Unknown Threat by Lynn H. Blackburn – Interesting plot and characters, but had a convoluted ending

When I saw that Lynn H. Blackburn had a new book out, Unknown Threat (Defend and Protect, Book 1), I wanted to read it because I had enjoyed her earlier novel Beneath the Surface

Unknown Threat’s plotline sounded intriguing.  US Secret Service Special Agents Luke Powell and Zack Thacker went out for an early morning run and when they return to their vehicles suddenly, they are under fire.  As they are lying on the ground looking at their vehicles, they realize that their cars are wired with bombs.  Will they survive until help comes?  Who in the world is trying to kill them and for what reason?  FBI Special Agent Faith Malone has been assigned to investigate these attacks and try and protect the remaining US Secret Service team in Raleigh.

This fast-paced story drew me in from the beginning.  Interesting to think about how people who risk their lives to protect others might respond when they are targeted?  I liked the character Luke Powell and the US Secret Service team, their friendships, and their commitment to one another. 

I didn’t quite connect with Faith Malone, she seemed more like a caricature of a tough single woman who sacrificed her personal life for career advancement.  The repeated Cherry Coke references kind of got old.  It was understandable why Faith might be attracted to Luke who was a decent nice guy, but I didn’t understand what he saw in her. 

Faith’s sister Hope was a very likable and refreshing character.  I would like to see her in future books of the Defend and Protect series.  It was hard to understand how the character Special Agent Janice Estes kept her job.  Was she incompetent or just plain corrupt?  She wasn’t very believable. 

While I liked many of the characters, I struggled a bit with the plotline.  It was very convoluted and I don’t see how a reader would have been able to figure out the mystery.  The story ended rather abruptly and if it hadn’t been for the last chapter summarizing whodunnit and why I don’t think I would have put the pieces together.  Not sure that the motives of the bad guys were believable.   

There wasn’t much about the Christian faith included in the storyline.  But I did appreciate that there was no profanity or sexual immorality.   

The good: likable characters and an interesting scenario.  Not so good: the convoluted plot and ending and one of the main characters wasn’t very likable. 

Would I recommend Unknown Threat by Lynn H. Blackburn?  If you like Lynn’s books give this book a read.  This is the first book in the Defend and Protect series and some of the characters will be carried over to future books.

I would like to thank Revell Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Unknown Threat by Lynn H. Blackburn.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

Aftermath by Terri Blackstock – Fast-paced Suspenseful Story

Terri Blackstock’s books are filled with intrigue and suspense and that’s why was excited to read her newest book Aftermath.  This book will hold your attention from the get-go.

Taylor Reed and her friends Desiree and Mara are at a political rally, the draw isn’t Presidential candidate Ed Loran, but instead their favorite band Blue Fire is playing.  What happens next is the things nightmares are made of.  An explosion, smoke, people screaming.  The only thing Taylor can think of is getting out alive.  Later that night, Dustin Webb is driving home and suddenly the police are pulling him over.  Certain that he wasn’t speeding nor was there any cause to be pulled over, he consents to the police searching his car.  What they find will land him in jail and Dustin will be the suspect in the bombing that left dozens of people dead.  His one phone call will be to his friend Attorney Jamie Powell, whom he hasn’t seen in fifteen years.  If anyone will believe him, it will be Jamie.

Aftermath seems like it could have been ripped from today’s headline news.  It’s fast-paced and filled with twists and turns.  What I liked best were the characters Dustin and Jamie, their personalities and friendship that spanned many years.  Taylor was an interesting character, I found myself asking how I would handle the trauma that she endured.  I also found her irrationality and thought processes very disturbing.  Dustin’s friend and business partner Travis and his wife Crystal are going through their own battle as Crystal is fighting for her life.  Dustin understands why Travis can’t be there to help right now, but Dustin’s fighting for his own life, and the world’s about to turn against him unless he can prove his innocence.

I liked the storyline and it grabbed my attention from the beginning.  I liked the main characters Dustin and Jamie, but I was frustrated when Dustin seemed to be making illogical decisions and didn’t believe the evidence that showed who the bad guy was.  I figured out who the bad guy was and his motivation, but had to see how the story all fit together.  In many respects, Taylor seemed like a loose cannon and the most illogical.  I liked the fast clip of the story, it fit the narrative but the end of the book seemed to drag a bit and the story came to an abrupt ending.

The Christian faith wasn’t a big part of the story, I think that the characters’ development would have been richer if their faith had been included.  I appreciated that the story did not have sexual immorality and or profanity.  Aftermath was an interesting story with likable characters, but it could have been richer.  I would like to see the main characters in other books.

If you like mystery, intrigue, and suspense I recommend that you read Terri Blackstock’s newest book AftermathThis book is being released on May 11, 2021.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Aftermath by Terri Blackstock.  I was provided with a complimentary copy of the book but was not obligated to give a favorable review.

Obsession by Patricia Bradley – Mixed Feelings

Obsession by Patricia Bradley is the second book in the Natchez Trace Park Rangers series.  I’ve read a couple of books by Patricia and looked forward to this book because of the interesting setting.  

Emma Winters works as a Natchez Trace park ranger and historian.  She is overseeing a project to document and preserve the graves of the slaves who had been buried on this historical site.  As Emma is getting ready to head home, her day’s about to get a whole lot longer when someone takes a couple of shots at her.  Called in to help investigate is her former fiancé Sam Ryker who also works as a park ranger.  While things didn’t end well between them, Sam wants to find the person who is targeting Emma and get out before any feelings between them are revived.

I struggled a bit with the novel.  I wasn’t too keen on the main character, Emma, she wasn’t a very likable character.  She was the independent woman who was also the helpless stubborn female who didn’t want help.  Parts of the story seemed rather contrived to keep Emma and Sam in regular contact.  There wasn’t a lot about faith in this book.  I think the story would have been richer if that aspect of the characters’ lives had been developed.  There were three people in the book that struggled with unforgiveness, Emma, Sam, and Sam’s sister Jenny.  I would like to have seen at least one of them have a biblical perspective and understanding of forgiveness.  Sam did work his way through the unforgiveness he had been harboring.

