A Mind to Kill by John Nicholl @nicholl06 #guestreview

I’m welcoming guest reviewer Christine back to the blog today with this brilliant review of A Mind to Kill by John Nicholl! Take it away, Christine!


Author : John Nicholl
Title : A Mind to Kill
Pages : 227
Publisher : n/a
Publication date : July 12, 2017


The hunters become the hunted…

She watched as he slowly approached the room and stopped for a moment, seemingly weighing up his options. And then she called out in a hushed, well-practised childlike whisper she’d perfected over time and come to love infinitely more than any living person. ‘I’m in here. Come on. I’m in here. Come and play with me. I’ve been waiting for you…’

When Rebecca’s childhood abuser avoids prosecution, it sets her on the path to revenge, revenge on any man who preys on the innocent.

Twenty-three-year-old Rebecca poses as a child online and sets her trap, luring one predatory paedophile after another to their deaths.

When a man’s severed head is found washed up on a windswept estuary beach, the police begin their investigation.

Is vigilante justice ever justified?


A Mind To Kill is a combination dark psychological thriller and police procedural. We do know the identity of the killer from the start. She is Rebecca Smith, IT expert for the police department, who was sexually abused as a child. Unfortunately, there was not enough evidence to convict the rapist, even though 6-year-old Becca was brave enough to tell the authorities what had happened to her. Rebecca cannot come to terms with the horrors of the experience and is devoting her adult life to vengeance against as many pedophiles as possible. Rebecca gets sloppy though and the police find a severed head in a bag down by the river. It is then the cops get involved.

Enter DI Gareth “Grav” Gravel, familiar to Nicholl fans from his previous novels. Grav was lead investigator in 6 year-old Rebecca’s case. Rebecca feels the police let her down.  Grav carries feelings of guilt that he was not good enough to get Rebecca’s rapist sent away. Grav’s and Rebecca’s paths are colliding again.

This is a quick, yet wrenching read. Rebecca is seriously disturbed. She is not a nice person any way you look at it. She is very unkind to her parents, who have tried to be supportive, but Rebecca cannot let things go. She has one mission in life and has willingly sacrificed everything but her day job for that endeavor. We are audience to her horrific methods, and as hardened as I am to dark graphic violence, some of these scenes were tough. Though I understood why she was the way she was, it was difficult to feel anything but sadness for this protagonist.

On the other hand, weathered DI Gravell is like an old comfy shoe to me, and I love him. He’s a crusty guy who doesn’t take care of himself, despite the frequent (imagined) whispers of encouragement from his beloved dead wife Heather. And he sure isn’t afraid to bend the rules when necessary in order to assure the right result. Though he is certainly rough around the edges, Grav is well respected by his colleagues.

John Nicoll has a wealth of experience with Child Protection services and law enforcement, lending a sense of real creditability to the story. As in all his novels, he makes his readers think. Is vigilantism acceptable? After all, as Rebecca tells herself, pedophiles ruin lives. Why should they get away with it? But who governs the rules of vigilantism? There have to be some guidelines and limits, right? How would that work? Or could it work at all? Should this even be considered??? Again, much to think about.

In summary, this is fast-paced and thought-provoking story with very good characterization and an ending that in my opinion could go no other way.  A warning to the faint of heart: Take an anti-nausea pill before reading if you are prone to revulsion and skim the brutal parts. Or just skip this one. Otherwise, I recommend it to all readers who want a quick read that is well written and goes way below the surface.

Note to John Nicholl: John, could you please have Grav see a doctor? I don’t want him dropping dead on us anytime soon. He would be sorely missed.

And thank you, Mr. Nicholl, for providing me with an ARC of your novel. The opinions in my review are mine alone and are unbiased in any way.

A Mind to Kill is available to buy now!

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Digital Velocity by Reily Garrett #guestreview

We’re diversifying on the blog today as I welcome back my wonderful guest reviewer Christine with her thoughts on this romantic suspense.


Author : Reily Garrett
Title : Digital Velocity
Series : McAllister Justice #1
Pages : 272
Publisher : n/a
Publication date : July 10, 2017


The deadliest weapons are the ones we never see.

