Book Review: Claim of Innocence by Laura Caldwell

Title: Claim of Innocence
Author: Laura Caldwell
Publisher: Mira
Publication Date: August 23, 2011
Paperback: 448 pages
ISBN: 978-0778329329
Genre: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller

Book Synopsis:

It was a crime of passion—or so the police say. Valerie Solara has been charged with poisoning her best friend. The prosecution claims she’s always been secretly attracted to Amanda’s husband…and with Amanda gone, she planned to make her move.

Attorney Izzy McNeil left the legal world a year ago, but a friend’s request pulls her into the murder trial. Izzy knows how passion can turn your life upside down. She thought she had it once with her ex-fiancé, Sam. Now she wonders if that’s all she has in common with her criminally gorgeous younger boyfriend, Theo.

It’s Izzy’s job to present the facts that will exonerate her client—whether or not she’s innocent. But when she suspects Valerie is hiding something, she begins investigating—and uncovers a web of secret passions and dark motives, where seemingly innocent relationships can prove poisonous….

My Review:

Claim of Innocence by Laura Caldwell is a fast-paced legal thriller about a woman accused of murdering her best friend, and about her defense attorney, Izzy McNeil, who is trying her first criminal case after a leave from her exclusively civil litigations.  Readers are introduced to Valerie Solara, who has been accused of poisoning her best friend, Amanda, whose husband Valerie has been longing for. Mixed in with Izzy’s own personal romantic urges, the interpersonal issues makes for a complicated plot that at times loses focus on the legal case at hand.  As readers follow the case for the defense of Valerie, they will find that not is all as it seemed at first to Izzy, and as she builds her case for her client, the suspense is turned up several notches and suspense fans will delight in the discoveries that await Izzy.  One of my personal dislikes of this novel was the romance, which I found to be a distraction from what would otherwise be a taut mystery thriller.  Being part of the Izzy McNeil series, which I have not read, may be part of the reason for my opinions, for I felt at times that knowing a little more about Izzy, especially when allusions to other works were made, would have helped.  With that said, I would recommend Claim of Innocence to those who enjoy a good legal thriller with romance thrown in for good measure.

To learn more about author Laura Caldwell, please visit her website: www.lauracaldwell.com

I received a complimentary copy of Claim of Innocence by Laura Caldwell from Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc. to offer my honest review of the book.  Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.


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Book Review: Indefensible by Pamela Callow


Title: Indefensible
Author: Pamela Callow
Publisher: Mira
Publication Date: December 28, 2010
Paperback: 512 pages
ISBN: 978-0778327509
Genre: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller

From the Publisher:

When Elise Vanderzell plummets from her bedroom balcony one gorgeous summer night, her children awaken to a nightmare.

Their mother is dead.

Their father is charged with her murder.

Lawyer Kate Lange knows all about nightmares. She’s survived the darkest period of her troubled life and the wounds are still raw. Now she’s been handed a case that seems utterly unwinnable: defending her boss, high-profile lawyer Randall Barrett. A prosecutor’s dream suspect, Randall is a man who was cuckolded by his ex-wife. A man who could not control his temper. A man who had argued bitterly with the victim the previous day in full view of the children.

With limited criminal law experience, Kate finds herself enmeshed in a family fractured by doubt. Randall’s teenage son is intent on killing him. His daughter wants only to feel safe again. And the entire legal community would like nothing better than to see Randall receive a public comeuppance. As Kate races to stay a step ahead of the prosecution, a silent predator is waiting for the perfect time to deal the final blow.

My Review:

Indefensible by Pamela Callow takes up shortly where Damaged leaves off, however, Indefensible can indeed be read as a stand alone book.  Kate Lange, an overworked lawyer at the law firm of McGrath Barrett, is summoned early Saturday morning by her boss, Randall Barrett, whom she thought was on vacation, to care for his dog, seeing how he was about to be questioned in the death of his ex-wife, Elise Vanderzell.  Elise brought her and Randall’s two children, Nick and Lucy, to Halifax to spend a holiday.  Elise needed time away from Toronto; Randall wanted to see his children, and Elise’s friend offered up her house for the month. Ethan Drake heads up the murder investigation of Elise Vanderzell while Kate works to prove her boss is innocent.  Callow has created a clever, fast-paced and emotional thriller with an intriguing ensemble of characters ranging from sympathetic to out-right devious.  Kate Lange is a multilayered character and one I know I probably should like more than I do.  Indefensible is a clever mystery filled with mounting tension, suspense, and a family filled with hurt, regrets, and anger.  Indefensible will keep the reader engaged trying to ascertain who did what and when.   Callow’s cast of characters work exceptionally well for this story and her vivid descriptions of not only scenery, but of the characters, lends a certain depth to the book which helps create an air of tension.  I would recommend Indefensible to any reader who enjoys a good suspense thriller.

