FBI. It was a good day for me.

"Say nothing, Scarlet," Special Agent in Charge Tony Wilkes ordered. He threw me a look over his shoulder. "Even if someone asks you a question, keep your mouth shut." He laughed to himself. "No one will ask you a question.”

Wilkes had already made it clear that I was the newest member of the Omega Killer Task Force. As such, I should listen more than talk, act fast when given orders, and let the seasoned team members guide my every move. It seemed like the equivalent of an FBI-whipping boy. Or girl, in my case. I didn’t care. Everyone started at the bottom. I was ready to put in the time needed to earn their respect.

At least, I looked good in a form-fitting black suit. It was more than I could afford, but I figured I would live in the outfit. Besides, it sent a message. I valued my appearance, even if I had to dress like a man, I'd still look like a woman.

I'd had the suit cut to fit my curves, which were on the athletic side. My auburn hair pulled into a no-nonsense ponytail. It hung past my shoulders, showing off my best feature – my eyes. As a window into my soul, they were unflinching. I did admire my own intelligence, probably a character flaw, but hopefully that wouldn’t show in my eyes. The traits I wanted to show: no nonsense, quick witted, relentless.

"You get the crap jobs," Wilkes said, acting as if his honesty was attractive. A few hours in the gym and hair implants, maybe. Not that I didn’t find bald men attractive, just not this one. "I can't lie," he continued, "we'll be throwing you every crap job that this case delivers, but you're on a big case. That don't happen to many newbies."

I wasn't that new, but I guessed he didn’t count the eight months of testing and background checks. I did. Or my training at Quantico. It all counted to me.

The agency gave us two years to prove ourselves. After that, candidates either earned their spot or were let go. I couldn't imagine putting in all that time and failing.

I had a feeling success would require long hours and serious ass-kissing. I just needed to find someone with a cute ass. It sure wasn't Wilkes.

We passed three large rooms filled with personnel. One looked to be the size of a football field filled with cubicles. “You’ll be in here,” Wilkes waved, “but first I want you to see the Dugout.”

He led me to a large conference room, its walls filled with crime photos, running news feeds and a huge whiteboard for pertinent case data. “The Omega Killer is priority number one,” Wilkes said, opening the conference room door for me. “This is where the main players are at bat.”

I slowed at the door, sensing a real sports theme to the way he liked to operate. Perhaps one day, I’d be his most valuable player. It looked competitive, though. Wilkes’s team already consisted of veteran agents and analysts. They seemed a cohesive group, working in unison to stop a psychotic killer.

Wilkes quickly ran through Omega’s deadly stats, but he didn’t need to bother. I knew the case inside and out. Killers were my hobby.

I made the mistake of saying that to a date once. I never saw a man escape faster, admonishing me by exclaiming: “You’re sick, truly sick.” Hopefully, my academic interest in killers wouldn’t repel men in the FBI.

Not that I was here to find a man, but I was twenty-eight and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake the feeling that somewhere in this organization was my perfect match. After all, I needed a man who liked to catch killers.

“Are you listening to me?” Wilkes sounded irritated.

“Yes, sir,” I answered. “The Omega Killer marks his victims’ forehead with the sign of the Omega. All indications are that it signals the moment he’s ready to make the fatal cut, into his victim’s left breast. Such a wound, based on other serial killers, suggests Omega has mommy issues, but I personally believe that it signals a desire to find love.”

Wilkes made a face at me. Clearly he did not care for my analysis. “That’s not what I was talking about. Geez, he wants to find love? Table that thought, quickly, and get back in the game.”

He raised his arms, showing off the Dugout. "Welcome to the nerve center of our investigation. We call this the show," he said, then clapped his hands together to get the room’s attention. "Everyone, this is Intelligence Analyst Caycee Scarlet."

The agents, analysts and techs turned from their work. Some at laptops along one side of a long mahogany conference table and others working on reports across from them. Several agents were standing, talking in a small group. They barely looked over at me, too busy for someone below them on the FBI food chain. The analysts nodded an acknowledgement. Matter-of-fact. No smiles. No words of welcome.

I gave a half-hearted nod to the room, hoping I'd make a better impression later. Probably much later, if I was reading the total lack of interest correctly. It must be the pressure of catching Omega. Tension hung in the room. With twelve victims to date, catching the killer had them all wound up.

Wilkes pointed to a side table stacked with boxes. The top one filled with old cell phones, victim personal effects and police reports. "We need them properly catalogued. You know, a searchable database. I’m told you were the most anal student in your class. Go at it."

His voice trailed off, but I didn't know if he'd stopped talking or I'd stopped listening. Maybe a little of both, because I read the whiteboard. One of the hand-scribbled numbers was written incorrectly.

