Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The Bone Records by Rich Zahradnik Book Review


The Bone Records

by Rich Zahradnik

January 30 - February 10, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


NY Police Academy washout Grigg Orlov discovers an eerie piece of evidence at the scene of his father's brutal murder: a disc-shaped X-ray of a skull. It's a bone record--what Soviet citizens called banned American songs recorded on used X-rays. But the black-market singles haven't been produced since the sixties. What's one doing in Coney Island in 2016?

Grigg uncovers a connection between his father and three others who collected bone records when they were teenage friends growing up in Leningrad. Are past and present linked? Or is the murder tied to the local mob? Grigg's got too many suspects and too little time. He must get to the truth before a remorseless killer takes everything he has.

Praise for The Bone Records:

"The Bone Records grabs you by the throat on the very first page, then never slows down as it takes you on a wild ride through New York City streets filled with Russian intrigue, underworld crime, police corruption and a man’s desperate quest to avenge his father’s murder. Shamus Award-winner Rich Zahradnik has written a taut, terrifically exciting and thought-provoking thriller."

"The plot is not only timely, but utterly unique—a tale of cultures colliding, often with sudden and unexpected consequences, as lonely city claims-adjuster Grigg Orlov spends his long nights chasing down leads on the mysterious disappearance of his father... This is a compelling read, highly recommended."

LA Times bestselling author Baron R. Birtcher

"A fast-paced thriller set around Coney Island during the tumultuous lead-up to the 2016 presidential election… The Bone Records is a well-crafted mountain of intrigue and non-stop action."

"A wonderfully flawed protagonist and a complex mystery combine with current events in Zahradnik's best novel to date. The Bone Records had me hooked from page one."

Elena Taylor, award-winning author of All We Buried and the Eddie Shoes mystery series

My Review:

This novel is a deep dive into the dark world of Russian mafia influence in the Coney Island area in 2016. Grigg is a flawed hero, getting himself and others in trouble because of his actions, often from drinking too much alcohol. But he is determined, mistakes and all, to find the murderer of his father. We are taken into his battle with the powerful Russian mob, thwarted by policemen on the take and eternally slow FBI agents.

This novel is a good immersion in all things Russian, including the culture, prejudice and revenge. I was surprised to see a bit of the Russian disinformation influence on the 2016 presidential election included and how some of it was done. There is also information about the intriguing recordings made on x-ray sheets, the bone records.

This is a good novel for readers who would like a dive into the dark world of possible Russian mob activities in New York City in 2016. There is plenty of action as Grigg tries to be one step ahead of the bad guys. Except for a token sex scene that did not further the plot and was described a little to graphically for me, I enjoyed this novel.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: 1000 Words A Day Press
Publication Date: November 2022
Number of Pages: 338
ISBN: 9798985905649
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Friday, August 19, 2016

Grigg’s reunion with his father was brief—eight minutes to be exact—and ended when a man with a nickel-plated revolver shot Dad twice.

Three hours before the violence began, Grigg struggled through the crowd on the Coney Island subway platform. He was the last to reach the stairway to the station’s exit. Again. Even the old folks were gone. His wrecked knee held him back.

Outside the station, Deno’s Wonder Wheel turned slowly, towering over the amusement park that took its name from the ancient fifteen-story ride. The wheel’s spokes glowed a hot neon white. Hazy coronas surrounded all the lights.


Grigg had started wearing his father’s Timex soon after he had gone missing. He put the watch up to his ear, as he’d done too many times before. It wasn’t loud enough to be heard. The clockwork noise was in his head. Maybe a reminder to keep looking. Maybe a reminder that six months was already too long in missing persons cases.

His father’s watch read 8:18 p.m.

He limped away from Coney Island’s amusement parks toward his house on West 28th off Mermaid Avenue. As he did, the street darkened. He checked behind him more than once. The neighborhood became far less amusing as night came on—and the farther you went from the fun parks. Mugging wasn’t the thrill ride Grigg needed. He didn’t want any more trouble. He had a lifetime’s supply. His long days pinballed him between two jobs and the search for his father.

But despite Grigg’s best efforts, the minutes and hours and days kept spinning off the Timex, found by the police in a Howard Beach motel room, the last place his father was seen before he vanished into the thin March air. Their empty house waited to reflect Grigg’s loneliness back at him. His mother had died when he was eighteen months old. His boss at the city’s claims adjustment office rarely talked to him outside of giving orders. All of his connections—he couldn’t really call them friends—in the neighborhood he owed to his father. Dad, like the rest of them, had immigrated from Russia. Unlike the rest of them, he’d married a woman from Jamaica, a union that guaranteed Grigg would always be on the outside in Little Odessa.

The rubber soles of his cheap dress shoes slapped the wet pavement. A thunderstorm had blown through while he was on the subway, leaving behind the sticky-thick humidity. His messenger bag tugged on his shoulder.

