Thursday, December 1, 2022

Heaven Sent Miracles and Rescues by Andrea Jo Rodgers Book Review


About the Book

Book: Heaven-Sent Miracle & Rescues

Author: Andrea Jo Rodgers

Genre: Christian Inspirational

Release date: November 1, 2022

Do You Believe in Miracles?

For more than three decades, Andrea Jo Rodgers has served her small-town community as a volunteer EMT. Over the years, the incredible events she’s witnessed have taught her that behind the scenes of every dark and dire situation waits a God capable of doing the impossible to help, protect, and save those He loves.

In Heaven-Sent Miracles and Rescues, Andrea shares tales of amazing and supernatural occurrences she’s seen from the frontline. From breathtaking water recoveries, to heroic battles against housefires, to astonishing interventions against medical crises, Andrea’s accounts of emergency rescues will have you reading at the edge of your seat while reassuring you of God’s awe-inspiring power over every circumstance.

Whether you’re searching for affirmation that miracles still happen, or you simply love reading exciting and inspiring true stories, Heaven-Sent Miracles and Rescues will leave you uplifted, encouraged, and on the lookout for God’s divine handiwork in your own day-to-day life.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

If you have ever wondered what the life of a volunteer emergency response person was like, Rodgers gives a clear picture. She relates a number of accounts of the calls she has been on, the condition of the patients, the treatment and results. I like that she frequently follows up and tells us what happened weeks or months following. Rodgers lives in a small town so she knows the people.

These are realistic accounts, some of them end with the person going to eternity. But most of them are wonderful stories of helping people in their greatest need and seeing a positive result. Reading her stories has given me a new respect for people involved in emergency response.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

 

About the Author

Andrea Jo Rodgers holds a clinical doctorate in physical therapy and has worked as a physical therapist for over 25 years. She has served as a volunteer emergency medical technician on her town’s rescue squad for 35 years and has responded to more than 9,000 first aid and fire calls. She lives on the east coast with her husband, two children, and two fur babies. At Heaven’s Edge, On Heaven’s Doorstep, Help from Heaven, and Heaven-Sent Miracles and Rescues include true inspirational stories based on her experiences as a volunteer EMT.  Her middle grade adventure novels, Saving Mount Rushmore and Saving the Statue of Liberty are fun yet educational books that teach faith, courage, patriotism, and friendship.

More from Andrea Jo

Coincidence or the Hand of God?

Have you ever wondered if someone is saved by pure chance? Is it just his or her lucky day? Or is more at play? I believe that people aren’t assisted by mere coincidence. I think the hand of God is at play, putting the pieces in motion to orchestrate miracles.

During my 35 years as a volunteer emergency medical technician with my local first aid and rescue squad, I’ve often witnessed the power of prayer and how God works to put the right people in the right place at the right time. For example, in my latest book Heaven-Sent Miracles and Rescues, I convey how a young woman who gets out of work later than usual sets in motion a dramatic rescue. In another case, a young man stops at a friend’s apartment just in time to alert 911 that she is unconscious and barely breathing due to a heroin overdose. At times, our patients overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to survive.

God’s loving hand doesn’t have to take the form of sensational rescues. It can be more subtle, such as having our squad volunteers be present to pour love on a dying hospice patient during his last hour on earth, or in another instance being available to tuck in a lonely woman grieving the loss of her mother. As a resident of a small town, I’ve been privileged to form strong bonds with some of my patients, and my life is immeasurably richer for it.

The next time you brush something off as just a coincidence, take a few minutes to consider the alternative. Perhaps you are witnessing the loving hand of our Lord at work.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, December 1

Texas Book-aholic, December 2

Mary Hake, December 2

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, December 3

Inklings and notions, December 4

Cover Lover Book Review, December 5

deb’s Book Review, December 5

Locks, Hooks and Books, December 6

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, December 7

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, December 8

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, December 9

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, December 10

Rebecca Tews, December 11

Just Your Average reviews, December 12

For Him and My Family, December 12

Spoken from the Heart, December 13

Cats in the Cradle Blog, December 14

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Andrea Jo is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon Gift card and a signed copy of Heaven-Sent Miracles and Rescues!!

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/22ec6/heaven-sent-miracles-rescues-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.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Aberration by Cathy McCrumb Book Review


About the Book

Book: Aberration

Author: Cathy McCrumb

Genre: Science Fiction

Release date: November 15, 2022

Freedom Awaits, but the Consortium is Watching

When rogue drones threaten citizens and the ship’s crew falls ill, the Recorder answers their call for help, once again drawing scrutiny from the Consortium.