Keyboard prodigy, Lexi Donovan has risen from teenage orphan of the streets to complete independence with little help along the way. When a friend is threatened, Lexi’s anonymous message sends police into a firefight, leading to a wounded cop.

Detective Ethan McAllister’s well-ordered life turned upside down the day an obscure text message led to a sexual predator’s identity. Since then, Callouston PD’s finest can’t trace the elusive hacker. The latest tip leads him to a brutal mutilation and a riddle indicating the identity of the next murder victim.

The dark net houses a playground for the morally depleted and criminally insane. When Lexi discovers the killer’s digital betting arena, she finds herself centered in a cyber stalker’s crosshairs bearing equal talent.

Street life strengthened Lexi while toughening her protective shell, but nothing could shield her from the shrewd detective forging a path to her heart.


Well, it was time to go outside the box again, and for this go around I selected a romantic suspense novel, Digital Velocity, which is book #1 in the new McAllister Justice series. It is also a police procedural, my favorite genre of all, so, OK, I cheated a bit. In any event, I had a good time with Digital Velocity.

Just prior to digging into this one, I read the prequel novella to the series, Tender Echoes. The prequel introduces us to hacker extraordinaire Lexi, who plays a big role in book #1, and briefly introduces us to the five McAllister brothers. Four are members of the police, and one is a PI. There is also a sister who is an attorney. The McAllister brothers are tightly knit and love to banter and kiddingly insult each other. Ethan McAllister, a police detective and fourth brother, takes center stage in Digital Velocity, along with Lexi.

I really liked these characters. The brotherly ribbing is on the corny side, but that’s OK. Ethan’s partner Larrick, a bit of a cowboy type, is a good add to the mix. We get to know Ethan, and especially Lexi, really well, which is a big plus in my book. Both Ethan and Lexi have dogs, Diego and Hoover.

The plot is a good one, though pretty straightforward in that there are not a lot of threads to resolve. Lexi is anonymously feeding cybertips to Ethan in hopes that he can use the info to crack the case of a repeat killer. Eventually, necessity brings Lexi and Ethan together. At that point we get a slow buildup to a highly suspenseful and thrilling climax. In fact, the whole last half of the book had me on needles. The characters at a late point in the story were in such a predicament I saw no way out; that kept the pages turning pretty darn fast!

Ms. Garrett obviously put a lot of time into researching cutting edge technology and the dark web, which are heavily featured here (in a very readable way). As an aside, as I was reading this story, it struck me how technology has partnered with evil to create a much more frightening and violent world than just a few decades ago. A very sad state of affairs in my opinion. It makes one wonder if the marvels of technology are really worth it.

There are two areas where I am in disagreement with most of the readers who have already posted reviews. The majority loved the descriptive passages and Ms. Garrett’s writing style. To me there is a little too much description, and the flow suffers on occasion from cumbersome phraseology. On the other hand, several readers found the first half of the book too slow. I actually really enjoyed the build up of the plot and the time taken to develop the two main characters.

I thought the romance arc was exceptionally well done (though I don’t have much to compare it with other than the one erotica book I read) with the emphasis on the feelings between Ethan and Lexi rather than pure lust. The sex scenes sizzle in an emotional way.

Overall, I enjoyed my foray into romantic suspense. I highly recommend that Tender Echoes, a fast read, be read prior to Digital Velocity as it provides an excellent introduction to Lexi and her cyber connection with Ethan.  I’m very curious to see where Ms. Garrett goes with the next story—perhaps she will feature one of the other McAllister cops?

I recommend Digital Velocity for all fans of romantic suspense.

Digital Velocity was published on July 17.

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The Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers @randysusanmeyer @AtriaBooks #guestreview

Christine is back on the blog today with her review of The Widow of Wall Street. Read on for her thoughts!


Author : Randy Susan Meyers
Title : The Widow of Wall Street
Pages : 339
Publisher : Atria Books
Publication date : April 11, 2017


What’s real in a marriage built on sand and how do you abandon a man you’ve loved since the age of fifteen?

Phoebe sees the fire in Jake Pierce’s belly from the moment they meet as teenagers in Brooklyn. Eventually he creates a financial dynasty and she trusts him without hesitation—unaware his hunger for success hides a dark talent for deception.

