Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"How far would you go to save the ones you loved?"

Chapter 1

 Six years later…

Maia heard the words, but she could barely comprehend the meaning. There were a myriad of thoughts racing through her fogged brain. But nothing that made any sense. Your mother is dead.

Strange how those four, horrible words meant freedom to her. Maia never knew her mother’s death would bring with it such intense anguish, pain and relief.

“Did you hear me?” Becca whispered. Maia looked at Becca…well, maybe not at her but through her. 

“Yeah, I heard you. My mother is dead.”

Becca looked around, afraid of being overheard. It was risky to relate such news to Maia, but she thought it was something she should know. She had a right to know she was no longer shackled by the same fear and horror that bound them all to this terrible existence. In Becca’s mind, Maia was one of the lucky ones. “Shh! Keep your voice down,” Becca said in a loud whisper. “So, what are you going to do?”

Maia rose from the frayed and tattered sofa that adorned the dank living space they were allotted and paced to the small area designated as their kitchen. She pulled open the small refrigerator and looked inside. She knew there was nothing inside that would interest her, but it was something to do…something to allow her mind to process all Becca had just said to her. “Nothing,” Maia finally said.

Becca leapt up from the sofa and was upon Maia in a few paces. She grabbed her by the arm and spun her around to look at her. “What do you mean nothing? This is a sad blessing in disguise. You have to take advantage of it. This is your ticket to get out of here.”

“Yeah, and do what…go where? You’ve had this fantasy of leaving for all the years I’ve known you and yet you’re still here. Why haven’t you ever left if you hate it so much?” Maia asked. Her words were curt and harsh, but she was angry. She felt violated all over again and she wasn’t sure she would be able to withstand the pain.

“Are you crazy? You say it as if you’re visiting and deciding if you want to stay an extra day or go home. You’re a slave…a captive. The only thing that held you here was the threat to your mother’s life. Don’t you get it? Your mother’s death is your key to freedom,” Becca argued.

“Freedom to do what? I have nowhere to go. There’s no one waiting for me out there. My own family buried me six years ago. It’s not like I can go now and start a new life. Can’t you see? There’s no place in this world for people like us. We’ll die here,” Maia argued.

Review :
I started this book with some trepidation, knowing the subject matter would be one that appalled me, and sickened me. Like most, I would love to turn my head and pretend these things don't happen in the real world. They do. Into Thin Air opened my eyes not only to the reality of the world Maia, China, India and Becca lived in, but to the real life dangers the internet poses to young girls and boys. I love social media, as does most of society today. I love my on-line friends and family. But I will be much more careful in speaking with my grandchildren about the dangers now. More dilligent in educating them not only to not speak to strangers, but also to not develop on-line friendships that their parents don't know about. Social media is here to stay, as are the dangers related to it.

Ms. Maarten takes you deep into the world of sex-slavery, and the lives of three young women who plot and plan their escape. All seems hopeless until when confronted with bringing another young girl into the same horror that has filed their lives, they fight back. Led by Maia they risk their own lives to save each other, a friendship with bonds stronger than blood. You will find yourself on the edge of your seat, reading quickly to turn the page, perhaps chewing on a nail, as you hold your breath, both in fear and anticipation. A gripping read, that you won't want to put down until the very last page, and even then you will be wanting more.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Merry Go Round by Donna Fasano