With no other option and under an Elder’s overbearing watch, she returns to Pallas Station where she nearly lost her life in the hope of finding something—anything—to save her friends and countless others. Her friends are determined to keep her safe, but for the Recorder, saving others comes first, no matter the cost.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

This novel is a sequel to Recorder and does not read well on its own. There is no synopsis of the first book nor enough back story early on to preclude the necessity of reading Recorder to fully enjoy this one. There are many references to people and events from the first book unexplained as they are mentioned in this one. Even I was a bit confused at the beginning with what was going on as it had been a year since reading the first book.

The focus of this novel seems to be one of character building. We see Recorder develop more and we gather insights into other characters and one of the Elders. We meet more recorders and finally have a confrontation with the villain. There are spurts of action in the novel and just a hint of possible romance.

While much of the action is based on morality, there is not a strong faith message appearing yet, although one character did wear a cross necklace. I loved the reference to Julian of Norwhich when Recorder says, “It will be well. All manner of things will be well.”

This novel is for science fiction readers who like an exploration of characters with the action settled in one location. We are left wondering what the future might have in store so I will be looking for the next in the series.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

You can read my review of the first book in the series, Recorder, here.

About the Author

Cathy McCrumb graduated from Biola University with a degree in English Literature and a love for stories. She and her husband, whom she met while writing letters to soldiers, have five children and currently live within the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. While writing is one of her favorite things to do, she also enjoys reading, long hikes and long naps, gluten-free brownies and raspberries, and crocheting while watching science fiction movies with friends and family.

More from Cathy

After I finished writing Recorder, my main character was stuck.

Or, more precisely, I was.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew where she was, roughly what was going to happen, and what was going on elsewhere. But after the rush of finishing the first book and even having a great opening line for the second, I was at a standstill. Starting there didn’t make sense, didn’t set the scene. I tried again. And again.

It bothered me for months.

Then, on my way into work, a phrase popped into my head. Eyes on the stoplight, I fumbled in my bag, grabbed the first pen I could find, and scrawled the words on my left forearm in large block letters: NEED HELP WITH THE BODIES.

And like that, I knew where to begin.

(Fortunately, my coworkers were more amused than not, though I did wear long sleeves to church the next day, since I figured no one would find my Sharpie-scrawl comforting.)

While some of the story fell into place as I had expected, it turns out anticipation of a few scenes didn’t dull the edge, and I cried for those. My characters didn’t always comply, and aside from the black block letters on my arm, Aberration had other surprises that made me laugh or cringe. Two of those twists shifted the book’s trajectory, and the Recorder still must deal with the repercussions.

Life is like that. Some things trundle along like they should, but when change rears its head, everything can go sideways. A move, a sickness, a loss, a gain, a promotion… The good things—smiles, laughter, friends, song, color—don’t negate the uncomfortable things—failure, disappointment, isolation. But for those who believe in Christ, sorrow doesn’t have the final word. There is a sudden turn of joy, a grace in an unexpected twist that reminds us that there is no universal defeat awaiting us, even when it feels like all hope is lost.

Writing frequently reminds me of a difficult child who doesn’t want to cooperate. Characters show up uninvited to reshape scenes, or the plot goes exactly as I expect, but carries a completely different meaning. Sometimes I have to pause and let the story wash over me.

A lot like life.

The reversal of sorrow to joy, of catastrophe to eucatastrophe, shows us a glimpse of the home that awaits. Light pierces the shadows of story and heart, illuminating the core of who we are as we journey further up and farther in.

When you continue with the Recorder on her search for a name, for meaning, for hope, I hope that in those sudden surprise turns, you, too, hear the silver trumpets calling you home, no matter where or when you might be stuck.

Because, really, you aren’t.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, November 30

Story Craft, November 30

Texas Book-aholic, December 1

Stories By Gina, December 2 (Author Interview)

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, December 2

Inklings and notions, December 3

deb’s Book Review, December 4

Locks, Hooks and Books, December 5

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, December 6

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, December 7

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, December 8

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, December 9

Lily’s Book Reviews, December 10

Blogging With Carol, December 11

For Him and My Family, December 12

Through the Fire blogs, December 13

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Cathy is giving away the grand prize of a signed hardback copies of Recorder and Aberration!!

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/22ec5/aberration-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, November 29, 2022

Live and Let Grind by Tara Lush Book Review

About the Book:


Laid-off journalist Lana Lewis is thriving as the proprietor of Perkatory, a coffee shop on quirky Devil’s Beach island, Florida. She’s juggling a relationship with police chief Noah Garcia, enjoying the company of her best friend, Erica, and relishing the companionship of her golden Shih Tzu, Stanley. Only problem is her neighbor, Gus, who incessantly uses his leaf blower, disturbing everyone in the neighborhood. Lana has learned to tune it out, but Erica’s rage boils over and she confronts Gus.

