Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Dangerous Games by Susan Hunter Book Review

About the Book:

When a good man with a troubled past perishes in a fire, only Leah Nash can unravel the tangled mystery behind his death.

In the quiet town of Himmel, the sudden blaze that engulfs the local library is only the beginning. Among the smoldering ashes, a lifeless body is found-it's Luke Granger, a hardworking young man striving to escape his family's criminal past. His tragic death shocks the community, and although she is initially hesitant, intrepid journalist Leah can't help but investigate.

As Leah delves into the case, she untangles a twisted web of lies, deceit, and dark secrets that threaten to destroy the reputations of the town's most affluent citizens. Luke's death is just the tip of the iceberg in a chilling tale of greed, love, and thwarted ambition. As she races against time to uncover the truth, Leah finds herself caught in a perilous game where one wrong move could be her last.

Can Leah expose the hidden truth before it's too late, or will she become the next victim in a dangerous game of cat and mouse?

My Review:

This is another good novel in the Leah Nash series. Hunter continues to provide a good balance of Leah's personal life and an amateur sleuth investigation. Leah's love life is settled so there is less romantic drama than in previous novels. Leah has been asked by a family member of a murdered man to find out who the killer is. That means this time Leah is not aggressively barging in to a police investigation. She has made peace with the antagonistic Ross but manages to alienate another member of the sheriff department. I like the positive aspects of the character development of Leah. She is not a static character but is growing.

The plot moves along well as Leah comes up with many suspects and plausible villains. Her investigation is not so much identifying the villain as much as eliminating various suspects. I like how she uses her contacts to gather information. There is a bit of suspense near the end and a twist that finally gave Leah the answers she needed. There is a bit of humor too. (I'll never look at a pineapple again without laughing.)

This is a good addition to the Leah Nash series. While it is quite a ways down the line, it reads well on its own.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

You can read my reviews of some of the earlier books in the series: Dangerous Habits, Dangerous Mistakes, Dangerous Places, Dangerous Secrets, and Dangerous Waters.

About the Author:

Susan Hunter is a happy introvert who lives with her husband Gary, an extreme extrovert, in rural Michigan.

She spent some years as a reporter and then as the managing editor of a small daily newspaper. From there Susan went on to work at a university in publications and marketing where she honed her skills at appearing engaged in academic meetings, while internally composing her grocery list. She also taught a few classes as well—in English composition, that is, not in faking your way through meetings.

In addition to writing the Leah Nash series, Susan enjoys reading other people’s writing, watching classic films, occasional walks and snarky conversation with old friends and family, eating chocolate chip cookies, and answering emails from her readers.

Severn River Publishing, 340 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley 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.)

Monday, June 10, 2024

Dangerous Waters by Susan Hunter

About the Book:

Bryan Crawford's murder is the perfect crime: no witness, no weapon, no indication that his death is anything other than the result of diabetes complications.

That's what the medical examiner says.
That's what the autopsy proves.
And that's what the killer is counting on.

But when new evidence surfaces, crime writer Leah Nash is pulled into the investigation, and all bets are off.

Leah quickly zeroes in on the dysfunctional dynamics of the Crawford family. Beneath the happy fable they tell the world lies a dark tale of jealousy, greed, and revenge.

Bryan's wife, his daughter, his sister, and his stepson each have secrets to hide. Every one of them have reasons to want Bryan dead. And they are all going to great lengths to keep Leah from the truth.

Then Leah makes a shocking discovery, and is propelled into a confrontation with the killer. It's a fight she must win to save someone she loves. But time is running out. As raging flood waters surge forward, Leah acts. The consequences will change her life forever...and you will never guess how.

My Review:

This is another good mystery in the Leah Nash series. While Leah is no longer a journalist and is actually considering writing mystery novels, she does investigate a murder. A major aspect of Hunter's novels is the human aspect. There is a good balance of Nash's investigation and her personal life. There is also a continuation of Nash's troubled romantic life. There is an interesting turn of events in her relationship with Ross, the testy sheriff detective.

The plot is a bit complex but Nash perseveres in trying to identify the murderer. The more she investigates, the more suspects are identified. There is a good bit of suspense at the end as Leah's life is in danger.

This is another good novel in the Leah Nash series furthering her personal life in the context of another murder mystery.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author:

Susan Hunter is a happy introvert who lives with her husband Gary, an extreme extrovert, in rural Michigan.

She spent some years as a reporter and then as the managing editor of a small daily newspaper. From there Susan went on to work at a university in publications and marketing where she honed her skills at appearing engaged in academic meetings, while internally composing her grocery list. She also taught a few classes as well—in English composition, that is, not in faking your way through meetings.

