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Saturday, June 30, 2018

REVIEW: Playing With Matches by Hannah Orenstein @touchstonebooks @hannahorens

Playing With Matches
by Hannah Orenstein

Thanks to Touchstone and Edelweiss for this super cute story!

Publisher:  Touchstone
Publish Date:  June 26, 2018
Kindle Edition
320 Pages
Genres:  Contemporary, Chic-Lit, Romance

In the tradition of Good in Bed and The Assistants comes a funny and smart comedy about a young matchmaker balancing her messy personal life and the demands of her eccentric clients.

Sasha Goldberg has a lot going for her: a recent journalism degree from NYU, an apartment with her best friend Caroline, and a relationship that would be amazing if her finance-bro boyfriend Jonathan would ever look up from his BlackBerry. But when her dream career falls through, she uses her family’s darkest secret to land a job as a matchmaker for New York City’s elite at the dating service Bliss.

Despite her inexperience, Sasha throws herself into her new career, trolling for catches on Tinder, coaching her clients through rejection, and dishing out dating advice to people twice her age. She sets up a TV exec who wanted kids five years ago, a forty-year-old baseball-loving virgin, and a consultant with a rigorous five-page checklist for her ideal match.

Sasha hopes to find her clients The One, like she did. But when Jonathan betrays her, she spirals out of control—and right into the arms of a writer with a charming Southern drawl, who she had previously set up with one of her clients. He’s strictly off-limits, but with her relationship on the rocks, all bets are off.

Fresh, sweet, and laugh-out-loud funny, Playing with Matches is the addictive story about dating in today’s swipe-heavy society, and a young woman trying to find her own place in the world.

My Review:

Little did I realize that I had actually seen this author on a panel when I attended an event for Match Made in Manhattan and the Strand Bookstore.  I remember her discussing this book and thought I needed to get my hands on a copy and lo, and behold, here I have one!

Dating in New York is HARD y'all.  HARD!  I've lived in a variety of cities and have found New York to be the hardest.  Whether it's because there's just such an abundance of people to choose from, or the hustle and bustle of long hours and long nights that sometimes leaves little room, or desire, to make an effort.  Online dating is something I do NOT like and who has money for this kind of matchmaking service?!

Overall this is a super cute story.  Sasha is relatable and yet at some points I'm screaming "THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN IN REAL LIFE!"  Then I think that just because I haven't had some overly romantic gesture thrown at me ala movie/book life doesn't mean it can't ACTUALLY happen to someone.  The matchmaking parts were very entertaining and I have no doubt a job like that would probably turn me off of dating altogether.  It was exhausting just reading about the wants and needs of people (most completely unrealistic).   However, it is SO true that you may have a checklist of what you consider the perfect person, but it's highly likely you won't end up with someone who checks off all, or even some, of them.

I did enjoy the ending as it wasn't something I was expecting from a romance book.  I'm not quite certain I absolutely love this book, but it certainly kept me entertained for a quick read.  If you like chic-lit contemporary books and are looking for a quick beach read, I'd say this is a good one to pick up!


Thursday, June 28, 2018

REVIEW: Still Lives by Maria Hummel

Still Lives
by Maria Hummel

Thanks so much to Counterpoint and Edelweiss for this read!

Publisher:  Counterpoint
Publish Date:  June 5, 2018
Kindle Edition
288 Pages
Genres:  Mystery, Thriller

A young editor at a Los Angeles art museum finds herself pulled into the disturbing and dangerous world of a famous artist who goes missing on the opening night of her exhibition 
Kim Lord is an avant garde figure, feminist icon, and agent provocateur in the L.A. art scene. Her groundbreaking new exhibition Still Lives is comprised of self-portraits depicting herself as famous, murdered women—the Black Dahlia, Chandra Levy, Nicole Brown Simpson, among many others—and the works are as compelling as they are disturbing, implicating a culture that is too accustomed to violence against women.
As the city’s richest art patrons pour into the Rocque Museum’s opening night, all of the staff, including editor Maggie Richter, hope the event will be enough to save the historic institution’s flailing finances.
Except Kim Lord never shows up to her own gala
Fear mounts as the hours and days drag on and Lord remains missing. Suspicion falls upon the up-and-coming gallerist Greg Shaw Ferguson, who happens to be Maggie’s ex. A rogue’s gallery of eccentric art world figures could also have motive for the act, and as Maggie gets drawn into her own investigation of Lord’s disappearance, she’ll come to suspect all of those closest to her.
Set against a culture that too often fetishizes violence against women, Still Lives is a page-turning exodus into the art world’s hall of mirrors, and one woman’s journey into the belly of an industry flooded with money and secrets.
My Review:
I'm quickly coming to realize that books about possession or art just don't work for me all that well. While this one is centered around a missing artist and the behind the scenes of where she could possibly be, the underlying world of art and what people consider art just does not interest me. 

At one point, I thought this was going to go in the direction of Exhibit Alexandra and I was going to be REALLY MAD about it. Thankfully it did NOT. For that I thank you, Hummel. 

I think this book is more suited for those who love the art world, love a woman who is still hung up on her ex and then plays detective to try and help him since he's suspect number one... but also to satiate her own curiosity. 

A solid thriller but unfortunately just not really my cup of tea.


SPOTLIGHT: Addict by Matt Doyle @mattdoylemedia

by Matt Doyle

Spotlighting this first in a series book - LOOK AT THIS COVER!
Continue below for information about the book, the author and then read an excerpt.

