Blind Trust

Blind Trust, #3
By Natalie Walters / Revell

Blind Trust is the last book in The SNAP Agency trilogy written by Natalie Walters. Previously, I read and reviewed book one: Lights Out . This series is satisfying to read due to the fast action, contemporary plots, and wonderful characters. Blind Trust, book three, is part romance and part mystery. The lead characters with the Strategic Neutralization and Protection Agency (SNAP) waste no time diving deep into the investigation of a suspicious death. The action is triggered by a threat to the protagonist, Lyla Fox. The man suspected of making the threat turns up dead in the correctional facility where he had been serving his sentence. The timeline of this event was odd. The inmate took his own life two days before the threat on Lyla was carried out. This is the thread the investigators follow to get to the bottom of the mystery. This path leads them onto a deeper plot where the stakes are higher and the threats more intense.

Readers will enjoy the book’s fast pace and the fun dialogue. The cyber-sleuth Kekoa remains a key player who adds humor to the conversations and lightens some of the hours spent at the agency.

Lyla Fox and Nicolas Garcia are independent individuals with specialized training. The romantic relationship that blossoms between them is one to follow with great interest. They are mature professionals learning how to trust one another. Over the course of the story, their perspectives move from rugged independence to accepting how important it is to treat those we love with care and understanding. They realize that solo acts with little regard for the impact of their actions can have unintended bad outcomes.

Readers can appreciate the great action told with smart prose. I enjoyed book three, but realize I haven’t read book two. The success of this book prompts me to find book two so I can complete this fast action series. I received a copy of the book from the publisher Revell in exchange for my honest review.

After the Shadows by Amanda Cabot

After the Shadows, #1
By Amanda Cabot / Revell

Tragedies turn lives upside down with long reaching consequences. The dark shadows they cast are joy robbers. Sad individuals either succumb to the heavy weight of the event’s sadness or they find paths out to a new-found and unexpected sense of joy.

      The main characters in After the Shadows, Emily Leland and Craig Ferguson are true overcomers. Both lost spouses. Emily was bound to a controlling and abusive husband. Upon his sudden death, she returned to her family home only to discover her father had just died. Now she experiences a double tragedy. Craig Ferguson’s wife, and mother to his son, was the apple of his eye. Her death due to a fatal accident, caused his world to unravel. Her memory was everywhere. He struggled to raise his son amidst the heartache and constant reminders. Trained as a school teacher, he accepted a job in Sweetwater Crossing Texas. The new job required him to relocate. He was thrilled to accept this change.The move offered a brighter future for Craig and his son, Noah. 

   Emily and Craig both forge a new path. Craig insists on respecting the students’ self esteem and turns heads in town when he refuses to make students stand in corners and wear dunce caps. He welcomes children of all abilities to join in and take part in his lessons. As a former public school librarian, I appreciated this up-to-date view of educators and this character’s commitment to working with students with a variety of learning styles. 

Out of necessity, Emily uses her hospitality and baking skills to  open a boarding house. Within days of returning to her family home, she has multiple boarders and guests willing to enjoy her meals.
Soon a mystery is afoot. Older residents are dying sudden deaths. Even her father’s death seems suspicious. Emily and Craig join forces to uncover the truth. 

There are clues that raise suspicion on a few characters. But the red herrings built into the plot keep you guessing until the very end. The mystery is eventually solved. The criminal’s motive is unique. 

The author does a wonderful job weaving the dynamics of family relationships into the story. We can expect to see these characters in future books in the Secrets of Sweetwater Crossing series. 

The setting of this book is the late 19th century. It opens in 1882. One interesting twist to the plot involves morphine. We learn from historical accounts that injectable morphine was widely used during the U.S. Civil War to the point that many veterans at the war’s end returned home with drug addictions. For many, this habit of substance abuse became a tough obstacle preventing them from rebuilding a healthy post-war life. There are many subplots to this novel, and these facts play a role.  

I look forward to the sequels in this series. I have read four Amanda Cabot novels. I’ve enjoyed each one. The setting of each novel draws me in. The books always have a great pace and a full roster of memorable characters.

Everything is Just Beginning

Everything Is Just Beginning
By Erin Bartels / Revell
Erin Bartels’ Newest Release is Extraordinary!