Without thinking, I went over to the board and used the heel of my right hand to wipe off an area code. Everyone in the room stopped working and screamed at me.

"What have you done?" Wilkes shouted louder than anyone else.

I came out of my trance and blinked at him. Whatever I said next could make or break me, so I said nothing.

"Every piece of information is vital to solving the case," he scolded. He turned to the room. "Can we fix it? What was that number?"

Blank stares.

I quickly picked up a dry erase marker and wrote the numbers back on the board. It was only three digits.

Screams went up all around me again.

"What?" I asked. "That's the number I erased. But it's wrong. It's a phone number, right? Someone transposed the area code. 3-7-1 is not an area code, but 7-3-1 is New Jersey."

No one screamed at me that time, but their looks were deadly.

"Is that right?" Wilkes asked the room. His eyes darted from the whiteboard to the closest agent. He wanted confirmation before his head exploded.

"Shit," the agent said.

Wilkes grabbed his head.

The agent couldn't look at me. "She's right, sir.”

“Okay, we’re okay, fix it and double-check everything that goes on the board, people,” Wilkes barked.

The agent took the dry erase marker from me and fixed the numbers. Wilkes waved two fingers at a petite woman with raven hair twisted into a bun. “Take care of this.” He pointed at me.

FBI Analyst Nina Dunbar instantly responded. She rolled her eyes and grabbed a stack of boxes, indicating with her elbow that I was to take the rest. “Follow me,” she sighed. “Consider this your first and last favor.”

I shot a glance at Wilkes, but he already had his nose in a file folder, barking orders to the closest agent. He had no time for me. No one did. I exited the conference room, utterly deflated by my welcome to the FBI.





Ann McGinnis



 photo Ann20Photo_zps844d346c.jpgAnn McGinnis started writing romantic suspense to combine two things— thrillers & foreplay! Connect with Ann and upcoming news about the Scarlet Suspense Series:



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On Pinterest: pinterest.com/scarletsuspense






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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Showcase Post: HOUSE OF GLASS by Sophie Littlefield

House of Glass by Sophie Littlefield
ISBN:  9780778314783 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781460327067 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00FNJVSYU  (Kindle edition)
Publication date: February 25, 2014
Publisher:  Harlequin Mira


Jen Glass has worked hard to achieve the ideal life: a successful career, a beautiful home in an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, a seemingly perfect family. But inside the Glass house, everything is spinning out of Jen's control. Her marriage to her husband, Ted, is on the brink of collapse; her fifteen-year-old daughter grows more distant each day; and her five-year-old son barely speaks a word. Jen is on the verge of breaking, but nothing could have prepared her for what is to come...
On an evening that was supposed to be like any other, two men force their way into the Glasses' home, but what begins as a common robbery takes an even more terrifying turn. Held hostage in the basement for more than forty-eight hours, Jen and Ted must put aside their differences if they have any hope of survival. They will stop at nothing to keep their family safe -- even if it means risking their own lives.
A taut and emotional tale of a family brought together by extraordinary forces, House of Glass is a harrowing exploration of both the lengths a mother will go to protect her children, and the power of tragedy to teach us what truly matters.



Read an Excerpt:

Chapter Six
"Oh, God," Livvy said, a split second after they heard the lock at the top of the stairs. She was standing apart from her parents, her arms hugging her body. Tears threatened to spill from her eyes. "It smells so bad down here!"
   Ted reached for Livvy, and she fell against him. He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her close, and she sobbed against his chest. Jen picked Teddy up and rocked him gently, whispering that he shouldn't worry about Livvy, that his sister would be just fine.
   After a few moments, Livvy's sobs subsided and she pulled away from Ted. She went to stand near the shelf where all her trophies were lined up -- Mini Marlins swim, eight years of soccer, a few for softball, one from the American Legion speech contest back in middle school. Jen could see her shoulders trembling.
   "Honey, it's going to be okay," Jen said, handing Teddy to her husband approaching Livvy cautiously. She had to keep her calm, had to make her believe she and Ted had things under control. "Once they get what they want, they'll go."
   "But what do they even want?"
   Jen put her hand on Livvy's shoulder and gently turned her so she could look into her eyes. "Anything they can sell, I would guess. There's the silver, my jewelry, the computers--any number of things. They'll take it and they'll go."
   She could see Livvy trying, wanting to believe her. She tried to make herself believe it, so her face would convince Livvy.
   "I need to talk to Daddy," she said, as calmly as she could. "Can you play with Teddy and keep him busy for a few minutes?"
   Livvy nodded. She looked a little better, some of the panic gone from her eyes.
   "His old toys are in here," Jen said, getting a cardboard box down off the shelf. "I haven't had a chance to get them over to St. Vincent De Paul's yet. Go ahead and get them out. Whatever he wants."
   Livvy talked softly to her brother, kneeling down on the cold concrete floor next to him and peeling the tape off the box. Jenn and Ted went to the box. Jen and Ted went to the far side of the basement where the old living room furniture was stored, the pieces that Ted kept meaning to put on Craigslist. Ted lifted the old lamp shades off the couch and brushed off the cushions. When they sat down, he took her hands in his.



