Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

to all of you who celebrate!

I wish all of you who are observing this holiday a well-fed and restful day with minimal drama and lots of wonderful memories. Those of you who are like me and far more proficient at using the microwave than taking care of a multi-step recipe, GOOD LUCK!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Shadows, Shells, and Spain by John Meyer (VBT, guest post, excerpt, and GIVEAWAY) GFT




It is my pleasure to share a guest post by author John Meyer, who shares his answer to the question...

 


ELF:  What do you think is the strongest attraction about the genre you like to write in?


JM:  I initially wanted to combine my love of writing with my love of traveling. Naturally, I first explored writing non-fiction travel books. However, they never quite satisfied me. They were always (simple) stories about a man or a woman climbing a mountain, or walking through a jungle, or building a country home in a place like Tuscany. While those are all valid pursuits, I found that they often lacked much human drama or interesting characters. (Not always true but I think you get my point…) The narrator either accomplished their task – or they didn’t. That’s it.

So I wanted to utilize my favorite elements of a travel book and add more or a personal adventure—even a fictional one. That’s when I came up with my concept for something I called a fictional travel memoir. The fun part was that I would travel to these foreign countries and then use the characters I met, the experiences I had, and the challenges I faced to create a fictional story far greater than my own journey.

So the immediate attraction for my newly chosen genre was that I get to extensively travel. I simply can't write my books without first participating in the same events that my main character does. In the first book, I spent two weeks in Siena, Italy to witness their Palio festival. In my second book, I had to run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain a couple of times in order to understand its thrill and ultimate danger. And in my third book, I had to walk across Spain in order to write about the physically exhausting but mind-altering Spanish Camino.

It's also important for me that the story takes place in real time. If my trip takes 22 days, the main character's trip takes 22 days. Because the one theme that always pervades my books is that the adventures are entirely truthful and possible. The story is fictional but the traveling part is authentic. Those descriptive passages are always true…to me. And I want you to experience them too. Maybe your conclusions would be completely different from mine but that's the wonderful mystery of traveling. However, the only way I can competently express my feelings for the exotic locations that are featured in my books are through my main character.
The journey also informs me of my minor characters who I meet along the way and, of course, that same adventure also provides me with the rich history and amusing anecdotes I want to convey to my readers.
So in the month of June 2014, I walked the Spanish Camino from Pamplona to Santiago de Compostela. The adventure had everything I needed to write my new book, Shadows, Shells, and Spain. I had the rich history of the Camino; I uncovered interesting anecdotes in every town; and I met wonderful characters from around the world. All I needed to do was add my story…

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John Meyer writes fictional travel memoirs—unique adventure stories that combine fun facts of history with present-day drama and humor—always revolving around a fictitious love story and always based on his own thrilling journeys. His previous publication, Bullets, Butterflies, and Italy, was selected as a November Best Book by Chatelaine magazine. Meyer is also the studio writer for Entertainment Tonight Canada and has been ever since the popular daily show launched back in 2005.




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by John Meyer


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GENRE:   Travel fiction




BLURB:


John Meyer's "Shadows, Shells, and Spain" is a thrilling new adventure where a husband desperately searches for his missing wife along the ancient Camino trail across northern Spain. It’s also a bold, new take on a modern-day pilgrimage that feeds the mind and soul of every character while testing the limits of their bodies... and their comfort zones.


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EXCERPT
  


 “Honestly, Jamie. She says one thing one minute, then completely changes her mind the next. Am I supposed to be psychic or something?”



“Is this that dog food client again?”



“No. Mother.” Then, after a beat, “I mean, I’m going to lose my mind any day now, I swear. She never likes any of my ideas, and I’m the one who’s always getting screwed.”



“Your mother?”



“No, dog food.”



Because of my literary failures and her daily creative battles, our conversations in the bedroom were rarely about our relationship and usually about our preoccupations.



“Jamie, would you ever buy a lipstick for men?”



