Saturday, September 24, 2022

A Blizzard of Polar Bears by Alice Henderson

About the Book

  
Fresh off her wolverine study in Montana, wildlife biologist Alex Carter lands a job studying a threatened population of polar bears in the Canadian Arctic. Embedded with a small team of Arctic researchers, she tracks the majestic bears by air, following them over vast, snowy terrain, spending days leaning precariously out of a helicopter with a tranquilizer gun, until she can get down on the ice to examine them up close.

But as her study progresses, and she gathers data on the health of individual bears, things start to go awry. Her helicopter pilot quits unexpectedly, equipment goes missing, and a late-night intruder breaks into her lab and steals the samples she’s collected. She realizes that someone doesn’t want her to complete her study, but Alex is not easily deterred.

Managing to find a replacement pilot, she returns to the icy expanses of Hudson Bay. But the helicopter catches fire in midflight, forcing the team to land on a vast sheet of white far from civilization. Surviving on the frozen landscape is difficult enough, but as armed assailants close in on snowmobiles, Alex must rely on her skills and tenacity to survive this onslaught and carry out her mission.

You can read an excerpt here.

My Review

This is a novel for readers who like information about wildlife. Henderson takes us to the frozen north where we learn a great deal about polar bears, from research to poaching. There is a quite a bit about protecting the animals since that is the focus of the heroine. We read about the factors endangering the bears with an emphasis on climate factors caused by humans.

The plot is one filled with suspense. Unfortunately, much of the suspense is the heroine's own fault. She goes out on her own, for example, just after she had been rescued from a deadly situation. Of course, she faces another deadly experience. That way of creating suspense does not sit well with me.

There are many bad guys in the novel. There are two plot lines. One involves a murdered diver having found something and other is Alex's research being frustrated. The two come together in the end.

There does not seem to be any character growth of Alex in this novel although we do find out who her mysterious protector has been. While I think the plot is faulty, I do like the novel for all the information it contains and will be looking for the next one in the series.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

You can read my review of the first book in the series: A Solitude of Wolverines.

 

About the Author

In addition to being a writer, Alice Henderson is a wildlife sanctuary monitor, geographic information systems specialist, and bioacoustician. She documents wildlife on specialized recording equipment, checks remote cameras, creates maps, and undertakes wildlife surveys to determine what species are present on preserves, while ensuring there are no signs of poaching. She’s surveyed for the presence of grizzlies, wolves, wolverines, jaguars, endangered bats, and more. You can find out more at http://www.alicehenderson.com/

William Morrow, 352 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, September 23, 2022

Sanctuary by C L Tolbert Blog Tour and Giveaway

 

Sanctuary

by C.L. Tolbert

September 12 - October 8, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


Synopsis:

 

A Thornton Mystery

In SANCTUARY, the third book in the Thornton Mystery Series, Emma is back again. This time she’s agreed to represent a former client accused of killing the leader of a suspicious cult in New Orleans.

James Crosby, the charismatic leader of the Japaprajnas, is found dead one late afternoon, his body draped over an iron fence in the courtyard of the nineteenth-century house where he and several cult members work and live. Although police initially presumed his fall was an accident, they quickly discover that James received a lethal dose of a drug before he was pushed from his office balcony.

The next day the police discover a syringe and a substantial amount of the drug which killed James in Stacey Robert’s bedroom. The nineteen-year-old cult member is brought in for questioning, which leads to her arrest. Emma, who had represented Stacey when she was a sixteen-year-old runaway, agrees to take the case.

Convinced she is innocent Emma begins an investigation into the cult and its members. Emma’s questions uncover dangerous secrets, illicit activities, and the exploitation of innocent victims. Emma’s suspicions lead her to the killer’s trail and the case’s final resolution.

Praise for Sanctuary:

“Brace yourself. Deadly personalities, hidden agendas, and long-buried secrets threaten law professor Emma Thornton, after she agrees to defend a terrified young woman accused of murdering the charismatic leader of an oppressive cult. The dark heart of New Orleans has never felt so dangerous.”

Roger Johns, Author of the Wallace Hartman Mysteries

My Review:

This book is not so much a legal thriller as it is the story of a law professor helping a young woman accused of murder. There is a tiny bit of suspense near the end but that is not the focus of the plot by far. Some procedural details such as the taking of an affidavit are included but mostly we read of Emma going about methodically getting to the truth.

Tolbert has done a good job of immersing us in the culture of New Orleans. We really get a sense of the spiritual atmosphere in the city. There are also two major issues explored in the novel. One is being sucked into a cult. There is some good information about what makes a religious group an actual cult. Another issue deals with the parent child relationship that would cause a young person to be attracted to the cult atmosphere.

Emma is a good heroine, a law professor with a heart to help others. This is a good novel for readers who like one dealing in legal procedure with an emphasis on the discovery aspect rather than a courtroom aspect. Tolbert's writing style is an easy one to follow. This is the second novel I have read featuring Emma and you can read my review of Redemption here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

  

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: July 2022
Number of Pages: 280
ISBN: 9781685121464
Series: The Thornton Mystery Series, Book 3
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter Twelve

The French Quarter was home to Stacey. She could relax there. She loved the winding streets, the ancient buildings, the ironwork on the balconies, and the festival-like spirit of Jackson Square. Plus, it was easy to blend in. With at least as many tourists as native New Orleanians, no one stood out more than anyone else. The exceptions ˗ the homeless, the street performers, and artists ˗ were part of the scenery. They blended into the background in a multicolor splash.

