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Monday, March 30, 2015

SECRET REFUGE by Dana Mentink

Marji Laine reviews.
Secret Refuge by Dana Mentink has all that a romantic suspense reader could want!

The Lowdown:

Two years ago, Keeley Steven's sister was brutally murdered by her boyfriend, a man who completely evaded arrest. But he's returned, and he believes Keeley has something that belongs to him.

The tragic reality is, Keeley's sister might not have died if parole officer, Mick Hudson, hadn't let her boyfriend go free. When rumors abound of the suspected killer's return, Mick's guilt over his past mistake multiplies. He intends to prevent what happened to Keeley's sister from happening again. To Keeley.

She doesn't want help from anyone, though. Especially not from the man ultimately responsible for the loss of the person she most treasured. But she has more to worry about than only herself. To protect her family, she's willing to allow Mick to step in.

And he's willing to risk his life to insure history isn't revisited.

My Take:

From page one, the plot entangles with ruthlessness. It begins with a simple hand print on Keeley's window. One that shouldn't be there. And its appearance stirs up nightmares that have haunted over the past two years.

Only a few pages later, Keeley is accosted by a murderer.

Yes. This story is that intense. The action doesn't let up. The twists continue to the unexpected end. In fact, I think Dana Mentink has to be the Queen of Twists! I used to consider myself pretty good at figuring out mysteries, until I started reading her books. And I never saw some of these coming!

Dana Mentink doesn't use dainty little fish hooks to keep the pages turning; she uses whale-sized grapple guns! My daughters laughed at me as I read through Secret Refuge. At the end of every chapter, I'd drop my jaw and whisper, "Oh my gosh." Such unexpected turns and detours! And I loved the way the story kept moving.

I enjoyed the first book of Dana's Wings of Danger series, Hazardous Homecoming. You can find the review for that one here. Secret Refuge continues the high quality of her Love Inspired Suspense novels. No surprise there!

About the Senior Reviewer:
Marji Laine is a home school mom, intent on completing finals for her sophomore twins today. She hopes in the near future to take her girls to Ennis, Texas for some photography fun on the Bluebonnet Trail. In the further future, she hopes to publish her own line of romantic suspense novellas and get her oldest happily married off. Not necessarily in that order. You can find her books on her website (Faith Driven Fiction), Goodreads, and her Amazon author page, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Google+.

Monday, March 23, 2015

SILENT HUNTER by Maggie K. Black

Sybil Bates McCormack reviews.
Taken a gander at author Maggie K. Black’s Silent Hunter yet? If not, you’re in for a treat. The folks at Love Inspired Suspense are definitely on a roll. As the story open, Nicola (“Nicky”) Trailer, camp director at Camp Spirit somewhere in the wilds of Ontario, Canada, is neck deep in preparations for an “extreme” camping trip on a deserted island off the coast. Her elderly boss, George Dale, has invited a select group of potential investors up for a few days to take in the sights, smells and sounds of the island—a wild, remote extension of the tamer campgrounds. George is a man on mission: He intends to petition the group shortly thereafter to support a new, expansion-based venture.

After twenty years at Camp Spirit—first as a young camper, later as a counselor who fell hard for a boy who broke her heart in two, and now as a trusted employee—Nicky’s not going anywhere. She’s committed to seeing Camp Spirit become precisely what George had always a envisioned, a place where kids from all walks of life and all socio-economic circumstances can enjoy a summer away from the cares of life. Engaged in light banter with George as she searches for a batch of long-hidden paperwork in the ceiling of the main lodge, however, Nicky’s soon dismayed to discover that the ladder she mounted to access the ceiling has  fallen down and that she’s lost contact with her boss. She’s momentarily distracted from her concerns when she glances down through the trap door and witnesses the arrival of a handsome stranger. Seconds later, though, she’s coughing and panting for air. The lodge is on fire.

Back at Camp Spirit after many years at owner/manager George Dale’s request, Toronto reporter Luke Wolf has just arrived on the scene when he eyes a suspicious figure in the woods and detects signs that the lodge is on fire. In short order, he’s spotted a young woman in the attic, alerted the “911” operator of the emergency and rushed into the burning building to save his old friend, George. In another two shakes, he’s pulled the old man to safety and confirmed that an employee named Nicky remains trapped inside. When Luke hears a woman’s screams—and circles a corner of the lodge to offer assistance—he’s awestruck to find that Nicky has prepared a makeshift rope and already partially descended the exterior of the building from an opening in the skylight. Just one huge problem: She’s halfway down the three-story building and out of rope. Luke is pondering a plan to break her fall when the rope gives way. Out of time, he quickly rushes forward and breaks Nicky’s fall with his own body.