Meet the author:

Sophie Littlefield grew up in rural Missouri, the middle child of a professor and an artist. She has been writing stories since childhood. After taking a hiatus to raise her children, she sold her first book in 2008, and has since authored over a dozen novels in several genres. Sophie's novels have won Anthony and RT Book Awards and has been shortlisted for Edgar, Barry, Crimespree, Macavity, and Goodreads Choice Awards. In addition women's fiction, she writes the post-apocalyptic Aftertime series, the Stella Hardesty and Joe Bashir crime series, and thrillers for young adults. She is past president of the San Francisco Romance Writers of America chapter. Sophie makes her home in northern California.

Connect with the author:     Website     |     Facebook     |     Twitter


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Book Blast: KILLING BLISS by EC Sheedy




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Killing Bliss - PROMO Blitz

By E C Sheedy

Date Published: June 2013


Romantic Suspense



One night. Two bullets. Three runaways.



Addy Michaels, living her careful life on a forgotten back road, thinks she's safe--that her past and its corpses are long buried. Surely after fifteen years the cops have quit looking for the street kids believed to have kidnapped a baby and killed their prostitute foster mother, Belle Bliss.



Addy couldn't be more wrong.



A cold case. Hot again, when the missing child's grandmother hires renowned profiler Cade Harding to find her grandson. Cade tracks Addy to her safe haven in a remote area of Washington state. Their attraction to each other is immediate, dangerous, and badly timed because...



Cade isn't alone.



A twisted killer, faceless and unknowable, follows in Cade's footsteps--on the hunt for anyone who can tell the truth about killing Bliss.



All roads lead to Addy.





EXCERPT



Cade looked at Stan and Susan, two aging lovers—and he'd decided they were definitely lovers. Susan's eyes were wide, expectant. Stan's were judgmental and pissed off.


Cade turned to Susan, genuinely puzzled. "Why now?" he asked. "After all these years, why ask me to investigate now?"


"Mainly because I didn't know, until your mother's funeral, that you could help. It was your wife who told me what you did, how successful you were. She was very proud of you, you know." She paused. "As for your mother? Whenever I asked about you, she said very little, other than you'd 'taken off and left her alone, just like your father."


Cade might have protested, except for the glint of understanding in Susan's eyes, an understanding that no doubt came from years of her lending his mother money. He didn't bother defending himself, say how he'd kept in touch with his mother until she died and sent a regular monthly check. His business.


"That it?" he asked, wanting to end the conversation.

"No. The big reason is Frank Bliss is being paroled after serving seven years for manslaughter."


Stan interjected. "Go back a bit, Susie."


She pursed her lips. "A few months after the murder, I met with Frank Bliss. I'd hoped to learn something the police hadn't—stupid, I know—but..." She took a few steps, then turned back to face him, her expression defiant. "Ever since, I've felt that boy knew more than he'd told."


"You 'felt'?" Even though Cade's career as a profiler centered on building a whole loaf from discarded chaff, he'd learned to distrust the I felt phrase—so often too close to its sister phrase, I wish, to be worthwhile.


"I figured you'd glom on to that word, but regardless, I'll stand by it. Frank Bliss was either lying or not telling everything he knew."


"If you consider his mother was brutally murdered—literally before his eyes—why would he lie? What do you think he'd gain from it?"


"I have no idea," she said. "But ever since the murder, Frank Bliss has been in jail more than he's been out. I suspect he lies for all kinds of reasons."


"And his brother?"


Stan answered. "Dead. Knifed in an alley after a fight in some club. About three years after the murder."


"Unlucky family," Cade said. "A good psychologist might say it was his mother's murder that turned Frank bad in the first place."


"He'd be wrong," Susan said, "because Frank didn't like his mother."


"He told you that?"


"He didn't have to. It was in his face, in his eyes. I think he was happy she was dead."


"Even if you're right, it doesn't prove—"


She stopped him with a raised hand, her eyes coal hard and direct. "If he didn't care about his mother, he certainly wouldn't care about a sixteen-month-old baby. Whatever his reasons, I think he lied." She waved her hand in a frustrated action, her voice rose. "Maybe he killed his mother, maybe the lies were to protect himself, or his kid brother—"


"That's a lot of maybes, Susan." Cade said quietly. "Besides, you said the police checked Brett's alibi."


