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Monday, July 24, 2017

#CJSReads REVIEW: The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond @michellerichmon @randomhouse

The Marriage Pact
by Michelle Richmond
Random House / Bantam

A cult like community where marriage is the focus.  How far would you go to make sure your marriage is successful?  How far would they go to keep you in line?

Synopsis from Goodreads:

In this relentlessly paced novel of psychological suspense, New York Times bestselling author Michelle Richmond crafts an intense and shocking tale that asks: How far would you go to protect your marriage?

Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice's prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.

The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact. And most of its rules make sense. Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . . Never mention The Pact to anyone.

Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples. And then one of them breaks the rules. The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life. And The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule. For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare

My Review:

Meet Alice, the lawyer, and Jake the psychologist.  Newlyweds, happy and living the dream.  Then they receive an odd package from one of Alice's most prestigious clients - The Pact.  After talking to Vivian, a member of The Pact, they find out that The Pact has one goal - keep marriage happy.  There's a manual on everything: monthly gifts exchanged, mandatory trips four times a year... and do not speak of The Pact to anyone.  Never ones to put off a challenge, they enjoy the solidarity of the community... until Alice breaks one of the rules.  Punishments meted out to ensure rules aren't broken are more than they ever had expected.  No one leaves The Pact... alive, that is.

I flew through this book - an absolute page turner.  It reminded me of a cross between the movie The Box with Cameron Diaz and James Marsden (mmm... James Marsden <3) and King's Quitter's Inc.  I love reading anything related to cult like societies and this definitely fits the bill.  The Pact is larger than anyone seems to foresee and their influence seems to be beyond reproach.  Where the author takes you re their punishment had me on the edge of my seat.  What is going to happen to Jake and Alice?  Will they make it? Together? Separately?  What other punishment could possibly be enforced to make them comply?  Utterly fascinating.  Then the ending... guys and gals, I'm not going to say too much as I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but W...T....F.... It just didn't fit for me.  To have all the build up lead to that had me scratching my head and I either need another book to figure out what happens next, or an ending that wasn't ... so... neat?  Off kilter?  I don't even know.  I'm perplexed and confused and felt a bit let down. 

I will say this, the author knows how to weave a tale and keep you focused.  Told strictly through Jake's POV, we get a real sense of who he is and how much he loves his wife.  I mean, no matter how much you know your partner, do you ever really know EVERYTHING?  Is there every such a thing as FULL disclosure?  I would 100% pick up another book by Michelle Richmond.  Until then I'm going to stew on this one for a bit.  I'm truly torn on how to rate this one so I'll stick with 3.5 stars due to the ending.. 

Jessica's Thoughts:

How far would you go to keep your marriage perfect? THE MARRIAGE PACT by Michelle Richmond is about the picture perfect newlywed couple, Jake and Alice. They are presented and opportunity to join an exclusive and mysterious group called, The Pact. Seduced by the group, Jake and Alice take the plunge and join, but when rules are broken they will learn the hard way - The Pact is for life. 

Alice is a successful lawyer and her husband Jake is a psychologist. Living in newly-wedded bliss, they receive a wedding gift from some of Alice's prestigious clients. An invitation to join The Pact. The opportunity to join The Pact is incredibly enticing, they have one goal, to keep marriages happy and intact. There are simple rules to follow: always answer the phone when your spouse calls, exchange thoughtful gifts monthly, plan a trip together once per quarter, and the most important, never mention The Pact to anyone. Fight Club vibe, anyone?

The couple is really enjoying being apart of this community. Everyone is close and their marriage is happy. However, when Alice breaks one of the rules they learn that there are punishments and most importantly, The Pact is for life. Throughout the story, we learn along with the characters that The Pact has influence and reach everywhere and there is no escaping them.  

This was a great psychological thriller meets domestic thriller. The cult vibe is even better - I find cults to be incredibly fascinating and Michelle Richmond did a great job capturing the eeriness and the seductive qualities that a cult provides. Who wouldn't want to be a part of a group like that? How hard is it to comply with their simple rules? I will say that the ending definitely felt like it came out of nowhere. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it yet. It definitely left me with some questions and needing some more closure. 

Overall, this was a great and unique domestic thriller. If you're a fan of cults, domestic thrillers, and an element of psychological thriller, then this is one you need to pick up! I loved this book and think it's another highly anticipated summer 2017 release that lived up to it's hype!