Something I can’t stand in books is when a character does something really stupid and illogical which puts them at risk and in harm’s way, which Emma did towards the end of the book.  When that happens, I stop caring about the character because I feel manipulated and it’s not logical. 

The character Sam was likable, but I didn’t understand why he continued to be drawn to Emma.  Emma’s continued to blame Sam, and herself, for her brother’s disappearance ten years earlier.  That got old really quick!  She blamed others instead of recognizing her brother’s own personal responsibility for his life choices and the risks he took. 

I liked the character Sheriff Nate Rawling and hope to see him in future books in this series.  He seemed to respect and trust the team that he was working with and was there to work alongside them.  The Natchez Trace park setting was interesting. 

There were a few elements and characters I liked in Obsession, but they were overshadowed by a character and parts of the storyline I didn’t care for. 

I would like to thank Revell Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Obsession by Patricia Bradley.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

Network of Deceit by Tom Threadgill – Filled with Mystery, Intrigue, Suspense – You Won’t Want to Put It Down

It was the storyline, filled with mystery, suspense, and intrigue, that drew me into reading Network of Deceit by Tom Threadgill

On the heels of a highly publicized successful case, Detective Amara Alvarez has been transferred to the homicide division and she’s been assigned her first case.  A young teen, Zachary Coleman, has died at a local waterpark.  The cause of death is not clear and the tox screen won’t be back for weeks.  While there are no clear indications of murder, there’s some suspicious details that Amara wants to investigate.  She’s not one to wait patiently on the sidelines but will take a closer look and delve into the evidence until she has an answer, one way or the other.

The storyline was intriguing, and the evidence was peeled back one layer at a time.  The suspects, Zach’s friends Matias, Haley, and Liam were interesting and obviously trying to cover something up.  But was it related to Zach’s death or was there something illegal that the teens were caught up in?  I enjoyed reading how Amara would reexamine the facts and suspects over and over again until a crack appeared.

My favorite part of the book was the characters, Amara, her coworker Detective Jeremiah Peckham (otherwise known as Starsky).  The relationship between Amara and Starsky was special, they obviously cared about each other and respected one another.  But was there something more going on between them?  I enjoyed Amara’s large and close family especially her mom Maria and Maria’s boyfriend Wylie.  Amara’s family were the kind of people you would want to get to know.  Once you’ve met them, you’ll be welcomed back.  Though work was a big part of Amara’s life, her family was more important and she made time to be with them. 

I very much enjoyed reading Network of Deceit by Tom Threadgill.  It held my attention from the first page to the last.  The plot was interesting and the characters were likable, relatable people that I cared about.  Even the “bad guys” were interesting.  They weren’t vilified to the point that you hated them, but you got to know what made them tick and what made them go down the wrong path.  I didn’t want the story to end.  I hope that these characters come back in future novels. 

You know a book is really good when you are thinking about the story or characters when you aren’t reading the book.  Though faith was not a big part of the storyline, I appreciated that this was a clean book, with no foul language or sexual immorality.  Tom Threadgill knows how to tell a good story, he’s a good writer.  Tom skillfully develops the characters and moves the plotline along as he unveils the mystery and builds suspense.  I look forward to reading more of Tom Threadgill’s books.

I highly recommend Network of Deceit by Tom Threadgill.  I would like to thank Revell, a division of Baker’s Publishing Group for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of the book.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

Backlash by Rachel Dylan – Likeable Characters, Interesting Storyline, Filled with Intrigue

I’ve read several books by Rachel Dylan and really enjoyed them.  That is why I was excited to read her latest book, Backlash, the second book in the Capital Intrigue series.

Layla Karam is a CIA Analyst, which fits her perfectly, but because of her skills, she has been pushed to work as a field agent.  Her assignment was part of a DEA operation in Honduras.  The team is back in the US, but they are not safe because someone is targeting the team.  Following a break-in, bombing, and murder, Layla is just trying to stay alive and figure out who is targeting her and the team?  Is it someone from the drug cartel?  Is there a mole within the CIA or DEA?  Why in the world is Layla at the center of an IG investigation?  To get through this mess, she’s going to have to seek help from the one person she’d like to steer clear of, her ex-boyfriend Hunter McCoy. 

I really like Rachel Dylan’s writing style.  From the get-go, she draws the reader into the story.  The characters are likable, and the storyline is interesting.  Several mysteries are going on in Backlash.  Who is behind the murder and attempts to kill the DEA Honduras operations team?  How did straight and narrow, law-abiding Layla end up the subject of an IG investigation?  The characters from the first novel End Game have returned in Backlash, including NCIS Agent Izzy Cole.  Layla is not the only one facing an investigation.  Her friend Izzy is a prime suspect in the murder of her former police sergeant that had sexually assaulted her.  Layla and Izzy will rely on the support and help of good friends who care.

I appreciated the friendships, people who were committed to each other.  There were some surprises in this book, like who the “bad guy” was.  I was guessing but got it wrong.  Faith was a small part of the book, mostly seen with Layla’s character.  I appreciated that this was a clean novel.  There were times towards the end that the story seemed to drag a bit, but I still liked this book.

I would recommend Backlash, especially for those who like suspense, mysteries, intrigue, or stories involving law enforcement.  I look forward to reading more of Rachel Dylan’s books and the next book in the Capital Intrigue series.

I would like to thank Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley for an opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Backlash by Rachel Dylan.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

Burden of Proof by Davis Bunn – Fascinating Storyline and Interesting Characters

While I’ve never read any books by Davis Bunn, I was intrigued by the blurb on the cover of Burden of Proof

Who can say that they don’t have things in their life that they regret?  If given the chance to do things differently, would you?  That’s the dilemma that’s facing Ethan Barrett.  He’s been given a death sentence by his doctor, and his time is short.  When he meets his sister-in-law Sonya, whom he hasn’t seen in thirty-five years, she is seeking his help to try and change the course of history.  Ethan wasn’t there with his brother Adrian was shot and killed on the courthouse steps.  If he had been there, would the circumstances have changed?  Ethan is about to find out.

