Sunday, February 28, 2021

Thunder in the Soul by Abraham Joshua Heschel

Abraham Heschel was a Jewish theologian and religious philosopher. As a Christian, why would I read Heschel? He wrote for people encountering God and his thoughts were not confined to one faith. As his daughter notes in the forward, many say, “A Jew has brought them closer to God, deeper in their prayer, strengthened in their faith,” (180/1248) There is a long forward in this book, explaining much of Heschel's life and work. That makes this book a good introductory one for readers not familiar with him or his work.

There were several areas in this book I found particularly insightful. One was Heschel's thoughts on piety. A pious person's main interest is God. This concern for God, “becomes the driving force controlling the course of his actions and decisions, molding his aspirations and behavior.” (357/1248) That is thought provoking. I liked Heschel reminding us that our concern is not for more knowledge but to open our lives to God. I appreciate Heschel's emphasis on transcendence, the reality of God beyond all things.

I appreciate Heschel's exploration of God's character. “No single attribute can convey the nature of God's relationship to man.” (548/1248) Justice is God's nature, as is love and mercy, as is divine anger. “It is divine anger that gives strength to God's truth and justice.” (548/1248) He has very insightful thoughts on prayer. He explores the call and message of prophets as they reveal humanity's indifference to evil. (634/1248)

Some of Heschel's writing in this book requires reflection to comprehend. This is not a book a reader will breeze through. Nonetheless, there are thought provoking insights for all those who desire to understand more of how God interacts with man and how man encounters God.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) was born in Warsaw, Poland and studied at the University of Berlin. He received orthodox rabbinical ordination but was at home in all Jewish communities. He wrote on the philosophical and theological issues of his day. He began teaching at the Judische Lehrhause, an educational institute for adults, in 1937. He was deported to Poland in 1938, went to London and arrived in the U.S. in 1940. He taught at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati and in 1945 joined the faculty at The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.

Plough Publishing House, 168 pages.

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

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

Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Turncoat's Widow by Mally Becker Blog Tour and Giveaway

The Turncoat's Widow

by Mally Becker

February 22 - March 19, 2021 Tour


Recently widowed, Rebecca Parcell is too busy struggling to maintain her farm in Morristown to care who wins the War for Independence. But rumors are spreading in 1780 that she’s a Loyalist sympathizer who betrayed her husband to the British—quite a tidy way to end her disastrous marriage, the village gossips whisper.

Everyone knows that her husband was a Patriot, a hero who died aboard a British prison ship moored in New York Harbor. But “everyone” is wrong. Parcell was a British spy, and General Washington – who spent two winters in Morristown – can prove it. He swears he’ll safeguard Becca’s farm if she unravels her husband’s secrets. With a mob ready to exile her or worse in the winter of 1780, it’s an offer she can’t refuse.

Escaped British prisoner of war Daniel Alloway was the last person to see Becca’s husband alive, and Washington throws this unlikely couple together on an espionage mission to British-occupied New York City. Moving from glittering balls to an underworld of brothels and prisons, Becca and Daniel uncover a plot that threatens the new country’s future. But will they move quickly enough to warn General Washington? And can Becca, who’s lost almost everyone she loves, fight her growing attraction to Daniel, a man who always moves on?

Praise for The Turncoat’s Widow

The Turncoat’s Widow has it all. A sizzling romance, meticulous research, and an exhilarating adventure. Becca Parcell is too independent for both 18th-century Morristown and her feckless English husband. Her individual plight when she is pressed into service as an unwilling spy after her husband’s death reflects the larger situation of colonists during the American Revolution, whose lives were upended by a political fight they cared nothing about. Becker balances the ruthlessness of George Washington and the underhanded charm of Alexander Hamilton with the excesses of the British, as part of a detailed picture of how the colonies were governed during a war that was far from a simple fight between two opposing nations. But historical exactitude is balanced by dashing romance between Becca and Daniel Alloway, the escaped prisoner charged with protecting her, and plot full of bold escapes and twists. A great series debut. I can’t wait for the next installment.
- Erica Obey, author, Dazzle Paint (coming 02/2021), The Curse of the Braddock Brides, and The Horseman’s Word.

An exciting Revolutionary-era thriller with a twisty mystery, great characters, and historical accuracy to boot.
- Eleanor Kuhns,author of the Will Rees mysteries

The Turncoat’s Widow reminds readers that treachery from within and without to our republic were real, and those early days for American independence from the British were fragile, the patriot cause, unpopular. This is a rousing debut novel with insights into the hardships of colonial life, the precarious place of women in society, while giving fans of historical fiction a tale with suspense, surprises, and anoutspoken and admirable heroine in Becca Parcell. Mally Becker is an author to watch.
- Gabriel Valjan, Agatha and Anthony-nominated author of The Naming Game 

My Review:

This novel highlights the turmoil during the Revolutionary War. Becker does a good job of showing the condition for soldiers in the colonies. They were not being paid and the continental paper money had lost its value. People were willing to do what needed to be done to get money, blurring the lines of loyalty. Some were just out to profit from the war, regardless of loyalty. There are so many betrayers in this novel, I couldn't keep them straight.

I liked Rebecca as the heroine, needing to prove herself loyal to General Washington in order to save her farm. It was an era where properties could be confiscated if the owner was thought to be disloyal. She's my kind of woman as she'd rather be mucking out a stall than sitting in a drawing room.

I found Becker's writing style a little hard to follow. Actions and conversations often seemed cryptic and sometimes didn't make sense to me. A person would appear in a scene when I was sure they were some place else. Nonetheless, this novel gave me a good sense of the strain on loyalties during the drawn out war and what might have been actions by loyalists to save the independence effort.

My rating: 4/5 stars. 

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Suspense / Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: February 16, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-953789-27-3
Purchase Links: Amazon || Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

Morristown – January 1780

There was a nervous rustling in the white-washed meeting house, a disturbance of air like the sound of sparrows taking wing.

Becca Parcell peered over the balcony’s rough, wood railing, blinking away the fog of half-sleep. She had been dreaming of the figures in her account book and wondering whether there would be enough money for seed this spring.

“I didn’t hear what ….” she whispered to Philip’s mother.

Lady Augusta Georgiana Stokes Parcell, known simply as Lady Augusta, covered Becca’s hand with her own. “Philip. They’re speaking of Philip.”

Becca couldn’t tell whether it was her hand or Augusta’s that trembled.

“The Bible says, if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee, does it not?” The preacher’s voice was soft, yet it carried to every corner of the congregation. “They’re here. Amongst us. Neighbors who toast the King behind closed doors. Neighbors with no love of liberty.”

Philip was a Patriot. He had died a hero. Everyone knew. Minister Townsend couldn’t be talking about him.

The minister raised his eyes to hers. With his long thin arms and legs and round belly, he reminded her of a spider. She twisted her lips into the semblance of a smile as if to say “you don’t scare me.” But he did.

“Which of your neighbors celebrates each time a Patriot dies?” Townsend’s voice rose like smoke to the rafters, took on strength and caught fire. “Their presence here is an abomination.” He rapped the podium with a flat palm, the sound bruising in the quiet church. “Then cast them out. Now.”

Men pounded the floor with their feet.

Becca flinched. It wouldn’t take much to tip the congregation into violence. Everyone had lost someone or something to this endless war. It had been going on for almost five years.

Townsend’s thin arm rose, pointing to her.

Becca’s breath caught.

“And what of widows like Mrs. Parcell? Left alone, no longer guided by the wise direction of their husbands.”

Guided? Becca pulled her hand from Augusta’s. She rubbed her thumb along the palm of her hand, feeling the rough calluses stamped there. She had learned the rhythm of the scythe at the end of the summer, how to twist and swing low until her hands were so stiff that she’d struggle to free them from the handle. She’d fallen into a dreamless sleep each night during the harvest too exhausted even to dream of Philip. She, Augusta and their servant Annie were doing just fine.

“He hardly slept at home, as I hear it,” a woman behind her sniffed to a neighbor.

Becca’s spine straightened.

“No wonder there were no babes,” the second woman murmured.

Becca twisted and nodded a smile to Mrs. Huber and Mrs. Harrington. Their mouths pursed into surprised tight circles. She’d heard them murmur, their mouths hidden by fluttering fans: About her lack of social graces; her friendship with servants; her awkward silence in company. “What else could you expect from her?” they would say, snapping shut their fans.

Relief washed through Becca, nonetheless. This was merely the old gossip, not the new rumors.

“Some of you thought Mr. Parcell was just another smuggler.” The pastor’s voice boomed.

A few in the congregation chuckled. It was illegal to sell food to the British in New York – the “London Trade” some called it — but most turned a blind eye. Even Patriots need hard currency to live, Becca recalled Philip saying.

“He only married her for the dowry,” Mrs. Huber hissed.

Becca’s hand curved into a fist.

Augusta cleared her throat, and Becca forced herself to relax.

“Perhaps some of you thought Mr. Parcell was still a Tory,” the minister said.

The chuckling died.

“He came to his senses, though. He was, after all, one of us,” Minister Townsend continued.

One of us. Invitations from the finer families had trickled away after Philip’s death.

“We all know his story,” Townsend continued. “He smuggled whiskey into New York City. And what a perfect disguise his aristocratic roots provided.” The minister lifted his nose in the air as if mimicking a dandy.
“The British thought he was one of them, at least until the end.” The minister’s voice swooped as if telling a story around a campfire. “He brought home information about the British troops in the City.”

Becca shifted on the bench. She hadn’t known about her husband’s bravery until after his death. It had baffled her. Philip never spoke of politics.

Townsend lifted one finger to his chin as if he had a new thought. “But who told the British where Mr. Parcell would be on the day he was captured? Who told the Redcoats that Mr. Parcell was a spy for independence?”

Becca forgot to breathe. He wouldn’t dare.

“It must have been someone who knew him well.” The minister’s gaze moved slowly through the congregation and came to rest on Becca. His eyes were the color of creosote, dark and burning. “Very, very well.”
Mrs. Coddington, who sat to Becca’s left, pulled the hem of her black silk gown close to avoid contact. Men in the front pews swiveled and stared.

“I would never. I didn’t.” Becca’s corset gouged her ribcage.

“Speak up, Mrs. Parcell. We can’t hear you,” the minister said in a singsong voice.

Townsend might as well strip her naked before the entire town. Respectable women didn’t speak in public. He means to humiliate me.

“Stand up, Mrs. Parcell.” His voice boomed. “We all want to hear.”

She didn’t remember standing. But there she was, the fingers of her right hand curled as it held the hunting bow she’d used since she was a child. Becca turned back to the minister. “Hogwash.” If they didn’t think she was a lady, she need not act like one. “Your independence is a wickedly unfair thing if it lets you accuse me without proof.”

Gasps cascaded throughout the darkening church.

From the balcony, where slaves and servants sat, she heard two coughs, explosive as gun fire. She twisted. Carl scowled down at her in warning. His white halo of hair, fine as duckling feathers, seemed to stand on end. He had worked for her father and helped to raise her. He had taught her numbers and mathematics. She couldn’t remember life without him.

“Accuse? Accuse you of what, Mrs. Parcell?” The minister opened his arms to the congregation. “What have we accused you of?”

Becca didn’t feel the chill now. “Of killing my husband. If this is what your new nation stands for – neighbors accusing neighbors, dividing us with lies – I'll have none of it. “Five years into this endless war, is anyone better off for Congress’ Declaration of Independence? Independence won’t pay for food. It won’t bring my husband home.”

It was as if she’d burst into flames. “What has the war brought any of us? Heartache, is all. Curse your independence. Curse you for ….”

Augusta yanked on Becca’s gown with such force that she teetered, then rocked back onto the bench.

The church erupted in shouts, a crashing wave of sound meant to crush her.

Becca’s breath came in short puffs. What had she done?

“Now that’s just grief speaking, gentlemen. Mrs. Parcell is still mourning her husband. No need to get worked up.” The voice rose from the front row. She recognized Thomas Lockwood’s slow, confident drawl.
She craned her neck to watch Thomas, with his wheat-colored hair and wide shoulders. His broad stance reminded her of a captain at the wheel. He was a gentleman, a friend of General Washington. They’ll listen to him, she thought.

“Our minister doesn’t mean to accuse Mrs. Parcell of anything, now do you, sir?”

The two men stared at each other. A minister depended on the good will of gentlemen like Thomas Lockwood.
The pastor blinked first. He shook his head.

Becca’s breathing slowed.

“There now. As I said.” Lockwood’s voice calmed the room.

Then Mr. Baldwin stood slowly. Wrinkles crisscrossed his cheeks. He’d sent his three boys to fight with the Continental Army in ’75. Only one body came home to be buried. The other two were never found. He pointed at Becca with fingers twisted by arthritis. “Mrs. Parcell didn’t help when the women raised money for the soldiers last month.”

A woman at the end of Becca’s pew sobbed quietly. It was Mrs. Baldwin.

“You didn’t invite me.” Becca searched the closed faces for proof that someone believed her.

“Is she on our side or theirs?” another woman called.

The congregation quieted again. But it was the charged silence between two claps of thunder, and the Assembly waited for a fresh explosion in the dim light of the tired winter afternoon.

With that, Augusta’s imperious voice sliced through the silence: “Someone help my daughter-in-law. She’s not well. I believe she’s about to faint.”

Becca might be rash, but she wasn’t stupid, and she knew a command when she heard one. She shut her eyes and fell gracelessly into the aisle. Her head and shoulder thumped against the rough pine floorboards.

Mrs. Coddington gasped. So did Becca, from the sharp pain in her cheek and shoulder.

Women in the surrounding rows scooted back in surprise, their boots shuffling with a shh-shh sound.

“Lady Augusta,” Mrs. Coddington huffed.

Independence be damned. All of Morristown seemed to enjoy using Augusta’s family title, her former title, as often as possible.

“Lady Augusta,” she repeated. “I’ve had my suspicions about that girl since the day she married your son. I don’t know why you haven’t sent her back to her people.”

“She has no ‘people,’ Mrs. Coddington. She has me,” Augusta’s voice was as frosty as the air in the church. “And if I had doubts about Rebecca, do you think I’d live with her?”

Becca imagined Augusta’s raised eyebrows, her delicate lifted chin. She couldn’t have borne it if her mother-in-law believed the minister’s lies.

Augusta’s featherlight touch stroked her forehead. “Well done,” she murmured. “Now rise slowly. And don’t lean on me. I might just topple over.”

“We are eager to hear the rest of the service on this Sabbath day, Minister Townsend. Do continue,” Thomas Lockwood called.

Becca stood, her petite mother-in-law’s arm around her waist. The parishioners at the edges of the aisles averted their eyes as the two women passed.

As they stepped into the stark, brittle daylight, one last question shred the silence they left behind: “Do you think she turned her husband over to the British?”

Someone else answered. “It must be true. Everyone says so.


Excerpt from The Turncoat's Widow by Mally Becker. Copyright 2021 by Mally Becker. Reproduced with permission from Mally Becker. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

Mally Becker is a writer whose historical suspense novel, The Turncoat’s Widow, will be published in February 2021 by Level Best Books. She was born in Brooklyn and began her professional career in New York City as a publicist and freelance magazine writer, then moved on, becoming an attorney and, later, an advocate for children in foster care.

As a volunteer, she used her legal background to create a digest of letters from US Supreme Court Justices owned by the Morristown National Park. That’s where she found a copy of an indictment for the Revolutionary War crime of traveling from New Jersey to New York City “without permission or passport.” It led her to the idea for her story.

​A winner of the Leon B. Burstein/MWA-NY Scholarship for Mystery Writing, Mally lives with her husband in the wilds of New Jersey where they hike, kayak, look forward to visits from their son, and poke around the region’s historical sites.

Catch Up With Mally Becker On:
Instagram - @mallybeckerwrites
Twitter - @mally_becker
Facebook - Mally Baumel Becker


Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

Click here to view The Turncoat's Widow by Mally Becker Participants


Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Mally Becker. There will be Five (5) winners for this tour. One winner will receive a $20. Gift Card, Two (2) winners will each win a physical copy of The Turncoat's Widow by Mally Becker (U.S. addresses only), and Two (2) winners will each win an eBook copy of The Turncoat's Widow by Mally Becker. The giveaway begins on February 22, 2021 and runs through March 21, 2021.
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I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Partner in Crime Virtual Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Partners in Crime Virtual 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.)

Friday, February 26, 2021

Death by Gravity by Sharon Linnea

This is the second book in The Bartender's Guide to Murder series and one I enjoyed. (Read my review of the first book in the series, Death inTranquility.) I like the setting of the Olympic snow training center (Lake Placid) and the plot revolving around gold medals and frustrated potential Olympian athletes. We readers are thrust onto zip lines and luge runs in the midst of deadly suspense.

I like Avalon, a reluctant sleuth and accomplished bartender. It was interesting to have some of her walls come down in this novel as we find out a bit more about her family history. Linnea provides a good balance of character development and murder investigation, periodically interrupted with a potentially ghostly appearance.

A decades old unsolved kidnapping is also part of the plot. Avalon works to solve that mystery alongside what appears to be two current murders. While doing that, Avalon also helps those she is getting to know better, maybe actually becoming a friend to others.

I don't drink alcohol but the cocktail recipes included look delicious. While Linnea is an accomplished bartender, the recipes are from someone else and you can see videos of them being made at

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Sharon LinnĂ©a is a TIPS certified bartender and wrote the bestselling Eden Series (Chasing Eden, Beyond Eden, Treasure of Eden and Plagues of Eden) with B.K. Sherer, as well as the standalone These Violent Delights, a movie murder series. She enjoyed working with Axel Avian on Colt Shore: Domino 29, a middle-grade spy thriller. She is also the author of Princess Ka’iulani: Hope of a Nation, Heart of a People about the last crown princess of Hawaii which won the prestigious Carter Woodson Award, and Raoul Wallenberg: the Man Who Stopped Death. She was a staff writer for five national magazines, a book editor at three publishers, and a celebrity ghost. She lives outside New York City with her family. In Orange County, she teaches The Book Inside You workshops with Thomas Mattingly. You can find out more at

Arundel Publishing, 239 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.)

Thursday, February 25, 2021

The ABCs of Global Warming by Charles Siegel

There is a great deal of misinformation about climate change being circulated today. This book offers readers an understandable exploration of the science behind climate change, the dangers of not dealing with it, and suggestions for approaches to developing a stable climate.

Siegel's book is very understandable. He has many charts and graphs to visualize his information. And the book is well documented with nearly the last quarter of the book listing the footnotes.

I was impressed with some of the facts he gives, such as arctic ice now covers only half as much area after the summer melt as it did in 1979. (154/1256) The last four decades have seen successive new records for the hottest decade in history. (175/1256)

I like his insights into the current effects of global warming. There is evidence the warming arctic is making the jet stream less stable. A meandering jet stream allows cold air to move much farther south than usual. We have seen this just recently with the freezing temperatures in Texas.

His section on possible solutions is informative. Those unsure of what cap and trade or emissions taxes are and how they would work will find answers here. And, as a bonus, Siegel addresses deniers and reveals their lack of knowledge and understanding of the facts.

I recommend this book as a readable, short, yet very informative book for those who want to understand global warming, the science, the future dangers, and possible solutions.

You can read portions of the book here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Charles Siegel is the author of a number of books on various topics, from urban planning to politics to computer programs to Christian biblical texts.

Omo Press, 106 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, February 24, 2021

Murder in the Churchyard by Catherine Coles

I grew up reading Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. This novel is a fond reminder of Lord Peter Wimsey. Evelyn and Tommy are fun characters as newly designated lord and lady. Evelyn had been a police woman during WW I and it is hard for her to not investigate the latest murder. She loves the puzzle of a murder even if she does not like the unpleasant human aspect of it.

This is a village murder so we get to enjoy the subtle method of Tommy and Evelyn questioning the villagers, listening to gossip as they probe for the truth. The suspects are people they know so the investigation must be done well, without alienating friends.

I like how Coles explores the personalities of the village characters as secrets are revealed. We learn a bit about the effects of shell shock for those in WW I. We also experience the pleasant husband and wife relationship of Tommy and Evelyn. I like their dialogue and the quips Coles has crafted.

This is a fun novella in the British cozy mystery genre. It makes for a fine read of an evening. While it is part of a series, it does read well on its own.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Catherine Coles has been a legal secretary, a night carer, in a bar while completing a law degree, a family law practitioner, a childminder, a foster carer, a home carer, a receptionist, facilitating car deliveries for online customers, and a PA/HR Manager. Now she writes full time and lives in the north east of England. You can find out more at

Independently published, 130 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Book Sirens. 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.)

Journey of the Soul by Drs Bill and Kristi Gaultiere

I think Christians want to thrive in their spiritual lives. But there are obstacles and pitfalls that make growing spiritually at times difficult. Sometimes experiences are hard to understand and we wonder where God is in our lives. Sometimes we are just at a loss as to the next step in spiritual and emotional growth.

The Gaultieres have developed a model of the stages of faith, drawing from their years of providing therapy and spiritual direction, along with extensive research and field testing. They give the characteristics of and insights into each stage, relating personal experiences and information from other authors. They suggests steps to grow, soul care practices, and spiritual disciplines to help move to the next stage. They provide questions so readers can identify what stage they are in.

I appreciate this book. It helped me identify my spiritual stage and explained many of my past spiritual experiences and current spiritual longing. I appreciate that spiritual growth is not linear but moves like a spiral, going through the various phases at a deeper level each time.

The insight I appreciated the most was distinguishing desolation (spiritual experience of feeling God's absence) and depression (a psychological problem). While they can affect each other, I appreciate that they are not the same. Those who have experienced the Dark Night will also appreciate the distinction. Another appreciated insight was about the last stage and the information on being a mystic. The Gaultieres draw much from classic devotional authors, like Madame Guyon, Teresa of Jesus (Avila) and Frank Laubach who wrote about the deep experience of union with Christ.

This is a good book for Christians who want to understand their own spiritual life while gaining insights on the spiritual lives of others. There are resources available, such as small group leader's guide and free videos at

Read an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Drs. Bill and Kristi Gaultiere have been counseling and ministering to people for thirty years. Bill is a psychologist who has served in private practice, co-led a New Life psychiatric day hospital, and pastored churches. Kristi is a marriage and family therapist who has also served in private practice and church ministry. Together they are the founders of Soul Shepherding, a nonprofit ministry to help believers discover their next steps for growing in intimacy with Jesus, emotional health, and loving relationships. Bill and Kristi live in California. Photo credit: Briana Gaultiere

Revell, 240 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.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Lady in Residence by Allison Pittman Blog Tour and Giveaway

About the Book

Book:  The Lady in Residence

Author: Allison Pittman

Genre: Christian Historical

Release date: February 2021


Can a Legacy of Sadness be Broken at the Menger Hotel?

Visit historic American landmarks through the Doors to the Past series. History and today collide in stories full of mystery, intrigue, faith, and romance.

Young widow Hedda Krause checks into the Menger Hotel in 1915 with a trunk full of dresses, a case full of jewels, and enough cash to pay for a two-month stay, which she hopes will be long enough to meet, charm, and attach herself to a new, rich husband. Her plans are derailed when a ghostly apparition lures her into a long, dark hallway, and Hedda returns to her room to find her precious jewelry has been stolen. She falls immediately under a cloud of suspicion with her haunting tale, but true ghost enthusiasts bring her expensive pieces of jewelry in an attempt to lure the ghost to appear again.

In 2017, Dini Blackstone is a fifth-generation magician, who performs at private parties, but she also gives ghost walk tours, narrating the more tragic historical events of San Antonio with familial affection. Above all, her favorite is the tale of Hedda Krause who, in Dini’s estimation, succeeded in perpetrating the world’s longest con, dying old and wealthy from her ghost story. But then Dini meets Quinn Carmichael, great-great-grandson of the detective who originally investigated Hedda’s case, who’s come to the Alamo City with a box full of clues that might lead to Hedda’s exoneration. Can Dini see another side of the story that is worthy of God’s grace?

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

I found this time slip novel to not be what I expected. The Christian aspect was rather obscure. The contemporary female lead, Dini, is a magician with basically no Christian influence in the novel. The contemporary male lead, Quinn, is a Christian but with little faith impact in the story line. I found it rather unbelievable that the two of them would experience an intense budding romance. I did not really find them nor the ones in the historical part of the story to be engaging characters.

I was pleased to find out a bit about Sally White, a chambermaid at the Menger Hotel, and her murder in 1876. I do wish there had been more about her, however. Residents of the Menger claim the hotel is haunted by White so Pittman aimed to write a novel with a haunting in it. She created Hedda, a character staying at the hotel a century ago and who has what appears to be haunting experiences. Currently, Dini and Quinn seek to explain the seemingly historical paranormal events as well as solve the theft of Hedda's jewels.

I was disappointed that there wasn't more historical information and description contained in the narrative itself. Pittman's historical note at the end helped clarify fact from fiction. I do hope future books in this series have more information about the actual event around which the fiction is developed.

My rating: 3/5 stars.


About the Author


Allison Pittman is the author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed novels and a four-time Christy finalist—twice for her Sister Wife series, once for All for a Story from her take on the Roaring Twenties and most recently for the critically acclaimed The Seamstress which takes a cameo character from the Dickens’ classic A Tale of Two Cities and flourishes her to life amidst the French Revolution. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, blissfully sharing an empty nest with her husband, Mike. Connect with her on Facebook (Allison Pittman Author), Twitter (@allisonkpittman) or her website,

More from Allison

From Haunting to Healing: How Stories Bring New Life to Old Ghosts

If you really think about it, every story is a ghost story. Not the floating spirits of the dearly departed kind, not bumps in the night or mysterious howling in the darkness—but the best stories come from examining a haunted heart. Memories that pursue the present.

A few years ago I took the walking tour of haunted San Antonio. It was a lark, a fun tourist-y thing to do with some visiting friends. I’m not a believer in ghosts, but I am a collector of stories. The tour opens at the Alamo—sacred ground of slain soldiers. The second stop is the Menger Hotel, listed as one of the most haunted hotels in the United States by those who measure and evaluate such things. And while the tour guide waxed on about the guests’ litany of haunted experiences (including Teddy Roosevelt raging through the lobby), my mind stuck with the story of Sallie White. Sallie White is the Menger Hotel’s most famous ghost—a chambermaid whose apparition is reported to be seen walking the halls, towels draped over her arm, or to be heard as an efficient two-rap knock on your door late at night. My mind, however, didn’t dwell on Sallie the ghost, but Sallie the woman—just a normal, hard-working, poor woman, murdered in the street by a man who claimed to love her. But for that, she would have passed into history unknown. Instead, her story is told every night as strangers gather on the very sidewalk where the crime took place.

Years after first hearing the story of Sallie white, I stayed in the Menger for a few days to gather details for The Lady in Residence. I booked what they call a “Petite” room—meaning it is a room that maintains its original structure. Read: tiny. Exposed pipes, creaky wooden floors, antique furniture—the only update, the bathroom fixtures. As it turned out, my room was directly above the place where Sallie White was murdered. One night I pressed my ear against the glass and listened to the ghost tour guide tell her story. The next morning, I stood in the exact spot with a fancy Starbucks drink, thinking about her. She lives on, not because people claim to see her walking and hear her knocking in the dead of night, but because she is a woman remembered.