In addition to writing the Leah Nash series, Susan enjoys reading other people’s writing, watching classic films, occasional walks and snarky conversation with old friends and family, eating chocolate chip cookies, and answering emails from her readers.

Severn River Publishing, 350 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, June 9, 2024

Don't Ask Don't Follow by Mary Keliikoa Book Review

About the Book:

Beth Ralston, a paralegal in Portland, Oregon, would rather be racking up billable hours than mingling at an office party—especially when her sister Lindsay, aka her plus one, is a no-show.

After making her obligatory rounds, Beth returns to her office to find that her boss, who she’d talked with moments before, has been murdered. She sees a woman fleeing the scene. Wait—was that Lindsay? Unable to catch up to her in time, Beth waits for the police to arrive and notices that Lindsay has left her phone behind with an unsent text message to Beth displayed on the screen: “Don’t ask. Don’t follow.”

Lindsay is unreachable for days, and when Beth starts to come under suspicion for the crime, she decides that waiting is impossible. While retracing Lindsay’s steps, determined to bring her home, Beth uncovers what her sister, an investigative reporter bent on changing the world, was trying to expose—corruption, secrets, and betrayal on an unimaginable level. Revealing the truth might bring back the one person she’s desperate to find—but it could also destroy the only life and family Beth’s ever known.

My Review:

The novel starts with good action including a murder early on. The murder is in a high power legal firm but the legal aspect is not the major thrust of the novel. That murder sets the stage for uncovering truth layer by layer.

Beth is a capable amateur sleuth. She is tenacious because her missing sister, Lindsay, is the focus of her investigation. Lindsay is an investigative reporter and Beth tries to figure out what story she was working on, hoping that will help her understand where Lindsay might be now. There is suspense from time to time as someone is trying to stop Beth. I was a bit surprised the police let her get away with her actions.

This novel deals with some serious issues regarding birth, adoption, and DNA tests. Also part of the plot is the influence of powerful people and discord in family relationships. There are secrets in Beth's family that come to light, much to the dismay of her father who is running for mayor of Portland. There was a good twist at the end and a hint of romance along the way.

I have read several of Keliikoa's novel and really like her writing style. Other than beginning a chapter with a dream not identified as such, a pet peeve of mine, I liked this novel and recommend it.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author:

Eighteen years in the legal field, and an over-active imagination, led Pacific NW native Mary Keliikoa to start writing mystery and suspense. She is the author of the award-winning HIDDEN PIECES, A Misty Pines mystery series, the upcoming DEADLY TIDES, the PI Kelly Pruett mystery series including the multi-award nominated DERAILED for best debut. 

Oceanview Publishing, 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.)

The Justice and Goodness of God by Thomas Schreiner Book Review

About the Book:

Understanding God’s Righteousness through His Final Judgment of Sin

The reality of God’s ultimate punishment is central to the gospel. Only by facing sin’s devastation can believers fully grasp the beauty of their salvation and help unbelievers confront their need for forgiveness. Unfortunately, many Christians and Bible scholars neglect God’s final judgment.

In his book The Justice and Goodness of God, theologian Thomas Schreiner offers a comprehensive, biblical analysis of eternal destruction. Explaining that “final judgment doesn’t contradict God’s goodness but verifies and displays it,” he examines themes of sin, death, and redemption in the New Testament and other passages of Scripture. With helpful personal and theological application, this brief guide helps readers see how God’s judgment is anchored in his holiness, justice, and righteousness. Readers will see that God’s judgment isn’t bad news but good news. Life doesn’t make sense without it, and salvation shines brighter against the backdrop of God’s judgment. 

  • Brief yet Insightful: Examines themes of sin, death, mercy, and holiness, with helpful Scripture references and summaries in each chapter
  • Rich Biblical Analysis: Studies eternal destruction as described in the Gospels, the Pauline Epistles, and throughout Scripture
  • Ideal for College and Seminary Students

You can read chapter one here.

My Review:

Judgment by God makes many Christians uncomfortable. Some reject all together the concept of the final judgment. But Schreiner reminds Christians that judgment is prominent in Scripture. He helps us understand the nature of God and that His holiness, righteousness and justice requires judgment. We also see that God is not vindictive nor is His judgment always immediate. God longs to show mercy and invites people to repent. We are also reminded of the ugliness of sin. Schreiner explores the nature of judgment (that it is eternal). Finally, we are given encouragement as how to live in the reality of judgment.

This is a good book for Christians to read to be reminded of the reality of judgment as revealed in Scripture.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author:

Thomas R. Schreiner (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is the James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and associate dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Crossway, 160 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.)

