Saturday, August 13, 2022

Endangered Refuge by Sherri Wilson Johnson Blog Tour and Giveaway


About the Book

Book: Endangered Refuge

Author: Sherri Wilson Johnson

Genre: Christian Contemporary Romantic Suspense

Release date: August 2, 2022

He wants to protect her. She wants to protect him. A powerful man with dark secrets may kill them both.

Undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agent Dallas Heath has infiltrated one of the largest big cat illegal trading rings in the States. Now he must unearth vital evidence to bring down kingpin Mitchell Avery before the next litter of cubs crosses state lines. Multiple failed attempts have cost Dallas time and progress, and now he’s threatened with being pulled off the case. The clock is ticking for this seasoned officer. It doesn’t help that a life which includes deception and being apart from the only woman he’s ever loved makes him doubt if undercover work is for him.

Special Agent Elyse Bradford has spent the last three months undercover living next door to Mitchell Avery posing as a woman of great means and vying for an invite to one of his big cat auctions, to which only the most serious and authenticated buyers are invited. If only she could confide in her best friend and fellow agent Dallas, maybe he could help her devise a plan before her cover is blown.

If they’d been assigned to work the case together, they’d have already brought Avery’s organization down. But Dallas is working undercover somewhere too. Since they can’t share the details of their missions or their locations with each other, the former partners—torn apart by assignments too many times—must find another way.

After a strange twist of events propels them together again, hope’s flame flickers…until word spreads of a mole—either in Avery’s organization or within the USFWS. And now neither one knows who to trust. Can they even trust each other when they’ve been apart for so many years?

On a backdrop of Mobile Bay on the Gulf coast, Dallas and Elyse fight to save endangered tigers, keep their covers intact and bring down an enemy whose reach is far beyond what anyone imagined. After tensions rise and tempers flare—coupled with lies and manipulation from all around—they could lose everything they’ve worked for. Including each other.

Will they succeed on their mission without ripping apart their shot at a future together?

Click here to get your copy!

My Review 

This is a romantic suspense novel with at least one deeply flawed hero. Elyse is the heroine as she and Dallas are undercover agents working to capture the man selling exotic animals in a black market setting. She is an odd agent. She frequently disobeys orders. She carries her real identification in her purse. “She hadn't been thinking, really.” (1471/3315) She uses Dallas' real name in the presence of another. She is stubborn and impulsive and makes mistakes. “She's really messed up this time.” (1085/3315) At one point, Dallas says to her, “Elyse, think like an agent, not like a woman, okay?” (2347/3315) I prefer capable heroines and did not find her a likable character.

The romance in this romantic suspense is a workplace one. Their behavior toward each other during their undercover work was often potentially harmful to the investigation. They would frequently talk, mention they were agents and use their real names in situations where someone could easily walk up and overhear. Their inappropriate conversation was overheard one time.

I appreciated learning some about the selling of exotic animals on the black market. Johnson's writing style is clear and not sophisticated. I did find the behavior of the heroic characters lacking in view of the serious nature of their undercover work.

My rating: 3/5 stars.


About the Author

Sherri Wilson Johnson is an Inspirational Romance novelist and graphic designer. She lives in Georgia with her husband and their two dogs, and they are empty-nesters. Sherri loves spending time with family, vacationing at the beach, curling up with a good book or working on her current work-in-progress. She dreams of a second home on some beach somewhere some day, where she can plot romantically suspenseful novels all day and night.

Follow Sherri on Instagram and Facebook plus on Amazon and Bookbub. Find out more about her on her website: http://sherriwilsonjohnson.com

More from Sherri

For as long as I can remember, I have been in love with Bengal tigers. As a young girl, I even tried to adopt one. In actuality, the “Adopt a Tiger” call was a call to sponsor one in a zoo. Sadly, my family wasn’t financially able to do that, but my love for tigers continued until…well, I’ll let you know if it ever stops. I’ve jokingly said that I will own a captivatingly beautiful tiger with a precious pink nose when I get to heaven. It’s not at all impossible, right? I mean, if the lion and the lamb will be friends, surely my afterlife-self can own a tiger. I’ve put in a request, so we shall see. The fact that I’m allergic to cats won’t hinder me then either!

Every year when we go to the local State Fair, I always make sure I’m there at the right time to see the tiger show. For $5, you can feed them by putting a piece of meat on the end of a stick. You can’t actually pet them or anything like that, though. I became aware a few years ago of the abuse these amazing creatures go through just by being carted around from town to town, put on display, made to perform. And the “pet a cub” opportunities are more harmful to the babies than you can imagine. When they get too big for the petting zoo, what happens to them?

Out of my love for tigers, I began researching to find the answer to that question. Out of that came Endangered Refuge, a reunion romance filled with mystery and suspense. Many of you have probably heard of television shows that give you a behind-the-scenes look at big cat sanctuaries only to discover later that they are fronts for trafficking them and selling their parts on the black market.

