Tuesday, December 6, 2022

A Fearsome Moonlight Black by David Putnam Book Review

About the Book


Dave Beckett is a wide-eyed young man when he joins the police department in a small town in Southern California. His naivete allows him to believe in his world, a vision where the cops are the good guys championing the rights of the wronged. He learns quickly that crime is not black and white, and the bad guys aren't always the ones committing the crimes. This is the story of a victim turned predator, a young man who grows up too fast and becomes an apt pupil in the pursuit of criminals on both sides of the fence.

You can watch the book trailer here.

My Review


This is the first I've read by Putnam and I like it. His writing style is engaging. I liked Dave right off. Even though one might consider him naïve, he is a rookie at his job and gets plunged into its gruesome aspect right away with several deaths. One can tell the author has had experience in law enforcement. The feeling is one of reality, not made up situations. I cringed at the attitude and dialog between the officers but I think at that time (1979) it was very much the routine.

When the novel jumps to 1988, another kind of reality sets in. Dave is no longer naïve. A near decade of police work has taken its toll on his character and his life relationships. As Putnam says in his note, this novel reflects not so much what happened on the the street but more what the street did to the kid.

This is a good start to Dave's story. I'll be watching to see what happens in his life.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author


During his law enforcement career,
David Putnam worked primarily in California on teams for Patrol, Investigations, SWAT, Narcotics, Violent Crimes, Criminal Intelligence, Internal Affairs, Detective Bureau and as child protective services coordinator.

He rounded out his law enforcement career with a few years in the Hawaiian Islands as a Special Agent-part of a real-life "Hawaii-50″ team.

He's now retired from law enforcement and spends his time growing organic California avocados and writing, with his wife Mary and their dogs

 He is the recipient of many awards and commendations for heroism. A Fearsome Moonlight Black is the first book in a trilogy. Look for the second book, A Lonesome Blood-Red Sun coming out in 2023. 

Learn more a DavidPutnamBooks.com

Level Best Books, 330 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)


Monday, December 5, 2022

The Unhiding of Elijah Campbell by Kelly Flanagan Book Review

About the Book


Elijah Campbell is on the verge of losing his writing career, his faith, and his marriage when a recurring childhood nightmare drives him back to his hometown, Bradford's Ferry. 

There, his encounters with loved ones both past and present shed light on the reason his wife left him―and the meaning of his nightmare. However, beyond the light he begins to glimpse something even more terrifying―a decision he must make either to continue hiding the secrets of his past or unhide the only thing that can save his marriage: himself.

In psychologist Kelly Flanagan's non-fiction works (LoveableTrue Companions), he drew from clinical insight to explore the spiritual depths of identity and relationships. Now, in this debut novel, he weaves a page-turning and plot-twisting tale that brings new life to those insights, along with fresh revelations about personal growth, spiritual transformation, and the dynamics of interpersonal relationships.

This visit to Bradford's Ferry will linger long after the final page has been turned, and a guide for group discussion invites further conversation about the story's themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.


You can read an excerpt here.

My Review


Unlike most readers, according to reviews, I had difficulty being engaged with this novel. It is mostly prose with lots of reminiscing, remembering, and dream experiences. Elijah comes across as a person who, even in adulthood, will not face his own weaknesses. He is not an honest man, hiding credit card debt from his soon to be and then new wife, for example. He is not honest with his therapist. The novel follows his long journey of self-discovery.

This is a novel for readers who like the slow path of working through memories to self awareness. It is a good book for those who would like to go through a similar inner journey or are perhaps experiencing a midlife crisis. There are many good lessons one can find in the story and the discussion questions are good for thinking about them.

My rating: 4/5 stars. 


About the Author


Kelly Flanagan
(PhD, Pennsylvania State University) is a clinical psychologist, popular speaker, and the author of 
The Marriage ManifestoLoveable, and True Companions. He has also written for publications such as Christianity TodayReader's Digest, and Huffington Post, and he has appeared on the TODAY Show with his daughter. He lives in Dixon, Illinois, with his wife who is also named Kelly, and their three children. You can find out more at https://drkellyflanagan.com/

IVP, 320 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Untrustworthy by Bonnie Kristian Book Review

I have mixed emotions about this book. I highly agree with Kristian that we are in the midst of a knowledge crisis. People accept statements without documentation and criticize those who want evidence for a proposed truth. We don't even agree on the method for finding the truth. And, as Kristian says, this problem has infiltrated the church.