Publisher:  NineStar Press
Publish Date:  May 8, 2017
Series:  The Cassie Tam Files #1
Genres:  GLBT, Sci-Fi, Crime Noir

When PI Cassie Tam is hired to investigate the death of a local virtual reality junkie, she thinks it will be easy money. In New Hopeland, VR junkies die every day, and the local PD already declared it an accidental overdose on synthetic stimulants. But the more she digs, the more that things don’t add up.
To make things even more complicated, her client, the deceased’s sister Lori, is a Tech Shifter - someone who uses a metal exoskeleton to roleplay as an animal – and Cassie has always been wary of that community. That wouldn’t be a problem if Lori wasn’t fast becoming the first person she’s been genuinely attracted to since splitting with her ex.
Easy money, huh? Yeah, right.

Matt Doyle lives in the South East of England and shares his home with a wide variety of people and animals, as well as a fine selection of teas. He has spent his life chasing dreams, a habit which has seen him gain success in a great number of fields. To date, this has included spending ten years as a professional wrestler, completing a range of cosplay projects, and publishing multiple works of fiction.
These days, Matt can be found working on far too many novels at once, running his pop culture website, and plotting and planning what other things he’ll be doing to take up what little free time he has.


I ALWAYS DID like Venetian blinds. There’s something quaint about them in a retro-tacky kinda way. Plus, they’re pretty useful for sneaking a peek out the front of the building if I feel the need. That’s something that you just can’t do with the solid, immovable metal slats that come as a standard in buildings these days. That said, a thick sheet of steel is gonna offer you a damn sight more security than thin, bendable vinyl, so I keep mine installed. Just in case.

Another round of knocking rattles the front door, louder this time than the one that woke me.
The clock says 23:47, and the unfamiliar low-end car out front screams “Don’t notice me, I’m not worth your time,” which makes for the perfect combo to stir up the paranoia that the evening’s beer and horror-film session left behind. This is my own fault. My adverts are pretty descriptive in terms of telling what I do: lost pets, cheating partners, theft, protection, retrieval of people and items, other odds and sods that the city’s finest won’t touch…I’ve got ways to deal with it all. That’s right, I’m a real odd-job gal. The one thing that I don’t put in there are business hours. The way I see it, even the missing pet cases usually leave me wandering the streets at half-past reasonable, so what’s the point in asking people to call between certain hours?

More knocking, followed this time by the squeak of my letter box and a voice. “Hello? Cassandra Tam?”

It’s funny, really. For all the tech advances that the world has made, no one has been able to improve upon the simple open-and-shut letter box. I stumble my way through the dark and wave dismissively at the frosted glass. The light switch and the keypad for the door lock are conveniently placed right next to each other on the wall to the right of the door, so welcoming my apparent guest is a nice, easy affair. The lock clicks a moment after the lights flood the room, and I pull the door open.

“Cassie,” I say, turning and skulking my way back into the room. “Or Caz. Drop the Tam.”

I hear a sniff behind me, and the lady from the letter box asks, “Are you drunk?”

“If I pass out in the next five minutes, then yes,” I reply, turning the kettle on. I’d left it full, ready for the morning, but I guess this is close enough. “Take a seat at the table. Would you prefer tea or coffee? I’d offer beer, but since I reek of it, I guess I must’ve finished it.”

Footsteps creep unapologetically across the room, and a chair squeaks on the floor. Good. If you can’t deal with a snarky response to something, don’t say it all, and if you can deal with it, then as far as I’m concerned you don’t need to apologise.

“Coffee,” the lady says. “So, do you always see potential clients in your underwear, or is it just my lucky day?” Her voice has a slightly playful edge to it, but with a sarcastic kick to round it off.

The business portion of my apartment comprises entirely of a small open-plan room separating my kitchen from my living room. And by open plan, I mean an allotted space that encroaches on both territories but is conveniently large enough to house what I need. Or, in other words, a table, four chairs, and nothing else. Since filing went near entirely digital, filing cabinets have pretty much become obsolete, so the two that I found dumped outside the building when I bought the place currently live in my bedroom, and contain a mix of quick access work stuff and personal files I’d rather not have floating on the net. Most things, though, I store electronically, the same as everything else.

I rarely use the business table to eat, read, or any of that junk, so until this evening it’s been entirely empty for a good few weeks. The lady sitting there now is studying me, I can see, and probably wondering if this was a mistake. Whatever she may have expected, a Chinese-Canadian gal of average height in a cami top and a loose pair of sleep shorts most likely wasn’t it. For what it’s worth, though, I’m studying her just the same. She’s a lithe-looking thing, dressed in a casual pair of jeans and a plain black fitted top under a leather jacket. If the metal plugs running down her shaven head like a shiny, rubber-tipped Mohawk weren’t a giveaway for what she is, the light scarring punctuating the outer edges of her pale blue eyes certainly would be. She’s a Tech Shifter, and like most of her ilk, she looks like a punk rocker gone cyborg.

“Only when people come calling near midnight,” I say, crossing my arms. “And what about you? Do you have to work to rile people up, or is it just a talent?” I spot her wince and can’t quite contain the smile that fights its way up to my lips. I can’t really afford to lose another client, though, so I throw in another dismissive wave and add, “Don’t worry about it. It’s late, and I’m grumpy. Milk and sugar?”

