Sunday, July 14, 2024

One Big Happy Family by Jamie Day Book Review

About the Book:

The Precipice is a legendary, family-owned hotel on the rocky coast of Maine. With the recent passing of their father, the Bishop sisters--Iris, Vicki, and Faith--have come for the weekend to claim it. But with a hurricane looming and each of the Bishop sisters harboring dangerous secrets, there's murder in the air-- and not everyone who checks into the Precipice will be checking out.

Each sister wants what is rightfully hers, and in the mix is the Precipe's nineteen-year-old chambermaid Charley Kelley: smart, resilient, older than her years, and in desperate straits.

The arrival of the Bishop sisters could spell disaster for Charley. Will they close the hotel? Fire her? Discover her habit of pilfering from guests? Or even worse, learn that she's using a guest room to hide a woman on the run.

My Review:

This is a bit of a locked room mystery as people are all in a hotel cut off from the outside world by a hurricane. Murder happens. The suspects are many. As time passes during the storm, family secrets come out. And there are many of them.

The plot is a bit typical. I was not surprised at all at the truth of the automobile accident and had figured that out earlier. There was a good twist regarding identity near the end. Other than that, a relatively predictable plot.

I had difficulty finding any of the characters engaging. Even the heroine Charlie was a flawed character I found hard to like. Perhaps the most interesting one was Oliver, speaking in rhyme.

This is a good mystery that is entertaining but not as engaging as I would have liked.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author:

Jamie Day lives in one of those picture-perfect, coastal New England towns you see in the movies. And just like the movies, Jamie has two children and an adorable dog to fawn over. When not writing or reading, Jamie enjoys yoga, the ocean, cooking, and long walks on the beach with the dog, or the kids, or sometimes both.

St Martin's Press, 368 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, July 13, 2024

The Narrow Path by Rich Villodas Book Review

About the Book:

We live in a culture that wants it all. More is seen as better—whether it’s more money, social media fame, choices, or power. For those chasing this way of life, “narrow” seems negative. Who wants to narrow their options . . . or be seen as narrow-minded?

Which is why the most well-known talk in the history of the world—the Sermon on the Mount—is also the most paradoxical one. In it, Jesus holds up the narrow path as the most spacious . . . and the broader path as the more confining one.

Rich Villodas, bestselling author of 
The Deeply Formed Life, explores what today’s broad and narrow paths look like so you can discern which one you’re on. The answer may surprise you—and will help you pursue the way of Jesus more deeply when it comes to loving God and others, prayer, sexual desire, conflict, money, anxiety, and more.

The Narrow Path reintroduces the counterintuitive wonder of Jesus’s timeless wisdom for this age, one fraught with anxiety, depression, polarizing politics, and online vitriol. The path of Jesus is most certainly narrow, but it is the only one filled with the ever-expanding life of God . . . and it is available now for all who want it!

You can watch the book trailer here.

My Review:

Villodas points out that, even though Jesus said the way is narrow, it is not a restriction. Rather, it is getting to the core of what it means to be human and live life as God designed. Villodas gives us encouragement to be on this path and stay on it.

Life on this path is upside down compared to how the world wants us to live. His teaching on being hidden is one I really appreciated. Jesus lived in obscurity with regard to the rest of the world. We are not to be announcing out good works on social media, for example. Another important aspect of this book is Villodas reminding us we can only do this through God's empowerment so prayer is essential.

A surprise for me was Villodas saying we do not do the life described in the Sermon on the Mount so that we will be blessed. (I'd been taught we would be blessed if we do these things or show that character trait.) He says we do them because we are already blessed and it is an outworking of our character.

This book is a good teaching on the Sermon on the Mount, especially on topics like money and anxiety. New and seasoned Christians will benefit from reading it.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author:

Rich Villodas is the Brooklyn-born lead pastor of New Life Fellowship, a large, multiracial church with more than seventy-five countries represented in Elmhurst, Queens. He is also a key speaker for Emotionally Healthy Discipleship—a movement that has touched hundreds of thousands of people. Rich graduated with a BA in pastoral ministry and theology from Nyack College. He went on to complete his master of divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary. His award-winning book, The Deeply Formed Life, was released in September 2020. He and his wife, Rosie, have two beautiful children and reside in Queens.

WaterBrook, 224 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.)

Friday, July 12, 2024

Elephant Safari by Peter Riva Blog Tour Book Review


by Peter Riva

June 24 - July 19, 2024 Virtual Book Tour




A documentary team hiking through East Africa collides with a gang of deadly poachers, in this gripping adventure by the author of Kidnapped on Safari.