This book is very different from what I typically read.  It’s got a bit of science fiction in the storyline.  Davis Bunn is a good writer because he draws the reader into the story from the get-go.  I don’t take much of an interest in surfing, so I was surprised to like the main character Ethan and enjoy reading about his experiences, what he saw and felt while surfing.  I found the characters very likable and appreciated seeing the characters grow and change.  Early in the book, I didn’t much care for Sonya, but as the story progressed, I really saw her in a new light and came to like the character.  The story was interesting to contemplate and had mystery and intrigue too.  I appreciated the details describing the settings where the story took place because it helped me to envision scenes as I read.

The book is published by Revell Publishing, which is a Christian publisher, so I had hoped that the Christian faith would have been woven into the storyline.  But it wasn’t.  Towards the end of the book, Ethan is talking with a friend who encouraged him to live life with an eternal perspective.  While that was thought-provoking, the story could have been much richer if the Gospel of Christ had been included and woven into the characters’ lives.

I found that the last section was a bit much with the courtroom scenes and Adrian questioning his wife Sonya about her scientific research.  I wish it had been clearer and more concise.  There were allegations hinted at about the company that wanted to buyout Sonya’s company.  Not sure why, but they seemed to dance around it instead of making a clear and straightforward assertion about their motives.

Though the Christian faith is not a part of the story, I appreciated that there was no profanity and the story was clean. 

All in all, I very much liked Burden of Proof by Davis Bunn.  The storyline was compelling and fascinating.  The characters were interesting and well developed.  I look forward to reading more of Davis Bunn’s books.

I would like to thank Revell Publishing for the opportunity to read Burden of Proof by Davis Bunn.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

The Escape by Lisa Harris – Interesting Story and Likeable Characters

I love reading books filled with mystery, suspense, and intrigue and that’s why I was excited to read The Escape by Lisa Harris, an author whose work is new to me.  This is the first book in the US Marshalls series. 

Could it really be five years since Madison James’ husband Luke had been murdered?  Her life had been changed forever, but she had thrown herself into her career as a US Marshall.  Though it was an important anniversary, she had a job to do, transporting two prisoners from Seattle to Denver.  She would be joined by US Marshall Jonas Quinn, with whom she had trained a few years ago.  Jonas had just moved back to Seattle, though he was planning for a couple days off, duty called.  Any hope for a smooth prisoner transport was quickly abandoned as their private plane crash-landed in the forests over Idaho.  Just because their plane crashed didn’t mean their job was over. 

I really enjoyed reading The Escape.  From the get-go, I found this book very engaging.  The characters were likable, and the storyline was interesting.  I liked the rapport between Madison and Jonas and that they had mutual respect for one another.  There was a little bit of romantic attraction and it was expressed appropriately for a Christian book.  I liked how the characters were revealed over time as they got to know one another.  I’ve never read anything about the US Marshalls and learned a little bit about this law enforcement agency.  The author was good at describing the scenic settings. 

I very much liked this book, yet there were times that the story seemed to drag.  The number of times the escaped prisoner got away and posed a threat to the general public seemed a bit much.  I wondered in real life that if a US Marshall had been foiled by the bad guy too many times, would they be fired? 

Something else that didn’t seem realistic was the plane crash where both Madison and Jonas sustained injuries.  But those injuries didn’t seem to stop them in their quest to get the prisoner.  The story wasn’t wrapped up entirely at the end, but it appears that there will be a book two where their story will carry on. 

I love finding a new author whose work I like and look forward to reading more books by Lisa Harris.  What I liked best about her writing is how she develops relationships. 

If you like suspense, mystery, intrigue, romance, or books on law enforcement, I recommend The Escape by Lisa Harris

I would like to thank Revell Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read The Escape by Lisa Harris.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

Don’t Keep Silent by Elizabeth Goddard – Beautiful Setting, Filled with Intrigue and Suspense

Don’t Keep Silent by Elizabeth Goddard is the third book in her Uncommon Justice series.  I had read the second book, Always Look Twice, and was excited to read her new book.

When Rae Burke’s brother Alan asks her to search for his missing wife Zoey she agrees and uses her tenacious and keen investigative skills to try and find her sister-in-law and friend.  As she heads up to Jackson Hole, Wyoming she hopes to enlist help from former DEA agent Liam McKade, but since they part ways last time she’s not confident that he will be willing to join forces and help find Zoey.

Don’t Keep Silent grabbed my attention from the get-go.  It was filled with lots of suspense and twists and turns.  There were some likable characters, but my favorite was Liam.  He seemed like a faithful friend, brave and willing to put himself on the line to protect Rae, try and find Zoey and expose the bad guys and bring them to justice.

Author, Elizabeth Goddard did a good job of describing the scenic area of Jackson Hole, Wyoming during the wintertime.  Made me want to go there on vacation.  The reader is left guessing as to whether some of the characters are good guys or bad guys, and there were some surprises.  The faith aspect of the novel was minimal and confined to mostly one-sentence prayers for protection or help.  I wish the characters’ faith had been more developed, especially with Liam.  I think the book would have been richer if the author had done that.

What I struggled with is the main character, Rae.  Something that really bugs me is when characters do things that don’t make a lot of sense or aren’t logical.  Rae seemed to do that repeatedly, she was emotionally driven and had a high estimation of her own abilities.  Why Liam stuck by her I don’t know.  Rae seemed to have no issue with putting her life on the line, not only hers but Liam’s too.  Not just once but on multiple occasions.  That got old and I found Rae less likable.

I won’t give away the ending, but the ending and reason why Zoey was kidnapped kind of stretched the imagination.  Towards the end, the story kind of dragged and was very convoluted.