She nods. “Two sugars, lots of milk, thanks.”

I finish making the drinks and plonk myself into the chair opposite my guest. “So how about we start with a name?”

“Lori. Lori Redwood. And I’m sorry about calling so late, it’s just that I didn’t really know when would be best, and I figured that you probably wouldn’t be busy this time of night.”

“And whatever problem you have has been eating away at you, so you wanted to sort it as soon, eh?”

Lori nods and takes a gulp of her coffee. “Something like that.”

I tilt my head, and rest my elbows on the table, letting my chin fall into my clasped hands. “I’m guessing this isn’t a missing pet case?”

“No. Do you read the morning news sites?”

“I browse. Why?”

“Did you see any of the articles about Edward Redwood? They would have been late last week.”

I close my eyes and cast my mind back to the things I’d read over the last couple of days. The name is familiar, and not just because of the articles, but I can’t place where from.

“Virtual Junkie, died of an accidental overdose of synthesised stimulants?” I try.

Lori nods again. “He was my brother. It wasn’t an accidental OD, though.”

I sigh. “I’m sorry for your loss, but he was an Addict, right? That’s what the press said. He wouldn’t be the first VJ Addict to OD, and he won’t be the last.”

“You don’t understand. Yes, Eddie was an Addict, but he couldn’t have overdosed himself, because he never used stimulants. He used to make a really big deal out of how he preferred the experience pure, because he didn’t want to mess up his chances of becoming a Pro.”

I shake my head sadly. “Miss Redwood…”

“Lori, please,” she cuts in.

“Lori, then. Let me give you a history lesson. Many years ago, some bright spark realised society had become so reliant on electronic tools that most jobs carried out by big businesses could be done virtually. As things advanced, they built a whole virtual world where people could work, and gradually, the staff who pulled the long shifts became reliant on the feel of being in the place. Meanwhile, out in the real world, regular people accessed the virtual world to communicate with the staff, and to play games, and they too became reliant on the feel of the place. And so, two types of Junkie were born; the Pros, supported by their bosses, and the Addicts, who were no different to the drug users of the twentieth century. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging anyone here, but Addicts don’t become Pros. Both types of VJ get unhealthily hooked, but the Addicts don’t have the support to keep it in check. They all end up on the stimulants eventually.”

“Not Eddie,” she insists. “He had a contract lined up. All he had to do was pass the entrance test, and he’d transition to Pro.”

“Now that’s a first. Who with?”

“I don’t know. That’s part of the problem.”

I narrow my eyes. “Lori, why exactly did you come to me?”

“Because the police won’t reopen the case. They said there’s no evidence that anyone else was in the room at all when he died. If I can just figure out who he was negotiating with, then that would be something.”

“So, what? You want me to find out who your brother was supposedly going to be hired by?”


“And then what?”

“I find out how he ended up OD-ing on something that he wouldn’t touch, and why.”

I down my coffee and lean back in my chair, crossing my arms again. “You think that he was murdered, don’t you? By someone in whatever company he was supposedly talking to.”

“Yes,” she replies vehemently, then shrinks back a little and adds, “I don’t know. Maybe. It’s the only thing that makes sense, right?”

“No, it’s not. What makes the most sense is that your brother was no different from any other VJ Addict, and he just hid his usage from you. Let’s say for one moment we can even entertain the idea that a Pro company were willing to hire an Addict. That isn’t even close to a strong enough link to start crying murder. Honestly, Lori, I get it, but you’re reaching here. You’re trying to grasp onto anything that can make this all easier for you, and that’s fine. But trust me on this. No amount of grasping at nothing ever changes anything.”

Lori has clearly been fighting back the tears, and my little speech just pushed her over the edge. She wipes her eyes on her sleeve and gets to her feet, keeping her head hung low.

“I’m sorry to bother you,” she says, and turns back towards the door. “I’ll see myself out.”

“Where are you going?” I ask.



“To look up some more names. You’ve made your position quite clear.”

“I never said that I wouldn’t take the case. I just wanted you to understand how unlikely your scenario is.”

Lori stops in her tracks and looks back at me. “You’ll do it?” she asks, her voice a conflicted mess of desperation and disbelief.

“If there’s something to be found, then I’ll find it.”

“I…thank you. Thank you.”

“Yeah, well, don’t thank me yet,” I reply, getting to my feet. I walk back to the kitchen, slide open one of the drawers, and pull out a small metal disc about one inch thick, and five inches in diameter. I throw it to Lori, and she whips her arm out, snatching it from the air. She turns it over in her hand, studying the glass top. “You seen one of those before?”

Lori shakes her head.

“It’s a standard Case Tool, at least for me. Take it with you, and when you get home, tap the screen three times quickly. It’ll load a bunch of files for you to complete. Don’t worry, it comes with a holo-keypad, so you won’t need to hook it up to anything. I prefer to keep things connected to my server, and mine alone when I can help it. Take your time, answer the questions with as much detail as possible, and tap to send them back to me. Before it’ll send ’em, it’ll ask you to enter your details to transfer the deposit for the case.”

“Okay,” she nods. “How much am I looking at?”

“Aside from being a potential murder case, this is gonna prevent me from taking on any other work for the duration, so I’m not gonna be working cheap. The deposit’s five thou. If I find nothing, that’ll be it, but if something turns up, I’ll expect the same again on completion. That cool?”

“Yes. Absolutely. Thank you.”

