Friday, July 20, 2018

A Prisoner's Perspective by Mike Savage

Savage has a unique appreciation of the gospel. He knows what it is like to stand before a judge, have your sins identified, realize you have no defense, and the penalty be determined. He had been the subject of a five year investigation resulting in his indictment on 101 criminal charges.

His international money laundering activities resulted in him serving over fifteen years in prison. One of his jobs in prison was to work with the chaplain. He ultimately heard and responded to the gospel. A few weeks later his wife did too.

Savage shares his experiences in prison. He continually doubted his wife would stick with him. She is an amazingly faithful and selfless person who would go without eating so she could send him the money he needed to call her. She worked while he was in prison, the only source of support for her and their son.

Savage tells of his experiences of returning to a free society upon release from prison. He had to relearn many social graces. He was introduced to cell phones and the Internet. Feeling called to ministry, he took classes and is currently an adjunct professor teaching Bible, theology, and psychology.

This is a very interesting memoir. It reveals much about prison experiences, including those in privatized institutions. Savage is very honest about his feelings throughout his experiences, such as his anger. I was a little disturbed that he still had so much anger after his salvation and release from prison. His wife said God was working on his rough edges. I never sensed an genuine remorse for his illegal activities. I would have liked a clearer expression of the need for his forgiveness and appreciation for God's grace in his life.

All that being said, Savage's memoir is a good example of God's unfailing love. God took Savage through much in order to get his attention. Perhaps God's love was best shown through his wife and her faithfulness.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Mike Savage is a former radio personality, television news anchor, and criminal. He served over fifteen years in federal prison for international money laundering. He is currently an adjunct professor. He and his wife live on Padre Island, Texas. You can find out more at https://www.mikesavagebooks.com/.

Coralvine Publishing, 262 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Shayla Raquel. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Believe Me by John Fea

I read this book in my continuing quest to understand the 2016 US presidential election. Fea is an evangelical Christian historian. His book helped me understand how Trump convinced evangelicals he was a Christian, despite his many blunders and reports of sexual assault. Trump's immorality was ignored because he had the right policy proposals. Evangelicals were grasping political power and Trump seemed to be the answer.

This action was not something new. Fea says the election was “the latest manifestation of a long-standing evangelical approach to public life.” (6) He says the idea to “win back” and “restore the culture” was based on a faulty foundation, longing for something that did not exist in the first place.

Fear is what was driving the evangelicals, Fea argues. “The various fears that combined to drive white evangelical Christians into the arms of Donald Trump have deep roots in American history.” (112-113) He explains why evangelical Christians were so afraid, reviewing the social and cultural changes that have occurred from the Puritans to the Obama administration. He introduces readers to the many religious leaders who were seeking political power and entered Trump's inner circle. Fea also writes about Christian nostalgia and Christians trying to reclaim something that will never come back.

I really appreciated Fea's insights into what seems to be a last-ditch attempt to win the culture wars. (180) Fea wonders what might happen if evangelicals replace fear with hope. He wonders how evangelical politics might change if the pursuit of power is replaced with the cultivation of humility. He also wonders what might happen if evangelicals replace nostalgia with history. (182)

This book is a good one for evangelicals to read to understand what happened in the last several years and why. I know God has promised that He will work His purposes to good. I find hope and trust in that promise.

You can watch an interview with the author here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

John Fea is professor of American history and chair of the history department at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. His previous books include Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? A Historical Introduction, and he blogs regularly at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.

Eerdmans, 248 pages.

Shift Your Thinking for Success by Dean Del Sesto

How we think about what happens to us is important, Del Sesto writes. Our thinking can pave the way forward or hold us back. Sometimes small changes in our thinking can make a huge difference in our confidence and our potential for success.

Del Sesto provides seventy seven areas where readers can evaluate their thinking and behavior. Some are challenges, like taking control of your thoughts, beating them into submission. Some are very practical ideas, like checking with others to see if their performance evaluation of you matches your own. (You need to be willing to accept comments from others and be willing to change.)

Some of the topics will require much work, such as getting a good night's sleep. That might require much more than just giving yourself permission to sleep well. Whole books have been written on the topic. Another issue that might require more work than given is controlling feelings. That might take more than having a negotiating conversation with yourself.