She needed money and had been watching the tarot card readers in the square. They made thirty-five dollars a read, plus tips. She could do that. She’d been taught the Celtic spread years ago and still had her deck tucked away with the rest of her stuff. It had taken her a few days to get squared away. Yesterday, she’d found a discarded chair on the street in one of the residential areas of the Quarter. She knew someone who worked at a pizza place right off of Pirate’s Alley, a small street next to St. Louis Cathedral. She’d asked if she could stash the chair behind their dumpster, and he’d agreed to it. That was helpful since she could store her things close to the place where she’d be reading. Now she just needed a small table or a box and a second chair, and she’d be ready.

Even though the city required a license and permit for the artists who painted in Jackson Square, there were no such requirements for card readers. But, every once in a while, the Jackson Square artists proposed an ordinance to the City Council to remove the fortune-tellers. So far, they’d been unsuccessful, and recently the readers had come back in full force. They added an ambiance to the area, especially when they burned their incense. She liked the way it smelled.

Stacey glanced at her reflection as she walked by a shop with a large plate glass window. She still wasn’t accustomed to her new look. She’d used some of the money she’d saved to purchase hair color and had dyed her honey blonde hair a dark brown. She’d also cut it much shorter with a pair of cheap scissors in hopes of disguising her appearance. She’d done it herself, and not very well. She didn’t like the jagged ends. But overall, it worked. She had to admit she looked like a different person and thought it was possible to sit in full view in the middle of Jackson Square, conduct tarot card readings, and not be recognized. At least not by the likes of police officers or others who might be looking for her.

She crammed her hand in her pocket, making sure that the wad of dollar bills she’d neatly folded and covered with several rubber bands was still there. One of the problems of not having a place with a door to lock was that you had to carry your valuables with you. She still had some of the money she’d saved from working at the Temple. She was frugal, eating only one meal a day, and that was a cheap one. But she’d been on her own for four days, and her money would run out soon. She hoped her plan to make more money in Jackson Square was a good one.

Stacey avoided shelters. Emma knew everyone in the city who ran them and would look for her at women’s shelters before she’d look anywhere else. But Stacey had found the perfect place to stay about three miles away from the Quarter—a small chapel in the middle of a cemetery in the Bywater District. It was called St. Roch’s and was named after the patron saint of dogs, invalids, and the falsely accused. The cemetery, the street, and the surrounding community were all named after the saint. Locals mispronounced the chapel’s name, calling it St. Roach’s. Even though the structure was crumbling, it still provided the shelter Stacey needed.

St. Roch’s had been built in 1867 by a priest who had prayed to St. Roch during the yellow fever pandemic in New Orleans, asking the saint to spare his community. Ten years later, when no one from his parish had succumbed to yellow fever, he made good on his promise, built the shrine, and dedicated it to the saint. It was a small chapel comprised of only two tiny rooms. One room contained a statue of St. Roch and his loyal dog, and the other room was filled with human prostheses, braces, glass eyeballs, glasses, false teeth, and praying hands, rosaries, and religious figurines, all offered to St. Roch as thanks for healing. Bricks on the ground in that room were inscribed with the word thanks and littered with coins. Over the years, a dusty haze had settled over the various prostheses at the shrine. The walls were crumbling, and a statue of Mary had started to disintegrate. Most people considered the chapel creepy, so creepy, that they avoided it at night, although tourists occasionally visited during the day. Rumor had it that voodoo ceremonies were carried out in the cemetery after dark, although Stacey never saw anything like that. She slept in the tiny room with St. Roch and his dog.

It took between forty-five minutes and an hour to walk to the French Quarter from the chapel, depending on whether Stacey stopped for anything. She woke up early in the morning and left the chapel well before any tourists might arrive. She usually walked to Decatur Street, then down to the Riverwalk Mall, avoiding Esplanade Avenue entirely. She liked the restrooms at the mall. They were clean and usually unoccupied early in the morning. She washed up and brushed her teeth. Once, she’d even shampooed her hair. She carried her bag of dirty laundry with her and would occasionally rinse out her things in the sink. What little makeup and toiletries she needed were easily picked up from department store samples. She walked back to the chapel before dark. At night, the same laundry bag served as her pillow.

By Friday, Stacey had found the second chair, a wooden box tall enough to use as a table, and an interesting scarf someone had stuffed in a Goodwill box along the side of the road. She’d decided to throw it over the makeshift table to give her fortune-telling booth some panache. She was ready for business.

On Saturday morning, Stacey walked to the Quarter, freshened up, grabbed her table and chairs from behind the dumpster at the pizza place, and set up her tarot stand, all before ten o’clock. She was pleased with the location. Only five feet from the steps of the St. Louis Cathedral, it was a prime spot. Tourists swarmed to the cathedral at all hours of the day and were already beginning to mill about. Within fifteen minutes, a middle-aged woman wearing a baseball hat, a neon green bandana, and pink tennis shoes, approached Stacey.

“How much do you charge?”

Stacey stood, her hands behind her back, and smiled. “Thirty-five dollars.”

“How long’s the reading?”

“It’s for fifteen minutes.”

“Okay.” She looked around the square. “Looks like that’s the going rate. But you need a sign. Let’s go.”

She sat down across from Stacey, perched on the tiny seat, and waited for Stacey to shuffle the deck.

Stacey mixed the cards a couple of times, then set the stack in front of the woman.

“Cut the cards into three smaller decks.” She’d noticed a man staring at them from a distance. He was too far away to see clearly. Perhaps he was staring at someone else.

The woman cut the cards.

“Now pick one of the three decks.”

The woman chose one.

Stacey fanned the cards from the chosen deck out in front of the woman and removed the other cards. She thought the man looked familiar. He started to walk toward them. As he approached, she could tell who he was. Raphael. He stopped on the stairs of the cathedral to watch.

“Choose fourteen cards.” Stacey glanced up at Raphael. He hadn’t budged.

