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

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

Monday, May 29, 2017

2017 Book 142: COME SUNDOWN by Nora Roberts

Come Sundown by Nora Roberts 
ISBN: 9781250123077 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250123107 (ebook)
ASIN: B01M4GE64D (Kindle edition)
Publisher: St. Martin's Press 
Publication Date: May 30, 2017

A saga of love, family ties, and twisted passions from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Obsession
The Bodine ranch and resort in western Montana is a family business, an idyllic spot for vacationers. A little over thirty thousand acres and home to four generations, it's kept running by Bodine Longbow with the help of a large staff, including new hire Callen Skinner. There was another member of the family once: Bodine's aunt, Alice, who ran off before Bodine was born. She never returned, and the Longbows don't talk about her much. The younger ones, who never met her, quietly presume she's dead. But she isn't. She is not far away, part of a new family, one she never chose—and her mind has been shattered…
When a bartender leaves the resort late one night, and Bo and Cal discover her battered body in the snow, it's the first sign that danger lurks in the mountains that surround them. The police suspect Cal, but Bo finds herself trusting him—and turning to him as another woman is murdered and the Longbows are stunned by Alice's sudden reappearance. The twisted story she has to tell about the past—and the threat that follows in her wake—will test the bonds of this strong family, and thrust Bodine into a darkness she could never have imagined. 

Alice Bodine left home at age eighteen determined to see the world on her own terms. A little more than a year later, she decided to return home to the Bodine Ranch and disappeared. Her family presumes she simply never wanted to return home or maintain contact with the family. Fast-forward twenty-five years and there's a new generation operating the Bodine Ranch, now a posh resort and ranch. Bodine "Bo" Longbow never knew her aunt and, like her brothers, presumes that her aunt is most likely dead. Bo's current focus, along with her parents and brothers, is on continuing to operate the Bodine Ranch to the best of her abilities. Not long after a  childhood friend returns home and is hired to help manage the horses on the ranch, the body of a Bodine ranch employee is found dead and the new hire, Callan "Cal" Skinner, is considered a person-of-interest by some on the local police force. As time passes, Bo rekindles her friendship with Cal, begins to trust and rely upon him as illness causes a long-term family employee to take a leave of absence. Bo's friendship with Cal quickly evolves into a romantic relationship. As their relationship heats up, more women disappear, and then a woman that has been gone and presumed dead turns up, Alice Bodine. No longer the free-spirited wild child of the past, this Alice has been broken. Afraid of men and one man in particular (her abductor/"husband"), the Bodines and Longbows come together to do whatever it takes to help Alice recuperate and regain some sense of self-worth and freedom. But darker forces are working in the background as the abducted women keep turning up dead, Alice's abductor may still be at-large, and at least one law enforcement officer is willing to take the law into his own hands to see that his version of justice is done.

I found Come Sundown to be a fast-paced and engrossing read that melded the dark and twisted with the more traditional ideas of family, love, and justice. Yes, as with most Nora Roberts books, Come Sundown blends romance and suspense, but I found this story to be just a touch darker than some of her previous books (okay, it wasn't as dark as some of the books from the In Death series). Don't get me wrong, the dark and twisted works and works well. Come Sundown features dark themes such as abduction, serial rape, mental and physical torture, twisted ideas of marriage, family and justice, along with the more traditional notions of family, love, and romance. I could tell you more about what happens in the book, but if I did you wouldn't need to read the book so I won't. I will say that if you're a Nora Roberts fan like me, you'll definitely want to grab a copy of Come Sundown to read. If you're a romantic-suspense fan, you'll want to grab a copy of Come Sundown to read. If you're looking for something a little different to read and you enjoy romance and/or suspense, then you'll probably want to grab a copy of Come Sundown to read as well. I read Come Sundown almost two weeks ago and it's still packing a punch. Thank you, Ms. Roberts, for another enjoyable read.

Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 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."

Watch the book trailer:

Thursday, May 25, 2017

2017 Book 160: A HOUSE WITHOUT WINDOWS by Nadia Hashimi

A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi 
ISBN: 9780062449658 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062449665 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062472632 (audiobook)
ASIN: B01825C5HK (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow 
Release Date: May 16, 2017

A vivid, unforgettable story of an unlikely sisterhood—an emotionally powerful and haunting tale of friendship that illuminates the plight of women in a traditional culture—from the author of the bestselling The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and When the Moon Is Low.
For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal's family is sure she did, and demands justice.
Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed. As Zeba awaits trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have also led them to these bleak cells: thirty-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an honor killing; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, who ran away from home with her teenage sister but now stays in the prison because it is safe shelter; and nineteen-year-old Mezhgan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for her lover's family to ask for her hand in marriage. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, as they have been, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment. Removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.
Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba's Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer, whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his motherland have brought him back. With the fate of this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines.
A moving look at the lives of modern Afghan women, A House Without Windows is astonishing, frightening, and triumphant. 