There were things I liked about the book, the character Liam, the setting, and the suspense and intrigue, but there were some things I wasn’t too keen on.  I would recommend Don’t Keep Silent if you are a fan of Elizabeth Goddard or you like suspense, mystery, and intrigue.

I would like to thank Revell Publishing for the opportunity to read Don’t Keep Silent by Elizabeth Goddard.  I was provided a complimentary copy of the book but was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

The Crushing Depths by Dani Pettrey – Romance, Mystery and Suspense

The Crushing Depths by author Dani Pettrey is the second book in her Coastal Guardians series.  The storyline is why I wanted to read this book.

The Dauntless is an oil rig 38 miles off the coast of North Carolina.  Greg Barnes has had a very bad day and he’s looking forward to having a cigarette break.  When he steps outside, he can hear the environmental protesters chanting.  Do they ever take a break?  When he flicks his lighter, little does he know that his day is going to get a whole lot worse.  Was this a tragic accident or something more sinister?  Former friends are reunited when Rissi Dawson and Mason Rogers are called in to investigate the accident as part of the Coast Guard Investigation Services team.  Before investigators can even reach the Dauntless the action heats up.

What I really liked most about this book was the relationship between Rissi and Mason.  Especially learning of their friendship from when they were young.  I liked the support that the CGIS team gave one another and their friendships.  I appreciated that faith was included through prayer.  I would like to have seen the characters personal faith developed further.  It was interesting learning about what it’s like working on an oil rig out in the ocean.  Those are some of the elements that worked well.

I struggled with the book in a few areas.  There were so many characters that it was kind of hard to keep track.  While I liked the characters, Noah and Brooke, I thought that the storyline involving these characters didn’t advance the main story and was almost a distraction.  I think another book about Noah would be good.  There was a lot of action and at times the story dragged switching between the main story and the one involving Noah.

Something that seemed odd was the personal relationships and romance that developed between characters that worked together, especially in light of how that is viewed in today’s culture.  Since there was a deep bond between Rissi and Mason focusing on their physical attraction seemed unnecessary and perhaps not what I would expect in a book by a Christian author.

I thought that the transitions between storylines within chapters could have been handle better.  I would recommend some kind of a break, like a line, to show the story is now focusing on different characters or have shorter chapters.

If you are a fan of Dani Pettrey or like romantic mysteries, suspense or stories that involve the military you may want to read her newest book The Crushing Depths.

I would like to thank Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Dani Pettrey’s newest book The Crushing Depths.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Closer Than She Knows by Kelly Irvin – Interesting storyline, characters and setting. Christian faith was portrayed rather worldly.

I became acquainted with author Kelly Irvin’s writing through her Amish themed books and was excited to read her newest book Closer Than She Knows.

Closer Than She Knows is about Teagan O’Rourke, a court reporter in San Antonio, Texas.  She comes from a family that works in law enforcement.  Teagan’s life is about to unravel as people around her are being targeted by some sicko and she finds herself at the center of an investigation.  Why are these innocent people being targeted?  How are they all connected?  What can she do to stop this before another innocent life is taken?

One of the things I like about Kelly’s writing is how she portrays relationships with family, friends, and co-workers.  I especially like the O’Rourke family, Teagan, her father Dillon and step-family Billy, Gracie, and Leyla.  My favorite character was her friend Max who seemed like a real gem, and her friends Julie and Evelyn.  They were a tight-knit group that cared for one another and were there for each other.

I found Teagan’s job as a court reporter fascinating and learned a few details about that job.  Kelly does a great job describing the setting in the San Antonio downtown area and neighborhood where historic homes were being rehabbed.  It seems inviting and picturesque.  The story is very suspenseful and will keep you guessing until the end.

This book is written by a Christian author and the Christian faith is part of the story.  The best example of that was Max, a man redeemed and dependent upon the Lord each day.  He was gracious and caring.  I found Teagan’s faith to be immature and nominal.  When talking about her reluctance to having children her explanation seemed very secular and lacking faith.  She seemed to care more about the environment than lost souls and sin.  At one-point, Teagan describes herself in very politically correct terms and does not mention that she is a Christian.  Her understanding of the death penalty was not in keeping with what God has declared in the Bible.  Teagan and Max’s physical attraction could have been portrayed a little less worldly.

If you are a fan of Kelly Irvin’s novels or like mystery, intrigue, and trying to solve a whodunit, you may like Kelly’s newest book Closer Thank She Knows.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Closer Thank She Knows by Kelly Irvin.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Standoff by Patricia Bradley – Mixed – interesting setting, likeable characters, but too many characters and dragged a bit.

I love mysteries so I was excited to read Patricia Bradley’s newest book Standoff, the first book in the Natchez Trace Park Rangers series.

Standoff is about the rather brutal and ugly business of moving illegal drugs through Natchez Trace National Parkway a corridor that runs from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN.

Brooke Danvers was looking forward to riding along with her dad District Law Enforcement Ranger, John Danvers.  She has followed in her father’s footsteps and will soon be sworn in as a LE Ranger despite her parent’s concerns.  When John gets a call, plans change and Brooke will have to wait another day.  Only that won’t be happening when John is found dead at Emerald Mound later that night.  His death is ruled a suicide, but Brooke does not believe it and will stop at nothing to find out who brutally murdered her dad.  Old ex-friend and neighbor Luke Fereday is back in Natchez working as an undercover park ranger trying to infiltrate the drug ring.  Not only is he working to stop the flow of illegal drugs, but he too wants to find John’s murderer.

Standoff has a whole of stuff going on.  There are a lot of characters introduced early on in the story, law enforcement, drug dealers, potential bad guys, family, friends. and neighbors.  It was kind of hard to keep all the characters straight.  It would have been helpful to have a key at the front of the book with a list of characters and a brief description.  The first part of the book seemed to dragged, but about midway through the story picked up moved at a faster clip.  The number of characters could have been trimmed down some.