 
Then Gus is found dead, killed when his leaf blower explodes. Erica immediately becomes suspect number one. But there are plenty of other candidates as well: Gus’s soon-to-be ex-wife, Honey Bailey, who thinks she’ll be written out of his will; Mickey Dotson and Doug Beck, who were scalded financially after purchasing a pirate-themed tourist cruise business from Gus; and plenty of angry neighbors who’ve had run-ins with him.
 
As the clock ticks down will Lana get someone to spill the beans on the killer so she can clear her friend’s name, or will Erica go to jail for a crime she didn’t commit?

My Review:

This is another enjoyable cozy mystery set on an island of the Florida Gulf Coast. I like some of the quirky people Lush adds to the scene, like a disco roller skating social media star. Even Lana's dad is a crazy character. I like the unusual murder method of death by leaf blower.

Lana investigates the murder, hoping to prove Erica, her friend and a suspect, innocent of the murder. That means she has some tense times with her boyfriend and police chief, like him trying to foil her attempt to write an article about the murder. Relationship drama and poisoned coffee spice up the plot a bit.

This is a good cozy mystery for coffee lovers. Lana and Erica come up with some interesting coffee combinations, like with mushrooms and oranges. (I'll just have a cup of drip, thank you.) I was not happy with how the murder investigation went and was not surprised at the killer. Nonetheless, for a cozy mystery, the plot is good enough.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


You can read my reviews of the earlier books in this series: Grounds for Murder and Cold Brew Corpse.

About the Author:


Tara Lush
 is a Florida based novelist and journalist. She is an RWA Rita finalist, an Amtrak writing fellow and the winner of the George C. Polk award for environmental journalism. She has been a reporter for The Associated Press for the last decade. She also writes contemporary romance set in tropical locations. She lives on the Gulf coast with her husband and two dogs. You can find out more at https://taralush.com/.


Crooked Lane 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.)

Monday, November 28, 2022

The Blackout Book Club by Amy Lynn Green Book Review

About the Book:


In 1942, an impulsive promise to her brother before he goes off to the European front puts Avis Montgomery in the unlikely position of head librarian in small-town Maine. Though she has never been much of a reader, when wartime needs threaten to close the library, she invents a book club to keep its doors open. The women she convinces to attend the first meeting couldn't be more different--a wealthy spinster determined to aid the war effort, an exhausted mother looking for a fresh start, and a determined young war worker.


At first, the struggles of the home front are all the club members have in common, but over time, the books they choose become more than an escape from the hardships of life and the fear of the U-boat battles that rage just past their shores. As the women face personal challenges and band together in the face of danger, they find they have more in common than they think. But when their growing friendships are tested by secrets of the past and present, they must decide whether depending on each other is worth the cost.

Includes a book club discussion guide and The Blackout Book Club book list

You can read an excerpt here.

My Review:

This is another good historical novel from Green. The central theme is the importance of books in the community with threads of patriotism, family relationships, secrets, friendship and more woven through.

I realized when reading this book I take my public library for granted. But during WW II, the library available in the small town of Derby, Maine, was one sponsored by an individual. And while the wealthy woman owning it did not value the books very much, the people in the community did. We get a good sense of the importance of reading books for community welfare.

Green has added a great deal of historical information to the plot. The most prominent is the requirement of black out curtains and covers for automobile headlights. We also read about rationing, volunteers looking for German subs off the coast, women working in factories, and more. There is even a bit about the flu of 1918 in a flash back. I like that Green provides additional historical material at her website. There are discussion questions included so this book itself would be a good choice for a book discussion group.

The characters are engaging. The plot is informative and entertaining. Green's writing style is a pleasure to experience. I have read all of her previous novels and found them well written, as is this one.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author:


Amy Lynn Green 
(www.amygreenbooks.com) has always loved history and reading, and she enjoys speaking with book clubs, writing groups, and libraries all around the country. Her debut novel, Things We Didn't Say, was nominated for a 2021 Minnesota Book Award, won two Carol Awards, and received a starred review from both Booklist and Library Journal. Amy and her family make their home in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Visit amygreenbooks.com to learn more. Photo Credit: © Roger Smith Photography 

Bethany House Publishers, 384 pages.

I received a complimentary copy 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.)

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Landslide by Adam Sikes BookReview

 

Landslide

by Adam Sikes

November 14 - December 9, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


Synopsis:


International Arms—Private Military Companies—Corruption at Every Turn

U.S. Marine veteran Mason Hackett moved to London to start his life over, and he's done his best to convince himself that what happened fifteen years ago doesn't matter—the people he killed, the men he lost, the lives he ruined. But when Mason sees the face of a dead friend flash on a television screen and then receives a mysterious email referencing a CIA operation gone bad, he can no longer ignore his inner demons.