Chapter 1

You don't know a woman
till you've met her in court.
~ Norman Mailer

"It's a great day for a divorce." Lauren took a quick look around to see if anyone had heard her talking to herself before she hurried up the courthouse steps. If everything went according to plan, she would walk out of this building a free woman. She'd sleep a lot better and breathe a lot easier minus the hundred and eighty pounds of man meat she'd been lugging around for far too long.
A blessed blast of cool air billowed from the building when she hauled open the plate glass door. Although it was a few days into September, the hot, humid temps that plagued Sterling through the lazy months of summer were stubbornly hanging on. She lifted her hand in greeting to Rusty as he tucked the floor polisher into the janitorial closet; she nodded to colleagues she met in the hallway. The reverberation of her high heels clicking against the marble floor had her smiling. It was a satisfying sound—one she'd heard nearly every workday since she'd passed the Maryland Bar and ordered the door plaque that read Lauren E. Hunkavic, Attorney At Law.
Of course, it was Flynn now. The name change was about the only good thing that had come from her marriage. Not that she wasn't proud of her maiden name. Her Czechoslovakian great-grandparents had risked everything, left everyone they loved in search of a new life across the ocean. But kids were mean. And mercilessly unrelenting. Every Halloween she had been saddled with Hunk-a-trick. The summer she went through a chubby stage, it had been Hunk-a-thick. She lost the weight and they'd come up with Hunk-a-stick. She hadn't gone on a single Saturday movie outing with friends that she hadn't heard Hunk-a-flick at least once. Missing a couple of days of school turned her into Hunk-a-sick. Although the teasing during her adolescence had been mostly innocuous, it had been endless and irritating as the hell. Her parents and teachers alike had explained that the kids were simply goading her into reacting. "They're paying for a ticket," her dad had told her, "but you don't have to put on a show." High school seemed to mature most of her peers, but there had been a moron or two who just seemed to get crueler and nastier in their twisting of her last name.
Turning the corner, she wasn't surprised to see her father sitting on the bench near the elevator. His beat up Dodge Ram had been parked on West Main Street directly in front of the courthouse steps. He must have arrived at daybreak to bag the prime spot. Even though she was ten minutes early for their court appointment—the first slot of the day—Lauren had been forced to use the side lot.
She tried to gauge her father's mood as she got closer. If Eeyore ever took sick in the 100 Acre Wood, Lew Hunkavic would be the perfect stand-in for the pessimistic Equus asinus.
"Hey there, Dad. You look good this morning. All bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. You must have slept well."
Asking her dad how he was feeling held too great a possibility of opening a huge can of big, fat blood worms. Instead, she made a habit of making the most positive assessment possible.
"My hair hurts." He raked his stubby fingers through the thatch of silver covering his scalp, tilting his head and wincing as he did so. "Been hurting for days. You'da known about it if you'da called."
"Dad, we had dinner on Sunday," she reminded him lightly. "It's only Wednesday."
"I know what day of the week it is," he groused.
She punched the elevator call button. "Come the weekend, you won't have to worry about me calling you, will you?" A slight movement had her eyes darting to his face. She'd thought she'd seen his mouth quirk, but surely she was mistaken. He had to be as dismayed about these circumstances as she.
"Besides that," she continued, "your hair can't hurt."
He rose from the bench, the rubber tip of his cane squeaking on the polished stone floor.
"Hair is made up of nothing but dead cells, Dad. No nerve endings, no pain."
He glowered, his gray-green eyes narrowing on her, just as the elevator dinged, the up arrow lit and the doors slid open. "It's carbunculosis."
They stepped inside and Lauren touched the button that would take them to the third floor.
"An infection of the scalp. I researched it at that website I told you about. All Natural Health dot org."
The internet. It was both a blessing and a bane. A person could find information about anything there. Anything.
Most people spent their golden years traveling the country, or engrossed in some well-loved hobby, or immersed in great works of literature. Not her seventy-year-old dad. Oh, no. He spent his days hunched over a keyboard, trolling the Web for medical maladies with which to label every ache and pain he experienced.
Softly, she warned, "Dad, it wouldn't hurt to get a professional opinion."
He straightened. "You telling me my scalp isn't sore?"
"I'm not saying that at all." Suddenly, Lauren realized she'd better back peddle a bit. She needed her dad in good spirits this morning. Well, as good as his spirits could be, anyway.
The doors slid open and they exited the elevator.
"I have no doubt you're hurting," she told him. "I can see by the look on your face. Maybe you should go see Dr. Amos."
"Charlie Amos is a dimwit."