Unfortunately, this book, while it is great in what Kristian says, it is not something my friend who reposts thoughtlessly would ever read. It is way too academic and not friendly to the common reader. This book may well be read by a pastor and then preached about. Otherwise I don't know how the people who really need the information included will get it.

Here are some of the highlights of the book. I appreciate Kristian reminding readers, “...Christian faithfulness does require sincere pursuit of truth in love.” (557/4336) She explores news sources, admitting that most have a bias. She covers the lure of “fake news.” She reminds us the explosive nature of words and that Christians are to put on kindness and respond with love. Christians should refuse to be part of the vindictiveness. She includes ideas on how to deal with conspiracy thinking. I like that she suggests we be intellectually honest people, asking ourselves whether we believe something because it is well-documents or because we just want it to be true. Further suggestions include eliminating social media apps and turning off cable news, rather choosing reliable sources. She also suggests reading about logical fallacies but offers no instruction herself.

I wanted this book to be something the average Christian could read and from it glean some practical ways to evaluate statements and claims. I wanted a strategy for how one would go about determine the truth of a media post. While Kristian has provided an excellent analysis of the problem, there is a lack of applicability for the average Christian.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Bonnie Kristian is a theological and political writer with a national following. She is the weekend editor at The Week and a foreign policy fellow at Defense Priorities, and her work has appeared at Time MagazineCNNPoliticoUSA TodayRelevant MagazineThe HillChristianity Today, and the American Conservative, among other outlets.

Brazos Press, 233 pages.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Canter with a Killer by Amber Camp Book Review

About the Book


Mallory Martin left her marriage and her unfulfilling job to move back to her hometown of Hillspring, Arkansas, and start a horse rescue. It’s everything she’s been missing, with paddocks of happy horses and one very quirky donkey. But when her cantankerous neighbor and longtime critic, Albert Cunningham, is found murdered in his fancy show barn, Mallory becomes suspect number one. Since Sheriff Grady Sullivan is ignoring all good sense and focusing only on Mallory, she decides to take matters into her own hands.

Aided by her best friend, Lanie, and rescue volunteer Tanner, Mallory races headlong into the investigation in search of the real killer. But horses and murder aren’t the only thing on her mind when she meets Albert’s handsome son, Braydon. Sparks fly, and soon she’s got a new boyfriend. But there’s a case to be solved, and she redoubles her efforts to learn the truth.

The suspects mount quickly. There’s Albert’s girlfriend, Kathleen, who was on the farm when he was murdered; organic farmer Heather Rogers, who accused Albert of contaminating her creek; and Philip Atwood, who’d been trying for a right-of-way across Albert’s farm. None of the evidence is holding up though, and Mallory learns that she’ll need to take the reins on this investigation if she’s going to clear her own name.

My Review


I was impressed with this debut mystery from Camp. The plotted mystery is pretty good as the murder seemed reasonable considering the circumstances. I usually do not like the heroine and amateur sleuth going off on her own, making mistakes and incriminating herself with evidence toward conviction. In this novel, however, Mallory is well characterized as desperate to prove herself innocent. And rightly so as it seems the sheriff, though a longtime friend, is by no means her advocate.

I liked this cozy mystery. There is the setting of horse farms, a well developed heroine, suspects galore, a suspenseful end and an unusual hero in the end. The villain might not be a surprise to some readers as there were clues but the mystery was well plotted. There is a hint of romance too, well done.

I liked this debut effort and will be watching for more from Camp.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author

Amber Camp has always had a love for mysteries and settings you can get lost in. She discovered cozy mysteries in college and fell in love with the genre.

She has lived in Northwest Arkansas for twenty years, working as an RN at a rural hospital in the area. She has a menagerie of animals that includes dogs, cats, horses, and what has been described as the Mule from Hell, which may or may not be a slight exaggeration.

Writing has always been a focus in her life, something she describes as “food for my soul.” An avid reader since grade school, she enjoys multiple genres and is always looking for new authors to add to her favorites. Find out more at https://www.ambercampauthor.com/   Photo credit: Madison Camp.


