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Monday, August 29, 2016

Therese Heckenkamp reviews SHADOW OF THE STORM by Candle Sutton

Therese Heckenkamp reviews SHADOW OF THE STORM by Candle Sutton

Short Synopsis from Amazon:

Who am I? That’s a good question. If you figure it out, be sure to let me know.

For today, I’m Stormy. The answer might be different if you ask me tomorrow. Because the truth of the matter is, I don’t know who I am.

You might be wondering how that can be. Join the club. I have no idea.

My memories begin with overhearing two men planning my murder. You heard me, my murder. I get away from them, but just barely. The only things in my possession are a duffel bag with obscene amounts of cash and a wallet with four driver’s licenses. All with my picture. Don’t ask me how or why I have them--or even if any of them are real--because I don’t know.

I don’t know much of anything.

All I know is those men want me dead. For reasons still unknown to me. So I’ll run. And I’ll keep running. Because it’s all I can do.

Honestly though, I can’t run forever. I have to piece my fractured mind back together. Somehow. But how do you go about remembering the things that most people already know?

My Review:

“You’re gonna dump her off the bridge?” This opening line hooked me and reeled me into a high-suspense situation without wasting a second. But could the rest of the story deliver? When it had me reading late into the night, I had my answer.

Stormy is in a bad way. A very bad way. She doesn’t even know her real name. On the run, confused, and bearing bruises, she can’t stop to figure anything out—even if she had a clue how, which she doesn’t. She’s in possession of items she’s unsure she should have. Is she innocent? Or a criminal? Who wants her dead? And what about this odd fear of the police that she can’t shake?

Candle Sutton writes with a delightfully fast-paced, crisp writing style. I’d never read this author before, but she didn’t disappoint. Each chapter left me eager to begin the next. I wanted answers to countless tantalizing questions: Who is this main character really, and why are people after her? Where is her home and does she have any family? Who can be trusted?

Apart from a few third person scenes from the villain’s point of view, the entire novel is told in first person present tense. I found it unusual, but effective. It takes no more than a moment to orientate to, and it serves the suspense of the story well, bringing a strong sense of immediacy to each scene.

The story contains plenty of elements that will set readers’ hearts pounding, complete with chases, dark alleys, and gunfire. The well-drawn characters had me musing about their lives and motives. Humor and wit and growing friendships keep the story from descending too darkly. Though minimal, there’s even a romance aspect with several potential love interests.

As bits and pieces of memory gradually return, Stormy must sift reality from dreams and nightmares. Strong as she is, she becomes weary of struggling to survive on her own. Does religion have a place in her life? Because she’s not sure what she believes about faith and God. The novel’s religious elements are well-done, and a strong faith thread intensifies as the story proceeds.

When all seems lost, Stormy just may learn how to find peace. “Not the ‘life’s perfect’ kind of peace, but the kind of peace that lasts through any circumstance.” And in an unexpected way, she learns about an unconditional love that might save her after all.

Shadow of the Storm delivers plenty of suspense while the main character battles the storms of life on
an exciting journey of self-discovery. For fans of inspirational suspense, this book is a must-read.

About the Reviewer:

Therese Heckenkamp loves to read and write and read about writing. She’s thrilled to be living her childhood dream as an author and has published three Christian suspense novels so far: Past Suspicion, Frozen Footprints, and After the Thaw. A busy wife and mother of three, Therese fits in writing time whenever she can manage (and sometimes when she can’t). Visit her at ThereseHeckenkamp.com and follow her on Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, and Twitter.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Sandra Ardoin Reviews WHEN NIGHT COMES by Dan Walsh

Sandra Ardoin Reviews WHEN NIGHT COMES by Dan Walsh

Back Cover Teaser:

Jack Turner comes back to Culpepper to give a series of lectures for his old history professor. Within days, he starts having bizarre experiences at night. Like he’s traveling back in time, experiencing the epic events in his lectures firsthand. He has no control over these experiences and can’t make them stop.