I give this 4/5 stars!

Sam's Thoughts:

When newlyweds, Alex and Jake, receive a wedding gift that invites them into an exclusive and mysterious group for married couples, they are flattered.   The goal of The Pact is simple.  Keep marriages happy and intact.  Seduced by the glamorous parties and sense of community, they embrace The Pact.  They are given a manual with all the rules, one being: don’t mention The Pact to anyone.   As Alice and Jake try to adhere by their rules, they realize how much different The Pact is and how dangerous The Pact can be.

I love any book that has a cult vibe, so when I discovered The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond it immediately moved to the top of my TBR pile.  I loved how this one took the domestic suspense genre and gave it a twist.   I was so glad to read something where the conflict lies not between the married but couple, but instead, the married couple against the world.   It really was like married people Fight Club.

Richmond is able to create two incredibly likeable characters in Jake and Alice.  They complement each nicely and were very realistic.  She also was able to create such a well put together and fast paced plot.  I was engaged throughout and was continuously worried about Jake and Alice as they navigated their way through The Pact.   Truly, at times, it became super creepy!   I couldn’t believe the lengths that the members were willing to go.  I read this one as a buddy read with Danielle from The Blonde Likes Books and we were continuously messaging each other with our worries.

I did feel like the ending was a random and kind of out in left field for me, especially in regards to the general tone of the book.   

Overall, I loved this book and would highly recommend it!! 

Big thank you to Random House / Bantam Books for these copies in return for our honest opinions.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

#allthebookreviews: The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Oslo @harperteen @olsonkayla

The Sandcastle Empire
by Kayla Oslo
Harper Teen

It's been a while since I've read any dystopia YA sci-fi!  And I'm glad that when going back, #allthebookreviews decided on this one!  See what we thought below!

Big thank you to Harper Teen for our copies in return for our honest reviews.

Goodreads Synopsis:

When all hope is gone, how do you survive? Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves—but the solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected.

This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.

My Thoughts: 

The Wolfpack has taken over the earth and all its resources.  Eden has lost everything.  Alone and basically a drone, with much patience, she lives her days out.... making sure she's not noticed.. waiting for any moment to open up for her to run and escape.  Getting out isn't as easy as just running though, there are landmines to consider, not to mention the guards with their guns.  An unexpected event affords her the opportunity to escape, and she does - picking up others (not by her choice) on the way.  Destination:  Sanctuary Island.  She doesn't know what to expect and upon meeting others there who are also against the Wolfpack, hope sparks... but then when one of them goes missing, they go off in search of her.  The jungle is full of new, lethal discoveries.  Is what she finds at the end worth the journey to get there?

It's been a while since I've read any dystopia, sci-fi, YA... and I'm thrilled that when I did decide to venture back, that it's with THIS BOOK!  Strictly told through Even's POV, this book starts a couple years after the Wolfpack War - Zero Day.  Pure action from the first page to the last, the author doesn't give you much room to breathe.  Who can you trust when the one person you think you can trust tells you after a certain point, you can't, and shouldn't?  WHAT?  We never really see any flashbacks - it's just known that life was basically as we know it until all the above happened.  As I was reading, the only person I could trust was Eden and half the time I was just as confused as she was.  I love the author's reference to Robert Frost and there are distinct small chapters peppered throughout that read like poetry.  I wish I could quote an entire chapter for you but you'll just have to trust me on this.  Her writing is absolutely gorgeous and I love all the descriptions.  I could've done without the insta love but hey, I knew what I was getting into when I picked this book up.  Who cares?! Let them love!  I sincerely hope that the ending is leaving room for a sequel...  I would love to know what happens from here. 

Need some futuristic sci-fi dystopia YA in your life? Then you absolutely should pick this one up!

"Your mind is stronger than your circumstances"


Jessica's Thoughts:

When it comes to dystopian novels it can always be a hit or miss for me. THE SANDCASTLE EMPIRE by Kayla Olson was definitely a hit! When you see the tagline, "When all hope is gone, how do you survive?" how could I not be instantly intrigued. 

We follow Eden - she had an easy life filled with days at the beach, treats, and other luxuries that we enjoy today. That is, until the revolution. The Wolfpack is now in control of the world and it's resources. She has lost everything to them - her home was destroyed, friends and family killed, and they've even imprisoned her. The only thing that is keeping her hope alive is knowing there is one place left on Earth that is neutral ground - Sanctuary Island. The only problem? She has to somehow escape and avoid the landmines and armed guards. After a series of events, Eden escapes and along the way she comes into contact with others that are resistant to the Wolfpack. 