Years of filming, extreme dangers, and daring rescues have taken their toll on documentary producer Pero Baltazar and his team. To relax and reconnect with the East African wildlife they love, Pero organizes a walking safari for him, his camerawoman Nancy Breiton, and their elite guide Mbuno Waliangulu. Still, Pero has trouble truly disconnecting from work. When the team comes across a herd of elephants making their annual migration north of Lake Rudolf, Pero decides the team will film their journey from Kenya into Ethiopia along the Omo River.

What begins as a peaceful trip quickly turns into a chaotic nightmare as the trio crosses paths with a crew of poachers whose ivory sales are financing terrorists. The three are determined to protect the endangered herd from slaughter, and Mbuno enlists the help of local tribesmen. But the corruption of ivory poachers has deep roots that stretch to UN refugee camps, Chinese gangs, and the Iranian elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard. Faced with overwhelming odds, the trio must now rely on Pero’s contacts in the CIA, as well as Mbuno’s skills in the bush, if they hope to ever return from this excursion alive . . .

Praise for Elephant Safari:

"If you’re in the mood for an African thriller series to add to your summer reading pile, Peter Riva has got you covered. Riva’s impressive career has provided him with plenty of inspiration for his novels, which he writes as a form of relaxation."
~ The Lakeville Journal and The Millerton News

"Many readers will enjoy this story for its fast pace, engaging characters, and insights into world politic. I particularly loved the depth of knowledge about the natural history and ecology of the East African landscape. This may be a thriller but it’s also an important book about the killing of elephants for their ivory tusks."
~ Sharman Apt Russel- John Burroughs Medal winner



My Review:

 This is a different kind of thriller as it is mostly a walking journey in Africa, following elephants. The pace is fitting for a walking journey. The text is mostly prose. While there is some suspense, the strength of the novel by far is Riva's knowledge of Africa, it's cultures and the threat of poachers harvesting ivory. He has captured the danger and the beauty as well as the difficulty of working with authorities as they are often tainted by bribes. This is a novel for readers who want to experience the atmosphere of Africa more than be entertained by engaging suspense. There is a great deal of information on the illicit ivory trade too. It is the fourth novel in the series. While it reads relatively well on its own, reading the prior novel will help to understand relationships, such as Pero's influence with powerful U.S. government people.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Action and Adventure Thriller
Published by: Open Road Media
Publication Date: January 30, 2024
Number of Pages: 302
ISBN: 9781504085335 (ISBN10: 1504085337)
Series: The Mbuno & Pero Thrillers, 4 | Each is a Stand-Alone Novel
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | | BookaMillion | Goodreads | Open Road Media

Read an excerpt:

In modern Kenya and most of East Africa, elephant were dying out, Mbuno knew this and lamented. His chest ached for them. Gone were the innumerable small herds of his youth, mostly replaced by farms, settlements, human sprawl, and tourist attractions. What elephant remained had their age-old pathways and migration routes blocked, stopped, fenced, and constantly monitored. White men came and collared them, watched them on scopes, darted them, sampled them, and even shot them when they became a nuisance to farmers with cash. What elephants modern man did not manage in parks were easy prey for poachers. The days of the Liangulu hunter were over. Mbuno knew this, accepted this, and did not mind even half as much as he mourned the passing of the realm of the elephant.

All of Africa had once been the realm of the elephant. As the largest beast, immune to the normal prey and hunter battles going on all around, the elephant set the pace of the land, fertilized the forests, cropped the prairies, and paved the migration routes that all the migratory species followed. In times of drought, their superior intelligence showed where water could be found and even taught man to dig in dry riverbeds for a boundary layer of precious liquid. They created mud holes for mud baths to keep the insects at bay, used also by Cape buffalo and rhino. Over the millennia, they brushed aside acacia thorns and baobab saplings with equal ease creating the open plains. And, in time, Africa's rhythm resounded to the beat of their feet and their migratory timekeeping. Without the elephant ruling the land, the land fell into the discordant rhythm of the upright apes and began to fracture. Mbuno had known the last best years of the elephant's realm and, sadly, was now witnessing the fall of Africa's harnessing stability. Without the elephant to freely roam, the balance of nature would be broken, herds would grow to enormous size in protected parks and, outside that protection, devoid of traditional hunters, herds could be led by weak leaders who would fail to protect them from ivory hunters. Mbuno had heard this had happened before. At the end of the slave and ivory trade, in 1911 there were fewer elephants than now and the herds were only brought back from extinction by White Hunters—led by Teddy Roosevelt—using farm and ranch husbandry methods – culling every senile cow and bull. Young, vibrant, herds repopulated the migration routes. But now the elephant and Mbuno's tribal way of life were both threatened once again.

