Saturday, May 27, 2017

Dream a Little Death by Susan Kandel Giveaway

Dream A Little Death

by Susan Kandel

on Tour May 23 - June 23, 2017

Synopsis:


From critically acclaimed author Susan Kandel comes a charming new mystery featuring Dreama Black and a cast of zany LA-based characters.

The first time I set eyes on Miles McCoy, I worried he might try to eat me. He was the size and girth of a North American grizzly, with long, silver-tipped hair, a long silver-tipped beard, and small dark eyes that bore into me like I was a particularly fine specimen of Chinook salmon. It couldn't have helped that I'd used a honey scrub the morning we met. I should've known better. Not just about the scrub, but about a lot of things.
Like braving the freeway during rush hour.
Like thinking you can't get a ticket for parking at a broken meter.
Like racing up to his penthouse in gladiator sandals, and expecting not to twist an ankle.
Like watching his fiancée shoot herself, and assuming it was suicide, instead of murder.

Meet Dreama Black. A 28 year-old, third-generation groupie trying to figure out who she is after being publicly dumped by the rock god whose mega-hit, "Dreama, Little Dreama" made the name and the girl world-famous. Now Dreama supports herself by running custom-designed, themed tours of her hometown of L.A. When she is hired by a Raymond Chandler-obsessed rap producer to create a "L.A. noir" tour as his present to his soon-to-be bride, Dreama gets pulled into the middle of a possible murder, corrupt cops, and an unforgettable pair of femme fatales.


My Review:

I enjoyed this mystery and the journey through the film noir of Los Angeles. Dreama is a well crafted character. I like how she accidentally gets caught up in a possible murder investigation and pursues the truth in her own bumbling way. Many of the characters lie to Dreama so she has to uncover layers of deceit. Her amateur investigation takes readers through the shady part of Los Angeles, visiting sophisticated strip clubs and encountering a number of thugs.
There are many references in the book to film noir, including quotes from the movies and places where action was filmed. People who love that genre of the film industry will find that aspect of the plot very interesting.
I found the promiscuity in the novel disconcerting. While there were no graphic descriptions of sexual encounters, I didn't like the frequent casual sex and references to previous encounters, Dreama's mother and grandmother included.
I recommend this novel to readers who would like a complex plot involving layers of lies and deceit and who don't mind a romp through the seedier part of Los Angeles. You'll learn quite a bit about film noir along the way.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: May 23rd 2017
Number of Pages: 304
ISBN: 0062674994 (ISBN13: 9780062674999)
Series: A Dreama Black Mystery, 1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1
The first time I set eyes on Miles McCoy, I worried he might try to eat me. He was the size and girth of a North American grizzly bear, with long silver-tipped hair, a long silver-tipped beard, and small dark eyes that bore into me like I was a particularly fine specimen of Chinook salmon. It couldn’t have helped that I’d used a honey scrub the morning we met. I should’ve known better. Not just about the scrub, but about a lot of things.
Like braving the freeway during rush hour.
Like thinking you can’t get a ticket for parking at a broken meter.
Like racing up to his penthouse in Balenciaga gladiator sandals, and expecting not to twist an ankle.
Like watching his fiancée shoot herself, and assuming it was suicide, instead of murder.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, which is another thing I should know better about. Because if I’ve learned anything at all from my study of film noir (which got me into the whole sordid Miles McCoy mess to begin with), it is to tell the story in the precise order in which it happened.
The trouble started the day before, which was Valentine’s Day, a pagan holiday named after the Roman priest who defied Claudius II by marrying Christian couples. After being hauled off in shackles, the soft-hearted cleric was beaten with clubs, stoned, and when that didn’t finish him off, publicly beheaded. Makes you think.
It had poured rain for eight days running, which isn’t what you sign on for when you live in Los Angeles. But that morning, as I stepped outside for a run, the sun was blinding—so blinding, in fact, that I didn’t see the fragrant valentine my neighbor’s dog, Engelbart, had left on the stoop for me. Not that I minded spending the next twenty minutes cleaning the grooves of my running shoe with a chopstick. It was a beautiful day. The rollerbladers were cruising the Venice boardwalk. The scent of medical marijuana was wafting through the air. Engelbart’s gastrointestinal tract was sound.
An hour later, I hopped into my mint green 1975 Mercedes convertible, and made my way up Lincoln to the freeway. I was headed to Larchmont, an incongruous stretch of Main Street, USA, sandwiched between Hollywood and Koreatown. This was where studio executives’ wives and their private school daughters came for green juice, yoga pants, and the occasional wrench from the general store that had served Hancock Park since the 1930s. It was also where my mother and grandmother ran Cellar Door, known for its chia seed porridge and life-positive service. I helped out whenever my coffers were running low. Which was most of the time.
You are probably frowning right about now. Surely a young woman who owns a classic convertible—as well as Balenciaga gladiators—should not be perennially low on funds. But it’s true.
The car came from my grandmother, who received it as part of her third (fourth?) divorce settlement and gave it to me as a gift when I strong-armed my mother into rehab for the fourth (fifth?) time. The sandals I purchased online in a frenzy of self-loathing shortly after watching my ex-boyfriend the rock god serenading his current girlfriend the supermodel on an otherwise uneventful episode of Ellen. I’d tried to return the sandals, but one of the studs had fallen off, making them damaged goods. Like their owner. Not that I’m hard on myself. It’s just that my career—I take clients on custom-designed, private tours of my hometown of L.A.—wasn’t exactly thriving, which is why I was easy prey for the likes of Miles McCoy. But I’m getting ahead of myself again. Here comes the good part. The part where I’m driving like the wind and almost don’t notice the flashing lights in my mirror. I knew I should have fixed that taillight.
I pulled over, cut the motor, handed the cop my license and registration. He looked down, then did a double take. “Dreama Black?”
That would be me.
“The Dreama Black?” he continued. “As in ‘Dreama, Little Dreama’?”
Perhaps I should explain.
I am a twenty-eight-year-old, third-generation rock ’n’ roll groupie—or “muse,” as the women in my family like to put it.
My grandmother, a fine-boned blonde who never met a gossamer shawl or Victorian boot she didn’t like, spent the sixties sleeping her way through Laurel Canyon, winding up in a house on Rothdell Trail (a.k.a. “Love Street”) purchased for her by a certain lead singer of a certain iconic band whose name is the plural of the thing that hits you on the way out.
My mother, blessed with thick, dark tresses and a way with mousse, was consort to many of the pseudo-androgynous alpha males of American hair metal, her chief claim to fame an MTV video in which she writhed across the hood of a Porsche wearing a white leotard and black, thigh-high boots. She also bought Axl Rose his first kilt.
As for me, well, I was on my way to freshman orientation when this guy I’d been seeing, who’d played a couple of no-name clubs with some friends from summer camp, intercepted me at LAX, put his lips to my ear, and hummed the opening bars of a new song I’d apparently inspired. Instead of boarding the plane for Berkeley, I boarded the tour bus with Luke Cutt and the other skinny, pimply members of Rocket Science. Four world tours, three hit albums, two Grammys, and one breakup later, “Dreama, Little Dreama”—an emo pop anthem that went gold in seven days and has sold eleven million copies to date—had made me almost famous forever.
“Step out of the car, please.”
The cop removed his sunglasses. Peach fuzz. Straight out of the academy. “So.”
He wanted to get a picture with me.
“I’d love to get a picture with you,” he said.
I smoothed down my cut-offs and striped T-shirt, removed my red Ray-Bans, ran my fingers through my long, straight, freshly balayaged auburn hair. The cop put his arm around me, leaned in close, took a couple of snaps on his phone. Let me guess. He’d had a crush on me since tenth grade, when he saw me in a white tank and no bra on the cover of Rocket Science’s debut C.D., and now he was going to post the pictures on Instagram to show all his buddies.
“Awesome.” He gave me a brotherly punch on the arm. “No way is my wife going to believe this. She’s crazy about Luke Cutt. Hey, is he really dating that Victoria’s Secret Angel? She is smoking hot.”
At least I didn’t get the ticket.

