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Monday, August 31, 2015

MISSTEP by Deborah Dee Harper


Marji Laine reviews Misstep by Deborah Dee Harper.

Short Version:

Winnie and Sadie are still fighting, and I'm still living in the strangest town on earth.

It’s December in Road’s End, Virginia, a tiny town long forgotten by anyone but its residents, where Colonel Hugh Foster and his wife, Melanie, have chosen to live—for better or worse. The jury’s still out on that one!

Road’s End is comprised entirely of senior citizens whose kids have grown and left for greener pastures. Hugh, Melanie, and Bristol (one of the few sane people in town) are faced with a crumbling church in desperate need of repair and renovation, a dwindling congregation of opinionated, ornery senior citizens, and a camel—yes, a camel. And if that's not enough, the trio and the rest of the Road's End residents, are soon mired in danger and intrigue when a group of gun-toting drug dealers arrive in town, bent on killing the church handyman, and conspiring to ruin the doggonedest record-breaking blizzard the town has ever seen.

Poor drug dealers.

My Take:

This story was filled to the brim with secrets hidden among eccentric characters and laugh-out-loud goofs. Though not a typical mystery or suspense, it contains elements of both woven in and around the tiny population of septuagenarians at the Christ is Lord Church in Road's End.

The book had some intensity with hysterical antics reminiscent of the Home Alone movies. And the final revelations took me completely off-guard. But it is the town and the town folk that are the real story in this book. The author paints an extraordinary picture of the environment with such detail that it feels familiar and homey. And she gave the characters the same attention, each as the center of their own little worlds, but bonding together in unexpected ways.

I found myself thinking about them and the little town of Road's End days after I finished reading the book. The mark of a truly exceptional story!

About the Senior Reviewer:
 
Suspense Sister, Marji Laine, loves books and writing. Her own Grime Fighter novella series, about a crime scene cleaner, involves the elements she loves the most: 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, and coordinates the high school credit classes along with the website of a large homeschool co-op. 

Join her at MarjiLaine.com or at her Faith Driven Fiction blog where she's focusing on a devotional challenge for the month of September.

Monday, August 24, 2015

SMOKE SCREEN by Jodie Bailey

Sybil Bates McCormack reviews. 
Author Jodie Bailey’s Smokescreen opens with military intelligence officer Ethan Kincaid rushing to IT expert Ashley Colson’s assistance at the Syracuse airport in upstate New York. Ashley has become an unwitting target of a person or entity with a secret to protect, and Ethan is one of the few individuals in a position to save her. The reader quickly discovers that Ethan and Ashley share a complicated history and that the fallout from their thorny past promises to unfold and resolve over the course of the novel. 

Frantic to reach the airport prior to Ashley’s arrival, Ethan ruminates regretfully upon the life-altering mistakes in judgment that drove a ruinous wedge between them. Though he struggles to forgive himself for his errors, Ethan’s certain that Ashley never will. He’s also concerned that she’ll reject his assistance on principle—that Ashley remains so traumatized by the consequences of their last encounter that she’ll never trust him to protect her again.

Ashley Olson departs a disagreeable flight to find that a close male friend and work partner has been desperately attempting to reach her by text and voicemail. Ashley retrieves the messages and learns that her life is in jeopardy. Unfortunately, she soon discovers it’s too late to do anything about it. An unknown assailant accosts her in the terminal at gunpoint and forces her outside. Ashley is actively pondering a viable means of escape when the unthinkable happens. 

Someone kidnaps her from the kidnapper. 

Ethan? 

Ashley’s former partner isn’t exactly one of her favorite people—with good reason, the reader soon discovers. The pair once worked side-by-side as military officers, and Ashley learned to trust Ethan completely—with her life, at first, and eventually with her heart. He let her down on both scores in one major circumstance, and she’s determined to protect herself from further disappointment. There’s only one problem: Ashley now suffers from a debilitating anxiety disorder. It will take every ounce of physical, mental and spiritual strength she can muster to meet the external challenges (i.e., bad guy maneuvers) and internal challenges (i.e., trusting vs. distrusting Ethan again) that lie ahead.