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Rogues & Patriots by Patrick H Moore Blog Tour Book Review



by Patrick H. Moore

May 20 - June 14, 2024 Virtual Book Tour


A Nick Crane Thriller


Patrick H. Moore’s new novel Rogues & Patriots is Book Two of Moore’s taut and topical three-volume series in which veteran LA PI Nick Crane finds himself locked in a life or death struggle with Miles Amsterdam and “the Principals,” a powerful but soulless group of aristocratic, right wing “super patriots” who are bent on turning the United States into a police state.

Eight years after he and his team liquidated Frank Constantine, a murderous military shrink and close personal friend of Miles Amsterdam, Nick Crane finds himself abducted, beaten and threatened with rendition to a black site in Egypt if he refuses to join the Principals’ cause, which includes attempting to incite anti-Muslim violence in every major American city. Crane, however, is rescued by his close friend and business partner, Vietnam War vet Bobby Moore, and the war is on.

With its well-drawn characters, non-stop action, and sharp, first person narration, Rogues & Patriots will leave the reader breathless. Itis a scintillating sequel to 27 Days, Book One in this series as, once again, Nick Crane stands tall as a world-weary PI everyman who takes on all comers in his drive to make America safe again for everyone.

Praise for Rogues & Patriots:

"Nick Crane is the kind of guy you can count on. He's smart, tough, and persistent, a throwback to the classic American PI, in the mold of Marlowe and Spade, the kind of guy who runs into the burning building rather than hit the fire alarm. So, be prepared to buckle up for this wild ride."
~ Charles Salzberg, Three-Time Shamus Award nominee, author of Man on the Run, and winner of the Beverly Hills Book Award

"In Rogues and Patriots, LA PI Nick Crane’s courage and cunning are put to the test as he battles sinister super patriots. A heart-pounding tale of espionage, friendship, and one man's unwavering resolve against dark forces."
~ Michael D. Sellers, award winning writer and director of Eye of the Dolphin

"Patrick H. Moore has written a book to savor––vivid characters and crackling, high-voltage dialogue... Moore is a master of poetic detail that captures the era's howling rage while creating a dark and menacing mood."
~ John Nardizzi, PI of the year and Shamus award finalist for The Burden of Innocence

"Moore has produced a thought-provoking and suspenseful thriller as PI Nick Crane squares off against a creepy cabal of paramilitarists intent on taking power. Set against the intensifying political divides of our time, Rogues and Patriots builds the action and plot twists with masterful, page-turning precision while offering an insider's portrayal of the investigator's world and the desperate, colorful characters who inhabit it."
~ John Brown, Los Angeles private investigator

My Review:

 Nick is some hero. Nothing stops him from getting through the task he has agreed to complete. His opposition is eerily like some of the current right wing extremists.

This thriller contains a very complex set of characters. Some claimed to be federal agents but were not. I got lost a couple of times not understanding the distinction between the good guys and the bad ones. The plot was complex too. There were plots within plots and I really had to pay attention to what was happening. This is not a novel for lazy readers.

Moore is a capable writer immersing readers in the current murky world of patriots who are more than willing to break the law to create the political world they desire. This is definitely a novel for readers who like gritty characters and a plot with many layers, twists and turns.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: PI Thriller
Published by: Down & Out Books
Publication Date: April 22, 2024
Number of Pages: 361
Series: A Nick Crane Thriller, 2
Book Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:



The frowning corpse of Roberto Diaz was found by a jogger on Friday morning at six a.m. on a windswept hillside in East Los Angeles. Cause of death still unknown. Time of death according to the ME, around two a.m. Not an accident, not according to my LAPD friend, narcotics detective Tony Bott. Roberto had been Tony’s best informant, and my friend was beside himself with anguish and rage.

Twelve hours before the body was discovered, Tony had charged into my office on the third floor of the Poseidon Building, near Third and Alameda. All wound up. First, he told me he’d been called down to the old Spring Street Courthouse by a federal prosecutor named Sam Blaylock, who’d told him that henceforth his best informant, Roberto Diaz, would be off-limits. Starting today, Diaz would report to one of Blaylock’s DEA agents. He would work for a new DEA-ICE task force dedicated to combating drug trafficking, sex trafficking, and human smuggling. Not to mention narco-terrorism and murder-for-hire. The whole nine yards.

“It was strange,” said Tony. “Blaylock was all casual and dismissive. Like jumping a man’s informant was no big deal. He never even apologized. But I controlled myself. Got out of there fast. I figured I had to talk to Roberto, see how he felt about this, but when I called him, his voicemail was full. So I paged him. That was three hours ago. He still hasn’t gotten back to me. That’s not like Roberto. I’m worried.” Tony paused. Took a deep breath. “So listen, Nick, listen to what happened next. Either I’m crazy or something weird is going on.”