When one of Eden's new found friends goes missing, her small slice of hope begins to fade. She and the others must venture into the jungle to find her. Little do they all know, the jungle holds new traps, horrors, and deadlier obstacles for them. Is Sanctuary Island more dangerous than the life she just left?

This book is told completely from Eden's perspective. It's always fun to have a female main character and Olson does an incredible job developing Eden for the reader. Olson takes you on a nonstop thrill ride in this story - always something going on! Whether it's escaping the Wolfpack, fighting for their lives, or the constant worry of who they can trust, this book makes it hard for you to catch your breath! As with most YA books, there is an element of romance thrown in, but it's definitely not the main focus of the story. 

With this taking place a few years after the Wolfpack War happened (also known as Zero Day) and don't get many flashbacks throughout the book. It's definitely alluded to that life before the Wolfpack was like how we live today - modern technologies and luxuries. It would be so interesting to get a prequel to this book. Get more information about the events leading up to the Wolfpack War and the revolution. I'd even love to have a sequel with more information!

If you're a fan of any kind of dystopian or sci-fi YA novels, then this is one you need to pick up! It was definitely a unique action packed novel with a side of romance. Definitely a great summer read!

I give this one 5/5 stars!

Book Feature & Author Q&A: A Body in the Clouds by Ashley Hay @atriabooks

New reviews for Ashley Hay’s THE BODY IN THE CLOUDS

“Hay’s writing is profusely poetical and lavishly descriptive, and her pace floats along leisurely” Library Journal

“A finely woven tapestry of poetic language and subtle symbols, intertwined dreams, hopes, and visions, and a sense of seeing through cracks—
perhaps to an eternity where time is no more and all is known. Thought-provoking” – Kirkus

Have you heard of this amazing book from Washington Square Press yet?  Well take a peek at the blurb (it sounds AMAZING) and continue on to see a listing with blurbs or her other books and my Q&A with the author
(She's been to Antarctica! So jealous!).


By Ashley Hay

From the acclaimed author of the “exquisitely written and deeply felt” (Geraldine Brooks, author of The Secret Chord) novel The Railwayman’s Wife, comes yet another magical and gorgeously wrought tale of an astonishing event that connects three people across three hundred years.

Imagine you looked up at just the right moment and saw something completely unexpected. What if it was something so marvelous that it transformed time and space forever?

The Body in the Clouds (Washington Square Press; Paperback; July 18, 2017) tells the story of one such extraordinary moment—a man falling from the sky, and surviving—and of the three men who see it, in different ways and at different times, as they stand on the same piece of land. An astronomer in the 1700s, a bridge worker in the 1930s, and an expatriate banker returning home in the early twenty-first century: all three are transformed by this one magical event. And all three are struggling to understand what the meaning of “home” is, and how to recognize it once you’re there.

Widely praised for her “poetic gifts” (Booklist) and “graceful, supremely honest, [and] thought-provoking” (Kirkus Reviews) prose, Ashley Hay has crafted a luminous and unforgettable novel about the power of story, its ability to define the world around us, and the questions that transcend time.

Ashley Hay is the internationally acclaimed author of the novels The Body in the Clouds and The Railwayman’s Wife, which was honored with the Colin Roderick Award by the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies and longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the most prestigious literary prize in Australia, among numerous other accolades. She has also written four nonfiction books. She lives in Brisbane, Australia.

WASHINGTON SQUARE PRESS | ISBN: 9781501165115| FORMAT: PAPERBACK |PAGES: 320  | eBOOK: 9781501165122 | PRICE: $16.00 ($22.00 CAN) | ON SALE: 07/18/17

Where from: Australia – born on the south coast of New South Wales; lived in Sydney a long time, and then in London for a while. Now living in Brisbane

Books written, blurbs:

The Body in the Clouds (US, 2017)

From the acclaimed author of The Railwayman’s Wife (“exquisitely written and deeply felt:” Geraldine Brooks, author of The Secret Chord) comes a magical and gorgeously wrought tale of an astonishing event that connects three people across three hundred years.

Imagine you looked up at just the right moment and saw something completely unexpected. What if it was something so marvelous that it transformed time and space forever?

