Pride of Eden @taybrown @StMartinsPress #animals #sanctuary #fantasy #africa #georgia @absltmom

When I was much younger, I would visit a zoo, and other places where animals were displayed and be happy to see those bars that held them back from me. They couldn’t hurt me, but as I grew older, I soon realized how awful it was to cage these animals. My heart would break and as I looked intently at these creatures, I saw sadness, a deep sadness that entrapped behind these bars was a way of life for these creatures. Those feeling made this book even more heart rending for me. For they, unlike me, could never go home again.

Pride of Eden
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Eastern Colorado

Anse Caulfield is a rescuer. He is a Vietnam veteran, intent on his mission of being a man who saves exotic animals. He has established a sanctuary for lions, elephants, and other exotic animals and has called it Little Eden. There the animals are provided for, given love, attention, and most of all an environment of semi freedom. When Anse’s prize lion escapes and is killed by an assistant, it sets in motion a deep desire in Anse to replace this beloved animal.

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There are not only animals in the world of Little Eden. There are other people dedicated to the lives of the animals they save and rescue, even if not legal, their intent is the life of the creatures they have sworn to guard. There is Malaya, a former soldier, once a chaser of people who poached animals in Africa. There is Tyler, a veterinarian, important to Anse and much more than a doctor to his charges, and there is Lope, a falconer, a worker of drones. These people live their lives in service to the animals in their care and engage in a conflict to rescue animals trapped in lives of desperation, hunted for their body parts, their trophy value, their breeding ability, and as a lure or deterrent to nefarious business dealings.

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There are notes of fantasy as Taylor Brown seems to crawl into the minds and hearts of not only his characters, but also the animals of the present and past. It is a tribute to what animals once were, where they came from, and how they roamed this planet free with the power of life within them. It’s a look at the earth we now occupy where animals are often valued for what they can bring to their owners in the way of money, trapped in a world not of their making, having no way to escape. It is a sad commentary of where we are and how no matter what we seem to do, animals of the past, present and future are in danger. …..and is it not so that we, too, are animals? Are we not in the same kind of danger as our animals?

I recommend this beautifully written story to all those who not only love animals but also fear for the future of all. It is a tale containing harshness and riveting detail that is often times hard to read as often the truth is. It is the story of life, of dedication, of a person crying in the wilderness for the creatures of the past, present, and what is to come.

Thank you to Taylor Brown, St Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for a copy of this book due out on March, 20, 2020.

and here’s the author:

TAYLOR BROWN grew up on the Georgia coast. He is the author of a short story collection, In the Season of Blood and Gold (Press 53, 2014), as well as three novels:  Fallen Land (St. Martin’s Press, 2016), The River of Kings (St. Martin’s Press, 2017), and Gods of Howl Mountain (St. Martin’s Press, 2018)–all finalists for the Southern Book Prize.  Taylor, an Eagle Scout, graduated from the University of Georgia in 2005.  He settled in Wilmington, NC, after long stints in Buenos Aires, San Francisco, and the mountains of North Carolina.  He is the editor-in-chief of, and he likes old motorcycles, thunderstorms, and dogs with beards. His fourth novel, The Pride of Eden, will be published in 2020.

Eight Perfect Murders @peterswanson3 @WmMorrowBooks #mystery #cunning #duoreviews #fictionfriends @JanBelisle @absltmom

Eight Perfect Murders

It was mystery time for this duo of reading friends. So when we were able to secure a copy of the new Peter Swanson book, Eight Perfect Murders, Jan and I were definitely on board and ready to be involved in a mystery story so bizarre and strange that it turned into a book that was hard to put down.

Jan’s review

One Across, Two Down by Ruth Rendell — Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists

What a clever homage to the classic murder mystery! The author’s love shines through in these pages. Don’t come expecting a police procedural with the latest in forensic science. But come expecting to be thoroughly entertained. I have a particular love for the mystery authors of old like Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, and Ruth Rendell, and I binge-read most of them in my 20s. But modern day mystery authors, such as Donna Tartt, gets a nod too, so this book ticked all my boxes.

My Cat Likes to Work in Bookstores!

What could be more perfect than a mystery bookstore owner with an in-house cat named Nero (Nero Wolf)?  There are literary references throughout the book, which made me want to drop what I was doing and read (or re-read) every book mentioned. I have a list.