Driven by loyalty and a need to uncover the truth, Mason launches on a perilous journey from the Czech Republic to Romania toward the war-torn separatist region in eastern Ukraine to honor a fifteen-year-old promise. The answers he seeks—the fate of a friend and his connection to the underworld of international arms dealers and defense corporations—throw Mason into the cauldron of a covert war where no one can be trusted.

Praise for Landslide:

"Sikes imbues the emotionally complex Mason with a palpable sense of grief. Readers will look forward to his further adventures."

Publishers Weekly

"Landslide is not only a gripping geo-political thriller, but a morally-complex tale. It grapples with fraught questions of both individual and national loyalty as well as killing and the grim realities of war. I read this book over the course of two-white knuckled days that I won’t soon forget. Adam Sikes is a huge talent."

Elliot Ackerman, New York Times best-selling author

"Adam Sikes is the consummate storyteller. What a fast-moving train Landslide is, a real rollercoaster of a ride, gripping, emotional and thought-provoking. I enjoyed every thrilling second. This is good stuff!"

J. Randy Taraborrelli, New York Times best-selling author

"A gem of a read with mach-speed mayhem, loaded with rich detail from a writer who knows what he’s talking about."

Steve Berry, New York Times best-selling author

"With an irresistible hook that grabs you from the get-go, Landslide is an action-packed, nonstop espionage thrill ride that will keep you furiously turning the pages. Marine Corps veteran and former intelligence officer Adam Sikes delivers a fast-paced, gritty, supercharged read."

Andrew Kaplan, New York Times best-selling author

"Landslide is a seismic quake of an international, high-stakes thriller in the grand tradition of Daniel Silva, Brad Thor, and Brad Taylor. Adam Sikes has penned a seminal effort that's bracingly effective in its portrayal of current geopolitical dynamics through the eyes of former Marine, and current expatriate, Mason Hackett. A terrific tapestry of a tale with the kind of stitching that would make the likes of Alistair MacLean and Frederick Forsyth take notice."

Jon Land, USA Today best-selling author

My Review:

This is an action packed novel and a fine debut effort. Readers are taken into the dangerous world of arms trafficking, centering in Ukraine. While this novel takes place prior to the invasion, it gives good insight into the tension at the border. Some of the characters are from previous Soviet countries and we see how they feel about possible aggression.

Mason is a capable hero. Though working for an investment company now, he had military experience. His adventures draw lots of bullets his direction. The body count is high as those opposing Mason have no qualms killing people. During one fire fight, Mason is amazed to find he is still alive. I was too. That Mason was willing to endanger his life for his friend is amazing, showing the loyalty forged on the battlefield.

The plot is complex with quite a bit of explanation at the end. There is loads of suspense, devastating betrayal and people who aren't who they say. It gives a clear picture of the horrible deeds some will do for power and money. And Mason is right in the middle of it all.

I hope this is just the first in a series. I'd like to see where the powers that be might send him next.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

 

Book Details:

Genre: Spy Thriller
Published by: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date: September 2022
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN: 9781608095049 (ISBN10: 1608095045)
Series: A Mason Hackett Espionage Thriller, #1
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Oceanview Publishing

 

Author Bio:


Adam Sikes is a novelist and freelance writer. He is a graduate of Georgetown University with a degree in International Politics and a Masters in History. Prior to taking up the pen, he served in the US Marine Corps with combat tours in the Balkans, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Middle East. Following the Marines, Adam joined the CIA and conducted operations in Central Asia, East Africa, and Europe. He is the author of the international thriller Landslide and is the co-author of Open Skies: My Life as Afghanistan’s First Female Pilot. He lives in Southern California.

Catch Up With Adam Sikes:
www.AdamSikes.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @sikesar
Instagram - @Adam_R_Sikes
Twitter - @Adam_R_Sikes

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaway entries!
Click here to view Landslide by Adam Sikes Tour Hosts.

 

GIVEAWAY:

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Adam Sikes. 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.)

Saturday, November 26, 2022

A Flexible Faith by Bonnie Kristian Book Review

When we have been raised within a particular Christian faith tradition, we may be taught or at least come to the conclusion that it is the only valid form of Christianity. I grew up in the Reformed tradition and was deeply steeped in Calvinism. Fortunately, I attended a Free Methodist university where I was confronted with a very different belief system and independently studied them both.

Kristian introduces readers to the wide stream of belief within orthodox Christianity. She helps readers understand the range of views Christians have had over the centuries on seventeen big theological issues. She writes about everything from the Bible to salvation to baptism to the end times and nearly everything in between. She includes short biographies of interesting people from history and interviews of people in particular faith traditions. There are discussion questions on each topic so this would be a good book for a study group.