The Body in the Clouds tells the story of one such extraordinary moment—a man falling from the sky, and surviving—and of the three men who see it, in different ways and at different times, as they stand on the same piece of land. An astronomer in the 1700s, a bridge worker in the 1930s, and an expatriate banker returning home in the early twenty-first century: all three are transformed by this one magical event. And all three are struggling to understand what the meaning of “home” is, and how to recognize it once you’re there.

Widely praised for her “poetic gifts” (Booklist) and “graceful, supremely honest, [and] thought-provoking” (Kirkus Reviews) prose, Ashley Hay has crafted a luminous and unforgettable novel about the power of story, its ability to define the world around us, and the questions that transcend time.

The Railwayman’s Wife (US, 2016)

For fans of The Light Between Oceans, this “exquisitely written, true book of wonders” (Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize-winning author) explores the aftermath of World War II in an Australian seaside town, and the mysterious poem that changes the lives of those who encounter it.

Written in clear, shining prose, The Railwayman’s Wife explores the power of beginnings and endings—and how difficult it can be to tell them apart. It is an exploration of life, loss, tragedy, and joy, of connection and separation, longing and acceptance, and an unadulterated celebration of love that “will have you feeling every emotion at once” (Bustle).

A Hundred Small Lessons (coming to the US in November 2017)

From the author of the highly acclaimed The Railwayman’s Wife, called a “literary and literate gem” by Psychology Today, comes an emotionally resonant and profound new novel of two families, interconnected through the house that bears witness to their lives.
When Elsie Gormley leaves the Brisbane house in which she has lived for more than sixty years, Lucy Kiss and her family move in, eager to establish their new life. As they settle in, Lucy and her husband Ben struggle to navigate their transformation from adventurous lovers to new parents, taking comfort in memories of their vibrant past as they begin to unearth who their future selves might be. But the house has secrets of its own, and the rooms seem to share recollections of Elsie’s life with Lucy.
Over the course of one hot Brisbane summer, two families’ stories intersect in sudden and unexpected ways. Through the richly intertwined narratives of two ordinary, extraordinary women, Ashley Hay uses her “lyrical prose, poetic dialogue, and stunning imagery” (RT magazine) to weave an intricate, big-hearted story of what it is to be human.
The Secret (2000)

Everyone wanted to be Lord Byron's wife: he was London's most famous poet and its most desirably notorious lover. On January 2, 1815, he married Miss Annabella Milbanke, a young lady with handsome prospects, good connections, and admirable ankles. Fifty-four weeks later, a scant month after the birth of their first child, she left him and his house and went home to her parents. She never saw her husband again. She never spoke to her husband again. With London flooded with every possible nasty rumour about what had happened, Lord and Lady Byron signed a Deed of Separation, and Byron left England. How long would Lady Byron hold a grudge? For the rest of her life – and beyond. And at the base of it all was her secret, that hidden and unspeakable thing festering under her decision to leave.

‘Part Gothic thriller, part comedy of manners, postmodernly mindful of biographic limitations, Hay's is an engrossing story of the past told in the language of the present … If Jane Austen were alive and working as an investigative reporter, she would write a book like The Secret.’ – The Australian

Gum: The Story of Eucalypts and Their Champions (2002)

No matter where you look in Australia you're more than likely to see a eucalyptus tree. Scrawny or majestic, smooth as pearl or rough as a pub brawl, they have defined a continent for thousands of years, and still shape our imagination. Gum is about a magical, mythical, medicinal tree. More than that, it's the story of new worlds, strange people and big ideas.

‘Because of the ubiquity of the gum tree and its significance for the landscape, [Hay] can bring Australia’s explorers, surveyors, botanists, artists, authors and environmentalists into one continuous dialogue with nature. Indeed the book’s great strength comes from the unfolding sense of Australian national identity that somehow crystallizes around the eucalyptus tree.” – The New York Review of Books

Herbarium (2004)

This stunning book of photographs by Robyn Stacey, one of this country's finest photographers, is the first of its kind. Stacey, along with essayist, Ashley Hay, throws open the closed doors of the National Herbarium of New South Wales at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, to reveal the secret history of Australia's flora. 