Here is where my hero and heroine enter. Special Agents Dallas Carter and Elyse Bradford are both undercover with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services working to shut down a big cat trader. Best friends since college, their work often takes them to different places around the country, but their physical separation never seems to separate their hearts. When they run into each other on the secret mission, neither one knowing that the other has been assigned to the case, sparks fly. But they aren’t always good sparks. Because someone is killing to protect a secret, it’s up to the two agents, posing as socialite Vivian Chandler and cat handler Dakota Heath, to expose the person who exploits these amazing creatures, so all power struggles and personal opinions must be set aside.

This is book four in my Jeopardized Reunions series, which is set in the Mobile Bay area of Alabama. This particular story is set in two places on the bay, in the Gulf Shores/Fort Morgan area and on the Fish River, which separates Fairhope and Magnolia Springs (the setting of book three in the series, Unfortunate Homecoming).

I hope you will consider checking out Endangered Refuge and the other books in the series, all set on Mobile Bay and all written as standalones. The common thread? They are all reunion romances. So while my characters have a past that tore them apart, they have the promise of a future.

I’d love it of you’d follow me on social media and join my subscriber list. I’m always excited to hear from readers!

Places you can find out more about legitimate big cat sanctuaries:

Carolina Tiger Rescue: https://carolinatigerrescue.org

Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary: https://crownridgetigers.com

Blog Stops

Texas Book-aholic, August 12

Simple Harvest Reads, August 12 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, August 13

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, August 14

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, August 14

deb's Book Review, August 15

Betti Mace, August 16

Aryn the Libraryan, August 17

Inklings and notions, August 18

For Him and My Family, August 19

Because I said so -- and other adventures in Parenting, August 20

Sara Beth Williams, August 20

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, August 21

An Author's Take, August 22

Locks, Hooks and Books, August 23

Truh and Grace Homeschool Academy, August 24

Blogging With Carol, August 25

Giveaway

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

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/20a84/endangered-refuge-celebration-tour-giveaway

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. 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, August 11, 2022

It Never Occurred to Her by Michelle Jester Blog Tour and Giveaway


About the Book

Book: It Never Occurred to Her

Author: Michelle Jester

Genre: Contemporary Religious Fiction, Women’s Religious Fiction, Contemporary Christian Fiction

Release date: November 28, 2021

For two years Gabriel has followed every lead, no matter how small, in the hope of finding his wife who has been kidnapped. He and the police always seem to be one step behind, until investigators give him information that helps him launch the plan to find her.

When Lena looks up into the eyes of her husband, who she hasn’t seen in two years, she is humiliated and wants nothing more than to run before he recognizes her. And so she does. It’s only when she faces a desperate situation that she is forced to return and ask for his help.

As fate twists its way through both of their lives, they realize it doesn’t matter how much they have prepared to face the realities of losing someone, or finding them again, redemption is in letting go of the past and finding a future just off the beaten path.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

This is a heart wrenching novel centering on human trafficking. Parts of it were hard to read as it described quite clearly the horrible torture women received. Potential readers who have experienced sexual trauma should be aware of many trigger situations in the novel. While the scenes are not overly descriptive, they were still hard to read and it seemed like it was pages and pages.

The narrative includes back story so we see how women are taken into the trafficked situation and forced to remain there. That historical aspect is revealed in a timely fashion so we understand the present behavior of the trafficked women. The present narrative is a detailed exploration of the loving patience required to integrate previously trafficked women into a life free of sexual oppression. There are also so good theological explorations of trying to understand God's love after experiencing such horror.

One aspect of the novel that made it harder to read was the use of the present tense in the narrative. There were times when Jester mixed tense usage and that was a bit irritating. An example are these two sentences appearing in the same paragraph. “Then again, she thought...” “She walks along...” (746/4491)

This is a long book at nearly five hundred pages. I did feel there was too much description of the trafficked experiences. I would have liked better editing of the tense in the narrative.  Nonetheless, this is a good novel exploring the heartbreak of human trafficking, the love and patience required for healing, and the life changing power of the gospel.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author

Michelle Jester is the bestselling author of fiction novels, as well as contributing author to the nonfiction #1 bestseller, My Labor Pains Were Worse than Yours. She also writes nonfiction and children’s books. Michelle lives in Louisiana with her husband, high school sweetheart and retired Master Sergeant. She wears a bracelet with a single yellow, rubber duckie charm on it to remind her to enjoy the fun and happy things of life!

You can follow Michelle Jester:

http://michellejester.net

facebook: /authormichellejester

Instagram: @michellejester

TikTok: @michelle_jester

Twitter: @michelle_jester

More from Michelle

When I first started writing this novel, it was because of a dream I had. I woke in the middle of the night crying, sweating, and praising God. I immediately got up, went to my computer and started writing about the dream. I was weeping the entire time and barely able to see through my tears.

In the dream, I was homeless, alone, and had drifted from God. I was hungry and went into a food kitchen to eat. I was dirty, smelled terrible, and missed Larry so much, only I knew I could never go home. I had done too much and had too much done to me to ever make it back to him.

After the person in the food kitchen put the food on my plate, I looked up and it was my husband, Larry. I was humiliated and desperately didn’t want him to recognize me. I was about to leave when in the dream Larry’s face turned to Jesus and He said, “I have been looking for you.”