“Smokescreen” author Jodie Bailey does a splendid job of throwing Ethan and Ashley into the fire. She wastes no time at sending them on the run and forces them to work together to decode a set of top secret files—tasks which may or may not lead to the rescue of Ashley’s friend and her own ultimate liberation. The couple endures an escalating series of tests and trials that force them to re-evaluate their past decisions and their future life goals. 

Throughout the book, Ms. Bailey demonstrates a keen ability to convey her main characters’ mental baggage and emotional turmoil. Neither Ethan nor Ashley is immune to fits of grief, regret or anger, and the reader experiences every nuance of those emotions through their thoughts, their physical sensations and their responses to external stimuli. A consummate characterization expert, Ms. Bailey is equally adept at weaving a plot that sizzles, that surprises and that gains increasing momentum toward a gratifying, explosive climax.    

A fan of inspirational romantic suspense? Then you definitely won’t want to miss author Jodie Bailey’s high-octane, heart-pounding “Smokescreen.” Whether you’ve already ready the book or are planning to read it soon, I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments section below.  We’d love to hear from you. Blessings until next time …

About the Reviwer:
A licensed Georgia attorney since 1998, Sybil Bates McCormack now writes state and Federal contract 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, August 17, 2015

TWISTED INNOCENCE by Terri Blackstock


Here's the Short Version: 

Holly Cramer’s past choices have finally caught up to her, but she never expected them to endanger her baby.

Holly is the wild child among the four Cramer siblings. She’s the pusher-of-the-envelope, the youngest, and the one with the least experience with growing up in a whole and loving family. Too young to remember much about the days her father lived with them, all she really knows is that he—a former pastor—deserted them after having an affair.

Now an unwed mother, Holly is finally turning her life around. She’s becoming the responsible adult her brother and sisters had hoped she’d become. Then, in walks Creed Kershaw. More accurately, he’s sitting in the back seat of her cab with her own gun trained on her.

Creed is in deep trouble. A man with his own shady past, he’s now being sought for the murder of a drug dealer involved with the infamous Leonard Miller—the man whose crimes have plagued the Cramers and Michael Hogan. He claims he’s been set up, but how can Holly trust him when she knows nothing more of him than the one night they spent together, the little consequence of which is now about a month old?

In the meantime, Cathy works feverishly to free Michael. No more on that or I’d have to put in a spoiler alert.

My Take:

Twisted Innocence is the third and final book in Terri Blackstock’s Moonlighters series. Each novel centers on one particular sister, but we read points-of-view scenes from the other two and Michael. There’s a continuing story line throughout that’s wrapped up in an intense and satisfactory climax.

While reading, I sympathized with Holly over her struggle to prove herself—not only to her family, but to herself. I felt Creed’s guilt and fear, and cheered for Cathy in her goal. I enjoyed the whole series, though, as a whole, it’s really Cathy and Michael’s story.

That said, as I read through the first eighty pages, I was eager to get to the meat of this particular tale. Frankly, I felt the book started a little too soon. Creed doesn’t show up until page 83. Once he does, the plot takes off and the reader is swept up in his plight. I also had a little difficulty with the romantic element. I don’t want to give too much away, but I didn’t really feel the chemistry between Holly and Creed as I would have liked. Though it’s commendable, he seemed more interested in the baby than her. Terri Blackstock’s books are made up of as much, or more, suspense than romance, which is fine. This one, however, had so much going on that the romance seemed to get lost.

Even so, don’t let my comments discourage you. The Moonlighters series is well worth the read. But to get the flow of the plot, I’d advise starting with the first book, Truth Stained Lies and follow it up with Distortion, then Twisted Innocence.

About Reviewer Sandra Ardoin:

Passionate about horses and a fan of old westerns, it’s only natural that Sandra Ardoin sets her stories in the days of the horse and buggy. Her Christmas novella, The Yuletide Angel, is no exception. Look for her novel, A Reluctant Melody, in early 2016. Sandy is the married mother of a young adult.
Visit her at www.sandraardoin.com and on the Seriously Write blog. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

The Yuletide Angel, is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Monday, August 10, 2015

GRIME WAVE by Marji Laine


Iola Goulton reviews GRIME WAVE by Marji Laine.

