5Ws with Nancy Allen

We’re starting off the week with a 5Ws interview with Nancy Allen about her legal thriller The Code of the Hills. Don’t forget to return tomorrow for my review and a chance to enter and win your own copy.

The Code of the Hills

by Nancy Allen

on Tour April 14 – May 16, 2014

Book Details:

Genre: Legal Thriller
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Number of Pages: 400
ISBN: 9780062325945

Purchase Links:


A powerful debut thriller set in the Ozark hills, about a young female prosecutor trying to do right by her vulnerable clients-but by breaking their silence, she herself may fall victim to THE CODE OF THE HILLS.

Elsie Arnold may not always have it all together, but a raucous night at the bar now and then is just how she blows off steam after a long week of hard-fought trials. When she is chosen to assist on a high-profile incest case, Elsie is excited to step up after four years of hard work as an attorney for the prosecutor’s office, and ready to realize her ambition of becoming the Ozarks’ avenging angel. There might even be media attention.

But as soon as Elsie she begins to sink her teeth into the State of Missouri vs. Kris Taney, things start to go wrong -which is when her boss dumps the entire case on her. The star witness and victim’s brother, who has accused Taney of sexually abusing his three daughters, has gone missing. The three girls, ages six, 12, and 15, may not be fit to testify, their mother won’t talk, and the evidence is spotty. To make matters worse, it seems that some people in town don’t want Elsie to lock Taney up – judging by the death threats and chicken parts left for her to find.

Elsie is determined to break the code of silence and find out what really happened, refusing to let a sex offender walk, but the odds – and maybe the community – are against her. Even as Elsie fights the good fight for her clients, she isn’t so different from them: her personal life is taking a one-two punch as her cop boyfriend becomes more and more controlling. And amidst all of the conflict, the safety of the three young Taney girls hangs in the balance.

Read an excerpt:

Tiffany picked up the tiny pink plastic brush and ran it through the Barbie’s silky hair. Smoothing the blond hairdo with her hand, she turned the new doll around to closely inspect every detail of its face and figure. She’d never owned a new Barbie before, just had to make do with cast-off dolls her older sisters passed down: old Barbies with missing clothes and limbs and ragged hair.

This doll was a Christmas gift, but it had to be a secret, because Tiffany’s daddy wouldn’t like it. Daddy didn’t hold with Christmas; he said it was a waste of money. When it came to presents and such, they kept their mouths shut if they knew what was good for them.

But the PTA ladies from Tiffany’s school delivered a basket on Christmas Eve, when Daddy was out. Mom wouldn’t have been allowed to open the door to them if he was home, because Daddy and Uncle Al didn’t like people snooping around.

So when they spied the new Barbie in the box sitting on top of the canned goods, her mom told her to grab it and get it out of sight, because Daddy would take it back to the store and swap it for money if it was still in its plastic box.

Tiffany got it out in the nick of time, right before Tiffany’s daddy and Al came home with a bottle. The men sat on the front steps, drinking and laughing until the liquor ran out. Then the fighting started, and Daddy beat Al up pretty good. Storming from the house with his face dripping blood, Al yelled about getting even. Mom said the commotion was likely to bring the police down on them. Then Daddy said he’d teach her a lesson about back-sassing.

Tiffany ran upstairs so she wouldn’t have to watch it. She took the Barbie to bed with her and stuck it under her T-shirt for safekeeping.

The next afternoon, on Christmas Day, Tiffany hid with her new Barbie, whispering secrets into her plastic ear. Huddled against the tattered back of the couch, she heard heavy footsteps stride through the living room. Tiffany froze, hardly daring to breathe, as her dad stomped into the kitchen.

The feet returned to the living room. She could see his scuffed toes when she peeked under the couch.

“Where the hell is Charlene?” he demanded.

Tiffany’s mom called from the kitchen. “She’s out back. What do you want her for?”

“I want a rubdown.”

“She don’t like to,” her mom responded in a hoarse whisper, tiptoeing into the room. The silence that followed was terrible. Tiffany could imagine the expression on his face. When he said, “I ain’t gonna tell you again,” her mom went to the kitchen window and called for Charlene.

Charlene came inside. When he took her to the bedroom and shut the door, she didn’t put up a fight. It was just as well. Charlene would have to do it anyway, and she’d buy trouble if she made a fuss. Still, noises came from behind the door. Tiffany stuck her fingers in her ears and hid her face on her knees. She could stay right in that spot and no one would know she was there. She wouldn’t make a sound.


The ringing woke Elsie from a restless sleep. She rolled over on her side, registering a nagging headache, a terrible thirst, and a sense of chagrin. Dear God, she thought, I’ll never drink again.

Fumbling for the phone on her bedside table, she checked the caller ID: PRIVATE. “Forget it,” she said, and rolled back over.

She closed her eyes and tried to drift off again, but her thirst wouldn’t let her rest. Soda, she thought. It might jump-start her recovery.

Groaning, she tossed off her quilt and trudged into the kitchen. Opening the refrigerator door, she pushed aside a jar of Hellmann’s to reach for her medicine: the box containing shiny silver cans of Diet Coke.

With a sigh of relief, she pulled one from the box and popped the top. It slid down her throat tasting like the nectar of the gods, and she gulped gratefully.

Making her way to the living room, Elsie thought she’d check to see whether she’d made the morning news. Reporters from the local TV stations had been at the courthouse when the jury returned its guilty verdict in the felony assault trial she’d won the night before. She squinted at the digital clock on her cable box: 8:46 A.M. She’d missed it; the morning news ran at eight o’clock on Saturday.

Well, hell, she thought. Looking around, she surveyed the damage that a week of neglect had wreaked in her apartment. Though she couldn’t see clearly without her contact lenses, it was easy to make out the dirty coffee cups, the congealed pizza on the coffee table, and the stacks of files and wadded sheets of discarded arguments for the prosecution littering the floor. Maybe I’ll clean up today, she told herself, adding, later. She was too tired to contemplate labor. The hangover was an unwelcome reminder that thirty-one was not twenty-one. She felt as old as the hills.

Elsie headed to the bathroom in search of her glasses. Digging through a drawer of jumbled cosmetics, she was conscious of the bitter taste that the Diet Coke failed to wash away. The taste brought back memories of the prior night, and she grimaced at the thought. After the jury had returned its guilty verdict in her hard-fought trial, she had joined a group of cops at Baldknobbers bar. Flush with victory, she led the pack in rounds of beer, downing one Corona after another.

After that, her recall became fuzzy. She knew the party ended when she slipped on a slick spot on her way to the restroom and landed on her back on the dirty barroom floor. Her tumble earned her a hasty departure and a ride home from Ashlock.

Now, cringing at the recollection, she wished she hadn’t played the drunken fool with Bob Ashlock there.