"They could be wrong. It wouldn't be the first time."


The room went quiet, and Stan arched a brow and looked at Cade, his expression bordering on sympathetic. "Susie hasn't let this case go since she found out about Josh. She's not about to stop now," he said.


Maybe not, but Cade knew they'd stepped hip deep into the realm of conjecture and magical thinking on a murder that occurred fifteen years ago. "It's a waste of time. Mine and yours," Cade said. He hadn't left WSU to get mired in someone else's problem, someone else's grief—or to work a case with a serious case of freezer burn. He'd walked this walk before. Swampland in a fog. "I'm sorry," he said again, more firmly this time. "I can't help you."


Again the room fell to silence, broken finally by Susan's heavy sigh.


"I didn't want to do this," she said. "But you leave me no choice." She met his eyes, her gaze unwavering. "You do this for me, Cade, and I'll forget what your mother owed me, which over the years came to over sixty-five thousand dollars."


She might as well have hit him in the gut with a two-by-four. His breath swooshed out, then he shook his head, muttered, "Son-of-a-bitch."


"No," Susan stated in a clear, measured tone. "I'm the mother of a dead daughter who's missing her grandson. Sons-of-bitches don't even come close."


***

Addy picked up her paint gear, straightened, and let her gaze drift over Star lake. Ruffled by the wind, it was a blanket of rippling diamonds in the afternoon sun. She swiveled, her gaze feasting on the tiny property: the cabins, ten of them sporting new paint jobs and looking proud and pretty, the fresh gravel she'd laid in the driveway, and the new sign in amusing fifties-style lettering she'd had done for over the office door. All of it her work, her dream, her safety net.

She headed for the maintenance shed, but hadn't taken more than three steps before she heard a car turn off the highway and scrunch its way along her new gravel.


She looked over her shoulder to see a Cherokee—maybe three or four years old—pull up to the office steps. A man and a dog—probably the same age as the truck—got out. Knowing Toby would handle them, Addy continued on to the shed and stowed her supplies neatly on the shelves.


The man was coming out of the office as she approached. The big yellow dog, who'd been sitting outside the door, got up, wagging its tail and wiggling its rear end as if he'd been abandoned for a month rather than the few minutes it had taken for his owner to check in.


There were three steps up to the office door. From the bottom one, she said, "Friendly?" And nodded at the dog.


The man smiled and patted the dog's head. "A teddy bear, especially if there's food around."


"Does he have a name?" She ran a hand along the silky fur on his back. She really should get a dog... if she stayed.


"Redge." He shifted his gaze from the dog and met hers. "What about you?"


Her nerves jangled, and she tucked her hands in the pockets of her overalls. "Me?" she said, sounding confused and stupid and knowing she was neither.


"Name. Do you have one?"


She pulled her hands from her pockets, stuck one out straight as a lance, and said, "Addy Michaels. I'm the owner of Star Lake."


She wasn't sure, but she thought she saw him blink a couple of times, his eyes sharpen. He definitely hesitated before taking her hand, then smiled as if he was obliged to, kind of cool and polite. "Addy. I'm Cade Harding. Nice to meet you."


"Likewise. I take it you'll be staying with us?" She dropped to one knee to pet the dog, and get out from under his eyes, which suddenly seemed a bit too intense.

"A couple of days at least." He hesitated. "Maybe more."


She got to her feet, risked looking up at him. He resembled Gus a little, or how she imagined Gus would look with a few years on him. Dark hair, dark eyes, a bit of stubble around the chin, body on the lean side. Gus's face would be harder though, colder, not so... bookish or calm. And Gus’s eyes were a strange amber brown, nothing at all like Cade Harding's, which were a green color that reminded Addy of cedar boughs. "You sound like a man without a destination."


He didn't smile this time, but he did tilt his head a bit. Her nerves skittered again when his gaze fixed on her. “As destinations go this will do just fine.”



About the Author:
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EC Sheedy



EC Sheedy lives and writes on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. With the ocean a few steps from her door and Zuke, a 110 pound Rhodesian Ridgeback, sleeping on the sofa in her office, she considers herself one very lucky writer. But her real luck is being married to Tim, her first and final husband.


EC writes both contemporary romance and romantic suspense, the latter because sometimes a nasty and conniving villain pops into my head and she just has to get him out.

She dislikes cooking.

She dislikes nosy people.

She dislikes too many rainy days in a row.

She dislikes snakes.



And the only word she hates is hate—especially when used as a verb.

Authors Links



Website | Tumblr | Twitter





Buy Link

Amazon








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Monday, February 10, 2014

GUEST POST: James Zerndt, Author of THE KOREAN WORD FOR BUTTERFLY



The Book Diva's Reads is pleased to host a visit today by James Zerndt, author of The Korean Word for Butterfly. Mr. Zerndt will be discussing likeable characters. Please welcome James Zerndt and scroll down to enter the giveaway for a copy of this wonderful book.



Likeable Unlikable-Characters

  Some of my best friends are unlikable characters. They talk too much. Drink too much. Laugh too loudly. Make mistake after stupid, lovely mistake. They fall in and out love with the wrong people. In short, they live. But they are far more interesting people than most "nice" people I know. And maybe I have an affinity for these people because I, too, am one of the flawed.

I recently read an article by a woman gushing over an author she recently met at a reading. I won't mention the author's name, but he was congenial, friendly, good-looking (of course) and outgoing with his fans. That, this woman wrote, was exactly how she wanted to be when she finally made it big: confident. And who wouldn't want to be that? I know I sometimes would, but I also know that confident is not me. And, well, most confident people annoy me. Usually because their confidence is hugely unwarranted. Not that this particular author’s was.

Personally, I'm more drawn to the person sitting in the back row, the awkward ones, the nail biters and mumblers of this world. In my experience, more often than not, those who are the most reluctant to speak usually have the most to say. And so it is with the characters I find myself wanting to read and write about. They are gloriously imperfect, which only makes them all the more beautiful. Who wants to read about the air-brushed, the flawless? Better yet, who wants to write about them? 

But what makes an unlikable character, likeable? Or at least readable? Most would say that they have to have some redeeming qualities about them. They have to, at the very least, want to be better even though they may constantly get in the way of themselves. In my last book, The Korean Word For Butterfly, there is one character, Billie, who some readers have found "unlikeable." And that's totally fine. She is a bit unlikable. But, then, a lot of truly interesting people are a little unlikable. But Billie isn't just unlikable. She's young. And having to make some hard decisions, decisions she may or may not regret at a later date. But what makes Billie so likable in my eyes is that she is obviously in a lot of pain during this process. If she wasn't, she probably wouldn't make the decisions she does in the book. If she were older, chances are she would have acted differently, seen that the situation wasn't necessarily all or nothing. But at that age, just out of high school, how many of us have that kind of perspective? I know I certainly didn't. 

So I look forward to the next reading I go to where a shy, nervous author takes the stage and beads of sweat fall from her forehead as she struggles through reading her own words, wishing no doubt that she was safely back home in front of her computer or notebook doing what she loves best: writing. And I look forward to failing as a writer, too, knowing full well that Orwell was right when he said Every book is a failure.

In the end, well, I guess I love failures. 

In fact, I'm going to call one up right now and go have a drink. 

So we can celebrate our mutual failings. 

Cheers.






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Giveaway offer:

The Book Diva's Reads is pleased to offer one lucky reader a print or digital copy of The Korean Word for Butterfly by Mr. Zerndt. This giveaway is limited to residents of the United States. Thanks are offered to Mr. Zerndt and to Teddy and Virtual Author Book Tours for this tour and giveaway opportunity. To enter please use the rafflecopter form below; winner will be chosen on Monday, February 17, 2014.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Book Showcase: THE TENTH CIRCLE by Jon Land





   

Synopsis:
1590: An entire colony of British settlers vanishes from their settlement on Roanoke Island, seemingly into thin air.

1872: The freighter Marie Celeste is found drifting at sea off Gibraltar, its entire crew and passengers gone missing without a trace.

But what if there's a connection between two of the greatest historical mysteries ever? And what if the roots of that connection lie in a crazed plot to destroy the United States as we know it today?

Those are the questions confronting Blaine McCracken as he takes up the trail of small time preacher Jeremiah Rule whose hateful rhetoric has done big time damage by inflaming an entire people half a world away, resulting in a series of devastating terrorist attacks stateside. Rule, though, isn't acting alone. A shadowy cabal is pulling his strings, unaware they are creating a monster soon to spin free of their control.

McCracken has just returned from pulling off the impossible in Iran, ridding the world of one terrible threat only to return home to face another. Isolated in a way he’s never been before and now hunted himself, he'll have to rely on skills and allies both old and new to get to the heart of a plan aimed at unleashing no less than the Tenth Circle of Hell. This as he contends with a failed congressman intent on changing the country to fit his own vision and an Iranian assassin bent on revenge.

Blaine's desperate path across country and continent takes him into the past where the answers he needs lie among the missing Roanoke colonists and the contents of the Marie Celeste’s cargo holds. Those secrets alone hold the means to stop the Tenth Circle from closing. And as the bodies tumble in his wake, as the clock ticks down to an unthinkable maelstrom, McCracken and Johnny Wareagle fight to save the United States from a war the country didn’t even know it was fighting, but might well lose.