“Not a problem. Now get yourself home so that I can get some sleep.”

#allthebookreviews: Splinter In The Blood by Ashley Dyer @wmorrowbooks @AshleyDyer2017

Splinter In The Blood
by Ashley Dyer

Thanks so much to William Morrow Books for these copies.
Loving on this cover and loving on this book!
Read Jessica and I's very happy reviews below.

Publisher:  William Morrow Books
Publish Date:  June 12, 2018
400 pages
Series: Carver and Lake #1
Genres:  Thriller, Suspense

A propulsive debut suspense novel, filled with secrets, nerve-jangling tension, perplexing mystery, and cold-blooded murder, in which a police officer on the hunt for a macabre serial killer is brutally attacked, and only his partner knows the truth about what happened—and who did it.

After months of hunting a cold-blooded murderer that the press has dubbed the Thorn Killer, Detective Greg Carver is shot in his own home. His trusted partner, Ruth Lake, is alone with him. Yet instead of calling for help, she’s rearranged the crime scene and wiped the room clean of prints.

But Carver isn’t dead.

Awakening in the hospital, Carver has no memory of being shot, but is certain that his assailant is the Thorn Killer. Though there’s no evidence to support his claim, Carver insists the attack is retaliation, an attempt to scare the detective off the psychopath’s scent, because he’s getting too close. Trapped in a hospital bed and still very weak, Carver’s obsession grows. He’s desperate to get back to work and finally nail the bastard, before more innocent blood is spilled.

One person knows the truth and she’s not telling. She’s also now leading the Thorn Killer investigation while Carver recuperates. It doesn’t matter that Carver and the rest of the force are counting on her, and that more victims’ lives at stake. Ruth is keeping a deadly secret, and she’ll cross every line—sacrificing her colleagues, her career, and maybe even her own life—to keep it from surfacing.

Utterly engrossing and filled with masterfully crafted surprises, Splinter in the Blood is a propulsive roller-coaster ride, filled with deception, nerve-jangling tension, perplexing mystery, and cold-blooded murder.

My Review:

Hot damn! I do so love a debut novel that keeps me guessing RIGHT TIL THE VERY END!  I legitimately had no idea who the killer was until the very end when it was revealed.  Ashley Dyer is the pen name of Margaret Murphy and Helen Pepper in their debut book written together.  Gotta say, I absolutely loved it.

The intricacy of why the Thorn Killer is named the Thorn Killer and how the victims are killed absolutely fascinated me.  I won't go into details as this is all slowly revealed throughout the course of the novel.  Carver and Ruth both have their own issues and are clearly flawed.  I'm still unsure how I feel about Carver but Ruth.... she's got spunk, pizzazz and isn't afraid to go against the grain.  I absolutely adore her.

I actually did not even pay attention to the fact that this was the first in a series until after I turned that last page and thought to myself, "Self, but what happens now?  Ruth has all those... and Carver still needs to... I need more information please!"  Then I saw it was a series and sighed a bit of relief - I'm really looking forward to learning more about Carver and Ruth and seeing what happens to them ahead.

I did think there were some parts that lulled, but quite honestly, that's because I've been working 10-12 hour days and my mind is mush.  Then I would encounter parts where I was struggling to stay awake to read.  Ultimately, this one really perked my serial killer love. 



Jessica's Review:

Whenever a new crime series comes out I'm always excited to be able to start from the beginning. SPLINTER IN THE BLOOD is book one to the Carver and Lake series, and man, talk about a debut. Ashley Dyer brings us a psychotic serial killer, gruesome murders, and a web of deceit as one detective tries her best to keep her secrets hidden.

Detective Greg Carver is found shot in his own home, and he is found by his partner, Ruth Lake. Why was she there? Why did she rearrange the crime scene, remove items, and wipe down all of the surfaces she touched? They suspect this is the work of the serial killer, dubbed the Thorn Killer, that Carver has been hunting down. By some kind of miracle, Carver survives, but when he wakes up in the hospital he has no memory of what happened.

Now Ruth is lead investigator on the Thorn Killer case, but she is willing to risk everything to keep her secrets hidden. Even if that means sacrificing her career, colleagues, and even more victims. What does she know? What truly happened to her partner that night?

There are so many questions throughout this thriller and Dyer did a fantastic job pulling the reader along. Despite being a 400 page book, I flew through it. The short chapters and changing perspectives keep the pacing up and pages flipping. We get to see through the eyes of Lake, Carver, and the Thorn Killer. I am always a fan of diving into the minds of the serial killers in these types of books, especially when the killer has such a unique method of torturing their victims. Tattooing them for days on end with a poisoned thorn. The suspense will hit you from page one and not let up until the explosive ending!

I can't wait for more for Dyer about Carver and Lake!

I give this 5/5 stars

BLOG TOUR SPOTLIGHT: The Distance by Zoe Folbigg @zolington @aria_fiction

The Distance
by Zoe Folbigg

Thanks so much to Aria Fiction for this stop on this Blog Tour!

See below for a book description, about the author and a note from the author about procrastination - don't know about you guys, but I'm definitely guilty of it!

From the author of the bestselling novel, The Note, comes this beautiful, romantic tale of finding love in the most unexpected places.

Under the midnight sun of Arctic Norway, Cecilie Wiig goes online and stumbles across Hector Herrera in a band fan forum. They start chatting and soon realise they might be more than kindred spirits. But there are two big problems: Hector lives 8,909km away in Mexico. And he's about to get married.