Ashlock was an old-fashioned law-and-order pro, a straight arrow. He was powerfully built, like a boxer, and conveyed authority with his erect military posture, no-nonsense manner, and the jut of his square Irish jaw. Juries loved him, and she liked and respected him immensely. Not forty yet, he had already served as Chief of Detectives for the Barton P.D. for nearly eight years, following a stellar decade on patrol. In her four years in the Prosecutor’s Office, his careful investigative work and ease on the witness stand had turned the tide for her in many cases.

As she sat on her couch, wondering what she would say when she encountered Ashlock at the courthouse, and contemplating how long Noah would pout, her cell phone rang. “Leave me alone,” she muttered, even as she grabbed her purse and fumbled to answer.
“Hello,” she said without enthusiasm, wondering what inconsiderate oaf would call a working girl before nine o’clock on a Saturday morning.

“Elsie, it’s Madeleine. I’ve been trying to reach you.”

No, no, no, no. An early morning call from her boss, Madeleine Thompson, was not likely to be good news. She slumped down on the couch and squeezed her eyes shut. “Hey, Madeleine, what can I do for you?”

“Will you be coming into work today?”

Elsie was speechless for a moment. “Madeleine, it’s Saturday.”

“I know what day it is. Did you plan on coming in?”

“Well, no, I didn’t,” she said. She heard an apologetic note in her voice, and hated herself for it. “I just finished up the jury trial on that assault case last night. I’ve been burning the midnight oil all week. I thought I’d take it easy today.”

“Is that right? I’ve been over here at the courthouse since eight o’clock. I’m working on the Taney case. Do you know who Taney is?”

“Sure. He’s the guy who was messing with his daughters. The new incest case.”

“That’s the one.” Madeleine’s tone grew friendlier. “I need a second chair on this case, I think. I made a commitment to the voters in McCown County to aggressively pursue these abuse cases. Everyone says you have a real gift for handling young witnesses and developing rapport with children. Elsie, I want to bring you on board to assist me.”

“Great.” She sat up straight on the couch, feeling a twinge of excitement; she certainly believed in locking up sex offenders. It was the reason she’d decided on law school in the first place. And she wasn’t above appreciating that the Taney case had already sparked media attention. It would be high profile, and she was flattered to be chosen to assist. If her boss had expressed an interest in the outcome of the trial she won yesterday, she would be even more flattered.

“The preliminary hearing is next week,” Madeleine said, “but we have a witness interview scheduled at ten o’clock. Can you be here in thirty minutes?”

“Sure, thirty minutes is no problem,” Elsie replied, and then added, “I got a guilty verdict last night. The jury recommended twenty years.”

“Oh. Too bad you didn’t get more prison time. Well, see you in half an hour.

When the call was over, Elsie stared at the phone in her hand. “Bitch.” She shuffled to the bathroom and had picked up her toothbrush when she was struck by a recollection that nearly made her drop it. She didn’t have her car. It was in the parking lot of Baldknobbers bar.


“Highly recommended for terrific command of suspense, authenticity and utterly engaging central character, prosecutor Elsie . . . some of the best courtroom scenes I’ve ever read, some of the nastiest people encountered in fiction and for all that, it’s illuminated by passion and kindness . . . a truly marvelous debut.”

Author Bio:

Nancy Allen is a member of the law faculty in the College of Business at Missouri State University. She practiced law for 15 years, serving as Assistant Missouri Attorney General and as Assistant Prosecutor in her native Ozarks. When Nancy began her term as prosecutor, she was only the second woman in Southwest Missouri to serve in that capacity. During her years in prosecution, she tried over 30 jury trials, including murder and sexual offenses, and she served on the Rape Crisis Board and the child protection team of the Child Advocacy Council. THE CODE OF THE HILLS is her first novel.

Catch Up With the Author:

Tour Participants:

5Ws Interview:

Who are your favorite authors? What types of books do you read?

I’m a lawyer and the author of a legal thriller; so it makes sense that I like the books in that genre. I respect and enjoy the work of Scott Turow and John Grisham. And of course, the ultimate legal storyteller is Harper Lee—but I do not have the temerity to seek a comparison to her, honest to god.

And I love female protagonists—smart, strong women. I think Hank Phillippi Ryan and Julia Spencer-Fleming craft heroines in the suspense genre that we love to root for.

What did you gain from your career as a lawyer that helped with your writing?

I was a trial lawyer, so I can craft courtroom scenes from an insider’s point of view. As a reader, I have little patience for stories about the justice system that aren’t rooted in reality.

And in The Code of the Hills: An Ozarks Mystery, my protagonist, Elsie Arnold, is prosecuting a sex case. I know that area of law well. When I graduated from law school, I returned to my home town in the Ozarks and went to work as assistant prosecutor. I was the only woman on the staff—and the second woman in all of Southwest Missouri to serve as prosecutor. They assigned me an unprecedented number of sex cases, because I was female.
So as a trial lawyer, I cut my teeth on incest—of which we have a fair amount in the Ozarks. My home, Greene County, Missouri, has the highest rate of sexual abuse in the state; and Missouri has the 5th highest rate of that crime in the nation.

When do you find time to write?

I have a day job; I’m a member of the law faculty at Missouri State University. So I have to carve out time to write.

I wake up early, always by 5:00 a.m., and that quiet time of day is productive for writing. But I can write most anywhere, because I write my manuscripts in longhand first, on legal pads. So I can sketch out a scene while waiting in a car; or between meetings; or sitting in a dentist’s lobby.

Where do think Elsie will go from here? Another book?

Here comes the sequel! Elsie is already wrangling with another case, which has plenty of challenges to test her mettle. But she’ll still be in the Ozarks, in the McCown County Prosecutor’s Office. And it’s likely that she’ll need to duck into the Baldknobbers bar to let down her hair.

Why did you begin writing?

When I was a young woman in the Greene county Prosecutor’s Office, exposed to the underbelly of the community and handling those horrific cases, I thought: I ought to write a book.

Thirty years later—here it is!

KidLit Review: The Familiars

A month ago my son informed me that he had to do a book report (oh, the horror). Jumping into supermom mode I immediately began listing books hoping he would indicate a bit of interest in one of them.

“No, Mr. C. had a list. My book is The Familiars.”

“What’s it about?”

“I don’t know. All the books I wanted were taken by the time it was my turn to pick a book.”

He didn’t know what the book was about? Not even an inkling? This could not end well. For all we knew this was a book about two tween BFFs trying to earn a guest spot on an internet show about fashion and make-up. It could be anything — even (gasp) a tween romance!

Thankfully, it was not about 12 year olds dealing with first crushes. Can I just say “Thank you Mr. C.! Your choice of books rocks!” Read on for more about The Familiars.

The Familiars

Author: Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew book1Jacobson

Hardcover: 384 pages (also available in paperback and e-formats)

Publisher: HarperCollins (June 7, 2011)

Range: Ages 8 – 12/Grades 3-7

Series: This is book one of three Familiar books. The authors are also hard at work on a new series Starbounders.