The woman carefully chose fourteen cards and handed them to Stacey, who began laying them out in the traditional Celtic cross. The woman had chosen the King of Pentacles as card one, crossed by the Tower. The King of Pentacles, which represented business acumen, was in the position of present influence. And the Tower, which was a card of catastrophic or shocking change, and chaos, crossed the King, indicating the nature of his obstacles. The third card, placed under the cross, was the Death card. Death also represented change, and even occasionally, but rarely, death. Stacey froze. Had the cards picked up on what had happened to James instead of the woman’s situation?

Stacey sensed movement and glanced up. She flinched when she saw Raphael walking toward their table. Raphael stopped about a foot away from where she was reading, stopped, then crossed his arms.

“This is a private reading.” Stacey stopped laying out cards. Her heart was pounding.

“Interesting that you got the death card, don’t you think?”

“Sir, please leave. This isn’t any of your concern.” She didn’t want him drawing attention to her. She just wanted him to go away.

“I’ll leave. Sorry I interrupted.” He nodded toward Stacey’s client. “Thousand pardons, ma’am.”

“If you haven’t cut into my fifteen minutes, I’m fine.”

“Of course not.” Stacey smiled at the woman. “You’ll get your full reading.” She stood and turned toward Raphael. “We have nothing further to discuss.”

Raphael shrugged. “I’ve been worried about you, and so are a couple of other people. And just in case you thought that new hair color was a disguise, let me just tell you it isn’t. If I know who you are, so will others. They’d be very interested in knowing where you are now and what you’re doing.” He nodded toward the cards in her hand. “Good luck with that.”

“You need to leave immediately.”

Raphael started backing away. “I’ll be back.” He put his hand to his forehead in a farewell salute. “You can count on that.”

Stacey didn’t know if Raphael was threatening or warning her. But she knew she didn’t want him to come back to the Quarter to see her anytime soon.

Stacey glanced back at her client. “I’m so sorry for the interruption. Where were we?” She sat back down. “Oh yes.” She examined the cards. “Has a man in your life undergone a significant change, the end of a relationship, or even a death?”

“No, not that I know of.”

“Alright, well, let’s proceed.” Stacey watched as Raphael retreated across the square and took a right at Pirate’s Alley.

She continued to lay out cards for the woman.

The fourth card, the card of past events, was the seven of swords, the card of deception. As far as she was concerned, that card certainly applied to James. He’d deceived her from the very beginning. She’d fallen for his tricks. She couldn’t see through his deception at first, but she caught on, finally. The fifth card, the card of the present, was the Chariot, the card of courage and movement. She smiled. She was hoping to do something about the mess she’d gotten herself in. At least she wasn’t sitting in jail like a scared rabbit. For the final card in the cross, the card of the near future, the woman had drawn Justice. She held the final card in her hand for a couple of seconds before laying it down in front of the woman. Even though she hadn’t drawn the cards, Stacey still believed they were telling her story, not the woman’s. Justice, the card of fair decisions, gave her comfort.

“The final outcome, Justice, relates to karmic justice. It refers to legal matters as well, but generally, it’s telling you that all actions have consequences. Have your own actions contributed in any way to any of the circumstances you find yourself in today?”

The woman nodded. “I can see that they have. I’m not sure that a man in my life has met any sort of catastrophic end, though. Maybe something’s coming up. I hope not.” She shook her head, reached into her pocket, and handed Stacey three tens and a five. “That was fun. I love getting tarot readings.”

Stacey watched the woman walk off and thought about the consequences of her recent actions. She’d been trying to avoid that for months. It was so easy to blame others. It was also easy to turn a blind eye to what was going on in front of you. She was young, but she wasn’t stupid.

That day she had four other readings, making a total of $175.00. She was stunned. She’d made money at the temple, but they held on to it for her rent and food. So, she’d never had much cash, even though the temple made seventy-five dollars per massage. She packed up for the night, brought her table and chairs back to the pizza restaurant, stashed them behind the dumpster again, and tipped the manager. She was glad she knew the guy. That was the thing about New Orleans. If you knew how to get around, you could make things work for you, even though it could be a dangerous place.

She was starved and decided to treat herself to a shrimp po’ boy from Felix’s on Bourbon. She hadn’t had one in forever, and she felt like celebrating. And now that she had enough cash to last a few days, she could afford it. Plus, she wanted to walk by ETC to talk to the girl who was working in the back of the shop. She didn’t know who it was, and she didn’t care. But she hoped she could work out a deal with her. Pay her a little cash and get her to leave the back door open so she could start sleeping there at night instead of St. Roch’s. The chapel floor wasn’t comfortable, and the cemetery wasn’t safe at night. An option would be nice. It was worth a try.

***

Excerpt from Sanctuary by C.L. Tolbert. Copyright 2022 by C.L. Tolbert. Reproduced with permission from C.L. Tolbert. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

After winning the Georgia State Bar Journal's fiction contest in 2010, C.L. Tolbert developed the winning story into a full-scale novel. OUT FROM SILENCE was published in December of 2019, and is the first novel in the Thornton Mysteries series. Her second book, THE REDEMPTION, was published in February of 2021, and SANCTUARY, the third book in the series, was published in July of 2022.

Licensed in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia, C.L. practiced law for thirty-five years before retiring to pursue writing. During her legal career she spent several years teaching at Loyola Law School in New Orleans, where she was the Director of the Homeless Clinic. She also has a Masters of Special Education, and taught in a public school prior to enrolling in law school.

C.L. has two children and three grandchildren, and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and schnauzer.

Catch Up With C.L. Tolbert:
www.CLTolbert.com
Goodreads
Instagram - @cltolbertwrites
Twitter - @cltolbertwrites
Facebook - @cltolbertwriter

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and give away entries!
Click here to view Sanctuary by CL Tolbert Tour Hosts.