I highly recommend this book. We Christians need to be aware of the variety in belief, worship and service Christians have exercised over time. Kristian writes, “...following Jesus is a big, weird, amazing thing that individual believers, movements, and denominations have expressed in remarkably different ways over the centuries.” (8) Reading this book will help keep us from being chronological and theological snobs, thinking ours is the best way to exercise Christian faith.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Bonnie Kristian is a theological and political writer with a national following. She is the weekend editor at The Week and a foreign policy fellow at Defense Priorities, and her work has appeared at Time Magazine, CNN, Politico, USA Today, Relevant Magazine, The Hill, Christianity Today, and the American Conservative, among other outlets.

FaithWords, 272 pages.

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

Friday, November 25, 2022

Hero Haters by Ken MacQueen Book Review

 

Hero Haters

by Ken MacQueen

November 7 - December 2, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


Synopsis:


He seeks redemption, others want revenge

Jake Ockham had a dream job, vetting nominees for the Sedgewick Medallion-the nation's highest civilian award for heroism. His own scarred hands are an indelible reminder of the single mother he failed to pull from a raging house fire; her face haunts him still. Obligations drag him back to his hometown to edit the family newspaper but attempts to embrace small-town life, and the hot new doctor, are thwarted by unknown forces. The heroes Jake vetted go missing and he becomes the prime suspect in the disappearances. Aided by resourceful friends, Jake follows a twisted trail to the Dark Web, where a shadowy group is forcing the kidnapped medalists to perform deadly acts of valor to amuse twisted subscribers to its website. To save his heroes, Jake must swallow his fears and become one himself...or die in the attempt.

Praise for Hero Haters:

"An edge of your seat thriller. MacQueen, a journalist, ratchets up the suspense and tightens the grip to the explosive end."

Robert Dugoni New York Times Bestselling Author of The Tracy Crosswhite series

"Gripping from the first page. A thrill ride with all the right moves."

Rick Mofina USA Today Bestselling Author

My Review:

This is a chilling novel. I had heard of the dark web but this novel brought it to reality. Potential readers should be prepared for somewhat graphic descriptions of the kind of torture that is filmed to be shown on it. Some might find trigger situations.

All that being said, this is an entertaining novel. There are genuine heroes, including Jake, the main character. There are psychopaths who commit atrocious acts, partly from revenge, partly from just being evil. MacQueen did a good job of contrasting the good of hero actions with the evil of those hating the heroes. There is good suspense too, especially near the end.

This is a good debut effort though with definite dark aspects. MacQueen is a capable writer with a unique take on contrasting the good and evil that people do.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


Book Details:

Genre: Adult Thriller
Published by: The Wild Rose Press, Inc
Publication Date: October 2022
Number of Pages: 366
ISBN: 9781509243853 (ISBN10: 1509243852)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Prologue

Spokane, Washington, August 2019

Local hero Anderson Wise can’t remember the last time he paid for a drink at Sharkey’s.

Nor can he remember an embarrassing assortment of the women who selflessly shared their affection, post-Sharkey’s.

As for that last blurry night at the gin mill, he wished to hell he’d stayed home.

The bar’s owner, Sharon Key, hence Sharkey’s, took joy in chumming the waters on Wise’s behalf for a regular catch of what she called “Hero Worshippers.”

She saw getting him laid as partial repayment for saving her eleven-year-old grandson Toby’s life some eighteen months back.

A disaffected dad, high on crystal meth, stormed into Toby’s classroom to take issue with his kid’s latest report card. He showed his displeasure by shot-gunning the teacher, then reloaded and asked all A-students to identify themselves. Being A-students, they dutifully raised their hands, Toby among them.

As the high-as-a-kite shooter herded the high achievers to the front of the class, Wise, the school custodian, charged into the room armed with a multipurpose dry-chemical fire extinguisher. He blasted the shooter with a white cloud of monoammonium phosphate, to minimal effect, then slammed the gun out of his hands. It discharged into the floor sending several pellets into Wise’s left foot. Thoroughly pissed, Wise ended the drama by pile-driving the extinguisher into the shooter’s face.

Sharon Key, a widow in her early sixties, subsequently replaced the beer signs and dart board with blow-ups of the laudatory press Wise earned during the tragic aftermath. The front of the next day’s local paper held pride of place. It carried a photo of Wise, extinguisher in hand, under the headline: Greater Tragedy Averted as Hero Janitor Extinguishes Threat. The story contained a pull quote in large font which Wise came to regret: “ ‘It’s a versatile extinguisher,’ the modest 30-year-old explained, ‘good for class A, B and C fires—and meth-heads’.”

Said famous extinguisher now guards the top-shelf booze behind Sharkey’s oak-and-brass bar.