Book Details:
Genre: Thriller
Published by: Open Road Integrated Media
Publication Date: December 24, 2013
Number of Pages: 420
ISBN: 978-1480414792
Purchase Links:    



Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER 1
The Negev Desert, Israel; the present

"We have incoming, General!  Anti-missile batteries are responding!"

General Yitzak Berman focused his gaze on the desperate scenario unfolding in amazingly realistic animation on the huge screen before him. Eight missiles fired from Iran sped toward all major population centers of Israel in a perfect geometric pattern, about to give the nation’s Arrow anti-missile system its greatest test yet.  

"Sir," reported the head of the analysts squeezed into the underground bunker from which Israel maintained command and control, "initial specs indicate the size, weight and sourcing of the missiles . . ."

"Proceed," the general said when the analyst stopped to swallow hard.

"They're nuclear, sir, in the fifty kiloton range."

"Targets?"

Another young man picked up from there. "Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, the Mediterranean coast, the Sinai, our primary airfields . . ." He looked back toward Sherman. "And here, sir."

"Anti-missile batteries are launching!" a new voice blared through the strangely dim lighting that seemed to flutter as the missiles drew closer.

And Sherman watched the animated simulation of dozens and dozens of Israeli Arrow rockets, along with larger American Patriots, shooting upward in line with the incoming missiles. Four hits were scored in the maelstrom of animated smoke bursts, more rockets launched to chase down the remaining four nukes that had survived the first salvo.

"We have two more confirmed downed!" yet another young voice rang out.

But the bunker fell silent as the sophisticated animation continued to follow two surviving Iranian missiles as they streaked toward Tel Aviv and Haifa.

"Schmai Israel, hallileh hoseh," one of the young voices began, reciting the prayer softly as the missiles' arc turned downward, on a direct course to their targets with nothing left to stop their flight.

"Order our fighters holding at their failsafe positions to launch their attacks," instructed Berman. "Destroy Iran."

He'd barely finished when two flashes burst out from the animated screen, bright enough to force several squeezed into the bunker to shield their eyes. As those flashes faded amid the stunned silence and odor of stale perspiration hanging in the air, the bunker's regular lighting snapped back on.

"This concludes the simulation," a mechanical voice droned. "Repeat, this concludes the simulation."

With that, a bevy of Israeli officials, both civilian and military, emerged from the rear-most corner of the bunker, all wearing dour expressions.

Israel's female defense minister stepped forward ahead of the others. "Your point is made, General," she said to Berman. "Not that we needed any further convincing."

"I'm glad we all agree that the Iranian nuclear threat can no longer be tolerated," Berman, the highest-ranking member of the Israeli military left alive who'd fought in the Six-Day War, told them. "We've been over all this before. The difference is we're now certain our defenses cannot withstand an Iranian attack, leaving us with casualty estimates of up to a million dead and two million wounded, many of them gravely. Fifty simulations, all with results similar to the ones you have just witnessed." He hesitated, eyes hardened through two generations of war boring into the defense minister's. "I want your formal authorization."

"For what?"

"To destroy the Iranian nuclear complex at Natanz."

Israel's defense minister started to smile, then simply shook her head. "We've been over this before, a hundred times. Our army can't do it, our air force can't do it, our commandos can't do it, and the Americans are saying the very same thing from their end. You want my authorization to do the impossible? You've got it. Just don't expect any backup, extraction, or political cover."

Yitzak Berman returned his gaze to the wall-sized screen where animated versions of Tel Aviv and Haifa had turned dark. "The man I have in mind won't need of any of that."

"Did you say man?"


CHAPTER 2
Natanz, Iran

"We are descending through a million tons of solid rock," the Islamic Republic of Iran's Minister of Energy, Ali Akbar Hosseini, told the filmmaker squeezed in the elevator by both his equipment and the trio of Revolutionary Guardsmen. "A technological achievement in its own right. You understand the great task you've been entrusted to perform."

"Just as you must understand I'm the best at my job, just like your scientists are at theirs," said the bearded, award winning filmmaker Hosseini knew as Najjar. Najjar's appearance was exactly as depicted in photographs, save for the scar through his left eyebrow the minister did not recall. He was dressed casually in dark cargo pants and long-sleeve cotton shirt rolled up at the sleeves, bulky clothing that hid what was clearly a V-shaped, well-muscled frame beneath. "I was told I'd be given total access to the facility."

"And you will, at least those parts deemed appropriate by me."

"That wasn't part of the deal. It never is with my work."

"This is a different kind of opportunity."

The elevator started to slow.

"Then you should have gotten a filmmaker more adept at wedding videos," Najjar snapped. "Perhaps we've both made a mistake."

"You are about to see what few men ever have," Hosseini continued, wearing a fashionable suit instead of a military uniform. "And it will be your blessed privilege to chronicle it for the world to see when the time is right. You call that a mistake?"