When Aldwyn, a young alley cat on the run, ducks into a mysterious pet shop, he doesn’t expect his life to change. But that’s exactly what happens when Jack, a young wizard, picks Aldwyn to be his magical familiar.

Finally off the tough streets, Aldwyn thinks he’s got it made. He just has to convince the other familiars—the know-it-all blue jay Skylar and the friendly tree frog Gilbert—that he’s the telekinetic cat he claims to be. But when Jack and two other wizards in training are captured by a terrible evil, it will take all of Aldwyn’s street smarts, a few good friends, and a nose for adventure to save the day!


As I was reading this book the other day my son started poking at the back of the book, “What this says, that was me: ‘…readers turning pages right up to the ending.’” He was quoting the back cover’s excerpt from a School Library Journal review. And for an eleven year old who would much rather be shooting baskets, taking apart various appliances throughout my house to “fix” them and yes, playing video games, this was the highest praise. And it goes double for me — but since I’m a bookworm maybe my enthusiasm doesn’t count as much.

You will be breathless from the very first page with this book. The race is on from page one, the only thing that changes is the people doing the chasing and it ranges from animal bounty hunters to floating eyeballs to evil Queens to giant ogres. I’m certain that kids enjoy this book so much because it’s a roller coaster of a ride. It doesn’t hurt that it is sprinkled with a few great illustrations to jump start a reader’s creative thinking. My son wanted to talk about this book as he read it. He would bring it up at dinner instead of my pumping him, trying to determine if he was actually reading or just skipping pages. He had incredible recall weeks after he finished it (when I was reading it). He could recall scenes, dialogue, what was coming up next. To me that is a sign of a reader being fully engaged when they’re reading — the fact that the book remains etched in their memory.

And this is a fabulous book that will appeal equally to boys and girls — and teachers too. Speaking of teachers there is a great classroom guide on their website. There is also some great fun like a quiz to figure out what your familiar should be (a familiar is an animal helper for a wizard). If I gave out stars this book would get FIVE. Oh, and did I mention there’s a movie coming up too? But while you’re waiting for the big screen debut get your kids to read this book. They will love it!

Review: The Pat Boone Fan Club

The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew

Author:Sue William Silverman SueBookCover

Paperback: 248 pages (also available in e-formats)

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (March 1, 2014)


Gentile reader, and you, Jews, come too. Follow Sue William Silverman, a one-woman cultural mash-up, on her exploration of identity among the mishmash of American idols and ideals that confuse most of us—or should. Pat Boone is our first stop. Now a Tea Party darling, Boone once shone as a squeaky-clean pop music icon of normality, an antidote for Silverman’s own confusing and dangerous home, where being a Jew in a Christian school wasn’t easy, and being the daughter of the Anti-Boone was unspeakable. And yet somehow Silverman found her way, a “gefilte fish swimming upstream,” and found her voice, which in this searching, bracing, hilarious, and moving book tries to make sense of that most troubling American condition: belonging, but to what?

Picking apricots on a kibbutz, tramping cross-country in a loathed Volkswagen camper, appearing in a made-for-television version of her own life: Silverman is a bobby-soxer, a baby boomer, a hippy, a lefty, and a rebel with something to say to those of us—most of us—still wondering what to make of ourselves.


I have never been Jewish, let alone a Jewish woman trying to fit into a Christian community. In fact, my belief system has been the vast majority in every community I’ve lived in. So you would think I would be the last person to identify with Sue Silverman’s latest memoir, right? But I found The Pat Boone Fan Club to be a tale that everyone could see themselves in. After all, from the first day of school we find ourselves trying to fit in. And why is it we always seem to be trying to find a home in places that are such tough fits for us?

The Pat Boone Fan Club isn’t a linear story. Instead it jumps back and forth, taking us to different times of Silverman’s life always searching. It seems a great way to arrange the story as it mirrors Silverman’s own journey.

Of course besides the search for a home (literally and figuratively), the book is tied together by — weirdly enough — Pat Boone. I can’t imagine that anyone (let alone a Jewish girl) could be obsessed with Pat Boone (no offense Pat but you just don’t seem to be the kind of guy that encourages obsession). The Beatles? Yes. Guns and Roses? Yes. Barney the Dinosaur? Sadly, yes.

So what musician was your obsession?

Lethal as a Charlie Parker

As a Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane fan, I couldn’t resist Lethal as a Charlie Parker Solo. Of course, I thought a Charlie Parker Solo was the name of a cocktail. Turns out it isn’t, but I’ll leave it to you to read the book and see how a Charlie Parker solo ties into it. If you like escaping into another world, try Javier Marquez Sanchez’s book.

Lethal as a Charlie Parker Solo

Author: Javier Márquez Sánchez

E-formats: 200 pages charlieparker

Publisher: 280 Steps (March 30, 2014)


Lethal as a Charlie Parker Solo is a tribute to the noir novels of the 1940’s and 50’s, and fictionalizes the scandal that accompanied the filming of The Conqueror, the 1956 movie starring John Wayne and Susan Hayward.

Las Vegas, 1955: The gambling capital of the world, paradise of the Mafia and its luxury hotels offering endless opportunities to tourists and Hollywood stars alike. In the midst of it all; Eddie Bennett, a problem solver who lives in a suite at the Flamingo, drives a Pontiac Silver Streak and hangs out with the stars and the mafia bosses.

One day he’s asked to handle the paperwork related to the death of a young actress. But after a little snooping around, he discovers that there’s more than a broken heart behind her death.

The investigation takes Bennett from the bars and casinos of Las Vegas to the set of The Conqueror in the middle of the desert, and on the way he runs into John Wayne and other Hollywood stars, pretty girls, mobsters, state secrets and more dead bodies…


Can the editor of the Spanish edition of Esquire be the new Dashiell Hammett? Although it seems unlikely the answer is yes. Javier Marquez Sanchez’s first novel to be translated into English, Lethal as a Charlie Parker Solo, exudes the machismo, dames with hearts of gold, conflicted heroes and wiseguys.

If you aren’t familiar with crime noir don’t expect the fast moving action packed thrillers so popular recently. Instead Lethal as a Charlie Parker Solo is like a backyard fireworks display. You light the fuse and there’s a pause when everyone’s wondering “Will anything happen?” Then just when you think there won’t be any fireworks it explodes, then a pause, then more explosions. Some would say the pauses are boring but not me. The pauses only add to the excitement.

Sanchez has created a flawed hero surrounded by flawed characters (it is Las Vegas 1955 after all). Half the fun is watching these people from another time (a whole different world) interact. It’s a time before anyone was PC. Sanchez succeeds in not letting his characters become badly cliched caricatures by giving us small peeks at their humanity, at their realness.

If you’re in the mood for a book set when men were men, women were women and the Mafia and the Rat Pack ruled Vegas enjoy Lethal as a Charlie Parker Solo.

