Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Life After E.L.E. by JC Morrows GIVEAWAY

Click here to purchase your copy. 

About the Book:

Extinction Level Event: An event where all species on the planet can become extinct.
If you manage to survive . . . What then?
When a rogue moon was discovered on a collision course with the Earth, we thought we had a solid plan.
To survive. . . to rebuild. . . to go on.
30 Years later… those who managed to survive, emerged from the caves to find a frozen world.
A world where rule number one in the compound is to be inside the gates before sunset. . . or die.
Eve watched the gates close – with her father on the outside – so that should be the easiest thing in the world for her to remember.
But life is not always simple.
Life does not always go as planned.
Now Eve is in a race against time, discovery, and danger around every corner – to find a truth that has been hidden. . . for years.
A truth Eve’s father died to protect her from.

My review:

I really liked this teen novel. Eve is part of a community living in huge caves after a catastrophic event 45 years ago changed the climate. She has not been chosen for her training and future work as others her age have been. She feels she has not found her place and does not fit in. I think every teen can identify at some time with her feelings.

There is some mystery in the novel. People go outside the doors of the caves to hunt and other activities and once Eve's father did not make it back in time to get in before the gates closed. Eve wonders why that happened. Is he dead? Some of the teens in Eve's hunting group are savagely attacked? Who is doing that and why?

I think teens would like this novel. There are issues teens face, secrets leaders are keeping, some romance, and some adventure. The writing is well done and the characters are well crafted. There is a discussion guide at the end which would make this book a good one for a teen reading group.

We are left in a tense situation at the end of this novel. I'll be looking for the sequel.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author

 JC Morrows – author of the Bestselling Young Adult Dystopian series: Order of the MoonStone and the NEW Frozen Earth series (Post-Apocalyptic with a Dystopian edge) – spends her days writing, arguing with her evil computer, juggling two kids, and wishing someone would invent a coffee IV.

A storyteller in the truest sense of the word, JC has been telling stories in one form or another her entire life and once her mother convinced her to write them down, she simply couldn’t stop.

And… as a true believer, she gives God all of the glory for her talent and ability!

“And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” Habakkuk 2:2

Guest Post from JC Marrows

Life After E.L.E. is one of those stories that I never saw coming. A lot of people might even say it was never meant to be. . .  

But GOD had other plans!  

It was one of those spur-of-the-moment ideas… the kind that usually doesn’t amount to much for me. Over the last twenty years I have started hundreds – yes, you read that right – of stories on the spur-of-the-moment. Until 2011, none of them amounted to anything more than a few chapters. In 2013, I was working on an entirely different series – the first I’d had any measure of true success with – when my mother challenged me to participate in NaNoWriMo [National Novel Writing Month – where you write 50,000 words in 30 days].  

I sat down on November 1st with absolutely nothing on the page and only a vague idea of what I wanted to write about. And, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t expect much. I did not expect to reach the goal and I certainly never expected that the book would be published three years later (albeit after quite a bit of editing and rewriting)  

What’s more is that there is more to this story.  

Last November, one of the stops on Marissa Meyer’s Heartless tour was Nashville, and of course my daughter and I had to go see her… and buy her new book! While there, I gave Marissa an early copy of Life After E.L.E. after thanking her for being such an inspiration to me.  

Not only did she seem genuinely excited – she made a point to have me autograph it! (cue absolute and utter shock – followed by inner Happy Dancing)!  

Why so excited you ask? Well… there are some authors who think you’re not a ”real” author when you write your story during NaNoWriMo and knowing Marissa’s story was about the only thing that kept me going that year. You can’t get much more REAL than New York Times Bestseller – which Marissa hit with her very first book. She was a tremendous inspiration to me then – and continues to be now. I am truly blessed to have met her!  

And I count myself truly blessed that the right people enjoy the story enough that it has been published. I look forward to sharing part two with readers at the end of this year. And then I have another story to get out there!

Blog Stops

March 8: Reading Is My SuperPower (Author interview)
March 8: Mary Hake
March 9: Just Jo’Anne
March 11: Bigreadersite

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

Monday, February 27, 2017

Unquiet Ghosts by Glenn Meade

Meade has crafted a contemporary novel that portrays the after effects of the Iraq War. The plot revolves around Kathy whose husband, Jack, and two children were presumed to have died in an airplane accident eight years ago. Just recently the plane was found and the only body was that of the pilot. Officials think Jack and the children may very well have survived the accident.

The story behind the crash and the possible survival of Jack and the children unfolds very slowly, layer by layer. It has its roots in money and artifacts that had gone missing during the Iraq War. Things went wrong during battles and there were cover ups. Some benefited greatly from their war experience and will do anything, kill anyone, to keep their deeds hidden.

I had difficulty maintaining my interest in this novel. Much of it is written from Kathy's viewpoint. She thinks a great deal, sometimes pages of wondering this or that. I have to admit that I began skipping those sections. I always find it interesting when a man writes a novel with a woman as the main character. I think this time Meade way overdid the female thinking aspect, making the book bog down in many places. Other parts of the novel were written from the universal viewpoint. I did not like that and would prefer a consistent viewpoint.