He went over the lead he’d uncovered tonight. Going door-to-door in a Midwood apartment building full of Russians, he’d talked briefly to a tenant named Freddy Popov, who recognized Grigg’s father when shown a photo. Popov said a man—maybe a cop—had been canvassing the building with a picture of Grigg’s dad four weeks earlier. Inside the man’s apartment and shielded by Popov, someone said something in Russian. Popov got hinky, then said he didn’t know anything more and slammed the door. Grigg banged on it until a woman across the hall threatened to call the cops. He left with only the knowledge that someone else—maybe a cop?—was also searching for Dad. Still, that bit of info was his biggest lead to date.

Grigg limped up to the small, two-story brick house—kitchen, living room, two bedrooms over a garage—a duplicate of the other attached homes on the street. He unlocked the steel gate, then the front door, and stepped inside.

The thunk of the door closing echoed through the house. Two days ago, Grigg had moved everything out except for the sleeping bag in his bedroom of twenty-seven years and a blue duffel, readying the old house for its new owners. He turned the deadbolt.

He shouldn’t be staying here tonight. He’d spent all his free time on the search for Dad, right up until the closing on the sale of the house. Even at the end, he’d hoped for a breakthrough that would save him from selling. He’d signed the papers yesterday, writing a check for $1,650—most of his savings—because the house was underwater on a second mortgage his father had taken out. Grigg knew the out-of-state buyers wouldn’t be moving in for three weeks, so he’d kept a copy of the key.

Trespassing in my own house. Inviting trouble when I already have too much.

The plan was to use the next three weeks to find an apartment share, but the lead from Popov tugged at his thoughts. Would it pull so hard that he’d spend his free time searching for Dad and end up homeless? He ducked his own question and instead pictured going back to demand Popov tell him more. He shook his head. He could barely keep his mind on his housing problem for the space of a single thought. He took a beer out of the refrigerator, went up to his room, and rolled his sleeping bag into a fat pillow to lean against.

Grigg popped open the 90 Years Young Double IPA. Nine percent alcohol. The strong stuff he’d dubbed “floor softener.” He downed two sixteen-ounce cans, and the ache faded from the muscles in his damaged leg.

He took out his phone. He’d run through his data allowance last week. Three days until the new billing cycle. At least he had his music. He played the Decembrists, their songs about revenge and ships at sea set to jangly indie rock. He followed with the Killers, then Vampire Weekend.


His father’s watch read 11:20 p.m.

He opened his notebook and wrote down “Day 191” along with what he’d learned. It was longer than any previous entry—yet not long at all. So many days. The silence in the house chilled him, sending goosebumps in waves over his arms and thighs. He got up and turned down the air conditioner. It wouldn’t help. He missed his father’s voice, the way it had warmed their home. They could talk about everything and anything, a lot of anything, but such interesting anything. Dad was always there with his questions, his curiosity, and his deep interest in whatever Grigg was up to. There were days his father was more intrigued by Grigg’s job than Grigg was. Even that helped.

A fourth beer. He floated on the wood floor of his empty bedroom. Slept.

A thump. The floor hardened underneath him. Another thump. Half buzzed, halfway to a headache, Grigg opened his eyes. He heard it again. Not a dream. On the roof. He followed the steps above him to his father’s empty bedroom. He was about to switch on his phone’s flashlight when legs—silhouetted by the glow from the street across the way—dangled over the room’s tiny balcony. They descended slowly, inching, hesitating, as if the intruder were no expert at this sort of move. The toes stretched to touch, and finally, the person dropped, stumbled, and landed on their knees.

Grigg didn’t know whether to laugh or arm himself. If this was a robbery, then the joke was going to be on a thief who’d picked a house with nothing in it. Grigg decided discretion was the better part of whatever, returned to his bedroom, and pulled the stun gun from his messenger bag. Ever since he’d been attacked when he was in the police academy—suffering the knee injury that forced him to drop out—he hadn’t felt safe unless he carried the weapon.

He placed the messenger bag next to his duffel in the hallway in case he needed to get out fast. In the kitchen, he grabbed his second six pack as a backup weapon.

Of course, he could escape by the front and leave the intruder for the police to deal with. But if he did, then the buyers would be notified, and he’d lose the three weeks of temporary housing he’d been counting on.

He crept through the doorway into the main bedroom.

The figure, whose face remained in deep shadow because of the streetlight glow from behind, rattled the handle to the single balcony door, used his elbow to smash in the square pane nearest the knob, reached in, and turned the simple metal lock. As he pushed the door open, Grigg stepped forward, hit his phone’s light, and thrust forward the stun gun.

“Get the fuck out of my house!”

The figure froze. “I’m not going to hurt you, Grigg.”

Grigg moved closer.

“Dad? Dad!”