The Dumbest Idea Ever!

When my son came home from school with a paper announcing an upcoming visit from an author I was thrilled. We live in a rural area — not many authors make it to our area, let alone into our classrooms. Turns out Jimmy Gownley is the author of the Amelia Rules! series. His latest is a memoir of how he went from the coal mining towns of Pennsylvania to well-known children’s author and illustrator. And here’s the twist, the memoir is a graphic novel! My son was immediately onboard to order his very own autographed copy and read almost 100 pages the very first day he got it! Need I say more? Probably not, but I do anyway. Check out my review below.

The Dumbest Idea Ever!

Author: Jimmy GownleyThe-Dumbest-Idea-Ever!_full_380

Paperback: 240 pages (also available in hardcover and e-formats)

Publisher: GRAPHIX (February 25, 2014)

Level: Ages 10 to 14/Grades 5 to 9


Jimmy Gownley’s graphic novel memoir about the “dumb” idea that changed his life forever!

What if the dumbest idea ever turned your life upside down?

At thirteen, Jimmy was popular, at the top of his class, and the leading scorer on his basketball team. But all that changed when chicken pox forced him to miss the championship game. Things went from bad to worse when he got pneumonia and missed even more school. Before Jimmy knew it, his grades were sinking and nothing seemed to be going right.

How did Jimmy turn things around, get back on top at school, and land a date with the cutest girl in class?

Renowned comics creator Jimmy Gownley shares his adventures as he grows from an eager-to-please boy into a teenage comic book artist. This is the real-life story of how the DUMBEST idea ever became the BEST thing that ever happened to him.


Can the childhood of a future cartoonist/children’s author make an interesting read? Growing up in the same corner of the world that Jimmy Gownley did, I had my doubts. So, so wrong.

This graphic novel (or as I like to call them: comic books on steroids) was fabulous. The illustrations were full of action, the story was funny, the dialogue was authentic and there was something familiar about the characters (even if you didn’t grown up in Anthracite coal country).

Kids will love this because they will definitely see themselves mirrored in Jimmy — my life is boring, my teachers are monsters, what will I do with my life, does she “like me” like me, why is my best friend suddenly a jerk? It’s all there. On the surface it’s just a funny story of a teenager’s life but you can also get so much more from this graphic novel. Hopefully it will get kids thinking about “when they grow up”.

This is a book parents and kids can enjoy together and if you have a reluctant reader this is book to turn to — who wouldn’t want to read a book that offers action-packed illustrations on every page?

Mr. Gownley, you did such a great job I wish you’d do a few more graphic novels!

Review: Confession


by Carey Baldwin

BOOK BLAST on March 11th

on Tour April 2014

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Thrillers, Suspense

Published by: Witness Impulse

Publication Date: March 11, 2014

Number of Pages: 384

ISBN: 9780062314109 / 0062314106

Purchase Links:


For fans of Allison Brennan and Karen Rose comes Carey Baldwin, a daring new name in suspense, with the story of a serial killer out for blood—and the only woman who can stop his reign of terror.

They say the Santa Fe Saint comes to save your soul—by taking your life.

Newly minted psychiatrist Faith Clancy gets the shock of her life when her first patient confesses to the grisly Saint murders. By law she’s compelled to notify the authorities, but is her patient really The Saint? Or will she contribute to more death by turning the wrong man over to the police?

Faith is going to need all her wits and the help of a powerful adversary, Luke Jericho, if she’s to unravel the truth. But she doesn’t realize she’s about to become an unwitting pawn in a serial killer’s diabolical game: For once he’s finished with Faith, she’ll become his next victim.


Read an excerpt:


Saint Catherine’s School for Boys

Near Santa Fe, New Mexico

Ten years ago—Friday, August 15, 11:00 P.M.

I’M NOT afraid of going to hell. Not one damn bit.

We’re deep in the woods, miles from the boys’ dormitory, and my thighs are burning because I walked all this way with Sister Bernadette on my back. Now I’ve got her laid out on the soggy ground underneath a hulking ponderosa pine. A bright rim of moonlight encircles her face. Black robes flow around her, engulfing her small body and blending with the night. Her face, floating on top of all that darkness, reminds me of a ghost-head in a haunted house—but she’s not dead.

Not yet.

My cheek stings where Sister scratched me. I wipe the spot with my sleeve and sniff the air soaked with rotting moss, sickly-sweet pine sap and fresh piss. I pissed myself when I clubbed her on the head with that croquet mallet. Ironic, since my pissing problem is why I picked Sister Bernadette in the first place. She ought to have left that alone.

I hear a gurgling noise.


Sister Bernadette is starting to come around.

This is what I’ve been waiting for.

With her rosary wound tightly around my forearm, the grooves of the carved sandalwood beads cutting deep into the flesh of my wrist, I squat down on rubber legs, shove my hands under her armpits and drag her into a sitting position against the fat tree trunk. Her head slumps forward, but I yank her by the hair until her face tilts up, and her cloudy eyes open to meet mine. Her lips are moving. Syllables form within the bubbles coming out of her mouth. I press my stinging cheek against her cold, sticky one.

Like a lover, she whispers in my ear, “God is merciful.”

The nuns have got one fucked-up idea of mercy.

“Repent.” She’s gasping. “Heaven…”

“I’m too far gone for heaven.”

The God I know is just and fierce and is never going to let a creep like me through the pearly gates because I say a few Hail Marys. “God metes out justice, and that’s how I know I will not be going to heaven.”

To prove my point, I draw back, pull out my pocketknife, and press the silver blade against her throat. Tonight, I am more than a shadow. A shadow can’t feel the weight of the knife in his palm. A shadow can’t shiver in anticipation. A shadow is not to be feared, but I am not a shadow. Not in this moment.

She moves her lips some more, but this time, no sound comes out. I can see in her eyes what she wants to say to me. Don’t do it. You’ll go to hell.

I twist the knife so that the tip bites into the sweet hollow of her throat. “I’m not afraid of going to hell.”

It’s the idea of purgatory that makes my teeth hurt and my stomach cramp and my shit go to water. I mean what if my heart isn’t black enough to guarantee me a passage straight to hell? What if God slams down his gavel and says, Son, you’re a sinner, but I have to take your family situation into account. That’s a mitigating circumstance.

A single drop of blood drips off my blade like a tear.

“What if God sends me to purgatory?” My words taste like puke on my tongue. “I’d rather dangle over a fiery pit for eternity than spend a single day of the afterlife in a place like this one.”

I watch a spider crawl across her face.

My thoughts crawl around my brain like that spider.

You could make a pretty good case, I think, that St. Catherine’s School for Boys is earth’s version of purgatory. I mean, it’s a place where you don’t exist. A place where no one curses you, but no one loves you either. Sure, back home, your father hits you and calls you a bastard, but you are a bastard, so its okay he calls you one. Behind me, I hear the sound of rustling leaves and cast a glance over my shoulder.