There were a number of things that seemed off or not quite believable.  It seemed odd that Brooke’s mother would leave town so quickly after the death of her husband.  It didn’t seem plausible that Luke could pass off being in town to visit his grandmother because his behavior and weird hours would raise suspicion.  He just happened to show up wherever Brooke was at way too many times.  The scene where Brooke makes a discovery seemed contrived.

I liked the main characters, Brooke and Luke.  My favorite character was Luke’s grandmother Daisy.  The action scenes, especially toward the end were well written and easy to visualize.  I like the setting of the Natchez Trace law enforcement.  I think the series has some good potential.  I will read future books in this series.  I appreciated that the book was clean, not filled with vulgar language or sexual immorality.

I would like to thank Revell Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Standoff by Patricia Bradley.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Collateral Damage by Lynette Eason – Likable engaging characters in a suspenseful story

As someone who loves to read Christian mystery/fiction books, I was excited at the opportunity to read Lynette Eason’s newest book, Collateral Damage, the first book in the Danger Never Sleeps series.

Collateral Damage starts off at an army base in Afghanistan where the men are preparing to arrest a fellow soldier, Isaiah Michaels who is suspected of being a traitor and selling information to the jihadists.  Sergeant Asher James doesn’t believe the allegations because it doesn’t square with the man he knows.  But he has been charged with leading the operation as two MARP vehicles set out to Kabul to arrest Specialist Michaels who has been spotted at a bar.  Military psychologist, Brooke Adams is looking forward to heading home in three weeks.  She’s meeting some friends at The Bistro in Kabal.  When Specialist Michaels tries to catch her eye, Brooke does her best to tune him out and focus on her friends who have become like family so far away from home.

What happens next is just the beginning of an action-packed story filled with suspense and lots of twists and turns.  What information did Isaiah Michaels find?  Did he betray his country?  What accounts for the large increase of adoptions at Morning Star Orphanage over the last year?  How does it all fit together?

I found myself invested in this story because I liked the main characters and I wanted to get to the bottom of the mysteries.  I appreciate that the story did not have filthy language or sexual immorality.  The Christian faith was a part of the storyline and the two main character behavior and choices were influenced by their faith.

I did struggle with the first chapter because it was long and it introduced at least fourteen characters in a very fast-paced story.  After that chapter, the pace and number of characters slowed down.  I think it would have been better to break it up into two chapters.  I did figure out who the bad guy was but that didn’t take away from enjoying the book.  I was interested to find out his motivation.

Collateral Damage is the first novel I’ve read by Lynette Eason and I really liked it.  The best part of the book for me was the engaging likable characters.  I look forward to reading more of her books in the future.

If you like suspense and action with likable characters, read Lynette Eason’s newest book Collateral Damage.

I would like to thank Revell Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Collateral Damage by Lynette Eason.  I was provided a complimentary copy of this book to read but was not required to give a favorable review.

 

Smoke Screen by Terri Blackstock – Likable Characters in a Compelling Story

Terri Blackstock is on my shortlist of authors, who when they write a new book, I want to read it.  I was excited at the opportunity to read Terri’s newest book Smoke Screen.  She has a way of drawing the reader into the story with an honest portrayal of likable characters with broken lives.

What makes Smoke Screen a good book?  In this book, it was the main characters, Brenna and Nate and an interesting storyline.  Brenna is in a rough season of her life.  She’s had a divorce that she didn’t ask for or want and now she is battling a weak but powerful and strategic ex-husband for the custody of their children.  Nate, an admirable man with proven character, a hero who along with his teammates puts his life on the line to save lives and protect communities when wildfires are burning.

Both characters bring their history of brokenness to the table.  One whose father was murdered and the other whose father was convicted of that murder.  Imagine what losing a father does to a family with children.  It tears them apart and leaves scars that take a long time to heal.  Can the love between two teens possible survive?  What if the man who served 14 years for a crime that he didn’t commit is set free?  How will that impact the families involved as well as the community?  Will the truth ever be made known and will justice be served?

Nate was my favorite character.  A strong man of courage, who lives out his Christian faith with grace and forgiveness.  Yet, even he will have that faith tested.  Brenna, a woman who has been through a lot of tragedy in her life.  Her faith is wavering and her walk is stumbling along.  The secondary characters, especially Nate’s brother and mother were likable too.

There were a few things I struggled with.  One being Brenna’s alcohol problem.  I understand that she was overwhelmed and just trying to get through, but as a Christian how did she get there.  Nate was very solid in his faith walk, except for a couple of areas where his response didn’t seem fitting.  One, when testifying in court he waffled and played loose with the truth.  Two, when Brenna is out of control with her drinking one night, he just lets her drink, to her very public detriment.  I didn’t understand that response.  It didn’t seem fitting of his character, especially when Brenna had so much to lose.

I appreciate that the story included the Christian faith.  There were some good examples, but I would have like to have seen it portrayed deeper and stronger.

I liked this story and the characters, even with some of the messiness and brokenness of their lives.  I really like Nate’s commitment and faithfulness as a son, brother, friend, teammate, and firefighter.

If you like Terri Blackstock, or mysteries and suspense, give Smoke Screen a read.  I found myself thinking about the characters even when I wasn’t reading the book and I was challenged to ask how I would respond if I faced similar situations that the characters faced.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Smoke Screen by Terri Blackstock.  I was under no obligation to provide a positive review.

 

Lake Season by Denise Hunter – Likeable characters, in a lovely town with a blend of mystery and romance. I didn’t want this story to end.

I love a good mystery and when it’s tied to a little romance that’s a book I’ll want to read.  That’s why I was excited to read Denise Hunter’s newest book Lake Season (A Bluebell Inn Romance).