Joe Boyd thought he’d left big city crime back in Pittsburgh when he took a detective job in Culpepper, Georgia, a sleepy southern college town. His peaceful life ends when two students turn up dead in two weeks. The coroner is saying natural causes, but something doesn’t add up.

Rachel Cook, a teaching assistant at Culpepper, can’t believe Jack is back in her life again. She’s had a crush on him since she was fourteen, but Jack never knew. He instantly seems attracted to her, but she can tell…something is deeply troubling him.

Watching all this from a distance is Nigel Avery. He’s certain this experiment’s about to unravel. It’ll be his job to tie up all the loose ends when it does.

My Thoughts:

A noted historian and writer, Jack returns to his old college campus to deliver a series of lectures and write a book with an interesting premise in itself: What if modern technology was available during World War II? Before he arrives, a student is found dead for no apparent reason other than what is evident by the look on his face. He’s been scared to death.

This is my first read of a Dan Walsh novel. While it involves finding the solution to a series of murders, through Jack’s dreams and the premise, it has sci-fi tendencies that would be, frankly, scary if they were true. It’s also a story of blackmail and betrayal that leaves the reader feeling sorry for those involved. The bad guys (and they are bad) are given early on, so there’s no real mystery there.

I understand the first two chapters being in Joe’s POV, but as he was listed in the blurb, I anticipated his role would be larger. Maybe in the second book we’ll again meet this hardworking city cop who tries to adjust to less experienced and capable co-workers.

Jack’s relationship with Rachel develops quickly, though not unrealistically. (After all, they have a whole series in which to fall in love.) However, an incident occurred in the plot where I expected more depth of emotional response from both characters, especially Rachel, so I was a little disappointed there.

Otherwise, the story reads like an action movie and runs at a high-speed and exciting clip. The World War II scenes were especially gripping. I felt as though I had been transported back in time along with Jack.

So if you’re looking for a fast-paced, action-oriented novel, I recommend When Night Comes as an entertaining read that snatched my interest with the first scene and took off!

Book Two in the Jack Turner Suspense series, Remembering Dresden, released in May. I’ll soon be digging into my copy to once again follow Jack’s experiences and his on-going romance with Rachel.

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 www.sandraardoin.com 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.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Sybil Bates McCormack reviews DISILLUSIONED by Christy Barritt

Sybil Bates McCormack reviews DISILLUSIONED by Christy Barritt

The Publisher's Summary:

Nikki Wright is desperate to help her brother, Bobby, who hasn’t been the same since escaping from a detainment camp run by terrorists in Colombia. Rumor has it that he betrayed his Navy brothers and conspired with those who held him hostage, and both the press and the military are hounding him for answers. All Nikki wants is to shield her brother so he has time to recover and heal.

But soon they realize the paparazzi are the least of their worries. When a group of men try to abduct Nikki and her brother, Bobby insists that Kade Wheaton, another former SEAL, can keep them out of harm’s way. But can Nikki trust Kade? After all, the man who broke her heart eight years ago is anything but safe…

Hiding out in a farmhouse on the Chesapeake Bay, Nikki finds her loyalties—and the remnants of her long-held faith—tested as she and Kade put aside their differences to keep Bobby’s increasingly erratic behavior under wraps. But when Bobby disappears, Nikki will have to trust Kade completely if she wants to uncover the truth about a rumored conspiracy. Nikki’s life—and the fate of the nation—depends on it.

My Take:

Author Christy Barritt’s gem-of-a-novel, Disillusioned, left me anything but. The work opens with a telling glimpse into heroine Nikki Wright’s frailties and strengths. Her Navy SEAL brother, Bobby Wright, has just been released from a two-week stay in a D.C. area hospital following a daring escape from captivity at the hands of a ruthless group of Colombian terrorists. Though unused to the glare and intrusiveness of the national limelight, Nikki and Bobby are thrust into it front and center by their circumstances. Not only does Bobby claim to have fled the custody of foreign, cold-blooded captors, his fundraising specialist sister, Nikki, claims to have facilitated his subsequent rescue.