Meade reminds us in a note at the end of the novel that much of it is based on actual facts. At least $8 billion of aide money went missing, as did many artifacts. Many of the soldiers saw horrific things and suffered PTSD, as did characters in this novel.

I have read other novels by Meade and I do not think this is his best. The plot is very complex. I couldn't count the number of times someone told Kathy that there was something she needed to know – another secret begrudgingly and slowly revealed. I did not like the characters. None of them made me feel sympathy for them, even Kathy. So many had their lives built on lies. Many of the twists in the book were just lies being revealed.

I think the book could have been shorter, with much of Kathy's thinking left out. I do recommend this novel to those who like to get into the mind of a character and are satisfied with action interspersed here and there.

This novel was originally scheduled to be released in February, 2017, but has been delayed until June.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Glenn Meade was born in Dublin and lives in Wicklow, Ireland while also spending time in the American south. He studied telecommunications and worked for a time in New Hampshire. He worked in the field of pilot training and has also been a journalist. He began writing well researched thrillers.

Howard Books, 432 pages.

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

Sunday, February 26, 2017

God's Word Alone by Matthew Barrett

This year, 2017, marks the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation. One of the fundamental commitments of the reformers was sola Scriptura, Scripture alone. Some question if that commitment to the ultimate authority of the Bible is relevant today.

Barrett argues for the divine inspiration and ultimate authority of Scripture. He defines sola Scriptura, “...only Scripture, because it is God's inspired Word, is our inerrant, sufficient, and final authority for the church.” (25) Scripture is not the only authority but it is the final authority over all others.

Barrett explores the history of the Bible and authority from the Reformation to modern times, including how views of biblical authority have changed over the centuries. He gives a biblical theology of God's Word in the context of covenant. He defends biblical authority, Scripture's clarity, inerrancy, efficiency, and sufficiency, all in light of modern challenges

Having a science background, I paid particular attention to Barrett's discussion about the Bible's inerrancy and science. He notes that many Christians today tend to rate science as having the same authority as the Bible, or perhaps superior to it. Many view Scripture through the grid of science. He suggests we give “attention to the many ways in which the Bible's authority can be compromised at the expense of adopting evolutionary claims.” (364) Science, he says, when done right “will always conform to the truths of Scripture.” (366) He writes in his section on the Bible's inerrancy, “So whether it is doctrine, morality, history, or even life sciences, its assertions are truthful and trustworthy.” (266) He does, however, suggest eight qualifiers, such as recognizing the literary genre and that the biblical authors did not use the technical language of modern science. While Barrett does well defending the authority of the Bible against philosophical challenges, he comes up short on the issue with science.

This book is a good introduction to the issue of Scripture and its authority. Barrett has included helpful explanations of postmodernism and deconstructionism. He includes a great deal of other information about the Bible, such as the six theories of inspiration. He also has good background information on Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin for the modern reader. It is a good book to draw Christians back to the Bible as our “final authority and sufficient rule...” (371) Just don't expect it to answer all of your questions.

This is one of five books being released by Zondervan to celebrate the five solas of the Reformation. You can see my reviews of the previously released books: Faith Alone and God's Glory Alone. Christ Alone and Grace Alone will be releasing in April of 2017.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Matthew Barrett (PhD, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville) is Tutor of Systematic Theology and Church History at Oak Hill Theological College in London. He is the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine, is the author of several previous books, and the editor of the Zondervan sola series. He and his wife have four children. You can find out more at http://www.matthewmbarrett.com/. You can read the free online Credo Magazine at http://www.credomag.com/.

Zondervan, 416 pages.

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

Summer on Sunset Ridge by Sharlene MacLaren

MacLaren has centered her Christian historical romance around the Quaker faith. That is a welcome change from the saturated Amish genre.

Rebecca's parents, Quaker farmers, have found a husband for her. The only problem is, she has absolutely no feelings for him. When she crosses paths with sheriff Clay pursuing escaped slaves, her life changes a great deal. She knows she could never marry except for love.

MacLaren has crafted the typical romance plot well. There are lots of obstacles to a possible romance between Rebecca and Clay. Wounded, he has had a blow to the head and is suffering from amnesia. When he mumbles a woman's name, Rebecca is sure he is married. She's engaged and if that was not trouble enough, Clay is not a Quaker. It looks hopeless.

I like novels where I learn something while I am being entertained. I learned a bit about the Quakers and some about the underground railroad and how slaves were helped to move along as they escaped to the north.

There are some good issues to think about from this novel. One is arranged marriages, something many in the world experience. Does one learn to love the other, do the feelings come, or is one doomed to a loveless marriage?

There is a great salvation message in this novel. It fits right in as it comes through the experiences of one of the characters.