Do it! You want to get into hell, don’t you?

I turn back to sister and flick the spider off her cheek.

The spider disappears, but I’m still here.

At St. Catherine’s no one notices you enough to knock you around. Every day is the same as the one that came before it, and the one that’s coming after. At St. Catherine’s you wait and wait for your turn to leave, only guess what, you dumb-ass bastard, your turn is never going to come, because you, my friend, are in purgatory, and you can’t get out until you repent.

Sister Bernadette lets out another gurgle.

I spit right in her face.

I won’t repent, and I can’t bear to spend eternity in purgatory, which is I why I came up with a plan. A plan that’ll rocket me straight past purgatory, directly to hell.

Sister Bernadette is the first page of my blueprint. I have the book to guide me the rest of the way. For her sake, not mine, I make the sign of the cross.

She’s not moving, but her eyes are open, and I hear her breathing. I want her to know she is going to die. “You are going to help me get into hell. In return, I will help you get into heaven.”

I shake my arm and loosen the rosary. The strand slithers down my wrist. One bead after another drops into my open palm, electrifying my skin at the point of contact. My blood zings through me, like a high-voltage current. I am not a shadow.

A branch snaps, making my hands shake with the need to hurry.

What are you waiting for my friend?

Is Sister Bernadette afraid?

She has to be. Hungry for her fear, I squeeze my thighs together, and then I push my face close and look deep in her eyes.

“The blood of the lamb will wash away your sins.” She gasps, and her eyes roll back. “Repent.”

My heart slams shut.

I begin the prayers.

Chapter One

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Present Day—Saturday, July 20, 1:00 P.M.

Man, she’s something.

Luke Jericho halted mid-stride, and the sophisticated chatter around him dimmed to an indistinct buzz. Customers jamming the art gallery had turned the air hot, and the aromas of perfume and perspiration clashed. His gaze sketched the cut muscles of the woman’s shoulders before swerving to the tantalizing V of her low-back dress. There, slick fabric met soft skin just in time to hide the thong she must be wearing. His fingers found the cold silk knot of his tie and worked it loose. He let his glance dot down the line of her spine, then swoop over the arc of her ass. It was the shimmer of Mediterranean-blue satin, illuminated beneath art lights, that had first drawn his eye, her seductive shape that had pulled him up short, but it was her stance—her pose—that had his blood expanding like hot mercury under glass.

Head tilted, front foot cocked back on its stiletto, the woman studied one of Luke’s favorite pieces—his brother Dante’s mixed-media. A piece Luke had hand-selected and quietly inserted into this show of local artists in the hopes a positive response might bolster his brother’s beleaguered self-esteem.

The woman couldn’t take her eyes off the piece, and he couldn’t take his eyes off the woman. Her right arm floated, as if she were battling the urge to reach out and touch the multi-textured painting. Though her back was to him, he could picture her face, pensive, enraptured. Her lips would be parted and sensual. He savored the swell of her bottom beneath the blue dress. Given the way the fabric clung to her curves, he’d obviously guessed right about the thong. She smoothed the satin with her hand, and he rubbed the back of his neck with his palm. Ha. Any minute now she’d turn and ruin his fantasy with what was sure to turn out to be the most ordinary mug in the room.

And then she did turn, and damned if her mug wasn’t ordinary at all, but she didn’t appear enraptured. Inquisitive eyes, with a distinct undercurrent of melancholy, searched the room and found him. Then, delicate brows raised high, her mouth firmed into a hard line—even thinned, her blood-red lips were temptation itself—she jerked to a rigid posture and marched, yeah, marched, straight at him.

Hot ass. Great mouth. Damn lot of nerve.

“I could feel your stare,” she said.

“Kind of full of yourself, honey.”

A flush of scarlet flared across her chest, leading his attention to her lovely, natural breasts, mostly, but not entirely, concealed by a classic neckline. With effort, he raised his eyes to meet hers. Green. Skin, porcelain. Hair, fiery—like her cheeks—and flowing. She looked like a mermaid. Not the soft kind, the kind with teeth.

“I don’t like to be ogled.” Apparently she intended to stand her ground.

He decided to stand his as well. That low-back number she had on might be considered relatively tame in a room with more breasts on display than a Picasso exhibit, but there was something about the way she wore it. “Then you shouldn’t have worn that dress, darlin’.”

Her brow arched higher in challenge. “Which is it? Honey or darlin’?”

“Let’s go with honey. You look sweet.” Not at the moment she didn’t, but he’d sure like to try and draw the sugar out of her. This woman was easily as interesting and no less beautiful than his best gallery piece, and she didn’t seem to be reacting to him per the usual script. He noticed his hand floating up, reaching out, just as her hand had reached for the painting. Like his mesmerizing customer, he knew better than to touch the display, but it was hard to resist the urge.

Her body drew back, and her shoulders hunched. “You’re aware there’s a serial killer on the loose?”

Luke, you incredible ass.

No wonder she didn’t appreciate his lingering looks. Every woman he knew was on full alert. The Jericho charm might or might not be able to get him out of this one, but he figured she was worth a shot. “Here, in this gallery? In broad daylight?” He searched the room with his gaze and made his tone light. “Or are you saying you don’t like being sized up for the kill?” He patted his suit pockets, made a big show of it and then stroked his chin thoughtfully. “I seem to have misplaced my rosary somewhere, I don’t suppose you’ve seen it?”

Her shoulders eased back to a natural position.

“Seriously, do I look like someone who’d be called The Saint?”

If the glove doesn’t fit…

Her lips threatened to curve up at the corners. “No. I don’t suppose you do.” Another beat, and then her smile bloomed in earnest. “Looking a little is one thing, maybe it’s even flattering…but you seem to have exceeded your credit line.”

He turned his palms up. “Then I’d like to apply for an increase.”

At that, her pretty head tipped back, and she laughed, a big genuine laugh. It was the kind of laugh that was a touch too hearty for a polished society girl, which perhaps she wasn’t after all. It was also the kind of laugh he’d like to hear again. Of its own accord, his hand found his heart. “Listen, I’m honest-to-God sorry if I spooked you. That wasn’t my intention.”

Her expression was all softness now.

“Do you like the painting?” he asked, realizing that he cared more than he should about the answer.

“It’s quite…dark.” Her bottom lip shivered with the last word, and he could sense she found Dante’s painting disturbing.

Always on the defensive where his brother was concerned, his back stiffened. He tugged at his already loosened tie. “Artists are like that. I don’t judge them.”

“Of course. I-I wasn’t judging the artist. I was merely making an observation about the painting. It’s expressive, beautiful.”

Relaxing his stance, he pushed a hand through his hair.

She pushed a hand through her hair, and then her glance found her fancy-toed shoes. “Maybe I overreacted, maybe you weren’t even staring.”