It’s an account many consider suspect.

Reporters surround them, determined to ferret out the truth, rabid for the real story. Though fraught with anxiety and concern, Nikki has quickly assumed the role of protector to a brother hobbled by a crippling case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She’s arranged for Bobby’s immediate transfer to an undisclosed location while he continues to recover from his trying ordeal. Nikki has even hired a top-notch security detail tasked with ensuring their safe delivery to the private location.

Too bad nothing goes exactly as it should.

Minutes into the trip, the siblings are running for their lives with nowhere to turn. Nikki’s unsure there’s anyone they can trust. Despite his frail condition, however, Bobby contacts an old friend for help—a decision that will have a profound effect on both their lives.

Former Navy SEAL Kade Wheaton left military life behind to help those in need at home—brother military personnel tormented by the myriad difficulties associated with the return to civilian life. So when Bobby Wright issues a plea for help unlike any Kade’s received in the past, he dashes to his aide. That being said, Kade’s actions aren’t entirely selfless. After all, Bobby’s not the only one in trouble.

Nikki Wright, Bobby’s beautiful, God-fearing sister, was the one that got away. Since helping them
out of dire circumstances might prove the only way to get her back, Kade’s more than ready to assist. It soon becomes clear to him, however, that the road to reconciliation might prove more difficult than he’d imagined. The bad guys are closing in, Bobby’s not at all what he appears, and Nikki has changed. A lot. Life has thrown a few curve balls her way (pun intended—read the book!) since they last met eight years ago, and she’s clearly less than eager to trust again.

In Disillusioned, author Christy Barritt delivers a measured, intriguing build to a fulfilling, well-considered climax and resolution. The twists and turns prove plausible, if unpredictable. Both the main and secondary characters are finely drawn, and the plot is so cleverly conceived the reader won’t be certain who to trust, if anyone, until the end. (What a great selection of potential bad guys.) There are even subtle touches of humor surrounding one character throughout, and his/her intermittent appearances prove endearing—if a mite unsettling.

This one’s a winner. Don’t miss it!


Hope you’ll share your thoughts about the book in the comments section below. Until next time …

About the Reviewer:

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 FacebookPinterest, and Twitter, friend her on Goodreads, connect with her on LinkedIn, and add her to your circles on Google+.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Marji Laine Reviews DUMPSTER DICING by Julie B. Cosgrove

Marji Laine reviews Dumpster Dicing by Julie B. Cosgrove

Short Version from Goodreads:

As Janie and Betsy Ann go for their morning jog, the city sanitation vehicle follows its normal five-mile Tuesday morning route through their retirement community of Sunset Acres. The two Bunco-playing biddies spot a leg dangling out of the dumpster when the truck lifts the trash container high in the air. Someone diced up one of their newest residents—a grouchy loner named Edwin Newman. Did he unpack too much of his dicey past when he moved in last weekend?

My Take:

Julie Cosgrove had the huge challenge of peopling a full retirement community. The very nature of the environment requires a plethora of characters. The author accomplishes this through a variety of personalities and voices. That's so refreshing! So often I have to get halfway or more in a book before I can remember who is who. 

Such is not the case with this story. The main trio of sleuths each have unique qualities and backgrounds. Janie, the widow of a detective, has enough knowledge of investigating crimes to make her dangerous. Her son-in-law, high up in the local police force, cringes and fusses with every episode of her snooping. 

I want to be just like her when I grow up! :)

Her cohort in finding the parts of the body (gruesome!) is Betsy Ann. She reminds me of Bess from the old Nancy Drew series. But this gal is smart, well-connected, highly educated. I'd go for having a wing-"man" with her abilities!

The final member of the trio is Ethel. I swear, I can almost see this woman. She's not nearly as smart or experienced as Betsy Ann, but she considers herself to be quite the investigator since she's seen every "Murder, She Wrote" episode ever created. LOL! I like her already. If she adds Perry Mason to her list, she's practically me! Okay, an older version of me. 