Full beard and longer hair, but it was him.

Grigg didn’t know whether to hug his father or scream at him.

“I came to say goodbye,” Dad said.


“I’m leaving. For Russia. I don’t know when I’ll be able to return. It’s the only way.”

“I don’t understand.” Any of it. “You said you’d never go back.”

“It’s the only way to fix things.”

“Things? What things?” Popov’s suggestion about a cop. “Are the police after you?”

A click came from the front door, and Grigg spun. Seeing his father and not an intruder had put the brakes on his fear. Now, his heart raced. He squeezed the handle of the stun gun with a sweaty hand. Keep it together.

The knob turned.

The front door flew open. 

Chapter 2

Friday, August 19, 2016

The man was tall and red haired with a short beard and a flattened nose. He held a long-barreled, nickel-plated revolver. Looked like a .357 magnum.

“Shit.” Grigg grabbed his bags—there wasn’t time to recover the sleeping roll from his room and stuff it in the duffel—dropped back into the bedroom with his father, and shut and locked the door, though it wouldn’t hold for long. “Guy’s armed. Is someone after you?”

“Yes. But no, not now. That’s why I came across the roof.”

Grigg’s thoughts spun like he’d boarded the Tilt-A-Whirl at Deno’s Wonder Wheel. This was fucking nuts. His dad came back and moments later they were under attack. His stomach flipped as if he were actually on the ride.

A hundred questions.

A thousand.

Something hit the bedroom door hard.

No time for any.

“We’ll go out the way you came in.”

“I can’t make it back on the roof. I barely made it down.”

“I’ll boost you.”

They were on the balcony in seconds. Grigg grabbed his father’s thighs and lifted upward, bearing as much of the weight as he could on his good right leg. It wasn’t enough. He nearly fell over; instead, he leaned against the iron railing to regain his balance and shoved until Dad was able to drag himself onto the roof.

Another crash from the bedroom door.

Grigg tossed his duffel down into the backyard for later retrieval.

The bedroom door gave way after the third blow.

Grigg ripped free a can of 90 Years Young and hurled it hard into the shadowed darkness of the room. The man yelped in pain.

Grigg didn’t wait to learn more. He moved to the side and climbed onto the balcony railing. Two loud gunshots, the weapon aimed at the space he’d vacated. He dropped the remaining beers and started pulling himself onto the roof. His arms were strong, but the left leg slowed him. Scrambling with all his strength, he made it up.

Below the asphalt roofing, in the attic, was the weapon he really needed, a registered .32 in a gun safe. No way to get it now.

Should’ve been better prepared.

“Run!” Dad whispered.

Run was right. There’d be time for should-haves later. Right now, Grigg had pissed off the gun-wielding asshole who was after his father for reasons unknown.

He went as fast as his left leg would allow, which meant he and his sixty-eight-year-old dad kept about even. They dodged around the boiler chimney and an AC unit. Neither structure looked tall enough to block a clear shot. They needed something bigger between them and that nickel-plated revolver. Like now.

They crossed to the roof of the next attached house and the next.

“How’d you get up here?” Grigg gasped, trying to picture a way down to street level and coming up empty.

“The Kiev Bakery at the corner has a fire escape.”

That meant winning a block-long race over rooftops. Against bullets and a faster runner.

“Stop!” came a deep voice from behind them.

“Why’s he after you?”

Instead of an answer, the report of the gun, then another.

Dad grabbed his side, groaned, and slowed but kept running, slewing off to the left. Grigg stayed with him.

“Get to Katia. Katia Sokolov—”


Dad jerked and spun nearly in sync with the sound of the third shot. Hot blood sprayed Grigg’s face.

His father listed hard to the left, veering toward the edge of the roof and the backyard two stories below.

Grigg grabbed for his dad’s arm, but his hand slipped on blood.

He reached again to get a hold, but his father, as if driven by the red jet from his neck, took two more steps.

And disappeared off the roof.

Grigg stopped.

Stared at the twisted body below.

The next gunshot lifted the messenger bag hanging from his shoulder.

Shock made way for raw panic. Flee or die. The fire escape. Too far. He had to get down the way he came up. He dropped to the balcony of the house beneath him, then repeated the maneuver to reach the ground, bad knee screaming from the punishment of the twin blows, shirt drenched in sweat and blood.

His father’s body lay face up with an arm under his back and the right leg bent at an unnatural angle. A two-story drop wouldn’t necessarily kill you. But the neck wound …

“Stay there or I will shoot you.” The killer began taking Grigg’s route to the ground.

The man had one shot left before he needed to reload. Or had he reloaded already?

Grigg knelt. Pressed his hand to his father’s neck where the blood pulsed.