‘Informative, easy-to-read and endlessly fascinating … this is a book for all spectrums of reader – gardener, historian, adventure-lovers, botanist and museum-lovers.'
– The Book Place 

Museum (2007)

Museum is a sumptuous showcase of Australia’s natural history. It tells of some of the remarkable people who collected and studied it, and of their legacy, the Macleay Museum. Throwing open the doors of a rich and rare collection, captured in the exquisite images of Robyn Stacey, Museum reclaims the stories of those specimens and those obsessions, revealing a unique and passionate chapter in Australia’s history.

'It will whet its readers' appetites, leaving them eager to know more about the culture of natural history that shaped the Macleays and their collections.' 
– Times Literary Supplement

Best Australian Science Writing 2014
The annual collection celebrating the year’s finest Australian science writing: why are Sydney’s golden orb weaver spiders getting fatter and fitter? Could sociology explain the recent upsurge in prostate cancer diagnoses? Why were Darwinites craving a good storm during ‘The Angry Summer’? Is it true that tuberculosis has become deadlier over time? And are jellyfish really taking over the world?
In its fourth edition, this popular and acclaimed anthology steps inside the nation’s laboratories and its finest scientific and literary minds to cover topics as diverse and wondrous as our ‘lumpy’ universe, the creation of dragons and the frontiers of climate science. 
“A fascinating, diverse and colourful exploration of a realm we should appreciate more.” – The Australian

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As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

I love this question – I’ve absolutely never been asked to think about this before. And at first I was tempted to say an otter, because there’s something so contented about otters, especially when they’re just floating along. I like the idea of their occasional darting busyness (I once saw a romp of otters coursing around their pond at a zoo, and it looked like ecstasy), followed by calm, floating contentment. That sounds like a good writing life.
But then I thought a little longer and I thought I might like something a little more shiny. Perhaps I could take on a glowworm instead: they go through four extraordinary transformations during their lifecycle (from egg, to larvae, to pupae, to adult); they’re bioluminescent (imagine being able to produce your own magic-looking glow?); and some of them finally become fireflies. So many different incarnations, and lit from within: I’d take that.

Obviously you love all your characters, but if you could choose a favorite character, who would they be?

I have a deep and abiding fondness and respect for William Dawes, the 18th-century astronomer in The Body in the Clouds – the real man, as well as the one I imagined for my novel. I knew I’d like to write about him a long time before I knew which story I could scoop him into; there were so many interesting things about who he was and what he got to do, and I’d read a line somewhere about his eyes shining with a kind of luminosity. I’m not sure I’ve finished thinking about him yet.
If you could paint a picture of any scenery you've seen before, what would you paint?

When I worked more regularly as a journalist, more than a decade ago now, I was fortunate enough to be sent to Antarctica and I’d love to paint that place, to try to capture the colors that were captured in its sky and its water and its ice. Some of those colors absolutely shone; they were so bright – pockets of the most extraordinary aquamarines and blues. But I’d like the painting to be like one of those magic photographs in the Harry Potter books – the ones that move – so that I could catch the sky changing and the ocean’s swells. There was something beautifully mesmerizing about it, and it was so completely unlike any other place I’d ever seen. Not only did it feel like we were utterly out of the regular world, it’s one landscape I’m not sure I could transfer into words.

If you could witness any event past, present or future, what would it be?

Now that’s an easy one to answer today, and in the context of The Body in the Clouds. I would love to see the moment when a bridge worker, Vincent Kelly, really did fall 182 feet from the half-constructed road deck of the Sydney Harbour Bridge on October 23, 1930 … and survive. I spent so long imagining it – counting out the three seconds of his drop, again and again – while I was working on the book. And I love the fact that when I’m near Sydney’s harbour now and I look at its bridge, I do sometimes see a streak of something – light? a bird? I don’t know what – from the corner of my eye as I turn away again.

What are you working on now? What is your next project?

I’m extending the range of my time travel. The Body in the Clouds is set in three slices of time – 1788; 1930; and somewhere in the early 2000s. The Railwayman’s Wife (which came out in paperback in the US at the beginning of this year) is set in 1948. I have another book coming out in the US later this year – A Hundred Small Lessons – and it jumps from the 1940s, to the 1960s, and on to 2011. But the book that I’m working on now is set in 2029 …

Saturday, July 22, 2017

REVIEW: Girl on Point by Cheryl Guerriero @RAPublishing

Girl on Point 
by Cheryl Guerriero
Red Adept Publishing, LLC

A huge, heartfelt thank you to Cheryl Guerriero for a copy of her book in return for my honest review.  

