Category Archives: Touchstone Books

Review: Speak of the Devil by Allison Leotta

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; First Edition edition (August 6, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 145164485X
  • Source: Author

D.C. sex-crimes prosecutor Anna Curtis barely has time to celebrate her recent engagement before she’s called in to investigate a horrific crime.  A group of men from MS-13, a local street gang, attack a brothel, leaving a wake of brutal murder and rape. The group is led by Diablo, a man with cosmetic enhancements that give him the appearance of the devil himself. Anna’s investigation isn’t going to be easy; locals are afraid to speak up against Diablo for fear of the repercussions.

In this midst of this investigation, Anna becomes immersed in wedding plans. Her fiance, Jack, is the chief of the D.C. homicide unit. He and his daughter, Olivia, are still recovering after the death of his wife, Nina, killed a few years ago by the very gang Anna is investigating.  Anna’s personal and professional life converge when she becomes the focus of MS-13. Despite Jack’s pleas that she step down as prosecutor of the case,  Anna stands strong, refusing to fall victim to her fear. In her investigations, however, she reveals a secret that is so unbelievable that it risks her future with Jack.

Leotta’s own history as D.C.’s sex-crimes prosecutor for over a decade is clearly evident in Speak of the Devil. From the detailed information about legal procedures and the spot-on characterization of the gang members, Leotta really knows her stuff.  She doesn’t sugar coat the violence and depravity involved in her line of work. She doesn’t lessen the blow in her descriptions of the brutal crimes, instead accurately detailing the facts.  But what stands out for me most in this novel is Anna’s character.  Her career could drag her down emotionally, but she won’t allow that. She stands up for herself and what she believes in, never allowing anyone other than herself to influence her actions and path in life. While that means that her life isn’t necessarily always the happiest, at least she is true to herself and what she believes in.

This is my first sampling of Leotta’s writing and I cannot wait to dive in to the two previous books in the series.  Leotta is a skilled writer of a calibre that puts her above other authors she’s been compared to (who will remain nameless *cough* Grisham *cough*). Her writing is a leap above other legal thrillers. I expect nothing but excellence from Leotta! I know this is a challenge she can meet (and exceed!).  Highly, highly recommended.

Watch Allison herself discuss her writing of Speak of the Devil:

Mx3 Review: Red Rain by R.L. Stine

9781451636123

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (October 9, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1451636121
  • Source: Publisher

Lea Sutter is a travel writer, struggling to make a name for herself. She heads to a small, isolated island off the coast of South Carolina. The island, Cape Le Chat Noir, isn’t visited much by outsiders. It’s history is dark; the Labor Day hurricane of 1935 decimated the island, killing hundreds of innocent people. Rumor has it that people returned from the dead to help survivors rebuild.

Lea finds herself on the island just as it is about to be hit by yet another hurricane. Reluctant to accept the inevitable fate, Lea prefers to believe history will not repeat itself. Unfortunate, it does. The devastation is incredible, bodies (and parts of bodies) strewn all over the island. Lea is traumatized, never witnessing an event so incredibly upsetting. As she takes in the destruction around her, she sees two blonde, angelic-looking twin boys on the island. Twelve years old, Daniel and Samuel have lost their parents and home to the hurricane. Lea sees hope in the two boys and takes them back to New York with her…”adopting” them in the loosest sense of the word. Her husband, Mark, and friend, Margaret, warn her that she’s acting on emotion, acting hastily. Yet from the moment she saw the boys, hugged them, she was smitten.

Lea and the twins return back to New York and introduce the twins to the rest of the Sutter family, including Lea and Mark’s two teen children and Mark’s sister, Roz. The twins are certainly unique characters, using terminology far beyond their years. Reluctant to sleep in the attic bedroom Mark has created for them, they instead opt to sleep in the guest house out back. It isn’t long before tragedy strikes again when a brutal murder occurs in the Sutter’s driveway. The death count continues to steadily rise, each victim horrifically burned. The police suspect Mark is the one behind all the murders for how could two beautiful angelic boys, already victims of tragedy themselves, be behind it all?