Speaking of lists….Mal, the bookstore owner, is a widower who lost his wife in an unfortunate accident, and spends his evenings alone drinking craft beer and reading. His life is upended when he is contacted by the FBI, who suspects that a serial murderer is using his blog post, Eight Perfect Murders, which lists the eight perfect murders in fiction, as a blueprint for the murders.

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As Mal becomes entwined in the investigation it becomes clear there is quite a tangled web to unweave. Along the way we learn bits and pieces of Mal’s life and backstory. There was a moment where I thought the story was going in a direction I couldn’t get behind but the author was clever enough to fool me and the ending was perfection. 

This was a buddy read with my friend, Marialyce, and we enjoyed our discussion, especially of the ending.

I loved this clever, fun  book and highly recommend it for avid fans of the mystery genre. I think those who have a true love for the craft will love this book. I closed the last page with a better knowledge and appreciation for classic murder/crime books. 

 I loved the author’s book, The Kind Worth Killing. This book has once again made me a fan of Peter Swanson. 

·     I received a copy of the book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review

The Kind Worth Killing

Marialyce’s Review

Having really enjoyed this author’s The Kind Worth Killing, I was super anxious to take on this new story as it seemed to possess all the elements one loves in their mystery stories. It was quite the story and a bit of a cautionary tale for those of us who blog and make lists.

The A.B.C. Murders (Hercule Poirot, #13)
The Secret History

In this book, we meet a book store owner, Malcolm Kershaw, who years ago had compiled a list of the perfect murders found in various books, ranging from Agatha Christie to Donna Tart with many of the creme de la creme authors we think of today when the word mystery comes to mind. Who knew that now, in the present day, an FBI agent, Gwen, makes what seems to be a connection between Mal’s list and murders that have been carried out. Strange but seemingly true, Mal finds himself being drawn deeper and deeper into a web where the spider, aka the murderer, seems to be well acquainted with Mal, even to the point of the death of Mal’s wife. As in all good mysteries of all, there are a plethora of suspects.

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It’s a game of cat and mouse and as the noose seems to be getting tighter around Mal’s neck, we see twists and turns in the story that we didn’t see coming. How can this murderer know so much about Mal, and why is it that he is being drawn in closer and closer to the danger that might eventually lead to his demise?

The story, told with lots of references to previous murder mystery stories was such a clever way to present the story with all its evil and the realization that what we have in this story is a bona fide serial killer. The movement of the book through the various scenarios gives us an appreciation for the authors that Mr Swanson included in this tale and gave it a definite “mystery of a bygone day” feel. However, be cautioned that if you have not read these books, many of the murderers are given away by Mal’s musings over the list and its contents.

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I do recommend this book to all those who love that mystery that weaves a pattern around what you think is happening and then blows you away. You can think you are pretty smart and have your killer nailed down, but you will be in for that inevitable surprise. With a nod to the past, Mr Swanson has created a wonderful book for those of us who love a mystery, and who doesn’t?

Thank you to Peter Swanson, William Morrow Books, and Edelweiss for an advanced copy of this book due out on February 5, 2020.

and here’s the author

Peter Swanson

The Other People @cjtudor @Penguin Books #thriller #mystery #intrigue #fictionfriends #duoreviews @JanBelisle @absltmom

For many of we book lovers getting a new book to read is like Christmas morning. Receiving an Arc of C. J. Tudor’s newest book was for Jan and I Christmas come early. With lots of excitement and our love for her previous books, we jumped into this one, and were not disappointed.

Jan’s review

Candy Girl | Scary Website

Told from three points of view, this is a multi-layered plot that will have you flipping the pages to find out what happens next. Gabe’s wife, Jenny, and their young daughter, Izzy, were murdered in their home three years ago but Gabe is convinced that Izzy is still alive after he sees her in the back of a car. Despite no one believing him, and a father-in-law who identified the bodies of his wife and daughter, he has devoted his life to searching for her. The second POV is a woman and her daughter who are on the run from an unnamed threat. And finally, we have the waitress who often waits on Gabe at the restaurant where she works.

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All three characters are dealing with grief and loss. Their stories will come together and intersect in surprising ways. I won’t ruin the fun for readers by giving away any more of the plot. It’s best discovered on your own.

Readers who enjoy complicated plots, a fair bit of coincidence, and who don’t have a problem with suspending disbelief will find much to enjoy. Be aware there are  some supernatural elements, but it was a minor element. This was a buddy read with Marialyce and one we both enjoyed. We both agree that C.J. Tudor writes very well and the different plot lines came together quite nicely.     