"You chose me because I'm the best. I ask only that you treat me that way."

"I could have retained a simple videographer for this assignment," Hosseini said, his shoulders stiffening. "I chose you because I wanted something that would stand the test of history. This will be my legacy, my contribution to our glorious Republic, and I want it to be celebrated, not just appreciated, a century from now. I want anyone who watches to see not just a place, but a point in history that changed the world forever. An awesome responsibility I'm entrusting you with."

"I look forward to exceeding your expectations."

Hosseini's eyes fell on the bulky equipment lying at the filmmaker's feet; a camera, portable lights, and a quartet of shoebox-sized rechargeable batteries to supply power. "Others I've worked with have turned to much smaller cameras for video, even ones that look like they only take pictures."

"And how did their work turn out?" asked the filmmaker, his tone still biting.

"Acceptable, but not impressive. This assignment clearly required something more, a case I had to make to the Council's finance board to justify your fee."

"If you aren't satisfied with what I produce for you, you owe nothing. I'll return my fee to the Council personally."

"Both of us know that will not be necessary. Both of us know you will produce something that will stand the test of time through the ages and serve both of us well," Hosseini said to the man he'd personally selected for the job.  

"I value your regard and the confidence you have in me," Najjar said more humbly in Farsi.

Then he slung the camera over his shoulder and scooped up the batteries and portable lights in his grasp, beckoning the minister to exit ahead of him.

"After you," said Blaine McCracken.


CHAPTER 3
Washington, DC; two months earlier

"You're kidding, right?" Blaine McCracken said after the Israeli he knew only as "David" finished.

"You come highly recommended, Mr. McCracken. Back home you're considered a legend."

"Another word for dinosaur."

"But far from extinct. And my American friends tell me you're the only one they believe can get this done."

"Meaning I'd have to succeed where two governments have failed."

David shrugged, the gesture further exaggerating the size of his neck that seemed a stubby extension of his shoulders and trapezious muscles. He wasn't a tall man but unnaturally broad through the upper body. McCracken couldn't make out his eyes well in the darkness, but imagined them to be furtive and noncommittal.

They'd met at the Observation Deck of the Washington Monument. Closed to the public for repairs indefinitely, but still accessible by workmen, though not at night, always McCracken's favorite time to view Washington. He liked imagining what was going on in offices where lights still burned, plans were being hatched and fates determined. There was so much about the city he hated but plenty from which he couldn't detach himself. In the vast majority of those offices, officials were trying to do good; at least, they believed they were.  

McCracken found himself wondering which of those offices David had come here from; it would be State or Defense in the old days, across the river in Langley just as often. These days it was Homeland Security, the catch-all and watch word that got people nodding in silence, Homeland's offices spread out all over the city proper and thus responsible for an untold number of the lights that still burned.

A few work lamps provided the only illumination inside the gutted Observation Deck, riddled with a musty basement-like smell of old, stale concrete and wood rot mixed with fresh lumber and sawdust which covered the exposed floor like a floating rug. David had sneezed a few times upon first entering, passing it off as allergies.

"It's not that we've failed," David told him, "it's that all the plans we've considered have been rejected out of hand. We've come to you for something non-traditional that no one expects."

"You've got a lot of faith in me."

"If anyone can do it, it's you. Otherwise, we will have no choice but to try something that is doomed to fail and perhaps even make things worse. But our hands are tied. With Iran so close to getting their bomb, the choice is gone."

"Your name's not really David, is it?" McCracken asked the Israeli.

"Why would you think that?"

"Because the last few times I've worked with your country, my contacts were named David too. A reference to David and Goliath maybe?"

A flicker of a smile crossed the Israeli's lips. "I'm told you had a plan."

"No, what I've got is an idea. It's risky, dangerous, and I haven't even broached it to the powers at be here."

"Because you don't think they'd be interested?"

"Because they haven't asked." McCracken looked out through the window at the twinkling office lights again, already fewer of them than just a few minutes before, imagining the kind of things being discussed after office hours had concluded. "The only time my phone rings these days is when the SEALS or Delta have already passed on the mission, with good reason this time."

"We're asking," said David. "You, not them. And we'll provide you with the right resources, any resources you require."

McCracken gave David a longer look, the younger man's thick nest of curly hair making him seem vulnerable and innocent at the same time when neither was true. "Tell me you're ready to fight fire with fire. Tell me that's what you meant about making the right resources available."

David seemed to grasp his meaning immediately. "And if we are?"

Blaine smiled.