Crooked Land Books, 304 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

The Ghost in Your Christmas Present by L G Nixon Book Review

About the Book

There are perils in your Christmas carols; when you’re a Hornberger . . .

Lucy Hornberger’s Christmas is about to come unwrapped. Two ghosts are threatening her holiday joy. One ghost, with a brutal temper and unbelievable strength, is creating bedlam everywhere. The other ghost seems benign, but her methods leave Lucy’s mom empty, scared, and lonely. Lucy will do whatever it takes to defeat the forces menacing her loved ones and bring joy back to Christmas.

And you thought Santa was a jolly ol’ soul.


You can watch the book trailer here.


My Review


Nixon has given young readers another exciting adventure into the spirit realm. This is a story taking place near Christmas and is a novella so is good for readers who aren't quite ready for a full length novel.

Nixon's setting is one combining fantasy and Christian truth. Lucy uses magic stones, for example, but the stones are actually Bible promises. There are ghosts but they are actually beings from the spirit realm, angels and demons. The battles waged are very representative of the spiritual warfare Paul describes in the New Testament.

This novella highlights the battle waged in the spirit realm to see a person become a child of God. Lucy's mother finds freedom from her past in an exciting battle for her very soul. There are lessons learned too as Lucy comes to understand the difference between relying on her own strength and the strength and power of the High King.

Forces for good and evil exist in the spirit realm and this novella really brings out that reality. Nixon adds a note identifying the spiritual lesson to learn and the many Bible verses referenced in the novella. These are a great help to parents as they explain the truth behind the exciting adventure.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

You can read my reviews of the earlier books in the series: The Ghost of Darwin Stewart and The Ghost Writer


You can get an idea of Nixon's writing style and the Christian basis for her books by reading the Ascalon Chronicles.

About the Author

L. G. Nixon grew up hoping to be a writer. After a long career in office management, she began writing. Growing up in a creaky old house where relatives told ghost stories, she now shares stories God lays on her heart. She lives in Michigan with her husband and enjoys outdoor activities. You can find out more at www.lgnixon.com.


Fitting Words, 128 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the author. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Christmas Crime Cover-Up by Dana Mentink Book Review

About the Book

Book: Christmas Crime Cover-Up

Author: Dana Mentink

Genre:Inspy Suspense

Release date: November 29, 2022

From USA TODAY bestselling author Dana Mentink…

A violent attack

Isn’t the homecoming she expected.

When an ATV tries to run her down in Death Valley, animal rescuer Nora Duke knows it’s a sign she never should have returned. Now she’s stuck on Seth Castillo’s ranch until Christmas with a pregnant donkey—and a criminal desperate to silence her. Facing her past is as terrifying as uncovering a killer’s twisted plan. But can Seth convince her to stay…if they live through the holidays?

From Love Inspired Suspense: Courage. Danger. Faith.

Desert Justice

Book 1: Framed in Death Valley
Book 2: Missing in the Desert
Book 3: Death Valley Double Cross
Book 4: Death Valley Hideout
Book 5: Christmas Crime Cover-Up
Book 6: Targeted in the Desert

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

While this is part of a series and characters in this novel have appeared in previous ones, it reads well on its own. The plot provides a good deal of suspense as someone is out to kill Nora. There is a good deal of relationship tension as Nora returns to the area of her family from whom she has been alienated for years. It is good to see forgiveness and relationship restoration as part of the plot. There is also the possibility of romance with suitable tension and obstacles along the way. I did think the romance, in the end, went way too fast.

The setting continues to be the desert of Death Valley. I liked the idea of capturing wild burros and placing them in a rescue location. That was an interesting side to the main plot.

The characters are done well. The identity of the villain was not a surprise as we are set up for it. There is a twist at the end we were also set up for but it just did not seen reasonable to me.

This is a readable and entertaining mystery with some elements of faith and a quick romance.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

You can read my reviews of the earlier books in the series: Framed in Death Valley, Missing in the Desert, Death Valley Double Cross, and Death Valley Hideout.