His father’s eyes were open. With the slightest of movements, he patted at his blazer pocket. The jacket was no surprise. Dad always wore blazers. Weekdays and weekends. All seasons. Why the hell does that matter now? Tilt-A-Whirl thinking. A black tube protruded from the pocket. Grigg pulled it out.

Another shot.

Dirt leapt inches from Grigg’s foot.

The gunman stood on the second-floor balcony and looked to be reloading.

Warning bells almost drowned out the unending ticking in Grigg’s head as he held the tube up for Dad to see. “Is this what he’s after?”

Dad’s eyes didn’t move. Stared upward. Locked in on something. Or nothing. His mouth was a black hole ringed with blood and spittle on thin lips. Grigg checked for a pulse. Neck first, then ear to chest. Nothing.

The gunman hung from the balcony, preparing to make the drop to the ground.

Fighting the nausea creeping up from his gut, Grigg ran as darts of pain shot from his left knee into his thigh. He climbed over the fence into the opposite yard, then into another next door, and found a shed to crouch behind.

From two backyards away, the gun went off.

A kill shot when Dad was already dead.

Grigg heaved up what was left of his dinner and the beers. Heaved again. Too much noise. Ground down his teeth to stop. He spat quietly to clear the taste of puke. Failed.

He couldn’t see or hear the shooter, but he didn’t dare move. Grief, anger, and fear threatened to swamp anything like clear thinking. A tidal wave against a rowboat. He needed to save himself. He needed to be a coward. Five minutes, then ten ticked off on his father’s watch as he looked at the fence. Shadowed darkness. A deep purple oozed across his vision from staring too hard at the wooden slats.

Finally, he ordered himself to leave.

Be practical: the duffel bag.

He crossed two more backyards until he could approach his house—what used to be his house—from the other side. He saw no one in the yard where the body lay, looking from this distance like a dark mound. But the killer could be waiting somewhere to take him out. He inched with his back up against the wall (it was darkest near the houses), grabbed the bag, and slipped out to the avenue without incident.

His destination: the Conquistador Arcade in the Coney Island amusement area. He worked there most evenings. He had a key.

Cleaning the blood from his face and arms and out of his hair took an hour. Might have taken less time, but he kept scrubbing long after his skin was clean. If only he could scrub tonight away. After searching for six months, he’d had mere minutes with his dad before the attack. Grigg was too exhausted to cry. He knew the shirt was a write-off but left it soaking in the sink anyway, now the least of his lost causes.

He needed to go to the police. He knew that. But they hadn’t given a shit when Dad disappeared. Grigg had been the only one looking. Murder was different than missing, right? Then again, he knew of too many unsolved killings in Coney Island.

He found it hard to think. Ideas, memories, discrete facts were fireflies inside his head. They whirled, collided, and spun off into the darkness. The lights led nowhere. Connected nothing. Would it help if he could catch them all in a jar like he had on an upstate trip with Dad? Or would that only mean the same confusion jammed in a smaller space?

He exited the bathroom of the arcade, which had closed hours ago, and moved to the Skee-Ball machines against the back wall. Rows of blinking arcade games shielded him from the front windows. He sat down. It was ironic. No, just sad. Grigg had dreamed of becoming a cop since he was a kid. The police academy hadn’t worked out. Worse than that, it’d cost him his knee. Failed. Failed to find his father. Then Dad found him too late. Another failure. Exhaustion pressed down on him like the air had thickened, had weight. Maybe he’d lie down in the lane of this machine. He absently pulled out the black tube he’d taken from his dad’s pocket. The shock again. He’d forgotten all about it. He took off a blue rubber band. The flimsy, plastic-like material unrolled: a super-thin black disc with a hole in the middle, like an old record. One of the arcade games flashed, and Grigg caught sight of something in the translucent black material. Film? He played his phone’s light through it from behind, and the image of a skull materialized. He held the light closer. An X-ray of a skull, though like no X-ray he’d ever seen. For one obvious reason, it was circular; on closer inspection, the edge was uneven, like it had been cut by hand. The disc bore handwritten Cyrillic lettering. Grigg couldn’t read or speak the Russian language, but smaller English script had also been written on the film: “Not Fade Away,” right above the skull’s eye sockets. He tipped the disc sidelong and scanned the surface. Wait … are those grooves? Grooves, three inches’ worth, cut into the X-ray disc, but only on one side.

Grigg would have sworn he was holding an old-fashioned record album—if an album were thin, translucent, and had a skull X-ray on it but no proper label.

He turned it over again. Connections came together in his head. The sting of memory going back six months, the night before his father disappeared, the second to last time Grigg had set eyes on the man.

Dad had stood in the living room, whistling and sorting through the mail: a couple fliers, a bill, and a manila envelope. He had opened the envelope, and Grigg had glimpsed a black thing—maybe disc shaped—slipping from it.

Was it a disc? Maybe he only wanted it to be. It seemed so long ago.