Wonderful novel. Fun to read with characters to love. Their movement through such a unique and specialized setting makes this book an enjoyable reading experience. Musicians take center stage in this book and the year is 1990. The main characters are musicians who care about lyrics and original melodies. Natalie and Mike combine to create a new sound and are eager to share their music with a larger audience. Between the pages, readers get a glimpse of what it’s like to have a passion for music and the hurdles that must be overcome once a performance date is set. The song lyrics included in the book read like top-shelf poetry.

The plot is enriched by more than one down-on-their-luck character who just can’t seem to get ahead. Once their back story is revealed, you can’t stay angry with the consequences of their poor choices.

Erin Bartels’ plot is multi-layered. The book is beautifully crafted both in word and graphic design. The music theme is pervasive. No chapters here, only tracks. Two sides, A and B make the complete book. QR codes at the end send readers to digital destinations where the music is performed by the author and her musical duo partner.

I’ve read four out of five novels written by Erin Bartels. I have found them all thought provoking and engaging. I’ve given all my copies away for friends to enjoy, but truthfully now I wish I had kept them for my personal library. Each one is a novel of distinction.

Great Reads!

090894: Saving Mrs. Roosevelt: WWII Heroines Saving Mrs. Roosevelt: WWII Heroines
By Candice Sue Patterson / Barbour Publishing

The setting and the characters caught my attention. I enjoyed this mystery book. The plot was realistic with some great twists and turns. Readers who enjoy WWII historical fiction would enjoy their time reading this book. The main character exemplified pluck, perseverance, and a sharp mind. Each character was fully drawn out. I would recommend this book.

Until Leaves Fall in Paris

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Until Leaves Fall in Paris
By Sarah Sundin / Revell

Historical Fiction fans will love this book. Until Leaves fall in Paris by Sarah Sundin draws readers into a unique WWII setting. Her main characters are American expatriates who were long standing residents of the American Colony in Paris. One protagonist, Lucie Girard, is a former ballerina who studied and danced with a ballet company in Paris. In 1940, as the Nazi military conquests increase, many expats flee and return to the U.S. Lucie chooses to remain in Paris. As a Christian American, she feels more secure. She buys a bookstore since it appears her career with the ballet company will end. The purchase solves her need to make a living. Her payment to the former owners pays their passage back to America. Lucie is thrilled to complete this sale since it opens a door to safety for the former owners who are long time family friends. The former owners are Jewish. A decision to remain in Paris would likely be a death sentence for this older Jewish couple.

Paul Aubrey is an engineer and automaker. He is an American expatriate as well. Once the Germans arrive in Paris, they negotiate a contract with Paul to oversee the production of trucks. According to the terms of the contract the trucks are to be used only in civilian transport activities. Paul suspects the Germans may be making alterations to his trucks. He worries that they are repurposing them for the war effort. This leads Paul and some of his employees to adopt a variety of techniques to slow down the production line and even commit sabotage.

Each main character shows in many instances that they are good people. They are considerate of others. They tap into their sense of creativity to see their businesses succeed. They treat their employees fairly. Paul and Lucie meet through the bookstore. They develop a strong romantic bond that grows throughout the story.

The author includes many subplots. These storylines help us understand the complexity of everyday life in Paris during the war years. We meet resistors, some militant and others more subtle. We learn about the collaborators. The description of banned books and burning books provokes the ire of book lovers and champions of free speech.

This book does not get bogged down in the gruesome details of war. Readers are spared descriptions of this nature. The action at the last part of the book is filled with suspense as our main characters escape. Each has to dodge grave obstacles that threaten to block their safe passage. After seeing the characters through this action packed time period, I was glad the final destination was a happy ending in America.

I recommend this book to my reading buddies. I reviewed a paperback copy supplied to me by the publisher Revell.

The Prince and the Prodigal

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737632: The Prince and the Prodigal The Prince and the Prodigal
By Jill Eileen Smith / Revell

You’ll warm up to this book fast and stay engaged right to the end. A familiar Bible story told with fresh dialogue and new points of view. The title says it all. We journey with Joseph, the prince, from his dysfunctional early family life, through his years of trial, right up to when he was plucked from prison and catapulted into a leadership position in Egypt. His life’s journey serves as a wonderful example of how God has a plan and purpose for each life.