Can Cecilie, who's anchored to two jobs she loves in the library and a cafe full of colourful characters in the town in which she grew up, overcome the hurdles of having fallen for someone she's never met? Will Hector escape his turbulent past and the temptations of his hectic hedonistic life and make a leap of faith to change the path he's on?

Zoe Folbigg's latest novel is a story of two people, living two very different lives, and whether they can cross a gulf, ocean, sea and fjord to give their love a chance.

Expected publication:  July 1, 2018

About the author

Zoë Folbigg is a magazine journalist and digital editor, starting at Cosmopolitan in 2001 and since freelancing for titles including Glamour, Fabulous, Daily Mail, Healthy, LOOK, Top Santé, Mother & Baby, ELLE, Sunday Times Style, and In 2008 she had a weekly column in Fabulous magazine documenting her year-long round-the-world trip with ‘Train Man’ – a man she had met on her daily commute. She has since married Train Man and lives in Hertfordshire with him and their two young sons. She is the bestselling author of The Note




Distractions distractions…

Anyone else prone to procrastinating? Have a think about that while you flit between tabs on your computer screen (you don’t want that shopping basket to expire), have a quick peek at Twitter (what an idiot!), look at friends’ summer holiday pics on Facebook as they start trickling in (wow, Montenegro looks nice this time of year), come back to your favourite book blog (thanks for reading btw), maybe make yourself a cup of tea (Earl Grey and milk I’m afraid)…

I’m the worst for it. It took me eight years to write my debut novel, The Note, based on the true story of how I fell in love at first sight with a handsome stranger on my daily commute. To be fair I did get married (spoiler alert), change jobs three times and have two babies in those eight years, so they were quite legitimate distractions.

But even going back to the inspiration behind The Note, to 2004. It took a year of dithering to even make a move and ask “Train Man” out, I was so easily distracted, quick to get lost in something that would delay the embarrassment of rejection. So I would focus on my breakfast of choice at the time (almond croissant), my magazine of choice at the time (Grazia), or my album of choice at the time (Room On Fire by The Strokes) on my iPod Nano (now hijacked by my sons so they can listen to Harry Potter on the speakers at bedtime). All these distractions put me off the task in hand: asking Train Man out with a simple, polite and crumpled note – which I wrote on my birthday but sat in my bag for eleven days before I stopped dilly-dallying enough to thrust it into his hand as we pulled into King’s Cross station.

Fast forward to The Note being released: I finally scored my dream job, got a two-book deal thanks to my brilliant agent and amazing publisher, and was able to work from home: writing stories with the intention of making people smile, making their hearts swell. I had wanted to be an author since I was a teenager, and finally, as I turned 40, I was. I could take my sons to school and get on with writing my new novel, The Distance, a story about star-crossed lovers living on opposite sides of the world in Mexico and Norway, when I got home.

But not before I took my kids to school, went for a run to think about Hector and Cecilie and how their love story would pan out (that’s work, right?!), to stop at the supermarket to pick up supplies, to return home, shower and wash up the breakfast bowls and porridge pan. Oh and not forgetting the laundry and vacuuming. As I sat down to write, I would look at the clock and see that 3 p.m. – school pick-up time – loomed rather suddenly.

It took eight years to write The Note, and amazingly, I managed to write The Distance in 18 months. But I need to do better. I’m excited to say I have a new book deal, and more books to write, so I need to focus. My next book is due to my editor in seven months’ time and although I know where I’m going with it and what I want to happen, I haven’t started. Gulp.

This is my job now and I need to be disciplined, but I’m learning to focus. To leave the toast crumbs under the dining table for later. To not stick Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills on ITV Player when I have writer’s block. To get up early and run before school. To shut down all those tabs and not give Donald Trump’s ramblings a second of my precious time. That said, in the time I’ve taken to write this post, I did catch up on Love Island, ate a whole bar of Green & Black’s (current favourite: Sea Salt) and booked tickets to see The Lost Boys at Sundown Cinema. I’d better crack on. Book three is calling…

I hope you enjoy The Distance and find Hector and Cecilie a happy distraction!


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

SPOTLIGHT: To The Bridge by Nancy Rommelmann @nancyromm @littleabooks @sabrinadax

To The Bridge
A True Story of Motherhood and Murder
by Nancy Rommelmann

If you love true crime, then you NEED to put this on your TBR list.  Publishing in just a few short days, the author takes us deep into a story about a mother murdering her own children.

Please read below for a synopsis, about the author and a conversation with the author that is truly a great read on its own.

Publisher:  Little A
Publish Date:  July 1, 2018
Kindle Edition
303 Pages
Genres:  True Crime, Nonfiction

The book chronicles the tragedy of Amanda Stott-Smith, who dropped her two children from a bridge in Portland, Oregon in the middle of the night on May 23, 2009. Her four year-old son died; her daughter, age seven, survived. Amanda was arrested within hours. Rommelmann started following the story the next day, needing to know why—beyond the snap conclusions of “evil,” “revenge” and “no one will ever understand”—a mother who loved her children would seek to kill them.

As a long-form reporter, Rommelmann had covered enough crime to realize that, beyond the natural horror of a mother killing her children, there was a deep reticence to dig into how this incident occurred. In the weeks after the incident, coverage of the crime by local media contained virtually no background material—and never would. 