Excerpt from Dream A Little Death by Susan Kandel. Copyright © 2017 by Susan Kandel. Reproduced with permission from HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

An Agatha, Edgar, and SCIBA nominee, Susan Kandel is the author of the nationally best-selling and critically acclaimed Cece Caruso series, the most recent of which, Dial H for Hitchcock (Morrow), was named by NPR as one of the five best mysteries of the year. A Los Angeles native, she was trained as an art historian, taught at NYU and UCLA, and spent a decade as an art critic at the Los Angeles Times. When not writing, she volunteers as a court-appointed advocate for foster children, and loves to explore secret, forgotten, and kitschy L.A. She lives with her husband in West Hollywood.

Catch Up With Our Author On: Website, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Tour Participants:


Click here to view the Dream A Little Death by Susan Kandel Book Tour Participants
 

Here's Your Chance to WIN!

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Susan Kandel and Harper Collins. There will be 5 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Dream A Little Death by Susan Kandel. The giveaway begins on May 23rd and runs through June 27th 2017
a Rafflecopter giveaway  

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

  I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

This is the kind of book I wish no one had to write. I wish this book were fiction. I wish all the injustices documented in this book hadn't happened and were figments of some author's imagination.

After graduating from law school, Stevenson went back to the Deep South to represent the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned. The stories he tells about a criminal justice system that needs to be reformed are heart breaking.

For example, he writes of a teen girl sentenced to life in prison for a second degree murder. The system was inflexible and did not consider her age, mental illness, poverty, etc. She was raped by a correctional officer. It became known when her pregnancy was evident. The officer was fired but not prosecuted. The teen gave birth while handcuffed to a bed. The baby was taken and put in foster care. (150-151)

Stevenson also tells of successes through his nonprofit law office over the last 30 years. He helped prove some innocent of the crimes of which they had been convicted. He brought cases before the Supreme Court, resulting in more reasonable and compassionate sentences for teens.

Reading this book is a necessary but unpleasant experience. Readers will find that the U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, with 2.3 million in prison and another nearly six million on probation. The prison system has given up on rehabilitation, education, and services for the imprisoned. (15) It is a system in need of reform.

I highly recommend this book. It will break your heart but also encourage you in knowing that there are people who do come to the aid of the many needing it so badly.

Food for thought: “The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.” (18)

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Bryan Stevenson was a young attorney when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending the poor, the wrongly condemned, and those trapped in the criminal justice system. He is the executive director of EJI and a professor of law at New York University Law School. He has argued five times before the Supreme Court and has won national acclaim, receiving numerous awards.

Speigel & Grau (an imprint of Random House), 368 pages.

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Under a Desert Sky by Lynne Hartke

Cancer redefined life for Hartke. It started with her own diagnosis of breast cancer. Then her dad and soon after her mom were diagnosed with cancer – both incurable. Cancer redefined her concepts of strength and courage. It made her reevaluate her understanding of beauty and what it means to belong.

This is a well written and captivating memoir of struggling with unanswered questions, of being in hard places, of having more than she could handle. Hartke crafts a great parallel between her experiences and being in the desert.

Hartke draws great spiritual lessons from her experiences. I really like her analogy of the desert. It contains a beauty that can be discovered only through difficulty. There are lessons from God that can be learned only in the desert.

I also like her insight and honesty. She notes that people will sometimes say that God will not give you more than you can handle. “It's blatantly untrue,” she writes, “because if I never had more than I could handle, when would I ever need God?” (Loc. 1043/3717)

I highly recommend this book to those interested in an honest and insightful memoir of facing cancer. It would be of particular interest to hikers as Hartke shares many hiking stories. The book would be an encouragement to anyone waylaid by cancer. There are questions for discussion and personal reflection included. Hartke has also added a list of Scriptures for desert sojourners, arranged by need.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Lynne Hartke is a breast cancer survivor who celebrates the difficult and the beautiful with her husband in Chandler, Arizona where they have pastored a church for over thirty years. When not out on the desert trails avoiding rattlesnakes, she is blogging, speaking and volunteering with several cancer organizations, and keeping up with their four grown children and three grandchildren. Hartke is currently training to hike from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to the North Rim (a distance of 23 miles) in one day – because cancer has taught her to grab onto life with both hands.

Revell, 256 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Driver Confessional by David L. Winters

Synopsis:

Ride-share driver Antonio winds through the streets of Washington, D.C. in search of his next fare to support his young family and pay law school expenses. He has an unusual gift for relaxing his customers and stimulating their desire to reveal more than they planned. By the completion of their ride, many feel so comfortable that they confess their sins great and small. Antonio's faith guides his discussions and points him in new directions. Suddenly, his peaceful world is turned upside down by a mysterious business woman. As she heads to a midnight rendezvous, she confesses more than Antonio can handle. Her story sends him and his police detective brother into a world of international espionage, the Russian mob and corporate excess. Clues add up to danger and car chases pile up on ethical dilemmas.

My review:

This is an interesting novel about the ride-share program. I've often wondered how they work and this book was very informative. Antonio's ability to get riders to talk means that there are many revealing conversations in the course of the novel. The topics (and author opinion) vary from abortion to crooked politicians. Antonio is a faithful Christian and presents the gospel well to riders as he feels led.

The character and plot development is about average for a debut novelist. I did not feel Antonio was developed well. I would have appreciated reading more of his thinking about his faith. I did enjoy the suspenseful car chase and other action in the novel. I did not note any clever dialogue nor memorable prose.

This might be a good novel for male readers who like a novel without a complex plot structure or complex character development.

I am taking part in a blog tour of this book and you can read other reviews here.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

David L. Winters is an award-winning author, humorist and speaker. Originally from Ohio, he lives in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. His first book, Sabbatical of the Mind: The Journey from Anxiety to Peace, won several awards, including a Silver Illumination Award from the Jenkins Group and two Finalist Medals from the Next Generation Indies Book Awards. You can find out more at http://www.sabbaticalofthemind.net.

Carpenter's Son Publishing, 208 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Litfuse. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Martin Luther in His Own Words, edited by Jack D. Kilcrease and Erwin W. Lutzer

This year, 2017, marks the 500 year anniversary of the Reformation. Luther was instrumental in initiating the movement but many may not be aware of his contribution. Kilcrease and Lutzer have accumulated selections from Luther's writings and lectures to help modern readers appreciate his works.

The editors have organized the works around the topics of the five solas. They have added an introduction to each reading and updated the translations, clarifying what might not be understood by modern readers.

I appreciated the selections included in this volume. There are portions from Luther's commentary on Galatians taken from notes on his lectures. There is his introduction to Romans, including a summary of the main topics of the epistle. It was this work that moved John Wesley as he heard it read. Additional readings are from Luther's Large Catechism. My favorite reading is from The Bondage of the Will. In it, Luther explains how Christ and His saving death on the cross is the central teaching of the Bible.

Luther rediscovered the doctrine of justification by faith. He translated the Bible into the vernacular and believed preaching should be in the language of the people (not Latin). His work is an essential part of the foundation of contemporary evangelical Christian belief. I recommend this book to those who want to be familiar with Luther's works. Reading works from 500 years ago is not an easy task. The editors have done a good job, however, in helping contemporary readers tackle it.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Jack D. Kilcrease is professor of historical and systematic theology at the Institute of Lutheran Theology and a church elder at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids.
Erwin W. Lutzer is pastor emeritus of Moody Church in Chicago. He and his wife live in the Chicago area.

Baker Books, 176 pages.

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

The 100 Year Miracle by Ashley Ream

I was excited to read this novel chosen as the Whidbey Reads for 2017. While the novel takes place on a fictional island in the San Juans, the author notes that she borrowed heavily from Whidbey Island of which I am a resident and native.

The plot revolves around an event that happens once every hundred years. For six nights a bay on a small island glows, tiny creatures giving off light. The event has been a part of native lore, passed down from generation to generation. Researchers descend on the bay. One of them has an ulterior motive and that will change the destiny of many.

I enjoyed this novel, mostly because it takes place nearby. The characters were not developed as well as I would have liked. The character driving the plot is Rachel, an organic chemist who is obsessed, hoping to find an answer to her physical pain in the luminescent animals. She is probably the best developed character although it took nearly half the book to find out the source of her physical pain. Other characters help provide a subplot that I thought was a little far fetched.

I was disappointed in the ending of the novel – not what happened to whom but how it all came to be. I felt the plot was moving forward but then it all seemed to spread out and just end.

I recommend this novel to those who would like to get a flavor of life in the Pacific Northwest and the San Juan Islands. You'll learn some about sailing and boat repair too.

My rating: 3/5/stars.

Ashley Ream got her first job writing for a newspaper when she was sixteen. This is her second book. She and her husband live in Seattle. You can find out more at http://ahream.com/.


Flatiron Books, 320 pages.

Author photo by Eric Stone.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Whispers of Rest by Bonnie Gray

I am impressed with the depth and honesty of these 40 devotions. They were initiated during a time when Gray was on a three year journey navigating the mysteries of her soul. She collected whispers from God as He healed her and restored her joy. She invites readers along on what has become her daily practice to listen to God and be refreshed. The devotions are not light nor fluffy but are opportunities for readers to investigate and express heart feelings. She suggests finding a quiet place and using a journal. She provides plenty of journal prompts.

The format of these devotions is unique and provides several ways for readers to respond. Gray has comments and then a related Bible passage. Next is an imagined message from God, a written prayer to Jesus and a few more comments from the author. Questions for reflection follow, then prompts for personal prayer on the topic. Last is a challenge for an activity related to the topic. I like those challenges. They provide a combination of spiritual practices and practical living ideas. We are encouraged to read Scripture slowly and then eat slowly as well. After instruction on listening to God we are encouraged to listen to the sounds of nature.

These are good devotions for people who are ready to grow and are willing to think about issues in their lives. Gray writes about the choices we make, about hurts and healing, about when our life doesn't match the dreams God has put in our hearts, and much more. She is honest in writing about her feelings and asks the same of us. These are not light devotions. They are probing, revealing and healing.

There are a few aspects of these devotionals with which I am uncomfortable. Gray includes whispers from God, imagined statements He makes to us. I get a little nervous when people presume to verbalize messages from God and that is the case here. Another area of concern is the use of Scripture passages. Can we take something God specifically said to Israel, for example, Isaiah 62:4-5 where God would name Israel “delight," and apply it to us today? Another example is applying Mark 1:11 to us when God was specifically speaking of Jesus.

With those reservations, I do recommend this devotional. The devotions are good and I really like the areas where Gray asks readers to respond. Working through the book would be a journey in self discovery and healing. There are additional resources available and you can find out more about the book at www.thebonniegray.com/whispersofrest .

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Bonnie Gray is an inspirational speaker, retreat leader, and the author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace. Her writing is featured on Relevant Magazine, Dayspring (in)courage, and Christianity Today. She lives in California with her husband and their two sons. You can find out more at http://thebonniegray.com/.

FaithWords, 400 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Killing Room by Richard Montanari

The Killing Room

by Richard Montanari

on Tour May 15-26, 2017

Publisher Synopsis:


Nothing will ever be the same again...

In the heart of Philadelphia’s badlands, Homicide Detectives Byrne and Balzano are called out to a particularly chilling crime scene. Once the pillar of the neighborhood, an abandoned church has become a killing room. At first it looks like a random act of violence. But then a second body is found, and a third. Each crime scene more disturbing than the last, each murder more brutal. And it soon becomes horrifyingly clear that a cold, calculating and terrifyingly precise mind is at work. With very few leads, and a mastermind who always seems to be one step ahead, Byrne and Balzano are faced with challenges they could never have imagined as they race against time to hunt down their killer, before it’s too late...

Discover what readers around the world already know: Richard Montanari’s novels are “relentlessly suspenseful” (Tess Gerritsen)


My Review:


I enjoyed reading this novel. It is a good combination of detective work and character thought and information.

This mystery has a definite religious bent to it. Someone seems to be arranging murders that represent the seven churches in Revelation. I liked that aspect of the plot. I learned about how the Catholic Church closes up church buildings and what happens to them afterward. The plot itself is complex. The motivation for the murders is kept hidden until the end. That kept the plot going and kept me guessing who the actual murderer was.

I found a couple of aspects of the novel that puzzled me. Balzano is married with two children. Her husband is also a policeman. I want to know how she juggles two children with her many hours of police work. There is mention of taking the children to school and daycare, but what happens when she is called out at night or has a long surveillance shift? That missing aspect of her life made her character seem flat to me. The other issue is with Byrne. He did one action that seemed fuel for dismissal yet came through unscathed. And at the end, he did some things that I just didn't understand. Again, actions that I would think would lead to dismissal. That made his character seem larger than life and a bit unrealistic.

I recommend this novel to those who enjoy a good mystery with a complex plot and plenty of character involvement. Some of the murders are a bit gruesome so beware.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: May 9th 2017
Number of Pages: 328
ISBN: 0062467441 (ISBN13: 9780062467447)
Series: Jessica Balzano & Kevin Byrne #6
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

When she was a young girl, before the night embraced her with its great black wings, and blood became her sacramental wine, she was, in every way, a child of light. To those who knew her in those years she seemed a studious girl, quiet and polite, given to watching clouds for hours on end, oblivious, as only the very young can be, to the crushing poverty that surrounded her, the chains that had enslaved her kind for five generations.
She was six years old before she wore a pair of shoes she did not share. She was eight before she buttoned a dress someone had not stained before her.
For the longest time she lived inside the high stone walls of her mind, a place where there were no shadows, no demons.
In her thirteenth year, on a night when the candles fell cold and the moon was not to be found, she met the darkness for the first time. Not the darkness that follows day, descending upon the earth in a deep violet blush, but rather that which dwells within men, men who travel the hardpan roads, gathering to them the mad, the fallen, the corrupt of heart, their deeds the silt of backwater lore. On that night a seed was sown in her body, her spirit.
Now, these many years later, in this place of misery and wretchedness, in this house of seven churches, she knows she belongs.
There are no angels here.
The devil walks these streets. She knows him well – his face, his touch, his scent – because in her thirteenth year, when God turned his head, it was to the devil she was given.
She had watched the young man for more than a week, having first spotted him on Market Street near the Eleventh Street station, a gaunt figure etched on a granite wall. He was not an aggressive panhandler – indeed, his nearly skeletal body and spectral presence would not have presented much of a threat to anyone – but was instead a man reduced to mumbling incoherently to passersby, commuters rushing to and from the station. Twice he had been moved along by police officers, offering no resistance or response. His spirit, it seemed, had long ago been purloined by his addictions, the siren call of the streets.
On most nights, after the evening rush hour, he would walk Market Street toward the Delaware River, toward Old City, stopping those who looked like an easy mark, cadging the occasional handful of coins, grubbing the infrequent cigarette.
She always followed him at a safe distance. Like most of his breed he went unnoticed, except to those like him, or those who would use him. On those rare occasions when he found a homeless shelter with room, he would stay the night, but would always take up position outside the Eleventh Street station by 6:30 a.m., beginning his cycle of despair and degradation all over again.
Once she followed him into a convenience store on Third Street, and watched as he pocketed high-sugar foods – honey buns, Ding Dongs, TastyKakes – all with one yellowed eye on the convex mirrors at the end of the aisle. She watched him wolf down the food in a nearby alley, only to throw it all up moments later.
On this day, when temperatures are predicted to drop below zero, she knows it is time.
Bundled in four thin sweaters and a pea coat ripped at both shoulder seams, the young man stands shivering in a doorway on Eighth Street near Walnut.
She approaches him, stopping a few feet away, still mostly in shadow. He looks up. In his watery eyes she sees herself, and knows the spirit is stirring.
‘Spare change?’ he asks.
It is as if she can hear the bones clattering in his chest.
He is in his twenties, but the skin around his eyes is purplish and sallow, the stubble on his face already gray. His hair is greasy beneath his watch cap. His fingernails are bitten raw. Blisters bubble on the back of his hands.
She remains in shadow, holds out a gloved hand. At first the young man is skeptical, but when she steps into the light, and he sees her eyes for the first time, he knows. He takes her hand as a hungry man would accept a crust of bread.
‘Do you remember your promise?’ she asks.
He hesitates before answering. They always do. In this moment she can all but hear the wheels turning, the fevered reasoning in his mind. In the end they remember, because this is the one vow they all know will one day be recalled. A single tear rivers down his scalded cheek.
‘Yes.’
She glances down, notices a dark stain blossoming on the front of his trousers. He is wetting himself. She has seen this before, too. The release.
‘Come with me,’ she says. ‘I will show you what you need to do.’
The young man steps forward on unsteady legs. She helps him. He seems to possess no weight at all, as if he were sculpted of steam.
At the mouth of the alley she stops, turns the young man to face her fully. ‘He will need to hear your words. Your exact words.’
His lips begin to tremble. ‘Can’t I tell just you instead?’
‘No,’ she says. ‘Your contract was with him, not me.’
The young man wipes his eyes with the back of his hand. ‘Then he is real after all.’
‘Oh, my, yes.’ She points to the dark niche at the end of the alley. ‘Would you meet him now?
***
Excerpt from The Killing Room by Richard Montanari. Copyright © 2017 by Richard Montanari. Reproduced with permission from WitnessImpulse. All rights reserved.
 

Author Bio:

Richard Montanari is the internationally bestselling author of numerous novels, including the nine titles in the Byrne & Balzano series.
He lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

Catch Up With Richard Montanari On:
- Website
- Goodreads
- Twitter
- Facebook

 

Tour Participants:


Click here to view the The Killing Room by Richard Montanari Book Tour Participants
 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Glasgow Kiss by Alex Gray Giveaway

Glasgow Kiss

by Alex Gray

on Tour May 8-31, 2017

Publisher Synopsis:


Eric Chalmers is one of the most popular teachers at Muirpark Secondary School in Glasgow. Gentle and kind, he is the one adult students trust as a confidant. So when precocious teenager Julie Donaldson accuses Chalmers of rape, the school goes into shock. How could a deeply religious family man like Chalmers do such a thing? With some students and teachers supporting Julie, and others standing by Chalmers, life at Muirpark is far from harmonious. And then the situation gets much worse – Julie Donaldson goes missing, and the police are called in.
For DCI William Lorimer, this is the second missing persons case in a week. He's had too many sleepless nights worrying about a toddler who has been missing for several days. Julie's disappearance adds a further burden to Lorimer's already overstretched workload. With each day, the likelihood of either girl being found alive diminishes, and Lorimer finds himself racing against the clock to save innocent lives.


My Review:


I have enjoyed reading the DCI Lorimer series. This is the sixth in the series but can be appreciated without having read the previous novels. Gray did a good job of holding my interest by including two cases Lorimer is working on. One is a child abduction while the other is a missing person, soon found to be a victim of murder. The two cases were distinct and did not confuse the plot.

The strength of this Lorimer novel is the character development. I enjoyed learning more about Lorimer's wife, Maggie, and her teaching. Her minor involvement in the murder case is supplemented with important events in other characters. A well liked teacher is falsely accused of rape and we see what effect that has on his life and career. A student has a father who has just been released from prison and we read how the young man deals with that troubling influence.

The novel takes place in Scotland and Gray frequently has characters speaking local dialect. I found that to be somewhat distracting. That was a minor issue in an otherwise good novel.

This is a good police procedure novel that has much character emphasis. There is essentially no suspense. I recommend this novel to those who would enjoy a novel of methodical investigation taking place in Scotland.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Harper Witness
Publication Date: May 9th 2017
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN: 0062659162 (ISBN13: 9780062659163)
Series: DCI Lorimer #6
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

They were walking a little apart now. Her face was in profile, half shaded by the overhanging trees so that he could not make out her expression, though from time to time he would sneak a glance to see if she was looking his way. Her long pale-golden hair was twisted into plaits, leaving the cheekbones naked and exposed. It should have made her seem like a child but instead she looked older, more remote, and Kyle wished she’d left it loose as she usually did, burnished and glimmering in the afternoon sunshine.
It hadn’t always been like this. They’d walked through Dawsholm Park loads of times, sometimes hand in hand, dawdling by the grass verges, snatching the chance to have a quick kiss.
But now, Kyle thought gloomily, these halcyon days were over. Halcyon had been Kyle’s favourite word last term. His English teacher, Mrs. Lorimer, had explained that it derived from a Greek story about a mythical bird that in the middle of winter made its nest floating upon the Aegean seas. The bird had magical powers to make the waters calm and the winds drop. Kyle loved that story and had used the word in his own mind to describe his relationship with Julie. He’d even dreamed of them once – floating together like that bird, side by side, waves lapping gently against their boat. Something made him shiver suddenly and the girl turned to him, a question in her eyes. Kyle shook his head, too full to speak. She was still watching him and must have seen the bob of his Adam’s apple as he swallowed back the tears.
‘All right?’ Her voice was full of concern, but not for what was happening between them. Not for that.
‘Aye, fine,’ he replied but failed to stifle the sigh escaping from his chest. Would she stick with him out of pity after seeing his battered face? Part of him wanted to have Julie around, her warmth and loveliness blotting out the misery of the last two days. But deep down he knew he’d lost her long before his father’s release from prison.
‘Kyle?’
‘What?’
‘D’you want to talk about it?’ She had stopped walking now and was looking at him, frowning. ‘It might help . . .’ Her voice trailed off in an unspoken apology.
Kyle shrugged. He hadn’t talked about it to anyone though he’d done a fair amount of listening. His gran’s house had been full of talk: recriminations, wild accusations and shouting. But that was because women did that sort of thing. And because Kyle was Gran’s favourite, the youngest of her three grandsons. His brothers and his gran: they all had something to say about what Tam Kerrigan had done, and not just to him. That was one reason why he was here, with Julie, to escape from all of the talk. But also he’d been interested in the bit about the murder victim, in spite of everything. What happened to a dead person at a post-mortem examination?
He’d looked up stuff on the net, reading in a detached way about incisions and bodily fluids, not really making a link with the dead man his father had killed. Even the illustrations on the Internet site hadn’t put him off. It was like selecting bits of vacuum-packed butcher meat from the supermarket shelves and not seeing the animal they’d come from. Not like in the school trip to France where you were in no doubt about the origin of your dinner. One of the lassies had nearly thrown up that time someone had served up a chicken with everything still attached, the yellow claws curled over the platter and the head all to one side; you could imagine its squawk as the neck had been wrung.
‘Kyle?’ Julie’s voice broke into his thoughts and he looked up, seeing her staring at him, a tiny crease between her eyes.
‘Och, I’m okay,’ he told her, then dropped his gaze, unable to bear the kindness in her face. ‘The bruises’ll be gone in a day or so. Probably by the time we go back to school,’ he added.
‘Are you going back right away?’
Kyle shrugged again. ‘Why not? Can’t see what good it’ll do me to hang around the house.’ He paused to let the unspoken words sink in.
Keeping out of the house meant keeping away from his father. They walked on again in silence but this time Julie reached out for his hand and he took it, feeling its warmth, glad to have her there. It would be okay. There might be folk staring at him, curious to know the truth behind what the papers said about Tam Kerrigan, but if Julie was there, even as a friend, he’d manage all right. All summer they’d talked about the advantages of being in Fourth Year, both excited, dropping the pretence of being too cool to show it. His mouth twisted at the memory. That had been another person, a young carefree creature whose whole life had stretched before him like an open road. Now that person was dead and gone, his boyhood behind him for ever.
---
Excerpt from Glasgow Kiss by Alex Gray. Copyright © 2017 by Alex Gray. Reproduced with permission from Harper Witness. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:


Alex Gray was born and educated in Glasgow. After studying English and Philosophy at the University of Strathclyde, she worked as a visiting officer for the Department of Health, a time she looks upon as postgraduate education since it proved a rich source of character studies. She then trained as a secondary school teacher of English.
Alex began writing professionally in 1993 and had immediate success with short stories, articles, and commissions for BBC radio programs. She has been awarded the Scottish Association of Writers' Constable and Pitlochry trophies for her crime writing.
A regular on the Scottish bestseller lists, she is the author of thirteen DCI Lorimer novels. She is the co-founder of the international Scottish crime writing festival, Bloody Scotland, which had its inaugural year in 2012.

Connect with Alex Gray on her Website & Twitter.

 

Tour Participants:

Click here to view the Glasgow Kiss by Alex Gray Book Tour Participants
 

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Alex Gray and Harper Collins. There will be 3 winners of one (1) eBook copy of THE RIVERMAN by Alex Gray. The giveaway begins on May 7th and runs through June 1st 2017.
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 I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Good Book by Deron Spoo

Many people today are not familiar with the Bible and its major concepts. Some might find the Bible intimidating. Spoo has taken 40 chapters from the Bible, those containing the big ideas of the Bible, and has tried to make them understandable and personal.

The format of the book includes each Scripture passage so the book can be read without having a Bible nearby. The chapter in the Bible is followed by comments from Spoo and then a small section with comments and questions for reflection.

I appreciate Spoo's comments. He sometimes adds cultural or historical information to help readers understand the major theme represented by that particular Bible chapter. He also adds stories to illustrate the themes. I didn't see the significance of some of the stories, such as what was found upon demolishing of the Alton Towers Corkscrew roller coaster.

This is a good book for people unfamiliar with the Bible who want to know its major themes. It is good for someone who looks at the Bible and has no idea where to begin to understand it. It is also a good book for Christians who don't regularly read their Bible, to be reminded of these themes and experience them in a fresh way. It would make a good forty day time of Bible refreshment, such as for Lent or Advent.

I am taking part in a blog tour of this book and you can read other reviews here.

You can find out more about the book at http://www.readthegoodbook.com.
You can watch the book trailer here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Deron Spoo is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Over the past 16 years, Spoo has quided the church as it transitions from being simply a downtown church to a regional church committed to urban ministry. His television devotionals, “First Things First,” reach 100,000 people each week. Spoo is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife have three children.

David C Cook, 400 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Litfuse. My comments are an independent and honest review.

When Did Everybody Else Get So Old? by Jennifer Grant

Midlife is a period of transition. It can be a troubled time or one full of opportunity. Grant shares her thoughts on her experiences and the lessons she has learned. Some of her stories are about ordinary events while others are life altering.

I enjoyed Grant's thoughts on getting old. I could identify with many of her examples and emotions. Midlife is a crazy time for many women and reading her stories helps us know what we are experiencing is not so abnormal. Her insights are good and range from marriage and parenting issues to the danger of comparing ourselves with others.

My favorite part of her book was actually the beginning where she explores the whole concept of memories. She reminds us we are not merely the sum of our life events. Memories help us see how we've grown and help us appreciate the blessings we have today that we might otherwise overlook.