When Phoebe learns—along with the rest of the world—that her husband’s triumphs are the result of an elaborate Ponzi scheme her world unravels. Lies underpin her life and marriage. As Jake’s crime is uncovered, the world obsesses about Phoebe. Did she know her life was fabricated by fraud? Did she partner with her husband in hustling billions from pensioners, charities, and CEOs? Was she his accomplice in stealing from their family and neighbors?

Debate rages as to whether love and loyalty blinded her to his crimes or if she chose to live in denial. While Jake is trapped in the web of his own deceit, Phoebe is faced with an unbearable choice. Her children refuse to see her if she remains at their father’s side, but abandoning Jake, a man she’s known since childhood, feels cruel and impossible.


Outstanding! What a HEFTY piece of women’s fiction this is.

The tale is spun over 5 decades. We learn in chapter one that Jake Pierce, a high echelon broker, ends up in prison for fraud in his mid 60s, 45 years or so after marrying 18-year-old Phoebe. This is their story.

I must say the first half of the book was slow in places. This was not helped by the fact that I had really mixed feelings about Jake, with more bad than good vibes. During that time frame I had not made up my mind about Phoebe. I don’t care how nice someone is; when they spend $20,000 on something I would spend $20 on, there is a disconnect.

But then, approximately midway through the book, the story suddenly reeled me in like a prize-winning fisherman—hook, line and sinker.

The themes of this story are numerous and are handled extremely well. What is real love? What is family? How well do you know your family? How does one carry on when struck by major blow after major blow? We see deception galore, we see people put in positions where decisions are almost impossible to make and there is seemingly no way out, we see how people rise or fall when faced with tragic circumstances. And that’s only some of it. Again, the novel is meaty and a real thinker. I will remember this one for a long time.

Let me not fail to mention that a total noninterest in financial matters should not deter anyone from reading this book. Ms. Meyers does a phenomenal job in making that part of the book not only understandable, but engrossing. I’m sure this took intense research on her part and explains to me what she was doing between the time Accidents of Marriage (which I loved) was published in 2014 and this one came out. The wait was worth it. Kudos, Ms. Meyers, not only for learning your stuff, but for keeping it from being boring.

I never like to go into any detail about the plot in my reviews as I am a “go in as cold as possible on all books” type of reader. I do however want to emphasize the brilliant job the author did on the characterization of Phoebe. Her struggles to deal with her situation and to  try to salvage her life throughout the second half of the book were written beautifully, profoundly, and poignantly.  This is what pushed my 4.5 rating to 5 stars.

Randy Susan Meyers has written a couple of older books that I have yet to read. They are now holding two spots on my very selective TBR. I strongly recommend The Widow of Wall Street for anyone looking for a strongly written and powerful story.

Thank you Net Galley, Atria Books, and Ms. Randy Susan Meyers for an e-copy of this novel. The opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way.

The Widow of Wall Street is available now!

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Edna & Luna by Gleah Powers @GPwriterartist #guestreview

Christine returns to the blog today with her thoughts on Edna & Luna, a novella which was a finalist in the 2017 New Generation Indie Book Awards.


Author : Gleah Powers
Title : Edna & Luna
Pages : 164
Genre : Contemporary fiction
Publisher : Vine Leaves Press
Publication date : September 28, 2016


Set in the American Southwest, Edna and Luna is the story of two women: a lonely, recently widowed eccentric and a much younger new age healer.

Facing old age and a hysterectomy, Edna, at 70, reminisces and ruminates about her losses as she makes unsuccessful attempts to start a new life. She tries to befriend her hairdresser, her gardener and a man she meets at a senior dance who makes sexual advances in the swimming pool.

Luna, at 35, ridiculed since childhood for her unorthodox gift of healing, has left a violent husband before moving to a local trailer park. Despite Edna’s initial suspicions that Luna is both out of her mind and after her money, their relationship becomes an odyssey filled with unpredictable depths and discoveries for both women.


Edna and Luna is an unconventional little story (164 pages) by first time author Gleah Powers.  Reading Ms. Powers’ Goodreads profile, she has a lot of lifetime experience that prepared her for writing this tale. Write what you know, right?