Rommelmann was determined to understand where Amanda’s horrifying decision had come from. Pursuing the story, she stuck like a limpet to Amanda’s defense attorney. She interviewed family and friends who claimed Amanda had been gas-lighted and abused. She dug through thousands of pages of records, communicated with other killers, and met with people who had and had not seen through the tissue of lies Amanda and her husband Jason tried to project, that of a successful, beautiful, privileged couple living their Christian values. 

In the course of her investigations, Rommelmann also watched the murder be used for political purposes, to fan some flames and smother others. After Amanda was sentenced to 35 years, people needed to tell someone what they knew and thought they knew. Their sympathies and alignments reflected their biases and objectives, and created a hall of mirrors Rommelmann needed to navigate through. 

The more Rommelmann learned about what Amanda had for decades herself navigated – a fiancé who committed suicide, the giving up their child for adoption, Jason’s drug addiction and pathological lying, her own narcissism catalyzed by spite – the more sense, terrible as it was, the crime of Amanda killing her own children made. 

Illustrating the troubled mind behind a crime so unfathomable takes humility and empathy. TO THE BRIDGE is a delicately balanced piece of reporting that does not try to sway the reader as much as offer a deep and nuanced look into how such a crime can occur, to offer illumination, perhaps even hope of averting future incidents. Despite its complexity and resolve not to be told, the story of why a mother would seek to kill her children ultimately does reveal itself, in this gripping and important book.

Nancy Rommelmann is a long-form journalist whose work appears in the LA Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times, among other publications. Her award-winning articles include features on the actress Jena Malone, the literary hoaxer Laura Albert, aka, JT Leroy, and a crosscountry road trip with a pen pal of John Wayne Gacy’s, to interview the serial killer weeks before his execution. Rommelmann is the author previously of several books of nonfiction and fiction. She grew up in New York City and currently lives in Portland, Oregon. More at

A Conversation with Nancy Rommelman

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book?

Thinking I could get it done. I started with a great deal of energy, staying on the story for a solid year despite few people being willing to speak with me. Once Amanda was sentenced—by a judge, there was no jury trial—I became barraged with texts, phone calls and emails from people eager, sometimes desperate, to talk about what they’d seen in the years leading up to the crime.

Until Amanda’s fate was set, they’d been too afraid to come forward. Once it was, they wanted to talk about what they knew and thought they knew. This made things easier in some ways—more material—and opaque in others. 

People see what they want to see, depending on an uncountable number of factors. They also dissemble, sometimes not deliberately, though in this case there was a pattern of sustained lying on the parts of several people. 

Putting together the story in a way that accounted for and made sense of so many points of view was sometimes a challenge, as was getting access to several thousand pages of legal documents, including some from sources with an active interest in not having the story told. 

Some people will assume the nature of the material, a child being murdered by his mother, will be emotionally rough on the writer. Sometimes it was; as I mention in the book, I don’t recommend reading case studies about child murder in a coffee shop unless you want to practice how to cry without making any sound. But the question of why Amanda had done what she had is what brought me to the story, and it was my job to see it through. 

Is it hard for you to approach family members/friends (of Amanda) for the first time? What do you feel when you do so? What do you hope they feel? 

It took me almost a year to approach Amanda’s family. I knew they were not speaking to the press, and I have never felt comfortable as a journalist camping on someone’s lawn after a tragedy. You are asking people to talk about the very hardest thing that has happened in their lives. Some never did speak with me. Others, such as Amanda’s grandmother, met with me eight or nine times, our relationship over eighteen months becoming a friendship, as unlikely and remarkable as that sounds. 

Reaching out to people, you need to get past your nerves. You need to carefully think about how you are going to make the approach, what you will say to encourage them to speak with you. It is can be difficult to convince people you are not here to sensationalize or exploit their pain. 

My hope from the beginning was that understanding how this incident occurred would make things hurt less. Closing our eyes and saying, a mother murdering her child is inexplicable and always will be; I don’t see how that helps anyone. During Amanda’s sentencing, after her former husband, the children’s father, said in court, “the murder will never make sense to anyone,” my immediate thought was, yes, it will. 

What was the most surprising thing you discovered while writing To The Bridge? 

How willing people are to keep buying a line of garbage, rather than confront a problem. Each time a story in the news is unraveled, and we see that X did something poorly, which led to Y failing, which led to the whole thing tumbling down, I think, yes, and the end result is sometimes two kids being thrown from a bridge. 

People think they are being polite or stoic or living their Christian values or whatever, by not calling out others’ bad behavior, when in hindsight we see (if we choose to see) it’s avoidance or willed blindness or a failure of courage or, at its worst in this case, cruelty masquerading as kindness, which makes me think of something I recently read: “If you think tough men are dangerous, wait until you see what weak men are capable of.” 

What do you hope your readers will take away from this book? 

Aside from constructing the story in the way that makes sense to me and, hopefully, keeps the reader engaged, I have no agenda for what the reader gets from the book. They are going to take what they will and we won’t all agree and huzzah for that. Let’s have coffee and talk about it. 

You moved to LA to pursue an acting career, and then switched to journalism. What prompted the switch? 

Like a lot of people who move to Los Angeles to pursue acting, I wasn’t doing much acting. I was working for a caterer, serving food on the sets of TV shows. (NB: Ed O’Neill, then on Married with Children, was very nice and friendly.) 