When we first meet Zeba, she seems a typical Afghani wife and mother. She lives in a traditional, patriarchal society and knows that, as a woman, she has little if any rights that aren't given to her by men. Found with the blood of her deceased husband on her hands and no witnesses to his death, Zeba is charged with murder. She must rely upon the system devised by men and governed by men to find justice in A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi.

Life in Afghanistan after the Taliban and Gulf War has not been easy for any Afghan citizens, but it is much easier for male citizens than for the female. Women are routinely imprisoned with claims of "zina" or fornication and the system is rigged such that the women are presumed guilty and must prove their innocence beyond any shadow of a doubt. Girls and women that leave abusive households are imprisoned for running away. A woman seen in the company of a man is guilty of fornication. What justice can there be in this type of society for a woman accused of killing her alcoholic and abusive husband? Zeba knows that justice may not be found for her and isn't even willing to participate in her defense. What she does find is friendship amongst the women in the Chil Mahtab prison. It takes her awhile to acclimate to the prison environment and overcome the fears she has for her children, but slowly Zeba learns the plight of the other women sharing her cell and in the prison. 

Growing up, Zeba watched her mother practice jadu or witchcraft and vowed to never have anything to do with these practices. Once she begins to empathize and sympathize with her cellmates, she helps her young pregnant cellmate with a small spell. Even she is amazed when it works and the pregnant teen gets married to the love of her life and is released from prison. Other women in the prison quickly come to her for help and although she doesn't promise anything, she does promise to pray for each woman in turn. Is it possible that this daughter of a witch and granddaughter of a beloved Islamic leader could possibly help others with either witchcraft or devout prayers? How can she possibly help others when she can't even help herself?

I have read and enjoyed Ms. Hashimi's previous books, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and When the Moon is Low, so it wasn't very surprising that I'd fall in love with A House Without Windows. I found this to be an engaging if not entrancing read that kept me enthralled until the last page. I simply had to know what would happen to Zeba and the others in the story. It was Zeba's story, slowly revealed (no, I won't tell you any more, read the book!) that kept me turning the pages, but I was just as enamored with the story of Yusuf, Zeba's lawyer. Yusuf was born in Afghanistan and raised in America. He has returned to Afghanistan with the help of ensuring that justice is served for all not just for a select few. As am American Muslim woman, there were parts of this story that made me cringe. It was hard to reconcile the traditional cultural practices found in this story that were couched in pseudo-Islamic values with what I know as un-Islamic values and practices. Does that mean these practices don't happen? Sadly, the answer is no. Ms. Hashimi has realistically portrayed these somewhat warped practices that occur in not just Afghanistan but across so-called Islamic societies. A House Without Windows is much more than the story of one woman and her fight for justice, it is the story of friendship and survival despite the traditional patriarchal societies these women live in. As I previously mentioned, I've read and thoroughly enjoyed all of Ms. Hashimi's writings and wholeheartedly recommend you read A House Without Windows. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Hashimi in the future.

Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book for review purposes. 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."

Meet the Author:


Photo by Chris Carter Photography

Nadia Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. Both her parents were born in Afghanistan and left in the early 1970s, before the Soviet invasion. In 2002, Nadia made her first trip to Afghanistan with her parents. She is a pediatrician and lives with her family in the Washington, DC, suburbs.

Find out more about Nadia at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

This review brought to you by TLC Book Tours 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Guest Post: Susan Kandel, DREAM A LITTLE DEATH

Good morning, my bookish peeps. Today, The Book Diva's Reads is pleased to host a visit by the best-selling mystery author Susan Kandel in celebration of her latest release, Dream A Little Death. Ms. Kandel will be discussing kitchen remodeling, mood boards, and writing inspirations. Thank you, Ms. Kandel, for your visit and taking the time to give us insight into your writing process.

             After twenty-six years of cohabiting with a dysfunctional kitchen -- I'm talking drawers fused permanently shut, tiles that looked fresh when Bush Sr. was President, trashed hardwood floors you can't walk on barefoot without getting splinters, a disposal that shoots carrot bits into the air like soggy pieces of confetti -- I'm doing a remodel. With no idea how to accomplish this goal short of throwing myself at the mercy of a minimum-wage employee at Ikea, I hightailed it over to the local fancy kitchen showroom, where I was greeted by a decidedly not minimum-wage designer sporting a one-shouldered silk dress, kitten-heeled mules, and perfectly highlighted blond waves.

            "How might I be of service?" the woman asked.

            You could tell me where you get your hair cut, and do an edit of my closet.     