About the Author

Dana Mentink is a USA Today and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author as well as a two-time American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award winner, and the recipient of a Holt Medallion. She’s written over fifty titles in the suspense, lighthearted romance and mystery genres. She is pleased to write for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense, Harlequin Heartwarming and Poisoned Pen Press. You can connect with Dana via her website at danamentink.com, on Facebook, YouTube (Author Dana Mentink) and Instagram (dana_mentink.) Her monthly newsletter features plenty of goodies, gab and giveaways. https://www.subscribepage.com/b8q0y5

More from Dana

Well here we go! Book five in the Desert Justice series features Nora (Chief Jude’s estranged sister), a wild donkey who needs rescuing, and a crime from the past that intrudes into the present. Twisty, right? I was inspired to write this story after visiting Death Valley and learning about the feral donkeys which inhabit the region. They’re cute, visitors love them, but the burros can encounter health problems and cause environmental damage if they aren’t settled into a safe area. It’s amazing to me that wild donkeys are adept at detecting underground water sources. They dig “wells” which can benefit many thirsty animals. Fascinating, right? Hope you’ll enjoy meeting Bubbles the donkey and the helpful humans who rescue her in this novel. God bless and thanks for reading!

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, December 3

deb’s Book Review, December 3

Through the Fire Blogs, December 3

Texas Book-aholic, December 4

Paula’s Pad of Inspiration, December 4

Betti Mace, December 5

Genesis 5020, December 5

Bizwings Blog, December 6

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, December 6

Bigreadersite, December 7

Inklings and notions, December 7

Daysong Reflections, December 8

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, December 8

Locks, Hooks and Books, December 9

Empowermoms, December 9

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, December 10

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, December 10

Pause for Tales, December 10

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, December 11

For Him and My Family, December 11

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, December 12

Holly’s Book Corner, December 12

Blogging With Carol, December 13

Vicky Sluiter, December 13

For the Love of Literature, December 14

Lily’s Book Reviews, December 14

Cover Lover Book Review, December 15

Simple Harvest Reads, December 15 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Blossoms and Blessings, December 16

A Good Book and Cup of Tea, December 16

Labor Not in Vain, December 16

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Dana is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book!!

(If the winner is outside the U.S., then he or she will receive an eBook.)

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/22ec8/christmas-crime-cover-up-celebration-tour-giveaway

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Friday, December 2, 2022

Crime for the Books by Kate Young

About the Book:


Lyla Moody and her book club, the Jane Does, are hosting a Halloween party at Magnolia Manor, tailored after Agatha Christie’s 
A Murder is Announced, but when the lights come on after the staged murder, a real victim lies dead with a gunshot wound in her chest. The victim was an estranged relative of Elaine Morgan, operator of the B&B, who’d earlier been seen arguing with her about the fate of the property. Suspicion immediately falls on Elaine, and she’s arrested.

The Jane Does believe Elaine is innocent, and when they get the chance to team up with police officer Rosa Landry—a member of the club—they jump on it. But then, the club discovers that two more murders have been brazenly predicted online and in the Sweet Mountain Gazette—and that one of the intended victims is Rosa.

Lyla thinks she knows who the killer is, but the only way to find out is by laying a trap using Rosa as bait. But, like an Agatha Christie mystery, the truth is never what it seems. Lyla and her trusty book club will have to sleuth out the killer before Rosa meets her final chapter.

My Review:

I read lots of cozy mysteries and Young's Jane Doe Book Club Mystery series is a good one. Lyla is a capable sleuth. She's part of her uncle's private investigation business so she has the training and resources to get information the police may lack. She also has good support personnel in her friend Mel and the book club. I do like that they were brought into service in this novel.

Young gives readers a good balance of relationship issues and investigative action. Lyla seems to be growing into her investigative work. She seems a bit more self assured too, especially in her relationship with her boyfriend, resulting in some relationship drama. Rosa was a bit of an enigma in this novel. I am not sure we ultimately understand all of her behavior. Her character did not seem to ring true to me considering her actions in previous novels.

The plot might be a bit predicable as a murder occurs when the book club hosts a murder party. The villain was perhaps overly characterized. There is a little bit of suspense at the end but mostly just a very readable cozy mystery.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


This is the third novel in this series and you can read my review of the earlier ones: On Borrowed Crime and Reading Between the Crimes.

About the Author:


Kate Young
 writes cozy and Southern mystery novels. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Guppy Chapter. She lives in a small town in Georgia with her husband and their three kids. You can find out more at www.kateyoungbooks.com.

Crooked Lane Books, 336 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Laughter and Lament by Steve Brown Book Review

About the Book:

What do we do with the sadness and the joy that living in a broken world brings to our lives? Most try to avoid the tears and focus on finding happiness, but does that really work? Denial might help to alleviate pain for the short run, but eventually lament must be faced and expressed. In
 Laughter and Lament: The Radical Freedom of Joy and Sorrow (New Growth Press/October 24, 2022), Steve Brown shows how learning to lament honestly to God is the surprising path to learning about real joy.

When we experience or see tragedy, we expect tears, fear, and sometimes anger, and when we experience the good and pleasant, we expect joy and maybe even laughter. However, laughter and lament are often found together in unexpected places. How can we explain the opposite effect—laughter in the pain and tears in the joy?

We are created in the image of God. There is a surprising biblical reason why we laugh and lament. It’s because God is sorrowful and glad,” Brown explains. “With all due respect to the opposing views in theological circles about the emotions of God, the Bible portrays a God who feels deeply and acts passionately. His humor is everywhere and his tears, as it were, fall from the pages of the Bible.”

Brown shares that speaking honestly about the ways we have been hurt and the ways we have hurt others opens the door to the joy of God’s presence even as we grieve. Instead of pretending that everything is fine, going to God with all of our laments fills us with the freedom and joy of knowing his love and forgiveness. This is the surprising message of freedom that Christians have to share with a world where pain is almost always cursed and laughter is almost always cynical.

A good deal of depression and other emotional maladies we experience are simply because we have no place to take our honest feelings. I’m a man of prayer, not because I’m so spiritual, but because, frankly, I don’t have any other place to go with those feelings except God.” Brown writes. “I pray because it’s the only place where I don’t have to defend myself, pretend that I’m better than I am, or be religious. It’s a place of freedom.”

Of Laughter and Lament, pastor and author Dane Ortlund shares, “Vintage Steve Brown—earthy, honest, refreshingly self-deprecating, and relentlessly zeroed in on the good news of unearned divine favor. This book will fend off cynicism and foster joy as Steve coaches us all into a life of Christian realism—both happiness and anguish, both uproarious laughter and bristling anger. Healthy Christians experience both and knowing this fortifies us to live life well.”

 

My Review:

We are going to have tribulation in this world, Brown reminds us. John 16:33 promises it. But we will also have laughter because John 16:33 also promises Jesus has overcome the world. So how does a Christian live in both of these realms?

Brown is old enough and been a faithful believer long enough that he has no desire to impress anybody. He is just real. In fact, he writes, “God's gift to his people is the freedom to be real...” (239/2151) That means we don't put on a religious face. We have permission to be authentic and express our feelings, our frustrations, our anger. “Jesus didn't die to make us nice,” he writes. (625/2151) We miss out on deep intimacy with God when we fail to share with him the depths of our pain and our joy.

Brown says he is not interested in being particularly spiritual. He's been there, done that. He cusses. In fact, he teaches readers how to cuss in Latin. That way people will think you are terribly smart and not know at all you are cussing.

Some may think Brown irreverent but I see a man old enough to quit at playing the act religious game. He's real with God and he is real with us. Reading this book will give you the freedom to be real with God. It will give you the freedom to express pain and genuine lament, real repentance and the freedom of laughter. But be ready to be honest and real. No phony people will appreciate Brown's book.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

 

About the Author:

Steve Brown is the Founder of Key Life Network, Inc., the Bible teacher on the radio program Key Life and host of the talk show Steve Brown, Etc. A former pastor, he is also a frequent in-demand speaker and visiting seminary lecturer.

He has authored numerous books, including How to Talk So People Will ListenThree Free SinsHidden Agendas, Talk the Walk, and his latest release, Laughter and Lament. Brown has also written for publications such as LeadershipDecisionPlain Truth, and Today’s Christian Woman. He previously served as a member of the Board of Directors of Christianity Today and Harvest USA.

Brown and his wife, Anna, have been married for more than sixty years. They have two married daughters and three granddaughters. They make their home in Orlando, FL.

Learn more at www.keylife.org and follow him on Facebook (@Dr.SteveBrown) and Twitter (@DrSteveWBrown).

New Growth Press, 176 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)