Tony stopped, pulled a bandana out of the pocket of his Tommy Bahama walking shorts and mopped his forehead. He was wearing his casual designer clothes: Izod pullover and Polo deck shoes to go with the shorts. And the mirrored Ray-Bans pushed up on his forehead. Why this instead of his usual dirty white boy riding-in-the-Mexican-car undercover look—black jeans, colored tee-shirt, and blue bandana? Or his basic go-to-court look—Dockers, bland polo shirt, casual shoes?

Simple. He had a date right across the street from my office at the Third Street Korean Bar & Grill. At seven p.m. Or as Tony explained:

“This woman came up to me in the parking lot outside the courthouse. Right after my meeting with Blaylock. I was steaming. And plenty worried too. ‘Cause Roberto is kind of a simple guy. Those sharks are the last people he needs to be working with. That’s when I felt her breathing on the back of my neck. I turned around, and she gave me a big smile. She looked about forty. Stylish enough, I guess, but a bit wizened in that clubwoman kind of way. Wrinkles around her mouth and eyes. She says, ‘Hey, Tony, got a sec? I need your help with your old informant Roberto Diaz. That prick Blaylock wants me to shadow him. He thinks Diaz won’t suspect anything ‘cause I’m a woman. Says he wants to know what Diaz is really doing. Yeah, right. How the hell should I know? I’m in over my head. Maybe we can catch a drink later, and you can give me some tips?’ She acted like we were pals. It made no sense. And why in hell would Blaylock want his own informant followed? I deadpanned, and she said, ‘Look, I’m Tami Wheat. I’m a new investigator with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. And I need your help. C’mon, Tony, be a sport. I would so appreciate it.’”

He paused for breath while I mulled it over. Tony was right. It made no sense.

“Then,” said Tony, “I was about to ask her why she thought I could help, but I stopped myself. ‘Cause I figured if I helped her out, it might help me stay connected to Roberto, when and if he surfaces. So what I said was, ‘Sure. I can meet you for an hour or so. Around seven. But I’ll have to bring a friend ‘cause we already have something planned for the evening.’ She didn’t like it, and I told her to take it or leave it. I guess she decided to take it.”

I rubbed the back of my neck. Thinking. Spoke. “It does seem weird. Why in hell would she come up to you five minutes after Blaylock gave you the black spot? It makes no sense. I never told you this, but three years ago Blaylock was the AUSA on a twenty-pound federal meth case where my lawyer friend Jack Snow got the client a year and a day. A year and a day! With no cooperation. Outrageous! I remember thinking at the time that it seemed kind of sketchy.”

“Something’s up with that Blaylock fool. I can feel it.” Tony nodded firmly. “And Roberto’s been spooked for a while now. He was approached by some undercover guys about a week ago in a North Hollywood bar. He managed to shake them, but he was freaked out. Said he was going to disappear for a while. Which was fine up until today, when I learned what the Feds have planned for him. He’s not here legally. They’ll hold that over his head.”

“Does Roberto have a local case?”

Tony grinned. A bit sheepishly.

“I know. He’s working off a case that’s never even been filed. Jack Snow says that’s pretty much taboo among the Feds, but that you local boys do it all the time.”

“He’s right,” said Tony. “Those federal bastards have no mercy. They put you to work setting people up, and then they still send you to prison. Whereas we local boys have heart.”


At seven o’clock we walked across the street to the Korean Bar & Grill. A smiling Tami Wheat greeted us halfway down the bar. “Gentlemen. How nice of you to be on time!”

“Always,” said Tony. I stepped forward and introduced myself as Nick. Perfunctory handshake.

Tami was about what I expected—on the petite side, toned and tan with a determined look in her close-set blue eyes. She was wearing expensive jeans, a frilly white blouse, and a brown leather bomber jacket.

“It’s too noisy in here for conversation,” I said, nearly shouting. “Let’s sit on the patio.” Outside, we sat in swinging chairs suspended on chains under a bamboo awning. A moment of awkward silence, waiting for the drinks to arrive. I stepped into the breach. “Nice place, huh? Whenever I get the chance, I sit out here with a Pellegrino while I write up my case notes.”

Our drinks arrived. More chit-chat. Then Tony got down to business. “So, what can I do for you, Ms. Wheat? You said something about needing pointers on how to shadow Roberto Diaz.”

“That’s right,” said Tami. “But please call me Tami. I’m pretty new to this game, and although they trained me, I’ve never done surveillance on my own before. And because Diaz has disappeared, I’ve got to figure out how to find him.”

Tony and I exchanged a quick glance. Was it possible Blaylock and his team had not yet located Roberto? This would help explain why Tami had appeared out of nowhere, asking Tony for help.

“Just so you know,” said Tony slowly, “I can’t find him either. The damned guy has disappeared. And this can be a slow game. I’ve had informants disappear for months at a time and then reappear with a new target.” He paused and shook his head, his lips set in a hard line. “But more to the point, why on earth should I throw you a bone when your people have made it crystal clear you’re stealing my prize informant?”