A note for evangelical readers: Grant is uncomfortable with the concept of God sending some to heaven and others to hell. “I am hopeful that all things and all of humankind and all of creation will ultimately be renewed by, and reconciled to, God.” (Loc. 1921/2194)

I recommend this book to readers who are looking for some insight into the experience of midlife. You'll have a few laughs and get some help in making it through this time of transition.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Jennifer Grant is a writer, editor and speaker. A former health and family columnist for the Chicago Tribune, she is the author of five previous books. She is a graduate of Wheaton College and Southern Methodist University. She is a longtime member of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and lives in the Chicago area with her husband and their four children. You can find out more at http://www.jennifergrant.com/.

Herald Press, 192 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Transformed by Christy Wimber

I was attracted to this book because of the subtitle: Challenging myths about the power-filled life. I've read lots of books about the charismatic movement and the spirit filled life. Most of them seemed unrealistic, all about victory and success.

Wimber's book is honest and realistic. Finally, someone in the movement is willing to write about the tough times and the sacrifice, sweat and suffering required for spiritual maturity. I really like her honesty. “It's alright to admit that life is sometimes hard.” (23) We can admit that sometimes the path God is leading us on does not make sense.

Wimber is a pastor and I like what she writes about worship. It's not right to accommodate today's culture, she says. “We cannot influence something which we ourselves conform to.” (79) I like her emphasis on paying attention to what God values, not what we like.

Wimber is also honest about sickness, suffering and healing. I really like how she admits that we don't really understand it all. She writes about grace and about her dismay in that a healthy fear of the Lord is often absent.

I highly recommend this book to those who have been put off by the overly enthusiastic books about the spirit-filled life. You'll find here an honest look at the charismatic life. I really identified with what Wimber has written and was encouraged too.

Food for thought: “A healthy fear of the Lord empowers grace and saves the soul.” (185)
Here's more food for thought: “There are lots of ministries which work but were never God's idea.” (192)

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Christy Wimber is an author, speaker and pastor who has traveled around the world. She planted a Vineyard Church in 2006 and continues to travel, equipping the church. She and her husband live in Yorba Linda, California, and have two children.

Monarch Books, distributed in the U.S. By Kregel, 224 pages.

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson

This is the second in the Evie Blackwell series. While there were some references to the previous book, this novel reads well on its own.

Evie is on a state task force to solve cold cases. The plot follows the current investigation of a college woman gone missing years ago, the case never having progressed to an arrest. Do to the nature of the plot, this is a novel of police procedure. Except for a very brief experience near the end, there is no suspense in the novel.

This is very much a character driven plot. Much of the novel is about Evie and, David, another cold case investigator. They share an office and talk about their cases. Much of the novel consists of detailed conversations about the investigations, options for further investigation, theories and speculation. I felt some of it was repetitive. We also learn much about Evie and David and their dating lives. David is dating a popular singer so we also learn quite a bit about concerts and the life of a music star. There are also long passages of character thought, especially Evie. Evie and David are Christians and there is a good presentation of the Christian viewpoint and the gospel.

I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy a police procedure novel that is much more about the characters involved than suspense. I felt it slow going but then I like a quick moving plot with plenty of action. With that in mind, I would like the book to be about a hundred pages fewer. A reader who likes getting lost in the lives of the investigators is much better suited to enjoy this novel.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Dee Henderson is the author of numerous novels. Her books have been nominated for several awards. She is a lifelong resident of Illinois. You can find out more at http://www.deehenderson.com/.

Bethany House Publishers, 432 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

How to Overcome Worry by Dr. Winfred Neely

We certainly live in a time when many worry and have great anxiety, including many Christians. Neely considers worry a serious issue and has written this little book to help us overcome it.

Neely reminds us early in the book, “In the New Testament, worry is the sinful response of the human heart and mind to real difficulties and problems in life.” (29) Worry is an expression of unbelief, he says, and “...habitual worry is a trait of someone who is not in an intimate relationship with God (Matt. 6:31-32).” (30)

That really got my attention. Worry is a serious issue! Neely takes “be anxious for nothing” very seriously. But he also gives us great instruction on triumphing over worry. His suggestions are not easy actions. We must trust God, expecting His peace in the midst of problems. He reminds us of the enabling power God provides, of the necessity of taking everything to God in prayer. We must be making the choices to exercise faith and trust in God, requiring living in the power of the Spirit.

Neely has included useful Appendixes. The first is a good one on prayer while the second gives a number of Scriptures for suggested meditation. The third includes questions for individual reflection or group discussion.

This is a short but powerful book. Neely doesn't hold back in reminding us of the seriousness of the sin of worry. I am impressed with his instruction. He uses stories from his own life as illustrations.

I recommend this book to those who are willing to face their worry and begin the serious task of conquering it. You will find a great deal of help in this little book.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Winfred Neely is a professor of hermeneutics, homiletics, and pastoral studies at Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. He has served as a missionary in Senegal, West Africa, for nine years. He is also involved in a global equipping ministry. He and his wife have four adult children and nine grandchildren.

Moody Publishers, 112 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Icon Media. My comments are an independent and honest review.