            "I'm looking for ideas," I said haltingly. "I'm remodeling my kitchen. I think maybe the appliances are okay. They're stainless steel. And less than fifteen years old. But everything else is a disaster."

            Sensing she was dealing with a novice, the woman, whose name was (of course) Fabienne, led me over to her desk and sat me down with a coffee. A double espresso, actually, made with a gleaming machine from Italy that I was suddenly desperate to buy, even if it meant forgoing a mortgage payment.

            Fabienne began by asking me if I'd heard of Pinterest. I had, vaguely, though when it comes to new ideas for using the computer to make life easier, I usually duck for cover. Fabienne explained that she always tells her clients to get started on their remodels by getting onto Pinterest, finding boards to follow, choosing one board from an individual or following all of that person's boards, then moving on to creating their own boards, deciding if they're public or private, blah, blah, blah.

            At that point, despite the double espresso, I must've looked weak and unfocused because Fabienne took my by the shoulder and said, "Have you ever heard of a mood board? That's all I'm talking about."         

            Well, why didn't you say so?

            Mood boards are my everything.

            People always ask writers how they get their ideas, and how they organize them into novels with beginnings, middles, and ends. For me, the beginnings are always the most challenging, and that is where my mood boards come in.

            In my garage-cum-office, I keep an enormous clippings file. Inside there are stories from newspapers and magazines that have caught my interest over the years, about anything from "faux mitzvahs" to the woman accused of faking her own kidnapping to the sordid confessions of a "honey trapper," who, I learned, is someone paid to come on to men to see if they'll cheat. Dig a little deeper into my file and there are pages ripped out of fashion magazines, of the outlandish, sometimes demure, sometimes elegant-beyond-measure outfits that at one time or another inspired me to wonder, "Who is that girl?" Deeper still are pictures of charged objects that may or may not wind up as Maguffins: a red lipstick (a clue?); a rare Nancy Drew 1st edition (a motive?); a unicorn Frappucino (in the hand of a sorority president type?); a black ice cream cone with dark chocolate ice cream and dark chocolate sprinkles (in the hands of the perpetually angry sister who just might want to do away with her?) There are fortunes from fortune cookies that seem like novels in themselves ("Your luck has entirely changed today"). And finally there are postcards of places and settings interesting enough to want to write about: Bugsy Siegel's former gambling hideaway in Lake Arrowhead; the tattoo parlor around the corner from my house; the unexpected lake in the middle of Echo Park; an historic Spanish-Moroccan castle in Los Feliz; Raymond Chandler's favorite restaurant on Hollywood Blvd.; Cher's over-the-top Beverly Hills mansion.

            Perhaps you're getting the idea. When I am starting a new book, the first place I look is in my file. I start pulling out clippings and pictures, arranging them on a large corkboard that covers an entire wall of my office, and seeing what kinds of associations they trigger, how they play off of one another, what kinds of stories they might tell. In my previous life, I was an art critic and would spend my days looking at paintings, sculptures, photographs and installations, trying to translate what the artist does visually into a story I can tell in words. I suppose old habits die hard, because this is in many ways exactly how I go about my work as a fiction writer. I begin with the visual, and work my way into the verbal.

            Back to Fabienne at the kitchen showroom. I walked out of there without the espresso maker, but with a promise to myself to get onto Pinterest as soon as I got home. That was a year ago. Maybe by the time you are reading this, you will find me there. Or maybe not. I suppose some things — including my still-broken garbage disposal — are meant to forever remain mysteries.

Dream A Little Death

by Susan Kandel

on Tour May 23 - June 23, 2017


Dream A Little Death by Susan Kandel

From critically acclaimed author Susan Kandel comes a charming new mystery featuring Dreama Black and a cast of zany LA-based characters.

The first time I set eyes on Miles McCoy, I worried he might try to eat me. He was the size and girth of a North American grizzly, with long, silver-tipped hair, a long silver-tipped beard, and small dark eyes that bore into me like I was a particularly fine specimen of Chinook salmon. It couldn't have helped that I'd used a honey scrub the morning we met. I should've known better. Not just about the scrub, but about a lot of things.
Like braving the freeway during rush hour.
Like thinking you can't get a ticket for parking at a broken meter.
Like racing up to his penthouse in gladiator sandals, and expecting not to twist an ankle.
Like watching his fiancée shoot herself, and assuming it was suicide, instead of murder.