“Wow!” said Tami. “You’re angry. I would be too, I suppose.” A moment of silence. Then she plunged ahead. “But there’s no need to be defensive. We’re all on the same side here, aren’t we? I mean, we all want to indict these drug trafficking bastards and lock ‘em up. Protect our borders and all that good stuff.”

“I wonder,” said Tony, cracking a half-smile, which, given his mood, dripped more menace than mirth, “if we are on the same side? The way I see it, your people want to fuck me and use Roberto. Then when he runs out of information, you’ll indict him for trafficking and lock him up. Then, when he’s done his time, you’ll deport him. A bad deal all around.”

Tami was shocked by Tony’s vitriol. At least she looked shocked. My friend’s cell phone pinged, and he punched in his code. Stared at his screen, worry lines erupting across his forehead.

I stepped in. “Here’s what you need to understand, Tami. Detective Bott has every reason to be angry. The standard procedure here in LA is for our federal colleagues to share informants with local law enforcement. It’s been that way for decades. And here you and your team go and break the rules. Without any reasonable explanation.”

Tami shrugged, a casual lifting and falling of her shoulders. Almost too casual. “I understand. And just so you know, like any good conservative, I have great respect for precedent. But this situation is different. We are a brand-new state-of-the-art task force, and we are taking all due precautions to keep everything in house. In order to avoid any possible slip-ups.”

Tony looked up from his phone. Treated Tami to his best scowl. Went back to his readout.

“That’s completely out of line,” I said. “You’re implying Detective Bott would screw things up unless he’s cut out completely. That’s downright insulting. Not to mention ironic, considering here you are trying to persuade my friend to help you out with Roberto when, according to your boss, Sam Blaylock, he’s not even supposed to go near the damned guy.”

Tami looked at Tony, who was ignoring her. Looked at me and smiled. Broad, friendly, and phony as hell. “Why should you be insulted? It’s no skin off your back. You’re not law enforcement. In fact, Mr. Crane, unless I’m mistaken, you’re one of those rare PIs who never even was a cop.”

Hit me like a gut punch. This woman, notwithstanding her green and helpless act, knew exactly who I was and what I did for a living. Which made no sense. Unless…I took a long pull from my Heineken.

At that moment, Tony’s phone pinged again. This time, he swiped up, glanced at the number, frowned, and held the phone to his ear. “Holy shit.” The blood drained from his face. “Gotta roll.” He stood up, flung down some bills, and was gone within seconds. I had a bad feeling. Diaz.

And I had problems of my own. Here I was, alone with this peculiar woman, who seemed to know more about me than she had any business knowing. I decided to probe. “Sorry my friend had to leave. I didn’t see that coming. But I’m curious. How did you know I’m Nick Crane? We’ve never met before.”

She looked at me. No smile this time. Instead, a measured, thoughtful look, like a hunter surveying her prey. “Well, if you really want to know, we know all about you, Mr. Crane. We know you’ve almost lost your investigator’s license countless times for breaking the rules. It’s amazing you still have a license to carry. Suffice to say, you’re not too popular in certain circles.”

She was baiting me. Much as I wanted to, I decided not to bite. I stood up, nodded shortly, and walked away, leaving her there on the patio, one hand wrapped around the waist of her St. Pauli Girl, the other reaching for her phone.


Excerpt from Rogues & Patriots by Patrick H. Moore. Copyright 2024 by Patrick H. Moore. Reproduced with permission from Patrick H. Moore. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

Patrick H. Moore is a Los Angeles based Private Investigator, Sentencing Mitigation Specialist, and crime writer. He has been working in this field since 2003 and has worked in virtually all areas including drug trafficking, sex crimes, crimes of violence, and white-collar fraud.

“There’s no feeling quite like walking into a prison to consult with a client knowing that he or she is facing many long years behind bars, unless you can thread the needle and convince a skeptical Federal judge to give your guy or gal a second chance. Criminals are not known for putting a high priority on telling the truth; neither are cops and prosecutors.”

This is no easy task but mastering this job, which combines art, science and intuition, has given Patrick the tools to write realistic crime fiction that depicts the unpredictable and violent world of cops, convicts, prosecutors and defense attorneys.

27 Days, Patrick's first traditionally published thriller, was published on February 6, 2023 by Down & Out Books. It is the first in a three-part series in which veteran Los Angeles Private Investigator Nick Crane battles a group of aristocratic domestic terrorists known as the "principals." 27 Days was recently named a finalist in the General Fiction category of the 2023 American Fiction Awards.

The second book in Patrick's three-part series is entitled Rogues and Patriots. It was published by Down & Out Books on April 22, 2023.