The way he remembered it, Dad froze, stopped whistling, then turned away from Grigg to hold the object over a table lamp before hurrying to his bedroom. His father hadn’t come out again—no goodnight, no nothing—and was gone when Grigg awoke the next morning.

In the aftermath of his father’s disappearance, he’d forgotten about the envelope and the black thing.

Grigg reached further into his memories but could find nothing else. That period had become a blur. He’d been overwhelmed by the search—plus two jobs and money running out fast. Finding his father had seemed more important than figuring out why he’d left. Maybe he had gotten it backward. Maybe the why came first.

He looked at his phone, useless as a tool to identify the object for certain. That would have to happen in the morning. And on the chance it played like a vinyl record, he needed to listen to it before he turned it over to the cops.

The strange disc generated enough adrenaline to further clear the fog in his brain. His father’s last words: get to Katia Sokolov. If his thoughts hadn’t been scrambled by the murder, he’d have wondered at that name sooner. First, probably. He couldn’t talk to the cops until after he spoke with Katia, something he hadn’t done in more than a year. Still, there was no way he’d sic a pack of homicide detectives on her. He owed her that much. More.

Thinking of how he’d lost Katia took him to losing Dad for good and wrenched sobs from him for twenty minutes, a half hour. He wasn’t sure.

God, I so need sleep.

Grigg risked the chance of being seen, snuck out, and bought a four-pack of strong ale at a bodega on Surf Avenue.

He was asleep midway through the second can.


Excerpt from The Bone Records by Rich Zahradnik. Copyright 2022 by Rich Zahradnik. Reproduced with permission from Rich Zahradnik. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Rich Zahradnik is the author of the thriller The Bone Records and four critically acclaimed mysteries, including Lights Out Summer, winner of the Shamus Award. He was a journalist for twenty-seven years and now lives in Pelham, New York, where he is the mentor to the staff of the Pelham Examiner, an award-winning community newspaper run, edited, reported, and written by people under the age of eighteen.

Catch Up With Rich Zahradnik:
Instagram - @rzahradnik
Twitter - @rzahradnik
Facebook - @RichZahradnik


Tour Participants:

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Click here to view The Bone Records by Rich Zahradnik Tour Hosts.


Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Partners in Crime Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Partners in Crime 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.)

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Why Do You Call Me Good? by Dory Alonzo and Stella Tumanguil Book Review

About the book:

Is it possible for us to be good yet be lost forever? What sort of goodness will assure us a place in heaven?

Be captivated with the allegorical story of Lost—an exceptional doctor who loves helping others, but her self-reliant ways make her unable to see her own spiritual lack, more so her need for Christ.

There are millions of successful and well-meaning people out there who are genuinely kind, churchgoing, law-abiding. Many of them hear God’s word but do not receive; they go on with life convinced that their souls are saved. What does God's word say about those whose faith rests on their presumed goodness? Does one’s goodness always lead to eternal life?

What about you? If a sudden event brings you face to face with God, what do you suppose God will say about the life you lived?

This book thoughtfully presents the biblical truths about the folly of self-righteousness—why no man can earn salvation by himself through good works and how there can be no true goodness apart from God. Like Lost, we all need to be reconciled with God, in the way that he ordained through the all-sufficient redemptive gospel of Christ.

You can watch the book trailer here.

My Review:

When people are asked about going to heaven, many will say they think they have been good enough and they'll be there. This may be especially true of church goers. But what does it really mean to be good, to be good enough to be worthy of heaven? How to we really have eternal life?

The authors have created a unique exploration of what it means to be good and what is really necessary to be assured of heaven. The first part of the book contains short stories, vignettes of people who think they are good but their actions reveal otherwise. The truth about character is made plain by actions.

The rest of the book contains good teaching on the biblical perspective of goodness and heaven. Our eyes need to be opened so we can see ourselves compared to God's holiness. Salvation is clearly explained. The authors also write about the many things that can detract people from true faith in Christ.

This is a good warning to people who think they have been so good that God will reward them with heaven. This book reveals what is really required to be accepted by God.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Authors:

Dory B. Alonzo is a freelance writer and editor, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Arts. She has extensive professional experience in corporate documentations and publications management, web content development, wordpress blog, and social media content development. She has served as a Bible study leader, home cell group facilitator, and in-house writer for her local church, Christ the Living Stone Fellowship, Philippines. She comes from a family of pastors, missionaries and church elders. Her life goals include authoring books that enlighten and encourage people about counter-cultural Christian living; spreading the love of Jesus to friends; and sharing the gospel of the Kingdom of God to others. She loves to tell stories on her blog site about how the Lord moves in everyday life of ordinary people as well as compose original songs for the Lord.

Stella S. Tumanguil is a technical writer and documentation specialist with a master of arts degree in communications. She greatly enjoys serving as a volunteer teacher with the Kids Ministry at her local church, The Church On The Way, in California.