A debut novel 

Goodreads Synopsis:

Alexandra Campbell’s life comes to a crashing halt the night her younger sister is killed during a convenience store robbery. Shattered by guilt, Alex distances herself from her friends and family. Months later, with the police investigation stalled, she fears justice may never be served.

Determined to avenge her sister’s murder, Alex disguises herself and joins the gang responsible for the shooting. To identify the one who pulled the trigger, Alex must put her own life at risk in a world of dangerous criminals. But the longer she plays her new game, the more the lines blur between loyalty and betrayal.

My Review:

A huge thank you to the author for giving me a copy in return for my honest review.  I read this in one sitting and was riveted from the first chapter all the way to the last page.  Alex and her sister, Jenny, play basketball together on the school team.  After a fierce match, Alex sends Jenny in to grab her a Dr. Pepper and Jenny is killed during a convenience store robbery.  Time passes and although there are suspects, there isn't sufficient evidence to arrest anyone.  As Alex's mother spirals into depression, lashing out at everyone, Alex's own guilt eats at her day by day.  Her Dad is trying to hold on by a string, attempting to take care of the family that is left.  Since the cops can't seem to get anywhere, Alex decides to take matters into her own hands and this is where the true story begins.

This is a very harrowing, emotional and stick-you-in-the-gut kind of novel that touches on all your emotions.  The author does an amazing job putting you right inside Alex's head.  The lengths she goes to in order to (1) punish herself, (2) make her mother proud for once and (3) seek revenge for her sister, turns her into someone she no longer recognizes.  I found myself getting angry when she got angry, tearing up when she lost it and even laughing during certain moments ("Blue Jeep Special!"). 

Touching on gangs, grief, murder, abuse and forgiveness, this book takes you on a roller coaster of emotions.  As the story unfolds you get an idea of where it will probably end and it is worth every word on each page.  As emotional as a book as I've read in a while, this one really touched my heart.  This is a debut novel done right!  I loved absolutely everything about it and I predict a lot more from this author soon - I'm certainly going to be on the look out!

A full on 5 stars!     

View all my reviews

REVIEW, AUTHOR Q&A & EXCERPT: Weave a Murderous Web by Anne Rothman-Hicks & Ken Hicks @kenhicksnyc @melangebooks

Weave a Murderous Web
by Anne Rothman-Hicks & Ken Hicks
Melange Books

Thank you to the authors for this copy in return for my honest review. 

Scroll below for a synopsis, my review, an author Q&A and an excerpt from this legal mystery! 

And seriously guys and gals, if nothing else, please do read the Author Q&A, I laughed out loud to quite a few parts.  They feel like my family!

Weave A Murderous Web is a mystery novel by Anne Rothman-Hicks and Kenneth Hicks. It is one of three books in the Jane Larson series, published by Melange Books.


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 dads 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 cash and catch the 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

“The action is breathtaking and the writing beautiful. Weave a Murderous Web: A Jane Larson Novel is a story that reminds me of the characters of John Grisham’s Gray Mountain… Jane Larson is the kind of character that will be loved by many readers… The plot is well thought out and masterfully executed, laced with numerous surprises to keep readers turning the pages. This is one of those books that should occupy an enviable place in your shelf if you are into fast-paced thrillers and compelling investigative stories.” - 5 Stars, Ruffina Oserio, Readers’ Favorite

“MURDEROUS WEB is a classic whodunit with classic New York City characters.” - Gimme That Book

 "Weave a Murderous Web is an enthralling murder mystery. It gets your heart pounding with action and passion, while simultaneously entangling your mind with its ambiguity. The dynamic duo has done it again. The husband and wife writing team of Anne Rothman-Hicks and Ken Hicks pens another on-the-edge-of-your seat murder mystery. Engaging. Witty. Fast paced. I love the Hicks’ contemporary writing style. The narrative is full of delightful metaphorical statements. The setting takes you into the heart of New York City – it reflects just the right amount of ambiance… As the plot progresses, the intensity heightens, catapulting you into a surprising twist, then plummets you into a sudden, yet satisfying end.” - 5 Stars, Cheryl E. Rodriguez, Readers’ Favorite

 “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 

“Weave a Murderous Web is a smart and entertaining mystery by Anne Rothman-Hicks and Ken Hicks that will leave lovers of the genre anxiously waiting for another installment starring the intrepid protagonist, Jane Larson… Weave a Murderous Web has plenty to keep the reader engaged as Jane digs in her heels, determined to get to the truth. Witty dialogue, supported by great writing and some understated humor, makes this book not only a must-read – but also a darned good one!” - 5 Stars, Marta Tandori, Readers’ Favorite

My Review:

Jane is a hotshot litigation attorney in New York City. As a favor to a friend, she takes on a case.. not realizing the mess she's walking into. As she looks further into the case, she quickly finds herself in trapped in a case full of drugs, murder, lies and now a threat to her life.

