Monthly Archives: August 2016

Book Review: He Will Be My Ruin by K.A. Tucker

Simon & Schuster/Atria, February 2016

From bestselling author Tucker comes another suspenseful story of the secrets people try, and fail, to keep.

When Maggie Sparks goes to her friend’s apartment to pack Celine Gonzalez’s things, she has been told that Celine killed herself. The overdose of drugs and alcohol isn’t like her, though, so Maggie doesn’t know what to think.

Soon enough, secrets start coming to life. A series of journals detail the ways that Celine was making money…as an escort who started out only as a high-paid companion but who soon moved on to providing sex. Then there’s a naked photo of a wealthy man who works at the same building where Celine held her day job. And a sex tape shows up later, one that can bring down someone whose career and life would crumble if the tape was leaked.

Blackmail, a vase worth millions, hidden cameras and tech spying are also discovered along the way. Maggie discovers that a friendly elderly neighbor can help in her quest for the truth while also discovering a possible new romance for herself with the building manager.

The plot is complex and the pacing is strong. The characters are well drawn, especially the elderly neighbor who might have been a paper cutout in the hands of a different author. The suspects in the crime are also well presented, and readers won’t know for sure who’s really involved in pushing Celine to the edge until the very end.

There was some loss of momentum at the end. Once the mystery falls away, the story is less interesting because the character support for the criminal isn’t as intensive at that point. The story still provides a strong reading experience, however.

5 stars!

If you are interested in a similar type of work, try Reparation: A Novel of Love, Danger and Devotion.

I received an ARC from the publisher so I could write this review.


Reading in Berlin, Germany

On August 10, Laine Cunningham will read from The Family Made of Dust (formerly called Message Stick) and Reparation at the Takt Kunstprojectraum in Berlin, GermanyBoth novels deal with individuals from tribal communities who were historically forced into migrations to new locations; their stories interweave with the stories of the peoples who are now being forced to flee their homelands.

For more information, click here.

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Book Review: The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

2005, Back Bay Books/Little, Brown

Oh, what a treat you’re in for if you haven’t yet picked up The Hummingbird’s Daughter. Written with a prose style so sharp and clean it flies along like the sprite in its title, this novel is a historical fiction piece based on a real woman.

Set during the time of the Mexican revolution, the story follows Teresita Urrea, a woman whose ability to heal others garners her the adoration reserved for saints. Starting with her early life, the narrative follows her family’s upheaval as they relocate the household to a place still attacked by Apache warriors.

There the father builds their new home, expands his business, and through it all, watches helplessly as his daughter–who only late was acknowledged as his child–draws around her the people who all seek some type of healing.

Just as Teresita was denied her father’s attention for the first years of her life, her teenage years are also not what might typically be found in the story of a saint. She suffers as much as any of the seekers who call her name. There are atrocities, some of which she witnesses being visited on others, and some of which are visited upon her. It is not always clear whether she will prevail.

Fortunately (for readers, anyway), there is a second book that continues this story. Urrea (the author) has also provided a glimpse into the strange and miraculous events that occurred while he researched this work; being able to read about these events arcs your thoughts back to the story and the compelling family met on these pages.

Pick this one up. You won’t regret it, I promise.

5 stars!

If you’d like to read a similar novel after this one, try The Family Made of Dust: A Novel of Loss and Rebirth in the Australian Outback (formerly called Message Stick).

Book Review: Between Two Fires by Mark Noce

Release date: August 2016 from Thomas Dunne Books

This power-packed historical novel is the first in a series…and it’s going to have readers beating on the publisher’s door for more.

Look, I’ll be the first to tell you that historical fiction can be a real slough. In the wrong author’s hands, novels set in any time period earlier than maybe 20 years ago can bog down in details…what folks wore, how they acted, the mores of their society, what their culture told them was right, how they rebelled…endless, really.

But in a strong author’s hands, historical fiction is a true delight. And that’s what Noce has delivered with Between Two Fires: a work that moves along briskly while providing everything they need to know to dive into the period. Never once will readers be left wondering, “What. What? Who? How did that happen?”

Part of the strength of this work comes from the depth Noce gives to the protagonist. Lady Branwen of Wales is the country’s last and final hope for unification…through marriage, of course. But the fellow she weds lives up to his nickname of Hammer King.

Meanwhile, Brandwen has been watching the rogue hedge knight Artagan, rumored to be as dark as his name, Blacksword. But he is more complex than that, and might be the only person she can rely on. Her mind is set against him but her heart has other plans.

As the lady becomes a queen and then flees from her realm, Saxons invade. The romance and intrigue take on a depth that comes entirely from the well-drawn characters painted atop the historic backdrop.

There are some elements about the descriptions that are repetitive. These are fairly minor but several did throw me out of the fictional world for just a few beats. Readers of this type of work can be trusted to follow along, and hopefully the rest of the books in this series will eliminate those types of blips. Generally, this was a strong showing. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

5 stars!