Title: Bella
Author: Steve Piacente
ISBN: 978-1451571615
Publisher: CreateSpace

It is quite safe to say that Bella, the enchanting debut novel by journalist-turned-author Steve Piacente, is nothing less than a literary masterpiece on so many levels. From its punchy and witty prose to its utterly appealing and irresistible heroine, Piacente has charmed us with a bold and inventive novel the effects of which will linger in your minds for a very long time.

Told through the eyes of the male protagonist, a Washington journalist named Danny Patragno, the story centers on the beautiful and elusive widow Isabel ‘Bella’ Moss who has a way of getting what she has put her mind to. After receiving an anonymous phone call that rattled her, Bella is determined on proving that the U.S. military has lied to her and to the world about her husband’s death during the war, and she will stop at nothing until she finds a way to find the truth and tell it to the world.

She lures a reluctant Patragno into the investigation, charming him with her alluring personality. It was her resolve more than anything that drew Patragno’s attention. Of course, her beauty is a whole different story. Along the way as newfound evidences and witnesses resurface, Patragno is more and more convinced that there is more to the story. So much more than even Bella herself knew.

At the same time, Danny’s life is on the line at home with his wife when he finds himself falling for Bella, her powerful attractiveness pulling him like a magnet to the extent that Patragno is pretty much helpless in the presence of Bella. Working together, they were tested by the power of temptation and the consequences that followed, threatening to alter the course of their lives forever.

The rich, involving narrative is knotted together with an adept hand populated by memorable, life-sized character that gives the novel more reality than real life itself. As he piles on the suspense of what’s coming next and the romance that is brewing on the sideline, Piacente takes us across Washington to Florida, along the way meeting some very influential people in politics and military.

One of the most striking themes of the novel is Piacente’s intriguing take on ethics as a former journalist. Burrowing from his extensive experience in journalism, Piacente thoroughly investigates the fine line between the rights and wrongs of journalism ethics and personal morals with a sharp, focused and perceptive eye.

With an original voice that has so audaciously knitted such an enticing yarn, Piacente has proved himself that he is a writer in a league of his own. A highly engaging and an equally marvelous read, Bella comes with the highest recommendation. I can hardly wait for Piacente’s next.

Reviewed by Hamdhoon Rashad for


Someone’s Watching

Title: Someone’s Watching
Author: Sharon Potts
ISBN: 978-1608090136
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing

If you are looking for a thriller that is quite admirable for both its visual prose and quick pace, then Sharon Pott’s latest crime flick “Someone’s Watching” might just be the thing for you. Not only does it keep you on the edge with its pulse-racing speed but it guarantees you a seriously chilling thrill ride.

It is not until her estranged father suddenly shows up on her doorstep asking for her help that bartender Robbie Ivy learns she has a half-sister, Kaitlin “Kate” Brooks, who went missing along with her best friend, Joanne Sparks in Miami. Robbie seeks help from her ex-boyfriend Jeremy Stroeb who suggests she should consult Detective Judy Lieber, and Robbie made it her mission to locate her sister.

Robbie is frantic when she learns that Joanne’s body was found drowned in India Creek and the whereabouts of Kate remains unknown. With each passing moment, Robbie knew in her heart that the chance of finding Kate alive is getting slimmer by the minute. Racing against time, Robbie intensifies her search, often going against Lieber and coming close to breaking the law. Along the way, Robbie meets self-help author Gina Fieldstone, wife of politician Stanford Fieldstone, who volunteered to help Robbie to find her sister.

Then, a local congressman commits suicide following a visit to a popular bar the same night Robbie was there. She believes there must be a connection to the events to what happened to Kate and she starts digging deeper only to confront a terrible reality that could put everyone she loves at risk.

The lively South Beach club scene in Miami was portrayed so vividly that its gives the feeling you are right there to witness it all. Peopled with sinister characters, Potts delivers a gripping narrative that will keep you hooked until you have reached the very end of this bone-chilling mystery. Be warned that by the time you get there, you will emerge breathless. An utterly zesty read, “Someone’s Watching” is a terrific crime thriller that should win Potts more fans.

Reviewed by Hamdhoon Rashad for

Did Not Survive

Title: Did Not Survive
Author: Ann Littlewood
ISBN: 978-1590-587454
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press

Truth be told, a mystery laden with multiple layers of pulse-quickening drama does not get any better than this. Did Not Survive, the second zoo mystery by Ann Littlewood, could only be hailed as just another knock-out. Who would have thought that a zoo, of all places, would be a habitat for such harrowing episodes as depicted in this fascinating mystery. Only Ann Littlewood could so effortlessly pull such an original plot out of the mundane details involving a small town zoo with a heroine who has a knack for playing the detective.

The narrative opens at Finley Memorial Zoo in Vancouver, Washington when zookeeper Iris Oakley, now pregnant and widowed, stumble upon the scene where her boss Kevin Wallace is being mauled to death by a zoo elephant, Damrey. While the whole zoo staff is rattled by the tragic incident, Iris, who is still recovering from her husband’s murder, thinks there is a lot more to the whole story.

As Iris continues to put together the missing pieces, she uncovers a number of suspects within the four walls of Finley Memorial Zoo with motives to kill Wallace. Could one of them have committed the murder or is it really the doing of a mad animal?

The list of suspects grows as it turns out that the elephant care at the zoo has been under criticism from animal rights activists who are staging protests outside the zoo. The new veterinarian seems suspicious enough and Iris starts to keep a close watch on her. To make matters confusing, a new foreman to replace Wallace shows up. Add to that are a series of other disturbing events, including the theft of a zoo van and the discovery of a dead tiger. Iris is sucked into the vortex of the unfolding drama as the police keep dropping by and the animals disappear into thin air.

In this well-plotted mystery, the expertly sketched characters come alive with an appealing heroine who will win you over. The carefully detailed behind-the-scenes at the zoo is complemented by the fascinating portrayal of animal care and human failings. With its nuanced and crisp writing and the page-turning pace, Littlewood has delivered a smart mystery that will leave you staggered with awe. Wildly entertaining.

Reviewed by Hamdhoon Rashad for