"Dad, you and Dr. Amos have been friends for—"
"I don't need a doctor, Lauren. I bought myself some tea tree oil. A few drops in my shampoo should take care of the problem."
"Tea tree oil, huh?" She stifled the sigh building at the base of her diaphragm. "Where'd you hear about that? Find A Cure dot com?" Before he could respond, she said, "Dad, you need to forgive Doc."
"Bless my butt and call me Betty. The man couldn't diagnose a simple rash, Lauren." Lew shook his head in disgust. "Dry skin, my ass. I knew I had a problem, and I found a cure, too. That old quack can't even turn on a computer, let alone do a Google search. He's way behind the times. How can he ever expect to keep up with advances in health care?"
Medical journals, maybe? Professional conferences? Refresher courses? But Lauren zipped her lip.
The fact was that the good doctor had the gall to warn her father not to take everything he read on the Net as gospel truth. That had been four months ago, and since then her dad had refused to acknowledge Dr. Amos existed.
They arrived at the double doors of the courtroom, and Lauren spun to face her father.
"Okay, Dad—" she lifted her free hand, palm up "—can we set this aside for now? This is very important to me."
The deep sigh he emitted could have been his reluctance to veer off the topic of his latest infirmity, or it could have been his reaction to the court petition she'd filed. Either way, she'd felt it best to ignore his gloom.
"We've gone over what the judge might ask you, right?" She dipped her chin, arched her brows, straightening the collar of his royal blue dress shirt. "You remember how to respond, yes?"
"Lauren, I'm not a four year old."
She gave him a small smile, smoothing the fabric of his shirt. "Sorry, Dad."
Her attaché thumped against the door of courtroom number three as she grabbed the handle. The room was empty and quiet as they made their way up the center aisle and took seats at the plaintiff's table. Lauren snapped open her soft leather case and pulled out the file containing her divorce papers.
Papers that were missing a vital signature. And it wasn't hers.
She spent a few minutes studying her notes and mulling over all the arguments and rebuttals that might arise. The court clerk entered from one of the two doors located behind the judge's bench, perused the room and then ducked back inside the office.
"The judge must be ready to start," Lauren told her father, glancing at her watch. One minute before nine. "It's just like Greg to be late. Never takes a single thing seriously." Dipping her gaze to her notes again, she murmured, "He's probably rescuing some poor, decrepit soul out there somewhere." If there was a poor, decrepit soul within a hundred mile radius of Sterling Greg would find it, that was certain.
A few minutes later, the door at the main entrance to the courtroom swung open and Greg waltzed in. Lauren forced herself not to turn around, keeping her eyes glued to the documents in front of her. But she could see his loose, breezy stride in her mind's eye. And she could easily imagine his attire: battered, steel-toed Wolverines, worn blue jeans and t-shirt. If he'd decided to dress up for the occasion, he might have gone all out and donned a polo shirt.
With her arm firmly twisted behind her back, she'd have admitted the fact that, when they'd first met Greg's blue-collar style had appealed to her. He was different from the men she'd dated—the studious collegians that had made up her social circle while she'd earned her law degree.
Soft, worn denim had the ability to hug a man's rear like no other fabric. And the physical nature of Greg's work tightened his glutes to pinch-tempting firmness. The memory had heat flushing Lauren's face.
She'd grown adept at ignoring her husband altogether. The practice had kept her sane for months now. But to force those inappropriate images from her brain, she lifted her gaze to the empty court clerk's desk and snipped, "It's good that some people finally decided to show up."
"Good morning to you, too, Lauren."
He stood next to her, close enough that the familiar scent of him—bath soap and sunshine—forced the muscles of her belly to tense involuntarily. She felt him move away, heard him take a seat at the defendant's table, and that's when she stole a glance. His skin was tanned to a deep golden olive, his black-as-night hair slicked back from his morning shower, his even blacker eyes staring directly at her. She redirected her gaze as casually as possible.
"How you doing, Lew?" Greg asked her father.
"Got carbunculosis. My hair is damn sore."
"That's a shame."
Lauren couldn't quite keep from rolling her eyes at the sympathy in Greg's tone. Like he really cared. But then she sobered because she knew he truly did. About her dad, at least. Ever since she'd introduced the two men, they'd been fast friends. Of all the gripes she had against Greg, his treatment of her father would never be one of them.
"You running a fever?" Greg scooted his chair a bit as he spoke.
"Nah." Lew shook his head. "Nothing like that. I'm sure adding a little anti-bacterial oil to my shampoo will fix me right up."
As appreciative as she'd always been of Greg's concern for and patience with her dad, she was just too annoyed with the man right now to show it. She picked up her file folder and legal pad and tapped them smartly on the table. "I see you came prepared, as usual."
No documents. No notepad. Not even a carpenter's pencil tucked behind his ear. Looks as though he'd given today's court appearance as much attention as the divorce petition she'd served him with.
She sensed rather than saw his mouth draw into a slow smile.
Softly, he replied, "Hey, I'm here, aren't I?"
Before she could offer a biting retort, the court clerk appeared.
"All rise," the woman said, just as Judge Brooks opened the door of his office. "Court is now in session. The Honorable Matthew Brooks presiding."
A tall man in his sixties, Judge Brooks had salt and pepper hair and ruddy cheeks. He was one of three judges in Sterling, which meant he presided over a third of the legal proceedings that filtered through the courthouse and that he and Lauren saw each other often. She knew him to be smart and open-minded and fair. He slipped into his black leather chair, set down the papers he was carrying and smiled at each of them in turn.
"Mrs. Flynn, I've read your complaint," the judge said, "and from what I can see here, you don't really have a legal leg to stand on. But I agreed to meet with all parties concerned today because I'm sure you intend to try to change my mind."
Ready for a fight, Lauren stood. "Judge, if you'll allow me to explain. It's been a full year since I—"
Judge Brooks lifted a hand. "Hold on, Counselor. I'm not finished."
She sat down, murmuring a quick, "Pardon me."
The man propped his elbows on the desk, fisted his hands and focused on Lauren. "Your frustration is made quite clear in your complaint. But you know the law, Mrs. Flynn." He stared at the documents in front of him then looked up at her again. "Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?"
She knew Matthew Brooks' 'fatherly lecture' tone when she heard it. But she was willing to suffer through a mild scolding for wasting the court's time if it meant she'd have a chance to argue her grievance in the end. And he was too fair not to hear her out.
"I don't mind at all, Judge," she said.
The clerk stood, but the judge shook his head. "There'll be no swearing in today. We're just chatting this morning. This meeting has about as much legal binding as if we were sitting across the street at Rose's Diner." He looked at Lauren and asked, "I read that you and Gregory Flynn have been living separately and apart without cohabitation for twelve months. But what I want to know is this; did your husband commit adultery?"
"No, Your Honor," she said.
"Did he desert you?"
"No. I was the one who asked him to leave."
"Was he convicted of a crime?"
Does costing me every last nickel of savings count as a crime? she wanted to rail. Does breaking my heart count? Does making me cry until I puked count? How about disillusioning me? Or pissing me off beyond all reason? None of those charges being convictable offenses, all she curtly replied was, "No, he wasn't."
"Is Gregory Flynn insane?"
She went still and then glanced over at the man in question, seeing his dark eyes glitter, and then he gave her one of those devil-may-care smiles of his. Her heart fluttered at the same instant that her ire flared. Damn, but the man irritated her. She couldn't believe that not so long ago she'd found that grin highly arousing. Automatically, her litigation training kicked in and she refrained from glaring at him. Turning to Judge Brooks once again, she hesitated a few long seconds before answering, "No. Not in any certifiable way, that is."
Ignoring her quip, the judge queried, "Has he abused you?"
That all depended on a person's definition of abuse. He'd abused her bank account; he'd battered her heart; he'd pummeled to death her idea of a good and solid man-woman relationship. Lauren thought she just might be able to argue this point and win, but keeping her focus on the goal of completely severing all ties to Greg here, now, today, she forced herself to answer, "He hasn't."
"And we wouldn't be here at all," the judge said quietly, "if this separation were voluntary. Isn't that true, Mrs. Flynn?"
"It is."
The day she had told Greg he had to pack his things and leave she'd never been angrier in her life. He'd argued with her that they could work things out, but she'd stood firm. If she'd been raised just a tad differently, she'd have surrendered to her fury that day; she'd have screamed bloody murder and tossed his clothes out on the front lawn; she'd have--
Now was not the time to get lost in pleasant daydreams.
"According to Maryland law, if the separation were voluntary, the divorce would be final after twelve months." Judge Brooks lowered his clasped hands and leaned forward. "As I said before, Mrs. Flynn, I understand that you're frustrated. You've been waiting a year for your husband to agree to a divorce. That's a long time. It's logical, even reasonable, that you'd want to get on with your life. However, I must remind you that since this is an involuntary separation, and that Mr. Flynn has every legal right to wait the full two years allowed by law before signing those papers."
Lauren popped up from her seat. "But there's no need to wait, your Honor. There is absolutely, positively no possibility of reconciliation. None. Nada." She swiped her flattened palm through the air. "Zip."