To learn about the author and her writings please visit Pamela Callow’s website.

I received a complimentary copy of Damaged by Pamela Callow from Planned Television Art to review. Receiving a copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.


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Book Review: These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf


Title: These Things Hidden
Author: Heather Gudenkauf
Publisher: Mira; Original edition
Publication Date: January 18, 2011
Paperback: 352 pages
ISBN: 978-0778328797
Genre: Literary Fiction

From the Publisher:

When teenager Allison Glenn is sent to prison for a heinous crime, she leaves behind her reputation as Linden Falls’ golden girl forever. Her parents deny the existence of their once-perfect child. Her former friends exult in her downfall. Her sister, Brynn, faces whispered rumors every day in the hallways of their small Iowa high school. It’s Brynn—shy, quiet Brynn—who carries the burden of what really happened that night. All she wants is to forget Allison and the past that haunts her.

But then Allison is released to a halfway house, and is more determined than ever to speak with her estranged sister.

Now their legacy of secrets is focused on one little boy. And if the truth is revealed, the consequences will be unimaginable for the adoptive mother who loves him, the girl who tried to protect him and the two sisters who hold the key to all that is hidden.

My Review:

This is appearing to be the week of books dealing with familial relationships and at first I was concerned, is it possible to overdose on books surrounding deeply buried family secrets?  Thankfully it is not and These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf proved to be a phenomenal book. Gudenkauf not only has an extraordinary talent for beautiful prose but also for constructing deep, emotional, and realistic characters and life events.  The reader will quickly be drawn into These Things Hidden and will not want the book to end.  Secrets can bind us together or can tear us apart and for Allison and Brynn Glenn, there is a fine line between the two.  Allison goes from being exceedingly popular and an all-around American girl to being imprisoned for murder, disowned and upon her release to a half-way house, Allison learns even her sister wants nothing to do with her.  Gudenkauf has a flair for character development and Allison is one tough heroine and the reader quickly discovers many strong female characters in this book.  Throughout the book I kept trying to put myself in Allison’s shoes and I do not think I would have made it.   Allison is courageous, hard working, and absolutely lovely.  As she begins to make a new life for herself, long buried secrets start to become revealed, but saying any more and I will spoil this remarkable story, which I have no intention of doing.  These Things Hidden captivated me from the first page and I quite literally was unable to do anything other than read the book, the story line captivated me and held onto me in a manner not many books can.  I have had the pleasure of reading Gudenkauf’s The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden and cannot wait to see what she pens next.  Gudenkauf is a gifted storyteller with the ability to fully engage the reader from beginning to end.  I would recommend These Things Hidden to every reader and discussion group.

About the Author:

Heather Gudenkauf lives in Dubuque, Iowa, with her husband, three children and a very spoiled German shorthaired pointer. She is currently working on her next novel. For more information please visit the author’s website.

I received a complimentary copy of These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf from The Book Trib to offer my honest review of the book. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.


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Book Review and Tour: Outside the Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller

Title: Outside the Ordinary World
Author: Dori Ostermiller
Publisher: Mira
Publication Date: July 27, 2010
Paperback: 400 pages
ISBN: 978-0778328896
Genre: Fiction

From the Publisher:

Sylvia Sandon always swore she wouldn’t become her mother. But one August morning she finds herself walking the same path as the fervently religious yet faithless Elaine…into an affair she feels powerless to resist.

Against the backdrop of California brush fires in the 1970s, twelve-year-old Sylvia had agreed to hold a secret that would devour her family’s dream of happiness. Now struggling to create a better life in small-town New England, Sylvia nonetheless feels caught in the coils of history: she confronts the embers of her dying marriage, the all-consuming needs of her two daughters and her faltering artistic career. Then Tai Rosen—the father of a student—ignites an unexpected passion and a familiar betrayal that could illuminate the past, even as it jeopardizes everything dear.

Outside the Ordinary World reveals what lies beneath the surface of infidelity. But at its heart, it is the story of the powerful, sometimes disturbing bond between mothers and daughters, and the shimmering line between self-revelation and self-destruction….

My Review:

A beautiful and eloquently written debut novel, Outside the Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller is a powerful story of infidelity, secrets and the bonds between mothers and daughters.  Ostermiller’s debut is an extraordinary work of literary prose with compelling and captivating storylines begging the question is one destined to become one’s mother and if so when does the process begin?  Ostermiller’s characters are delightful in their own flawed ways, realistic and could easily be thought of as real.  Outside the Ordinary World takes the reader back and forth over a thirty year time span to show the interconnectedness between mother and daughter, daughter and mother, and husbands and wives in a seamless manner which made the story all the more enjoyable to read, as enjoyable as topics such as infidelity can be enjoyed.  Ostermiller’s debut novel is one of extraordinary beauty and makes for an exceptional work of literary fiction, which delves far beyond the world of infidelity.  I would recommend Outside the Ordinary World to any reader who enjoys a good storyline as well as beautiful prose.  Due to the subject matter I believe Outside the Ordinary World would make for an excellent discussion group pick.