So, is that beautiful? Is it ghoulish? Maybe it’s both, but when I was given the chance to write a story set in and around the Menger Hotel, I was determined to make Sallie White’s story a part of it. I didn’t want to write her story—that would have required embellishment beyond those few historic, factual tid-bits that such a woman left behind. Sallie White didn’t have correspondence to catalog or a journal to give us insight to her thoughts. Instead, I wanted to tell it to readers everywhere who might never make it to San Antonio to hear it for themselves. When you read The Lady in Residence, you are going to hear the true story of Sallie White, all of it taken from a newspaper account of the time. And then, I did what all historical writers do…I folded it into my own tale and folded that tale into another.

That’s really the joy of writing a split-time novel—being able to draw back and shoot a narrative-arrow straight through the hearts of two stories, threading them together, to bring a haunting to a place of healing.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, February 23

Artistic Nobody, February 23 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Fiction Aficionado, February 24

For the Love of Literature, February 24

Where Faith and Books Meet, February 24

Texas Book-aholic, February 25

Mia Reads Blog, February 25

Connie's History Classroom, February 26

Inspiration Clothesline, February 26

Locks, Hooks and Books, February 27

Books I've Read, February 27

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, February 28

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, February 28

Remembrancy, March 1

Bigreadersite, March 1

For Him and My Family, March 2

Hallie Reads, March 2

deb's Book Review, March 3

Blogging With Carol, March 3

By The Book, March 4

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, March 4

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, March 5

The Write Escape, March 5

Life of Literature, March 6

Inklings and notions, March 6

Godly Book Reviews, March 7

Vicky Sluiter, March 7

To Everything There is A Season, March 8

Pause for Tales, March 8


To celebrate her tour, Allison is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of The Lady in Residence!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

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

Monday, February 22, 2021

Brimstone 1 by Jason William Karpf

Mankind has been trying to find evidence of life elsewhere in the universe for decades. In Karpf's novel set a few years in the future, a Christian does exactly that. Starting some eighty years ago, Baxter Moore, founder of a Christian media empire, began sending Scripture recordings into the sky. Years go by and finally a reply. Some intelligence exists and is sending something to earth. Son and grandson of Moore make plans over the ensuing years, crafting a spaceship to capture whatever is coming.

This is a very interesting novel aimed at teen through college age readers. There is a good emphasis on science, such as a robotics contest. There are advanced drones and an exciting piloting of a jet caught in deadly turbulence. I appreciate that the Christians have no fear of science or of what might be found when sending the gospel out into space.

There is lots of action in the novel as a group of anti-Christians are trying to stop the work of the Moore media empire and specifically the success of the spaceship. The ruthless leader will stop at nothing, including mass murder.

This is a good novel for Christians who appreciate science fiction. Karpf's writing style is good, the characters are engaging, and the story maintains a good pace. We're left hanging a bit at the end of this novel so it will be interesting to see if more is revealed in a sequel.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Jason William Karpf grew up with storytelling. The son of a screenwriter, he was a child actor in the early 1970s, appearing on classic TV shows The Bold Ones, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, and Bonanza. Screenwriting became his calling from his teens to early thirties. In 1994, he wrote Anatomy of a Massacre, the true story of the era's worst mass shooting.

Today, Karpf is an author, speaker, college instructor, and marketing/fundraising professional. His blogging and nonfiction writing brings a Christian perspective to marketing and communication. His science fiction and thriller novels put Jesus first.

Karpf and his wife live in Minnesota and have three grown children. When he is not writing, speaking or teaching, he is making music, playing in the worship team of his church. A history and trivia aficionado, he was four-time champion on the TV game show Jeopardy.

Elk Lake Publishing, 225 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.)