The novella is set in the American Southwest. Edna is an older gal, a childless widow, who is finally realizing that she is not going to have anyone to take care of her when she is hit with the infirmities of the elderly. She can be curmudgeonly, but I really liked her. Luna is a 35- year-old free spirit who has a gift for healing and a heart of gold that she inherited from her dear father. Sadly, he disappeared when she was 16. She too is on her own and scrounges to make ends meet. She has always wished for a husband and baby, but those have not been in the cards.  Each of these two women tries her best to make a life for herself and to connect with others, but it’s very difficult for both. The stars finally align and these two are brought together. They couldn’t be more different, but they complement each other beautifully.

This story deals with the true meaning of caring, commitment and family; and the fact that blood isn’t always thicker than water. I found it heartening and poignant.  My only wish is that it had been longer in order to explore their relationship in more depth. A sweet epilogue partially compensated for this.

I enjoyed this little book and recommend it to all looking for a quick yet touching read.

Many thanks to Ms. Gleah Powers for gifting me a copy of Edna and Luna in exchange for an unbiased review.

Edna & Luna was published in September 2016.

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The Stateroom Tryst by P. Wesley Lundburg #guestreview


Author : P. Wesley Lundburg
Pages : 236
Publisher :
Publication date : May 6, 2017


In The Stateroom Tryst, the first book in the Clayton Chronicles, Clay is hired by an attractive, affluent woman who wants to learn the truth behind her husband’s overnight “business” trips and spending binges. She suspects a gambling addiction, and Clay sets out to solve the mystery. When her husband is murdered among an entourage of people tailing him, Clay realizes this is no ordinary marital investigation. His tenacity leads him to uncover a dangerous alliance that takes even his hardened experience by surprise.


What a breath of fresh air this one is! First of all, check out that cover. And how about that cool title? My attention was grabbed immediately. P. Wesley Lundburg is one of those very talented indie authors out there who needs more attention. Well, here’s my attempt to get some of that for him.

Now I have never read any of those old time detective books featuring Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, but one reviewer likens PI Rick “call me Clay” Clayton to those investigators, except that Clay’s work is set in the present day.  All I know is that it was a pleasure to attach myself to Clay and experience the ride totally first hand. This was made possible by first person (Clay’s) narration and the inclusion of Clay in virtually every scene. Thus the reader has a very clear view of how this PI goes about his business.

In a nutshell, Clay is hired by a wealthy woman to find out if her husband is dallying about with other women. Well, things end up being way more interesting than that. Clay finds himself dealing with plenty of deception and corruption and people trying to “dissuade him” from digging into things. Oh, and murders. Several of them.

The book stays on plot and moves quickly. You fast readers out there could get through this one in a long afternoon. The narrative is punctuated with a series of nifty twists and revelations. There are also some fun action scenes. What I liked best was watching Clay break down the case using old-fashioned hard work, keen thinking, and expert help from his core of friends and associates.

I really liked Clay. Basically, Clay is a loner, but he has a small core of people around him through whom we learn more about him. There’s his computer hacker friend Clifford and Clifford’s mother, Tia Louise, both of whom Clay has known since boyhood. Clay has no family of his own, and goes out of his way to visit these two every week. Clifford has some sort of affliction (my guess would be something along the Asperger’s spectrum) that makes him different; Tia Louise appreciates the PI for maintaining a long term friendship with her son. Clay also seemingly eats most of his meals at the Harborview Diner, and he is very tight with the owner/cook, Lionel. They do lots of favors for each other. Then there’s his sage elderly boss who owns the agency and the boss’s sons, aka the Tweedles. Clay’s kind side glows when he is dealing with these people.  I loved this supporting cast.

I understand this the first book of a planned series. I was definitely entertained by The Stateroom Tryst and will most certainly pick up book 2 when it becomes available. I highly recommend this novel for a fast and different sort of PI story. I have also downloaded the author’s other two novels (from the Frank Mattituck series) and look forward to digging into those soon.

Great job, and thanks for being different, Mr. Lundburg!

The Stateroom Tryst was published on May 6th.

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Vigilante by Kerry Wilkinson @kerrywk #guestreview


Author : Kerry Wilkinson
Pages : 300
Publisher : Pan
Publication date : February 14, 2013


A killer behind bars is still killing…

Dead bodies are piling up for Detective Sergeant Jessica Daniel.