Ahhh. All is right with the world … George is secure (though shaken and on his way to the hospital). Nicky’s safe. And Luke’s doing pretty great, too… Except, well … it wouldn’t be a true suspense novel if there were nothing else to it. So … Yeah … No. Having regained their footing, Luke and Nicky are shocked to learn that they recognize one another… Hmm. Is that good news? … Bad news? … Only time will tell.

Either way, the reader’s got to love Maggie K. Black’s brilliant set-up for Silent Hunter. In true blue “meanwhile-back-at-the-ranch” style, she keeps this great tale of suspense building upon itself at a mean, steady pace. The eclectic group of extreme campers—many of whom appear just the tiniest bit shady—soon arrive for their three-day adventure on the deserted island. Nicky’s life is threatened. The reader learns that Luke is fighting more than his fair share of internal “demons” (for lack of a better word). And, though George is out of commission—and both Nicky and Luke have suffered minor injuries as a result of the lodge fire—no one’s too pooped to pop. The camping trip will go on.
Let the craziness begin.

Okay, readers … It isn’t exactly a secret that I am a huge fan of the Love Inspired Suspense line. I also consider myself a fan of Maggie K. Black’s. With only two of her books under my belt, I can already attest to the following: that she’s adept at building solid, intriguing characters; that, as a died-in-the wool world traveler and former journalist, she knows her stuff; that she’s got an excellent handle on what it takes to initiate, develop and execute an effective internal spiritual arc for Christian characters; and that—bottom line—she grasps what it takes to tell a great story.

Do yourself a favor: Devote a few hours to Silent Hunter this week or next. When you’re done, stop by and share your thoughts. Always happy to “hear” what you have to say.

A licensed Georgia attorney since 1998, Sybil Bates McCormack now writes healthcare proposals during the day while lurching haltingly toward becoming an inspirational romantic suspense author at night. She's also the crazed wife of a bi-vocational pastor and mom to two bright, talented kids. They don't call her BizzySyb for nothing! You can visit Sybil at her blog, Christian Romance/Pulsating Suspense, follow her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, friend her on GoodReads, connect with her on LinkedIn, and add her to your circles on Google+.

Monday, March 16, 2015

UNTRACEABLE by Elizabeth Goddard

Marji Laine reviews Untraceable by Elizabeth Goddard.


Here's the short version of the story:

NO WAY OUT

On a daring mission, search-and-rescue specialist Heidi Warren and her team step onto an icy Alaskan mountaintop . . . and right into a trap.

A stranded gang of thieves holds them at gunpoint, forcing them to serve as guides along the treacherous path. 

Menaced on all sides by dangerous weather, deadly terrain and murderous criminals, Heidi desperately needs someone to trust. 

But her rescue partner, Isaiah Callahan, is keeping secrets from her. Secrets that ended their chance at a relationship before it could even begin. Yet her survival depends on finding a way to trust Isaiah when a blizzard starts closing in and her options start running out.

Wow! As with all of Elizabeth Goddard books, I finished this story feeling like an expert at rappelling, hiking glaciers, and surviving in sub-zero temperatures with blizzard conditions. Her research is that good!

I liked the characters of this book. Isaiah is a great hero with brains and brawn, but he isn't perfect. His alpha nature pitted against other alphas on the trip gives him plenty of room for internal growth. And Heidi (I got tickled that the mountain girl was named Heidi! LOL!) has a strong spiritual side. She's focused on following the Lord and struggling to hear His directions.

But the intense plot is the best part of this story. There's no question about who's bad and who's good, no mystery to solve. Just the sheer suspense of a constant conflict between protags, antags, and the brutal nature that they face during an Alaskan winter. Edge of seat scary!

About Senior Reviewer Marji Laine:

Marji Laine spends her non-writing time directing a children's choir, coordinating a home-schooling co-op's high school classes, teaching writing, and leading a college Bible study. During "real" free time, she's apt to be found photographing her kids, crocheting blankets, reading or scrapbooking. And she considers free time writing to be as good as a vacation. Her latest book, The Love Boat Bachelor, will have a sequel coming in June. You can find her at Marji Laine: Faith Driven FictionFacebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, and on her Amazon Author page.