Judah’s story, the prodigal, is equally compelling. The brother who first hatched the idea to sell Joseph to slave traders, didn’t anticipate the consequences. The weight of the guilt he carried changed his life’s trajectory. Great tragedy marks his early adult years. Two of his sons collapse and die. His wife dies as well. Despite accumulating livestock and wealth, his emotional state is at rock bottom. It’s at this point, Judah realizes he must make the journey back home to Jacob. He is nervous and wracked with anxiety wondering if Jacob will welcome him back. The prodigal son is met with open arms. A beautiful quote is shared during their first encounter. Acknowledging the hard times he has endured, Judah says to Jacob, “ Sometimes hardship is what leads us to seek the things we’ve always known were true…. My God has taught me much… and He has led me home.”

I read a paperback copy of this book supplied by Revell in exchange for my honest review. This is the first book I have read by Jill Eileen Smith. Based on this novel, I anticipate I would find her other novels equally satisfying to read.

The Girl Who Could Breath Underwater

Books are often described as “windows and mirrors”. The last book I read is a prime example of this metaphor. The Girl Who Could Breathe Underwater by Erin Bartels is her newest release. The novel deals with sexual abuse. At one point when I realized where the narrative was headed, I was definitely uncomfortable reading the text. But I continued on, and the author handled a very difficult subject with care. This book is a window that builds empathy for victims of this type of abuse. I was supplied with a copy to review from Revell the publisher. I had read two previous books by Erin Bartels. I have always found her books to be well written. I love her vivid settings and cast of strong characters. This book is based primarily at a lake in Upper Michigan. The novel’s plot grows out of complications that develop when two of the protagonists were teenagers. Now as young adults, Kendra and Tyler find themselves back at the lake once again and face-to-face confrontations occur. The Rainer’s adopted Tyler, who joined their family at age 15. Tyler was four years older than Kendra. His early years were marked by emotional trauma and abuse. When Beth and Robert Rainer adopted Tyler, they already had their adopted daughter, Cami at their house. Cami and Tyler were not biological siblings. The backstory of each character is gradually revealed. This knowledge opens the reader’s eye to how and why the heart wrenching events transpired.

Another thread of this story examines how great friendships can fall apart, wither, and die from neglect. The main character Kendra experiences this as she thinks about Cami, her best friend from the lake. At the lake, Kendra and Cami spent long summer days having great fun swimming, boating to nearby islands, and dreaming about the future. Most readers can relate to losing friendships due to the fact that life happens and former best friends just grow apart. This is another dimension of the story that prompts readers to develop empathy.

The cast of characters in Kendra’s current life is a widely divergent group. Some are clearly encouragers and offer solid emotional support. Others add up to thorns in her side, frustrating her sense of peace and balance. In conclusion, I decided I was glad I read the book. I was impressed at the intricate network of relationships and how the author was able to let us see into the dynamics of each.

I’m going to share this book with a reading buddy. I think they will realize its value and sophistication. It’s a well crafted book.

Lights Out by Natalie Walters

I read an electronic version of the Advanced Reader’s Copy of Lights Out by Natalie Walters. First I would emphasize that the characters were well drawn out with strong and very different identities. The cybersleuth, Kekoa steals the show with his upbeat dialogue. Lyla is another full of life character who doesn’t pull any punches. I was a little surprised at the amount of romantic content. I chose the book to read because I thought it was a mystery. From the start, the loop back to romantic notions appears frequently. This swing in the action from modern day espionage to matters of the heart I found too much in the beginning. I hung with it and eventually warmed up to the story with greater engagement.

The main characters, Jack Hudson and Brynn Taylor, are competent professionals in the business of tracking down threats to our government and way of life. Each individual has a multilayered backstory that is 100% believable and wins you over to their side. As a CIA analyst, Brynn shows she is competent at her job. Jack Hudson, a private contractor, who specializes in identifying and resolving security threats, is surrounded by a top-notch and caring team. When they join forces, the plot thickens as there is a missing person to find amidst Brynn and Jack’s blossoming relationship. This duo went through CIA agent training eight years ago and began a relationship. But choices made at the program’s end, caused a break-up and Jack moved on with a broken heart. Now they are thrown together to find a missing Egyptian operative whose disappearance has caused alarm at all levels of homeland security. As they chase down clues, one Egyptian American contact is poisoned and murdered. Brynn narrowly escapes multiple threats with her life and only minor broken bones. Jack’s quick thinking saves her from fatal consequences.