About the Author:

Dori Ostermiller was born in Los Angeles, a fifth-generation Californian. In her early 20′s, she abandoned her path as a pre-med student to pursue an MFA in writing at the University of Massachusetts. Since then, her work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including The Bellingham Review, Roanoke Review, Alligator Juniper, Chautauqua Literary Journal and the Massachusetts Review. She is the recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist’s Grant and a Tobias Wolf Fiction award, and is the founder of Writers in Progress, a literary arts center in Western Massachusetts.

Her debut novel, Outside the Ordinary World, was released by MIRA in August, 2010. She lives in Northampton, with her husband and two daughters, and is at work on her second novel.

Connect with Dori on her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

For more reviews of the book, please follow the book tour.

I received a complimentary copy of Outside the Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller from TLC Book Tours to be a part of this tour and offer my honest review of the book. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.


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Book Review: The Hypnotist by M.J. Rose

Title: The Hypnotist
Author: M.J. Rose
Publisher: Mira
Publication Date: May 1, 2010
Hardcover: 416 pages
ISBN: 978-0778326755
Genre: Fiction, Paranormal, Thriller

About the Book:

An FBI agent, tormented by a death he wasn’t able to prevent, a crime he’s never been able to solve and a love he’s never forgotten, discovers that his true conflict resides not in his past, but in a…Past Life.

Haunted by a twenty-year old murder of a beautiful young painter, Lucian Glass keeps his demons at bay through his fascinating work as a Special Agent with the FBI’s Art Crime Team. Currently investigating a crazed art collector who has begun destroying prized masterworks, Glass is thrust into a bizarre hostage negotiation that takes him undercover at the Phoenix Foundation—dedicated to the science of past life study—where, in order to maintain his cover, he agrees to submit to the treatment of a hypnotist.

Under hypnosis, Glass travels from ancient Greece to 19th century Persia, while the case takes him from New York to Paris and the movie capital of world. These journeys will change his very understanding of reality, lead him to question his own sanity and land him at the center of perhaps the most audacious art heist in history: the theft of a 1,500 year old sculpture from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

International bestselling author M. J. Rose’s The Hynpotist is her most mesmerizing novel yet. An adventure, a love story, a clash of cultures, a spiritual quest, it is above all a thrilling capstone to her unique Reincarnation novels, The Reincarnationist and The Memorist.

My Review:

The Hypnotist is the third book in M.J. Rose’s Reincarnationist series and the first one I have read. The previous two novels are The Reincarnationist and The Memorist, which inspired the television series, Past Life, which I have never seen, and a rather round about way of me stating that while the genre was not for me, the writing is absolutely brilliant. The Hypnotist opens with the death of Lucian Glass, which occurred twenty years ago, but now Lucian is an F.B.I. agent and part of the Art Crime Division who will travel through time and space, his past lives via hypnosis. Meanwhile, in Manhattan the Iran and America cultural exchange is not going quite as planned. The Metropolitan Museum of Art happens to have the statue of Hypos and claims it was bequeathed to them and they have the proper documentation of the lineage of this piece of art. Iran wants Hypos returned, first using legal channels through Vartan Reza and then devolving to Farid Taghinia and Samimi being ordered to recover Hypos. Rose writes extremely well and her characters are quite well developed and her plot lines and twists are solid, well placed, suspenseful and strong. The history of Hypos and the plans to steal a gigantic statue from Metropolitan Museum of Art intrigued me; unfortunately the paranormal aspects of this story were lost on me. I believe that had I an interest in this genre I would have truly enjoyed The Hypnotist. However, even the strength of M.J. Rose’s writing could not change my opinion of paranormal fiction, hypnosis and reincarnation. The Hypnotist is a strong book, and even though I have not read the previous two, guessing based on the strength of this novel, I would hazard to guess that if one was interested in a mystery/thriller steeped in the paranormal then this would be a series to read.

About the Author:

M.J. Rose is the internationally bestselling author of ten previous novels and coauthor of two nonfiction books on marketing. Her work has appeared in many anthologies including Oprah’s Live Your Best Life and Thriller. The creator of the first marketing company for authors, Authorbuzz.com, Rose is also a founding member and on the board of directors of International Thriller Writers. She lives in Connecticut with composer and musician Doug Scofield and their spoiled dog, Winka.

M.J. Rose’s THE HYPNOTIST VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR AUGUST/SEPTEMBER ‘10 officially began on August 2nd and will end on September 30th. You can visit M.J.’s blog stops at. www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com during the month of August and September to find out more about this great book and talented author!

I received a complimentary copy of The Hypnotist by M.J. Rose from Pump Up Your Book Promotion as part of the tour. Receiving a copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.


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