Many thanks to the publisher for a digital copy of the book for review

Marialyce’s review

Texas Leads Nation in Child Hot Car Deaths | Shamieh Law

Imagine seeing your young daughter, for a fleeting moment, in the window of another vehicle and wondering why she would be there. You question yourself, you wonder why, you give chase only to lose the car in which you think she is in …..and then you receive a phone call that will alter your life.

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For Gabe this is his reality and when it is found that his wife and child have been brutally murdered, what he thought he saw can not be. Gabe becomes a suspect and yet time can not erase what he thinks he saw and his heart and mind will not let him forget. To Gabe, his daughter is out there but all signs point to the fact that she is gone forever. Even her grandfather, a retired doctor, called to identify his daughter and granddaughter find that both are gone. And yet Gabe knows or at least think he knows and three years later he is still on the hunt for a daughter he just won’t forget.

As Gabe travels the roads and byways in his eternal search, he meets Katie, a waitress in a service station. She too, has lost a loved one as her father was murdered. Gabe, who she refers to as the thin man, strike up a tenuous relationship and as the story continues Katie’s life as well as her sister, Fran, and her mysterious daughter, becomes woven into a tale so clever and insidious that it’s difficult to put this book aside as you become witness to a tale of cunning, deceit, and of course huge surprises along the way.

C. J. Tudor has once again captured my imagination and created a brilliant story filled with intricate details that are woven together flawlessly. It is a tale that will have you addicted from page one. If you are a lover of a story that thrills you on every twist and turn of the plot, then this is one not to miss.

Thank you to C.J. Tudor who again gave me a sleepless night burning that midnight oil, Penguin Books, and NetGalley for providing an advanced copy of this engrossing read.

Thank you also to Holly B, a wonderful book friend, who forwarded her copy of this story to me.

and here’s the author–j–tudor.html

Alone in the Wild (Rockton #5) @KellyArmstrong @StMartinsPress #Rockton #survival #mystery #suspense #caseyduncanseries @absltmom

Looking once again to create all the fun and intrigue of the past four books in this series, I was very happy to receive an advanced copy of this book. Once again, I was not disappointed as I followed the adventures of Casey and Dalton, as they root out evil from a faraway place called Rockton. It was to be another exciting ride into the wilds of the Yukon and one in which many of the strange but somehow alluring characters reappear.

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How could one hear a baby’s cry in the woods of the inhospitable Yukon? As Casey and Dalton were away for a bit of a vacation from the frantic pace of Rockton and its many nefarious residents, Casey hears something. It couldn’t be a baby, it must be an animal. However, upon tracking the sound Casey not only finds a baby, but also a dead woman covering the infant as a last attempt to keep it safe.

Bicycle Touring in Beaver Creek to Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada

The mystery begins as both Casey and Dalton wonder where this child came from, who are the parents, and how could anyone leave an infant to such a fate? As they search and delve into this event, more about the outer settlements from Rockton are revealed and we begin to understand the way of life in the frozen wild is indeed very different from the world we know.

Once again, Kelley Armstrong has written an intriguing story that keeps the momentum going in this series. Her characters, many of which were definitely odious in their past lives, are seen in a light that, while not always complimentary, makes them people that we come to know and perhaps even like. She reveals more and more of her main characters’s personalities, and the love story between Casey and Dalton adds a bit of spice to the tale.

If you have read the other four books, you definitely need to set time aside for this one, as you will not be disappointed. It is a riveting gripping tale that grabs you from the onset to the very last page. If you are looking for a terrific captivating series then this series is definitely recommended.

Thank you to Kelley Armstrong, St Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for a copy of this absorbing tale. This book is due out February 4, 2020

and here’s the author

Kelley Armstrong

Ordinary Girls @AlgonquinBooks #memoir, #puertorico #miami #drugs #runaway #mentalillness #family #friendsrelationship @absltmom

Ordinary Girls

There are some people’s lives that once you hear their story, you wonder how could it be that they survived. Their story is so harrowing, so filled with tragedy and a life that is tarnished, agonizing, and traumatic, that it’s a wonder how they rose to face the next day. Is there the intervention of God, is there a will to survive, or is it simply that the dice were rolled and it was decided they would live?

“We were happy once.”

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Jaquira Diaz for all intents and purposes had a hell of an upbringing, that is if you term it as an upbringing. Born in Puerto Rico, into poverty, her mother, eventually diagnosed as a schizophrenic, and an absentee father, made for a painful and terrifying childhood. They were poor, dirt poor, and so Jacqui became a kid from the streets.

”The five of us were the kind of poor you could feel in your bones, in your teeth, in your stomach. Empty-refrigerator poor. Sleeping-on-the-floor-until-somebody-threw-out-a-sofabed poor. Stirring-sugar-into-water-and-calling-it-lemonade poor. And then we’d take off again, like runaways. One apartment, and then another, and then another, never staying long enough to put up a picture, leaving while the place still smelled like the people who lived there before us.”

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At the age where other young girls were playing with dolls, Jaquira ran with the wild crowd, and why not for there was no one who seemed to care what she did or where she went. She was tortured by her brother who at one point punched her so hard that she had auditory problems that would persist always. Her mother was for lack of a better word was insane, sometimes taking her medication, but often she was on the streets prostituting herself for a drink, a drug, a cigarette, searching for the acclaim she felt belonged to her. Her father was a womanizer, who couldn’t seem to be bothered to try and care for his children as he should. The one member of Jaquira’s family who seemed to “give a dam” was her grandmother but even that care was fleeting and lacking.

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Even when the family moved to Miami, Jaquira’s life was in turmoil as she bounced from a place with her mentally ill mother, to her father who seemed to drift in and out of her life like a breeze blowing through, not seeming to care about the fate of his daughter. She would wind up in flop houses, on the beach or in a jail cell. She was to all a lost cause, a piece of dirt rolling though life, and one that eventually would be swept away.

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Jaquira was wild, the drinking, the drugs, the sex, the quest for the next thrill, the next dare, the next time she would land in jail seemed to be her fate. This life was one we read about in the news. Her destiny seemed to be death at a young age, and a life ever so wasted. She was tormented by so many devils, never seeming to be able to climb above as the streets kept her pulled into the gutter and guaranteeing a young demise. How could she turn this all around and become an author? She was a child who at best attended school randomly, a throw away kid, not worth the time or even the effort to try and straighten out. Yet there were some who tried over the years that Jacqui ran on the side of danger and mayhem. There were friends, but many of them also were catastrophes in the making. With so much stacked against her, Jaquira seemed doomed and yet she had a talent and that talent was writing and as she pulled herself up and found the meaning of school and an education, she achieved what most would have thought impossible.

This was a harrowing memoir, one that had disaster written all over it, and yet the words and the stories seemed authentic. Many memoirs have that questionable element, but to me, this one seemed like the real deal. As I read the pages, my mind kept wondering how the heck did this girl survive? It is a testament to the human spirit and of course to Jaquira herself that she was able to journey onto a road where her dignity, her mind, her heart, and of course her writing has been allowed to trek. he only thing I sometimes found was that the telling was choppy, lending at times the reader to lose exactly where in Jaquira’s life we were reading of.

I definitely recommend this story to those who are looking for a convincing and creditable story of a life that many would have thought was ended before it even started.

Thank you to Jacquira Diaz, Debra Linn, Rachel Gryder, First Readers Club, and Algonquin Books for forwarding a copy of this book to me. This book is due to be published on October 29,2019.

and here’s the author

The World That We Knew @hoffmanwriter @simonandschuster #ww2 #holocaust #mysticism #magic #fairytale #jewishfolklore @absltmom

The World That We Knew

When looking for a book that seamlessly combines mysticism, Jewish folklore, magic, and reality, one should look no further than an Alice Hoffman book. In this, her newest book, Ms Hoffman combines a tale of magic with a story of the Holocaust and creates a narrative that is spellbinding and emotional.

“If you are loved, you never lose the person who loved you. You carry them with you all your life.”

Jews from the Lodz ghetto are loaded onto freight trains for deportation to the Chelmno killing center. [LCID: 02625]

As a parent, we always want to keep our children safe. I think as a mother it is an intrinsic part of our DNA to want to nurture and save our children from the inherent dangers of the world we live in. So it was for Hanni Kohn, whose daughter, Lea is in danger. For this is a family of Jews, and the tempest of what is to be are blowing their ill winds in their direction. How can Hanni save her beloved daughter though is the issue but when she goes to a well known rabbi seeking help, it is his daughter, Ettie, who provides the path to embark upon. For it is Ettie who is able to create a golum, made of clay and breathed into this world as a woman, whose purpose is to protect and defend Lea. It is a time of great sorrow for the Holocaust is upon them and Jews are being rounded up at all hours of the day and night to be transported and eventually exterminated.