Mbuno looked back to make sure Pero and Nancy were crouched, waiting a few hundred yards away as he instructed. He then inched closer to the worrying herd, prone again, a sharp stone rolling under his hip painfully. He dared not move quickly, the bush above him would vibrate. He stopped any forward movement as he spotted feet, the small grey feet of a baby elephant, a mtoto.

One foot had an encircling, red, puss-oozing sore. Behind the mtoto's feet stood the mother. Mbuno could see the way the weight was shifting on both mother and child that the mother was soothing the young one who would be in pain. Silent pain, the sign of a strong herd leader. Or a very frightened herd, one that is being hunted. The mtoto's sore had been caused by a wire snare that had probably dropped off. Mbuno had seen this far too often. Now Mbuno felt compelled to do something, not just observe. It was now a matter of honor, duty, and common ancestry, not to mention his responsibility for the safety of his safari charges.

Mbuno's mind made decisions quickly. In the bush, life and death were often just moments apart. Soundlessly, moving no bush or twig, he retreated the way he had come, donned his pants only, and set himself into a running crouch. It was his usual hunter's pace, swift, determined, and ready for a change in direction. Circling the place where he knew the herd to be, he stayed four hundred yards away at least. Starting downwind and determinedly coming full half circle until he announced his presence to their sensitive noses, he tested their resolve. When he was sure they had smelled him, he knew there was real danger here because there was no charge, no bellowing threat, no foot stomp. The elephants could smell that he was only one man and also that he was a man of the bush. As Mbuno had feared, they clearly had a more dangerous enemy threat nearby, for they did not give themselves away. He continued his crouching circling run, sweating from adrenaline and the jini of the hunt. For he was hunting, but not elephant.

When he was three-quarters the way around his circle, he sensed, and then diving behind a fallen log on his stomach, he saw the men just outside the forest's edge. One was sitting on a pickup truck's hood and two stood in the flatbed. They wore no uniform. The man sitting was dressed as an Arab with a face scarf and camouflage trousers and bush shirt. He had binoculars but no gun. And two standing tribesmen looked like Pokot, Mbuno thought--northern, violent Maasai cousins. Hunters, not cattlemen. The two tribesmen had black rifles with yellow wood stocks and foregrips. Mbuno knew AK-47s when he saw them. Mbuno had seen these types of poachers before. They snared a baby and, in its squeals, it attracted the herd; close and closer until the slaughter would be efficient, deadly, machine gun rapid.

Standing behind a tree trunk on tiptoe, peeking out, Mbuno saw the panga (machete) on the flatbed tailgate, unsheathed, its 12-inch blade glistening, freshly sharpened. The back of the truck held two freshly drawn tusks; the brown blood still not yet black. The herd had been running and not just because of the mtoto.

Mbuno did not hesitate, did not reason, did not moralize. In the bush, the law of the land was kill or be killed. These men had killed, wasted the life of elephant, wanted to slaughter the rest, and were dishonorable. He saw them as little more than wanyama—vermin—to be stopped. Without altering his run, he circled behind the pickup and approached them from behind, soundlessly, before the men could even know he was coming.


Excerpt from Elephant Safari by Peter Riva. Copyright 2024 by Peter Riva. Reproduced with permission from Peter Riva. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

Peter Riva has traveled extensively throughout Africa, Asia, and Europe, spending many months spanning thirty years with legendary guides for East African adventurers. He created the Wild Things television series in 1995 and has worked for more than forty years as a literary agent. Riva writes science fiction and African adventure books, including the Mbuno & Pero thrillers. He lives in Gila, New Mexico.

Catch Up With Peter Riva:
Instagram - @peterriva_author
Facebook - @peter.riva


Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and opportunities to WIN in the giveaway!

Click here to view Elephant Safari by Peter Riva Tour Hosts


Win Big! Enter Now for Your Chance to Win!

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



Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

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.)

Thursday, July 11, 2024

The Blind Devotion of Imogene by David Putnam Book Review

About the Book:

In 1973, Imogene Taylor is seventy-five years old, on parole for murder, and works at a store that sells dented canned goods. Twelve years earlier, she went to prison for killing her love-of-her-life-husband, Wayne. She called it an accident. The judge and jury called it murder. Imogene’s parole agent is constantly on her case, looking to send her back to prison.
During her time in prison, Imogene had to vent her angst at someone and sent the sitting Presidents (during the ten years in prison) threatening letters bringing her to the attention of the Secret Service. She does extensive research and writes a novel, Peekaboo POTUS, about the assassination of a US President. She sends the book "over the transom" to one publisher. The publisher, after being unable to contact Imogene, comes looking for her.

The Cigar, an organized crime gangster, walks into Dentco, where Imogene works, and extorts the store for protection money. Pay up or get firebombed. The entire strip center is under this threat.