I recommend this novel for those who enjoy a good historical romance with a strong Christian message.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Sharlene MacLaren was born and raised in Michigan, taught grade school, married, raised two daughters, and retired from teaching in 2003. She dabbled in writing and signed a contract for her first novel in 2006. She has now had more than sixteen novels published. She and her husband live in Spring Lake, Michigan.

Whitaker House, 318 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through The Book Club Network. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Fear Fighting by Kelly Balarie

We want to be brave and do away with fear. Balarie, in the context of sharing her own experiences, helps readers understand the various origins of fear and how to conquer it.

Balarie's writing style is very conversational. Reading her book is like listening to a friend across a table rather than listening to a teacher. She illustrates her concepts by telling her own stories, those of others, fictional stories, and stories from the Bible. Her writing style would appeal to career age readers, I think.

My favorite part of the book was her teaching on welcoming the Holy Spirit. (W.E.L.C.O.M.E.) Wait. Experience. Let the truth be told. Come back to prayer, again and again. Open the Bible. Meditate and communicate. Eyes attentive. (105) She notes that the time and energy we give to welcoming the Holy Spirit may well determine if we find peace with God or panic with worry. (106)

The strength of this book is the twelve week Group Study that is included. This is a relational kind of book and would have the most impact when used in a group context. Balarie suggests grabbing hands with “sisters in courage” and being part of a group study would be a great way to do that.

You can find out more about the book, find resources, read others' stories and share your own, and watch an author interview at http://purposefulfaith.com/fear-fighting-book/. You can also join her Facebook page (Kelly Balarie – Author & Speaker). You can download an excerpt here.

Food for thought: “If you spend your whole life grasping for happy in the future, you'll end up missing God's transformation in the present.” (22)

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Kelly Balarie has written for several online sites and Christian magazines. She is a speaker at women's and church events. She and her husband have two toddlers. You can find out more at her blog, www.purposefulfaith.com.

Baker Books, 240 pages.

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

Cosmic Initiative by Jack R. Taylor

Taylor begins with the all encompassing truth: the reality and centrality of God's Kingdom. “When we develop a kingdom mind-set, we comprehend God's ultimate purpose for humanity.” (28) He explores what the Kingdom is. “The Kingdom of God is the eternal rule of God over everything and everybody, everywhere, for all time and eternity.” (34) He calls God's purpose and plans for the Kingdom on earth God's cosmic initiative.

I appreciate that Taylor shares his own experiences, eighty plus years. He has a realistic understanding of the Kingdom, that it includes weakness and suffering, for example.

I like that he reminds us the Kingdom is a mystery, spiritual, eternal, and invisible. We must stop trying to figure it all out – stop trying to understand it all. We need to receive the Kingdom as an act of faith. He helps us understand how to align our lives to the Kingdom and how to prepare for the coming awakening.

I appreciate Taylor's teaching on the end times. He is beyond trying to figure out eschatology. He wants us to be busy advancing the Kingdom, not trying to discover the details and times of future events.

I recommend this book to those who want to align their lives to God's purpose, to the Kingdom. You will learn about the dynamics of the Kingdom and how to have a Kingdom mind-set.

Food for thought: “It is time for us to commit the remainder of our lives to the priority of earnestly seeking and finding God's Kingdom and His righteousness.” (163)

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Jack R. Taylor has been in ministry for more than sixty-five years. He believes his best years are yet to come. He attended Hardin-Simmons University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, graduating with an M.Div. He pastored Castle Hills First Baptist Church in San Antonio for nearly seventeen years. He resigned as pastor in 1974 to pursue itinerant ministry, and for more than forty years has served as president of Dimensions Ministries, headquartered in Melbourne, Florida.

Whitaker House, 272 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through The Book Club Network. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Home at Last by Deborah Raney

Raney tackles a serious subject in this, the fifth and final of the Chicory Inn novels. Link is the last of the Whitman clan not married. When he starts getting to know Shayla, a young woman with an African American father, we get into the issue of inter-racial dating and marriage.

This novel explores racial prejudice, one of the many issues African Americans have to think about that never cross the minds of people like me. They certainly have challenges I have never had to think about.

Raney covers other relational topics in this novel too, such as family dynamics. The Whitman family has one set of dynamics while Shayla, her father, niece and imprisoned brother have an entirely different set.

It seems to me that Raney has done a good job exploring inter-racial issues in this novel. But I am not one to judge, being of northern European descent. I have no idea if how Raney portrays Shayla and her father is an accurate reflection of such a family. I do know that I was disappointed at the end of the novel that so many of the struggles and barriers in the relationship of Link and Shayla were left unresolved. I would like to think that Link and Shayla could ride happily off into the sunset but realistically, I don't think that would be their future. The discussion guide included helps readers contemplate all the complicated issues that might arise from inter-racial romance.

I recommend this novel to reading groups and others who would like to explore and discuss inter-racial romance.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Deborah Raney is an award-winning author, conference speaker and teacher. She and her husband live in their native Kansas. They enjoy visiting their four grown children and growing number of grandchildren. You can find out more at www.deborahraney.com.