Catch Up With Patrick H. Moore:
BookBub - @patrickhmoore77
Instagram - @patrickhmoore1
Twitter/X - @PatrickHMoore1


Tour Participants:

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

(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, June 7, 2024

Life After Doom by Brian McLaren Book Review

About the Book:

A deeply insightful exploration of how to live with wisdom, resilience and love in our turbulent times.

For the last quarter-century, author and activist Brian D. McLaren has been writing at the intersection of religious faith and contemporary culture. In Life After Doom, he engages with the catastrophic failure of both our religious and political leaders to address the dominant realities of our time: ecological overshoot, economic injustice, and the increasing likelihood of civilizational collapse. McLaren defines doom as the “un-peaceful, uneasy, unwanted feeling” that “we humans have made a mess of our civilization and our planet, and not enough of us seem to care enough to change deeply enough or quickly enough to save ourselves.”

Blending insights from philosophers, poets, scientists, and theologians, Life After Doom explores the complexity of hope, the necessity of grief, and the need for new ways of thinking, becoming, and belonging in turbulent times. If you want to help yourself, your family, and the communities to which you belong to find courage and resilience for the deeply challenging times that are upon us — this is the book you need right now.

My Review:

This book from McLaren answered some of my questions why Christians have not been very concerned about climate change. One insight was the rise of dispensationalism. It taught that the world has to get destroyed so there is really no motivation to save the earth. Another insight was the merging of Christianity and capitalism. He also reminds us of the world we were taught to believe exists – one with unlimited resources to fuel economic prosperity.

My father was a logger and I really like McLaren's analogy of cutting down a big tree. You might saw and saw, moving several inches in. Nothing happens. Perhaps you come back later and saw some more. Still nothing happens. You saw a little more and suddenly you hear a crack. Perhaps the tree falls then. Perhaps it stays upright for a day or two until a wind causes the tree to go past the tipping point and it crashes to the ground. We have been sawing on the tree for some time, thinking nothing bad was happening. Now we are beginning to hear the wood cracking.

McLaren draws from a number of spiritual disciplines. His theology does not correspond to evangelical Christianity so evangelicals will probably ignore this book. That is unfortunate as McLaren encourages us, among other things, to develop critical thinking. That is a skill that would benefit us all. He also encourages us to live with wisdom and courage in the coming years.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author:

A former college English teacher, Brian D. McLaren was a pastor for twenty-four years. Now he’s an author, activist, public theologian, and frequent guest lecturer for gatherings in the U.S. and internationally. His work has been covered in TIME MagazineNewsweekUSA TodayThe New York TimesWashington PostCNN, and many other media outlets. The author of more than 15 books, including Faith After DoubtDo I Stay Christian?, and A New Kind of Christian, he is a faculty member of The Living School at the Center for Action and Contemplation. McLaren lives in Florida. Photo by Ken O'Renik.

St. Martin's Essentials, 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.)

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Scales of Justice by Mitchell S Karnes Blog Tour Book Review



by Mitchell S Karnes

May 13 - June 7, 2024 Virtual Book Tour


Top assassin Graham Turner walks a delicate line as he tries to secretly solve the mystery of his parents' "accidental" deaths. The truth is buried deep within a child's forgotten past and an organization that demands secrecy and absolute devotion. His main obstacle is William Allen, Graham's boss and legal guardian. A master of manipulation and control, William pits Graham and his brother Robert against one another like pawns on a chessboard. William's idea of justice is kill or be killed.

Just as Graham discovers the identity of his parents' murderer and sets out to exact his revenge, he falls in love and develops a conscience. Graham must choose between love or loyalty, forgiveness or revenge. In a world of gray, Graham must find the line between black and white, wrong and right.

Follow the parallel stories of Graham and his father, two assassins who become their own worst enemies.

My Review:

This is a very interesting novel, an in depth exploration of how one might become an assassin and then live with the continued actions. After a methodical account of current murders and the history of those coming to be the murderers, there was a very surprising Christian faith message included near the end.

This is an extensive character study of an assassin. It is a long book and I think some of it could have been edited out without losing the impact of the narrative. There are flash backs and they are not chronological. One must pay attention to the heading of a section or get a bit lost, as I did on occasion. I did find the section on President Kennedy's assassination very interesting and thought provoking.