At the same time, Imogene’s neighbor dies of natural causes and leaves a hoarder’s mess to his daughter, Suzanne. Imogene helps Suz clear out a pyramid of boxes filled with junk in the garage. At the bottom of the pile, they find a box with a dead woman who has been hidden for many years.

Imogene must dodge an overzealous parole agent while dealing with a dead woman in the neighbor’s garage. She’s on parole for murder, so she can’t report it to the police. No one would believe her. Imogene and Suz think the woman in the box is Suz’s long-estranged mother. Rather than reveal Suz’s father as the probable killer, Imogene convinces Suz to bury her mom under the avocado tree in the backyard. Until Thelma, Suz’s mother, appears after reading the obituary.
It's a race to uncover the real killer as Imogene dodges gangsters, family members, and a publisher on her quest to find the truth.

My Review:

I have read some of Putnam's Bruno Johnson series, intense mysteries, so this novel was a complete surprise. While Putnam excels in retired police adventures this time he has a paroled convict as a heroine. And what a heroine she is. The character development is superb in this novel. I was soon rooting for Imogene and the troubles she faced. Beer drinking and two pack a day, she became a woman I really admired. The supporting characters were well presented too, from a mean parole officer to a gossipy neighbor. They added depth to the narrative. There is a bit of humor included to lightened the atmosphere of the story.

The plot was enjoyable. I like how Putnam makes us wait to find out why Imogene was convicted of murder. I liked the clever way a potential murder next door to Imogene turned out to be something entirely different than she expected. I liked the extra pressure on Imogene by the gangster fellow. The final scene, though suspenseful, might have been a bit convenient. Nonetheless, I was greatly entertained by this novel and will be watching for the next in the series with more adventures for Imogene.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author:

During his career in law enforcement, best-selling author David Putnam has worked in narcotics, violent crimes, criminal intelligence, hostage rescue, SWAT, and internal affairs, to name just a few. He is the recipient of many awards and commendations for heroism. A Lonesome Blood-Red Sun is the second novel in the Dave Beckett, Bone Detective series. Putnam is also the author of the very popular Bruno Johnson series. The Sinister is the ninth novel in the best-selling Bruno Johnson Crime Series, following The Disposables, The Replacements, The Squandered, The Vanquished, The Innocents, The Reckless, The Heartless, and The Ruthless. Putnam lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife, Mary. Find out more at 

Level Best Books, 282 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Swell Media. 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, July 8, 2024

Ransomed Peace by Kathleen Robison Blog Tour Book Review

About the Book

Book: Ransomed Peace

Author: Kathleen J. Robison

Genre: Christian Romantic Suspense

Release date: June 11, 2024

When romance fails the romance writer…

After being terrorized in an abusive relationship, Roxanne Cook finally feels like she’s starting to heal. Even though her mother is ill, her return to Bay Town and the arrest of her ex-boyfriend has allowed anxieties to slip away and has renewed her faith in God. Even her faith in romance seems to be restored as she develops a school-girl crush on a certain Max Tippet.

Everything comes crashing down, however, when Roxanne finds out her ex-boyfriend is released from jail. As her new-found peace unravels, Roxanne realizes that shedding her fears isn’t the same as facing them.

How will she trust in God to provide her the courage to escape the cycle that almost killed her?

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

Robison has written an engaging novel of a young woman caught in an abusive relationship. Her writing is descriptive and a trigger warning is in order. Her scenes are intense and emotion packed. Robison delves into the mind of the abuser too, giving insights into what might drive a person to inflicting abuse. Robison creates realistic scenes so be ready for some intense trauma.

The story includes a strong faith message. Forgiveness and returning to a relationship with the Lord are prominent as Roxanne struggles to find her way. While it is the fourth book in the series, it reads very well on its own.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

You can read my reviews of the earlier books in the series: Shattered Guilt, Restored Grace, and Shadowed Doubt.

About the Author

Kathleen is an Okinawan-American. Born in Okinawa, raised in California, Florida, Mississippi, and Singapore. Her travels lend themselves to the settings in her books, and her large family provides fun fodder for her characters. She and her Pastor husband have eight adult children. Seven are married, blessing them with sixteen grandchildren, and more on the way! Her ethnically diverse family of 33 plus personalities presents many opportunities to write about God’s amazing love amid trials, tragedies, and blessings. He is the one true inspiration and hope for us all.

More from Kathleen

For some, Ransomed Peace may be a hard story to read. It was a hard story to write. But rest assured, it’s a romance, and I guarantee a happily ever after! One of my favorite passages in the bible teaches that beauty from ashes lends hope that rises from hardships. Ransomed Peace begins with domestic violence. By God’s grace, I’ve never been a victim of it, but someone very close to me was. It was long ago, and unfortunately, at the time, I had no idea how to help her other than to aid in her rescue and give her refuge from the situation. But even then, that wasn’t the solution. Fortunately, today, many programs, housing, and counseling are available for those who suffer this horrible crime, but it continues and can happen to anyone. I encourage victims to seek professional help. It is as close as the internet or your local church body. Here’s the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-799-7233.

In Ransomed Peace, the main character, Roxanne, is a victim. As in all my books, God is the ultimate answer to any problem. But just as Roxanne was urged to seek help, I urge all victims to take action. Especially preventative action. Drawing and staying close to the Lord through His Word, prayer, and relationship with other God-fearing believers will aid in avoiding toxic people. Together, we can learn to follow and obey God’s guidance, allowing us to make the right choices in relationships. Sometimes, such as in the case of children, a choice is not possible, but God’s help always is. As we step in and walk alongside victims, we have the opportunity to help them to seek Jesus. His solution is eternal.

In my Romantic Suspense books, I choose to write about difficult real-life situations because, as a Pastor’s wife, I’ve prayed and walked with many women. Nobody’s life is perfect or ideal, and everyone suffers something. A reader wrote to me once, sharing how my book had encouraged her to walk with the Lord in areas of her life she hadn’t thought about before. She was secure in her salvation, yet she said it wasn’t until she read one of my books that she realized that living a life of purpose in all areas was possible. And it is! That’s the non-fiction part of my books. Whether our difficulties are past or present, we always need to be pointed to God’s Word in everything, not just for bliss on earth, which is never going to happen, but for the hope of our future with Him in heaven one day.

Sometimes, we are victims of circumstance and are blindsided by a force we can’t seem to contend with. Sometimes, we suffer the consequences of violence because of a bad decision we’ve made, yet it is still unjustly deserved. Whatever the cause, God loves us, and Jesus knows and feels our plight. He lived it, and there is a way out. God’s plan is for us to live for His glory.

I pray my books will inspire all to seek Him and follow Him in every phase of life. “To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;” Isaiah 61:3. Giving Him the ashes from our tragedies so He can restore joy for His praise is to live with joy over the blessings, and to find joy in Him through our sufferings.

The Lord uses people to help us live a life worthy of Him, in good times and bad. But we can’t do it alone. That’s why I created Bay Town. A community that represents real life in some way. As you read the Bay Town Series, I hope you’ll be inspired and encouraged by the characters that help one another. Trustworthy authority figures like Chief Bert and Pastor Desmond and good role models like Melanie Thompson Brooks and Max Tippet. And you’ll love the little comic relief provided through Tina, Lyla, and Bethie Cook. At some point, you’ll meet the same people in each book and hopefully come to love them as I have. Each story is unique, and each stands alone, championing themes of hope! As you read the series, you’ll become a part of Bay Town. A community that lives to watch out for one another and purposes to love and serve God.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, July 8

Artistic Nobody, July 9 (Author Interview)

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, July 10

Stories By Gina, July 11 (Author Interview)

Locks, Hooks and Books, July 12

For the Love of Literature, July 13 (Author Interview)

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, July 13

lakesidelivingsite, July 14

Tell Tale Book Reviews, July 15 (Author Interview)

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, July 16

Beauty in the Binding, July 17 (Author Interview)

For Him and My Family, July 18

Guild Master, July 19 (Author Interview)

Texas Book-aholic, July 19

An Author’s Take, July 20

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, July 21 (Author Interview)


To celebrate her tour, Kathleen is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and 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.

I received a complimentary egalley 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.)

Sunday, July 7, 2024

True to You by Dr Kathleen Smith Book Review

About the Book:

When’s the last time you 
felt as composed as you portray to your boss, family and friends? If there’s a discord between the two, you’re not alone. Humans are master pretenders—we often seem stronger, calmer and more mature than we really are, while the truth is we’re full of doubts and self-criticism that pushes us to borrow reassurance from friends, beliefs from strangers on the internet, or attention that, in the moment, makes us feel successful, but leaves us totally hollow and burnt out.

True to You is a relatable self-help guide for people who want to learn to live less focused on others’ reactions and more confidently by their own principles. Readers will learn how to:

· Interrupt relationship patterns that keep you stuck.
· Rely less on praise and approval from others.
· Develop a solid sense of self in anxious times.
· Build more authentic and rewarding relationships.

Dr. Smith uses examples from the lives of her therapy clients to explain how we borrow confidence, calmness, and beliefs from our relationships and offers actionable steps and exercises for building a life with your own best-thinking. With a healthy dose of humor, she unpacks the science of our social nature, explaining why we try so hard to be what others want us to be and how we can start living from the inside out. By learning how to be more responsible for yourself, rather than over-responsible for everyone else, you can find the freedom to develop richer relationships, pursue what’s important to you, and feel steadier in this very anxious world.