Short Version

Finding the body of a dead man would freak out anyone. Even someone with Dani Foster’s gruesome job. She can’t help but join the search for this murderer. Maybe because she found the body, or because her friend is a suspect. Maybe the deep-seated drive to work on the case is to stay close to Crime Scene Specialist Jay Hunter. She excuses her actions as the normal ones of a detective’s daughter.

Though no one’s supposed to know about that.

Jay Hunter can’t escape the sharp eyes and keen mind that Dani has, or her beauty and fun-loving spirit. Her help might be exactly what he needs to secure the promotion he’s been hoping for. Though he can’t stand the thought of her being in danger. Not after the last time.

This is the second episode of the Grime Fighters series. Dani's troubles aren’t over, and the relationship between her and Jay is only beginning.

My Review

Crime scene cleaner Dani Foster is about to go on her first date with handsome policeman Jay Hunter when she finds herself at the other end of a crime scene—finding the murder victim. And the night goes from bad to worse when Dani is hauled down to the police station as a potential suspect. But her past is threatening to come and find her …

Grime Wave is the second in Marji Lane’s Grime Fighter series. The first book, Grime Beat, introduced us to Dani, Jay, and their respective friends, workplaces, and co-workers. Grime Wave gives us a stand-alone mystery for the pair to solve, and progresses Dani and Jay’s relationship. So while this story stands alone, it would be better to read Grime Beat first.

I enjoyed this even better than Grime Beat, because the first book had a big job in introducing the characters and solving the crime. Grime Wave was a smoother read is because those initial introductions have been made, which means the author—and therefore the reader—is able to focus more on the crime and the developing relationship. We get to know a little more about Dani’s mysterious past, and so does Jay … which only leads to more questions which will hopefully be answered soon in the next book!

Thanks to the author 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 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 US Reviewer Rank that floats around 2500 (and I'm in the Top 50 at Amazon Australia).

Monday, August 3, 2015

MURDER AT THE COURTHOUSE by A.H. Gabhart

Marji Laine reviews.
Award winning novelist Ann H. Gabhart offers the first of her Hidden Springs Mystery series, Murder at the Courthouse, under the pen name of A.H. Gabhart.

Here's the short version:
After a few years as a police officer in Chicago, Michael Keane has no trouble relaxing into the far less stressful job of deputy sheriff in his small hometown. After all, nothing ever happens in Hidden Springs, Kentucky. Nothing, that is, until a dead body is discovered on the courthouse steps. Everyone in town is a little uneasy. Still, no one is terribly worried--after all the man was a stranger--until one of their own is murdered right on Main Street.

As Michael works to solve the case it seems that every nosy resident in town has a theory. When the sheriff insists Michael check out one of these harebrained theories, his surprising discovery sends him on a bewildering search for a mysterious killer that has him questioning everything he has ever believed about life in Hidden Springs.

Bringing with her a knack for creating settings you want to visit and an uncanny ability to bring characters to life, A. H. Gabhart pens a whodunit that will keep readers guessing.

My Take:
This book appealed initially because of the small town setting, but a tightly woven mystery full of twists captured me. I found myself reading at every opportunity. 

The story was unique, however, in that it was rather like a series I had read that was labeled with the genre chic lit. The genre, as I understand it, refers to an abundance of internal thoughts of the main character. Especially during the first half of the story, Michael is full of thoughts and feelings that he restrains himself from acting on. 

The uniqueness is that Michael is a guy, so "chic-lit" doesn't exactly work. However, I did enjoy getting deeply into his psyche during much of the story. 

I also enjoyed the plot development. I admit, I pegged the person of interest right away and connected the dots of the motive, etc. as the story progressed, but I thoroughly enjoyed reaching the end to prove that I was right. I love a good mystery!

About the Senior Reviewer:
Suspense Sister Marji Laine writes about hope and redemption. Her characters, tangled in desperate situations, rely on authentic faith in God to carry them through treachery, betrayal, and impossible circumstances. Her latest book, Grime Wave, is the second book of her Grime Fighter Series about a crime scene cleaner in witness protection.

A Homeschooling mom of four, she has two still left in the nest. She directs a children’s choir at her church, coordinates the high school classes and the website at a large co-op, and is the historian for the DFW Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers.