Saturday, March 17, 2012

Diary of a Mad fat Girl by Stephanie McAfee

Diary of a Mad fat Girl. Stephanie McAfee. New American Library Trade Book. February 2012. 368 pages. ISBN: 9780451236494.

Ace Jones is one crazy, feisty, and funny gal! She has had a few very close friends who sheltered and comforted her when she lost her entire family in a very brief time, a fact that just might be a trust issue with Mason McKenzie who worships the ground she walks on as well as her chiweenie dog named Buster Loo! Oh why else would she turn him away?

Ace is working as an art teacher but haunted by a nasty principal itching to fire Ace and toting up every rule infraction Ace commits, of which there are a few, deliberately done, ahem? When the tyrant boss accuses Ace's best friend, Lily, of having sexual relations with a student, Ace is shocked beyond belief initially but then becomes determined to find out the truth behind the allegation.

Add to that another friend, Chloe, whose cheating husband has beaten her up so that she must be hospitalized, and Ace is out on a mission - proof of what a low-life Chloe's husband really is! At first Chloe asks for help but then as a true victim rejects any help, which doesn't stop Ace and Lily from surging forward on their mission, with the help of some police officers and a very rich old lady, who is a hoot in her own right!

For more about how this hilarious adventure progresses, you'll have to read about it yourself and it's well-worth the read! This diary is a light-hearted great read, and Stephanie McAfee has written a chick lit book that is guaranteed to make you want her to write more books as fun as this one! I'm still laughing, Ms. McAfee! Thank you!

From the Ashes by Jeremy Burns

From the Ashes. Jeremy Burns. The Fiction Studio - E-Book. January 2012. 403 pages. 628 KB.

Jonathan Rickner and his brother are very close but have not spoken frequently to each other because Michael Rickner has specialized in American history and Jon European history and when this novel opens, Australian. Michael says he has something to share with Jon, a something Michael never gets to tell because he is found dead in his apartment, although the crime has been written off by the police as a suicide! Which is it? Jon races back to Washington D.C. in shock and mind-numbing grief. The greater shock occurs when he hears from Michael's fiance and sees evidence that now leads him to believe Michael was murdered!

To say more would be a spoiler. But the mystery that slowly begins to emerge has to do with the relationship between German and America before the beginning of WWII, one that could shatter those who tell American history from a particular point of view. It's also one that a secret organization is racing to hide by finding and destroying the ultimate paper documents that would prove this to be fact rather than fiction. The Division will stop at nothing and will use any and all available persons to achieve their end!

But the plot goes awry when the head of the Division is faced with a terminal illness and one of the specially trained agents of the Division begins to "think" and "feel" about what his part is in this secret group who have more power than anyone could conceive.

How will what seems a straight-forward, simple plot be resolved? Fortunately, the simple becomes a complex, amazing plot that is fiction but could all too well be actual reality.

Jeremy Burns is a true espionage writer who knows when to ramp up the action and when to insert some provocative description in a well-balanced tapestry of historical, adventure-packed fiction. Well done, indeed, Jeremy Burns! 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cathy Maxwell's Married in Haste - March Madness Sale!



MARRIED IN HASTE Selling for $1.99 During Publisher’s“March Madness” E-Book Sale

3-16-2012, New York Metro Area--New York Times bestselling novelist Cathy Maxwell’s MARRIED IN HASTE is now on sale as an e-book for $1.99 as part of Avon Books’ “March Madness” sale, which continues through March 31.

MARRIED IN HASTE is the first book in Maxwell’s Marriage trilogy. It features three friends who discover love is never quite like people expect it to be. Upon its initial publication, Publishers Weekly praised MARRIED IN HASTE as “a well-wrought tale...a delicious read” and praised Maxwell’s “sympathetic protagonists and [the] engaging writing style characteristic of Maxwell’s Regency romances.” Her other Marriage novels are A Scandalous Marriage and The Marriage Contract.

Also this month, Avon Books is re-releasing Maxwell’s “masterful, joyous love story”* WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE. In May, with an on sale date of April 24th, LYON’S BRIDE, will launch Cathy Maxwell’s new The Chattan Curse trilogy. It be followed in November 2012 by The Scottish Devil.

For more about Cathy Maxwell, her books and her upcoming appearances, please visit her at and on Facebook.

*RT Book Reviews


Joan Schulhafer,, 973-338-7428

Camille Collins, Avon Books/HarperCollins,, 212-207-7601

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Leah by Dana K. Haffar

Leah. Dana K. Haffar. E-Book. November 2011. 505 KB. Available on all major E-Book store websites.

How could an 8 year-old young girl, Leah, known to be a skilled swimmer have drowned on the island of Puerto Franco, an event of catastrophic proportion to her mother, Cristina. Cristina is so distraught over the loss of her daughter that she cannot lay her to rest in symbolic form as there is no body to bury. As time passes, others believe the island has been cursed by Leah's death, and every terrible event only fuels the fire of fear and dislike of Cristina.

Years later, a young woman, Mar, and her daughter, Lemay, arrive at the island. Mar is taking time off from her womanizing and self-centered husband, time to actually foster her own artistic painting skills neglected for far too long. She has her own loss to contend with and a possible eye problem that might eventually result in blindness. They both begin to get to know the friendly native people, including a warm and welcoming woman who runs the cottage where the mother and daughter stay, the local fisherman, and some other strange and mysterious woman who play a large part in the eerie events to follow!

Things are pleasantly moving along when Mar experiences some strange events connected to the death of Leah, with messages that make no sense to Mar but which seem to forebode something dangerous about to happen. Sure enough, events begin to spiral out of control and culminate with jealous rages and physical assaults that are life-threatening. A secret revelation at the end will tie all these clues together, with a pace and skill that is superb and totally grips the reader's attention.

Leah is a well-crafted story told by a writer who deserves greater recognition and applause! Superb novel, Ms. Haffar!




Welcome, Mary!

Before we talk about BEFORE SHE DIES, your latest Alexandria set novel, please tell me—is it true the first two books in the series, Senseless and Merciless, were the best selling of all of your books so far?
Yes. And, as you can imagine, I’m delighted. I always hope each book will help me reach new readers and it’s great to see it continue to happen.

Your last few books were all set in your home town of Richmond, weren’t they?
Yes. I really enjoyed creating a bit of havoc close to home—and being able to actually go check out the settings for some key scenes without having to pack a bag.

Why did you move on to Alexandria?
I had a great job offer in Northern Virginia, and I’d always liked visiting my grandparents when they’d lived in Alexandria. I really enjoyed our four years in the city—it’s incredibly diverse. I’d always wanted to set a story there and when the time came for a new setting Alexandria fit the bill.

You brought some characters with you when you “changed venues,” didn’t you?
Richmond detective Malcolm Kier was a favorite among readers, so I had him move on with me for the series. He transferred to the Alexandria Police Department’s Homicide Unit where he teamed up with Detective Deacon Garrison.

Are they in BEFORE SHE DIES?
Tangentially, yes. They’re both part of Charlotte Wellington and Daniel Rokov’s story. Deacon and Eva Rayburn from Senseless are still together, but only Deacon makes an appearance in this book, as does Malcolm. Angie Carlson is there, as well. You may recall that Charlotte was Angie’s boss—both are high powered attorneys. Angie actually appears in a series of phone calls, and her scenes are a big part of moving the story forward.

Do all these relationships get confusing?
Apparently only to me. Readers don’t seem to have any problem remembering who’s who, where they first met them and who their favorites are.

Why did you decide to tell Charlotte’s story this time around?
I had to! You know, she was first a character in Silver Bells, the holiday anthology I worked on with Fern Michaels, JoAnn Ross and Judy Duarte—which was the first time my name and work appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. My novella was Christmas Past and Charlotte was a walk-on character that I didn’t expect to see again. But readers loved her and I couldn’t forget her—or ignore her. She stayed in my mind, so when I moved the books to Alexandria it made sense to include Charlotte. By the time I finished writing Senseless and Merciless, it was clear—Charlotte had to have her own story and she had to have a strong hero. Enter Detective Daniel Rokov, a man quite willing to go toe-to-toe with Charlotte at her most irascible.

Having the traveling carnival as part of the plot works really well, bringing a lot of color and background to the story. Where did that come from? Why does it seem so perfect for this story?
I used to love it when the carnival came to town when I was a kid. It all seemed so magical. The lights. The rides. The characters. When I got older and saw a carnival being set up during daylight I saw that it wasn’t quite so magical in the sunlight. The night hides a lot of fading and cracked paint. The fact that one place could be so different in a twenty four hour period really spoke to me.

Your serial killer is determined to save souls—to make victims confess and beg for forgiveness. I know you’re writing fiction, but I’m wondering if during your research into the motives of criminals—especially multiple killers—you’ve seen a quest for redemption as something that recurs in actual cases?
When I build my villains I try to give them as much care and attention as the hero and heroine. I’m not so sure if there is a softer side to real life killers but in novels it works for me to give the bad guys a bit of nobility, even if it is only in their own minds.

Reviews for all three novels have been absolutely glowing. One says Senseless will appeal to fans of Stieg Larson (Publishers Weekly). BEFORE SHE DIES is called a “page turner” by RT Book Reviews and in its starred review Publishers Weekly says it “will have readers sleeping with the lights on.” Certainly, your work has been praised in the past, but attention seems to have ratcheted up, both in volume and accolades. Do you agree? How important are reviews to you?
It’s always wonderful to get nice reviews. It’s very gratifying to know that the work you’ve put so much effort into is recognized. I do seem to be getting more recognition these days and that’s great. It really does feel good to hear from readers who tell you they couldn’t put your book down.
But once I’ve read any kind of review or praise I put them aside so that I can get back to the work in front of me. Most days my total focus is the current book I’m writing. It always seems I’m completely distracted by character motivations, timelines, plot devices, you name it.

I know you research extensively as regards law enforcement procedure to make sure your stories are realistic and believable. How does that influence your writing?
Focusing on the reality of police work helps to keep me grounded. I challenge myself to solve the problems I create in a way I believe a real police officer might. And, considering the resources available to most police departments, I have to do my best to solve the crimes with good detective work and not so much on fancy DNA tests or high tech forensic equipment.

You frequently deal with issues of family, belonging and your characters’ own sense of identity. Is it simply because that makes for great fiction or do you see this as something many people face? If so, do you believe people confront these sorts of issues in today’s society more so than in the past?
We all have family. And most of us have shared joys and frustrations with family. It’s universal. It made sense that my heroes, heroines and even villains would have the same struggles as you or I. For me, family makes characters more believable. I’m not sure people confront issues better today than yesterday. Some of us do a better job than others. But emotions can be difficult and sloppy. And I think it’s fun and satisfying to read about characters who tackle problems head on or who say what’s on their mind.

What’s next?
I’m tackling a new book now called The Seventh Victim. It’s set in Austin, Texas and will be published in February 2013.

Thanks, Mary!,,

Mary Burton
Zebra Books/Mass Market Original/Fiction
February 2012/On Sale 1-31-12/$7.99 ($8.99 Canada)

SENSELESS by Mary Burton/Zebra Books/$6.99 ($8.99 Canada), 978-1-4201-1019-7
MERCILESS by Mary Burton/Zebra Books/$6.99 ($8.99 Canada), 978-1-4201-1020-3

CONTACT: Joan Schulhafer, Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting, 973-338-7428, and Vida Engstrand, Kensington Books, 212-407-1573,

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Golden Hour by Margaret Wuertele

The Golden Hour. Margaret Wuertele. NAL Trade Book. February 2012. 212 pages. ISBN #: 9780451237088.

Giovanna Bellini is a very young 17 year old at the opening of this story occurring in 1944 Tuscany, Italy. The Germans have taken over Italy and confiscated the bottom floor of the Bellini home as residence for German soldiers. Giovanni really hasn't absorbed the horrors that the Nazis have perpetrated across Europe and are continuing to do so in her native land. But she is unfortunately about to learn, the hard way!

First, she falls into an infatuation love affair with a German soldier and stops just short of sleeping with him when she is caught by the nuns who have taught her up to now. Then her role in the war truly begins when her partisan brother, Giorgio, talks her into collecting food and supplies for him and his colleagues secretly working against the Nazis. Her relationship with her parents begins to erode because they continue to treat her like the child she has always been.

Giovanni's real taste of war begins on encountering wounded Italian soldiers, including a Jewish Italian soldier with whom she truly falls in love. She must steal and lie to complete her mission of healing and helping, learning whom she can trust to help her project and whom she must avoid. Despite one event in which her former German love mercifully lets her go after realizing who she is hiding and why, Giovanna learns of the treatment of the Jews. Her break with her parents widens on her 18th birthday in which she confronts her father with his former role in supporting the Fascists and their treatment of Jewish businessmen, as well as his unrelenting attitude to her new love and commitment to marry that man.

The Golden Hour is a page turner one won't soon forget. While Giovanna appears to be quite naive for a 17 year old, one can understand her unintelligent mistakes in the vein of being a sheltered child whose parents live in an elite world that is gone forever! She grows up quickly, becoming a courageous, compassionate person who contributes much to the war effort. Finely told, Ms. Wuertele!

The Ninth Step: A Novel by Barbara Taylor Sissel

The Ninth Step: A Novel. Barbara Taylor Sissel. Amazon Digital Services. 449KB. ASIN #: BOO5KDCOCE.

Livie Saunders was left at the altar on the day of her wedding and has never recovered. She compensates by dressing up and spending the night with other lovers who are absolutely nothing to her. For the love of her life, Cotton O'Dell, is gone; and while she can't forgive him, she can't forget him as well, that is until the day he returns as quite a different young man.

As the novel proceeds, this reviewer realized the story was really about Cotton, a fact that leaves one with a a bit of confusion but which is a worthy story in itself and should have begun in that vein. For Cotton now lives his life based on the title's step of Alcoholics Anonymous, even though he has no interest at all in any of the other steps of the program. The ninth step is enough to stop his drinking even in the most stressful moments in this story, of which there are many. So the reader learns about Cotton's past, of which he is deeply ashamed, and how he plans to make amends. However, life interferes with intriguing characters and the story continues to quite a different ending from the expected one, with some very poignant moments and sad events in between.

This is an interesting novel because although the surface meaning is apparent, it goes beyond to the motives and personality of the addict. In other words, we learn the patterns leading to the addiction that must be faced and reconciled with one's new drink-free existence. For that alone, this reviewer thinks this is a very valuable story and interesting one in that vein, with characters who move on from unbelievable pain to grow and those who don't!

Remarkable worthy story, Ms. Sissel!

Fury of Fire by Coreene Callahan

Fury of Fire. Coreene Callahan. Montlake Romance. February 2012. 422 pages. ISBN #: 9781612182728.

Bastian and Rikar are dragons appearing in the guise of humans. They are on a mission to save their race from extinction, one in which they must unite with a human to produce more half-dragon-half-human sons. However, the focus of his mission is diverted when he meets Myst, a fiery woman passionate about her medical calling to save every precious life. While she struggles to save the life of a mother and child, the scent of death and life reaches both dragons. They rush to the scene where Myst is able to save the child but not the mother. Another danger looms, however, Bastian besotted with this woman and putting off the deed he knows he must accomplish and instead taking Myst and the baby to safety!

Other dragons under the leadership of Ivar do display that shred of compassion and care. For Ivar is in charge of constructing a lab where his plans will develop to threaten the existence of all humanity. Thus begins the race to survival for every character in this fast-paced thriller story. These are dragons that possess the power to freeze or burn whatever thwarts their purposes, a mystery humans don't understand but are attempting to figure out and conquer.

The feelings grow between Myst and Bastian, in between numerous battles involving Ivar and his cronies and humans. Many lives are lost, but the fire between Myst and Bastian grows and grows and grows until it is banked in their fiery union, where the unexpected happens. Sex with a dragon is also consuming, satisfying both but also increasing the desire for more to an almost unbearable crescendo!

How will it all be resolved or ended? Coreene Callahan has written a fantasy novel sure to thrill lovers of this genre, as well as those who love a fierce, lusty romance story!  

Before She Dies by Mary Burton

Before She Dies. Mary Burton. Zebra Books. February 2012. 416 pages. ISBN #: 9781420110210.

Charlotte is determined to let nothing get in the way of justice! After a night of sex with colleague Rokov in which he hopes for more in their relationship and she hopes for nothing, they are called to the site of a grisly murder. It's clearly one with occult connections as the body's appearance reveals, a startling sight, a case which Rokov will be struggling to solve and close.

Charlotte has the reputation of a no-nonsense, effective lawyer whose world is about to become unraveled when Grady Tate appears and asks Charlotte to help with a shop-lifting case. Her inner alarm bells are ringing loudly and clearly as she knows Grady is up to no good, and she's petrified that her secret past could be exposed. She's related to this man indirectly and directly through past acts of greed and manipulation; and she knows that he is up to something much larger than what she experienced. Charlotte juggles this riddle with Rokov's attentive expectations of more than just nights of passionate sex - which Charlotte both loves and hates!

How real was her role in the carnival years before when as a fortune teller she uttered a prediction and showed fear before an eerie character who repulsed her tremendously with his twisted looks? How will that one day cause havoc for unknown victims years in the future, including the murders of two innocent woman? And just why is Charlotte so ashamed of that past? What pain is she carrying which increases when she finds out that Grady has another naieve young woman who is now playing the "Madame Divine" role. Grady is using that woman to achieve a final grisly goal that eventually will thrill and shock the reader with its twisted method and end result.

Mary Burton is a pro at creating riveting, intense, mysterious, and thrilling crime fiction! Before She Dies is one more testament to the talented skills that deserves a wide audience and recognition! Should be a best seller!!!