Other topics include lots of practical ideas, like the section on listening. Another topic with some practical suggestions is setting goals. Some topics are about making wise decisions, like having the discipline of continually learning. Others are incentives to value people, like remembering their names. I loved his writing on the Digital Rudeness Syndrome.

Each of the issues Del Sesto raises is thought provoking. Some ideas could be implemented quickly while others might take months of work. This is not a “how to” book, he writes. He doesn't want anyone to try to copy his life. I like his emphasis that success is who we are, not what we do. This book is good for thinking through who we want to be. Developing a strategy for moving forward may require additional reading and planning.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Dean Del Sesto has been in marketing, branding, and corporate development for his entire career. He currently runs the award-winning branding agency called Breviti and is also a partner in VeracityColab, a B2B and consumer based video agency. He speaks nationally on a variety of topics. He and his wife live in Orange County, California. You can find out more at http://www.deandelsesto.com/.

Revell, 224 pages.

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Bad Time To Be In It by David Burnsworth Blog Tour and Giveaway

Bad Time To Be In It

by David Burnsworth

on Tour July 9 - August 10, 2018

Synopsis:


The past is never past. Sometimes it repeats itself. And sometimes it comes back to pay a visit. Blu Carraway, flush with cash and back in business, never had it so good. Or so he thought.The reality is his love life is in shambles, his business partner is spending too much time with women half his age and not enough time on the job, and someone close goes missing. Blu’s business partner goes off the rails, his friends show their true colors, and he realizes that getting closure sometimes means walking away from everything. With a case from the past gone wrong twice, a loved one in trouble, and an unanswered marriage proposal, it’s a bad time to be in it for Blu Carraway Investigations.


My Review:


I like Blu. He is not your average private investigation guy. He is unconventional and so are his methods of finding the truth. He is unflinchingly loyal to his friends and serious trouble to his enemies. His partner in business, Crome, is larger than life. With his girlfriend kidnapped, Crome goes off the rails, Blu going after him. Those two make for an exciting plot. Burnsworth includes a number of secondary characters. At times I was a little confused as to who they were and how they fit in.

I like the setting for the novel, the seedier side of the Charleston area. It is a part of America I rarely get to read about.

There was an interesting black flash in the midst of the novel. I felt it broke the narrative a bit but it was good for giving some history between Blu and Crome and how they work together. While it was ultimately a part of the current story I would have preferred it to have been a prologue.

I recommend this novel and the Blu Carrawy series to readers who enjoy a flawed hero slogging his way through the darker places in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. There is plenty of action, keeping the narrative moving along.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Henery Press
Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Number of Pages: 254
ISBN: 9781635113587
Series: Blu Carraway Mysteries #2
Purchase Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo
 

Read an excerpt:


Chapter One


Belize City, Belize, August, mid-Monday

Paco squinted as he stared out over the courtyard, the afternoon sun a brilliant blaze. Sounds of local women selling vegetables, cheap pottery, and trinkets to tourists filled the air. The clinking of dishware. Some of the vendors were lucky enough to have an umbrella or canopy to shield them from the burning heat. Most weren’t.
The pavement baked Paco’s feet through his cowboy boots.
He lifted his straw hat, one with an orange band he’d bought from a local Mennonite child, and wiped his brow. The air tasted of salt, dust, and tamalito grease.
His two partners, a Belizean Creole called Lin and a Jamaican named Peter, were already in position. Lin nodded at him from the other side of the square. Paco checked on Peter and found him fifty meters due east scoping out the three young women they’d come for.
Well, really it was just one of them they wanted. The other two women were going to be a bonus. The contract was to grab the woman with the family name of Kincaid, make a phone call when they had her at their hideout, and then do whatever they wanted with the other two. And eliminate any resistance.
The stupid chicas had only one guard with them. Some tall, middle-aged Bufon Paco guessed was half-Cuban, half-gringo, who wore sunglasses and dressed in light-colored fatigues and military style boots. He looked fit but was most likely nothing but an easy target. In the three days Peter, Lin, and Paco had tracked the women, the man with the sunglasses always kept watch from behind.
The past two nights Paco had dreamt of shooting the man through those sunglasses.
Using the sleeve of his shirt, Paco wiped his forehead one more time and then replaced his hat. He watched Peter wait until the women and the man passed and then fell in behind them.
God, the women were beautiful. Suntanned white girls in their early twenties. Perfect teeth. Curled, long hair. Linen blouses, short shorts, and sandals. After he shot their protector, his dreams ended with tying each of them to a bed, the fear in their eyes giving him immense pleasure.
And today was the day his dream would come true.
Paco watched the group pass through a crowd of old people in bright clothes unloading from a tour bus.
Except Peter didn’t emerge behind them when the women came through the other side of the gray-haired mass.
Neither did the sunglass-wearing guard.
Paco smiled and thought, good, Peter took him out already.
He nodded at Lin who gave him a thumbs-up.
The women perused another row of vendors.
He and Lin followed, coming from opposite ends.
The women were just ahead. Paco caught sight of their toned caderas and thanked his god again for tight American shorts. He picked up his pace as he threaded through the crowd.
After about forty meters, something didn’t seem right any more. He should have caught up to them by now. And Lin should have joined him.
Paco stopped, checked his phone. No messages.
Looking around, he thought he spotted the women turn down an alley.
Where were Peter and Lin?
It didn’t matter.
He had to get the woman now. Especially with the guard out of the picture.
Paco knew he could handle her by himself, even if the other two females had to die to make things easier. He sprinted after them, cut down the alley, and found himself alone with nothing but a dead end. The only noise he heard was the market from which he’d come.
An abandoned car on blocks with its hood open mocked him. Dust kicked up from his boots as he skidded to a stop. Paco turned around. No one had followed him.
He turned back and looked straight down the barrel of a revolver.
His eyes would not—could not—keep from staring at the black hole in front of him that brought death. Where in the hell did this come from? There had been no sound.
A man’s voice said, “Esto es donde dar la vuelta y a pie.” (This is where you turn around and walk away.)
Thinking fast, Paco said, “Que buscaba para mi hija.” (I was looking for my daughter.)
The thumb of the hand holding the revolver cocked the hammer back.
Anyone else would have soiled his pants at this. But Paco knew the man had made a very big mistake. Other peoples’ mistakes, and Paco’s awareness of them, were how he had survived this long. The cocked pistol an arm’s reach from his face had caught him off guard. If it had been five feet away, the perfect distance for control,he would have had a problem.
But this close—
Paco swung an arm at the hand with the pistol and ducked the other way, all in one motion just like he’d done before.
Except another gun fired.
Paco felt an inferno of heat and lead tear through his leg. He screamed and crashed to the ground.
A large, military boot kicked him in the face. It jolted his focus off the pain in his leg for a second and onto the sunglasses of the man from his dreams. Paco spotted a second pistol in the man’s other hand. He hadn’t seen the second gun because he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the first. The man had outsmarted him.
The man smiled down at him and said, in Spanish, “Who hired you?”
The pain flooded back. Paco seethed out a “Piss off.”
The man with the sunglasses put his large boot on Paco’s injured leg and stepped down hard.
Paco had never felt pain so great in his thirty-three years on this earth. He tried to scream, but nothing came out. He swam in a horizon of white noise.
The pressure on his leg let up. The boot kicked him in the ribs, ripping his concentration away from his leg once more, long enough for him to breathe.
“Your two friends won’t be joining us. Tell me who hired you. Do it now. I won’t ask again.” Paco’s mind recovered enough from the pain to formulate a last desperate plan. He slipped a hand behind his back and pulled out a derringer.
Before he could aim it, the man standing over him blasted his hand from two feet away. And Paco felt a different twinge of pain that almost matched the firestorm in his leg. He lifted his hand to where he could look at it. Two of his fingers were missing.
Then he saw nothing.