My Review:

We need relationships but we need to be individuals too. Smith uses systems thinking to see the whole of relationship issues. The first part of the book looks at relationships and how we try to keep things calm by sacrificing our selves. I like that she give examples, stories that are composites of her therapy clients. The second part of the book deals with growing into the mature state of directing our selves as individuals. I really appreciate the review of chapter main points at each chapter end as well as practical exercises to personally investigate that chapter teaching.

As a people pleaser much of my life, I learned important ideas and strategies from this book. Investigating the family relationship systems was important to me as it revealed the basis for my actions. I like the insights into how we lose self and then what it looks like to act as an individual. I appreciate learning how to respect the people with whom I have relationships yet maintain my own individual person.

This is a book containing a great deal of actionable ideas and strategies. It is a good one to work through and there is lots of work to do. Reading and discussing it with a trusted friend may be the best was to incorporation the information into one's life.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author:

Dr. Kathleen Smith
is a licensed therapist and mental health writer who lives in Washington, DC. An associate faculty member of the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family, she teaches Bowen family systems theory to leaders around the globe. Breaking down therapy concepts into witty, relatable stories for readers, Dr. Smith is the author of 
Everything Isn’t Terrible (Hachette, December 2019) and a popular newsletter with over 10,000 subscribers. She has been interviewed by The New York Times and The Washington Post about anxiety and relationships, and her essays have appeared in Slate, Salon, New York Magazine, Psychology Today, and more. Photo credit: Amanda Joy Photography

St. Martin's Essentials, 288 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, July 6, 2024

The Burning by Linda Castillo Book Review

About the Book:

Newlywed Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is awakened by an urgent midnight call summoning her to a suspicious fire in the woods. When she arrives at the scene, she discovers a charred body. According to the coroner, the deceased, an Amish man named Milan Swanz, was chained to a stake and burned alive. It is an appalling and eerily symbolic crime against an upstanding husband and father.

Kate knows all too well that the Amish prefer to handle their problems without interference from the outside world, and no one will speak about the murdered man. From what she’s able to piece together, Swanz led a deeply troubled life and had recently been excommunicated. But if that’s the case, why are the Amish so reluctant to talk about him? Are they protecting the memory of one of their own? Or are they afraid of something they dare not share?

When her own brother is implicated in the case, Kate finds herself not only at odds with the Amish, the world of which she was once a part, but also the English community and her counterparts in law enforcement. The investigation takes a violent turn when Kate’s life is threatened by a mysterious stranger.

To uncover the truth about the death of Milan Swanz, Kate must dive deep into the Anabaptist culture, peering into all the dark corners of its history, only to uncover a secret legacy that shatters everything she thought she knew about the Amish themselves―and her own roots.

My Review:

This novel is down the line in a series but I think is the first one I have read. I felt it read well on its own. Castillo gives enough information along the way that I could understand the action of the main characters and the atmosphere of the town and Amish community. Castillo's writing style is good, giving readers a balance of character development and action. The plot moved along well and at a good pace.

I was intrigued by the unusual murder. It turned out to be relevant to finding the villains. I appreciated learning quite a bit about the history and culture of the Anabaptists. The information is woven into the plot as an essential aspect of the investigation and did not seem intrusive. There was a serious bit of suspense near the end testing Burkholder's determination to survive.

This is an entertaining novel and a good continuation of the series.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author:

Linda Castillo is the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Kate Burkholder mystery series, set in the world of the Amish. The first book, Sworn to Silence, was adapted into a Lifetime original movie titled An Amish Murder starring Neve Campbell as Kate Burkholder. Critically acclaimed as “the master of the genre” (People magazine), Castillo is the recipient of numerous industry awards including an Edgar Award, the Sue Grafton Memorial Award, a nomination by the International Thriller Writers for Best Hardcover, a nomination for an Audie Award for best mystery audiobook, and an appearance on the Boston Globe’s shortlist for best crime novel. Her books have sold over 4.5 million copies worldwide.

In addition to writing, Castillo’s other passion is horses. She lives in Texas with her husband and a menagerie of animals, and is currently at work on her next book. Photo credit: Pam Lary.

Minotaur Books, 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.)

Friday, July 5, 2024

Show Game by Steve Anderson Blog Tour Book Review



by Steve Anderson

July 1-12, 2024 Virtual Book Tour


A mysterious vigilante abducts powerful abusers and exposes them in a twisted “Show Game" in this psychological thriller.