“Never . . . Listen, Pam, do you think it would hurt a lot if I killed you with a shovel?”



“Yeah, probably . . . So, tell me, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say the words ‘fish taco’?”



“Fish with Spanish accents . . . Do you know where someone can buy arsenic? Do you think they have a store for that?”



“Walmart probably has a whole aisle for that. Honestly, Jamie, these clients really expect me to pull rabbits out of my ass every time I see them.”



“If you could pull rabbits out of your ass, we could hit the road and make some serious, serious money.”



“You’d pay serious, serious money to see me pull rabbits out of my ass?”



“Do you take credit cards?”



Buy links:





To get your own paperback or ebook copies from the author visit his website
(also available at Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, Kobo, Nook, Apple, and other ebook providers).
To learn more about the Camino, click here.
 

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AUTHOR Bio and Links:


John Meyer writes fictional travel memoirs—unique adventure stories that combine fun facts of history with present-day drama and humor—always revolving around a fictitious love story and always based on his own thrilling journeys. His previous publication, Bullets, Butterflies, and Italy, was selected as a November Best Book by Chatelaine magazine. Meyer is also the studio writer for Entertainment Tonight Canada and has been ever since the popular daily show launched back in 2005.










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GIVEAWAY






a Rafflecopter giveaway





The tour dates can be found here


Monday, November 20, 2017

Arrested Flight by Jo A. Hiestand (Spotlight, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY) GFT



by Jo A. Hiestand

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GENRE: British mystery

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BLURB:

Ex-police detective Michael McLaren is determined to have a peaceful holiday after the fiasco of his first attempt at Windermere, so he stops at a bed-and-breakfast in Moorton, a village in Cumbria.  But mystery and murder seek him out, and he soon succumbs to the B&B owner’s plea to investigate the year-old death of her daughter’s fiancé, a young musician.

The Lake District parish seems peaceful, but a rival  musician’s jealousy and a business partner’s anger boil beneath the façade.  Mix that with ‘Barmy Barry’s’ sightings of fairy lights  at the castle, references to Uther Pendragon's return and the secrets in the woods, and McLaren finds his sanity shaky.

When the vicar is attacked and Barry disappears, McLaren sets a trap for the killer.  But as it plays out, his concern shifts from the potential capture to praying he and his friend can escape with their lives.

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EXCERPT


McLaren’s fingers wrapped around the torch. It would do for a weapon if he needed it. He remained there for several minutes, hardly daring to breathe. When the tower fell into darkness, he crept toward it.

He made for the nearest corner, groping for it in the confusion of darkness. It gradually defined itself, separating from the night as his sight adjusted to the new blackness. He reached, stiff-armed, for the wall and nearly yelped. Ivy, brittle with cold and age, wrapped around his fingertips and grabbed at his ring. He jerked away, momentarily alarmed. The wind sighed through the leaves, rustling gently, and he cursed his stupidity. He laid his hand back on the wall and moved toward the main archway.

The moon had inched above the treetops by the time he came to the end of the wall. He glanced up, hoping for cloud cover. The sky was clear. He cursed his choice of the hour and prayed for rain, but he knew it to be a hollow hope. He kept his hand on the stone wall as he left the moonlit courtyard. Drifts of snow sagged against the base of the tower, chilling the air with a hint of frost and emphasizing the position of the foundation. He crouched near the entry, ignoring the arch, and pressed the torch against his chest. And waited in the darkness.



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AUTHOR Bio and Links:



A month-long trip to England during her college years introduced Jo to the joys of Things British.  Since then, she has been lured back nearly a dozen times, and lived there during her professional folksinging stint.  This intimate knowledge of Britain forms the backbone of both the Taylor & Graham mysteries and the McLaren mystery series.

 Jo’s insistence for accuracyfrom police methods and location layout to the general “feel” of the areahas driven her innumerable times to Derbyshire for research.  These explorations and conferences with police friends provide the detail filling the books.