That dream became the cornerstone of this novel.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, August 11

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, August 12 (Author Interview)

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, August 12

Inklings and notions, August 13

For Him and My Family, August 14

Texas Book-aholic, August 15

Spoken from the Heart, August 16

deb's Book Review, August 16

Locks, Hooks and Books, August 17

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, August 18

Because I said so -- and other adventures in Parenting, August 19

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, August 20

Rebecca Tews, August 21

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, August 22

Blogging With Carol, August 23

Pause for Tales, August 24

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Michelle is giving away a book gift box that includes: other titles from Michelle Jester, as well as several other authors from Rope Swing Publishing, bookmarks, a coffee mug, and a $20 Amazon gift card!!

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/20a82/it-never-occurred-to-her-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.)

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The Potrero Complex by Amy L Bernstein Book Tour and Giveaway


The Potrero Complex

by Amy L Bernstein

August 1-31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


Synopsis:

Journalist Rags Goldner is battle-scarred and heartbroken after covering a devastating pandemic that rages in Baltimore for five years. She leaves the city with her partner in search of a simpler life in small-town Maryland—only to discover nothing in Canary is simple. A teenager is missing, and it falls to Rags to fight the forces of apathy, paranoia, and creeping fascism to learn the shocking truth about Effie Rutter’s fate—and the fate of thousands like her.

Praise for The Potrero Complex:

“Anyone immersed in the experience and possible outcomes of social change after this pandemic will find The Potrero Complex frightening and hard to put down, presenting thought-provoking insights on the progress and erosion of freedom in the name of safety and social preservation.”

D. Donovan, Sr. Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

“Bernstein sets us in a post-pandemic time just the barest bit beyond our own, on the way to a dystopia that feels too frightening and too familiar. A thoughtful, complex, well-executed novel—not a who-done-it? but a much scarier what-in-the-hell-is-happening?”

Robert Kanigel, author of Hearing Homer’s Songand The Man Who Knew Infinity

“An intelligently conceived tale of an unthinkable yet credible future. A novel of dark deeds in dark times.”

Karen S. Bennett, author of Beautiful Horseflesh

“A complicated tale of post-pandemic times in the not-so-distant future, where share cars, data phones, and respies figure into a plot that is scarily believable.”

Avery Caswell, author of Salvation

“Richly textured, with many evocative threads [that] explore the culture of a post-pandemic small town—a town that camouflages its disturbing secrets. A cautionary tale.”

Kathy Mangan, Professor Emeritus, McDaniel College, author of Taproot

“A scarily prescient novel that deftly explores the fraught connections between individuality, society, public policy, and technology.”

Courtney Harler, Harler Literary LLC

“An emotional, haunting tale leaves you with more questions than answers, and that’s a good thing. A memorable and timely reminder that there are no easy solutions when fear and conspiracy feed like hungry beasts and the innocent exist simply for the taking.”

PJ McIlvaine, screenwriter, author of My Horrible Year

My Review:

Bernstein says she likes to make people think. She has sure done so with this novel. This is not a mystery so much as it is an exploration into the psyche of humankind when stressed by a very serious pandemic. We are made aware of people plagued by fear and the subsequent actions that fear can produce. The plot is a good example of what fear of the unknown can generate. In this case people fear the outbreak of a new strain of a virus more deadly than anything humans had experienced. We also see how some can use that fear to manipulate people with an aim to achieve power.

The mystery of the missing teens takes a back seat while the narrative centers on Rags and her current behavior based on her past, something of which we get hints. I did not find Rags a particularly likable character as she did cause some of her own troubles. But I did appreciate her standing firm in the face of opposition.

This is a good novel for readers who like to be challenged with what might happen based on an extrapolation of recent events. This story is a reminder of how quickly a situation and the leaders over it can go horribly wrong. While I would have preferred a neatly tied up ending, it is left a bit open. Perhaps more of Bernstein making us think about how we might see it all ending.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Published by: Regal House Publishing
Publication Date: August 2nd 2022
Number of Pages: 270
ISBN: 1646032500 (ISBN13: 9781646032501)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Regal House Publishing

Read an excerpt:

MISSING: A teenaged girl with lanky, blonde hair and a sunburst tattoo on her cheek.

The holographic posters, brighter than day itself, lit up the air on every block of Main Street. They were the first thing Rags Goldner noticed as she and her partner, Flint Sten, arrived in Canary.

The girl’s name was Effie and she was sixteen.

Effie’s pixelated image beamed down at Rags like a celebrity unaware that her fifteen minutes of fame were up.

Rags refused to give a damn about the missing girl who, after all, she didn’t know. Nor did she know much about the town, Canary, where the driverless ShareCar she and Flint had leased for their move had brought them. But missing kids make news, and as Canary’s newly imported one-and-only newspaper editor, Rags knew she’d be expected to do something about it. Which meant she wouldn’t control the news hole on day one. Which meant all kinds of people would come at her to do one thing or another.

Rags hadn’t been in town five minutes and already she could tell things were going to get complicated—and complicated was the very thing she and Flint were trying to get away from. Damn all the politicians and peacekeepers and their gatekeeping bullshit, she thought.

As the car made a final turn toward its programmed destination, Rags’s twitch flared up: the muscles in her upper left cheek and the outer corner of her left eye performed an uncontrolled little dance. “Ah, crap,” she said. “Turning Main Street into Times Square won’t help them find the girl. What a waste. And all that light pollution.” She stretched her face, willing the twitch to stop.