This is a good novel for readers who would like an extensive exploration of what kinds of experiences would result in one becoming an assassin. Karnes' writing style is good though I did find myself skimming some of the reflective thought sections. It appears Karnes may be planning more novels featuring one of the characters from this one and I will be watching for them.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Published by: Amazon
Publication Date: September 7, 2023
Number of Pages: 479
ISBN: 9798860779228
Book Links: Amazon | Goodreads |

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

“Ease up, Champ,” Graham whispered. “Don’t wear yourself out and make my job too easy.” He removed the small envelope from the three-pronged plastic stick of the bouquet and opened it. “You are the only Chance I’ll ever take. Have a great conference. I’ll see you next month…and I’ll be keeping Atlanta hot for you!” There was a little red heart sign and the name, “Mary.” Graham shook his head in disgust. “He really does have a woman in every port.” As soon as the noise subsided and Graham heard the shower water, he readied himself for the task at hand. He slipped into the shadows of the far corner of the den and waited for Chance to come to him. Graham didn’t have to wait long.

Chance opened the bedroom door and wrapped the fluffy white towel around his waist. He examined the damage to his brand-new white shirt. Twisting and turning it in his hands, he noted the two missing buttons, the slight tear, and the smudges of red lipstick. “Oh well,” he said and tossed the shirt in a nearby wastebasket. “Well worth it.” Opening the fridge, he uncorked a chilled liqueur and chugged the miniature bottle. “Wow, Stacey was tenacious!”

Shelly, you idiot, Graham thought. He wanted to step out of the shadow and kill Chance right then, but he resisted the urge. All in due time, Graham, he assured himself.

“Oh well, she served her purpose,” Chance said. “Now how do I get rid of her before Janet calls?” Chance walked back to the bedroom and returned with a gold ring. Putting it on his left hand and glancing one more time toward the sleeping naked woman in the bedroom, he lifted the phone to his mouth and said, “Call Janet.” It rang once…twice…three times.

“Hey, babe,” came the sweet voice on the other end. “How’s your day been?”

“Draining,” Chance said with a smile as he looked back to the bedroom. “It was a real struggle.”

“Oh, but I’m sure you kept up your end of the deal,” she said. “Nobody can stand up to my man.”

“You got that right.” Chance heard laughter in the background of the phone and bristled defensively, “Janet, who’s that?”

“Oh, I’m at the ladies’ book club tonight. You want to talk to anyone?” she asked.

“No thanks,” he said. “Hey, I got to go. I need to get packing for the trip back.”

“Okay, babe. I love you,” she said and then hung up.

“Yeah, yeah,” Chance said and tossed the phone to the couch to the left of Graham. Chance suddenly noticed the flowers and walked over to examine the bouquet. “When did these get…” He pulled out the note. “Mary…Mary…Mary…who the hell’s Mary?” He picked up the bouquet, smelled it once, and then walked it over to the trash can. He slapped the back of his neck. “What the hell?” He twisted around and slapped again at the stinging sensation in the back of his neck.

“The polistes annularis,” the dark figure announced calmly. “Or as we say in Tennessee, ‘The red paper wasp.’” He took a step back as Chance swung awkwardly at him. “But you lawyers…you love all of that Latin mumbo-jumbo, don’t you?” Chance fell to his knees. Graham took the opportunity to touch Chance once again with the wasp held delicately in his tweezers, this time stinging the front of his throat. Chance slapped at the wasp, but Graham pulled it safely away. “Ah…ah…ah,” Graham said with a shake of his head. “Just one more for good measure, if you don’t mind.” He put the wasp to Chance’s temple, and it obliged once again with a deadly sting.

Chance uttered raspily, “Who are you?” as he grabbed at the swelling lumps on his temple and neck. His tongue was swelling rapidly, and Graham could tell he was already struggling desperately to breathe.

“Who am I? I guess I owe you that much,” Graham said. “What harm could it do?” He squatted a few feet from Chance and scrutinized the desperation in his face and eyes. Chance clawed his way toward the bathroom, but it was so far away. “Graham Turner at your service.” He studied his victim as Chance’s body convulsed. Graham laughed, not at Chance’s situation but his own last comment. “Well, I suppose I’m actually at the service of your wife Janet.”

Chance stopped struggling and turned his swollen neck towards Graham. Was it a joke? Chance tried to say Janet’s name, but his tongue was too swollen to utter any sound other than the heavy wheezing of each belabored breath. The couch within his reach, Chance crawled for it.

“Looking for this?” Graham asked, waving Chance’s phone in front of him. “You lawyers are way too predictable.” He put the phone in his jacket pocket. “Anyway, you asked a question and we only have a few minutes at most, so let me explain while there’s time.” Graham moved toward the bedroom door and waited there. Seeing Chance glance towards the bed, Graham said, “Oh, don’t concern yourself with Shelly; I drugged her drink downstairs as soon as I saw your overt interest in her little black dress. She’s out for at least another hour.”

Graham smiled. He didn’t have to hear the words to know the thought. “Yes, I do think of everything. That’s why they pay me so much. But your wife…” Graham paused. “Yes, your wife, she thinks of everything too. Quite a lady you have there. Well, I suppose I should speak in the past tense in that situation. Quite a lady you had, Chance.”