In 1999 Jo returned to Webster University to major in English.  She graduated in 2001 with a BA degree and departmental honors.

Her cat, Tennyson, shares her St. Louis home.



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GIVEAWAY


a Rafflecopter giveaway




The tour dates can be found here




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My review:

4 out of 5 stars




Arrested Flight by Jo A. Hiestand is a contemporary mystery set in England featuring former police detective Michael McLaren as he stumbles into another mystery while he is searching for a place to vacation. Not only is there a cold case to be solved, but the folks he meets definitely seem to have their share of secrets. Despite his wariness due to events in his recent past, McLaren feels compelled to use his skills to investigate, but the danger increases until a single cold case will explode into a wide-ranging set of mysteries that may prove to be life-threatening.

This is the 8th book in the ‘McLaren Mysteries’ series but can be read as a stand-alone story. There are allusions to McLaren’s tragic past, but I was relieved to see that he is working through his grief and starting to heal, although possibly with a little bit of rebound effect. I enjoy this author’s ability to evoke quaint scenes of picturesque villages and people them with a broad spectrum of characters who add richness to the story. The vivid descriptions make me want to snuggle into a warm jacket and sip on a steaming cup of tea while following the twisty trail that the detective is doggedly pursuing, even as I scratch my head at some of the interactions he has. Personally, I find it disconcerting that additional points of view suddenly pop up occasionally, and there are odd explosions of violence along the way, but they definitely added to the mystery. There is a hint of otherworldliness that adds to the aura of the story and I enjoyed this opportunity to both armchair travel and savor the mystery. I look forward to finding out what new adventures this tenacious man encounters.


A copy of this title was provided to me for review


Miracle Declutter: Tidying up to Improve and Organize Your Life





Miracle Declutter: Tidying up  to Improve and Organize Your Life
by
Dave Bracco


Blurb:

Let me ask you - are you drowning in endless piles of clutter? If you are, then it's time to reclaim your space so you can reclaim your life!
Your home is full of overwhelming papers, piles, and junk. When you try to throw it away, something holds you back from getting the clutter out of your space for good.
Miracle Declutter provides you everything you need to tackle a house-wide decluttering and organizing project. From changing your old habits to tips that reduce your hoarding tendencies, this book gives you the tools and motivation to make a real, positive, and lasting change in your life. After reading this book, you'll learn how to create a tidier house that will eliminate stress, inspire confidence, and give you peace of mind.
In this book, you'll discover:
  • The mistakes most people make when decluttering and how to avoid them
  • The top strategies to start your decluttering project and continue through to completion
  • How to categorize your existing items and find a place for everything
  • The number one organization rule to help you maintain your newly-cleaned home
  • And much, much more!
Miracle Declutter even contains a section about organizing your digital life to match your decluttered home. This book is just what you need to finally declutter your space and your life. If you like practical, inspiring nonfiction about minimalist living, then you'll love Miracle Declutter's step-by-step system.


Buy the book to declutter and improve your life today!

Amazon link

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My review:



4 out of 5 stars

Miracle Declutter: Tidying up to Improve and Organize Your Life by Dave Bracco is a pragmatic and straightforward self-help guide. I think the author does a great job of both explaining the mindset necessary to achieve order out of chaos and exploring the causes for accumulating excess. He systematically demolishes excuses and provides a clear plan for digging one’s way out of the morass that results from hoarding even as he offers encouragement and inspiration.

Sadly, this is required reading for me. I saw myself (and my parents) in all of the descriptions of hoarders and it was remarkable to me how often I have used pretty much every excuse the author details in this compact but pithy book. I highlighted many passages and confess that it’s definitely going to take me a while to change the pathways of the neurons in my brain (especially with regard to my book hoarding, lol), but I acknowledge the truth in the statements of why clutter is draining and counter-productive. I already see the benefits in my family’s closets (and I am sure the center appreciates the donation of clothes) and I feel lighter already without the burden of trying to stuff things into an already crowded space. Now the challenge is to get the rest of the family on the same page!