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The stoy centers on three women, Ana, the created golum charged with Lea’s protection, Lea, and Etti. Lea and Ana travel to a convent from Paris where Lea meets a young boy she is destined to love. Ana also meets something to love in the form of a heron, who comes to her bidding and dances with Ana in the moonlight. They fall in love as well, the perfect blending of the mystical and the beauty of this glorious bird who does Ana’s bidding. Etti, meanwhile is in hiding until the time comes for her to be the fighter she is destined to be.

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This is indeed a riveting tale, one where death is around every corner, where the loss of a mother is so intertwined with a young life being led. It is the story of the mystical, the magical, and most of all the ability to feel that in so much loss, there is and can be happiness. Stay alive is the goal. Be someone to witness the tragedies. Be a reminder of what a world full of hatred can do, but most of all remember from where you came, who you are, and how through the love of a mother the magical became reality and the love was passed from a creature created from clay to a daughter made of flesh and blood.

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A truly remarkable story that will appeal to those who find magic in life and love, and the healing that comes from where and when we least expect it. Do yourself a favor and do not miss this book. It will, in all its sadness, make you happy to be a witness to this story.

and here’s the author

Interview starts at 4minutes 45 seconds

The Other Mrs. @MaryKubica @HarperCollins #intrigue #tension #thriller #fictionfriends #duoreviews @JanBelisle @absltmom

When Jan and I received an invitation to read Mary Kubica’s newest book we were quite happy and ready to dive right in as we needed a thriller that was thrilling and not one of the mediocre fare that seems to be floating around. So with lots of anticipation, and enjoying her previous books, we got down to business and read this book in three days. Now that’s a telling sign.

The Other Mrs.

Jan’s review

3.5 stars, rounded up to 4

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Is there anything more creepy than an old decrepit house on an isolated island off the coast of Maine in the dead of winter? Sadie, her husband Will, and their two boys move to Maine when his sister dies and they inherit the house and take custody of his teenage niece. It’s a chance at a fresh start for the family, who has had their share of trouble.

Told through three points of view, strange things soon begin happening, not the least of which is their next door neighbor is murdered. Sadie becomes a person of interest and it becomes clear that someone in Sadie and Will’s household may be responsible for murder.  But who? There’s no lack of suspects, and I had no idea who to trust. I don’t want to give away too many details, as they are best discovered as the story unfolds.

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 I read this as a buddy read with Marialyce and we both enjoyed this one. It kept us engaged and guessing.  However, at the end the author took the story in a direction that required a fair bit of suspension of disbelief, especially for those of us in the medical field. Still, it’s a solid thriller that may not wow seasoned thriller fans but if you can set aside your inner critic the pacing is solid and it’s a perfect way to while away a few hours.  Netflix has bought the movie rights and I think it will make a terrific movie.

* I received a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Marialyce’s review

A Haunted House on Staten Island

Imagine inheriting a house located on an island off the coast of Maine. A new home can offer so much, an escape from some painful happenings in one’s life, a new beginning, a time to restart a life that seems to have gone haywire.

For Sadie, a doctor, her husband Will, a professor, and their children it seemed like perhaps exactly what they needed. In inheriting the house from Will’s deceased sister, a victim of suicide, they also take on the responsibility of caring for Will’s niece, Imogen, who seems to have a plethora of issues.

The house has that sinister vibe and when the next door neighbor is murdered, it sets in motion a disastrous set of circumstances that seems to point to one of them as the culprit.

Sadie is worried about all of them, a one time unfaithful husband, a son who has been bullied and through an incident at school had been expelled, a niece who is recalcitrant and moody, and herself who seems to have an inability to remember details. of things that supposedly happened to her. Sadie is fearful that her life and the lives of those around her are threatened.

Tension - 3D character illustrations - Free image

As tension rises and things spiral out of control, it seems that one and then another of the house occupants is a cold blooded murderer. But who is it, and why is it that Sadie seems to be the person the police are most interested in?

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This was a fast paced thriller that kept one guessing throughout the entire story. A bit implausible at times, with a few plot holes, this story however, was one that held my interest and made me enjoy the eerie journey this family embarked upon. The ending was perfect and one that certainly held a surprise. Recommended for those who like thrillers and recognize they are meant to entertain and are definitely and firmly a piece of fiction.

Thank you to Mary Kubica, Harper Collins, and Edelweiss for an advanced copy of this book due out on February 20, 2020

and here’s the author

Interview starts at about 3 minutes.