The pandemic may be over, but the world is not safe for those who prey on the innocent. A vigilante known by the alias “Alex” knows what these transgressors have done. And taking them captive is only the first step toward vengeance. In order to be set free, they must first play the Show Game . . .

A predatory priest, a double-dealing politician, a fraudulent philanthropist—Alex has ways of making them confess, on camera, for all the world to witness. But the Show Game is building toward a darkly personal finale: exposing society’s most notorious and evil abuser.

As Alex gets closer to the main event, investigative reporter Owen Tanaka is determined to unmask the vigilante’s true identity and motive. But when a shocking revelation hits close to home, Owen must decide whether to stop a criminal mastermind’s devious scheme . . . or let the Show Game play its final round.

Praise for Show Game:

"Show Game is not only a high-octane thriller, it’s an urgent and timely reckoning for the sins of the past. A thriller crackling with heart and soul."
~ Jahmal Mayfield, author of Smoke Kings

"An original, thought-provoking and fast-paced novel ... This thriller is written with so much heart and brings out hope in people that good will prevail."
~ Teresa Brock, reviewer, Best Thriller Books

My Review:

This is a different kind of thriller and an entertaining novel. It deals with the issue of holding people accountable for their hidden evils. Like the mysterious Alex, we want the evil guys outed. To have it done in a public way is even better.

Anderson's writing style in this novel is mostly prose, including a great deal of character thought. The narrative is from two viewpoints. Sometimes that can be confusing but here the record of the mysterious Alex is in first person while the account of Owen, an investigative reporter, is in third person.

The pace of the novel is consistent until near the end where there is a good deal of suspense. It was interesting that one of the ideas covered in the novel was an open source news platform. I wondered how that could be kept from spreading disinformation.

But the main theme was justice for those abused by the powerful and controlling. A good novel giving readers a chance to cheer on the underdog, hoping for final justice.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological, Crime, Suspense Thriller
Published by: Open Road Media Mystery & Thriller
Publication Date: July 2, 2024
Number of Pages: 316
ISBN: 9781504086776 (ISBN10: 1504086775)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | | Goodreads | Open Road

Read an excerpt:



I have the bastard, finally, I got him. Target number one. He’s cowering on the high-backed chair before me, in the near dark. We keep a single harsh light on him, a bare caged bulb hanging from one of the rafters, just above his eyes, still swinging a little. He’d tried standing twice and bumped into the bulb before my hard eyes made him drop right down again.

It was so easy. We have duct tape and various tools of the trade in a tactical backpack and are more than happy to use them. But he doesn’t even need taping up. He’s clenching the chair’s cracked leather so hard his knuckles are whiter than those pricey snow-white crowns of his. It can’t help that his seat resembles a dentist chair.

“You tricked me,” he keeps repeating. “I trusted you.”

“Sound familiar?” I say and let the question hang in the air a good minute. To see how he likes it done to him. I’ll let him fill in the rest, going back decades.

Oh, before we get too far—I will be known as “Alex.” It’s my vigilante name, for my first-ever job. I’m speaking to my target in a lower, rougher voice to help cover myself.

Dwayne Specklin, forty-nine and quivering before us, is the founder and head pastor of one of the largest megachurches in southern California, let alone the country. But before that, before he was “ordained,” he was a scoutmaster and Scout unit chaplain for many, many years. So many boys had put their trust in him.

You might see where this is going. But I’ll let Dwayne Specklin tell you, and soon.

We’re in a warehouse in San Diego. It’s only minutes from the surf and the palms and so many retired admirals’ young grandsons, but inside here it’s cold enough to be the Pacific Northwest. Up north, I’d found out, was where Dwayne had escaped justice after molesting his first ten-year-old, a lowly Cub Scout. All Dwayne had to do back then was abscond for college.

On one side of Dwayne is an aluminum briefcase, silver and dinged up, displayed upright on an old music stand. It holds video of him with boys, ready to roll on an old and unregistered iPad. Sick and vile footage. I won’t tell you what Dwayne was doing to those boys. After months of trying, I’d gotten the video from one of his accomplices—a junior pastor.

Dwayne has to know what’s inside the briefcase. It’s bathed in a red glow from the color lens of the military-grade LED flashlight mounted to our tripod.

He keeps glaring at the metal case like it’s a bomb ticking down to one.

Then I raise the handheld voice changer to my mouth. He recoils at the sight.

“Are you ready?” I say in my newly digitally warped tone. He releases a little yelp.

“Ah, now . . .” I come in close and lean down to him, just like he as Scout chaplain might have done while visiting another troubled boy at home, in a time of such dire need and defenselessness. I even stroke his plump knee gently. A heat of disgust swells in my throat.

“Are you ready?” I repeat. “It’s time to play the Show Game.”