Resource Publications, 164 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the authors. 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, January 28, 2023

The Master's Inn by Deb Gorman Book Review

About the Book

Book: The Master’s Inn

Author: Deb Gorman

Genre: Christian Fiction

Release date: October 15, 2022

A novel of human brokenness and God’s still-unfolding drama of redemption.

When two dysfunctional and wounded families wind up unexpectedly at the remote Master’s Inn during a December snowstorm, it’s up to owners Tom and Barb Masters to help—except they’re dealing with their own bitter issues. As the winter snowfall confines them, the three families find themselves coping with their crippled relationships and hard emotions . . . and sometimes tearing one another down in the process.

But when a secret is inadvertently revealed and a rebellious teenage girl takes off into the storm, chaos descends. Will they be tossed into more heartbreak, or will the crisis draw them together against a common enemy?

With a forest in Washington State as the backdrop, join the Masters’ at their B&B as they strive to show Christ’s love to all who cross their threshold . . . even when it threatens their own sanity and safety.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

This is a touching novel centered on the power of the gospel to change lives so you had better have your tissues nearby as you finish the book. But the end is a long way from the beginning and potential readers should know there are many possible trigger scenes in between. A dysfunctional family with a great deal of anger and arguing is a big one. Readers who grew up in a similar childhood setting may have difficulty reading about it, as I did. Other issues include teen rebellion, the death of an infant, abortion and a big emphasis on PTSD. There is more of the novel given to those issues than I would have liked but the victory of the gospel in the end made up for much of the uncomfortable reading at the beginning.

Besides the power of the gospel to change lives, Gorman also explores many of the reasons to not  believe in God. We read of the struggle to believe God as good and loving. And we also see a good example of the struggle to surrender to God in saving faith.

Gorman's writing style is engaging as we come to know troubled people in need of a Savior. Readers will also see how God can use ordinary people to make everlasting changes in the lives of others. And the setting, well, I got cold just reading about the snow. This is a good novel in the end.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author

Deb Gorman, owner of Debo Publishing, was born and reared in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She still lives in her hometown with her husband, Alan, and their very smart German Shepherd, Hoka.

Deb is a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, cleverly disguised as a wife, mom, grandmom, and author.

Her purpose is to connect with God’s most beautiful and clever creation, the human family, using the literary talent and imagination God gave her.

Her prayer is that as she journeys together with you, we will discover encouragement and redemption in our most important relationships.

Connect with Deb at https://debggorman.com where you will find her blog posts and information about her books, both published and forthcoming.

More from Deb

One Sunday morning in 2012, I listened to our pastor give one of his excellent sermons.

I don’t remember what he said to spark this idea, but I grabbed my church bulletin and began scribbling furiously. By the time the service ended I had a rough outline, character sketches, and the opening scene written. And the title—The Master’s Inn. Some details, of course, changed over the years, but the title stayed the same.

The Master’s Inn was first birthed as a ninety minute play, which my church produced over one weekend in December of 2013. I wrote the play and directed it. I had an excellent cast of characters, plenty of folks lending a hand from technical details to the dinner we hosted for our guests. It was truly a team effort.

The Master’s Inn play was the first serious effort I’d ever made at writing. After it’s success, I began thinking about writing a book. Now, ten years later, I’ve written three creative non-fiction, devotional-style books and contributed to a Chicken Soup for the Soul volume.

During the process of publishing those first three books, the characters from The Master’s Inn pestered me day and night to put them in a novel. Who was I to argue?

And so, those characters got what they wanted. They are no longer confined to ninety minutes and one weekend of publicity. They’re now out there for the whole world to see.

The Master’s Inn is a novel of human brokenness and God’s still-unfolding drama of redemption . . .

When two dysfunctional and wounded families wind up unexpectedly at the remote Master’s Inn during a December snowstorm, it’s up to owners Tom and Barb Masters to help—except they’re dealing with their bitter issues. As the winter snowfall confines them, the three families find themselves coping with their crippled relationships and hard emotions . . . and sometimes tearing one another down in the process.

But when a secret is inadvertently revealed and a rebellious teenage girl takes off into the storm, chaos descends. Will they be tossed into more heartbreak, or will the crisis draw them together against a common enemy?

With a forest in Washington State as the backdrop, join the Masters at their B&B as they strive to show Christ’s love to all who cross their threshold—even when it threatens their own sanity and safety.