Molly, Levi and Grace Bennett are siblings whose parents had died in a tragic accident a year ago.  Grace is 18 years old and set upon staying in Bluebell.  But it will take the commitment of all three of them to fulfill their parent’s dream and turn their home into a bed and breakfast inn.  Ten months later, their inn is about to open when their first unofficial guest Adam Bradford walks in.  Little do they know but under their roof is the famous author, who writes under the pen name Nathaniel Quinn, whose work Molly loves.  Adam is in town to do a little research to help him get inspired so he can write his next bestseller.  Adam is quite taken with Molly whom he considers his muse and he gets distracted when he tries to help Molly find the writer and recipient of a letter that’s been lost for 57 years.

That’s the background of Lake Season, which is set in the lovely lakeside town of Bluebell, North Carolina.  My favorite character was Adam, he was kind and caring.  He was rather shy and had some insecurities you wouldn’t expect for an accomplished writer.  Molly was sweet, unpretentious, passionate and caring.  She even cared about people she never knew.  But she knew the importance of the letter she had in her possession and wanted to get it into the hands of the people it belonged to.  I appreciated the caring and commitment that Levi, Molly, and Grace had for one another, a self-sacrificing love.  I especially liked the relationship between Adam and Molly.  They got to know each other and their attraction more than skin deep.  I enjoyed the unfolding mystery of who Lizzie and Ben were and what had happened to them all those years ago.

Lake Season was a story that I didn’t want to end, so I took my time reading and savoring this story.  When I finished, I felt a little sad leaving behind the characters I had come to care about.  The characters were very likable and the town seemed inviting and like a place I would like to visit.  I loved the blend of mystery and romance.  Denise Hunter is on the shortlist of writers whose work I want to read.  When I was reading Lake Season, I thought this would be a perfect Hallmark Channel movie.

I wish there had been more of the character’s faith included in the story, I think it would have been a richer story.  I appreciated that the novel was clean in content and language.

If you like a blend of romance and mystery be sure to read Lake Season by Denise Hunter.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Lake Season and the opinions expressed are entirely my own.

 

Always Look Twice – by author Elizabeth Goddard – Filled with Mystery, Intrigue and Action

As someone who loves to read mysteries, I really liked reading Elizabeth Goddard’s newest book Always Look Twice the second book in her Uncommon Justice series.  There was so much to like about this book, starting with the characters.  But what first drew me in to Always Looks Twice was the opening scene.

Crime scene photographer, Harper Reynolds, has taken a much need break because of the toll that her work has taken on her.  She and her sister Emily have been traveling to National Parks and are finishing up their travels in Jackson Hole, Wyoming where they lived as children.  Harper has been photographing the beauty found in nature only to have that beauty marred by witnessing a murder through her camera lens.  In her quest to escape she lost her camera, a memory card, her phone and was injured.  So, when Harper reports the crime she witnessed, there’s no corroborating evidence to be found.  Will the Sheriff believe Harper?  Will law enforcement diligently investigate the crime she witnessed?  What will happen when she is reunited with her childhood friend Heath McKade?

I really liked the main characters in this book.  They are interesting, kind and caring and people and because of that I was invested in their story.  Harper and Emily carried emotional scars from trauma in their childhood and they dealt with its lingering effects quite differently.  I especially like the friendship between Harper and Heath.  They were friends in a pivotal time in their lives and now they are reunited.

One of the things I liked best about Elizabeth Goddard’s writing is her ability to write a scene so the reader can imagine it in their head.  She does it without being too wordy.  Reading the story was almost like watching a movie.  I appreciated that the story was clean, there was no profanity or sexual immorality.  There was some mention of the character’s faith.  I would like to have seen even more the faith aspect of the character’s lives.

If you like mystery, intrigue, and action I would encourage you to read Elizabeth Goddard’s new book Always Look Twice.  This one kept me guessing until the end.  This is the first book I’ve read by Elizabeth and I look forward to reading more of her books.

I would like to thank Revell Publishing for the opportunity to read Always Look Twice by Elizabeth Goddard.  I was provided a complimentary copy of the eBook through NetGalley.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

#AlwaysLookTwice #UncommonJustice

 

Clear Confusion by Kathy M Howard – Book Review, Review Tour and Giveaway


Welcome to the Blog + Review Tour (and Giveaway!) for Clear Confusion by Kathy M. Howard, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Clear Confusion
Author: 
Kathy M. Howard
Publisher: Ambassador International
Release Date: 
July 1, 2019
Genre: Inspirational Suspense/Thriller

What am I going to do, God? Who am I?

Charlotte Hallaway needs to come to terms with her father’s death. He had been her only family, and she wasn’t handling her grief well. It was just supposed to be a few weeks of peace and quiet to process it all, but then she saw them-a drug deal and a murder within seconds of each other.

And they saw her.

Now running for her life, Charlotte boards a bus to escape her pursuers and wakes up the next morning in the woods of Jennings, Georgia, without a memory of how she got there or of who she is. All she knows is an underlying fear she can’t seem to shake.

When two hunters find her battered and scared, can she put aside the clear confusion she’s experiencing to trust them? She wants to trust them, especially Nicholas, but fear is holding her back. Trust is incredibly hard when one is so clearly confused. Could it be he and his friend are not who they claim to be?

Who are they really . . . and who is she?

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Christianbook

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Clear Confusion Excerpt

5:30 a.m.

The woman awoke to the sound of wind dancing rather loudly through the treetops and a strange sense of fear. Underneath her, a cool, hard ground gave off a scent of wet mud, causing her nostrils to crinkle.

Inside, her head pounded with her heartbeat. She squeezed her eyes shut, giving herself a minute. It didn’t do much good. Her mind was too fuzzy to successfully decipher her bearings. Somehow an internal fog blocked her ability to reason.

God, where am I?

Although she heard evidence of early morning hours, it was dark, practically pitch black. Nothing visible beyond a few feet, and even that was blurry. Another gust of wind blew, bringing a breeze across her left cheek. A few goose bumps appeared. The other side of her face, shielded from the gust, remained impressed in dried mud. Although it was hard, it felt icky pasted against her skin. She tried to gently pull herself out of the crusted grime but found the movement harder than she’d expected.

