Monday, February 29, 2016

ALWAYS WATCHING by Lynette Eason

Marji Laine reviews. 
While the Suspense Sister page has an interview up for Lynette Eason, it seemed the perfect time to review her newest book, Always Watching.

Here's the Short Version:
The bodyguards of Elite Guardians Agency have more than just skill and prowess in common—they're also all women. When it becomes clear that popular psychiatrist and radio personality Wade Savage has a stalker, his father secretly hires Elite Guardians in order to protect his son.

But when Wade's bodyguard is attacked and nearly killed, agency owner Olivia Edwards must step in and fill the gap. Olivia's skills are about to be tested to the limit as Wade's stalker moves from leaving innocent gifts at his door to threatening those closest to him. Olivia has the feeling that she's next on the list. And to complicate things even further, she realizes that her heart may be in as much danger as her client.

Bestselling author and fan favorite Lynette Eason drops readers right into the action in this fast-paced new series with a unique twist. Readers will love these strong female characters who put it all on the line to save lives.

My Take:
What a ride! I found myself opening this book again and again at every opportunity! Once more Lynette Eason has crafted a chilling suspense that kept me in knots. The twisted antagonist rivaled some of the scariest bad guys I've come across. At first I thought the story would be rather benign - stalker situation, but not truly dangerous. 

Boy, was I wrong!

The only thing that rivaled the mystery's intensity was that of the romance. Oh, my. I don't know how Lynette Eason does it! The chemistry between her characters is palpable, both in physical attraction and the magnetic affection on an emotional and spiritual level. In addition to their romance, I enjoyed the spunk and sincerity of a pre-teen girl—a heart-stealer at the very least!

This book is a perfect read for suspense lovers, romance readers, and those who enjoy a good mystery! (Like me!) I can't wait to read the next book in this series. Be sure to visit her interview at this link. She's even giving away a copy of Always Watching to one reader who leaves a comment at the interview article.

About the Senior Reviewer:
Suspense Sister Marji Laine has just released her third novella in her Grime Fighter series, Grime Spree. She loves writing good mysteries as much as she loves reading brilliant Christian fiction. A home schooling mom with twins still in the nest, she spends much of her time as a willing chauffeur and enjoys the special discussions with her daughters as they travel for volleyball, church activities, and impromptu road trips. She works with the youth at her church and, with help from her husband of 29 years and her daughters, directs a large children's choir. She also coordinates the high school classes, teaches psychology, and maintains a website for a large home school co-op. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

THE ALEPPO CODE by Terry Brennan

Sybil Bates McCormack reviews The Aleppo Code by Terry Brennan.

Here's the Short Version:

Having chased the secret of the Cipher through a maze of treachery, death, and destruction, Tom Bohannon’s band of explorers seems to be at a dead end. But the discovery of a tenth-century scriptural text holding the final key to the ancient code hurls them right back into the fray.

Hunted by the relentless assassins of the Prophet’s Guard, Bohannon’s intrepid squad struggles to stay one step ahead of their enemies. Amidst the chaos and conspiracy engulfing the Middle East, they doggedly comb the ruins of ancient Babylon in pursuit of this crucial element of end-timers prophecy. Bohannon and his team risk everything in a desperate attempt to save the world from destruction.

My Take: 

Two words: Marvelous book. The Aleppo Code is the third in a series of novels Pulitzer Prize-winning author Terry Brennan refers to as “The Jerusalem Prophecies.” This reader is, admittedly, new to the Biblical adventure novel genre and expected to have quite a time “toughing it out” with a read of this ilk. You know what I mean—inspy guy’s guy fiction. It’s the polar opposite of everything I tend to enjoy—inspirational romance (whether historicals, contemporaries or suspense), legal thrillers, occasional literary fiction, and the classics.

Presuppositions aside, The Aleppo Code proves engrossing and fulfilling on multiple levels. Though epic in scale—touching upon end-time prophecy, socio-political upheaval, and wartime deceit and courage, for example—the novel provokes an undeniable emotional response in the reader. Author Terry Brennan populates the book’s pages with intricate portraits of highly-motivated, flesh-and-blood characters who—whether right or wrong in their thinking—are prepared to push themselves to their mental, physical and spiritual limits to achieve their goals. That always makes for an engaging read—particularly when the fate of the world rests in the balance. But the writer doesn’t stop there.

Throughout what unfolds as a fictional, plot-perfect, multi-national romp across the Middle East—punctuated by intermittent excursions to the U.S. and Europe—Mr. Brennan explores the topic of faith in a practical, straightforward manner. The main characters in this book aren’t merely on a quest for a secret tool or a weapon. Most are clearly on a quest for the truth. They want to believe, but they’re burdened with authentic skepticism and credible self-doubt. Even when they encounter the supernatural—and the scenes are wrought with singular, exquisite beauty—the characters question the significance of their experiences. The reader can’t help but empathize with the author’s flawed, life-like characters. They are us. We are them.

I would recommend this book wholeheartedly to anyone who would listen. I laughed. I cried. I reflected. I even meditated. And, I came out on the other side of this read an unabashed fan of Terry Brennan’s work.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.  I’d love to hear from you as always. Until next time …

(Disclosure Statement: I was pleased to share my honest review of this book in exchange for a complimentary copy of the novel from Kregel Publications.)

A licensed Georgia attorney since 1998, Sybil Bates McCormack now writes responses to state and Federal contract solicitations during the day while lurching haltingly toward a career as 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, February 15, 2016

CODE 13 by Don Brown

Sandra Ardoin reviews Code 13 by Don Brown.