Flint held up his dataphone and aimed it at one of the digital posters as they cruised by. The static image of Effie sprang into augmented-reality motion: she turned her head, blinked, and laughed.

“Stop doing that, Flint,” Rags said. “Just don’t.” No way that girl, out there somewhere, is smiling.

“Don’t get spun up so fast.” Flint looked over at her for the first time in hours. Their connection was like a faulty wire, fritzing on and off. “Give yourself some room to ramp up,” he said, putting his hand on top of her head in a familiar gesture: simmer down. It helped. The twitching nearly stopped. “We haven’t even come to a full stop yet. Pace yourself.”

“Well, look,” Rags said. “They’ve plastered her face everywhere. Probably been like that for weeks.”

“You think the story about this girl has gone cold, right?” Flint said. “What do you call that?”

“Beat up. I’m guessing the story’s beat up. The first thing I’m going to hear is that they want me to flog it some more. Remind me, why are we doing this?”

“Let’s not,” Flint said, looking back down at his screen. “Anyway, it was your idea.”

As the ShareCar rolled noiselessly down Main Street, Rags saw just one person hanging around the deserted downtown: a woman standing on a corner who appeared to be waiting. For what? Rags wondered. As they slowly passed by, Rags caught a dead look in the woman’s eyes. A block further on, Rags watched a man and a woman, both in shabby coats, as they appeared to argue, their faces contorted with anger. The man handed the woman a bicycle pump. She handed him in return a loaf of bread. What kind of town is this?

The ShareCar parked curbside at 326 Main Street. For well over a century, the little brick building, sandwiched between other little brick buildings, had housed the Canary Courant. A chatty little newspaper, the Courant, as Rags knew from her research, printed anything and everything within the bounds of what people once called ‘common decency’ about the town of Canary, a tiny hamlet in the northwestern corner of Maryland, not far from the Pennsylvania border. The kind of town that flew under the radar for anyone who did not live there.

The fact that the Canary Courant was still a going concern in 2030 was astounding, even mysterious, and a key reason that Rags was here. Though perhaps not the only reason. The paper’s survival was even more of a puzzle when one considered that the town itself, which had been shriveling for decades, was now skeletal. The pandemic, which everybody called The Big One, had raged for nearly five years. It hollowed out an already hollowed out place, killing off over two-thirds of the elderly population living out their days in Canary. Those folks never knew what hit them—their dreams of slipping into gracious idleness on their front-porch rockers, eating breakfast on the cheap at the town diner, destroyed in an agony of fever and blood.

On Canary’s rural outskirts, on their way into town, Rags had seen the crematorium, a hulking cinderblock rectangle erected for one single purpose: to incinerate the infected dead into piles of decontaminated black ash. She was sure Flint missed it— though it was very hard to miss, rising up from a flat expanse of undeveloped land—just as he’d missed seeing Effie until she pointed it out. Like I’m his goddamn tour guide.

Now, nearly two years after The Big One had been officially declared over, Rags suspected that Canary’s survivors were like a mouth full of missing teeth—families broken by a plague that took not merely the elderly but also children and their parents with a seemingly vicious and terrifyingly random determination. With an emphasis on random. Survivors everywhere were known as “Luckies,” though Rags only ever used that term in its most ironic sense.

And yet, even in a near ghost town like Canary, in a still-brittle economy, in a world where print media was a rare novelty, the ink-on-paper edition of the Canary Courant lived on, as quirky and creaky as Miss Havisham in the attic, each folded issue tossed at sunrise every Wednesday and every other Sunday into doorways and onto walkways by a young father and son living on gig income.

Rags deliberately suppressed her own journalistic instincts when it came to figuring out how this newspaper managed to keep going years past its natural expiration date. Turning a blind eye to its improbable existence was both expedient and convenient for her. She knew that income from print ads—about as old-fashioned as you could get—was the sole reason the paper was able to keep going. It surely wasn’t due to subscription revenue. But she didn’t know why anyone would buy print ads in a tiny newspaper serving a dying community in a digital world. There’d be time, she figured, to get to the bottom of that.

The main thing was that this improbable job as the Canary Courant’s editor came her way at a time when she and Flint were looking for an escape hatch that would take them away from the exhausting hysteria and suffocating autocracy that made post-pandemic, big-city living unbearable in countless ways. They came to Canary in search of a simpler life—though Rags, if pressed, could not readily have defined what that would look like. Freedom from fear? Freedom to forget? She kept these notions to herself because she did not think Flint would admit to any of it—let alone acknowledge the possibility.

Rags had worried before they arrived that an out-of-the-way place like Canary might have borne an influx of people seeking—or imagining—that this place would prove to be some kind of oasis. But from the little she’d seen so far, there was nothing oasis-like about this town. The garish and intrusive billboards of the missing Effie radiated an anxious thrum, nothing like a small-town welcome.

Rags and Flint left the ShareCar with programmed instructions to continue on and wait for them at the house they were renting a few blocks from Canary’s minuscule town center. The entire move, including Rags’s new job, had been planned remotely, so this was their first time actually in Canary. In the grand scheme of things, given the terrifying and unpredictable upheavals they’d already lived through, moving hundreds of miles away to a new place sight unseen didn’t feel at all risky.

From the outside, the newspaper office mimicked the virtual reality images Rags had already seen online. A plate-glass window with old-fashioned gold lettering rimmed in black spelled out Canary Courant. Since 1910. Rags doubted there was anything very “current” about it; the very name advertised its status as a relic with a pretentious echo of French. Rags wondered who else knew that courant in French had more than one meaning— not just “current” but also “ordinary.” Someone must have had the lettering on the window repainted many times over the years—and who even knew how to do that sort of thing, anymore?—but this was a line item Rags wasn’t going to worry about. She was here on purpose yet still felt faintly ridiculous about the whole thing.

All this ye-oldy feel-good yester-year crap, she thought. Some kind of amusement park for blinkered folks. A post-apocalyptic Disneyworld? Or maybe Westworld—a place where you could trick yourself into relaxing, just for a moment.

Yet here she was, along with her IT-guru partner Flint, a software developer steeped in AI arcana, who was definitely not the ye-oldy type. Fitting in, for both of them, was beside the point. Rags figured they’d both settle for some kind of new equilibrium. She waved her dataphone in front of the digi-lock and the heavy front door swung open. The newspaper office was a step up from the threshold because, Rags learned later, the floor had been reinforced a century ago to support the heavy metal printing presses that used to take up a third of the space with their loud, clackety racket.

As Rags entered the square-shaped newsroom, the old floor creaking, a woman likely more than twice Rags’s age—a surprise in and of itself, in this day and age—stood up quickly from a battered wooden desk, her chair scraping against the floor. Rags knew only her first name, Merry. She was tall with broad shoulders, like a swimmer, dressed in loose-fitting wrinkled clothes, her hair silver-gray and so long it touched her buttocks.

“You’re here,” Merry said with a slightly accusatory edge that did not escape Rag’s notice, as though she’d been doing something she shouldn’t.

“Yup,” Rags said as she scanned the room. She made a quick mental list of all the things she intended to change. Rags hated clutter the way healthy people hate cancer: it was offensive, invasive, and should be eliminated quickly and surgically. The heavy furniture would have to go, and the old-fashioned filing cabinets, and the shelf of tacky journalism awards—the fake-gold winged angels, the stupid quill pens mounted on blocks of glass. Rags guessed that most if not all of the people who’d won those awards were long dead, one way or another. She’d call someone as soon as possible to haul all this crap away. The place looked like a mausoleum, for chrissakes. And that told her all she needed to know about Merry, who radiated the territorial energy of a fox guarding its cubs.

“I’ve got tomorrow’s front page made up on screen,” Merry said, standing rigidly by her desk. “I suppose you want to see it.” Rags saw Flint make a tiny, familiar gesture: flicking on his ear discs (he’d insisted on upgrading from old-school earbuds), so he could drown out the voices around him and listen to the soundtrack of his choice. With this personal sound cushion enveloping him, Flint glided around the room like a restless ghost, ignoring the two women, fingering every piece of tech there was, and there wasn’t much. Rags turned her attention to Merry—watching her watching Flint, to see how much this invasion of Merry’s claimed space unsettled her. Rags didn’t bother to introduce them, as Flint wasn’t likely to visit the newsroom again.

“Is it all about the missing girl?” Rags asked.

“Is there another big story in town I’ve missed?” Merry asked, her blue-gray eyes staring icily at Rags. “Because if so, be my guest. You’ve got two whole hours until we send the file to the printers.” Merry stepped away from her desk, as if inviting Rags to step in. Rags read the gesture as it was intended: What the fuck do you know?

Well, this wasn’t going to be pretty. In that moment, Rags had to admit to herself that while she thought she longed to live in a place where she could pursue small stories of no consequence, instead of big ones that traded in life and death, she was never going to check her personality at the door. She wouldn’t look for trouble, but she wouldn’t back away from a fight, either, especially if she knew going into it that she had the upper hand. She was editor-in-chief, after all, not Merry—a holdover from a previous regime with an ill-defined job, as far as Rags knew.

Rags sat down at a battered desk nearly identical to Merry’s and began opening drawers, which contained random bits of long-obsolete office junk: Post-It notes, ballpoint pens, paperclips, a box of peppermint Tic-Tacs. Rags popped a Tic-Tac in her mouth and bit down hard; it was stale and tasteless.

“That’s Freddy’s desk,” Merry said. “You mean it was,” Rags said.

“For a long time, yeah. He was a damn good copy editor.

Nothing got past Freddy. That’s what everybody said.”

“Except The Big One, I’m guessing,” Rags said, without an ounce of sympathy. “Snuck right up on him.”

“Yeah, it did,” Merry said flatly, turning back to her screen.

“So what’s your plan, Polly?”

“Don’t call me Polly. Call me Rags.”

“I was told the new editor-in-chief is named Polly,” Merry said, as if trying to catch Rags in a lie. “I wasn’t told anything about somebody named Rags.”