 

Giveaway:

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for C.L. Tolbert. 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, September 22, 2022

In the Pines by Kendra Elliot

About the Book

A national treasure hunt with a $2 million prize has driven obsessed fortune seekers to overrun the small town of Eagle’s Nest, Oregon. The hunt’s cryptic clues and the lure of wealth have exposed the desperate side of human greed: theft, fights, trespassing—and even the motive to kill. Police chief Truman Daly craves peace in his town but has a murder on his hands instead. Now the big prize isn’t the only thing hiding in the pines. So is a killer.

When a young boy walks into the local café and claims his mother and baby sister have been missing for weeks, FBI special agent Mercy Kilpatrick investigates and exposes a disturbing twist in his story. Deep family secrets and lies that started sixty years ago have burst into the present, bringing with them deadly consequences.

Mercy’s and Truman’s investigations lead down a path of murder, revenge, and buried secrets to uncover two intertwined mysteries as dark as an Oregon forest.

My Review


This is the first book I have read by Elliot. I like her writing style. There is a good balance of the lives of Mercy, Truman and Evan with the ongoing investigation of a missing woman and child. I like the information about preppers and some considering themselves sovereign citizens, arguing they do not have to pay taxes.

While the plot progresses nicely, I am not sure it works well. The missing woman goes where to find help? The very people her husband did not trust? That just did not work. The treasure hunt was a nice side story, providing murders and some excitement. It also showed what people would do from greed.

I like the setting of the area around Bend, Oregon, the good characters, but a plot that doesn't work all the way.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author


Kendra Elliot
is a 
Wall Street Journal bestseller and is the award-winning author of the Bone Secrets and Callahan & McLane series, the Mercy Kilpatrick novels, and the Columbia River novels. She’s a three-time winner of the Daphne du Maurier Award, an International Thriller Writers Award finalist, and an RT Award finalist. She was born and raised in the rainy Pacific Northwest but now lives in flip-flops. Visit her at www.kendraelliot.com.

Montlake, 333 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.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

To Win a Prince by Toni Shiloh

About the Book:


Can she stop herself from falling before she's too far gone?

As a fashion aficionado and best friend of the queen of the African island country Ọlọrọ Ilé, Iris Blakely dreams of using her talent to start a sustainable clothing line to help citizens in impoverished areas and honor the country's resources. But when she discovers that Ekon Diallo--the man who betrayed her best friend--will be her business consultant, the battle between her desires and reality begins.

Ekon Diallo has lost everything: his princely title, his material possessions, his friends, and the respect of his fellow Ọlọrans. To pay for his actions against Ọlọrọ Ilé, he's forced to assist the charismatic Iris Blakely--but he can't allow his heart to distract him from regaining his status.

Though they come from vastly different worlds, Iris and Ekon are both determined to reach their goals, and the only way to do that is to work together--if they can just keep their hearts from getting in the way . . .

You can read an excerpt here.

My Review:


This is the second novel in a series and, while it reads relatively well on its own, one should read the previous book to totally appreciate this one. You can read my review of In Search of a Prince here.

Readers are taken to a fictitious nation in Africa where a royal is about to get a lesson in the consequences of wrong doing. Ekon's story is a good example of a snob, a man ungrateful for all the benefits he has from wealth. We wonder if God will change him. He would be a good man for Iris, a woman who wants to see the women of the country succeed. She is a good example of a person with the desire to be the hands of Jesus, helping others in the world.

The plot explores several issues. One is trying to see the best in a person, especially when they have really messed up their life. Another issue concerns the struggle one might face when admitting there is a God and coming to the point of belief. There is also the issue of having success and not wanting to admit needing the Lord at all.

While the plot is the typical romance and the outcome predictable, Shiloh provides a good setting with a different culture and social issues involved. The only thing I did not like about the novel was the multiple points of view, a writing style I just do not like and find disconcerting.

While this novel wraps up the immediate story, I could see a sequel as Iris' brother is now on the scene.

Ny rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author:


Toni Shiloh
 (www.tonishiloh.com) is a wife, mom, and multi-published Christian contemporary romance author. Her novel In Search of a Prince has been praised by OprahDaily.com, Popsugar, Library Journal, and Booklist, and is a Parable bestseller. Her books have been finalists for the HOLT Medallion and the Selah Award. As a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Toni loves connecting with readers and authors alike via social media.

Bethany House Publishers, 368 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.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Take Heart: Daily Devotions to Deepen Your Faith by David Powlison

About the Book:

It’s easy to lose heart in a world where many things can and do go wrong. Life is difficult, and there are struggles within and without, but we can take heart—the Lord is with us. He hears our cries for mercy. He knows our every need. He guides us, helps us, and strengthens us with his mighty right arm. Journey through a year with David Powlison, learning to “take heart” by meditating on his favorite Scripture passages, hymns, and biblical themes, exploring the ways God meets us with daily grace right where we live.

Drawn from David Powlison’s many decades of writing, teaching, and speaking, Take Heart is a yearlong devotional journey into the process of biblical change, where truth becomes clearer and our ears hear and our eyes see what God tells us about himself.

Learn to go to God for the help you need and hold fast to the daily mercy and grace he offers. And be reminded the promises of God are true and that the resurrection of Jesus guarantees that no matter what you may be facing, you can live in real hope. 

My Review:

This is a daily devotion for Christians who are serious about growing in their faith. The collection from Powlison's writings contains a good balance of biblical encouragement and exhortation. Readers will be both comforted in times of difficulty and admonished to grow through them. I was happy to see the readings have practical applications. An example is January 26 where Powlison gives specific Bible passages to read as relevant to particular issues. Has someone been mean to you? Read Psalm 10.