Let me start out by saying I absolutely love R.L. Stine, a fan since I was a pre-teen myself. When I learned he was publishing a horror for adults, I was thrilled! While I found Red Rain to be entertaining, I didn’t find it to be incredibly terrifying. To me, it was very reminiscent of the books I loved and adored as a child, yet with a few adult scenes thrown in. Also, as you have to do with many of Stine’s books, you pretty much have to dispel all inklings of believability or probability. Additionally, more detail could have gone into some aspects of the novel, including the island’s dark past and the twins…powers.

If I were to compare this novel to Stine’s past work, I would state this is one of his best. That said, if I were to compare this to another adult horror, it would pale in comparison. So, if you are reading this novel to reunite with a favorite author from your youth, you’ll be pleased. If you are going into this novel to be terrified…not so much. Don’t misunderstand me, I did really enjoy this book on the merit of the author’s talented storytelling. I’ll continue to recommend it, just as I did before I even had the chance to recommend it, but with a bit of explanation behind my recommendation.

 

 

 

Review: The Woman Who Wasn’t There:The True Story of an Incredible Deception by Robin Gaby Fisher and Angelo J. Guglielmo, Jr.

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (April 3, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1451652089
  • Source: Publisher

After the tragic events of 9/11, those who survived the terrorist attack sought out others in attempts to seek solace and understanding for the feelings they were experiencing.  One of the women who played an active role in the creation and direction of the World Trade Survivors’ Network was Tania Head, a young woman who escaped the carnage of the  seventy-eighth-floor sky lobby of the south tower. In addition to losing her fiance in the other tower, Tania suffered serious burns and injuries. Her retelling of the experience gave other survivors the courage to step forward themselves and thus begin the healing process.

As one of the leaders and advocates for the 9/11 survivors, she was key in saving the “Survivor Stairway” one of the few remaining pieces of the then demolished buildings, as well as providing survivors the opportunity to tour the grounds of the WTC reconstruction.  However, as time continued, as Tania became more prevalent in the press, questions were raised about her retelling of the tragic events of 9/11. When a New York Times reporter attempts to contact Tania to get answers to some of these questions, Tania would cancel scheduled meetings and interviews. She refused to answer even elementary questions about that day.

Eventually, the truth was revealed. Not only was Tania not a survivor of 9/11, she wasn’t even in the city that day. She didn’t have a fiance who perished in the attack, either. The survivors who relied on her for strength had to undergo yet another period of grief, as if the woman they looked up to for so many years had perished herself.

In The Woman Who Wasn’t There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception, Angelo J. Guglielmo, Jr a film-maker and once friend of Tania Head, shares the unbelievable story of this individual’s desperate attempts for attention and acclaim after an event that rocked out country. It reads like a thriller, seeming to be unbelievable, for how could a woman manipulate those individuals already suffering so tremendously into believing she was one of them?

Once I started this book, I couldn’t stop. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, unable to stop until I finished it. Afterward, I desperately sought to find out why Tania Head would do such a deplorable thing? I found a great deal about this case online. I found myself surprised that I haven’t heard of this story earlier but honestly, so many stories popped up around this time about fake charities and the like I probably glossed over the story.

While the obvious feeling to experience after reading a story like this would be hatred or anger. That said, after I pondered the story over the weekend, there was a happy ending to this story. Despite all the horrible things Tania did, she was able to give hundreds of 9/11 survivors the strength and the confidence to heal, gave them a voice in the construction of the memorial, a voice thus far unheard.

It could be said that this book is once again giving Tania Head undeserved attention and praise, but I implore you to look beyond the story of this woman who betrayed hundreds and instead look at the progress these survivors have made over the years. This is a book that I encourage many to read; those directly affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks may find it too overwhelming to read but I do still encourage them to give it a chance. For ultimately, while there is a great deal of betrayal portrayed, there is a constant glimmer of hope, a glimmer that helped the victims of this tragedy rise up and begin to heal again.  Highly recommended.