Abingdon Press, 352 pages.

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

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Door to Freedom by Jana Kelley

This novel is a sequel to Side by Side. (You can read my review of that book here.) In this story, Mia and her husband are in north Sudan. Michael has been working for a humanitarian organization in the country for two years. Mia has been getting to know her Muslim neighbors while raising their three children. Another major character in this novel is Rania, the young daughter of a Sudanese Arab. She misses her older sister who suddenly disappeared, leaving her a small book Rania keeps hidden.

This is a great novel about the life of Christian humanitarian workers and Muslims in Sudan. It is a land of Sharia law but those Mia knows are kind and friendly. The novel reveals some of the struggles and dilemmas Christian workers face when living in a Muslim country where proselytizing is often illegal.

This is another powerful novel from Kelley. She spent thirteen years in Africa and the Middle East and her novels are based on actual events. This one reveals the fragile nature of having a humanitarian organization in a hostile environment. It also portrays the plight of women in a predominately Muslim country.

The novel reveals the pain humanitarian workers inexperience while being so far away from their families back in the U.S. Yet it also reveals the joy those same workers experience knowing they are exactly where God wants them to be.

I recommend this novel to those who want to get a good picture of what it is like to be a Christian in a foreign and hostile environment.

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

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Jana Kelley was raised in southeast Asia then returned to her Texas roots to attend college. Married shortly after graduation, by their second anniversary she and her husband were living in a remote African town. After thirteen years in Africa and the Middle East, she, her husband, and their three boys moved to Southeast Asia where they currently live. Find out more at http://www.janakelley.com, follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

New Hope Publishers, 224 pages. You can purchase a copy here.

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Ashes by Steven Manchester GIVEAWAY

Ashes by Steven Manchester 

 on Tour February 19 - April 21, 2017

Book Details Genre: Fiction
Published by: The Story Plant
Publication Date: February 21st 2017
Number of Pages: 260
Purchase Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and GoodReads.


Middle-aged brothers Jason and Tom Prendergast thought they were completely done with each other. Perceived betrayal had burned the bridge between them, tossing them into the icy river of estrangement. But life – and death – has a robust sense of irony, and when they learn that their cruel father has died and made his final request that they travel together across the country to spread his ashes, they have no choice but to spend a long, long car trip in each other's company. It's either that or lose out on the contents of the envelope he's left with his lawyer. The trip will be as gut-wrenching as each expects it to be . . . and revealing in ways neither of them is prepared for.
At turns humorous, biting, poignant, and surprisingly tender, Ashes puts a new spin on family and dysfunction with a story that is at once fresh and timelessly universal.

My review:

Through flashbacks, memories, and story telling while on their journey, we find out the kind of childhood the brothers had. Their mother had died when they were very young and their father was a mean man. He often pushed the boys to fight against each other. He called them horrible names. Even as adults, they realize their father has a great deal of influence over them.

It was interesting to see how the brothers changed as they traveled together. They had hated each other and had had no contact for fifteen years. Being in a car together for days forced them to confront misunderstandings, wrong opinions, etc. They find they share some of the same struggles. They realize some of the misconceptions that had kept them apart. Both men grew as a result of the transforming road experience.

Manchester has created a story that is definitely for male readers. This female reader had a hard time with the crude and vulgar language. I found the coarse sex talk disturbing and offensive. There is “man humor” that I didn't think was very funny. Perhaps men would appreciate it. The vulgar language certainly painted a good picture of what the brothers are like as they begin their journey.

That being said, there are tender times in the novel I really appreciated. Manchester sometimes has a way with words too. For example, when the brothers sit down in a restaurant, “a smiling skeleton wrapped in tan skin” brings them their water.

I recommend this novel to men who would like to read an adult coming of age story. The character transformation in the men is rewarding. If the coarse and vulgar talk would not be bothersome to potential readers, there is a good, heartwarming story contained within the book's pages.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Read an excerpt:

Tom wheeled his late-model, platinum-colored BMW into Attorney Russell Norman’s freshly paved lot and parked between a brand new Lexus—sporting the license plate JUSTIS4U—and a custom pickup truck. Looks like I’m going after the hillbilly, he thought when he spotted the faded Massachusetts Department of Correction sticker in the rear window. His blood turned cold. “It must be Jason,” he thought aloud. I didn’t think he’d come.
Tom took a few deep breaths, not because he was nervous about his father’s death or talking to any lawyer but because he hadn’t seen his Neanderthal brother—for fifteen years, I think. He paused for a moment to give it more thought. Although their relationship had essentially vaporized in their late teens—the result of a fall out that still haunted his dreams—they’d occasionally wound up in each other’s orbits; weddings, funerals, and the like, enough to remain familiar with each other’s career choices, wives, and children. But even that came to an end fifteen years ago, he confirmed in his aching head before opening the door. While his toothache-induced migraine threatened to blind him, he took one step into the oak-paneled waiting room. His and Jason’s eyes met for the briefest moment. As though they were complete strangers, they both looked away. And here he is, Tom thought, disappointed. This is just great.
Through peripheral vision, Tom noticed that his older brother now wore a scar over his right eye, just above a bushy eyebrow that could have easily belonged to a homeless Scotsman. A jagged ear lobe, a piece clearly torn away, pointed to a crooked nose that sat sideways on his face—all of it rearranged since birth. What a big tub of shit he’s turned into, Tom thought, struggling to ignore his throbbing face and head. He’s as fat as a wood tick now, he thought, grinning, and he looks like he’s ready to pop. Jason looked straight at him, as if reading his mind. Tom immediately looked away, his rapid heartbeat starting to pound in his ears, intensifying his physical pain. Unbelievable, he thought. After all the years and all the distance, his elder brother—by only two years—still scared the hell out of him. He’s just a big asshole, that’s all, he told himself, but he still couldn’t bring himself to rejoin his brother’s penetrating gaze.
The secretary answered her phone before calling out, “Mr. Prendergast . . .”
Both brothers stood.
“Attorney Norman will see you now.”
Tom walked in first, letting the door close behind him—right in Jason’s face.
“Still a weasel,” Jason muttered, loud enough for all to hear.
“What was that?” Tom asked just inside the door.
“Don’t even think about playing with me,” Jason warned as he reopened the door and entered the room, “’cause I have no problem throwing you over my knee and spanking you right in front of this guy.”
I’m fifty years old, for God’s sake, Tom thought, and he thinks he’s going to spank me? I’m surprised the prison even let him out.
The attorney—his hand extended for anyone willing to give it a shake—looked mortified by the childish exchange.
Tom shook the man’s hand before settling into a soft leather wing chair. Jason followed suit.
The room was framed in rich mahogany paneling. The desk could have belonged in the oval office. Beneath a green-glassed banker’s lamp, stacks of file folders took up most of the vast desktop. An American flag stood in one corner, while framed diplomas and certificates, bearing witness to the man’s intelligence and vast education, covered the brown walls.
Attorney Norman wore a pinstriped shirt and pleated, charcoal-colored slacks held up by a pair of black suspenders. He had a bow tie, a receding hairline that begged to be shaved bald, and a pair of eyeglasses that John Lennon would have been proud to call his own. There’s no denying it, Tom thought, trying to ignore his brother’s wheezing beside him, he’s either a lawyer or a banker. He couldn’t be anything else.
While Jason squirmed in his seat, visibly uncomfortable to be sitting in a lawyer’s office, his hands squeezed the arms of the chair. What a chicken shit, Tom thought, trying to make himself feel better. Peering sideways, he noticed that his brother’s knuckles were so swollen with scar tissue they could have belonged to a man who made his living as a bare-knuckle brawler. He’s still an animal too, he decided.
Attorney Norman took a seat, grabbed a manila file from atop the deep stack and cleared his throat. “The reason you’re both here . . .”
“. . . is to make sure the old man’s really dead,” Jason interrupted.
In spite of himself and his harsh feelings for his brother, Tom chuckled—drawing looks from both men.
“The reason we’re all here,” Attorney Norman repeated, “is to read Stuart Prendergast’s last will and testament.” He flipped open the folder.
This ought to be good, Tom thought, while Jason took a deep breath and sighed heavily. Both brothers sat erect in their plush chairs, waiting to hear more.
As if he were Stuart Prendergast sitting there in the flesh, the mouthpiece read, “My final wish is that my two sons, Jason and Thomas, bring my final remains to 1165 Milford Road in Seattle, Washington, where they will spread my ashes.” “Seattle?” Tom blurted, his wagging tongue catching his tooth, making him wince in pain. Quickly concealing his weakness, he slid to the edge of his seat. “Oh, I don’t think so,” he mumbled, careful not to touch the tooth again.
Jason was shaking his head. “Hell no,” he said.
The attorney read on. “I’ve always been afraid to fly, so I’m asking that I not be transported by airplane but driven by car.”
“No way,” Tom instinctively sputtered.
Jason laughed aloud. “This is just great. The old bastard’s dead and he’s still screwing with us.”
The less-than-amused attorney revealed a sealed envelope and continued on. “As my final gift to my sons . . .”
“Only gift,” Tom muttered, feeling a cauldron of bad feelings bubbling in his gut.
“I’m leaving this sealed envelope for them to share, once and only once they’ve taken me to my final resting place.”
“What the fuck!” Jason blurted.
Every cell in Tom’s overloaded brain flashed red. Don’t do it, he thought. You don’t owe that old man a damned thing. But every cell in his body was flooded with curiosity. He looked at Jason, who was no longer shaking his fat head.
“Maybe the bastard finally hit it big at the dog track?” Jason suggested.
Tom nodded in agreement but secretly wondered, Could it be the deed to the land Pop bragged about owning in Maine? He stared at the envelope. For as long as I can remember, he claimed to own forty-plus acres with a brook running straight through it. He stared harder. Could it be? he wondered, wishing he had X-ray vision. A parcel of land in Maine sure would make a nice retirement . . .
“How ’bout we travel separately and meet in Seattle to spread the ashes?” Jason said, interrupting his thoughts.
“Great idea,” Tom said, hoping against all hope that the idea would fly with their father’s lawyer.
Attorney Norman shook his head. “I’m sorry, gentlemen, but your father specifically requested that you travel together with his remains to Seattle. Any deviation from this can and will prohibit you from attaining the sealed envelope.”
There was a long pause, the room blanketed in a heavy silence. Son of a bitch, Tom thought, this couldn’t have come at a worse time. He turned to Jason, who was already looking at him. “What do you say?” he asked, already cursing his inability to curb his curiosity.
Jason shook his head in disgust. “The last thing I want to do is to go on some stupid road trip with you.”
“Trust me, that’s a mutual feeling,” Tom shot back.
“But I don’t think we have a choice,” Jason added. “Our fucked-up father wants to play one last game with us, so to hell with it—let’s play.”
This is insane, but he’s right, Tom thought. With a single nod, Tom stood. “Okay, let’s have the ashes then,” he told the lawyer.
The attorney shook his head. “I don’t have them. They’re currently at a funeral home in Salem.”
“Salem?” Tom squeaked, unhappy that his tone betrayed his distress.
“That’s right. You have to take custody of your father’s remains from the Buffington Funeral Home in Salem, Massachusetts.”
“You must be shitting me.” Jason said.
The attorney smirked. “I shit you not,” he said, throwing the letter onto his desk.
Salem? Tom repeated in his head. Just when I thought Pop couldn’t be a bigger prick . . . The migraine knocked even harder from the inside of his skull, making him feel nauseous. Amid the pain, his synapses fired wildly, considering all this would mean: I’ll have to take bereavement leave from school and find someone to cover my classes. I should probably double my treatment with Dr. Baxter tomorrow. And what about Caleb and Caroline? he asked himself, quickly deciding, They’ll be fine without me for a few days. Then he pictured his wife’s face. And Carmen, she’ll be fine without me for a lot longer than that. The nausea increased. Screw her.
“Are we done here?” Jason asked, obviously itching to leave.
The lawyer nodded. “I’ll need proof in the form of a video or a series of photos that you’ve deposited your father’s remains where he wished. Once I have that, the letter’s all yours.”
“How wonderful,” Jason said sarcastically. He stood, turned on his heels, and headed for the door.
Tom also got to his feet. He looked at the lawyer and, trying to ignore his physical discomfort, he smiled. “Don’t mind him,” he said, shrugging. “That imbecile is exactly what our father trained him to be.”