Chapter Two


Charleston County, South Carolina, August, mid-Monday


DAY ONE

Mick Crome sat on a stool at the inside bar of the Pirate’s Cove on the Isle of Palms. He finished off a second pint while staring at all the liquor bottles lined up on the shelves in front of him. They had a habit of staring back. Maureen, his sometimes girlfriend and bartender a hundred miles north up in Myrtle Beach, was pissed off at him. He couldn’t chill and watch her tight rear end as she poured drinks tonight. Maybe not tomorrow night, either.
The current bartender serving the beers, a friend named Brack Pelton, wasn’t exactly his type. At six feet and with a perpetual suntanned complexion, Brack looked like he should be tending bar in the Bahamas, not owning two watering holes in the South Carolina lowcountry.
Pelton asked, “You want another one, Mick?”
Even inside the place, the smell of the Atlantic Ocean directly behind him cleaned out his sinuses. The song streaming on the bar’s sound system, “Paradise City” by Guns and Roses, was a real classic.
Crome nodded, hooked a boot heel on the bottom rung of his stool, and pulled a vape pen out of the breast pocket of his weathered leather vest.
He couldn’t figure out what exactly he’d done wrong with Maureen but was sure it might have something to do with the two women he traded vodka shots with the night before. Mainly because neither of them was Maureen. Maureen hadn’t taken too kindly to him cancelling their date so he could follow a lead only to end up getting drunk and crashing at another woman’s pad. She didn’t believe him when he’d tried to explain that nothing had happened. The lead was legit, but even he knew he should have just gotten the information over the phone.
What did people say in times like this? C’est la vie?
Whatever.
Pelton set a fresh pint of draft down in front of Crome. “Haven’t seen you or Blu around in a while. How’s it going?”
The kid, Pelton, meant well. If Crome hadn’t taken a liking to him, and if he hadn’t watched a video of the kid, empty handed, take on an armed giant of a man and win, he might have picked a fight with him just for fun. But the kid had saved his best friend’s daughter and was an unofficial partner in the private investigation firm Crome co-owned. Unofficial because just about everything Crome did was unofficial. The official side was handled by his main partner, Blu Carraway.
Crome said, “Blu’s on a security job. In Belize, the lucky bastard. Should be back in a day or two.”
A voice from behind him said, “Hi, Crome.”
It was female and familiar. Damn.
Anyone else would have been a welcome change to his wandering thoughts, a defense mechanism he used to avoid thinking about Maureen.
Hell, Maureen in her most pissed-off state would have been a welcome companion compared to—
The female voice interrupted his thought. “Aren’t you going to invite me to sit down?”
Crome saw the smirk form on his own face reflected in the mirror behind the bar. He also saw the strawberry-blond curls, red lipstick, and tight dress of his newest problem. “It’s a free country.”
Harmony Childs pulled out the stool next to him and sat. “That bad-ass biker routine won’t work on me, Sugar. You’ve seen me in my underwear.”
Twenty years his junior, nuttier than a pecan tree, driven, and drop-dead gorgeous, Harmony was the very cliché of Kryptonite for him. She was also one of the two women he’d traded shots with last night.
It was true; he had seen her in her underwear. But not out of her underwear, thank God, or he and Maureen wouldn’t have lasted this long.
Harmony said, “Don’t tell me you’ve still got a hangover. I’d hate to think you couldn’t hang with us, given your propensity for bars and liquor.”
She really was beautiful. And she’d matched him shot for shot, unless the bartender was feeding her and her friend water instead of Citron. But that couldn’t be because he’d watched all their shot glasses get refilled from the same bottle.
“Not on your life, Dolly,” he said.
Pelton came over, grinned at the young woman, and said, “What’ll it be, Ms. Harmony?”
If Pelton’s wife caught him doing anything more than casual flirting, she’d string him up by his testicles. Especially if it was with Harmony. Or her cohort, Tess Ray. Which reminded Crome, when there was one, the other wasn’t far behind.
Tess pulled out the stool on the other side of Crome and sat. “Sorry I’m late. There was another double homicide in North Charleston.”
Shorter than Harmony, with shoulder length blonde hair that fell in layers, Tess wore dark-rimmed glasses, a business dress with no sleeves, and medium heels.
She’d been the second woman from the night before. Two women to one man, a bottle of vodka, and all he had to show for it was a nasty headache, a stiff back from the couch he’d crashed on alone, and a pissed off girlfriend. Must be his lucky day.
Crome opened his mouth to say “howdy” but got cut off before he could start.
“It would be nice if your partner was around,” Harmony said.
“You guys make good copy. Maybe you all could give us something besides gang violence to report on.”
Harmony and Tess were eager-beaver news correspondents who’d recently gone independent.
Tess asked, “So when is Blu due back in town? Soon, right?”
Every damn woman who’d ever laid eyes on Blu Carraway fell in love with the bastard.
Again, Crome opened his mouth to speak, and again got interrupted. This time by the other local lady killer, Pelton’s dog, Shelby.
At the sight of the chow-collie mix, Harmony and Tess both slid off their stools and swarmed the mutt. The damned canine seemed to be eating it all up, dancing around between them, his wagging tail high in the air.
The song ended, and in the lull before the next one began, Crome checked his iPhone, the one that felt like an old-fashioned pair of handcuffs restraining him from freedom. The one that came with the business of running a private investigation firm. The one that his partner had made him take.
He’d missed a call.
The number wasn’t familiar, but whoever had called left a voicemail. He listened.
It sounded like Maureen. “Mick? I’m in trouble. Please help—”
A man’s voice cut her off. “Listen Crome, it’s payback time. You took from me so I’m taking from you. I’ll be in touch.”
His phone showed a text message. He tapped to open it up and stared at a picture of a scared Maureen with a gun to her head.
Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face” started playing, blowing a hole through the world.