While many of the devotions are designed to help in time of need, some contain great teaching on growth. Regarding 1 Timothy 1:5, “A 'good conscience' means you are learning to evaluate all things as they truly are. You are reorienting to God's own evaluation of himself and you, other people and circumstances, right and wrong, true and false, worthy and worthless.” (January 22) That shed new light on the meaning of the passage and required some time to think about what it really means to have a good conscience.

The book is a great collection of devotions for Christians who really want to grow in their faith. You will be comforted but you will also be challenged. Powlison had a good understanding of the condition of humans and their need for God, reflected in these devotions.

My rating: 5/5 stars. 


About the Author:


David Powlison, MDiv, PhD,(1949–2019) was a teacher, counselor, and the executive director of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). He wrote many books and minibooks, including 
Speaking Truth in LoveSeeing with New EyesGood and Angry, Making All Things NewGod's Grace in Your SufferingSafe and Sound, and Take Heart. David was also the editor of The Journal of Biblical Counseling

New Growth Press, 416 pages.

I received a complimentary digital 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.)

Monday, September 19, 2022

Finding Grace by Chip Tudor

About the Book

Jack is hired to find Grace Miller, a freshman at the University of Dayton who is missing. Her trail follows a descending path of degradation. And Jack, a new Christ-follower, must investigate with his faith intact.

Can he find Grace and if so, in what condition? Will he maintain his Christian integrity as he navigates a labyrinth of immorality? And finally, will he ultimately discover the meaning of experiencing freedom through God’s grace?

In a second storyline that began in Soul Pursuit, Jack seeks to expose Paxco, LLC, a company buying all the property in his neighborhood. Who owns it and what are they up to? The answer poses a greater threat than to just his neighborhood.

 

My Review

This is the second in a series but reads quite well on its own. You can read my review of the first one: Soul Pursuit.

Jack is a private detective and I like how he methodically follows leads to complete his assignment. In that respect, this novel is a good detective procedure one. Tudor adds a nice balance of Jack's private life with his investigative work. Jack is a new Christian and I really like how Tudor relates Jack's struggles to figure out this new life. In that respect, Tudor's novels are probably the best I have read when it comes to portraying the reality of living the Christian life. Tudor is also a clever writer with some great humor and pithy lines. My favorite in this novel might be on Jack observing a young fellow on a college campus constantly flicking and preening his hair, either a sign of sexiness or flees.

Tudor has included serious issues in his plot, such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation and getting sucked into a cult. Those make for good heroic work by Jack. But my favorite aspect of the novel is Jack growing in his Christian life. It is really authentic. I do hope there are more novels featuring Jack as he navigates his new spiritual reality while opposing the bad guys.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author

Chip Tudor has a diverse background. He has a degree in Police Administration from Eastern Kentucky University, a Master's degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati, and a Master's degree in Religious Education from Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. His work experience is also diverse, from construction to private investigator to freelance copywriter. You can find out more at https://chiptudor.com/.

Independently published, 220 pages.

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

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

Brain Washed by Manny Arango

About the Book


How to Be Mentally Strong in Christ

You can either take your thoughts captive or be held captive by them. The choice is yours.


Scripture declares we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Manny Arango describes this process as God washing our brains, and it is the surest way to overcome anxious thoughts, self-doubt, bitterness, and other mental struggles. But how can we experience this healing power?

This book is a biblical roadmap for winning the battles in your mind. Identify faulty ways of thinking and learn how to take every thought captive under the authority of Christ.

You can read an excerpt here.

My Review


Every one of us is brainwashed, Arango writes. It's a result of the Fall. We are either brainwashed by the serpent or by God. We can choose to have our brains washed by God's truth, adopting the Mind of Christ.

Arango combines personal experiences with biblical teaching to help us on the journey. Many believers are still operating with a fallen mind and we are encouraged to put effort into the life long process of renewing our minds. Arango focuses on three areas: intimacy with God, identity within self, and interdependence with others.

I appreciate Arango's teaching. I liked his ideas on blessings, that they are difficult to identify immediately. Blessings may be camouflaged as seeds within difficult situations. He gives a good personal experience in illustration. I like his emphasis on controlling thoughts. He has an insight on the woman with the issue of blood I had never seen before, “because she thought.” A surprise was Arango saying to adopt the Mind of Christ, “we have to first adopt the habits of Christ and use His life as a blueprint for the pattern and pace of our lives.” (81) That is a challenge.

The last section of Arango's book is about generating and controlling thoughts. He shares his own experience in failing to control his thoughts. (177) He emphasizes our need to control our focus, to break soul ties and other acts of cutting off unwanted influence. While we are encouraged to actively use our minds for the glory of God, I was disappointed there was no practical strategy included.

This book contains good teaching but readers might have to figure out on their own how to do what Arango encourages.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author


Manny Arango 
is a teaching pastor at Social Dallas and the founder of ARMA (Latin for "armor"), a ministry that offers original online courses about the Bible and theology. Manny and his wife, Tia, live in Dallas with their son Theophilus. Learn more at mannyarango.comPhoto Credit: © Jermey Moore Photography

Bethany House Publishers, 208 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, September 18, 2022

Intergalactic Exterminators Inc by Ash Bishop Blog Tour and Giveaway

Intergalactic Exterminators Inc

by Ash Bishop

September 1-30, 2022 Virtual Book Tour
 

Synopsis:

 

Finding work is easy. Staying alive is a little bit harder.


When Russ Wesley finds an unusual artifact in his grandfather’s collection of rare antiquities, the last thing he expects is for it to draw the attention of a ferocious alien from a distant planet. Equally surprising is the adventurous team of intergalactic exterminators dispatched to deal with the alien threat. They’re a little wild, and a little reckless. Worse yet, they’re so impressed with Russ’s marksmanship that they insist he join their squad . . . whether he wants to or not.