The muscles in her arms and legs were sore—really sore. But why? She sat up tenderly, placing a hand on her forehead. The effort to lift her body proved difficult. Carefully and ever so slowly, she stood the rest of the way. With one hand steadying her head and the other out­stretched, she inched her feet forward, searching for something sturdy.

Why do I have on only one shoe? Where is my other shoe?

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My Review – Clear Confusion by Kathy M Howard – Gripping Suspense, Romance and Grounded in Faith

Clear Confusion is the first book I’ve read by Kathy M Howard and what a great introduction into this author’s work.  I loved this book!

Just who is Charlotte and what in the world did she see that caused her to flee?  How did she end up in a tree in the forest, scratched, bruised and hurting?  Who are these men that awakened her?  Friends or foes?  Most of all why can’t she remember anything?  Not even who she is or where she came from?

From the get-go, the reader will be dropped into the middle of a suspenseful story that will grip you until the very end.  The truth about what happened to Charlotte will be unveiled as she has to trust and depend on Nicholas Nelson and his family as they provide a safe haven for her.

I love mysteries and suspense and this book is filled with both.  But it doesn’t stop there, the story and characters are well developed.  I loved that the Nelson family were kind, decent and caring people that come alongside Charlotte when she is vulnerable, hurting and doesn’t know who she is.  Romance is a part of the story and developed slowly as Nicholas is interested in Charlotte, but he doesn’t rush her, instead he gives her the time to heal and remember first.

What I appreciated most about Clear Confusion is that the Christian faith and the Gospel are woven throughout this story.  Though Charlotte didn’t know who she was, she knew that God and Jesus Christ were part of her life.  Even in her fear, she knew she should pray and read the Bible.  Faith is a big part the Nelson family’s life too.

I appreciated that Kathy Howard didn’t have the characters make stupid decisions that put themselves in danger to advance the story or heighten the suspense.  Her characters were smart and reasonable.  I loved that the Gospel of Christ was clearly presented in this book and how faith was lived out by the characters in what they said and prayed and how they lived their lives.

While I suspected who the bad guys were, there remained some mystery because, until the end, I didn’t know who two of the villains where and how they were connected to other characters.

Clear Confusion by Kathy M Howard was a great story.  Interesting, filled with suspense and made just right by characters living out their Christian faith.  I give Clear Confusion a big thumbs up and look forward to reading more of author Kathy M Howard’s books in the future.

I would like to thank Ambassador International and Just Read Tours for providing a complimentary copy of Clear Confusion.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.  The views expressed are solely my own.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kathy M. Howard resides in south Georgia with her husband and two children. She has been involved in some form of education since 1998 as an elementary school teacher, a private school principal, and presently as a homeschooling mom. As a child, she despised reading, dreading every assignment the subject gave. As an adult, Kathy finally learned to appreciate the written word, so much so that she is rarely seen without her nose in a book.

She loves the Lord and wants to share Jesus where she can, using words written and spoken. By God’s goodness and with the support and love of her family, she has written two novels, From Dishes to Snow (October, 2014), and its sequel, From Driftwood to Sapphire (August, 2015).

CONNECT WITH KATHY:  Website | Facebook | Twitter

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TOUR GIVEAWAY

(1) winner will receive a print copy (US only)
plus (1) additional winner will receive an ebook

Full tour schedule shown below. Giveaway will begin at midnight July 23, 2019 and last through 11:59 PM EST on July 30, 2019. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. Print US only. Ebook available internationally.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE

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Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

 

Ever Faithful by Karen Barnett – A Real Gem

I love finding books by authors whose work is new to me.  I found a real gem in Karen Barnett’s new book Ever Faithful, which is the third book in the Vintage National Parks Novel series.

Reading Ever Faithful was like a breath of fresh air.  Obviously, the setting of the novel in Yellowstone National Park in the 1930s brings a whole different feel to the book.  The pace of the story is relaxed and enjoyable and I feel like the characters were unveiled slowly and over time the reader gets to know them.  I enjoyed the characters, even though there was a mystery and someone made bad choices, characters weren’t vilified.  Faith was a part of the storyline, especially forgiveness.

Karen does a great job in her descriptions of nature and the surroundings.  She does so without being too wordy and lets the readers imagine the beauty of the Yellowstone National Park.  It was interesting learning what the park was like 90 years ago and what it would have been like to work at the park.  I had never heard of the Civilian Conservation Corps, but it sounded like an excellent program to help young men during a very hard time in our Nation.  It was also a great way to introduce people from different walks of life and bring them together for the storyline and watch them grow and learn.  You can’t help but know all the research and time Karen must have put in to write this book and make the characters and setting come alive.

I loved reading Ever Faithful by Karen Barnett.  I took my time reading the book because every time I opened the book, I felt like I was taking a break and going somewhere beautiful with people I enjoyed.  I could set aside the demands of the moment and get away to a different place and time.  After reading Ever Faithful, I want to go back and Karen’s other books and look forward to her future novels.

I would like to thank NetGalley and WaterBrook Publishers for the opportunity to read Ever Faithful by Karen Barnett in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

Ever Faithful will be available on June 18, 2019.

 

 

Breach of Trust by Rachel Dylan – Filled with Suspense, Mystery, Intrigue and Romance

If you like mysteries filled with intrigue and a little romance and be sure to read Rachel Dylan’s newest book Breach of Trust (to be released on February 5, 2019).  This is the third book in Atlanta Justice series and the characters in the first two books continue on in this current book.

Mia Shaw is a hardworking corporate attorney.  Her life is turned upside down when she discovers her friend and colleague, Chase Jackson, brutally murdered and she won’t stop until the guilty party is brought to justice.  Mia is assigned to the legal case Chase had been working on.  As she starts digging into the evidence, it appears corporate espionage may have occurred.  Mia’s going to need some help from a cyber security expert, but working with Noah Ramirez may be problematic.  Especially since he’s working to help clear his friend, David, who happens to be the prime suspect in Chase’s murder.