The Short Version:

The heart of this story involves JAG Lt. Commander Caroline McCormick who is sent to Washington, D. C. to work in the coveted Pentagon location known as Code 13. While she's there she hopes to reconnect with P. J. MacDonald who is another JAG lawyer at Code 13 and a former love.

What she doesn't expect is to become embroiled in plots by two opposing sides to the passage or killing of a proposed joint project between the U. S. Navy and the Department of Homeland Security. As well, she doesn't know that the bill isn't the only thing being set up to be killed.

My Take:

I am big fan of Don Brown's early series Navy Justice with its main character of Zack Brewer, so when I had the opportunity to read this second book in his newest The Navy JAG Series, I took advantage of it. (Zack makes a cameo appearance in the book.)

I’ll point out the things I wasn’t keen on first. While the book has a nice climax and some exciting and suspenseful moments, as a former JAG lawyer, the author goes into too much detail at times, such as, writing full correspondence in lawyer-speak when it could have been shortened and summarized. We get the story from several POVs, and sometimes, it became difficult to keep the players straight. Also, I felt some of the characters were a bit cliché.

The good stuff: When it came to the murders, the author kept me guessing as to the responsible party/side. In their own minds, both had motive. Frankly, I questioned the purpose for the crimes—until the end. Then they made sense, so keep reading.  I'll add that there's a nice twist before the epilogue. I did not see it coming.

The romance revolves around Caroline's choice between P. J. and another naval officer, Captain Paul Kriete. Revealing any more would be a spoiler, so I'll simply say some will like the ending, some will not. Again, another twist I wasn’t expecting.

Overall, Code 13 contains an appealing mystery that would have been riveting if not slowed by too much detail, much of which was character-revealing, but not essential. However, those who enjoy stories from a military angle—NCIS, JAG, etc.—will probably like the insight into a career they might not have experienced themselves.
About the Reviewer:

Sandra Ardoin writes inspirational historical romance. She’s the author of The Yuletide Angel and A Reluctant Melody. A wife and mom, she’s also a reader, football fan, NASCAR watcher, garden planter, country music listener, antique store prowler. Visit her at and on the Seriously Write blog. Connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+Goodreads, and Pinterest. Become a part of her newsletter community and receive a free short story.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Giveaway: Ronie Kendig's NIGHTSHADE

This is the story that ignited Ronie Kendig's best-selling Discarded Heroes series. Military suspense at its finest.

One reader (who leaves a comment with their email address) will win a print copy of NIGHTSHADE.

Here's the Short Version of the story:

Soldiers all across the globe are returning home to their families after brutal tours of duty. They are discharged from the service. . .and on their own. Meet Max Jacobs, one of these discarded heroes, as he faces a wall of failure—in his career, his friendships, and his marriage. Failing again—this time to end his life—he is offered a thread of hope. Are covert government operations the answer for him, or will they only bring more danger and dissension upon his broken family?

Drawing for this book will be in about eight days, so make sure you get in on the fun! (And don't forget to leave your email address so we can contact you if you are randomly chose!)

Monday, February 1, 2016

IF I RUN by Terri Blackstock

Short Version:

Casey knows the truth... But it won’t set her free.

Casey Cox’s DNA is all over the crime scene. There’s no use talking to police; they have failed her abysmally before. She has to flee before she’s arrested... or worse. The truth doesn’t matter anymore.

But what is the truth? That’s the question haunting Dylan Roberts, the war-weary veteran hired to find Casey. PTSD has marked him damaged goods, but bringing Casey back can redeem him. Though the crime scene seems to tell the whole story, details of the murder aren’t adding up. Casey Cox doesn’t fit the profile of a killer. But are Dylan’s skewed perceptions keeping him from being objective? If she isn’t guilty, why did she run?

Unraveling her past and the evidence that condemns her will take more time than he has, but as Dylan’s damaged soul intersects with hers, he is faced with two choices. The girl who occupies his every thought is a psychopathic killer . . . or a selfless hero. And the truth could be the most deadly weapon yet.

My Review:

When Casey Cox finds her best friend’s bloody body, she knows she’s going to be the main suspect in his murder, because the investigation will be conducted by the same police officers who ignored the evidence in her father’s death and called it a suicide. Thanks to a healthy ‘rainy day’ stash of cash, tricks learned from her cop father, and prolific reading of suspense novels, Casey is able to keep several steps ahead of the local police.

The victim’s family hire Dylan Roberts, ex-army Criminal Investigations Division, to find the missing Casey Cox. But Dylan finds the police are reluctant to allow him access to all the information relating to the crime, and to the earlier Cox suicide, and this—along with some of his findings—means he questions Casey’s guilt.

If I Run is suspense at its finest. Casey is intelligent—very intelligent—and suspicious of the local police force. We (and Dylan) find out more and more of her personal history as the story progresses, which confirms Casey’s innocence but doesn’t necessarily tell us who is guilty—or why. She’s also kind and shows concern for others—a thoroughly likeable character. Dylan was equally intelligent and likeable, especially with his curiosity and empathy.

The story was well-plotted with a significant subplot that rose naturally out of what seemed like a coincidental meeting, but which ended up playing a major part in the Dylan-chases-Casey story. There was also a strong underlying Christian thread with Casey’s views on faith, but this was subtle and never got in the way of the story.

And the ending was excellent, setting Casey and Dylan up for a sequel . . . which I now want to read as soon as possible! Recommended for all suspense fans.

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

About the Reviewer, 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 FacebookTwitterPinterest 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 US Reviewer Rank that floats around 2500 (and I'm in the Top 50 at Amazon Australia).