**Correction: This is the FIRST in a series!** I wanted to know a little more background on the characters... especially the protagonist, Jane. She is a firecracker and I absolutely love her! Someone who is witty, confident and uses words like "flibbertigibbet" has my two thumbs up. There were a lot of characters introduced and I did find myself losing track of each relationship. Everyone is a suspect and that makes for great intrigue. Action, red herrings and a twist that will be unexpected to some, but that I had an inkling about at the end. Weirdly, this book was more character driven for me than plot driven. I was more interested in Jane as a person than I really cared about the case... yet I needed to know more about her too. I did enjoy that the setting was in NYC and I could vividly picture everything!

I may have to pick up book one and see if I can get more into the mind of Jane. 

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About the Authors (and how cute are they?!):  

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.

Readers can connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Author Q&A:

What does your writing process look like?

Ken: These are really hard questions, Anne. Do we even have a writing process?

Anne: Of course, it’s how words get from our brains into a published book.

Ken: You mean, when I write something down and then you redo it and then I redo it and then you redo it and then–

Anne: That’s it.

Ken: Thanks for stopping me. I was getting dizzy.

What is the most difficult part of your writing process? Your writing Kryptonite?

Ken: Whoa, kryptonite?

Anne: The thing that stops our words from getting into the published book.

Ken:  Like when you change something, and I don’t like it, and you yell at me because the scene is boring, and I tell you your idea won’t possible work, and then we both get mad, and we go for a long walk, and we talk, and we finally figure out what we’ve been saying all along?

Anne: Now, I’m a little dizzy.

How many hours a day do you write?

Ken: As long as we need to?

Anne: That’s a fair answer, I guess.

Ken: But is there ever a time when you aren’t thinking about doing something with a book?

Anne: A new plot? A new turn on an old plot? Hmmm.

Ken: Exactly.

Do you have any strange writing habits?

Ken: I don’t think you’re strange. Do you think I’m strange? Anne?

Anne: No, of course not. (She rolls her eyes). But I think some other writers might think our writing process is a little strange.

Ken: Yeah, our writing process may be strange, but it is never lonely, right? I would think that would be really hard—to write something and have to sit and wonder if it is good or bad or, worse, somewhere in between. Right?

Anne: And it is very nice to have someone to share the praise.

Ken: And a bad review.

Anne: I think we just answered the next question.

What is your least favorite part of the writing / publishing process? Favorite part?

Anne: See previous answer.

Ken; Except we left something out. We both hate the marketing process, trying to get people to read and review our books.

Is there one particular subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

Ken: Not so far.

Anne: We wrote about child abuse (Kate and the Kid) and rape (Praise Her, Praise Diana). Two very difficult subjects.

Ken: There were lots of tough moments handling those subjects.

Anne: But we were always careful not to write something just to sensationalize.

Ken: It was another of those times when it really helped to work together.

Is there a type of scene that's harder for you to write than others?

Ken: Boring scenes are really hard to write. So tedious, and dull!

Anne: That’s why we remove them from the book.

Ken: And after all that work.

Anne: (sighs).

Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

Ken: This is so deep.

Anne: It’s like the chicken and the egg. Which came first?

Ken: Huh?

Anne: If you’re a great writer, having a big ego might make you take big chances and try to write in unusual ways. But then again, you might develop a big ego if you were generally retiring but hit big with a successful book. And if you were a terrible writer, a big ego might make you write something that only you thought was good. You see? It’s complicated.

Ken: Huh?

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

Ken: When I was in the Fifth Grade, my teacher said something and I responded “so?” One little word and I ended up sitting in the hall for an hour.

Anne: I think they want to know about books you read as a child, like Wind In The Willows, or Little Women, or Little House on the Prairie.

Ken: I loved Donald Duck comic books. I read them over and over.

Anne: Let’s move on to the next question.

How many unpublished/half-finished books do you have?

Anne: Wow. How many are there?

Ken: Shhhh.

Anne: What’s wrong.