Author Bio:

Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers Twelve Months, The Rockin’ Chair, Pressed Pennies, and Gooseberry Island as well as the novels Goodnight, Brian and The Changing Season. His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning, and BET’s Nightly News. Recently, three of Manchester’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

Find Steven on his Website, on Twitter, & on Facebook!

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Attend by Laura Davis Werezak

Werezak came to a point where she longed for a connection with God. Her regular practice of study, prayer, and worship were not working any more. At a low place, she began to see things from a different perspective. She realized God wanted her to turn her face to him in full attention. She started having experiences that broke down her ideas of who God should be and how faith works. She began discovering God in new places and new people.

Werezak shares what she has learned and encourages us to discover for ourselves how God can show up in unexpected places. She provides 40 readings to help us as our “soul's muscles ache to be stretched toward God...” (10)

We are given a wide variety of suggestions of deeds and practices to help us pay attention to God's presence in the world. They range from planting seeds to practicing the Daily Examen. We might go for a walk. “Walking can create a space and time to attend to God.” (76) We might read a spiritual classic, watch a sunset, or pray the Jesus Prayer. These are ideas aimed at interrupting the harried pace of our lives. By doing so, we give place for God. My favorite suggestion was journaling. As Werezak explains, “I write to take refuge in God.” (187)

Werezak is an Anglican and some of the practices, such as praying with beads, may be foreign. Also, referring to God, though only once, as “Mother-gentle God” may surprise some. Nonetheless, I found the ideas Werezak suggests are good ones. They help change up our lives, relax a little, experience peace, show love, and more, as we recognize God's presence.

I recommend this book to readers who are open to new practices to help them pay attention to God. Werezak mentions many additional resources, such as books, so if you wanted to pursue some of the practices more deeply, that could be done.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Laura Davis Werezak received her MCS in Christianity and the Arts from Regent College in 2011. She is married to Clint, an Anglican minister, and they live in New York City with their two young daughters.

FaithWords, 240 pages.

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

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Rejected Writers' Book Club by Suzanne Kelman

What a kick for older female readers like me. And that this women's club is based on the island of which I'm a native is a welcome plus.