A copy of this title was provided to me for review

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Oath: Maddy and Silenus by Susan Badaracco (VBT, guest post, excerpt, and GIVEAWAY) GFT









I have the pleasure of a guest post by author Susan Badaracco who shares...



SBRemember the last time you read a gorgeous book that literally plucked you away and planted you somewhere else? A library in a small town in Spain, sprawled on the beach with two lifelong friends, on a raft in the middle of the ocean. That is the yardstick by which we all measure ourselves when it comes to writing.


And that is what frightens me the most.


I don’t want to labor for hours creating a two dimensional world. I want you to be able to smell the musty odor of ancient books, feel the itch of the sand trapped under your bathing suit, taste the sea spray on your tongue. I want to take it even further… I want to push past the physical senses and let you delve inside the thoughts…the subconscious, of the characters I create.


How intimidating it is.


To learn how to give just an inkling, the twitch of a smile or sharpening of a gaze, that takes this person birthed from my imagination into the reader’s universe. Completely fleshed out, ready to explain the tiny scar on his shin… should you notice and inquire.

  
There are two things that make the angst worthwhile.


Dodie Smith, in her book I Capture the Castle wrote, “You lose yourself in something beyond yourself and it’s a lovely rest.” Writing can be a vacation.  A respite from the stressors around us. It is the only time we really have control, isn’t it? I know what you’re thinking…it’s not a vacation, it’s hard, really hard. And I agree with you. Gene Fowler said “Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead”. But it all comes down to the attitude, right? Planting a garden can be back-breaking work, but knowing you’ll be harvesting the flowers makes the labor more tolerable.


The second and perhaps the most divine reason to write is to please a reader. Better than slaving over a hot stove all day, you’ve tortured yourself into shaved pieces of raving paranoia mixed with a healthy dose of optimism and created something better than a tray of lasagna. (unless you’re Italian, in which case, I wouldn’t dream of making any comparisons to your cooking) If you’re lucky, its consumption is more filling, more satisfying, and the glow lasts longer. For the reader… and the author. 

 

To wink at the reader in our secret pact.



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by Susan Badaracco

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GENRE:   fantasy adventure

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BLURB:

When her past merges with her present, Maddy is not sure what to think. Was that really an abduction she witnessed? Does she have the courage to find out?

Silenus is a unicorn haunted by his past failure to protect his charge. He trains relentlessly but is he fierce enough to protect this innocent? Will she even trust him?

Can a mortal and immortal pursue the truth together or will Maddy pay the ultimate price?


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EXCERPT

  

Mr. Sheldon turned slowly, releasing Allison from his grip. “Excuse me,” he said softly, ominously, “what did you say?”



Maddy looked up, caught his menacing glare a moment before his face relaxed back into a more benign expression. Slowly, deliberately, he strolled back to the center of the room, placed his hands on his hips and tilted his head in mock confusion. Maddy’s grip tightened on her notebook until her knuckles whitened. Her stomach rolled, churned.



It was as if all noise was sucked out of the room, as if all the surrounding white walls absorbed every acoustic and left the room as bereft of noise as it was of color. She opened her mouth to answer but snapped it shut again under his intense scrutiny. He nodded to himself and pressed his lips together in irritation.






Book Buying Link


NOTE: The book will be FREE during the tour.



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AUTHOR Bio and Links:


Susan Badaracco is the author and independent publisher of “The Oath: Maddy and Silenus”.

In her real life, she is a pediatrician at Kids First Pediatrics where she routinely consoles anxious moms, retrieves interesting objects hidden in ears and laughs at made up knock-knock jokes.
She lives with her husband, a dog (ADHD is not limited to humans) and a cat. Her daughter and son both made the unfortunate decision to grow up which means she travels more than she used to.