Ken: You’ll hurt their feelings?

Anne: Whose feelings?

Ken: The stories! They all think they still have a chance to be a book. All they need is a new way of looking at the big picture. Maybe a new character here or there. A plot twist. Don’t break their little hearts.

Anne: Are we close to being done here? I think you may need a nap.

How long does it usually take you to write a book?

Ken: Finally an easy one. I’m sixty-eight. What are you? Sixty-seven, right?

Anne: You are an... Never mind, what’s the next question?

What are you working on now? What is your next project?
Anne: We have a sort of family saga we have been working on, and we have two books coming out soon, Mind Me, Milady, which is another Jane Larson book, like Weave A Murderous Web. We also have a series for Tweens (Things Are Not What They Seem) and another series for Middle Readers. (Stone Faces and Brownstone Faces).

Ken: I’m working on a nap, just as soon as we are done.

Anne: Go ahead. I’ll finish up here, if you want. Please?

If you could cast the characters of this book for a movie, who would play your characters?

Anne: I would pick Meryl Streep. I love her. Or maybe Emma Stone. Or—

Ken: Marlene Dietrich.

Anne: What?

Ken: Or Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Grace Kelly.

Anne: They’re all dead, Ken.

Ken: Well, as long as we’re fantasizing...

Do you read your reviews?  Do you respond to them, good or bad?  Any advice on how to deal with the bad?

Anne: We read reviews, but we’ve never responded to a reviewer. Obviously, we prefer the good reviews, but it is always interesting to see what people think and where we seemed to have not gotten through with our story or our themes. Basically, we try to learn from what people say and move on, right Ken?

Ken: You are beautiful when you are lying.

Anne: Shut up, Ken.

If you didn't like writing books, what would you do for a living?

Anne: Ken is a lawyer when he isn’t writing. Although he would probably want to be an artist. A sculptor or a photographer.

Ken: From your mouth to God’s ear.

Anne: I know.

Ken: Anne could do anything she wanted. She’s super-smart. But, I always thought she should be a voice actor. Seriously. She has an amazing voice over the telephone. Call her sometime, you’ll see.

What's the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Ken: How much was that marriage license in 1971? Twenty bucks?

Anne: That’s very sweet, Ken.

Ken: Did you ever pay me for your half?

Anne: Next!

Have you ever gotten reader's block?  How did you get out of it? (and yes, I meant reader's) :D

Ken: Reader’s block. Cute. Reader’s block?

Anne: There are lots of books around and more are coming out all the time. Sometimes it seems overwhelming. It can stop me from reading sometimes.

Ken: You are so deep. Wow. Reader’s block...

Do you google yourself?

Ken: Never. I am an artist who simply does not care for fame or what people think.

Anne: Liar. Of course we do. I just Googled Anne Rothman-Hicks and Kenneth Hicks and got 151,000 hits.

Ken: Hah! I Googled my nickname and got 252,000 hits.

Anne: Nickname? What nickname?

Ken: Superman. Lots of people call me that... Come back We’re not done yet!

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

Anne: Ken would be a baboon.

Ken: How did you guess? I could swing through the trees and never get scared of heights. You on the other hand would be a beautiful white swan that glides through the air or the water with equal grace and would rip the heart out of anyone who goes near her babies.

Anne: Can I go again? I didn’t really mean you’re a baboon. You’re a teddy bear. A cuddly teddy bear.

Ken: Too late. You’ve ripped my heart out.

What literary character is most like you?

Ken: Anne is the smart one in Little Women

Anne: Ken is Sam in the Pickwick Papers.

What authors have inspired you?

Anne: There are so many. Kurt Vonnegut, Charles Dickens, James Joyce.

Ken: Cicero, Sappho, Homer, Horace, Virgil—

Anne: Are you just showing off?

Ken: Maybe...

What's one piece of advice you have received that has always resonated with you?

Ken: Don’t look back. Something may be gaining on you. Satchel Paige.

Anne: That has nothing to do with books. What about, “Never give up.” “Your time will come”, “Your next book could be the one that catches the imagination of the world”?

Ken: Wow. Can we get back to writing right now?

What's the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?

Anne: I read over Ken’s first draft of this interview.

Ken: Yeah, where is that anyway? I can’t find it.

Anne: We’ll talk about that later. Say good night, Ken.

Ken: Good night, Ken.

Anne: (Sighs again). Good night!

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.”