Usually when a serial killer is on the loose, the pressure would be building to find the perpetrator but the victims are all hardened criminals themselves.

The national media can’t believe their luck with an apparent vigilante on the streets, while Jessica’s new boss seems grateful someone else is doing their job for them.

But things aren’t so straightforward when forensics matches blood from the apparent killer to a man already behind bars.


Wow, I’ve found myself another wonderful go-to author! This is the fourth Kerry Wilkinson book I’ve read in the last couple of months, and I am thrilled to have discovered him and his works. I wonder what took me so long to find him?

In this, the second installment of the Jessica Daniel series, we are dealing with a serial killer who appears to be picking victims who are, shall we say, members of society not known for their altruism and community service. Hence the moniker Vigilante.  Though I enjoyed book one of the series, this one is definitely a step up. Mr. Wilkinson has crafted a very clever story that will keep readers guessing to the very end. I have to say my fingers were dizzy from pointing in so many directions. I finally got to the stage where I was confident how this was going to all work out. In fact I was so confident, I told my book buddy I was going to keep my thoughts to myself in order not to spoil it for her. Look who has egg on her face now! I was dead wrong. And I love it that way! Nice work, Mr. Wilkinson.

The story is fast paced and well written. The POV is a refreshing 3rd person narrative with a few intriguing peeks inside the Vigilante’s head. There is minimal time shift. We get suspense, some interpersonal relationships (no way can I call this romance), and comic relief.

The author has also stepped up his character development in this installment. Jessica is evolving and it’s really fun to see that. I would like to know more about her past—I think that info would enlighten us about certain aspects of her personality. In this story, Jessica comes across as extremely driven, almost to a fault. She is often brash and “in your face.” She can be unkind, very unkind, but we see the reasons for that. She also has a heart of gold buried in there, especially towards very good people who are being victimized through no fault of their own. Mr. Wilkinson also introduces new members to the team. If he continues with this in future books, I think it will go far in helping keep things fresh.  I do see lots of potential in this author and hope his writing continues to grow as the series progresses.

There are a couple of instances where the believability factor is raised in this novel, but I elected to just roll with it, and those events did not tarnish the story for me.

If I had to compare Kerry Wilkinson to someone, I would pick Mel Sherratt, another favorite of mine. Both can clearly can write in different genres and do it well. Like Ms. Sherratt’s, Mr. Wilkinson’s crime fiction/thrillers are gritty, though not terribly gory.  Mr. Wilkinson also puts a lot of emphasis on his characters’ lives, which is again similar to Ms. Sherratt’s MO.

I highly recommend Kerry Wilkinson’s Jessica Daniel series based on the first two books that I have read. I advise they be read in order to fully appreciate the ongoing character development, though the plots are stand-alones. This is a series I definitely plan to read all the way through.

Vigilante is available now!

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Ten Birthdays by Kerry Wilkinson @kerrywk @bookouture #guestreview

Handing the blog over to Christine today who shares her review for Ten Birthdays.



“There are going to be so many things I wish I could’ve told you in person, Poppy. I won’t get the chance to do that, so perhaps this is my only way…”

It’s Poppy Kinsey’s birthday.

She should be blowing out candles and opening presents – but hers falls on the type of heart-wrenching, agonising anniversary she would far rather forget.

The worst day of them all. The day her mother died.

But this year is special because the person she misses most in the world has left her a set of letters, one for each of her next ten birthdays.

As Poppy opens them year by year, she discovers that no matter how tough life gets, her mum will always be by her side, guiding her along the way.


Gosh, I hated to see this end—such a sweet story! I have just recently discovered Kerry Wilkinson as he has within the past year signed on with one of my favorite publishing houses Bookouture. He appears to be quite versatile, writing crime fiction, fantasy, dystopian/science fiction, and now real life stuff. Most of his novels are crime fiction, with two series ongoing. He is really prolific for a younger author; for example, his Jessica Daniel series has eleven installments already. He also has five books coming out in the next year, including four standalones. Ten Birthdays is a nice change of pace for Mr. Wilkinson, something very different from all of his other books. I am a big crime fiction/thriller fan and loved the first book in the Jessica Daniel series. I am also fascinated with authors who can successfully write in different genres so thought I would give this one a go.