Susan Badaracco Author Information






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GIVEAWAY

a Rafflecopter giveaway


The tour dates can be found here








Thursday, November 16, 2017

Monsterland by Michael Okon (VBT, guest post, excerpt, and GIVEAWAY) GFT




It is my pleasure to share a guest post by author Michael Okon, who shares...







MO:  I have been writing since I’m 15 years old. I started with screenplays, honed my skills, and moved into novels. No matter how deep my subject was, I knew exactly how every single story was going to end. Every character’s arc was mapped out with important questions on how I was going to get them from point A to B, and how they were going to change along the way. It’s not enough to just sit down and write, but you must have a roadmap. I beat out my character’s stories and then intertwine them throughout the novel. Always give yourself ample time when writing, don’t think you are going to lose an idea because you haven’t started Chapter 1 in your novel. Gather notes, know your characters, feel what it would be like to live in their shoes. Writing a novel is creating your own universe. Know every aspect of that universe, inside and out. Know how your characters will react to certain things in that universe. Once you figure out where you want to go, and how your characters are going to be, then begin writing. Before you know it, you’ll be ten chapters in.


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by Michael Okon

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GENRE:  Horror (Monsters)

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BLURB:

Welcome to Monsterland—the scariest place on Earth.

Wyatt Baldwin's senior year is not going well. His parents divorce, then his dad mysteriously dies. He’s not exactly comfortable with his new stepfather, Carter White, either. An ongoing debate with his best friends Melvin and Howard Drucker over which monster is superior has gotten stale. He’d much rather spend his days with beautiful and popular Jade. However, she’s dating the brash high-school quarterback Nolan, and Wyatt thinks he doesn’t stand a chance.

But everything changes when Wyatt and his friends are invited to attend the grand opening of Monsterland, a groundbreaking theme park where guests can interact with vampires in Vampire Village, be chased by werewolves on the River Run, and walk among the dead in Zombieville.

With real werewolves, vampires and zombies as the main attractions, what could possibly go wrong?

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EXCERPT


What were the interlopers doing here? Billy thought furiously. This was their territory. The humans didn’t belong in the swamp. The moon continued its trip to the heavens, the familiar agony beginning in his chest. Billy fought the demons churning within his body, feeling the pain of metamorphosis. He curled inward, hunching his shoulders, the curse of his nature making his spine pull until his tendons and muscles tore from their human positions to transform into something wicked. A howl erupted from his throat, followed by another, and then another. Grabbing handfuls of dirt, he tried to fight the awful change, but, as the sun dipped to its fiery death, the moon took control of his life, and the unnatural force tore through his unwilling body. Reason fled; his heart raced. Falling on his hands and knees, he let loose a keening cry as his face elongated, his body changing into a canine, fangs filling his mouth. He raced in a circle in a demented dance, knowing his fellow pack members did the same thing. Slowing, he regulated his labored breathing, forcing the icy calmness he needed to keep some semblance of reason. He peered through the dense brush. Lights from the search party bobbed in the distance. The odor, the stench of humanity, filled the clearing.

He turned, digging furiously on the ground, throwing dirt on the flames, hiding their existence. It was no good. Discovery would ruin everything. No one could live with their kind. Humans brought disease, humans brought anger, humans brought hatred. They were there; he could smell them, see their clumsy bodies invading his home. “They’ve found us,” he growled in the special language they used. “Run!” he barked as he turned to his pack, watching his friends’ naked skin transform until it was covered with the same silvered fur. They cried out in unison at the pain, howling with the injustice, and then ran in fear from the interlopers threatening their habitat.


Buy links:
 
Kobo

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AUTHOR Bio and Links:


Michael Okon is the award-winning and best-selling author & screenwriter formerly known as Michael Phillip Cash. His originally self-published book Monsterland was picked up in a two-book publishing deal by WordFire Press. Michael is happily married and writes full-time on the North Shore of Long Island with his two screaming monsters in the background.