Flipping open her file, she glanced at her notes. Going over things in an orderly manner was crucial. "I brought my father as a fact witness. He'll be happy to testify that Greg and I aren't getting back together."
"Mrs. Flynn, sit down," the Judge said quietly. "Relax. Whether or not you'll be getting back together doesn't matter. The law states—"
"I know what the law states." Judge Brooks cast her a narrowed-eyed warning and she clamped her lips shut. She lowered herself onto her seat as he'd ordered, muttering, "I'm sorry I interrupted you. It won't happen again."
The judge studied her a moment and then turned his resigned gaze to her father. "Mr. Hunkavic?"
"Yes, sir." Her dad sat up straighter, his fingers curled on the knob of his cane. "That's me. Lewis Ivan Hunkavic."
"Do you feel, Mr. Hunkavic, that your daughter and son-in-law have any chance of working out their differences?"
"Well, your Honor, sir."
The odd hitch in her dad's tone had Lauren turning toward him. He combed his fingers through his hair, his bushy brows pulling together.
"My first concern is Lauren's happiness, of course," Lew began. He paused, then added, "I know what she wants me to say to you. She's yammered at me about it numerous times."
Her lips parted and she sucked in a silent gasp.
"You're not sworn in, Mr. Hunkavic," Judge Brooks explained, "but that doesn't mean I wouldn't appreciate complete honesty here."
She watched her dad hesitate a moment, then he did the most peculiar thing. He reached down with his free hand, grasped the arm of his chair and scooted it the merest fraction of an inch—away from her.
"Sir, I have to admit," he said, his gaze trained on the judge, "my daughter tends to be a tad stubborn. She inherited that trait from her mother."
The judge smiled just as Lew quietly added, "God rest her soul."
"Excuse me for butting in, Judge." Lauren stood again, her voice loud and clear. "But I think my father's about to become a hostile witness."
"Mrs. Flynn, you promised you wouldn't interrupt. And might I remind you that you requested this meeting? This is an informal gathering." As if confirming the remark, Judge Brooks reached over and slid the gavel a few inches to his right. "We're just chatting here. That's all we're doing."
Lauren sat again, casting her father a withering look even though she knew it would have no effect on the old coot whatsoever. There were times when Lew Hunkavic could be as infuriating as her husband, and she could feel in her bones that this was surely going to be one of them.
"You were saying, Mr. Hunkavic?" Judge Brooks said.
Lew tapped his cane silently against the floor twice. "Sir, I believe my daughter is very angry with Greg. With good reason, I'll give her that. He's made a few mistakes over the past couple of years." He leaned forward, softening his voice even further. "But, personally, I don't think money is a good reason to end a marriage."
Again, Lauren sucked in a sharp breath. "Dad! There's more to this than money. You know that."
She faced forward, ignoring the men on either side of her. "Your Honor, there is no possibility of reconciliation for Gregory Flynn and myself. I can guarantee this. It takes two to tango, and not only am I unwilling to dance, I can no longer hear the music." Stiffly, she added, "The fact that I had to sell my tap shoes to pay my husband's debt is only one reason our marriage fell apart."
Beside her, Lew murmured, "Did you ever think that was part of the problem between you and Greg? You insisted on tangoing in tap shoes?"
Lauren took no notice of her father's questions, focusing only on making her point. "Judge Brooks, I emptied my savings and pension funds in order to pay Greg's debts. He's cost me nearly sixty thousand dollars. My father will be moving in with me at the end of the week because I can no longer afford to pay his rent and save for my retirement at the same time."
"Thanks for telling the world I'm a kept man," her dad said.
"I'm not keeping you, Dad. I'm helping you. There's a big difference." She glanced over at Greg and saw him staring straight ahead, the muscle near his temple so tense it looked painful. His embarrassment didn't concern her. She wanted his signature on those papers, damn it.
"Judge," she continued, "it will take me years to recoup my losses. Every time I sit down to pay bills and realize that I have to trim my budget even further due to Greg's poor financial planning, his stupid business choices, I get sick to my stomach. My nausea only increases when I remember how he lied. He betrayed my trust. I want this over with. Once and for all and forever." She snapped her jaw shut and offered Judge Brooks a look of unwavering determination.
The elderly man in the formidable black robe returned her gaze, and she worried that he might disappoint her. But then he shook his head ever so slightly and turned to Greg.
And that's when Lauren could almost taste victory.
"Mr. Flynn," Judge Brooks said softly, "do you mind if I ask you why you're dragging your heels on this thing?"
Lauren watched Greg ponder the question for a moment.
Finally, he lifted his burly shoulders a fraction, raised one calloused hand, palm up, and said, "Pride, I guess."
The judge tapped his fingertips soundlessly on his desktop. "Your answer surprises me. I was expecting to hear something altogether different. Can you help me understand what you mean?"