Giving in to the urge to touch, he reached out and tilted her chin up until their eyes met. “I’m Luke Jericho, and you had it right the first time. I was staring. I was staring at—” He barely had time to register a startled flash of her green eyes before she turned on her heel and disappeared into the throng of gallery patrons.

He shrugged and said to the space where her scent still sweetened the air, “I was staring at your fascination. Your fascination fascinates me.”

Saturday, July 20, 1:30 P.M.

Faith Clancy strode across her nearly naked office and tossed her favorite firelight macaron clutch onto her desk. After rushing out of the gallery, she’d come to her office to regroup, mainly because it was nearby.

She could hear Ma’s voice now, see her wagging finger. “Luke Jericho? Sure’an you’ve gone and put your wee Irish foot in the stewpot now, Faith.”

Well, it was only a tiny misstep—what harm could possibly come of it? She braced her palms against the windowsill. Teeth clenched, she heaved with all her might until wood screeched against wood and the window lurched open.

A full inch.


Summers in Santa Fe were supposed to be temperate, and she hadn’t invested in an air conditioner for her new office. She sucked in a deep breath, but the currentless summer air brought little relief from the heat. Lifting her hair off the back of her damp neck with one hand, she reached over and dialed on the big standing fan next to the desk with the other. The dinosaur whirred to life without a hiccup.

That made one thing gone right today.

The relaxing Saturday afternoon she’d been looking forward to all week had been derailed, thanks to Luke Jericho. Okay, that wasn’t even half fair. In reality, the wheels of her day had never touched down on the track to begin with. She’d awakened this morning with a knot in her stomach and an ache in her heart—missing Danny and Katie.

Walk it off, she’d thought. Dress up. Take in the sights. Act like you’re part of the Santa Fe scene and soon enough you will be. Determined to forget the homesick rumbling in her chest, Faith had plucked a confidence boosting little number from her closet, slipped on a pair of heels and headed out to mingle with polite society. Even if she didn’t feel like she fit in, at least she would look the part. But the first gallery she’d entered, she’d dunked her foot in the stewpot—crossing swords with, and then, even worse, flirting with the brother of a patient.

Rather bad luck considering she had just one patient.

Her toe started to tap.

Her gaze swept the office and landed on the only adornment of the freshly-painted walls—her diplomas and certificates, arranged in an impressive display with her psychiatric board certification center stage. A Yale-educated doctor. Ma and Da would’ve been proud, even if they might’ve clucked their tongues at the psychiatrist part. She blinked until her vision cleared. It wasn’t only Danny and Katie she was missing today.

She kicked off her blasted shoes and shook off her homesick blues…only to find her mind returning to the gallery and her encounter with a man who was strictly off limits.

There was no point chastising herself for walking into the art gallery in the first place, or for refusing to pretend she didn’t notice the man who was eyeing her like she was high tea in a whorehouse, and he a starving sailor.

Care for a macaron, sir?

Had she realized her admirer was Luke Jericho, she would’ve walked away without confronting him, but how was she to know him by sight? It wasn’t as if she spent her spare time flipping through photos of town royalty in the society pages.

She’d recognized his name instantly, however, and not only because she was treating his half-brother, Dante. The Jericho family had a sprawling ranch outside town and an interest in a number of local businesses. But most of their wealth, she’d heard, came from oil. The Jerichos, at least the legitimate ones, had money. Barrels and barrels of it.

Luke’s name was on the lips of every unattached female in town—from the clerk at the local Shop and Save to the debutant docent at the Georgia O’Keeffe museum:



Criminally rich.

Luke Jericho, they whispered.

When she’d turned to find him watching her, his heated gaze had caused her very bones to sizzle. Luke had stood formidably tall, dressed in an Armani suit that couldn’t hide his rancher’s physique. The gallery lights seemed to spin his straw-colored hair into gold and ignite blue fire in his eyes. She could still feel his gaze raking over her in that casual way, as if he didn’t wish to conceal his appetites. It was easy to see how some women might become undone in his presence. She eased closer to the fan.

“Dr. Clancy.”

That low male voice gave her a fizzy, sick feeling in the pit of her stomach, like she’d just downed an Alka-Seltzer on top of the flu. When you’re all alone in a room, and someone else speaks, it’s just plain creepy.

It only took a millisecond to recognize the voice, but at a time when someone dubbed The Santa Fe Saint was on a killing spree, that was one millisecond too long. Icy tendrils of fear wrapped themselves around her chest, squeezing until it hurt her heart to go on beating. The cold certainty that things were not as they should be made the backs of her knees quiver. Then recognition kicked in, and her breath released in a whoosh.

It’s only Dante.

She pasted on a neutral expression and turned to face him. How’d he gotten in? The entrance was locked; she was certain of it.

“Did I frighten you?”

She inclined her head toward the front door to her office, which was indeed locked, and said, “Next time, Dante, I’d prefer you use the main entrance…and knock.”

“I came in the back.”

That much was obvious now that she’d regained her wits. “That’s my private entrance. It’s not intended for use by patients.” Stupid of her to leave it unlocked, but it was midday and she hadn’t expected an ambush.

To buy another moment to compose herself, she went to her bookcase and inspected its contents. Toward the middle, Freud’s “Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis” leaned haphazardly in the direction of its opponent, Skinner’s “Behavior Therapy”. A paperback version of “A Systems Approach to Family Therapy” had fallen flat, not quite bridging the gap between the warring classics.

Dante crossed the distance between them, finishing directly in front of her, invading her personal space. “Quite right. I didn’t mean to startle you.”

She caught a blast of breath, pungent and wrong—a Listerine candle floating in a jar of whiskey. In self-defense, she took a step back before looking up at her patient’s face. Dante possessed his brother’s intimidating height, but unlike Luke, his hair was jet black, and his coal-colored eyes were so dark it was hard to distinguish the pupil from the iris. Despite Dante’s dark complexion and the roughness of his features—he had a previously broken nose and a shiny pink scar that gashed across his cheekbone into his upper lip—there was a distinct family resemblance between the Jericho brothers. Luke was the fair-haired son to Dante’s black sheep, and even their respective phenotypes fit the cliche.

Dante took a step forward.

She took another deep step back, bumping her rear-end against wood. With one hand she reached behind her and felt for the smooth rim of her desktop. With the other hand, she put up a stop sign. “Stay right where you are.”

He halted, and she edged her way behind her desk, using it as a barrier between herself and Dante. Maybe she should advise him to enroll in a social skills class since he didn’t seem to realize how uncomfortable he was making her. Though she knew full well Dante wasn’t on her schedule today—no one was on her schedule today—she powered on her computer. “Hang on a second while I check my calendar.”

“All right.” At least he had the courtesy to play along.

When he rested his hand on her desk, she noticed he was carrying a folded newspaper. She’d already seen today’s headline, and it had given her the shivers. “Any minute now.” She signaled to Dante with an upheld index finger.