Meet Dreama Black. A 28-year-old, third-generation groupie trying to figure out who she is after being publicly dumped by the rock god whose mega-hit, "Dreama, Little Dreama" made the name and the girl world-famous. Now Dreama supports herself by running custom-designed, themed tours of her hometown of L.A. When she is hired by a Raymond Chandler-obsessed rap producer to create a "L.A. noir" tour as his present to his soon-to-be bride, Dreama gets pulled into the middle of a possible murder, corrupt cops, and an unforgettable pair of femme fatales.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: May 23rd 2017
Number of Pages: 304
ISBN: 0062674994 (ISBN13: 9780062674999)
Series: A Dreama Black Mystery, 1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Author Bio:

An Agatha, Edgar, and SCIBA nominee, Susan Kandel is the author of the nationally best-selling and critically acclaimed Cece Caruso series, the most recent of which, Dial H for Hitchcock (Morrow), was named by NPR as one of the five best mysteries of the year. A Los Angeles native, she was trained as an art historian, taught at NYU and UCLA, and spent a decade as an art critic at the Los Angeles Times. When not writing, she volunteers as a court-appointed advocate for foster children, and loves to explore secret, forgotten, and kitschy L.A. She lives with her husband in West Hollywood.

Catch Up With Our Author On:

Website, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

Tour Participants:

Here's Your Chance to WIN!

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Susan Kandel and Harper Collins. There will be 5 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Dream A Little Death by Susan Kandel. The giveaway begins on May 23rd and runs through June 27th, 2017.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Book Showcase: WEAVE A MURDEROUS WEB by Anne Rothman-Hicks and Ken Hicks

Weave a Murderous Web by Anne Rothman-Hicks and Ken Hicks 
ISBN: 9781680462524 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781680462517 (ebook)
ASIN: B01CDMB72W (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Melange Books, LLC. 
Release Date: March 8, 2016

No good deed goes unpunished. When Jane Larson—a hot-shot litigator for a large firm in New York City—helps out a friend, she is sucked into the unfamiliar world of divorce and child support. 
Jane's discovery of the deadbeat dad's hidden assets soon unravels a web of lies, drugs, and murder that keeps getting more dangerous. 
Soon, Jane is involved in a high stakes race to recover a missing suitcase of cashhigh-stakesthe murderer before she becomes the next victim. 


"A sleuthing lawyer returns to the streets of New York in this mystery of drugs, murder, and financial skullduggery… the husband-wife team of Rothman-Hicks and Hicks has again produced a fast-paced, engaging story… overall, this is a satisfying read. An enjoyable romp involving a shady attorney and the mob that should make readers look forward to the next Jane Larson caper." - Kirkus 
"Weave a Murderous Web involves a hotshot Wall Street lawyer who is a sassy, cynical New Yorker through and through. To help out a friend, she gets involved in a seamy matrimonial case that quickly pulls her into a vortex of murder, drugs, and dangerous games of deception." - The Big Thrill 

Read an excerpt:

Weave A Murderous Web 

Chapter One

I was in my office at Adams & Ridge talking on the telephone when Francine entered. At the moment, my friend, Lee, was on the other end of the wire, yakking up a storm in my ear. Her rant covered already familiar terrain. My man, my David, was drifting dangerously away from me while I did nothing to win him back. As we say around the courts, Oy. 
Francine tiptoed forward and placed on my desk a two-day-old copy of The Daily News opened to the item concerning Mark Samuels' death. 
"I gotta go, Lee," I said. 
While Francine waited for me, she had backed into a corner of my office, leaned against the wall, and tried to make her six feet of lanky body less noticeable. Two large metal buttons were pinned to her heavily braided cotton sweater. One read Stop Fracking New York and the other protested against the annual Canadian seal hunt with a scarlet X through an image of a baby seal whose brains had been battered to a pink pulp. 
I pointed at the newspaper and gave her a questioning glance, but she quickly averted her eyes to stare at the floor. 
"Have you been listening to me at all?" Lee demanded. Her voice rose to a kind of exasperated wail. "David has been dating someone. I think he may be getting serious." 
"David was born serious, Lee," I said. 
"Stop it, Jane," she shouted so I had to hold the phone away from my ear. Even Francine raised an eyebrow. "You know what I mean." 
"I'm sorry, Lee." 
"I don't understand why you're taking this so nonchalantly. You know you still love him. You could get back together in a heartbeat if you'd just spend a tenth as much time on a relationship as you spend on your career." 
"I'm a lawyer, Lee. Not a—" 
A sharp intake of breath followed. "Not a baby maker?" Lee demanded. Anger replaced the plaintive wail. "Is that what you were going to say?" 
Would I ever admit that the word had been on the tip of my tongue? 
"No. I was going to say, 'not a librarian', or the owner of some other nine-to-five job. The hours come with the territory, Lee. David knows that, but deep down in that wonderful heart of his, he also thinks the hours spent at the office are A-okay for the guy, but not for the girl. In any event, Martha didn't raise her daughter to compete over a man." 
The sound of a whale breaching the surface erupted from the phone.
"You're maddening, Jane." 
"No, I'm busy," I replied. 
Lee sighed. "Well, I have to go too. Laurie is home sick and I'm taking her to the doctor. We'll talk more later, Jane. I'm not going to sit back and let this happen to my two best friends in the world. I'm going to fight, Jane." 
"Goodbye, Lee." 
She disconnected. 
Actually, I wasn't busy at all, or I wouldn't have spent even that much time on the phone being lectured by Lee. She's an old friend from Columbia Law, but enough is enough. 
A major litigation I had been working on had settled just a day before and the client and powers-that-be at Adams & Ridge were very happy with me—especially Seymour Ridge. The old man himself had hammered out the settlement shortly after I made the CEO of the party suing our client look like a doofus on the witness stand. So, I had some time on my hands until I was given another assignment. 
More to the point, I wanted to know why Francine was still standing in my office, staring at the tips of her shoes. She was a legal assistant with the firm. I had gotten her the job. However, she didn't work on any of my cases. That was a rule I had laid down from the beginning. 
"Hello, Francine," I said. 
"Hi, Jane." She looked up shyly, smiled her timid smile, gave a meaningful glance in the direction of the paper and resumed looking at her shoes. I had known her for so long that she was more like a relative than a friend, in the sense that one does not choose one's relatives. She was really really shy but also effective in getting her way with me. I read the article. 
It was as depressing as I had expected. Mark Samuels was a single practitioner who worked out of a small office above a bodega on 116th Street. He wasn't married and had no family to speak of. The exact date and hour of his demise were uncertain. The body was discovered only after fellow inhabitants of his East Village apartment house reported a foul odor during the last week in June when a heat wave had sent temperatures rising into the high nineties. Those same conditions had made his remains swell like a balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. 
How can a person die without anyone knowing for a week or ten days? Did he have no friend or family member who cared to check on him? Were all of them as completely egotistical as he was? 
The cause of death, however, was easy to determine. When the cops broke down his door, three short fat lines of cocaine were still in place on the old-fashioned hand mirror Mark used to chop the drug fine enough to snort. The coroner confirmed Mark died of severe heart arrhythmia, which is to say his ticker skipped a few too many beats before stopping altogether. Testing of the merchandise showed the stuff he'd inhaled had been nearly pure—several times the strength of what is normally available on the street. As the cops put it, either he had chosen to depart this green orb flying on nose powder or he was inordinately careless. I suppose it didn't much matter which alternative was true. The result was the same. An overdose had killed him. 
I looked up warily, unwilling to reveal I had the slightest interest in the entire subject. 
"Why are you showing this to me, Francine," I asked. 
"Didn't you know Mark when you worked for Legal Services for the Poor?" 
Did she expect me to burst into tears? 
"Yeah," I said, "and he was just as big a screw-up then. They put him in the Family Law area because he could do the least harm there. At least no one could lose their apartment or get sent to jail because of him." 
Francine winced. You might think this resulted from a superstitious aversion to speaking ill of the dead. You would be wrong. Francine had an aversion to speaking ill both of the living and the dead. 
"He kept doing matrimonial work after he left Legal Services," Francine added. She nodded, as if agreeing with her own words, then fell into silence. Silence was her friend. 
"And?" I said. 
Francine pulled up her sweater, which was being dragged low by those protest buttons and exposing her collarbones and the top of her boney chest. Her stringy hair, a field mouse brown, had no discernible style. She had never chosen to master the art of makeup despite my efforts with pencil, rouge, and lipstick back when we were teenagers. The only jewelry she now wore was a pendulous locket with gold thread tying it together. She said she'd purchased it in a wild moment at an uptown thrift shop. Of course, those buttons and their slogans were a kind of jewelry, I suppose, in that jewelry also says, "Look at me. This is what I am." 
Francine smiled at her shoes and continued. "Well, he had a client, Gail Hollings, who is a very good friend of mine, Jane, and—" 
Now I saw where this was going. "Would this friend of yours be in need of a lawyer?" 
"She's in an awful fix, Jane. She has a court appearance at two o'clock this afternoon. She gave Mark three thousand dollars, which was all she could scrape together. She has no money left at all." 
"Ridge will be glad to hear that. No money. Great." 
Francine rummaged in the front pocket of her cargo pants, pulled out a wallet, and then drew from inside it a picture of a young child with long blond pigtails that dwarfed her diminutive round face but did not steal the scene from her toothy grin. 
"She has a little girl," Francine added, glancing from the snapshot to me and back again to emphasize her point. 
"No money, no lawyer, and a kid. This just keeps getting better, doesn't it?" 
My mother, Martha, who insists I call her by her first name, always says Francine faces a bright future if Jesus' prediction about the meek is really true. Believe me, the meek have power, especially over those of us with guilt. Martha would love that. Guilt. I was like a fish nibbling at a big juicy worm and getting closer and closer to the hook. Francine was the fisherwoman, waiting patiently for the slightest pull on the line. 
"Look, you know I can't take on this case, Francine. However, I have some free time today, so I can at least go down to court and adjourn the matter until we can find someone to help Gail and little…" 
"Courtney," Francine said with a rush of breath that made the name seem like a prayer. An expression filled her eyes that reminded me of an early Renaissance image of a martyr at the moment of supreme sacrifice, pain mixed with a kind of bliss that seems to make it all worthwhile. 
The hook was set. That much was obvious. Francine had only to slowly reel me in. 
I opened a drawer and pulled out a legal pad to record the names of mother and daughter. 
"There's just one thing maybe you should know," Francine said. 
My pencil poised in midair and then wrote "one thing" with an exclamation point. I still have that piece of paper in the top drawer of my desk. 
"Well, Carmen Ruiz has kind of taken an interest in this because of the women's rights angle and what happened to Mark and all." 
"Carmen Ruiz? Last time I heard of her, she was spending time at a fat farm." 
This was code. Everyone knew that the 'fat farm,' as I had injudiciously put it, was also a place where people could lose other bad habits, such as drugs. 
Francine winced again and swallowed hard. "That's unkind, Jane." 
Chalk one up for the meek. 
"You're right, Francine. How is Carmen doing?" 
"She's got a new gig on cable. One of the local news stations." 
I nodded. I was safe from unkind remarks if I kept my mouth shut. At one time the cognoscenti had called Carmen the "female Wolf Blitzer" because she had enjoyed asking the hard questions, especially of men who were not used to being pushed around. The fact that she had the flashing good looks of a gypsy queen didn't hurt, but now she was scuffling on cable news. 
"She said she called you a couple of times." 
"Yeah, well, I've been busy." 
I was on the verge of getting back the advantage, never easy in a conversation with humanitarian types like Francine, especially if your mother always places such types on a pedestal, a very high pedestal. 
Martha has not been affiliated with any organized religion since her mind began to function at age eleven. Still, she shares Jesus' distrust of wealth and is fond of quoting both his advice to sell all you have and give it to the poor and his adage that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 
"You don't even believe in Jesus," I argue. 
"I don't have to believe in Jesus as God to know he's telling the truth," she retorts. 
When I had accepted the job at Adams & Ridge, Carmen had had some unkind things to say to mutual friends about my going for the gold. Her whole premise that Martha's goodness had gotten lost in one generation to my grabbiness had cut a bit too close to the bone. I hadn't forgotten. 
"Carmen's working on a series about children and the courts," Francine said. "Kids falling into poverty are a very big problem." 
"I'm aware of the problem, Francine. I'll skip over the question of what has made Carmen give a good hoot in hell about children all of a sudden. What does any of this have to do with that coke-head Mark?" 
"Oh, nothing much. Nothing at all really." 
She was hedging, worried that the prospect of helping Carmen might have made me shut the whole thing down before it ever began. 
"Go on, Francine." 
"It's just… she knew Mark fairly well and doesn't think his death was accidental. She says Mark did drugs too much to do something that stupid." 
"So she thinks he did it on purpose? Is that it? He committed suicide over the predicament of his client and child?" 
"Not exactly," Francine said. 
In hindsight I can see clearly how nonchalant she wanted to seem, playing with the gold locket and dropping it inside her sweater, glancing in the direction of the window as if a pretty bird had alighted there. 
"Carmen thinks Mark was murdered."