A tall, solid man used to handling a miter saw or climbing around on roofing trusses, Greg looked uncomfortable in the hard-angled, wooden chair. However, it could have been the question he found discomfiting.
"I don't like the idea of leaving things like this."
When he hesitated, the judge coaxed, "What do you mean, Mr. Flynn? Leave things like what?"
Greg cleared his throat and shifted his weight in the chair. "I, uh, I don't like the idea of walking away from Lauren while things are. . .well, such a mess. If she'd accept my calls, or talk to me when she sees me on the street, I could have saved us from having to come here today. I could have expressed my feelings to her. Explained my plan. I was hoping to work things out." He splayed his hands on the tabletop. "Not that I think we'll get back together or anything like that, Judge. Lauren's made that clear enough." He pondered a moment, scrubbing at his jaw. "But I wanted to work out the business end of things. It would be humiliating for me to agree to divorce my wife while I still owe her so much money. You're a man, I'm sure you can understand that."
Lauren blinked. "But you don't owe me any money." Confusion weakened her tone. She looked at the judge and firmly stated, "He doesn't owe me any money."
"That's what I tried to tell him," Lew said under his breath.
"Oh, but I do." The resolve in Greg's words was as strong as hers and it drew her attention. He faced her, had turned his entire body to address her as if she were the only person in the room. "You said it yourself, Lauren. Nearly sixty thousand dollars."
"But, Greg, my name was on the business." Boy, had that been a mistake. But love had a way of making a person as blind as a mole rat. "That was my share of the debt when the store went under."
"That was my debt, Lauren. Not yours."
The intensity of his onyx eyes threatened to suck her in, swallow her whole. This was exactly why she'd turned and walked in the opposite direction whenever she'd spied him in the Super G or at the County Bank. She couldn't talk to the man without feeling she might come apart at the seams.
"Your Honor—" She concentrated on the man in the black robe—the one person who had some semblance of a chance of tipping the balance and winning her freedom. "Will you please explain the law to him? Make him see that he does not owe me any money?"
Judge Brooks' expression had lightened significantly as Greg had talked. "You have to admit, Mrs. Flynn, that your husband's motives are genuine. He's looking out for your best interest." He shrugged. "I'd even go so far as to say Mr. Flynn is being downright chivalrous in the matter."
Lauren frowned. "No disrespect intended, but chivalry died along with King Arthur."
"There you go again," Lew grumbled, "tangoing in tap shoes."
Glancing over her shoulder, she said, "That makes absolutely no sense. Can you sit there quietly? If you refuse to help my case, Dad, the least you can do is not hurt it." He looked wounded, but her determination was building and she didn't want to lose the momentum. She swung her gaze to the judge. "I don't want Mr. Flynn's money. I want his signature. On these documents." She waved the papers in the air. "I don't want to wait another year for my divorce. I need to—"
"All right, already!" Greg smacked the tabletop and stood, the legs of his chair grating against the floor. "If it's that important to you, Lauren, I'll sign the papers."
Yes! This was what she'd been hoping for. That Greg would finally understand her vexation and agree to dissolve their marriage, once and for all.
She snatched up her Montblanc and set the petition in front of Greg with rocket speed. His rough fingertips grazed the back of her hand when he reached for the ink pen; heated electricity skittered across her skin forcing her to suppress a shiver. He showed no sign of noticing.
"You should read them before signing," she murmured, overwhelmed with satisfaction as she watched him scrawl his name on the line.
He set down the pen, his severe gaze raking her face. "Thanks for the advice, Counselor."
Ignoring his disgruntled tone, Lauren picked up documents. "Judge Brooks, may I approach the bench? If you sign these now, it will expedite the process even further."
"Hold up a minute, Mrs. Flynn." The judge opened the manila file sitting on his desk. "This changes everything. We have property to take care of. We might as well do it now since we're all present."
She paused, her heart fluttering. "I beg your pardon, Judge, but there's nothing to divvy up. I bought the house before we married. Greg's name was never on the deed." Lauren couldn't count the number of times she'd thanked the heavens for that bit of saving grace. "All the inventory was liquidated and the store was sold, and it took everything to pay the business debts. I kept my car. He kept his truck. And I agreed he should keep his tools so he could earn a living." She straightened the documents in her hands, tapped them on the table. "So you can see, there's nothing else left to split."
"Oh, Mrs. Flynn," the judge almost sang the words while he shuffled through the papers in front of him, "now there's where you're wrong."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review - Wendy and the Lost Boys