Mx3 Review: Darkness All Around by Doug Magee

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (October 18, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1439154023
  • Source: Author

Eleven years ago, Risa’s alcoholic husband, Sean disappears. Shortly after, her best friend Carol is found brutally murdered.  She was able to move on despite these life-altering events.  Another man was found guilty of Carol’s murder.Sean was eventually declared dead and Risa remarried. She remained in the small-football obsessed town in which she and Sean grew up

Risa’s known her new husband, Alan, since her teens.  He swept in and helped Risa raise her young son, Kevin. Now Alan is running for Congress, obsessed with the election and his families public image. Imagine his reaction when Sean, Risa’s presumed-deceased husband, comes back in to town.

Sean has been in New York City for the majority of the past ten years. A severe alcoholic, he’s now recovering, able to get by thanks to a prescription drug trial he is a part of.  He woke up in a hospital those many years ago, with no memory of his past or identity.  Eventually he begins to recall some of his memories. One such memory is ghastly and horrid; he sees himself standing over Carol’s body with a machete in his hand.

Sean is desperate to turn himself in to the authorities.  No one seems to be interested in hearing the true account of what happened; they would prefer to continue to believe the man behind bars is the one responsible for Carol’s death.  Alan would prefer that Sean just leave town; news of Risa’s husband returning would soon be the talk of the small town and a risk to Alan’s campaign.

Risa, still jolted by Sean’s return, steps up to support him in his quest to find the truth about Carol’s murder. She’s willing to risk her life to protect Sean when individuals use force to prevent the truth from being discovered.

I was introduced to Magee’s writing when I read and reviewed his book Never Wave Goodbye last year. It completely terrified me, mostly because of the similarity in ages between the child in the book and my own son.  While I didn’t have that same connection with Darkness All Around, it still definitely was a book that grabbed and held on to my attention.  The main characters are strongly developed; the reader is familiar with their backgrounds and motivation. While the majority of the characters felt genuine, there were a few whose actions seemed a bit unbelievable. That said, Darkness All Around is still a chilling novel about secrets, redemption, and the intensity and power of the human heart.   Recommended.

Check back later today for a guest post by the author, Doug Magee, and a giveaway of Darkness All Around!

 

Review: Never Wave Goodbye by Doug Magee

  • Hardcover: 289 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (June 1, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 1439153981
  • Source: Publisher

Lena Trainor is full of emotions as she puts her nine-year-old daughter, Sarah, on a bus to camp for the first time.  She’s nervous and anxious for her daughter, but her mind is also on her relationship with her husband.  She’s so unfocused that she really doesn’t pay much attention to the camp counselor who picks up Sarah.  Until a few minutes later when the real bus shows up.

She hurridly begins to call the parents of the other children to be picked up.  A total of four children were abducted, including Linda, Sarah’s good friend; Franklin, the son of a local minister; and Tommy, the son of a local contractor.  Within a few hours the parents all receive an email, demanding a $1,000,000 ransom.

When the FBI is called in, secrets are revealed, causing conflict within and between the families. No one knows who to trust, they simply want their child back. When the 24-hour mark passes, they begin to wonder if they will ever see their children again.

I simply cannot believe this is Magee’s first novel.  He reveals a story that is both captivating and chilling.  Losing one’s child is a parents worst nightmare, but the fact that these parents literally (although unwittingly) handed their children over to their abductors compounds it tremendously.  As a parent myself, I couldn’t help but feel the hurt, guilt, and anguish the parents were feeling.  It probably doesn’t help that my son’s away at camp now, right?  Never Wave Goodbye is not only a tale of suspense, but a study in the human condition, in how well one stands up to such a catastrophic event, seen from not only the parents’ eyes but the of the children as well.

My only complaints were very minor.  First, the vehicle used to abduct the children was described several times as being a camp van, but the cover clearly shows a school bus.  I know that oftentimes authors don’t have much say in what their cover looks like, so I don’t blame the author. The second is the maturity of the children.  They are all nine years old, some from pretty affluent families. They seemed be rather naive when it came to technology, such as using a computer, sending email, etc.  My oldest son was able to do these things at a fairly early age, well before the age of nine.  Again, a very minor complaint, but one I thought I should mention.

All issues aside, I do highly recommend this novel.  It’s the perfect thriller for a warm summer weekend…just don’t read it while your child is away at camp!