Excerpt from Weave a Murderous Web by Ann Rothman-Hicks and Ken Hicks. 
Copyright © 2016 by Ann Rothman-Hicks and Ken Hicks. 
Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet the Authors:

Anne Rothman-Hicks and Kenneth Hicks have been collaborating on books for forty-six years.  Their first joint effort was a student project while Anne was at Bryn Mawr College and Ken attended Haverford. Since then, they have written over twenty books together. They are members of International Thriller Writers. They live and work in New York City, where many of their books are set. 

Their Jane Larson series of mystery/thrillers involves a high-powered New York City attorney with a penchant for getting involved in situations that she would be better off leaving alone. These novels have been praised by reviewers for their gritty portrayals of city life, lively characters, fast action, surprise endings and highly polished prose. Jane is cynical and rebellious, but she finds herself drawn to the simple life her deceased mother lived as an attorney who served women unable to afford legal services. The first two books in the series are Weave A Murderous Web and Praise Her, Praise Diana, both published by Melange Books, LLC. A third novel, Mind Me, Milady, will be published in early 2017.

Connect with the authors:    Blog     |     Facebook     |     Twitter 

Enter the Weave a Murderous Web giveaway for your chance to win a copy of this book (winner's choice of print or Kindle version). This is an international giveaway sponsored by Book Publicity Services. 