Praise for Intergalactic Exterminators, Inc:

"This book is so much fun it ought to be illegal in all known galaxies. Ash Bishop has written a wildly imagined, deeply felt, swashbuckling page turner. I loved it."
Jesse Kellerman, New York Times bestselling author of The Burning


Book Details

Genre: Science Fiction 
Published by: Camcat Books 
Publication Date: September 6th 2022 
Number of Pages: 416 
ISBN: 0744305616 (ISBN13: 9780744305616) 
 

My Review:

What a crazy science fiction adventure. There are scary alien beings. There are technically advanced gadgets. There are life and death situations and amazing rescues. There is some weird humor, some tongue in cheek.

Russ is a fun hero. He's a nice guy and manages to hold his own against a dangerous universe. I like how he outwits robots with his quirky logical statements. There is a great deal of action in the novel and not as much character development as I'd like.

I did feel the book was too long, containing somewhat repetitive adventures. There was also a good deal of foul language and some blatant sexual innuendos. In general, I liked the quirky adventure and recommend it to science fiction aficionados.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

RUSS
Russ woke up lying flat on the ground, his mind foggy as hell. He could smell blood. When he reached forward as gingerly as possible, his muscles screamed at the movement. He was on his back. The forest trees waved down at him, blocking out the faint moonlight. He took a couple of deep breaths and reached forward again, groping around in the darkness. His hand came back slick with blood and fur and leaves. And then he heard voices. “. . . do you want to do this, then?” “I just wouldn’t call this tracking, is all. The blood trail’s three feet across. A tiny baby could follow this trail.” “Show me that baby.” “Shhh. Both of you, quiet. Something’s registering on the heat index.” The confusion and pain made it hard to think. Are these locals . . .? he thought. He fumbled in his pocket, looking for his flashlight but also testing for further damage. His hand found the light. It illuminated the small clearing. The deer’s corpse was just a few feet away, right where he’d shot it, but it wasn’t whole. Something had torn off its back legs, shearing straight through the muscle and bone. Russ took a deep breath but didn’t let his body or mind react to the sight of the carnage. Seconds later, the strangers’ flashlights found him. “He’s over here. To our left.” Russ heard three or four people hurrying through the brush. A woman in all black stepped into the clearing. Her brown hair was tied back in a bun, and she had a long steel shotgun in her hands. An odd earring twinkled in her ear. “You okay, son?” she asked, crouching down to place her hands on his chest. She stared into his eyes, examining him. “Looks like you’re going into shock. Just stay on your back and concentrate on breathing.” A man followed shortly after her. He glanced around, holding up a funny-looking flashlight to cast out the darkness. “He’s alone,” the man confirmed. “Are you from around here?” he asked Russ. “I’m from California,” Russ groaned. “I don’t know what that means,” the man said. “Just hold still,” the woman said. She pulled a gadget from her pack. The end telescoped out like an antenna. Russ watched as an aqua blue light shone down from the device, running across his entire body. He flinched as it reached his face, and even that small movement caused his lungs to burst with pain. “He’s got four broken ribs, a hairline fracture in the left wrist and a torn hamstring. Did you see what hit you?” the woman asked him. Russ tried to think. “No.” The word was as much a groan as anything else. “Tell us what you remember.” Russ rolled over onto his side. It hurt badly. Now that she’d pointed out the injuries, everything was localized. His ribs throbbed. His wrist felt hollow. His left leg was pierced with pain. “I was driving down Route Eighty-Nine, and a deer . . .” Russ pointed to the half deer corpse beside him. “. . . this deer dashed in front of my car. I knew I’d injured it by the sound it made when it hit the bumper, but I didn’t think I’d have to chase it this far into the woods to put it out of its misery.” Russ took a moment to swallow. “After I shot it, I—I was kneeling, jacking out the leftover rifle shells. But then . . . I was flipping through the air. I think I hit that tree right behind me.” The woman looked back at the tree. “It’s pretty splintered up.” “I was flying upside down. Backwards.” “Can you walk?” the man asked. Two more women, dressed in the same black combat gear, entered the clearing. They both had long rifles slung over their backs. Russ glanced at the newcomers, his eyes lingering on the guns. They weren’t locals. He could tell that much. “Who are you guys?” “Just local hunters,” one of the newcomers said. “Sure,” Russ said. “Tell me what hit you,” the first woman said firmly. “’I don’t know. A meteor? A buffalo? Maybe . . . a . . . rig?” The woman pulled a roll of pills from a MOLLE strap on her backpack. “Swallow two of these. They’re going to kill the pain.” Russ chewed the pills. Their chalky taste filled his mouth and crept up his nose. “They won’t cure any of the damage. You’re going to feel fine, but you’re not fine. Move carefully until you can get proper medical treatment. The road is two miles north. Can you reach it without help?” Russ nodded. Whatever she gave him was blazing through his bloodstream, kicking the fog and ache off every organ that it passed. “What’d I just eat?” “Two miles north. Don’t stop for any reason.” One of the newcomers, a well-muscled young woman with close-cropped brown hair, glanced at the half deer corpse lying next to Russ. Its blood had sprayed a pattern across the splintered tree. “Look at the animal, Kendren,” she said. The guy, Kendren, shone his flashlight over the deer corpse. “Whoa,” he said. “We definitely found what we’re looking for.” “You really chummed the water with this stag,” the short-haired woman told Russ. “Kendren, Starland, mouths shut,” the first woman said, making a slashing gesture. She pulled Russ to his feet. He gritted his teeth against the pain, but it was gone. Kendren and Starland stayed huddled around the deer, crouched low, inspecting where the hindquarters had been sheared off the bone. Kendren looked at the deer's head and saw where Russ had shot it. “You make this shot?” he asked Russ. “In the dark?” “Yeah.” “Was the deer already dead? Were you a foot away? Point blank?” “No. I was up on a ledge over by the river. Forty feet in that direction.” Russ pointed up the gradual incline. Kendren was still looking at the dead deer. “You shot it between the eyes, from forty feet, in the dark?” “Yeah. I guess.” “Head on back to the highway,” the woman said firmly. “You should start now. It might be dangerous to stay here.” The way she was looking at him, Russ kind of figured she meant that she was what was dangerous. If he didn’t do what she said. “I just need to find my grandpa’s rifle first,” Russ told her. She grabbed him by the arm. Her grip was incredibly strong. In the light from her flashlight her eyes seemed almost purple. “Start walking toward—” Before she could finish her sentence, the third woman, who’d melted back into the darkness, stepped forward again. “Cut the light,” she hissed. “It’s here.” Something came crashing through the brush, making a howling sound. It wasn’t a sound Russ had ever heard before. It was a deep rumbling growl, followed by a pitched screech that made the hair on his arms stand up. Branches were snapping, and he could hear claws scraping on rock. It was still thirty feet south, but it scared the hell out of him. “‘El Toreador.’ You’re up,” the woman hissed. The girl they called El Toreador had been on lookout. She was far enough into the darkness that Russ could barely see her, just a wisp of thick brown hair bobbing in the darkness—that is, until she pounded her chest with her fist. The vest lit up red, casting shadows across the trees. “My real name’s Atara,” she told Russ quickly. Then: “Don’t look so worried. We’re professionals.” “Starland, hit her with the hormone.” “The vest is enough,” Atara growled. Starland slipped back into the light. She was carrying some kind of tube that looked like a pool toy. She pushed hard against the end, blasting thick goo all over the other woman. “Hurry up. It’s almost here.” Russ was scrambling around in the brush, looking everywhere for his rifle when the creature burst through the perimeter glow of his tiny flashlight. Atara’s vest reflected off its face, bathing it in red light. It was all fangs and claws, huge, twice the size of a grizzly bear and full of rippling muscles stretched out in terrifying feline grace. It leaped at Atara, but midflight it caught the scent of the goo and reoriented to the left, bumping her off her feet but not harming her. The huge cat-thing landed softly, immediately turning toward the fallen woman, sniffing the air, growling, and bobbing its head. “It’s got the scent. The big kitty’s feeling amorous,” Kendren yelled. He, Starland, and the other woman all had their rifles raised. They were tracking the cat, ready to fire. Atara looked pissed, sprawled on the ground with her legs splayed. “Knock it down. We’re authorized for lethal. What are you waiting for?” she shouted. The creature was fully in the light now. It looked a lot like a tiger, but it was at least six times the size, with wavy, shaggy hair. “What the hell is it?” Russ shouted. The feline was practically straddling Atara. “I don’t like how it’s looking at me. Come on, shoot!” she demanded. The creature batted a paw, claws extended, and tore the glowing vest off her chest. It drew the vest up to its nose, sniffed, and started to growl again. Then the huge beast paused, slowly turning away from Atara. It sniffed the air, shoulders hunched, fur on the scruff of its neck rising. As it turned, its deep onyx eyes looked squarely at Russ. It growled and took a step toward him. Russ thought his heart had been beating hard before, but as the huge cat glided toward him, the thudding in his chest was so loud it drowned out every other sound. He didn’t even hear the discharge of Starland’s shotgun, two feet away from the monster. The wad of pellets sprayed against the creature’s flank and it howled, tearing away into the darkness so fast Russ didn’t even see it move. Atara scrambled to her feet and dropped her rifle. “Did you see that? A direct hit and no penetration. I told you Earth tech was garbage. What is this? The thirteenth century? I’m powering up.” The first woman—the one with the purple eyes—glanced at Russ. She was short, wiry, with the powerful shoulders of a linebacker. Russ realized she was the leader of . . . whoever these people were. “When are you going to learn to keep your mouth shut?” she barked at Atara. “You already used the CRC wand on him.” “Two hours of mandatory training videos. The second this is over.” “I’d rather be cat food than watch those again,” Atara said. “You skip the videos and I’ll send you back through CERT training.” Atara wasn’t really listening. She crashed off through the brush in the direction of the big cat. Nodding toward Russ, the woman shouted, “Kendren, you’ve got containment.” Then she disappeared into the darkness. Starland drew a pistol from her belt and followed. “Containment? More like babysitting,” Kendren grumbled. “I should be the one doing the good stuff.” He glanced in the direction they’d gone. Russ kind of agreed. Kendren was huge, at least six-five, and covered from head to toe with what Russ’s cousin had always called beach muscles. He had thick, wavy hair down to his shoulders. Out in the darkness, Russ could see the others’ flashlights bobbing up and down. They were headed up an incline, probably straight toward the bank of the river. “Was it my imagination, or was the cat more interested in you than the vest covered in mating hormone?” Kendren asked. At first, Russ didn’t answer. Finally, he said, “What would make it do that?” “No idea. It’s supposed to follow the hormone. What’s better than sex?” Kendren shook his head, seemingly unable to answer his own question. He frowned slightly. “The only thing I’ve seen them more interested in is an Obinz stone. You ever seen an Obinz stone? They’re about this big”—Kendren held his hands six inches apart—“usually green, with yellow veins running all along the edges? I don’t think they’re native to . . . this area.” Kendren looked around in distaste. “But I’ve seen these cats jump planets just to get near one if it’s in an unrefined state. An Obinz stone is basically intergalactic catnip.” “I’ve never seen one,” Russ told him. His voice wavered slightly, but Kendren didn’t seem to notice. “Then we better