“The wha? . . .” Dwayne’s eyes widen.

I don’t answer. In my planning, I decided to reverse the wording of “Game Show.” Let him figure it out. It’s barely afternoon. We’ve got all day and night.

I let Dwayne squint around a few moments, first at the briefcase again, then around the whole room. All he is going to find, if his bleary, puffy eyes can adjust enough, is our dim corner of an old machine shop, its only windows opening to a fully dark former manufacturing hall, both now gutted. Then there’s a cavernous warehouse surrounding that, and on and on, like some Russian doll of those abandoned factory locations from the season finales of thriller shows. I look around along with Dwayne, following his eyes and scrunched-up nose. We see corrugated metal walls, busted windows, jagged exposed bolts sawed off, and gaping holes and hatches to who knows where. Grease stains, oily puddles left from somewhere, something.

I flinch inside a moment, wondering what might have first activated my target’s depraved mind. Maybe a Scout leader or priest had committed the same abuse on Dwayne, or even his own father? Maybe Dwayne, deep down, has the same developmental age as the ones he deceives and abuses.

Who knows. Screw him.

Dwayne is looking up now, as you do, probably seeking that megachurch god he justified his crimes to—if he even bothered. But all he can probably see is the white glare of that bare bulb, and he sniffs and snorts, and his nostrils surely fill with the tang of stale oil and dead insects and the boozy metallic fear breath of his own bastard self.

Target number one is ready to play. My first contestant! I have to admit, I feel a little swell of happy warmth in my chest. I cannot reiterate how easy this has been, especially for my first. To help ease Dwayne’s stage jitters, we have a bottle of Old Taylor, ten bucks plus tax at the nearby Vons. We had offered him a paper cup, but he drank straight from the bottle despite claiming to be a lifelong teetotaler. And I was all too happy to corrupt him. The booze had made him gasp and emit a wheezing trill that left him breathing heavy and drooling. Then the tears started running down his cheeks. I was expecting vomit soon. I’d remembered to wear my waterproof boots just in case.

Talk about drinking to forget. It was far too late for that, though. Because I’m here to make Dwayno remember. Total recall.

Time to play.


“Yes. No,” he says. “I’m not ready. I don’t get it! Who are you?

What do you want?”

“I want you to tell me what you did.”


“You know. All of it. And do not lie. Because we will know.”

His eyes go dead a moment. Silence ensues. He stares at his white knuckles. His face flashes green. I see it coming so I move back with a quick little two-step and the stream of hot vomit gushes out straight for the industrial floor drain we’d conveniently placed the chair near. He misses himself but it splatters, then it dribbles down the front of his pearlescent, still tucked-in golf shirt. Thank god he wipes at his chin because I’m not going to keep staring at that in this harsh downward light.

It’s such a contrast to the public Dwayne Specklin, a rotund if not fleshy fellow with pale pink skin that you never would’ve guessed spent much of its adult life in sunny California. His full head of hair somehow still more blond than gray, and a little spiky. His look reminds me of a jokey football coach, capable of either great care or extreme pressure within seconds.

He always had this little upturned grin in all those official photos and videos I researched, just one side of his mouth, but without that grin he truly does look like the eternally enabled child molester that he is. I wonder if he’d trained himself in the mirror at some point. He’s still wearing the pricey kangaroo leather sandals he had on when we’d approached him, his feet and toes soft and pedicured with a nearly white gloss.

He squints at me, and at the metal case again, then around. Squints, case, around. This repeats for like a minute.

“Who sent you?” he says finally.

Nobody sent me. I sent myself. Let him wonder why. This should be for all the victims. Let Dwayne Specklin mine his foul and barbed memory until blind.

[Chapter continues...]


Excerpt from Show Game by Steve Anderson. Copyright 2024 by Steve Anderson. Reproduced with permission from Steve Anderson. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

Steve Anderson is the author of numerous novels, mostly historical thrillers about gutsy underdogs. In an earlier life he earned an MA in history and was a Fulbright Fellow in Germany. Day jobs have included busy waiter, Associated Press rookie, and language instructor. He’s also written historical nonfiction and translated bestselling German novels. A hopeless soccer addict, he lives in his hometown of Portland, Oregon with his wife RenĂ©.

Catch Up With Steve Anderson:
BookBub - @SteveAnderson
Instagram - @SteveAWriter
Threads - @SteveAWriter
Twitter/X - @SteveAwriter
Facebook - @SteveAndersonAuthor
Substack - @SteveAWriter


Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews and opportunities to WIN in the giveaway!

Click here to view Show Game by Steve Anderson Tour Hosts.


Don't Miss Out! Enter Now for Your Chance to Win!

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



Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

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.)