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Guest Post: Kurt Kamm, author of CODE BLOOD

Hello my bookish peeps. Today the Book Diva's Reads is pleased to host a visit by Kurt Kamm, author of Code Blood, The Lizard's Tale, and more. Mr. Kamm will be discussing his insight on how "not to" write a novel. Without further adieu, I give you Kurt Kamm.


It's important to have a plot before you start writing a novel—right? Can you set out to write 60,000 – 80,000 words without having a detailed story in mind? What about the characters? Shouldn't you have a complete list, along with an outline of their personalities and physical descriptions? What about the twists and turns in the story, and the surprise ending? Shouldn't you have that on paper before you start?

Maybe. Maybe not.

I have read that some mystery writers develop incredibly detailed plot outlines before starting their novels. Some even supposedly plan every chapter and each event within the chapter. When I began writing Code Blood, I had resolved to develop a detailed outline before beginning to write, but found that I simply could not do it. I started with nothing more than a basic plot idea. All I have ever been able capable of is beginning with is a rough idea—in Code Blood, a woman's foot is severed in an accident and the paramedics are unable to find it. I knew that I wanted to have two main characters – Colt the sensitive rookie paramedic, and Markus the weirdo who steals the foot from the scene of the accident. With that in mind, I sat down and began writing.

I have found that my plots unfold as I begin to write. This is where imagination comes into play. You start with a few words about what is happening, and the action begins to unfold. You are drawn into it and begin to visualize what comes next. The same applies to my characters. I always begin with a couple of two-dimensional individuals and see what happens when the action starts. Very quickly they fill out. They begin to live their own lives, make their own decisions, bring their own friends and enemies into the story, and create their own crises. At that point, I become no more than their mouthpiece—they determine their own courses of action and tell me what to put down on paper. Sometimes they get into a lot of trouble, or back themselves into a corner. They are often sad, frightened, or broke. Then they appeal to me to help them out. Sometimes I get annoyed, how could one of my characters get into such a mess? But I have to help out. After all, I created them.

I won't tell you that this is a perfect process—there is a lot of cutting, pasting, and revision. But it works. Sometimes I may have to stop writing for days at a time and just try to think through what will happen next in the story. Usually, if I concentrate on my character's personalities, and think about what they would do, the solution becomes apparent.

In Code Blood, Markus, a medical records technician, is obsessed with finding Bombay Blood, the rarest blood type in the world. This leads him into all kinds of delicious and dangerous predicaments. He's also very weird, uses painkillers, and collects body parts.

Markus handed Alexei the manila envelope with the cash. "I want a hand, a woman's hand," and imagined all the things he could do with it. He thought of his mother and felt her soft, fleshy hands caressing him.

"Is not so simple." Alexei opened the envelope and looked inside. "I cannot run downstairs and get hand. I match supply and demand for whole body. You choose left or right, but not man or woman."

"Is a left hand cheaper?"

"Yes, left is cheaper. Is still another $1,200, payment on delivery. You take male or female, whatever comes. People don't die so often in summer. Everybody outside, having fun, no time for death. I give you couple days' notice."

At the same time, Colt is a rookie paramedic who is a good, wholesome guy. How far does good and wholesome get you when you start to uncover the dark truth about a beautiful accident victim who dies in your arms?
"I'm still getting used being responsible for whether a person lives or dies," Colt said. "What if I screw up and make a mistake? What if I forget to do something?" Colt got up and looked out through one of the small windows in the kitchen. "Like yesterday. That girl, Bibi, was lying on the pavement and her foot's cut off. There's no one with her and she's looking at me with those deep blue eyes. So I tell her everything's gonna be OK."

"You do everything you can," Captain Ames said, "but if you can't pull it off, it's not your fault. You can't perform miracles. You're gonna lose some people."

I find that as the novel progresses, it builds momentum, and about halfway through, I am suddenly immersed in a complex story with multiple individuals. During the day, when I am not writing, I often think about each character, and try to imagine what he (she) is thinking and doing.

By the end of the novel, I am close friends with most of my characters, and I often miss them when I finish writing about them. When I look back on each story, I am often amazed at the number of twists and turns, and the events that I never could have imagined at the beginning.

I hope you will enjoy reading Code Blood.

Code Blood

by Kurt Kamm

on Tour April 1 - May 31, 2017


Code Blood by Kurt Kamm

Colt Lewis, a rookie fire paramedic, is obsessed with finding the severed foot of his first victim after she dies in his arms. His search takes him into the connected lives of a graduate research student, with the rarest blood in the world and the vampire fetishist who is stalking her. Within the corridors of high-stakes medical research laboratories, the shadow world of body parts dealers, and the underground Goth clubs of Los Angeles, Lewis uncovers a tangled maze of needles, drugs and maniacal ritual, all of which lead to death. But whose death? An unusual and fast-paced LA Noir thriller.