For more information, details and updates, visit:


Email Michael






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GIVEAWAY

a Rafflecopter giveaway



The tour dates can be found here










Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Deadly Choices by Karen Randau (Spotlight, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY) GFT






by Karen Randau

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GENRE: Mystery/Thriller

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BLURB:

In book 3 of the Rim Country Mysteries, an elderly woman stumbles into the campsite as Rita, Cliff, and Rita’s long-lost mother Willow enjoy s’mores and folk music around the fire. The action heats up when Willow falls for the key suspect, Rita’s old friend and mentor. Rita discovers her mother isn’t the woman she thought she was, and Rita must overcome a spate of life-threatening obstacles before anyone else dies.

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EXCERPT

“You’ve become an accomplished musician.” I envisioned Willow sitting in a circle with other artists who lived at the commune where she retreated after my father’s death.

We all leaped to our feet when a gunshot sounded in the distance.

“What was that?” Willow looked like a spooked gazelle ready to sprint to higher ground.

“Someone’s target practice, I imagine.” Cliff used his calming police detective’s voice but took a step toward the trail where Lucy McMann had gone earlier.

“So late at night?” Willow sounded unconvinced.

“Yeah.” Cliff rolled his tongue against the inside of his cheek. “Seems strange.”

I hoped my smile wasn’t too taut to hide my concern from Willow. I stood beside her and watched the beam from Cliff’s flashlight as he walked several yards down the trail. When he returned, he tried a nonchalant tone to ask for another s’more. Despite emoting confidence, he sang with less gusto, often squinted into the surrounding darkness, and monitored the path leading into the forest.

An hour later, I heard a feeble cry for help and stood to face the trailhead.

A white-haired woman in a red gingham shirt stumbled from the forest. She collapsed next to our tent and rolled to her back. I gasped at the arrow protruding from her chest. Light from the fire flickered on the arrow’s bloody shaft.

Cliff rushed to her. “It’s the woman we met earlier. Lucy McMann.”



Amazon

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AUTHOR Bio and Links:



A native of the southwest U.S., Karen Randau pens the Rim Country Mystery series set in the quaint fictional mountain town of Rim Vista, Arizona, below the Rim of the Colorado Plateau.
The series features fast-paced stories with intricate plots, lots of action, and a pinch of romance, told from the point of view of protagonist Rita Avery.

Karen has traveled internationally and witnessed famines, violence, and hopeful people working to overcome abject poverty. She draws on both her creativity and personal experience to weave together an interesting cast of characters with rollercoaster-like twists and turns.

Links:



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GIVEAWAY

a Rafflecopter giveaway


The tour dates can be found here


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My review:




Deadly Choices by Karen Randau is the third book in the ‘Rim Country Mystery’ series and follows Rita Avery as she and her police-detective husband Cliff get ensnared in a new murder investigation. Their new married life is complicated by both the reappearance of her long-absent mother and the danger that seems to stalk Rita as clues are being uncovered. Cliff’s methodical investigation is complemented by Rita’s unconventional approach but they may be unable to overcome the determined assault that seems determined to end Rita’s life.

This contemporary mystery story is chock full of exciting and hair-raising adventures that challenge the heroine’s ability to heal and her investigative contributions. I actually was tired by the time the story ended because it seemed like there was never any downtime and I would have thought she would have been REALLY traumatized by at least one of the things that happen to her in this story, let alone the sequence of adventures that take place. The awkwardness of her mom’s confession and the conflict of interest so soon into their new relationship was a little awkward for me, not to mention the fact that Cliff takes Rita with him to so many sensitive interviews. That being said, this is a story that stands alone with no problem, and provides an entertaining puzzle that takes twists and turns and gives both a view of a loving relationship and the tenacity required to solve a thorny mystery. I like the give and take between Cliff and Rita and I am curious to read the previous stories to get more information on how their relationship started…although, given this tale, I suspect Rita is even more of a trouble magnet, lol.

A copy of this title was provided to me for review