“Yet here I am,” Rags said, rising from Freddy’s chair. She stood behind Merry and looked at the screen. “How many stories on this girl, Effie, have you run this month, Merry?”

“We try to post something every week.” “Why?” Rags asked.

“Why? Because we’re trying to flush out new leads, Pol—

Rags.”

“Are there any?” Rags asked, scrolling around the digital home page of the Courant. Merry hovered over her, as though she feared Rags would break something.

“Not in over a week,” Merry said.

“So it’s a beat-up story but you keep milking it for, what, sympathy?”

“No!” Merry said, turning red. “You don’t have any children, do you? Because if you did, you’d—”

“Bury it,” Rags said.

“You want me to bury the lead story? And replace it with what?” Merry’s cheeks flushed. She bit her lower lip. Rags noted how little it would take to get her really and truly riled up.

By this point, Flint had found an ancient PC from 2010 sitting on a dusty windowsill and he was taking it apart, down to the motherboard and its old components. Rags knew he was going to wait her out, and this would keep him happily occupied until she was good and ready to leave. He was patient in this type of situation, which Rags appreciated; his tolerance of her own need to press on, push hard, was essential to balancing them out. Maybe here, finally, she’d find a way to press less, though the situation was not promising in that respect.

Rags touched Merry’s screen to scroll through the pages of the main news well. It was only a couple of pages long before you hit sports, the crossword (unkillable), and then those unaccountably robust print ads listing everything from flying lessons to bizarre personals. She told Merry to make the lead a story she’d spotted about a leaking septic tank and to bury the Effie story right before the sports section. The need for the switch was obvious. The Effie story had had its day, and anything that remotely threatened public health, like a septic tank problem, belonged well above the fold. It was a thin fold, in any case, despite the ads.

“And when the next kid goes missing, you want us to bury

that too?” Merry asked.

“What do you mean, the next kid?” Rags asked. “It’s going to happen,” Merry said, biting her lip. “You don’t know that.”

“You don’t know anything,” Merry said.

“Then tell me, Merry. Tell me what I don’t know.”

Rags could see Merry’s chest rising and falling, as if she was struggling to hold something in. But Merry said nothing.

“Switch the stories,” Rags said. There was no way she’d back down and let Merry have her way. And besides, if there was nothing new to report on the Effie case, then there really wasn’t a compelling reason to give the story the banner headline for the week. Rags had no qualms about her decision. “Flint, let’s go find our new home.”

Flint had his head deep inside the guts of the old PC he’d found. She called to him again. He straightened up, dusted off his hands, and followed Rags out without a word to Merry, leaving the deconstructed computer in bits and pieces on the desk.

***

Excerpt from The Potrero Complex by Amy L Bernstein. Copyright 2022 by Amy L Bernstein. Reproduced with permission from Amy L Bernstein. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Amy L. Bernstein writes stories that let readers feel while making them think. Her novels include The Potrero Complex, The Nighthawkers, Dreams of Song Times, and Fran, The Second Time Around. Amy is an award-winning journalist, speechwriter, playwright, and certified nonfiction book coach. When not glued to a screen, she loves listening to jazz and classical music, drinking wine with friends, and exploring Baltimore’s glorious neighborhoods, which inspire her fiction.

Catch Up With Amy L Bernstein:
AmyWrites.live
Goodreads
BookBub - @Amy5705
Instagram - @amylbernstein
Twitter - @amylbernstein
Facebook - @AmyLBernsteinAuthor
TikTok - @amylbernsteinauthor

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!
Click here to view The Potrero Complex by Amy L Bernstein Tour Hosts.

 

GIVEAWAY:

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Amy L. Bernstein. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

 
I received a complimentary digital copy 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.)

Monday, August 8, 2022

Living Water to Refresh Your Soul by Tracy Smoak

Smoak has combined her love of photography with Scripture and encouraging words to create an inspiring devotional. We readers are taken through Lake County, Florida, with beautiful water scenes on a journey from the southern Green Swamp toward Lake Griffin in the north. Smoak gives interesting information about the physical features in each photo. Encouraging Bible verses are included, as well as reflective prayers and practical faith steps. The entries combine to form thirty faith steps encouraging us to a deeper walk with God.

I liked this inspirational photographic journey through central Florida. I've not been to this area and I really appreciated the photos and informative descriptions of its features. The best aspect of this book, however, is the inspiration and encouraging faith direction it contains.

Good photos of God's creation and inspirational content combine to make this book a beautiful and spiritually encouraging one.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

You can watch an overview video of the book here.

From the author:

Living Water to Refresh Your Soul features unique color photography of scenic views in Lake County, Florida, with Bible verses and prayers. This 8x5-inch square hardback is available for $29.99 from the Redemption Press Bookstore at https://redemption-press.com/product/living-water-to-refresh-your-soul/ or info@redemption-press.com.

Tracy Smoak is a licensed English instructor with a master's degree in Education. Her passion is connecting people with God, particularly when they face challenging times. In addition to writing, her adventures include racing horses in orange groves, teaching men in a maximum-security prison, and sharing Bible stories inside a ger in Outer Mongolia. She is a native Floridian and lives in Lake County, Florida. You can find out more at http://www.tracysmoak.com/. You can read her inspirational blog posts here.