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense, Vampire

Published by: MCM Publishing

Publication Date: October 2012

Number of Pages: 233

ISBN: 0979855136 (ISBN13: 9780979855139)

Series: Code Blood is a Stand Alone Novel
Purchase Links:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Code Blood Literary Awards:

  • Writer's Type - First Chapter Competition. January 2011- First Place

  • 2012 International Book Awards - Fiction: Cross Genre Category – First Place

  • National Indie Excellence Book Awards – Faction (fiction based on fact) - Winner of the 2012 Award

  • The 2012 USA Best Book Awards - Fiction: Horror - Winner

  • LuckyCinda Publishing Contest 2013 First Place – Thriller

  • Reader's Favorite 2013– Finalist – Horror Fiction
  • Knoxville Writer's Guild - 2011 Novella or Novel Excerpt – 2nd Place

  • Read an excerpt:

    Colt heard a small chopper. It sounded like a lawnmower. He knew it couldn't be the AirSquad and looked up. A news helicopter circled overhead. He saw another coming up the coast from Los Angeles. In minutes, news crews in vans would arrive, extend their satellite transmission poles, broadcast pictures of the accident and fan out to find people to interview. In the process, several spectators would have a moment of fame on Los Angeles network television. The accident would be a good lead-in on the 11:00 p.m. Sunday night news, but the anchors would be disappointed that a Malibu celebrity wasn't involved.
    Moose joined them with the backboard and laid it down next to the girl's body.
    Brian checked the C-spine. "Ready guys? On my count."
    The men prepared to roll the girl on her side.
    "Be careful," Colt said.
    Brian gave Colt a quick look and said, "One, two, three."
    In unison, they rolled her onto her side, Moose pushed the board in toward her and the men laid her back onto it.
    Colt thought he heard her utter a faint moan. While Brian secured the head brace and straps across her body and prepared her for transport across the beach, he looked at her bloodied leg again. "Where's the foot?" he shouted. "Does someone have her foot?" She still wore one delicate leather sandal.
    "We can't find the sucker," one of the deputies told Colt.
    "Can't find it? How's that possible?" Colt said. The girl needed her foot. They had to ice it down before the tissue started to die. It might be reattached. "It has to be here somewhere." He went over to the damaged pickup.
    The driver of the truck sat with his head down, behind the metal screen in the back seat of a black and white. A sheriff's deputy stood outside, questioning him through the window and writing on his notepad. Colt interrupted. "Where's the foot?" He was met with a shrug and a blank stare from the deputy. Colt looked at the driver of the pickup, a man about his own age, and hated him.
    Colt walked around the pickup. Glass shards from a headlight and pieces of plastic lay on the ground. He knelt in a pool of green coolant dripping from the smashed radiator and looked under the front of the truck. The foot wasn't there. He stood up and looked around.
    Thirty or forty people stood in the parking lot watching the activity.

    Excerpt from Code Blood by Kurt Kamm. Copyright © 2012 by Kurt Kamm. Reproduced with permission from Kurt Kamm. All rights reserved.

    Author Bio:

    Kurt Kamm

    Malibu, California resident Kurt Kamm has written a series of firefighter mystery novels which have won several literary awards. He is also the author of The Lizard's Tale, which provides a unique look inside the activities of the Mexican drug cartels and the men dedicated to stopping them.

    Kurt has used his contacts with several California fire departments, as well as with the ATF and DEA to write fact-based ("faction") novels.

    In his chilling and suspenseful multi-award winning novel, Code Blood, Kurt takes the reader into the connected lives of a fire paramedic, a Chinese research student with the rarest blood type in the world, and the blood-obsessed killer who stalks her.

    Colt Lewis, a young Los Angeles County fire paramedic responds to a fatal accident. The victim dies in his arms. Her foot has been severed but is nowhere to be found. Who is the woman, and what happened to her foot? During a weeklong search, Colt risks his career to find the victim's identity and her missing foot. His search leads him to a dark and disturbing side of Los Angeles…an underworld of body part dealers and underground Goth clubs. He uncovers a tangled maze of drugs, needles, and rituals.

    Emergency medicine, high-tech medical research, and the unsettling world of blood fetishism and body parts make for an edgy L.A. Noir thriller.

    Kurt has built an avid fan base among first responders and other readers. A graduate of Brown University and Columbia Law School, Kurt was previously a financial executive and semi-professional bicycle racer. He was also Chairman of the UCLA/Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Foundation for several years.

    Visit his author website at kurtkamm.com & on Facebook!

    Tour Participants:
    The Partners in Crime Blogging Team is loving the Code Blood Tour! Check out the other interviews, guest posts, reviews, and Giveaways!



    This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Kurt Kamm. There will be 1 winner of one (1) $20 Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on March 30 and runs through May 1, 2017.