The protagonist of Ten Birthdays is Poppy Kinsey, age 16 at the start of the story. This is a shorter novel and consists of 10 chapters, each one focusing on Poppy’s birthday between ages 16 and 25. Poppy’s mum died on her daughter’s 15th birthday. She left Poppy 10 letters, one to be read on each of her next 10 birthdays. What we get are 10 slices of Poppy’s life, each accompanied by a thoughtful note from her deceased mum who continues to guide her daughter with sage advice regarding this difficult thing called life.

It was so fun to watch Poppy grow and mature in her thoughts, her relationships, and her confidence. And to follow her journey with those most important to her—her two best friends, Mark and Freya, and her father. I must say, Mr. Wilkinson does an excellent job portraying thoughts, gestures, and talk of older teens and young women. He nails their emotions beautifully. The author states in a letter to the reader at the end of the book that many of Poppy’s thoughts and experiences are his own, which made the book all that more endearing to me.

One small criticism I have is that I wish the book had been a little longer in order to bring out Poppy’s character just a bit more. I would have liked a little more depth to her thoughts regarding the impact of her mum’s letters, the reasons why she did not embrace her artistic talent early on, and her complex feelings about Mark. But again, we are dealing with one day a year in 10 years of Poppy’s life, and I respect that this format does not lend to maximal character development.

Overall, this little tale was a joy to read. I am smiling from ear to ear with the knowledge that I have a lot of Kerry Wilkinson ahead of me. I plan to read all his thrillers, but would definitely love to see more in the vein of Ten Birthdays! Highly recommended.

Thank you to Netgalley and Bookouture for an electronic copy of this book. The opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way.

Ten Birthdays was published in April.

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Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith @michael_f_smith @noexitpress #guestreview

Something a little different today on the blog as I’ve called in the help of the ever so lovely Christine who will be lending a hand with guest reviews, as and when she feels like it. Huge welcome to Novel Deelights, Christine, and thank you!




For eleven years the clock has been ticking for Russell Gaines as he sits in Parchman penitentiary. His sentence now up, Russell believes his debt has been paid. But when he returns home, he discovers that revenge lives and breathes all around him.

Meanwhile, a woman named Maben and her young daughter trudge along the side of the interstate. Desperate and exhausted, the pair spend their last dollar on a room for the night, a night that ends with Maben holding a pistol and a dead deputy sprawled in the middle of the road.

With the dawn, destinies collide, and Russell is forced to decide whose life he will save—his own or those of the woman and child.


This book was not on my TBR list as I didn’t think it would be one that would appeal to me. I was basically ordered by a trusted Goodreads buddy to get it immediately and read it soon. So OK, that’s what I did.

The first half of the novel consists of a lot of sultry southern summer scenes, much sadness, a ton of drinking and driving, and a whole lot of whilin’ away the time by the characters. I turned to my buddy for encouragement. She was very confident that I would be just fine if I hung in there, so OK, I trudged on. Just a few pages ahead, the threads of the plot came together and the story really took off.

Man, what a powerful little tale this is! Desperation Road is a superb title to describe the flavor of this book. Russell and Maben are nice people. They have good hearts. They just want to find a modicum of contentment and maybe even a little happiness. Circumstances, however, are not in their favor. They have not been dealt aces by the “here’s a nice life” cards. So they do what they can. Their lives are not pretty; in fact, they are heartbreaking.

Michael Farris Smith is an outstanding writer. Without frills he can really set a scene. Add some cicadas, and he would have totally transported me back to the summers of east Tennessee where I grew up. A lot of desperate people lived near my neck of the woods. Even better, Mr. Smith pulls his readers into his characters’ minds. I could feel their desperation, their overwhelming desire—no, more than that—their overwhelming NEED to set their lives right.

This is not a pretty story, but a real reminder to us who are more blessed that desperate people, good people, are out there suffering and struggling and doing their very best to survive. We must not forget these people. They are just like us, except for bad luck, very bad luck.

How can something like this have even a shred of a happy ending? Well, don’t forget about hope. There is always that. And it too can be a powerful thing.

Read this book.

Many thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for my copy.

Desperation Road was published in February 2017.

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