Monday, March 9, 2015

HIDDEN AGENDA by Lisa Harris


Iola Goulton reviews. 

"Hidden Agenda by Lisa Harris has some excellent points."

His cover is blown. Now his enemies are on his heels and closing in.

Michael Hunt is alive--and on the run. Presumed dead by friends and family, the undercover assignment he's been working for the past eight months has just been blown. With a hit out on his life and corruption inside the Atlanta police department, Michael finds himself hunted by both the cartel and the law. His only hope is Olivia Hamilton--the daughter of the man who wants him dead.

Journalist Olivia Hamilton has been receiving mysterious emails, emails which suggest her father, Antonio Valez, is more than just a real estate developer: he’s actually involved in a drug cartel. She visits his private island to find out more, but finds herself in danger after her younger brother witnesses her father’s head of security murder one man … and torture another. Ivan convinces her that they must leave the island, but they have to rescue the stranger, or he will be murdered in the morning.

Olivia reluctantly agrees, but finds herself second-guessing that decision when the man introduces himself as Michael Hunt, an undercover policeman working for the cartel, but he won’t let her take him to the police because he doesn’t trust them. It’s the start of a chase that will only end with the death of Olivia and Michael, or the capture of their enemies.

This is the final book in a trilogy, following Dangerous Passage and Fatal Exchange. I would say that if you are going to read them, read them in order … except that the blurb for Hidden Agenda basically gives away a major plot point from the first two novels: that Michael is still alive. Look on the bright side: those of us who did read the earlier books found that out at the very end of Fatal Exchange, and then had to wait months to find out what was going to happen next (In book time, Hidden Agenda begins pretty much the day after Fatal Exchange finishes).

Hidden Agenda has some excellent points, especially in the suspense (my nails are safe, but only just). The writing is excellent, the Christian aspects of the plot are integrated well without seeming contrived or preachy, and I especially liked the way the plot incorporated all the major characters from the previous novels in the series. The one weakness, in my opinion, is that the romance element of the plot wasn’t as strong as in the previous novels.
God is good. He never promised us that life would be easy, but He has promised to walk with us.
Most of us won’t have the trials and challenges Michael, Olivia and Ivan face, but that doesn’t make these words any less true, and I appreciate the reminder.

Thanks to Revell and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About the Iola Goulton:

I am a freelance editor specializing in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website, or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Tsu.

I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog. I'm a Top 25 Reviewer at Christian Book, in the Top 1% of reviewers at Goodreads, and have an Amazon Reviewer Rank that floats around 2500.

Monday, March 2, 2015

SILVER LAKE SECRETS by Alison Stone

Brittany McEuen reviews SILVER LAKE SECRETS by Alison Stone.

Nicole Braun is back in the small town of Silver Lake. She left with her reputation in tatters and has reluctantly returned home to care for her grandmother. All Nicole wants now is to live a quiet life and provide a loving home for her son.

When it becomes clear that someone is out to harm Nicole, police chief Brett Eggert must step in. He isn’t sure what to believe. Has Nicole’s troubled past caught up with her? Is she trustworthy? Will he be able to handle the news that Nicole’s son is the nephew that he never knew existed?

Wow! I have to say that Silver Lake Secrets grabbed me from page one and was a book that I had trouble setting down! The story opened with Brett Eggert responding to a horrible accident, which really set the tension-filled pace for the rest of the book.

Both main characters were very appealing to me. Nicole faced daily prejudice because of her wild youth and her story really wrapped itself around my heart. I enjoyed hearing her account of the tragic event that occurred so many years earlier.

Brett Eggert was a great hero. Although he began the story with quite a grudge against Nicole, he was a man enough to listen to her side of things and not automatically assume she was guilty. He struggled to uncover the truth and had to juggle intensely emotional memories while he was at it.

The many unkind comments toward Nicole, and the unwillingness of some community members to accept that it is possible for a person to change added excellent tension to the story. Although I was on the right track to figuring out who the villain was, the author did indeed manage to surprise me. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Silver Lake Secrets.

About reviewer, Brittany McEuen:

I am a busy homeschooling mom to four children, ranging from kindergarten to high school. I’m happily married to my high school sweetheart and am an avid reader and book reviewer. I feature book reviews, giveaways, and occasional author interviews on my blog, Britt Reads Fiction. You can also connect with me on Pinterest and Goodreads.