I started this book one afternoon when I was feeling especially overwhelmed with life and wanted a light, fun read.  I’ve never truly been a Peter Pan fan and being honest in my reviews is important to me, so I will say up front that this isn’t normally a genre I would have picked up and if Barbara wasn’t an on-line friend I might never have read her book.  I’m glad I did, because it took only a few only a few pages to pull me in and get me “hooked”. 

Wendy Darlin was a character I could totally empathize with.  An underlying goodness and a big heart that even in the best of times gets her caught up in things she should have avoided.  A dreamer holding on to a memory of a lost love.   And we all know how memories are.

The supporting cast of characters was perfect for this story.   They added not only an aspect of humor, but also helped to round out and lend support to Wendy’s true character and nature.   I have to applaud Barbara in not only choosing a lead character that I loved, but also on choosing just the right supporting cast to both enhance her story and her main character.  The underlying story of the “Lost Boys” definitely piqued my interest and made me want to know more about them. 

I’m a mood reader, and normally pick something from the genre of mysteries and thrillers, so I could have gone either way on this book—loved it, or hated it.  If you’re in the mood for something dark and mysterious this may not be the book for you.  However, if you’re having one of those days where you want to just read for pure entertainment, have a good laugh, and your sense of humor enjoys something off the beaten path—I think you’ll love this book.   I will definitely be reading the sequel, London Broil.  And this time not because Barbara’s an on-line friend, but because I read the first three chapters at the end of Wendy and once again I’m already hooked.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

New Release - Foul Justice by M. A. Comley

Foul Justice by Mel Comley


Trisha Dobbs cowered in the corner. She wrapped her trembling arms around her two small children and kept her gaze on the three men ransacking her immaculate home. “Don’t hurt us anymore, please!”
The man snarled and ordered, “Get the rope and tie them up.”
Trisha gasped, and he turned to look at her, his eyes narrowed. She quickly averted her eyes, not wishing to annoy the man further. She’d already lashed out at him while trying to protect her son and daughter when the three brutes had forced their way into the house. He had a gash above his right eye where her flailing fist had connected, and she had a gash across her cheek where he’d retaliated without hesitation. She’d sensed, then, that she and her children were in for a rough ride and that the man was used to getting his way with women, one way or another.
“Mummy, I want to go toilet,” little Rebecca said as tears welled in her bright blue eyes. Trisha comforted the child and kissed her forehead reassuringly.
“Sssh, hon, try and hold on. Go through your alphabet to take your mind off it, like I told you. A is for apple, B is for—”
“Shut the fuck up, bitch,” the man snapped, his voice filled with venom.
“I… I’m sorry—” Trisha stopped when the man rushed at her and ripped her daughter from her grasp.
“No! I’m sorry. Please don’t hurt my baby.” Trisha sobbed and clung tightly to her two-year-old son, Jacob.
The man picked up Rebecca and roughly dropped her on the large white leather sofa opposite her mother. Trisha soon saw the trickle of yellow liquid drip down the sofa onto the rug below. Sensing danger, she placed a finger to her lips to warn her daughter to keep quiet. Rebecca covered her mouth as her shoulders trembled, and tears cascaded down her flushed cheeks. Too far from her mother’s reach, the four year old was petrified.
The man in charge towered over Trisha, his body blocking the light from the crystal chandelier overhead. “What time will he be home?”
With the man intimidating her, Trisha found it impossible to think properly. She glanced up at the lion head–shaped gold wall clock hanging above the fireplace. “Dave should be home at any minute,” she told him in a quivering voice.
The men had come at eight o’clock, and it was now half past ten. Trisha’s husband always arrived home around eleven on match days when he played at home. He generally declined going for a drink with the rest of the team after work. He was the type who preferred to keep out of the limelight, and he hated the notoriety connected with his job. Given the option, he would choose to be home with his family, unlike most of his teammates, who appeared to revel in fighting off the paparazzi at London’s elite nightclubs.
One of the men tied her arms behind her back before moving on to little Jacob. Her heart went out to her baby, and wanting to protect him, she pleaded, “Stop! He’s only a child. What harm can he do? Please don’t tie him up.”
Appearing uncertain, the man looked over his shoulder at his boss, who glared and nodded for him to continue.
Jacob cried out in pain as the man roughly wrapped the rope around his fragile wrists.
“It’s okay, sweetie. Show Mummy how brave you can be.” Trisha tried to reassure him, hoping to prolong the charade that they were all playing a bizarre game.
Soon both children were sobbing uncontrollably, and Trisha, numb with helplessness, felt as though she’d been stabbed numerous times in the chest. My God, what can I do to get out of this?
“Go upstairs and start on the bedroom. Tear it to pieces if you have to,” the man in charge ordered.
Trisha tried hard not to give anything away with her facial expressions under the man’s intensive stare. She felt confident the gang wouldn’t find the safe tucked under the floorboards in the master bedroom, but considering the mess they’d made of her beautiful home since their arrival, anything was possible.
The man in charge took a step toward her. “If you don’t tell me where the jewellery is, I’m gonna start hurting the kids.”
Knowing she couldn’t delay the inevitable any longer, she sighed. “In the back bedroom.”
“In the wardrobe. On the shelf, there’s a box.”
He leaned close and ran his thumb from one side of his throat to the other. “If you’re tricking me…” Jacob was sitting beside her, and the man yanked the boy’s head back. “He gets it, you hear me?”
“Yes, I understand. My jewellery is in that room. I don’t have much. You think we’re rich, but we’re not. This house is mortgaged to the hilt. All our furniture is on Hire Purchase. Dave doesn’t make the kind of wages reported in the papers, I swear,” she told him between sobs. Stay strong for the kids’ sakes.
“You think I’ve got ‘fucking idiot’ tattooed on my forehead, bitch? What do you take me for?”
“I’m sorry. It’s the truth. You have to believe me.”
“Oh, do I now? You blondes are all the same—thick as shit! You think you can wrap us men around your fingers, don’t ya?”
Trisha remained silent.
The man went into the hallway and shouted up the stairs, “The spare room at the back, in the wardrobe, on the shelf. Let me know when you find something.”
Trisha squeezed her eyes shut and tried to visualise what jewellery she had put in the specific box. Her heart sank when she remembered she’d placed nothing spectacular there. All her best jewellery, Christmas and birthday presents that Dave had bought her, were safely tucked away under the floorboards. She hoped and prayed the children wouldn’t give her away, for all their sakes.
“Something wrong?” The man was in her face again, his eyes glinting with pure evil.
She wanted to be her usual sarcastic self, but the present time wasn’t appropriate. “No. Just hoping Dave returns home soon.”
“So am I,” he said, before releasing a full belly laugh.
A few minutes later, the other two men returned to the living room and handed the box to the man in charge. He threw the glass of brandy he’d poured himself across the room and marched towards her. “Is this it?”
 She gulped. “Yes, I told you, we’re not wealthy. I—”
“That’s bullshit, lady, and we both fuckin’ know it. Where is it? This is your final chance or the kid gets it.”
Words stuck in her throat as the three intruders eyed her with contempt. Suddenly, the man in charge reached out and yanked Jacob to his feet. The man pulled out a knife and placed it against her terrified son’s neck. Trisha watched in horror as the blade sank into her child’s skin, and droplets of blood trailed down onto his white T-shirt, followed by his terrified tears.
“Please! I’ll tell you. Don’t hurt my baby.”
“I’m waiting.”
“In the main bedroom—you have to move the bed—there’s a small safe in the floorboards under the rug.”
He nodded for his men to go back upstairs and check. Seconds later, he received a shout that they’d located it, and seconds after that, little Jacob lay in a heap on the shag carpet, his throat slit from ear to ear.   