The lawyer’s neck was blowing up like a massive goiter and his face contorting so badly that Graham’s stomach heaved; he quickly stood and walked away as Chance struggled toward the bathroom. Looking out the window, Graham continued, “She caught wind of your plan to leave her and cut her out of everything…last year, I think.” Graham couldn’t stand to see Chance struggle any longer. He moved back to him, stepped over the lump of flesh and said, “Save your energy, you won’t find the epinephrine kit either.” Chance collapsed; sobbing, quivering and moaning to his last gasp of breath. Graham removed the black gloves and replaced them with a set of blue latex gloves instead. He checked Chance’s wrist for any sign of a pulse. He waited and watched until he was absolutely certain Chance Harrington was dead from the anaphylactic shock. According to the research, Chance Harrington had a deadly allergy to wasp stings…especially the red paper wasp. Graham set the wasp on Chance’s neck and used the dead man’s hand to squash it. Finally, he put the dead wasp next to the bouquet Chance had dropped on the floor.

As he removed up any evidence of his own presence in the room and made certain the scene looked authentic for a bee sting, Graham said, “Thanks, Mary…I owe you one.” He closed the door, wiped the handle and waited for the elevator. He wasn’t about to walk back down fourteen flights of stairs, especially in Denver.

The elevator door opened, and Graham disappeared inside. One more dead body to lose in the endless count of bodies…one more name to forget…one more job to mark off as “Zero Retribution,” a job well done.


Excerpt from Scales of Justice by Mitchell S Karnes. Copyright 2024 by Mitchell S Karnes. Reproduced with permission from Mitchell S Karnes. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

Mitchell S Karnes is a husband, father of seven, and grandfather of nine. Mitchell uses his experience and insights as a minister, counselor, and educator to write and speak on challenging issues and concerns with an ever-growing audience. He has published five novels, three short stories, a one-act play, and numerous Bible study lessons. He is now working on a new series featuring Abbey Rhodes, a Nashville Homicide Detective.

Through two separate battles against Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, God has given Mitchell a new perspective on life that challenges him to create stories to not only entertain audiences but call them to action. Mitchell's mission is to reach and reconcile those who have been disillusioned with God and His church and inspire the church to live out the love of Christ Jesus in a broken and hurting world.

Catch Up With Mitchell S Karnes:
Instagram - @mitchellskarnesauthor
Twitter/X - @mitchellskarnes


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

(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.)

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Hidden in the Night by Elizabeth Goddard Book Review

About the Book:

At the behest of her ailing mother, former FBI special agent turned rare-book collector Ivy Elliott arrives in Alaska to secure an unpublished Jack London manuscript kept secreted away for decades. When she learns the manuscript is gone--taken by the granddaughter of the woman who possessed it--Ivy sets off in pursuit. She wants to save the priceless manuscript, but more than that, she must rescue the vulnerable girl, who was previously trafficked and has no idea what she's getting herself into.

Joining forces with Alaska State Trooper Nolan Long, Ivy must battle a blizzard, sabotage, and the worst of an Alaskan winter as the search goes on. But every answer they find only raises more questions--and the danger to their lives and to the missing girl may be only the tip of the iceberg.

You can read an excerpt here here.

You can watch the book trailer here.

My Review:

This is another engaging romantic suspense from Goddard. We know from the beginning that Ivy is in potential danger in her Alaska adventure. We get hints of blackmail and a sense she must find a missing Jack London manuscript before it is too late.

The characters are likable. Since Ivy is a past FBI agent, it was entirely reasonable she worked with Alaska State Trooper Nolan. The action is nearly continuous, from snow storm drama to choppy waters boating. The setting was well presented. The villain structure was a bit complex but became mostly clear at the end. And, of course, there is a good potential romance in the plot too.

While this is the third book in the series, it reads well on its own. Characters from the earlier novels appear here but only in supporting roles. Their earlier experiences are not needed to enjoy this novel. You will learn a bit about Jack London, his venture to Alaska and his subsequent writing too.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

You can read my reviews of the earlier books in the series: Cold Light of Day and Shadows at Dusk.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Goddard
 is the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of more than 60 novels, including Cold Light of Day, Shadows at Dusk, and Hidden in the Night, as well as the Rocky Mountain Courage and Uncommon Justice series. Her books have sold nearly 1.5 million copies. She is a Christy, Carol, and Reader's Choice Award winner and a Daphne du Maurier Award and HOLT Medallion finalist. When she's not writing, she loves spending time with her family, traveling to find inspiration for her next book, and serving with her husband in ministry. Learn more at Photo: Madeleine Coussens Photography.

Revell, 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.)