Redemption Press, 84 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.)

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Depths of Deceit by Laura Oles Blog Tour and Giveaway


Depths of Deceit

by Laura Oles

July 25 - August 19, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


Synopsis:


Two sisters.

One deadly secret.

No time to lose.

PI Jamie Rush has her hands full with small-time skip-tracing and surveillance jobs in Port Alene, Texas. The work is steady, though she still struggles to make ends meet. But when her partner, Cookie, brings in a low-paying and potentially time-consuming case, Jamie takes it on out of loyalty.

Cookie’s childhood friend, Renata, needs to find her younger sister, Leah. As Jamie digs into Leah’s past, it becomes clear that the missing woman’s life was shrouded in secrets, the kind that could jeopardize those involved in the case.

To complicate matters, PI Alastair Finn has returned, and he’s willing to reclaim his town by any means necessary. Jamie has never been one to retreat, and Alastair enjoys a good fight. Sparks will fly.

A missing woman. Felonies. Finn’s return. Every twist reminds Jamie that she’s still an outsider in this town. Jamie must prove herself all over again, and the stakes have never been higher.

My Review:

This is a novel for readers who like the focus on characters rather than action or suspense. There is basically no suspense in the novel except for one quick scene near the end. Jamie, and her sidekick Cookie, do some investigating but more of the narrative deals with their personal interactions than work on the case. There is also a bit about the adversarial relationship Jamie has with her parents. My favorite aspect of this novel was the setting of Port Alene, Texas. Oles has done a good job of immersing the reader in the atmosphere of that location.

While I prefer a PI novel including more action and suspense, I did like the loyalty Jamie had for her friends. She was willing to pursue a missing person even when there would be no pay. I also appreciated the support characters, including Deuce. This is a good novel for those who like character driven ones.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Female PI
Published by: Red Adept Publishing
Publication Date: May 31, 2022
Number of Pages: 292
Series: A Jamie Rush Mystery, #2
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

The mermaid in the truck bed was what caught Jamie Rush’s attention. The cast-iron figure peeked over the hatch, her carved, flowing hair and demure smile in view. This was supposed to be a standard identify-and-repo job. Jamie was certain she hadn’t seen a mermaid on the itemized paperwork. Brody Rutger, in addition to hiding from creditors, had added theft of a local celebrity to his resume.

The day had started strong, with a lead on Rutger and an opportunity to catch him between fishing charters, using a boat he’d quit paying on months before. Suddenly, Marian the Mermaid was caught up in the mix.

And something was going on with the weather.

The month of November normally brought a steady stream of long-term vacationers from the north—affectionally called Winter Texans—who fled harsh winters for the promise of more tepid temperatures. Those who’d already set up residence in Port Alene were likely to be disappointed. Port A, usually quite predictable in her warmth, had suddenly changed her mind. That day, she was trading humidity for frigid air, and the wind, once laced with a warm, salty breeze, was offering only a cold shoulder. The palm trees lining Island Main bristled from side to side, and the town seemed to have turned inward in response. The icy wind whistled in the gap of her Tahoe’s window.

Jamie shuddered at the weather’s frigid downturn, while her partner, Cookie Hinojosa, all but cursed Mother Nature. He believed anything under seventy degrees was downright blasphemous. Jamie tilted her head toward the gray sky and welcomed the sting of air on her cheeks, her head briefly popping out the driver’s-side window. Cookie glanced over and shook his head.”

You’re very grumpy this morning,” Jamie said. She gave him a once-over, taking note of the large Dallas Cowboys logo on his chest, the silver star claiming almost all the space between his shoulders. “I see you found your favorite winter hoodie. Probably more fun to wear when they’re winning.”

Cookie turned to her and scowled. “Et tu, Brute? You’re going to dump on our favorite team? Really?”

Jamie reached over and gave her partner’s meaty shoulder a squeeze. “They need to earn our love by playing better. And we’ve been damned patient.” She rubbed her hand up and down his sleeve, noting the fabric felt cold. “You should probably break down and buy a proper winter jacket.”

“This is South Texas. Only snowbirds wear ‘proper’ winter jackets.”

Cookie dismissed the idea of wearing anything that added additional bulk to his substantial frame. “My Hawaiian shirts are sad from neglect.”

She had to agree. A long-sleeved Hawaiian shirt would look ridiculous on anyone. She rubbed her hands together and hoped the cold snap would soon dissipate, returning the balmy temperatures Port Alene normally delivered.

“I’m going to pull back a bit,” Jamie said.

Their skip of the day, Brody Rutger, owed their client, AAA Repo Services, $15,027. Brody had ducked all attempts at collection, so Jamie and Cookie had been hired to locate him and return the boat. Jamie and Cookie specialized in skip tracing, which essentially meant finding people who didn’t want to be found. They worked skips but also some surveillance—which paid well but was boring beyond belief—and some divorce cases, which also paid well but renewed Jamie’s resolve to never get married. In Jamie’s experience, if a person disappeared, the reasons involved money, private information, or violence. And secrets—always a secret.