This novel has so much. There are women knit together by a common cause. There is the culture of a small community on Whidbey Island. There are quirky characters. There is a road trip with just about every imaginable adventure. I loved it all.

This novel is pure escape literature. The plot is unique. Women have gathered together to celebrate their rejection letters. But when one receives an acceptance letter, well, the group is determined to not break their record. A road trip to the publisher, meeting handsome and not so handsome men, getting stuck in a snow bound hunting cabin, a ghost story, a literary seminar and banquet, a daughter having twins, on and on. Just when I thought their couldn't possibly be one more adventure, there was another!

I recommend this novel to those who enjoy reading pure escape literature for senior women. You'll read about women helping each other, changed relationships, old and new romance, and much more. You'll laugh and feel good. You might even learn the trick to keeping those pesky raccoons away.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Suzanne Kelman is an award-winning screen writer and playwright. Born in Scotland and raised in the U.K., she now lives on Whidbey Island in Washington State. You can find out more at http://www.suzannekelmanauthor.com/.

Lake Union Publishing, 272 pages.

Control Girl by Shannon Popkin

Free Kindle Download February 20.
Don't we want to be in control and have our life our way? Popkin did. Then she started studying control girls in the Bible. She found warnings and lessons and shares them in this book. She points out that one theme runs through all the stories – surrender. “God never intended for us to carry around the burden of trying to control everything,” she writes. (15)

I really like how Popkin challenges us. We say God is in control, but do we really believe it? Do we really think we are in control? Ouch.

I really like Popkin's honesty. She shares her experience of the intoxicating sense of power in controlling others (such as her kids). She reminds us how difficult it is to let go of control. It is much, much more than just recognizing the issue. Relinquishing control and trusting God takes determination.

Her lessons from women in the Bible include one on Hagar to explore what we can do when someone is controlling us. She also has a lesson on Leah, when we are rejected and unloved. Popkin adds illustrations from her own life as she helps us understand the principles in dealing with control.

It would be a good idea to grab a journal and have it near when reading this book. There are questions at the end of the chapters for reflection. There are several lessons on each woman studied so this would make a good book for a women's study. There could be some good discussion on concepts like fear, comparing, leadership, anger, and much more.

I recommend this book to those who are ready to let go of their “small-minded plans and purposes” and embrace “God's plans and his bigger, more thrilling story line.” (206)

Food for thought: “Jesus invites us to follow him in a path of surrender to a place where God is in control and we are free.” (15)

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Shannon Popkin is a wife and mom, a speaker and teacher, and a leader of small group studies. She has been published in several magazines. She is a contributing blogger for the True Woman blog at ReviveOurHearts.com and has blogged for several years at http://www.ShannonPopkin.com. This is her first book.

Kregel 216 pages.

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

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Stolen by Carey Baldwin


by Carey Baldwin

on Tour February 14 - March 3, 2017

Publisher Synopsis:

Is she missing…or a murderer?
When Laura Chaucer, daughter of a U.S. senator, vanishes from her college campus, celebrated FBI profilers Special Agent Atticus Spenser and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Caitlin Cassidy are called in. Thirteen years ago, Laura and her nanny disappeared from her family’s Denver home. Laura was found alive, but her nanny wasn’t so lucky… and the killer was never caught. Laura could identify him—if only she didn’t have a deep, dark hole in her memory.
Now she’s missing again. Did the troubled young woman run away or has the kidnapper returned? As women who look eerily similar to Laura’s nanny begin turning up dead, the Chaucer family psychiatrist renders a disturbing opinion: Laura is unstable, a danger to herself and others. Who knows what terrible secrets lurk in the shadowy recesses of her mind? Cassidy and Spenser must solve one of the most infamous cold cases ever to uncover the answer: Is Laura a killer, or is a monster still out there, waiting to claim another victim?

My Review:

While this is the fourth book in the Cassidy and Spenser series, it reads very well on its own. Plenty of back story is included in this book as the plot develops so readers new to the series won't have a problem enjoying this book.

This novel is a great psychological thriller. We experience the terror right along with Laura as she struggles with her memories. She is unsure if she has killed someone or not. Even her psychiatrist thinks she might be capable of causing danger to others. When she manages to escape from her kidnapper, she does not know who she can trust nor how she will find out the truth.

Cassidy and Spenser are flawed characters. Spenser has an explosive anger he has difficulty keeping under control, getting him in trouble with a potential suspect. Cassidy, to my surprise, made some very unwise decisions that brought her into potentially suspenseful situations. As a psychiatrist, she seemed particularly naive when it came to a potentially harmful suspect.