Then I became pregnant and wanted to be home with my daughter, so started making money reading scripts and writing coverage for the agency ICM. This led to a gig as an assistant for a wacky old-school screenwriter—he used to send me to the bar in Dana Tana’s to hand $10,000 checks to famous people who were constantly floating him money between script sales—which led to journalism. 

My first assignment was in 1994, for bikini magazine, not a magazine about bikinis, but anyway, it was to cover the opening of a genital piercing shop in Los Feliz. When I asked a couple who were there getting their “engagement rings” installed what they would do when people asked to see the rings, the wife-to-be smiled and said, “We’ll show them.” Without trying to sound corny, her response felt as though it had dropped from a little star. I knew at that moment I would pursue journalism and nothing else. 

What triggered your move from Los Angeles to Portland? Do you think it influenced your writing? 

In 2003, seventeen year-old Jesica Santillan received a heart-lung transplant of a mismatched blood type at Duke University Medical Center. Her story, and photo, in a post-op coma, wound up on the cover of The New York Times. Though she was four years older than my daughter, they looked near identical, and I fell headlong into the story.

I would eventually write about Jesica (“Grief’s Gravity”), but before I was able to do so, I was not myself; I was underwater, barely able to cope. That was the first (and last) time that happened, and my husband, who had moved to LA in 1998 to be with my daughter and me, sat me on couch and said, “I need to be the **ck out of here within a year.” This had as much to do with his disliking Los Angeles as his concern over my state of mind. We started looking for houses to buy in Portland, where he had grown up, and by August 2004, had relocated. 

One thing I always miss about Los Angeles, are the stories. People for the most part come to Portland with their achievable dreams, to open a bike shop or a bakery, and that’s fine; everybody’s story can be intriguing. That said, the hyperbolic dreams people bring to LA, whew doggie, they are right there all the time, and when the dreams fail, especially when they fail, they have a pulse I really, really want to write about. 

One of my favorite stories was “40 Bucks and a Dream: The lives of a Hollywood motel,” where I stayed at the Saharan Motor Hotel on Sunset Boulevard and talked to a dozen people in the rooms, the jilted Russian mail order bride and her young son who roller-skated around the pool; the hairless wannabe cult leader and his stripper girlfriend; the actor who’d had bit parts in the 1940s, who loitered on the balconies talking about how he might make a comeback yet and by the way, could we appreciate how impossibly handsome Errol Flynn had been? 

As long as Los Angeles holds out the promise of fame and fortune, the city is an ever-replenishing banquet, and one I am privileged to write about. I recently put together a collection of stories from Los Angeles, called Forty Bucks and a Dream, so let’s see where that goes. 

What do you hope to accomplish with your writing, collectively?

 To put good work in the world and to have that work lead to more good work.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

SPOTLIGHT: House of Belonging by Andrea Thome @andreathome #hessecreekseries

House of Belonging
(Hesse Creek #3)
by Andrea Thome

Welcome to my Spotlight of House of Belonging!

This is definitely one to put on your radar - the third book in the Hesse Creek Series, Thome continues her talented story writing that has been getting rave reviews!  A blend of romance, drama and suspense - this is a series to add to your TBR.

Continue below to learn about the book and the author.  Then keep scrolling to read an interview with Andrea and an excerpt from the book!

Seamlessly blending romance, drama and suspense against the picturesque backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, author Andrea Thome is releasing her third novel, “House of Belonging” on June 5, 2018, completing her award-winning Hesse Creek Series.

“House of Belonging” follows Laina Ming, a chef opening a new concept restaurant in Aspen, Colorado, as she unexpectedly and reluctantly falls for handsome local, Logan Matthews. Chemistry between them builds, despite Laina’s initial hesitation stemming from an upsetting breakup with her ex.

Renowned chef Laina Ming walked away from the culinary spotlight and an unhealthy relationship—one that still haunts her a year later. She’s trying to start fresh in the Rocky Mountains, opening a concept restaurant on the banks of the Roaring Fork River, where she hopes she’ll be able to express her passion for food and bury her heartache.

Horse rancher Logan Matthews moved to Aspen to be near his sister and her husband, grateful for his newfound family. Since a chance meeting with Laina the previous summer, Logan’s been enchanted. But she doesn’t want anything to do with him—which makes her all the more appealing.

Despite Laina’s efforts to protect her heart, Logan has been on her mind, too—and he has a way of turning up in the most unexpected places. Can they learn to trust one another and finally find the sense of belonging they’ve both been searching for?

ANDREA THOME is a former broadcast journalist, having covered both sports and news during her career. In her novels, she explores some of her favorite travel destinations, from the foothills of the Smoky Mountains to the Colorado Rockies, painting rich backdrops that become characters themselves. Thome lives in Chicago with her husband (a retired Hall of Fame baseball player and their two children. She spends her spare time traveling and pursuing her other passion—photography. See a sampling of her photography and learn more about her books at “House of Belonging” follows “Seeds of Intention” and “Walland” in the award-winning Hesse Creek Series.


What will fans of “Walland” and “Seeds of Intention” like about “House of Belonging?”
I’m hopeful that fans who’ve read the first two books will enjoy revisiting some of their favorite characters, while learning a little bit more about Logan and Laina, who they’ll get to know in this third book. I’m excited about how the series as a whole comes together in this story.