New stories were added to Sharkey’s wall five months back after Wise was awarded, with much publicity, the Sedgewick Trust Sacrifice Medallion— one of the most prestigious recognitions of heroism that American civilians can receive.

Wise’s liver and a lower part of his anatomy took a renewed pounding in the weeks thereafter. So much so he declared a moratorium on visits to Sharkey’s for reasons of self-preservation.

He was back in the saddle a month now, but his attendance was spotty. “This hero stuff,” he confided to Key one night, while slumped in his chair. “Maybe it’s too much of a good thing?”

“Ya think?” Key muttered as she took inventory of that night’s limited offerings.

It wasn’t just the women. Men often bought him drinks too, happy to bask in the reflected glory of a proven manly man.

Two weeks ago, some weedy academic from back east interviewed him at Sharkey’s and staked him to an alcohol-fueled dinner at the city’s best chop house. The brainy one expected Wise to opine on such things as “neo-Darwinian rules for altruism.”

Asked him if he’d been motivated by “a kinship bond” with anyone in the room?

Er, no.

Wondered if Wise knew that a disproportionate number of risk takers are working-class males?

Nope, sorry.

And had he calculated in the moment that a heroic display of “good genes” would make him a desirable mating partner?

Cripes. Really?

“Don’t know what I was thinking,” Wise said, swirling a glass of something called Amarone, a wine so amazing angels must have crushed the grapes with their tiny, perfect feet. “Heard a gun blast, grabbed the fire extinguisher off the wall. Saw the dead teacher, all those kids, and a nut with a shotgun. Did what anybody would do. I spent three years in the army after high school, mostly in the motor pool. Much as I hated basic training, maybe some of it stuck. Who knows?”

The academic gave a condescending smile and called for the bill, his hypothesis apparently confirmed.

Wise fled to the restaurant toilet and took notes on the back of his pay slip. Back home, he Googled the hell out of studies on “extreme altruist stimuli,” on “empirical perspectives on the duty to rescue,” and after many false starts, on theories of “Byronic and Lilithian Heroes.”

He kinda got the concept of “desirable mating partner”, but he was pretty sure his dick didn’t lead him into that classroom. Did it?

While not a reflective guy, Wise had to admit it was creepy to reap the fleshy benefits of his few seconds of glory while his dreams were haunted by visions of teacher Adah Summerhill slumped over her desk, blood pooled beneath her. So much blood. With the shooter sprawled unconscious, Wise gently lifted Adah’s head.

She had no pulse and her eyes, once so vibrant and expressive, were as empty as an open grave. She’d always been nice, and totally out of his league.

So, here he was, back at Sharkey’s, mind made up.

Key arrived at his “courting table” and set down his Jack and ginger ale.

“Gave my notice at the school,” he told her. “Getting outta here for a while. Got that Sedgewick money to spend. Someplace they don’t know me. Mexico, maybe.

Or Costa Rica.”

Key patted his hand. “Knew this was coming, Andy.

You banged every eligible female in town, pretty much.

And some who shoulda been out of bounds. I’m amazed the Tourist Bureau doesn’t list you as a top-ten attraction, up there with the botanical gardens.”

“All I want, Shar, is to be liked for me, not for something I did because I happened to be in the wrong place at the right time. Or is that the other way ’round?”

“Hey, you’re a good-looking guy. Still got that shaggy blond baseball player thing going for ya.

Might’ve taken a run at you myself if my hips weren’t shot.” She patted his cheek. “Made you blush. Now don’t turn into a beach bum down there. Always thought you aimed too low, mopping floors and washing windows for the school board. Time to stretch—”

She craned her neck toward the door after it opened with a bang. “My, my, here’s one for the road. She was in earlier, asking after you.” Key aimed a nod at the door and whispered, “Don’t strain anything.” And headed to the bar.

Wise looked up and…sweet Jesus.

Early twenties, he guessed. His eyes roamed from strappy sandals, up a long expanse of tanned bare legs to a glittering silver dress that started perilously high-thigh and ended well below exposed shoulders. The ripe promise of youth was on full display, like she’d dipped her bounteous curves in liquid lamé.

She drew every eye in the place as she undulated to his table. Full red lips, high cheekbones, chestnut hair piled high. Up close now, her gimlet eyes were at once innocent and knowing, like a debauched choirgirl.

“Hi, hero.” Her voice was low and sultry, as he knew it would be. She remained on her feet, hands on the table, leaning low to full effect. “When you finish that drink, I really want to see your medal.”

**** He remembered her mixing drinks back at his apartment while he retrieved his medallion from the sock drawer in his bedroom. He remembered her running a sensuous thumb over the bas-relief portrait of Philip Sedgewick as she read aloud the inscription: “The most sublime act is to set another before you.”