The characters make this story, but the mystery is delightfully twisted. As a reader, I was along for the ride, seeing and understanding everything right along with the characters. I would like to say that I saw the ending coming, but I seriously had no idea this time. Kudos to the author!

This is a great cozy mystery, just the thing for some relaxing down time and the perfect story for my weekend break! I'm so delighted that the author graced me with a copy in return for my review! Thanks!

About the Senior Reviewer:

Suspense Sister, Marji Laine, loves books and writing. Her own Grime Fighter novella series, about a crime scene cleaner, involves mystery, romance, and a touch of suspense.

Living in a Dallas suburb with her hubby of almost 30 years and her twins - the youngest of four - she spends her days homeschooling and transporting her teenagers to various functions, especially volleyball games. She also directs the children's music, helps with the youth choir, and sings in the adult choir at her church, as well as coordinates the high school credit classes along with the website of a large home school co-op.

Join her at MarjiLaine.com or follow her on FacebookTwitter, or visit her Amazon author page.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Iola Goulton reviews: WHEN DEATH DRAWS NEAR by Carrie Stuart Parks

Iola Goulton reviews When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks.

Short Version:

Forensic artist Gwen Marcey is in Pikeville, Kentucky, a long way from her Montana home, working on a serial rapist case with local police. Except something weird is happening: all the victims leave town soon after the crimes, including this latest victim—which makes it impossible for Gwen to interview her and get the sketch she needs to help find the rapist.

But things get stranger when she is asked to help identify a snakebite victim, and she finds herself in the middle of an investigation into a local snake-handling cult, and then finds herself under attack. Things go from bad to worse when her ex sends their teenage daughter into the middle of what is turning out to be a lot more complex—and dangerous—than a straightforward interview and sketch.

My Thoughts:

I found the beginning a bit shaky, with a Prologue that didn’t immediately relate to the novel (I realised when I re-read it to write this review that the Prologue actually takes place twenty years before the start of the novel—this could have been made clearer). We were also thrown right into the middle of the investigation, which helped give the novel a bumpy start. However, that could have been intentional, to mimic Gwen’s own confusion. The other aspect which might be of concern to some readers is that it’s written in first person. I find this added to the suspense, but I know some readers find first person difficult to read.

But apart from those small issues, the novel was excellent—as I’ve come to expect from Carrie Stuart Parks. She has chosen a difficult topic with When Death Draws Near, yet manages to tread the line between different branches of the Christian faith with care and consideration (I would point out that most Pentecostals don’t believe in snake handling or drinking poison. Just because the Bible says we can doesn’t mean we should. Also, while the American Pentecostal movement began in 1906 with the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, there was a corresponding revival in Wales which instigated the British version. In both cases, God chose the maligned minorities—African Americans and Welsh miners—to lead the way).

Her writing is excellent (no surprise—the book is dedicated to “Frank, the master storyteller”, referring to Frank Peretti, her writing coach). The plot is nailbiting, and the characters feel like real people, with all the accompanying faults. I recently read a blog post which described fictional conflict as characters doing what they know is wrong. I won’t give details (as that would be giving spoilers), but that is definitely a feature of When Death Draws Near, and adds to the tension. Is that character the evildoer, or the character he is protecting? Or someone else? The author continues the suspense until almost the last page.
This is the third Gwen Marcey thriller, following A Cry from the Dust and The Bones Will Speak (both of which I have reviewed). However, it can easily be read as a standalone novel as the series elements are more about Gwen’s relationship with her ex-husband (shaky) and her teenage daughter (improving, which gives hope to all of us with teenage daughters).

Recommended for thriller fans, especially those who enjoy TV shows like CSI, or novels by Tim Downs.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Carrie Stuart Parks (herself a well-known forensic artist) and the fascinating story of how she came to be an author at her website: CarrieStuartParks.com.

About 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).