shut this vest down,” Kendren said. He stepped up onto a boulder and reached high into a tree, grabbing the vest from where the cat had tossed it. He folded the vest up and tucked it under his arm. “I’m not even sure how to turn it off,” he said. “That was a saber-toothed tiger, right? You guys cloning stuff? Is this Jurassic World or something?” Russ rubbed his temple. His questions were coming so fast, they were jumbled in his mouth. Kendren had just said intergalactic, and something about jumping planets, but here in the dark Wyoming forest, six miles from his grandmother’s house, he wasn’t yet ready to face those pieces of information. Kendren threw the vest on the ground and raised his rifle, pumping a slug into it. It kept glowing. “Damn. It’s pretty important I get this thing turned off.” Starland’s discarded rifle was just a few feet away. While Kendren kicked at the vest with his boot heel, Russ inched toward it. “Touch the weapon and I’ll shoot you in the face,” Kendren said. He stomped on the vest again. The flashlights were way north now, probably on the other side of the river. Russ could hear the distant voices arguing about which way the big cat went. The voices were so loud, neither Kendren nor Russ heard the cat until it was right in front of them, growling, hissing, and spitting. It stalked into the circumference of the faint red light from the vest. Kendren was still standing on the vest, his rifle slung over his shoulder. Beside him, the cat was enormous, twice as tall as a man. It crouched down, looking him straight in the eye. “I’m dead,” he said quietly. The creature coiled back on its powerful flanks and threw itself forward like a bullet. Its wicked claws stretched out, razored edges slashing at Kendren’s neck and chest. Russ kicked Starland’s gun off the ground, caught it, leveled it, and fired. The bullet split the cat’s eye socket, ripping through its optic nerve and straight into its brain. Momentum carried the dead body forward on its trajectory, smashing into Kendren and pinning him to the earth. A few moments later, the rest of the team returned, clambering through the thick brush. The leader approached the enormous beast and nudged it with her boot. “Is it dead, Bah’ren?” Atara asked, her gun still pointed at the fallen creature. “Sure is,” the leader, Bah’ren, responded. The wind was starting to pick up, blowing the branches of the trees, shaking off a few dead leaves. “How about Kendren?” “Negative,” Bah’ren said. “Get it off me,” Kendren demanded. “It’s gotta weigh nine hundred pounds.” “How many intergalactic laws do you think we’ve broken here?” Atara asked. She moved next to Bah’ren, looking down at Kendren with an expression that was half pity and half amusement. He had managed to sit up, but his legs were still wedged under the huge carcass. “Including the law about referencing intergalactic law on a tier-nine planet?” Bah’ren asked. “You guys are being a little careless,” Starland said. “Not our fault this thing was a hundred miles off course. The MUPmap promised there wouldn’t be any tier-nine bios in the vicinity.” “What are we supposed to do now?” Atara said, nodding toward Russ. “Oh, we’re conscripting him, for sure.” Bah’ren said. “Really?” Atara said. “We’re getting another human?” “Who? Who do you mean?” Russ asked. He glanced back in the direction of the highway. His eyes were starting to adjust to the dark again, and he could make out a thick copse of trees just a dozen or so yards away. “Get the huge beast off me,” Kendren insisted. Bah’ren moved to one side of the big cat and dug her powerful shoulders into it. Starland ran over to join her, wedging one arm against the creature’s flank, but putting her other arm around the waist of the woman giving the orders. “Atara, come on. You, new guy, we could use your help too. It’s heavy as hell.” Russ half ran over to them and dug his side into the creature. Its hairy skin sloshed around against the pressure, but the four of them eventually got it moving. “Roll it the other way!” Kendren demanded. “Its penis is right next to my face.” They kept rolling, and Kendren kept protesting, as the great shaggy cat slowly grinded over his shoulders and face. Gravity finally caught hold of its weight and the corpse flopped to the ground. The three in black all chuckled as Kendren spit out the taste of cat testicle. “Oh, that’s what you meant. Sorry about that,” Starland said, laughing. Kendren crawled onto his knees, still hacking and spitting. He stopped for a minute and looked at the cat’s face, poking a finger in the thing’s empty eye socket and wiggling it around. “Another hell of a shot.” “The debriefing wasn’t just wrong about location,” Atara said. “The creature’s fur is like steel mesh. Our bullets were doing jackshit.” Kendren rolled up onto his knees, both hands propped on his thighs. “You saved my life,” he told Russ. “No problem,” Russ said. It was the last thing Russ said before he dropped the rifle and sprinted full speed back toward the safety of the trees. He was running as fast as he could, pumping his arms, banging his shins on rocks, bumping past pines, carelessly plunging through the dark. He’d only gotten about twenty yards, running full speed, when something metal slapped around his ankle. It tipped him off balance and, for the second time that night, he could feel himself careening head over heels. He hit a tree, again, then slowly slipped out of consciousness. --- Excerpt from Intergalactic Exterminators Inc by Ash Bishop. Copyright © 2022 by Ash Bishop. Reproduced with permission from Ash Bishop. All rights reserved.
 

Author Bio:


Ash Bishop is a lifetime reader and a lifetime nerd, loving all things science fiction and fantasy. He has been a high school English teacher, and worked in the video game industry, as well as in educational app development. He even used to fetch coffee for Quentin Tarantino during the production of the film Jackie Brown. Bishop currently produces script coverage for a major Hollywood studio, but he spends his best days at home in Southern California with his wonderful wife and two wonderful children. He earned an MFA in Creative Writing from San Diego State University. This is his debut novel.

 

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I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Providence Book Promotions. 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.)