That wondrous voice lingering over “sublime act,”

like it was lifted from the Kama Sutra.

And like too many times, post-Sharkey’s, damned if he could remember her name—that evil bitch. He awoke, bouncing in the back of a van, hands and legs cuffed to rings set in the floor. A broken-glass headache served notice of every bump in the road.

Another lost night at Sharkey’s.

Wise had a dreadful feeling he’d never be back.

Chapter One Aberdeen, Washington, July, one month earlier Jake Ockham was one kilometer in, one kilometer to go and already in a world of pain. Lungs, legs and palms, always the damned palms, screaming enough already.

He’d whaled away on his Concept II rowing machine for thirty minutes, building up to this. Stripped off the sweatshirt after ten minutes, the t-shirt after twenty-five. Down now to running shoes and gym shorts, his torso gleaming with sweat despite the morning chill.

He’d rested after a thirty-minute warm-up to gulp water and to consider the need to reinforce the pilings under the creaky wooden deck before it dumped him and the ergometer into the Wishkah River below. Might leave it in the river mud if it came to that.

Full race mode now, one kilometer in, another to go.

The erg’s computer showed the need to pick up the pace to break the six-minute barrier, something he’d regularly shattered a decade ago during his university rowing days.

Thrust with the legs, throw back the shoulders, arms ripping back the handle. Return to the catch and repeat.

Five hundred meters to go. Eyes fixed on a duck touching down on the river, looking anywhere but the screen.

Two hundred and fifty meters. Faster. Harder. Don’t lose the technique.

Fifty meters. You can do this.

A final piston thrust of legs, shoulders, arms and…six minutes, thirteen seconds.

“Fuck!” His roar startled the duck into flight.

He slumped over the machine, gasping for air, ripping at the Velcro tabs of his gloves, throwing them on the deck in disgust. Hated those damned gloves, so essential these days.

Head bowed, he heard the cabin’s door rasp open.

“Such language.” Clara Nufeld, his aunt, and technically his boss as publisher of the Grays Harbor Independent, leaned against the doorframe.

He didn’t look up. “Don’t bother knocking. Make yourself at home.”

“I did, and I am. Got a couple of things to show you.

Right up your alley. Might be pieces for next week’s issue.”

She was lean and tall, in tight jeans and a faded Nirvana sweatshirt, her spiked white hair cut short. At sixty-four, she still turned heads. Jake knew her age to the day, Clara being his mother’s identical twin. Connie, his late mother, fell to breast cancer at age forty-five.

So much of his mother in Clara. So much that when Jake finished high school and rode his rowing scholarship east to Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University, his father, Roger Ockham, moved his accounting business to Bend, Oregon. Said it was for the golfing, but Jake suspected the sight of his late wife’s twin was a constant reminder of his loss.

Connie and Clara, fresh out of university, worked for their father at the Independent, Clara on the advertising side, Connie as a reporter.

They took the helm of the paper after Derwin Nufeld—their dad, Jake’s grandfather—collapsed and died mid-way through crafting a fiery editorial on a mule-headed decision to pull The Catcher in the Rye from the high school library.

After Connie’s death, Clara did double duty as editor and publisher until she succeeded six months ago in luring Jake home to Washington State from Pittsburgh to take over as editor-in-chief.

This five-room stilt home, Clara’s former cottage on the tidal Wishkah, was his signing bonus.

One of the dwindling numbers of real estate ads in the Independent would describe the cabin something like: “A cozy oasis on the Wishkah, surrounded by nature and just minutes from the city. Fish from your deck while contemplating the possibilities for this prime riverfront property. A bit of TLC gets you a rustic getaway while you make plans for your dream home.”

After years in urban Pittsburgh, he awoke now to bird chatter and the sights and scents of the moody, muddy Wishkah—its current pulled, as he was pulled, to the infinite Pacific.

Jake gathered his shirts and gloves and cringed at a sniff-test of his underarms. “I’ll keep my distance.” He waved Clara inside. “What’s up my alley?”

She waved two dummy pages, the ads already laid out, plenty of blank space for him and his skeleton staff to fill with stories and photos.

Jake was still adjusting to small-town journalism, covering at least one earnest service club luncheon every week, puffy profiles of local businesses, check presentations, city council and school board meetings.

And jamming in as many names as possible. He’d done some summer reporting for the weekly during his high school years, but rowing had occupied most of his time.

Clara handed off a page proof with a boxed advert already laid out. “A new doctor is taking over old Doc Wilson’s practice, thank God. I swear the last medical journal that old man read was on the efficacy of leeches and bloodletting.”