What do you want new readers to know about your books?
I write my books for my friends. Which means I write them mostly for readers who are looking for an escape and want to spend the precious free time available to them with compelling characters in beautiful places. And it’s no secret at this point that I love a happy ending. I’m hoping to balance out some of the negativity in the world with something that makes people feel good. 

Why did you decide to set your newest book in Aspen, Colorado?
I consider all three of the books in the Hesse Creek Series to be destination love stories. The locations are as much characters in the book as the people are. I hope I was able to express my love for the beautiful, cultured, and still wild town that is Aspen. It remains one of my favorite places in the world.

One of the main characters in “House of Belonging,” Laina Ming, is a chef. Are you a foodie?
I’m not really a huge foodie, but I fancy myself someone who appreciates art, and in this case, food as art. My husband and I had the pleasure of experiencing Aspen’s Food and Wine event last summer, and I was blown away and obviously inspired by what the chefs created. It was fun to write about the food that Laina creates, and a blast to write my first “restaurant review.” 

You’re the photographer behind all of your book covers. Where was the image of “House of Belonging” taken?
The image on the front cover of “House of Belonging” was actually taken in Tennessee a long time ago. It’s a nod to the genesis of the series having been set there. I thought it bookended the series nicely, and the symbolism of the single empty swing juxtaposed perfectly with my characters finally finding their sense of belonging as a whole.

“House of Belonging” is the third and final book in the Hesse Creek Series. Is this an emotional finale for you?
Yes and no. I’ve loved living in the world of Walland for these three books, but I’m excited to have the freedom to create something new. That said, the Hesse Creek Series will always hold a very special place in my heart, no matter how many books I go on to write.

Which character will you miss writing about the most?
I could never pick just one; I’ve loved them all so much! 

What’s next for you?
I’m working on a brand new series, set in the Pacific Northwest. It centers around three brothers, and they are pretty interesting guys, so far.  I can’t wait to see where this first story leads me!


Laina turned to fix herself a vodka and soda, and as she was squeezing a lemon wedge she felt someone ease up next to her. She knew who it was before she turned to face him.

“You know, you really should open a restaurant.  That was some dinner you served up tonight.” Logan smiled at her, that same cheeky look he’d given her during the ceremony. “Just a shame you weren’t out here to enjoy it with us.”

He reached around her to grab the bottle of vodka to make himself a drink, brushing up against her ever so slightly in the process.  The effect was as if someone had run a feather across her bare neck and shoulders, and Laina involuntarily shivered at the intrusion of her personal space.

Logan noticed her stiffen, and he stifled a smile. “Sorry, I just figured I’d need something a little stronger if I was going to get up the courage to ask you to dance. I mean, a guy can only handle so much rejection from one person, so go easy on me if the answer is no.”

He’d added ice cubes and a splash of Pellegrino to the vodka in his glass while he spoke, and now he was stirring his drink and trying to gauge her response to his offer while he did so.  This was the closest he’d been to her in weeks, so he took the opportunity to study her while he awaited her answer.

Logan felt that, with her flawless skin and jet-black hair, Laina was the most exotic woman he’d ever laid eyes on. Her last name spoke of an Asian heritage, but he knew from a quick Google search that she had Italian roots too. He didn’t think she looked like she belonged to either ethnicity. No, she was definitely one of a kind. She studied him curiously with eyes that were somewhere between brown and green. He couldn’t decide which.

“Here you are. I knew you’d try to wriggle away when I turned my back.” Van had sidled up next to Laina, sliding his left arm around her waist protectively. He reached for a sip of her drink before handing it back to her with a wink.

Laina watched in amusement as Logan’s face fell just for a moment before he regained his composure. Van wasn’t through with him yet. “Who’s this, Laina?” He looked squarely at Logan. “Friend of the bride or groom?”

Logan steeled himself with a sip of his drink before extending his right hand in greeting. “Logan Matthews. I’m a friend to both actually, but I’m also the brother of the bride. And you are . . . ?”

Logan knew exactly who this man was. Chef Donovan Laird had been the talk of his dinner table, at least among the ladies, but Logan wasn’t going to give the man the pleasure of divulging that awareness. He’d heard his sister and India giggling about the handsome Scot and pondering whether there was anything going on between him and their mysterious girlfriend.

Apparently, there was.

Van just laughed, extending his own hand to meet Logan’s. “I’m Van. Nice to meet you. Your sister and brother-in-law are good people.”

Van turned his attention back to Laina. “Now, you promised me a dance, lass, and a dance we’ll have.”

He nodded at Logan, who mumbled something unintelligible as Van ushered Laina out toward the pulsating mob of revelers.  They hit the dance floor in time for a song that Laina loved, so they jumped right in.

Laina leaned forward to shout over the music into Van’s ear. “You enjoyed that, didn’t you?” She pulled back to watch the grin bloom across Van’s handsome face, and there was her answer.

He moved closer to respond. “I predicted that coming a mile away. I’ve seen the way he looks at you, and I know you’ve been doing your best to get him to bugger off since last summer. So I thought I’d help drive the point home.”

They laughed together, enjoying the freedom of cutting loose after such a long and stressful night of cooking. From all outward appearances, anyone would have thought they were a couple, thanks to their comfortable way with each other.

Logan was still watching from the edge of the dance floor, wondering how he’d read her so wrong. He knew Laina had been doing her best to avoid him, but he also thought he’d felt chemistry when she’d caught him staring at her during the ceremony.

He hadn’t been able to help himself.