***

Excerpt from Depths of Deceit by Laura Oles. Copyright 2022 by Laura Oles. Reproduced with permission from Laura Oles. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Laura Oles is the Agatha-nominated and award-winning author of the Jamie Rush mystery series, along with short stories and nonfiction. With two decades of experience in the digital photography industry, Laura’s work has appeared in trade and consumer magazines, crime-fiction anthologies, and she served as a business columnist. Laura loves road trips, bookstores and any outdoor activity that doesn’t involve running. She lives in the Texas Hill Country with her family.

Catch Up With Laura Oles:
LauraOles.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @LauraOles
Instagram - @lauraolesauthor
Twitter - @LauraOles
Facebook - @lauraolesauthor

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!
Click here to view Depths of Deceit by Laura Oles Tour Hosts.

 

Giveaway:

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Laura Oles. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours


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

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Prodigal Lives by Carol McClain Blog Tour and Giveaway



About the Book

Book: Prodigal Lives

Author: Carol McClain

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Release date: April 1, 2022

Life keeps piling problems on Meredith Jaynes. She loses her second foster child—one she was scheduled to adopt. Then Parker Snow refuses to marry her. With only her goats and artisan soap to support her, life will get no better.

If she is honest, though, she still has Crystal. Her funny, happy, loveable toddler makes the sun shine and reminds her of the never-failing love of God.

Pearl Solomon loves her life with her grandfather Guy, but every one of her triumphs is overshadowed by her sisters’ lives. With Mama Meredith, they live a life she envies. Because of her jealousy, she refuses to contact them.

Years later, life for both families twist down paths they do not wish to travel. Pearl knows she’s lost what was most precious in life but has no means of fixing things. Left to her own devices, she spirals out of control.

Meredith finds it harder to mask the despair infertility has brought to her life.

Both families believe they must reconcile themselves to their fates as reality shatters their dreams unless they dig deep for the promise of love.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

This is a powerful novel but it is not for the weak of heart. It explores the reality of teens at risk. Issues covered include living in a dysfunctional family, having addicted parents, trouble at school, friendships, date rape (not described), and more. This story really gave me a new appreciation of foster parents. It also highlighted some of the feelings children might have as foster children move in and out of the home.

McClain has woven a good story with two threads. One is about children needing the love of another as they struggle through lives less than desirable. The other thread follows a foster mom and a potential romance. The character development of the adults seemed a little flat. The most engaging character was Pearl. We share her experiences as she tries to navigate a very dysfunction home life.

This novel is a sequel. It can be read on its own but the characters in this novel have important back stories so I suggest reading Borrowed Lives first. This novel is a heartwarming story of the ultimate reality of God's redeeming and restoring love.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

 

About the Author

Carol McClain is the award-winning author of four novels dealing with real people facing real problems. She is a consummate encourager, and no matter what your faith might look like, you will find compassion, humor and wisdom in her complexly layered, but ultimately readable work.

Aside from writing, she’s a skilled stained-glass artist, a budding potter and photographer. She lives in East Tennessee with her husband and growing farm. Inspired by Meredith Jaynes, she owns two goats. One will kid soon.

You can connect with her at carolmcclain.com.

On goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14030286.Carol_McClain

On BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/carol-mcclain

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.Carol.McClain

More from Carol

Have you ever thought you’ve seen yourself in a novel?

If you know an author, you probably have.

For years I worked with recovering addicts and those helping them in organizations like Celebrate Recovery, a Christian-styled support group like AA. If I read the events of these people’s lives in a novel, I would say, “Too fake to believe.”

Their lives are tragic, funny, heartbreaking, heartwarming.

Many of their stories made it into my latest novel Prodigal Lives (modified, disguised, and novelized).

I not only incorporate others into my work, but I live through my characters’ lives (Please don’t suggest a sky diving protagonist).

In Prodigal Lives one of my main characters owns goats. For years, I begged my husband too let me have a goat or two. He promised. Then, he wimped out, so I created Meredith Jaynes a successful artisan specializing in goat soap and raising Nubians.

Prodigal Lives is a sequel but can stand alone (reading both books amplifies your enjoyment, of course). This book follows the loss Pearl and Meredith feel as Pearl is adopted by her grandfather. Pearl becomes jealous of her sisters who stay with Mama Meredith, and they lose touch. Although they hear nothing from each other, neither is forgotten.

I believe in redemption. All my work illustrates that no matter how far you fall, a loving Father is going to make a way to redeem you. He’s done it for me, and I was an impossibly problematic child of the King.

I hope you enjoy Prodigal Lives. Sign up for my newsletter and blog and never miss a new release, my Biblical thoughts or an appearance I’m making. Believe me, I wouldn’t live, my blog and newsletter are fascinating.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, August 6

Splashes of Joy, August 7 (Author Interview)

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, August 7

Texas Book-aholic, August 8

Inklings and notions, August 9

For Him and My Family, August 10

Artistic Nobody, August 11 (Author Interview)

deb's Book Review, August 11

Locks, Hooks and Books, August 12

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, August 13

A Reader’s Brain, August 14

Because I said so -- and other adventures in Parenting, August 15

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, August 16

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, August 17

Spoken from the Heart, August 18

Pause for Tales, August 19

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Carol is giving away the grand prize of a $50 Amazon gift card!!

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/20711/prodigal-lives-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.)