Wow…Breach of Trust is action packed from the get go.  When you open the pages be ready to hit ground running.  It’s filled with suspense and intrigue that will keep you guessing until the end.  I found this book, very satisfying.  The characters were very likable, especially Mia’s friends Kate and Sophie, as well as Noah and his friends Cooper and Landon.  They are nice, decent people who care about each other and are committed to their friendships with one another.  I especially appreciated how the Christian faith was woven into the character’s lives and how they grew.  Rachel’s legal experience, knowledge and research all work to make Breach of Trust an interesting story.

If you like suspense, romance and legal whodunnits…be sure to read Rachel Dylan’s newest book Breach of Trust, I highly recommend it.  Though this is the third book in the Atlanta Justice series, it works well as a stand-alone book.  I want to forewarn you, once you read one of Rachel’s books, you are going to want to read the rest of her books.

I would like to thank NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for the opportunity to read Breach of Trust by Rachel Dylan in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson – Satisfying & Intriguing

It was the title, Hidden Among the Stars, that first caught my attention.  The storyline drew me in and made me want to read Melanie Dobson’s newest book, an author whose writing is new to me.

The story takes place in two periods of time and in two places that intersect as character Callie tries to find out who Luzia and Annika were and if perchance if one of them was related to her beloved friend Charlotte.

Luzia, Annika, Max and Hermann lived in Austria during the late 1930’s and their lives were forever changed as the were caught up in the war when the Nazi’s swept in to Austria.  Eighty years later and 5,000 miles away, Callie is drawn into trying to solve a mystery that was discovered in a children’s book.  Will Callie step outside her comfort zone to solve a mystery and discover the truth?  Will she let down her walls long enough to open herself the possibility of finding love once again?

Hidden Among the Stars was very different kind of book, but I really liked it.  I especially liked the characters from the 1930’s in Austria.  The characters came to life and the situations that they faced as their beloved country was overrun by evil was very compelling.  How would they respond when the anti-Jewish Nazi mentality grew and overwhelmed Austrians?  Fellow neighbors, were they now friend or foe?  Would they protect and try to help their Jewish neighbors?  It was both horrifying and captivating to see what they faced and how they responded to evil in their midst.

The modern-day part of the story took a little while for me to get used to because it was written in the first person, but the rest of the story was not.  After a while, I got used to it.  While I liked the characters, they didn’t seem as real or rich as the 1930’s characters.

The author includes faith in her story and the Gospel message was shared.  I appreciated that the author didn’t include profanity or sexual immorality in the story.  She delicately handled a scene where one of the characters was raped.

As the story unfolded, I figured out some of the mystery, but not all of it.  It kept me guessing until the end.

I would describe the book as satisfying and intriguing.  It unfolds and develops slowly, but that’s okay because you are learning about the characters and what they are going through.  There is some about this book that is almost poetic, probably most visible in the character of Callie.

I recommend Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson.  If you like mystery, intrigue or historical fiction you may enjoy this book.

I would like to thank Tyndale House Publishers for the opportunity to read Hidden Among the Stars in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

The House at Saltwater Point by Colleen Coble – Implausible

The House at Saltwater Point by Colleen Coble is the second book I’ve read by this author.  What drew me to the book was the setting along the coastline of Washington, the mystery of what happened to the missing sister, a little romance with some home renovation mixed in.  I wanted to like this book more than I actually did.

The story is about two sisters Ellie and Mackenzie Blackmore, one of whom is missing and presumed dead.  She leaves behind a mystery of a life that wasn’t what it seemed.  Thrown into the mix is Grayson Bradshaw, an investigator for the US Coast Guard, who is looking into a missing shipment of illegal drugs that has ties to a terrorist.  One of the prime suspects is Mackenzie and that news doesn’t sit too well with Ellie who just wants to find her sister.

What I liked about The House at Saltwater Point:

  • Grayson was very honest, forthright, nice and likeable.
  • I kind of liked his relationship with Ellie, but they went from an adversarial relationship to romance and I wasn’t quite sure how they crossed that bridge.
  • I liked the subplot of Grayson finding out that he was adopted and had biological sister and family whom he knew nothing about.
  • I enjoyed the setting of Lavender Tides, the description of the town, the townspeople and friends, waterfront, beaches and scenery.
  • I liked the home renovation career of Ellie.

What I wasn’t too keen on:

  • The storyline was rather convoluted and had too many subplots going on.
  • The story and characters weren’t very realistic. Especially, the two small town sisters trying thwart a terrorist attack.  There were times that the sisters did a better job than the FBI and Coast Guard in trying to stop the terrorists.  There sure didn’t seem to much of a police presence considering the seriousness of what was going on.
  • Early on in the book Ellie takes in a helpless small kitten. Periodically, the kitten would be mentioned but for the most part it wasn’t part of the story.  I found it distracting.  That part of the story was unnecessary and didn’t contribute to the storyline.
  • At times the story seemed the drag.
  • The characters weren’t very realistic. My favorite was Grayson, a very nice man…but he was a little too perfect.

Colleen is really good at setting a scene and describing the place and helping the reader see it in their mind.  However, the storyline was not plausible and the characters weren’t deep or realistic…much of it was very surface level.  I think that’s where it lost me, I didn’t connect with the characters.

If you just want to read a mystery to escape for a while you may enjoy The House at Saltwater Point.

Colleen Coble is a Christian author, but there nothing much about faith included in this book.  It’s clean, no profanity and or sexual immorality, and I appreciate that.  But nothing much regarding faith and characters talking about God or praying or faith being lived out in their everyday lives.

I wanted to like The House at Saltwater Point by Colleen Coble.  There were parts I did enjoy, but I think the implausible storyline and lack of depth the characters were too much to overcome.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and BookLook for the opportunity to read The House at Saltwater Point for free in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.