Jake nodded. Worth a story for sure. A few words from Wilson about passing the scalpel to a new generation, then focus on Dr. Christina Doctorow. No hardship there.

The ad for her family practice included her photo.

Rather than the cliché white coat and stethoscope she wore hiking shorts and a flannel shirt with rolled sleeves, thick dark hair in a ponytail, a daypack hanging off a shoulder. A husky at her side gazed up adoringly.

Smart dog.

Jake put her at early thirties, his age more or less. He nodded approval. “Sporty. A fine addition to the Grays Harbor gene pool.”

“The woman’s a firecracker. Spent ten minutes haggling down the price. I finally caved. Said I’ll bump this up to a half-page, but you owe me a free checkup.”

“Seriously?”

“What she said, too. Also asked ‘Is that ethical?’ I said, ‘darling, I’m in advertising. You want ethics, deal with my nephew on the editorial side.’ “

Jake laughed. “Pretty good at bloodletting herself.

What else you got?”

“This is so up your alley.” She handed him a classified ad page-proof. “You being an expert.”

Jake slumped onto a kitchen chair. “On what?”

She tapped a one-column boxed ad in the lower left, “Heroes.”

“Not hardly.”

He looked closer and reared back. The heading read: “For Sale. Rare Sedgewick Sacrifice Medallion. $100 OBO.”

There was a thumbnail photo of the medal’s obverse, showing the craggy face of Philip Sedgewick, a leading member of the long-dead school of industrialist robber barons. He’d amassed a fortune in textile mills, newspapers, and exploitive labor practices. Awash in cash he came to philanthropy late in life. Like others in this elite group—Carnegie, Mellon, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, et al—their names and reputation-burnishing generosity live beyond the grave.

Sedgewick, at his wife’s urging, chose to celebrate extraordinary acts of heroism. He used eight of his many millions—an enormous sum in 1901—to endow a family trust to award exceptional heroism with the Sacrifice Medallion and needs-based financial assistance. Over the past one hundred twenty years, the trust awarded some eleven thousand medallions, an inspiring legacy of courage, and yes, sacrifice.

The grainy photo in the classified ad was too small to read the inscription under Sedgewick’s stern visage, but Jake knew it well. It was a quotation by the English poet William Blake: “The most sublime act is to set another before you.”

Below the photo was a post office box address, and “mail inquiries only.”

Jake shook his head. “This is nuts. The price is insanely low, insulting really. The medallions are kinda priceless.”

“I wondered about that,” Clara said. “The ad cost fifty dollars so not much of a profit.”

“The rare few that get to auction can fetch in the thousands. We try to buy them back, prefer that to having them land up in the hands of the undeserving.”

Clara cocked an eyebrow. “We?”

Jake shrugged. “I still do the occasional freelance investigations for Sedgewick. The thing is, there’s never a good reason to sell these. Either the recipient is dead broke, or dead without relatives to inherit it. Or it’s stolen.”

“Or,” Clara said, resting a hand on Jake’s shoulder, “the hero feels undeserving.”

He flinched. “Was there a photo of the medal’s back? It’d have the recipient’s name and the reason it was awarded.”

“Don’t even know who placed the ad. Arrived in the mail: a photo, the ad copy, and a fifty-dollar bill. No return address but the post office box.”

“Pull the ad, Clara. I’ll buy it and return the money.

There’s a story here, something’s not right.”

Clara toyed with her car keys. “I feel bad sometimes, guilting you back. Do you miss it, your old life back in Pittsburgh?”

His pause was barely discernable. “Great to be back in the old hometown.”

“Great to earn half the salary you did in the big city?

Great to prop up the family business? Great to be stuck with your old aunt?”

“Aunt doesn’t cover it. I was twelve when Mom passed. You stepped up for Dad and me.”

She looked like she was about to say something, then shook her head and flashed an enigmatic smile. “A topic for another day. Gotta run.”

She leaned across the table, took his hands in hers, running her thumbs lightly over his scarred palms. She raised his hands to her lips for a kiss, then turned for the door.

***

Excerpt from Hero Haters by Ken MacQueen. Copyright 2022 by Ken MacQueen. Reproduced with permission from Ken MacQueen. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:


Before turning to fiction, Ken MacQueen spent 15 years as Vancouver bureau chief for Maclean’s, Canada’s newsmagazine, winning multiple National Magazine Awards and nominations. He traveled the world writing features and breaking news for the magazine, and previously for two national news agencies. Naturally, he had to make Jake Ockham, his hero, a reporter, albeit a reluctant one. MacQueen also covered nine Olympic Games and drew Jake’s athletic prowess from tracking elite rowers in training and on podiums in Athens, Beijing and London. He and his wife divide their time between Vancouver, and British Columbia's Sunshine Coast.

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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.)