Other than the minor character defects in Cassidy and Spenser, this is a great novel of intense suspense. There are several red herrings and a great twist that kept me guessing who the villain was. I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy an intense psychological thriller.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense, Thriller
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: February 14th 2017
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 0062495542 (ISBN13: 9780062495549)
Series: Cassidy & Spenser #4
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

Somewhere in the Rocky Mountains
Consciousness was the enemy and Laura Chaucer its captive. No matter how badly she wanted to flee into a dark, unseeing void, the menacing chill of the knife pressed against her neck forced her to keep her chin high and her eyes open. As her pulse raged, pounding against the deadly blade, she wondered, horrified, if it was possible for her throat to slit itself.
If only her mind would drop into an abyss. If only she could crawl into a black hole and escape awareness, at least then she wouldn’t suffer. Cowardice dragged her eyelids shut.
Stop running away.
From deep within, a voice demanded she bear witness to her own death. Like broken wings beating against a gale, her eyelids fluttered up. Evil had been swirling around her for as long as she could remember, but she’d never had the courage to face it. Now, in her last moments, she must find the will. Before she left this twisted world, she needed to know the truth.
Who are you?
The answer she’d been running from her entire life loomed right behind her.
But the knife prevented her from swiveling her head to confront the bastard. A defiant move like that would surely cost her whatever precious seconds she had left. His breath, warm on her cheek reeked of booze, its stench curdling in her already woozy stomach.
Careful not to move her head, she braved a glance down and noted a wood floor.
Where am I?
A candle nub flickered in the dark; its yellow light illuminating patches of dust caked on an uneven plank tabletop. Bare log walls surrounded her. Eager for more clues, she sniffed. The scent of rain and earth hung heavily in the air. He must’ve stolen her from her room and brought her to a cabin—a primitive one.
Who was he?
You know, the voice within insisted. Stop pretending you don’t.
“I-I don’t know anything,” she answered, as if he and her thoughts were one and the same. “P-please, just let me go.”
The knife slipped across her throat, leaving fire trailing in its wake. Blood, warm and sticky, dribbled down her chest. Her head became heavy. The room spun. It would be so easy to let her chin fall, to drift into blessed unconsciousness, to leave it all behind.
But that would mean dying the same way she’d lived: running from the truth.
It’s not too late. As long as you have one breath left, there’s still time to change your craven ways.
Watching the blood, already darkening from contact with the air, snake between her breasts, she took it all in, and a gasp agonized its way up her throat.
She was naked.
Bound around the waist, chest and ankles to a chair.
It all seemed so…unreal. But the scrape of splintered wood beneath her bottom, the shivers that wracked her body from the frigid air, told her this was no dream. This wasn’t another one of her ubiquitous nightmares.
If she closed her eyes now, she’d never wake up.
Her throat burned with the urge to scream. But sensing that might give him pleasure, she clamped her teeth together, stuffing her fear down deep. She inhaled a fortifying breath through her nose. Wiggled her freezing fingers. But when she tried to shift her arms into a more comfortable position, she found that they, too, were tied to the chair, just up to the elbows. He’d left her hands and lower arms free, giving her enough slack to cross her palms in her lap and cover herself. Tears of gratitude for this small kindness welled in her eyes.
Maybe he of the knife had a tiny, shriveled semblance of a heart.
He proved he did not by dragging the jagged blade across her neck again—a shallow retracing of its former path that produced exquisite pain and more hot red blood. The need to cry out shook her body so hard the legs of the chair rattled against the floor. Then he pressed the knife’s point into the hollow of her neck—that spot that ought to be reserved for a lover’s kiss. It was as if this monster could not decide whether he wanted to kill her with a long, decimating swipe or by a swift, stabbing impalement. She didn’t know whether he was deliberately prolonging her agony or working up his nerve.
A spasm of fear knotted her toes. Her vocal chords trembled from the impossible effort of restraint. Finally, she opened her mouth, releasing a hysterical noise.
He wanted to hear her scream? Let him hear her laugh instead. Her pulse bounded harder against the blade, but she no longer feared the consequence.
Whether he revealed himself to her or not, she suddenly didn’t care. It didn’t matter who he was. It only mattered who she was. Relief flooded her entire being, drenching her in joy. Her death would be a victory.
Because it answered, once and for all, the question that had haunted her since the age of eight.
She was not a murderer.
Excerpt from Stolen by Carey Baldwin. Copyright © 2017 by Carey Baldwin & WitnessImpulse. Reproduced with permission from WitnessImpulse. All rights reserved.

Kudos for Carey Baldwin:

JUDGMENT, the first book in my Cassidy & Spenser Thriller series, has been named one of the "BEST BOOKS of 2014" by SUSPENSE MAGAZINE. Both JUDGMENT & CONFESSION are BOOKSELLERS BEST AWARD Finalists JUDGMENT is a DAPHNE DU MAURIER AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN MYSTERY/SUSPENSE Finalist and a SILVER FALCHION finalist.

Author Bio:

Carey Baldwin is a mild-mannered doctor by day and an award-winning author of edgy suspense by night. She holds two doctoral degrees, one in medicine and one in psychology. She loves reading and writing stories that keep you off balance and on the edge of your seat. Carey lives in the southwestern United States with her amazing family. In her spare time she enjoys hiking and chasing wildflowers.

Catch Up With Ms. Baldwin On: Website, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!


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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.