Blog Stops

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, January 27

Blogging With Carol, January 27

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, January 28

Bizwings Blog, January 29

Texas Book-aholic, January 30

deb’s Book Review, January 31

Cover Lover Book Review, February 1

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, February 2

Locks, Hooks and Books, February 3

Pause for Tales, February 4

Dee S. Writes, February 4

Spoken from the Heart, February 5

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, February 5

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, February 6

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, February 7

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, February 8 (Author Interview)

For Him and My Family, February 8

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, February 9

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

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

Friday, January 27, 2023

What Happens Next by Christina Suzann Nelson Book Review

About the Book:

Popular podcaster and ex-reporter Faith Byrne made a name for herself telling stories of greatness after tragedy--but her real life does not mirror the stories she tells. While her daughters spend the summer in Hawaii with her ex-husband and his new wife, she must manage life on her own. All of that changes when she's asked to spotlight her childhood best friend's missing person case on her podcast.

Dora Crane has never accepted that her younger daughter could be dead, keeping her home looking the same as when her daughter disappeared. But when her husband leaves her and her older daughter intervenes, she agrees to counseling and to pack up her missing daughter's belongings under one condition: Faith Byrne comes to Deep Valley and sheds light on the cold case.

As the long-abandoned investigation moves forward, old wounds and long-buried secrets are exposed. Will these two women, whose lives have never been the same, finally get the answers they need to reconcile the past and the future?

You can read an excerpt here.

My Review:

This is a touching novel about solving the decades old mystery of a girl gone missing. It is told from a number of different points of view. Some chapters are from the viewpoint of the girl before she went missing. Those are in first person while the others are in third person. While it was not so hard to keep them separate, that is not a plotting technique I like. I am not sure the girl's chapters added anything that could not have been covered in the memories of her childhood friends, now active in the investigation. Having all of the past information revealed in current activities would have made for a tighter novel.

There are several themes explored in this novel. Marital difficulty is one. Grief over loss, whether by death or divorce, is another. The investigation into the cold case takes place in a small town so gossip and making judgments are more issues. And there is ultimately the issue of forgiveness. Christian faith is an important element to many of the characters.

Nelson has an engaging writing style and the novel kept my interest to the very end. The solving of the mystery was made possible by information revealed near the end so there was really no clues to help readers figure it out ahead of time, something we mystery lovers find a worthy challenge. 

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author:

Christina Suzann Nelson 
(www.christinasuzannnelson.com) is an inspirational speaker and Christy award-winning author. Her first novel, If We Make It Home, was honored as one of Library Journal's top five inspirational novels of 2017, and her 2021 novel, The Way It Should Be, won the Christy Award for general fiction.
In 2017, Christina was named the OCW Cascade's Writer of Promise and received a Cascade award for her novel Swimming in the Deep End. Her stories have been published in the Cup of Comfort for a Better WorldCup of Comfort for Adoptive Families, as well as other publications.
Christina is over-the-top about her passions, including the stories created somewhere in the twists and turns of her less-than-focused brain. When she's not writing, Christina serves on the board of Every Child Linn-Benton, a nonprofit where she has the opportunity to influence the lives of families and children in the foster care system.
On a typical day, she chases escaped farm animals, reads, hikes with her dog, and enjoys her husband and six kids. Photo Credit: © Katey Tryon

Bethany House Publishers, 352 pages.

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

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

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Barking Up the Wrong Tree by Janice Thompson Book Review

About the Book

Book: Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Author: Janice Thompson

Genre:Christian Fiction / Mystery / Romance

Release date: January 1, 2023

Inquisitive, detail-oriented, Veterinarian Kristin Keller prides herself on winning over any dog. But has this self-proclaimed dog whisperer finally met her match in a Sheltie named Remington who has just won the Texas state agility course competition? The champion pooch is acting out of sorts—almost as if he is not the same dog. Has he, by chance, been switched out with another dog just before the next big competition? Kristin and the other Lone Star employees will do anything to help the Atkinson family figure out this mystery surrounding their beloved Remington.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

This is a good cozy style dog mystery for lovers of animals and all things southern. It is a fun immersion into the southern atmosphere from food to dialog. It is also a mystery with the missing champion dog. The characters are sort of hit and miss in trying to find the dog with many frustrated attempts. In the process, we readers learn a bit about dogs and their care, such as dogs have unique DNA and that rawhide is a choking hazard. The main characters are compassionate people and it was good to see them help others but it was hard to read about the mistreatment of some dogs. There are also a couple of romance threads running through this novel.

There are several people working at the veterinarian office and several suspects in the dog abduction, making this a study in character too. There are some that are willing to help those in need while others are willing to take advantage of the naive. There was a plot twist near the end that was both disappointing yet realistic in character revelation.

I enjoyed this fun mystery and romance. While it is the third in a series, it read well on its own. There's a yummy recipe at the end too.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

You can read my reviews of the earlier books in the series: Off the Chain and Dog Days of Summer.

About the Author

Janice Thompson, who lives in the Houston area, writes romantic comedies, cozy mysteries, nonfiction devotionals, and musical comedies for the stage. She is the mother of four daughters and nine feisty grandchildren. When she’s not writing books or taking care of foster dogs you’ll find her in the kitchen, baking up specialty cakes and cookies.