Monday, May 14, 2012

Book Review - Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

I read this book shortly after it was published, but recently decided to read it again.  It's one of those books you fall in love with.  You fall in love with the characters, with the story, and from page one find it impossible to put down.  It's almost impossible for me to tell you everything I loved without writing spoilers, which I don't want to do.  Odd Thomas will be forever engraved in my memory as one of my all-time favorite characters.  The character is so well-developed you find yourself living through his eyes.  A bit of mystery, romance, horror and humor all rolled up in one fantastic story.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Book Review - James Patterson - Kiss The Girls

One of the things I love about Patterson is his storytelling mastery.  His ability to hook me with a character, and a story, that makes me want to follow them wherever they go, and care about what happens to them.  Alex Cross is one of those characters.
I saw Kiss the Girls as a movie several years ago, but I don’t think the movie came close to giving me the same personal interaction with the characters as the book.  Perhaps it’s my own imagination kicking in, or maybe just the fact that the movie characters weren’t the same person I had envisioned.  Either way, I loved the book much more than the movie.
Definitely not your cozy mystery.  If gruesome murders and graphic torture makes you queasy, then you should probably skip this one.   I’ve often thought some of this wasn’t necessary, but these scenes take you into the mind of the killer, making them real.  Out of all the Patterson books I’ve read, I think this is probably my favorite.  The personal interest Cross has in capturing one or both of the serial killers makes him all the more human and real.  He not only needs to get these people off the street, he needs to do it before his own niece becomes the next body he finds.  A real page turner you won’t want to put down until the very end.

Similar Authors and Books I've Enjoyed

M. A. Comley knows Criminal Minds

I've only read the first two books in this series, but like Patterson, I found the characters and stories compelling.  There were scenes, like Patterson, that I felt were more gruesome or perhaps unnecessary until I reflected upon the characters and realized this is how the character would react and this is exactly what the character would do.  If you love Patterson, I think you'll Comley too.