CHAPTER 4
Natanz, Iran; the present

McCracken lugged the equipment from the elevator, careful to show strain and exertion on his features to avoid raising any suspicions in Hosseini. The hall before them was brightly lit, as clean and sterile as a hospital's. The air smelled of nothing; not antiseptic, not solvent, not fresh tile. Nothing. The lighting looked unbalanced, harsh in some places and dull in others.

The new Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's successor, had made no secret of his desire to chronicle Iran's greatest technological achievement ever. When the time was right, he wanted the world to see the true scope of his country's accomplishment, so long hidden behind innuendo and subterfuge. Like the mullahs themselves, he was at heart a braggart obsessed with cementing his own legacy in a way history could not deny.

Najjar, the award winning Iranian filmmaker chosen for that task, was virtually the same height and weight as McCracken and the two men bore more than a passing resemblance to each other right up to the scruffiness of their tightly trimmed beards. Of course, the plan was not without its flaws. Most notably, McCracken had no idea when Najjar would be summoned to capture the Natanz facility in all its glory. Based on the current timetable for the Iranians' ability to generate enough fissionable material from the refuse of their vast centrifuges, though, he guessed no more than six months.

It turned out to be only two.

The filmmaker Najjar was already under twenty-four-hour surveillance by Israeli Mossad agents long entrenched within Iranian society. Barely an hour after the filmmaker was contacted by Minister Hosseini's office on extremely short notice, McCracken boarded a private jet with a make-up specialist on board to finish the job of matching his appearance as closely as possible to Najjar's. The result, after a laborious process that took much of the flight, exceeded even his expectations. The lone oversight had been not to disguise the scar through McCracken's left eyebrow from a wayward bullet decades before.  Although Minister Hosseini had clearly noticed it, he seemed unbothered by its presence. 

While Najjar waited in his apartment for his government car to arrive, a fresh Mossad team just in country entered his apartment by using a key fit to the specifications of his lock based on the serial number. The filmmaker, who was still packing, was unconscious in seconds with McCracken ready in his stead, equipment in hand, as soon as the car arrived for the first leg of his journey.  

Once out of the elevator, he knew he was about to encounter plenty not mentioned in David's reports on the structure and its schematics. Israel's intelligence on the Natanz facility was an amalgamation of satellite reconnaissance, prisoner and defector interrogations, and four separate brilliantly crafted infiltrations. Each of these had revealed the particulars of at least a section of the facility, but even taken in sum they didn't offer a thorough rendering of all of it.

The assembled intelligence did reveal a sprawling single-level underground facility. The original plans had called for multiple levels but this had proven too onerous from both a construction and security standpoint. Natanz had been chosen for the site of the plant specifically because of the heavy layers of limestone and shale beneath which it would be contained, along with an under layer of nearly impenetrable volcanic rock formed in prehistoric times. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the nuclear generating plant that sat at ground level was not positioned directly over the underground facility at all; rather, it served as effective camouflage for the vast tunneling efforts that had forged Natanz from the side instead of from above. The facility was laid out roughly in a square, the size of six football fields laid next to each other, and featured the sophisticated technology required to enrich uranium along with the centrifuges responsible for generating it, a process that undoubtedly included the massive pumps and water systems required for cooling.

But the very features that made Natanz impenetrable to an attack from above made it vulnerable to what McCracken was planning from within.

David versus Goliath indeed.

"One more thing before we get started," Hosseini said, opening a door McCracken hadn’t noticed before. "If you'd join me inside here. . ."

* * *

It was a locker room, more or less, each open cubicle featuring an orange radiation suit and wrist monitor hanging from a hook inside.

"Standard procedure," the minister explained. "The lightest weight suit manufactured anywhere. You slip it on right over your clothes," he continued, starting to do just that himself.

McCracken followed in step. Modern, sophisticated nuclear plants like this were hardly prone to leaks, so the donning of such protective material could only mean Hosseini meant what he said about assembling a complete picture of one of the world's most secret facilities. And something else was obvious as well: That after hearing and seeing so much, there was no way McCracken was getting out of here alive.



Author Bio: 
Jon Land is the award-winning, critically acclaimed author of 36 books, including the bestselling Caitlin Strong Texas Ranger series that includes Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, Strong at the Break, Strong Vengeance and, most recently, Strong Rain Falling. The Tenth Circle marks the second return engagement of his longtime series hero Blaine McCracken on the heels of last year's Pandora's Temple which was nominated for a Thriller Award and received the 2013 International Book Award for Best Adventure Thriller. Jon's first nonfiction book, Betrayal, meanwhile, was named Best True Crime Book of 2012 by Suspense Magazine and won a 2012 International Book Award for Best True Crime Book. He is currently working on Strong Darkness, the next entry in the Caitlin Strong to be published in September of 2014. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude from Brown University, where he continues to maintain a strong volunteer presence, in 1979 and can be found on the Web at www.jonlandbooks.com.

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