The contemporary setting accurately portrays just how complicated things are in the area of foreign relations. It takes place in a post 9/11 World and its impact is evident. Both in the political sphere and in Brynn’s personal life. Her father, a firefighter, survived the attacks, but was injured and was unable to do his job due to the injuries. She felt the tragedy on a personal level in addition to responding to it as an American Citizen. This experience drove her to serving in the CIA and doing whatever was possible to avoid another terrorist attack in the future.

The setting is based in greater Washington DC. This part makes sense. There are just a few jumps to a setting in Egypt and a human traffickers home in Georgia that seem choppy.

The author shows she writes on an advanced level when focusing on contemporary topics with an ample dose of technology woven into the plot. There’s an implied Christian theme and the story is told with appropriate language throuhgout. It is a novel with fast paced action, likable characters, and a satisfying plot. Lights out is Book #1 in a series on Jack Hudson’s private agency dedicated to national security.

Deadly Target Book 2 Rocky Mt. Courage

This is the third book I’ve read by Elizabeth Goddard. This one delivered dramatic action in an interesting outdoor setting just like the previous novels. The characters were resilient and smart. They had multiple mysteries to solve. As you’re drawn deeper into the plot, these terrifying and near fatal events happen with greater frequency. You wonder how much more these characters can take. Elizabeth Goddard weaves a cross continent trail from sea-to-sea with a layover in Montana for some of the most dramatic action. It’s a breakneck race to the end to see the mystery solved.

The book is second in the Rocky Mountain Courage series and it flows seamlessly from book one. The story is based on the experiences of Erin Larson and Nathan Campbell, who were secondary characters in Book 1 of this series. Erin’s job as a criminal psychologist adds an interesting twist to the plot. Her sideline vocation is broadcasting a podcast on cold cases. She publishes each episode anonymously to protect herself and the identities of those involved.

I found the book well written. The roster of characters is interesting and I appreciated how you never knew for certain exactly who was 100% genuine or a fake with a hidden agenda. I received a print book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. #DeadlyTarget #RockyMountainCourage!

737990: Deadly Target #2 Deadly Target #2
By Elizabeth Goddard / Revell

Present Danger – Rocky Mountain Courage Book 1

Present Danger #1
By Elizabeth Goddard / Revell
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A mystery with great action and a sophisticated plot. Elizabeth Goddard’s Present Danger was a joy to read. It’s book #1 in her Rocky Mountain Courage series. At the story’s close, you’ll hope the release of book #2 is near. The main characters are experienced investigators working a search and rescue mission in Montana’s Gallatin National Forest. The original search mission ends positively, but the discovery of a body at the foot of a steep cliff sets in motion a new murder investigation. The veteran detectives on the case, Jack Tanner and Terra Connors, have a history together. In their youth they were a romantic couple but Jack left Terra cold for a FBI career. Terra moved on, but always carried the hurt Jack caused and never came to terms with the reasons that prompted his abrupt departure. Now with a case to solve, and plot details that put Terra in mortal danger, the couple are embroiled in solving the case, and find their feelings for one another rekindled.

A major clue to the mystery is a remote mountain cabin stocked with Native American artifacts and a remnant of a Middle Eastern tablet buried in the ground. If Terra and Jack can unravel the mystery surrounding the illegal network of trafficking these historic artifacts, they will find the guilty suspects responsible for two murders in addition to theft.

The Rocky Mountain setting adds an intense backdrop to the action. The mountain hiking required to investigate clues is both arduous and dangerous for Jack and Terra. The roster of suspicious characters expands to eventually cast doubt on Terra’s grandfather and brother. The suspicion of doubt hanging over their lives makes the investigation more personal for Terra.

Dogs and horses have great roles to play in this story. No spoilers here, but you’ll like how the author wove them into the action. Overall, readers will appreciate the intricate plot and dramatic ending with more than one surprise reveal. I received and advanced reader’s copy of from the publisher, Revell, in exchange for my honest review.