More from Janice

Barking up the Tree is book three in the Gone to the Dog series. Kathleen Y’Barbo and I are writing six books, in total, and we’re very excited about this series. I happen to be in the dog rescue business. I’ve worked with multiple Houston-based dog rescues over the past five years and have been blessed to care for over fifty dogs in nearly every shape, size, and breed. I am always interested in dog-themed stories.

As a Texan I wanted to place this series in my neck of the woods. Kathleen and I settled on Brenham, Texas, a town not far from where we both live. It’s the home of Blue Bell ice cream (yum!) a favorite here in the Lone Star state. We created a large fictional cast of characters and placed them in a town we know and love.

Along with writing books I’m also a baker and run a baking blog (www.outoftheboxbaking.com). With that in mind I would love to share a recipe from the book. Enjoy!

Nanny’s Coconut Pecan Cake (aka Italian Cream Cake)



  • 1 white cake mix
  • 1 yellow cake mix
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut (flakes)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 small box instant vanilla pudding (powder) 


  • Toasted coconut
  • Toasted chopped pecans


  • 1 cup (two sticks) salted butter (softened)
  • 1 block cream cheese (softened)
  • 1 rectangle Crisco (can omit if you prefer traditional cream cheese frosting)
  • 1 bag (7-8 cups) powdered sugar
  • Clear vanilla extract



  • Combine all ingredients except nuts and coconut. Mix well.
  • Work in the nuts and coconut.
  • Grease and flour three 9” pans.
  • Divide batter between the three pans and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (approximately) until cake springs back to the touch.


  • Bring ingredients to room temperature.
  • Mix butter and cream cheese until soft and creamy.
  • Add Crisco and continue to beat until incorporated. (You can leave out the Crisco if you prefer traditional cream cheese frosting.)
  • Add extract and then lower the speed of your mixer to add powdered sugar (more or less to desired consistency).


  • Level all three cakes.
  • Put one cake on your cake board and add a layer of cream cheese frosting.
  • Pipe a ring around the edge of the cake and add some toasted pecans and coconut.
  • Continue to stack and fill.
  • Turn the top cake upside down, so that it’s bottom up.
  • Ice the cake with a crumb coat and chill.
  • Once chilled, ice liberally with frosting.
  • Add chopped (toasted) pecans and coconut to the sides and top then pipe trim or rosettes to add further d├ęcor.

Blog Stops

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, January 26

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, January 26

Tell Tale Book Reviews, January 27

Remembrancy, January 27

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, January 28

For Him and My Family, January 28

Texas Book-aholic, January 29

deb’s Book Review, January 30

Mary Hake, January 30

Locks, Hooks and Books, January 31

Cover Lover Book Review, February 1

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, February 1

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, February 2

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, February 3

Pause for Tales, February 4

The Book Club Network, February 4

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, February 5

Blogging With Carol, February 6

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, February 7

Little Homeschool on the Prairie, February 7

Labor Not in Vain, February 8

Divine Perspective, February 8

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.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Grace in the Gray by Mike Donehey Book Review

Donehey is a musician. He shares lessons he has learned from collaborating and critiquing. He gives plenty of personal examples to illustrate his teaching. His personal stories are many and long. I have to admit I skimmed through some of them to get to the point. He has a good sense of humor as the exploding blender story testifies. The book is more in the light hearted sense rather than rigorous teaching and may well appeal to younger readers rather than older ones used to more straight forward instruction.

Topics covered include forgiveness, unconditional love, parenting, who the real enemies are (spiritual), how we need to get along with those unlike us, prayer, social media (going from anger to curiosity to compassion), the gift of emotions and more.

I liked his example of the disciples. Matthew was a tax collector. Simon the Zealot was one who would have considered Matthew a traitor and would have wanted to kill him. Yet, following Jesus, they got along for a greater purpose. Another interesting teaching was Donehey saying that how we talk to God in prayer affects the way we talk to other people. I think his chapter on deconstruction was the best one, reminding us of kindness, wisdom, not being quarrelsome, and having deep knowledge.

Donehey does not touch on specific nor controversial issues hotly debated today. Like the farmer who said to leave the weeds until the harvest, we are encouraged to worry less and believe in God more. God is not freaking out and we shouldn't either. As Donehey says himself, this book “isn't about changing your mind about certain things. It's about reconsidering the posture we take when speaking with one another on those things.” (2807/3147)

This is a good book for those desiring to learn how to disagree better.

You can watch the book trailer here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Mike Donehey is the bestselling author of Finding God’s Life for My Will, a singer, songwriter, podcast host, and former lead singer of the Christian contemporary band Tenth Avenue North. Mike, his wife, Kelly, and their four daughters live in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo by Debbie Ewing.

WaterBrook, 240 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.)