Excerpt from Bad Time To Be In It by David Burnsworth. Copyright © 2018 by David Burnsworth. Reproduced with permission from David Burnsworth. All rights reserved.
 

Author Bio:

David Burnsworth became fascinated with the Deep South at a young age. After a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee and fifteen years in the corporate world, he made the decision to write a novel. Bad Time To Be In It (July 2018, Henery Press) will be his sixth. Having lived on Charleston’s Sullivan’s Island for five years, the setting was a foregone conclusion. He and his wife call South Carolina home.

Catch Up With Our Author On: Website, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!
Click here to view the Bad Time To Be In It by David Burnsworth Participants
 

GIVEAWAY:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for David Burnsworth. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card and 4 winners of one (1) print OR eBook copy of David Burnsworth’s Bad Time To Be In It. The giveaway begins on July 9, 2018 and runs through August 11, 2018. Open to U.S. addresses only. Void where prohibited.
a Rafflecopter giveaway  

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

  I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Darkwater Secrets by Robin Caroll

I enjoyed reading this entertaining and informative novel. The setting is New Orleans and Caroll has included much about the flavor of the city into the plot. I liked reading about some of the celebrations, food, and customs of the area. There was a bit about voodoo too. That was a bit disconcerting but I know it is a reality in that community. I do enjoy a murder mystery and this is a good one.

I had mixed feelings about the main characters. I think that was by design. I love Addy and her father. Addy has done so well with all she had gone through. She really tugged at my heart. And I liked Beau too. Both of them had deep hurts in their past that needed to be faced. I liked that it was not a given that both would exhibit unconditional love. Dimitri made me a little nervous and I look forward to seeing how his character is shown in the sequel. (Yes! A sequel is already planned.)

I do recommend this novel to readers who enjoy a novel that has a well developed plot in a setting that is very interesting. You'll read about how secrets from the past can have life changing effects in the present. You'll also read about the healing that comes from forgiveness.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Robin Caroll is the best-selling author of more than twenty-seven novels. She writes southern stories of mystery and suspense with a hint of romance. Her books have received the Carol Award, HOLT Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, RT Reviewer's Choice Award, and more. She and her husband have three daughters and two grandsons. You can find out more at www.robincaroll.com.

Gilead Publishing, 272 pages.

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

Monday, July 16, 2018

Murder at the Flamingo by Rachel McMillan

I had some difficulty enjoying this book. It is a murder mystery but the murder did not happen until past the middle of the book. The first real action in the novel did not happen until about a third of the way in. There is lots of prose, mostly thoughts of the characters. Action scenes and dialogue seem to take a back seat.

I found McMillan's writing style hard to follow. A new chapter would be in a new setting but that would not be revealed until the second or third paragraph. There were some sentences and paragraphs I had to reread in order to entirely understand them. I felt the narrative did not flow smoothly.

I found the setting of Boston nightclubs in 1937 was just not fun. I did not like all the alcohol and sleazy characters. The main characters, Reggie and Hammish, did not grab me and I had difficulty really caring for them. And I do wish there would have been at least a hint of Christianity included.