He nodded, and, in what seemed an eternity of time, her computer finished booting. She navigated from the welcome screen to her schedule, and then in a firm, matter-of-fact voice, she told him, “I’m afraid you’ve made a mistake. Your appointment isn’t until Monday at four pm.”

As he took another step closer, a muscle twitched in his jaw. He didn’t seem to care when his appointment was. Gesturing toward the leather armchair on the patient side of her desk, she fended him off. “Have a seat right there.” If she could get him to sit down, maybe she could gain control of the situation; she really ought to hear him out long enough to make sure this wasn’t some sort of emergency.

Dante didn’t sit. Instead, from across the desk, his body inclined forward. Her throat went dry, and her speeding pulse signaled a warning. If this were an emergency, he most likely would have tried to contact her through her answering service, besides which, he’d had plenty of time already to mention anything urgent. He must’ve known he didn’t have an appointment today, so what the hell was he doing here on a Saturday?

Dante had no reason at all to expect her to be here. In fact, the more she thought about it, the less sense his presence made. Pulling her shoulders back, she said, “I am sorry, but you need to leave. You’ll have to come back on Monday at four.”

The scar tissue above his mouth tugged his features into a menacing snarl. “I saw you talking to my brother.”

He’d followed her from the art gallery.

Even though Dante’s primary diagnosis was schizotypal personality disorder, there was a paranoid component present, exacerbated by a sense of guilt and a need to compensate for feelings of inferiority. His slip and slide grip on reality occasionally propelled him into a near delusional state. She could see him careening into a dark well of anxiety now, and she realized she needed to reassure him she wasn’t colluding with his half-brother against him. “I wasn’t talking to your brother about you. In fact, I didn’t have any idea I had wandered into your brother’s art gallery until he…introduced himself.”

“I don’t believe you.”

As fast as her heart was galloping, she managed a controlled reply. “That hardly bodes well for our relationship as doctor and patient, does it? But the truth is, we were discussing a painting.”

“Discussing my painting, discussing me, same difference.”

His painting?

That bit of information did nothing to diminish her growing sense of apprehension. That painting had had a darkness in it like nothing she’d ever seen before. A darkness that had captivated her attention, daring her to unravel its mysterious secrets.

Then Dante dropped into the kind of predatory crouch that would’ve made a kitten roll over and play dead.

But she wasn’t a kitten.

Defiantly, she exhaled slow and easy. If she didn’t know better, she’d think Dante was intentionally trying to frighten her. “I’m happy to see you during your regular hour, and we can schedule more frequent sessions if need be, but for now, I’m afraid it’s time for you to go.”

He returned to a stand. “You’re here all alone today.”

A shudder swept across her shoulders. He was right. No one else was in the building. She shared a secretary with an aesthetician down the hall, and today Stacy hadn’t been at her post. The aesthetician usually worked Saturday mornings, but she must’ve finished for the day and gone home. Home was where Faith wanted to go right now. She wished she’d kept her clutch in hand. Her phone was in that clutch. “We’ll work on that trust issue on Monday.”

With Dante’s gaze tracking hers, her eyes fell on her lovely macaron bag, lying on the desktop near his fingertips. He lifted the clutch as if to offer it to her, but then drew his hand back and stroked the satin shell against his face.

The room suddenly seemed too small. “I don’t mean to be unkind. We’ve been working hard these past few weeks and making good progress up to this point, and I’d hate to have to refer you to another psychiatrist, but I will if I have to.” She paused for breath.

“You’re barefoot.” Slowly, he licked his lower lip.

Feeling as vulnerable as if she were standing before him bare-naked instead of bare-footed, she slipped back into her shoes. Jerking a glance around the room, she cursed herself for furnishing the place so sparsely, as if she didn’t plan on staying in Santa Fe long. It wasn’t like she had anywhere else to call home anymore, and now here she stood without so much as a paperweight to conk someone on the head with if…The window was open, at least she could scream for help if necessary. “We’re done here.”

“I’m not leaving, Dr. Clancy.” He opened her purse, removed her cell and slid it into his pants pocket, then dropped her purse on the floor.

Her stomach got fizzy again, and she gripped the edge of her desk. Screaming didn’t seem like the most effective plan. It might destabilize him and cause him to do something they’d both regret. For now at least, a better plan was to stay calm and listen. If she could figure out what was going on inside his head, maybe she could stay a step ahead of him and diffuse the situation before it erupted into a full-scale nightmare. “Give me back my phone, and then we can talk.”

Here came that involuntary snarl of his. “No phone. And I’m not leaving until I’ve done what I came here to do.” Carefully unfolding the newspaper he’d brought with him, he showed her the headline:

Santa Fe Saint Claims Fourth Victim.


Author Bio:

Carey Baldwin is a mild-mannered doctor by day and an award-winning author of edgy suspense by night. She holds two doctoral degrees, one in medicine and one in psychology. She loves reading and writing stories that keep you off balance and on the edge of your seat. Carey lives in the southwestern United States with her amazing family. In her spare time she enjoys hiking and chasing wildflowers.

Catch Up With the Author:


Can I just say that all the crazies came home to roost for this book? In Confession, therapist Faith Clancy tries to get into the head of a murderer and help prove the innocence of one of her clients. But it seems everyone has secrets: the guilty, the innocent, the families, even Faith herself. If you enjoy getting inside people’s heads this is a great book for you. It has plenty of twists to keep you guessing and is written in a style that will make you feel the tension between characters and emotions. Even when you think you have everything all figured out some surprising fact will emerge from the mist (OK, not really the mist. It’s the southwest and I don’t imagine they have much mist). This is a book that will keep you thinking, turning the facts over in mind, wondering.

Faith Clancy and Luke Jericho are the ideal couple paired up to free an innocent man (and eventually for more). Too often the romance in thrillers just annoys me, feeling like a tacked on aspect but the relationship between Faith and Luke is very authentic (and hot I must admit). They come together because they both have ties to Dante, who confessed to the Saint murders, but author Carey Baldwin created such a strong pull between the characters that you get the feeling that they would have found each other no matter what the circumstances.

Breakfast Served Anytime

Breakfast Served Anytime

Author: Sarah Combs

Hardcover: 272 pages (also available in e-formats)breakfast

Publisher:  Candlewick (April 8, 2012)

Level: Grades 7 and up/Ages 12 and up


A coming-of-age debut evokes the bittersweet joys and pangs of finding independence in one unforgettable summer away at “geek camp.” 

When Gloria sets out to spend the summer before her senior year at a camp for gifted and talented students, she doesn’t know quite what to expect. Fresh from the heartache of losing her grandmother and missing her best friend, Gloria resolves to make the best of her new circumstances. But some things are proving to be more challenging than she expected. Like the series of mysterious clues left by a certain Professor X before he even shows up to teach his class, Secrets of the Written Word. Or the very sweet, but very conservative, roommate whose coal-industry family champions mountaintop removal. Not to mention the obnoxious Mason, who dresses like the Mad Hatter and immediately gets on Gloria’s nerves — but somehow won’t escape her thoughts. Beautifully told by debut author Sarah Combs, this honest and touching story of growing up is imbued with the serene atmosphere of Kentucky’s natural landscape.