All that being said, McMillan did a good job of the historical setting, describing the buildings, the music, movies, musicians, etc.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Rachel McMillan is the author of the Herringford and Watts series. She lives in Toronto where she works in educational publishing.

Thomas Nelson, 352 pages.

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

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Right in the Middle but Left Out by Jeffery Trees

Trees shares his life in this memoir. He grew up in a very dysfunctional extended family, including an emotionally abusive father. He takes readers through his life in college, singing as an entertainer, marrying a young woman from a dysfunctional family, being a Methodist minister, seeing abnormalities among pastors and congregations, finding out his wife had been the subject of incest, difficulties, divorce and remarriage.

Much of the book is about his own experiences. He does write in the latter part of this book about those who have been sexually abused as children. I was shocked to find out that one in three women and one in four men have been so abused before they reached the age of eighteen. This latter part of the book is good for spouses of those so abused. Trees shares his confusion and the feelings many spouses would understand.

Unfortunately, this book could benefit from some editing. He writes about his sister, for example, “We were always close as long as I can remember, for she seemed to know exactly what I wanted and would give it to me so I didn't have to talk or express myself for she would do it for me.” (9)

This book is a wake up call to the church. Trees notes that often a church will do nothing when notified of sexual abuse. Church should be a place of healing for this serious issue.

Trees notes that he could be sad for all that has happened to him. He has found hope through Jesus Christ, however, and appreciates so much the people God has used to bless him. This memoir is an encouragement for those experiencing difficult times. Trees also includes resources for those dealing with the effects of sexual abuse.

You can listen to an interview with the author here.

My rating: 3/5/stars.

Jeffery Trees has been an entertainer, professional singer, guitar player, play right, composer, actor, United Methodist minister and a Hospice Chaplain. He is working on his second book. He is now retired and lives with his wife in Indianapolis.

Book Venture Publishing LLC, 148 pp.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Authors Large and Small. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Three Shoeboxes by Steven Manchester Blog Tour and Giveaway

Three Shoeboxes

by Steven Manchester

July 1-August 31, 2018 Tour

 Synopsis:


Mac Anderson holds life in the palm of his hand. He has a beautiful wife, three loving children, a comfortable home, and a successful career. Everything is perfect—or so it seems. Tragically, Mac is destined to learn that any sense of security can quickly prove false. Because an invisible enemy called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has invaded Mac’s fragile mind and it is about to drop him to his knees. He does all he can to conceal his inner chaos, but to no avail. Left to contend with ignorance, an insensitive justice system, and the struggles of an invisible disease, he loses everything—most importantly his family.
One shoebox might store an old pair of sneakers. Two shoeboxes might contain a lifetime of photographs. But in Three Shoeboxes, a father’s undying love may be just enough to make things right again.

My Review:


This novel is packed with emotion. Mac's love for his family is well portrayed at the beginning. When Mac is hit by PTSD, the emotional aspect of it comes across in a dramatic way. It was so forceful I felt it was a bit over done. I can take only so many violent outbursts.

Manchester has a way with words. Of an overbearing woman he writes, “Diane was often wrong, but never in doubt.” (1206/5769) This novel gave me a fresh understanding of PTSD and what kinds of events can trigger it. I do wish there had been more about the treatment.

I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy one concentrating on the emotional impact resulting from experiences we have and choices we make.

My rating: 4/5 stars.
 

Details

Genre: Women's Fiction
Published by: The Story Plant
Publication Date: June 12th 2018
Number of Pages: 285
ISBN: 1611882605 (ISBN13: 9781611882605)
Purchase Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, & Goodreads

Pre-publication endorsements:

“Compelling and emotional, Three Shoeboxes takes readers on a heart-wrenching journey through some of life’s toughest challenges, always with the ever-present sense of the transforming power of love and hope. Three Shoeboxes is Steven Manchester at his finest.” - Carla Neggers, NYT & USA Today Bestselling Author, Harbor Island and Echo Lake
"Raw, moving and brutally honest—Steven Manchester takes you on an emotional rollercoaster. Grab your tissues for this heart-wrenching story—better yet, grab a box full!” - Tanya Anne Crosby, NYT & USA Today Bestselling Author, The Girl Who Stayed "
"Three Shoeboxes is a compassionate, accessible portrait of a vitally important topic, PTSD, how it affects the sufferer and the family—and how to find hope and healing." - Jenna Blum, NYT & International Bestselling Author, Those Who Save Us and Storm Chasers
"Three Shoeboxes is terrific writing. Manchester’s protagonist’s life becomes nightmarish, his rage palpable, and his ultimate redemption breathtaking. It was enough to bring this reader to tears.” - John Lansing, #1 Bestselling Author, The Devil’s Necktie  

Read an excerpt:

Mac jumped up, panting like an obese dog suffering in a heat wave. His heart drummed out of his chest. Startled from a sound sleep, he didn’t know what was wrong. He leapt out of bed and stumbled toward the bathroom. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t think. There’s something wrong, he finally thought, I…I need help. He searched frantically for an enemy. There was none. As he stared at the frightened man in the mirror, he considered calling out to his sleeping wife. She has enough to worry about with the kids, he thought, but was already hurrying toward her. “Jen,” he said in a strained whisper.
She stirred but didn’t open her eyes.
The constricted chest, sweaty face and shaking hands made Mac wonder whether he was standing at death’s door, cardiac arrest being his ticket in. I have to do something now, he thought, or I’m a goner. “Jen,” he said louder, shaking her shoulder.
One eye opened. She looked up at him.
“It’s happening again,” he said in a voice that could have belonged to a frightened little boy.
Jen shot up in bed. “What is it?”
“I…I can’t breathe. My heart keeps fluttering and I feel…”
“I’m calling an ambulance,” she said, fumbling for her cell phone.
“No,” he said instinctively, “it’ll scare the kids.”
She looked up at him like he was crazy.
“I’ll go to the emergency room right now!” Grabbing for a pair of pants, he started to slide into them.
Jen sprang out of the bed. “I’ll call my mom and have her come over to watch the kids. In the meantime, Jillian can…”
Mac shook his foggy head, halting her. “No, I’m okay to drive,” he said, trying to breathe normally.
“But babe,” she began to protest, fear glassing over her eyes.
“I’ll text you as soon as I get there,” he promised, “and then call you just as soon as they tell me what the hell’s going on.”
Jen’s eyes filled. “Oh Mac…”
He shot her a smile, at least he tried to, before rushing out of the house and hyperventilating all the way to the hospital.

I’m here, Mac texted Jen before shutting off the ringer on his phone.
The scowling intake nurse brought him right in at the mention of “chest pains.” Within minutes, the E.R. staff went to work like a well-choreographed NASCAR pit crew, simultaneously drawing blood while wiring his torso to a portable EKG machine.
As quickly as the team had responded, they filed out of the curtained room. A young nurse, yanking the sticky discs from Mac’s chest, feigned a smile. “Try to relax, Mr. Anderson. It may take a little bit before the doctor receives all of your test results.”
For what seemed like forever, Mac sat motionless on the hospital gurney, a white curtain drawn around him. I hope it isn’t my heart, he thought, the kids are still so young and they need…
“Who do we have in number four?” a female voice asked just outside of Mac’s alcove.
Mac froze to listen in.
“Some guy who came in complaining of chest pains,” another voice answered at a strained whisper. “Test results show nothing. Just another anxiety attack.”
No way, Mac thought, not knowing whether he should feel insulted or relieved.
“Like we have time to deal with that crap,” the first voice said. “Can you imagine if men had to give birth?”
Both ladies laughed.
No friggin’ way, Mac thought before picturing his wife’s frightened face. She must be worried sick. But I can’t call her without talking to the doctor. She’d…
The curtain snapped open, revealing a young man in a white lab coat with a stethoscope hanging around his neck.
This kid can’t be a doctor, Mac thought, the world suddenly feeling like it had been turned upside down.
“Your heart is fine, Mr. Anderson,” the doctor quickly reported, his eyes on his clipboard. “I’m fairly certain you suffered a panic attack.” He looked up and grinned, but even his smile was rushed. “Sometimes the symptoms can mirror serious physical ailments.”
Mac was confused, almost disappointed. So, what I experienced wasn’t serious? he asked in his head.
The young man scribbled something onto a small square pad, tore off the top sheet and handed it to Mac. “This’ll make you feel better,” he said, prescribing a sedative that promised to render Mac more useless than the alleged attack.
“Ummm…okay,” Mac said, his face burning red.
The doctor nodded. “Stress is the number one cause of these symptoms,” he concluded. “Do you have someone you can talk to?”
Mac returned the nod, thinking, I need to get the hell out of here. Although he appreciated the concern, he was mired in a state of disbelief. I’m a master of the corporate rat race, he thought, unable to accept the medicine man’s spiel. If anyone knows how to survive stress, it’s me.
“That’s great,” the doctor said, vanishing as quickly as he’d appeared.
My problem is physical, Mac confirmed in his head, it has to be. He finished tying his shoes.
Pulling back the curtain, he was met by the stare of several female nurses. He quickly applied his false mask of strength and smiled. A panic attack, he repeated to himself. When put into words, the possibility was chilling.
The nurses smiled back, each one of them wearing the same judgmental smirk.
With his jacket tucked under his arm, Mac started down the hallway. Sure, he thought, I have plenty of people I can talk to. He pulled open the door that led back into the crowded waiting room. That is, if I actually thought it was anxiety.