Let’s just start out by saying you have to read this book, if only for the scene where Gloria and Alex kiss. It is not corny or predictable. It is perfect and it will take your breath away. And that’s just one scene! Breakfast Served Anytime is a combination of sneak peeks at teenage life that are so authentic I feel like this book must have been written by my 16 year old self. It is a trip back in time…the confusion, the crushes, the cliches, the fear about the future. It’s all here.

But author Alex Combs has taken her book to another level. Yes, it is a coming of age story but she includes symbolism and themes throughout her book that hopefully will make teenage readers come to expect more from the books they read.

Autumn in Carthage

There’s an interesting aspect of this novel, or rather this author. Christopher Zenos is a pseudonym. The author is a well-published university professor who has contended with mental illness all his life, and knows the beastie well. Hence the mask: As this novel’s protagonist puts it, successful Passing is now a survival imperative for crazies like him. “Autumn in Carthage” developed, in large part, from his need to sing of this world he inhabits: The realm of the stranger, the odd one. The man standing at the window, bracing against the wind as he gazes in wonder at the light and comfort on the other side.

Autumn in Carthage

Author: Christopher Zenoscarthage

Paperback: 332 pages (also available in e-formats)

Publisher:  CreateSpace (March 5, 2014)


The nether side of passion is madness. 

Nathan Price is a college professor with crippling impairments, seeking escape from his prison of necessity. One day, in a package of seventeenth-century documents from Salem Village, he stumbles across a letter by his best friend, Jamie, who had disappeared six months before. The document is dated 1692—the height of the Witch Trials. The only potential lead: a single mention of Carthage, a tiny town in the Wisconsin northern highland.

The mystery catapults Nathan from Chicago to the Wisconsin wilderness. There, he meets Alanna, heir to an astonishing Mittel-European legacy of power and sacrifice. In her, and in the gentle townsfolk of Carthage, Nathan finds the refuge for which he has long yearned. But Simon, the town elder, is driven by demons of his own, and may well be entangled in Jamie’s disappearance and that of several Carthaginians. As darkness stretches toward Alanna, Nathan may have no choice but to risk it all…

Moving from the grimness of Chicago’s South Side to the Wisconsin hinterlands to seventeenth-century Salem, this is a story of love, of sacrifice, of terrible passions—and of two wounded souls quietly reaching for the deep peace of sanctuary.


Normally, I don’t read much fantasy/time travel. But the back page for Autumn in Carthage was one I just couldn’t resist. A letter from a missing friend that doesn’t come through the mail but is mixed in with letters a professor is using for research from Salem, 1692.

This is not a fast-paced story of people jumping in and out of time. Instead it is a slow reveal. It is more about the people and how their lives are changed by being Flectors (time travelers). What truly impressed me about this story was the atmosphere that Zenos created. The family that he created out of the Flectors. The strange feel when Nathan first arrived in their midst. They were friendly on the surface but there were little peeks at…what? Nathan wasn’t quite sure. An undercurrent. Even after he felt he had learned everything there was still something left unsaid. It seems like everyone in this book had a secret. If you enjoy rich descriptive writing and complex characters you should read Autumn in Carthage.

Winner of The Moon Sisters

Did you stop by for my post for the Everybody’s Talking About Sisterhood event organized by The Muffin to promote Therese Walsh’s new SueBookCovernovel The Moon Sisters? Well, today’s the day we announce the three winners:

The winner on The Muffin was Maria M.

The winner of a participating blogger (makes you want to participate in our next event, doesn’t it?) was Vickie S. Miller at Vickie S. Miller Blog

And the winner from among those who entered the contest on one of the participating blogs was Robyn C. who entered right here on Words by Webb!

If you didn’t win, don’t give up. The Muffin has plenty of blog tours and giveaways coming up including:

Sue Silverman’s memoir The Pat Boone Fan Club on March 31

Avoid Social Media Time Suck: A Blueprint for Writers to Create Online Buzz for Their Booksand Still Have Time to Write by Frances Caballo on April 7

The Opposite of Everything by David Kalish on April 21

BarbaraCoverDanger in Her Words by Barbara Barth on May 5

I’ll give the heads up when those tours begin so you can enter and hopefully win yourself a great book!

Kid Lit: Who Was Neil Armstrong?

When my son came home from school wanting to read a book about Neil Armstrong I wasn’t even sure there were biographies for his age group (Grade 5). Boy, was I wrong! With a little Internet sleuthing I found the “Who Was…?” series at Penguin Group. They have books about everyone. Sure, your standards like Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Edison. But also some crazy great choices like The Beatles, Jim Henson, Picasso and Milton Hershey. Do kids who don’t live in Pennsylvania even know that Hershey chocolate is named after a real person?

They’re actually closing in on their 100th book in the series! To celebrate they’re asking readers to vote on who book #100 should be about. You can suggest anyone! Get your vote in by June 1 here. What a great activity for a classroom…nominating someone for a biography. I was totally surprised (happily) by who was in the lead — I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you, stop by and find out. One clue, it isn’t Justin Bieber!

Who Was Neil Armstrong?

Author: Roberta Edwards

Illustrators: Nancy Harrison and Stephen Marchesi

Paperback: 112 pages (also available in e-format)armstrong

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap (October 2, 2008)

Range: Grades 3 to 7/Ages 8 to 12


On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon and, to an audience of over 450 million people, proclaimed his step a “giant leap for mankind.” This Eagle Scout built his own model planes as a little boy and then grew up to be a test pilot for experimental aircraft before becoming an astronaut. Over 100 black-and-white illustrations bring Armstrong’s story to life.


Who Was Neil Armstrong? is set up in a way that I believe will appeal to young readers. There are illustrations on almost every page: people, places, maps, even detailed drawings of airplanes and rocket ships with labeling. There are also boxes with extra information on people and historical events mentioned in Neil’s story: Charles Lindbergh, the Cold War and Korea to name a few.

Sure, this biography tells you what every biography tells you: Armstrong’s military service, landing on the Moon, etc. But it also goes further, telling about his childhood (even stories from his family), how he developed an interest in flight, even things like what it was like to be an astronaut family living in Texas. The book even delves into Armstrong’s personality…not just the standard “he was a brave guy” but things like he didn’t like to make speeches and liked to do goofy things like crash land model airplanes. It truly gets across that even though Armstrong was a famous person who did amazing things he was also a “regular person” not unlike the adults in the reader’s life (except for the whole walking on the moon part). And I feel like the boxes that further explain events or terms kids might not have a immediate grasp of (how many fifth graders know much about the Korean War?) were a great added bonus.

There is such a variety of subjects to choose from in the “Who Was…?” series that I feel there will be a book for every young reader.