Mac sat in the parking lot for a few long minutes, attempting to process the strange events of the last several days. Although he felt physically tired, there weren’t any symptoms or residual effects of the awful episodes he’d experienced—not a trace of the paralyzing terror I felt. And they just came out of the blue. He shook his head. How can it not be physical? He thought about the current state of his life. Work is work, it’s always going to come with a level of stress, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary. He shook his head again. I just don’t get it. He grabbed his cell phone and called Jen. “Hi, it’s me.”
“Are you okay?” she asked, the worry in her voice making him feel worse.
“I’m fine, babe.”
“Fine?” she said, confused. “What did the doctor say?”
“He said it’s not my heart.”
“Oh, thank God.”
Her reaction—although completely understandable—struck him funny, making him feel like the boy who cried wolf.
“So what is it then?” she asked.
He hesitated, feeling oddly embarrassed to share the unbelievable diagnosis.
“Mac?”
“The doctor thinks it was a…a panic attack.”
This time, she paused. “A panic attack?” she repeated, clearly searching for more words. Then, as a born problem solver, she initiated her usual barrage of questions. “Did they give you something for it? Is there any follow up?”
“Yes, and maybe.”
“What does that mean?”
“He gave me pills that I’d rather not take if I don’t need to. And he suggested I go talk to someone.”
“Talk to someone? You mean like a therapist?”
“I’m pretty sure that’s what he meant.”
“Oh,” she said, obviously taken aback. “Then that’s exactly what you should do.”
“I don’t know…”
“Is there something bothering you I don’t know about, Mac,” she asked, “because you can talk to me, too, you know.”
“I know, babe. But there’s nothing bothering me, honest.” He took a deep breath. “For what it’s worth, I don’t buy the anxiety attack diagnosis.”
“Well, whatever you were feeling this morning was real enough, right? I could see it in your face. It wouldn’t hurt anything for you to go talk to someone.” She still sounded scared and he hated it.
“Maybe not,” he replied, appeasing her. In the back of his head, though, he was already contemplating how much he should continue to share with her—or protect her from. “I need to get to work,” he said.
“Why don’t you just take the day off and relax?” she suggested.
Here we go, he thought. “I wish I could, babe,” he said, “but we have way too much going on at the office right now.”
“And maybe that’s part of your problem,” she said.
“I’ll be fine, Jen,” he promised. “We’ll talk when I get home, okay?”
“Okay.”
“Love you,” he said.
“And I love you,” she said in a tone intended for him to remember it.
***
Excerpt from Three Shoeboxes by Steven Manchester. Copyright © 2018 by Steven Manchester. Reproduced with permission from The Story Plant. All rights reserved.
 

Author Bio:


Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers Twelve Months, The Rockin’ Chair, Pressed Pennies, and Gooseberry Island, the national bestseller Ashes, and the novels Goodnight, Brian and The Changing Season. His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning, and BET’s Nightly News. Recently, three of Manchester’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.
Connect with Steven at: stevenmanchester.com | Twitter - @AuthorSteveM | Facebook - @AuthorStevenManchester
 
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