Book Review: Web of Shadows, Susan Sleeman

webofshadows_225I love the rich, vibrant characters that Susan develops. They are good and strong, be they on the right or wrong side of the law. In fact, I cringed when the villain in this book was named! He’s as creepy as ever, with a grudge against FBI Agent Nina Brandt, who sent him to prison. When he inadvertantly runs into her, his crazed plot for revenge begins. It unfortunately involves Nina’s ex-love, Navy SEAL Quinn Stone and his family. Nina must get involved and save not only Quinn’s younger brother, but her own career.

The suspense begins on the very first page, and doesn’t stop until the end. It’s certainly a book that you do not want to put down. The action is realistic; the bad guy is BAD and the good guys triumph. As with life, there is tragedy along the way, but Susan handles those incidents well. There is no gore, no violence-for-shock-value scenes in her book. It’s a good, stirring, clean read that takes you on a great ride through the risks of national security and just how vulnerable it may be.

Web of Shadows is Susan’s second book in her Agents Under Fire series. Susan’s books are available on Amazon and elsewhere. You can connect with her through social media:

Through her own website, SusanSleeman.com, and her website for suspense fans, The Suspense Zone, where she feautures other authors.

Susan’s Facebook page and Twitter

 

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Book Review: High Caliber Holiday by Susan Sleeman

HCH 2015The third installment of Susan’s First Responders series opens and closes with edge-of-your-seat action. Ex-lawyer Morgan Thornsby is taken hostage on a train and the First Response Squad is called out. Negotiations don’t go as planned, and team sniper Brady Owens must take a shot; but he freezes for a split second. When his shot hits Morgan, Brady feels responsible and silently vows to care for her. What they find in her apartment after he takes her home opens up the start of a tense stalker case that finishes in Susan’s trademark twist of plot. Just when you think you’re sure who it is, she dazzles with an unforeseen but believable alternate suspect that makes you slap your head and utter, “I forgot about them!”
The characters in High Caliber Holiday are familiar old friends you’re happy to be revisiting. You want to join them in the dining room of the old firehouse for a home cooked meal by Darcie or attending Skylar’s huge Christmas shindig. They are engaging and you don’t want the story to end.
Susan’s brand of clean romantic suspense is highly recommended for all!

Books That Are Changing My Life

It’s been quite a while since I have read anything that I could honestly say was “life changing,” with the exception of my Bible. Recently, I picked up two books that are doing just that. One was a Kindle special, and the other is a book that I refused to read for years.

wlw coverWomen Living Well, by Courtney Joseph. I snagged this book a few months back when it was only $2.99. This is one book that is well worth the full price! I had fallen away from reading anything but sci-fi and fiction for some time, and I challenged myself to read at least ONE book of a spiritual nature per month in 2015. This one is a goldmine.

Courtney runs the Women Living Well website. That alone is chock full of wonderful and Biblically sound advice. She also has a great ministry, the Good Morning Girls. Her book is about living well as you fulfill the many roles God has given to you. Wife, mother, ministry leader, she has them all in there.

One thing I especially enjoy about the book is her non-condemning attitude. Many books like this will tell you just how awful you are if you cannot juggle everything with a smile. Courtney’s approach is different. Using her own life as an example, she goes through Biblical principals and allows you to make the call in your own circumstance.

I especially loved her insight on using your time wisely. Regarding social media and the internet, Courtney points out that in and of themselves, they have no inherent morality. It’s how you use them that shows your morality. How much time you spend, and at who’s expense, is between you and the Lord.

The chapter on living well in your marriage was thought provoking, a bit convicting, and excellent. I’d say this is a must have on any woman’s bookshelf, real or virtual.

My other read is Trim Healthy Mama, by sisters Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett. My crazy food journey is documented on my personal blog, and I’ll leave it to you to hop over there if you’d like to hear all about my adult struggles.TrimHealthyMamacover

When this book came out in 2012 and immediately caused an internet sensation, I listened briefly (VERY briefly) to the descriptions and concluded that it was just another way to be shackled to food. And, what was all this crazy alphabetical meal naming? A system, that’s all it was.

Yet, as I struggled through more “freedom” from diets, systems, and labels, I kept an eye on those I knew who were using the book and getting results. Some were getting dramatic and fabulous results. Meanwhile, I went down a vegetarian road when my health numbers continued rising into the danger zone. I even procured a copy of Serene’s previous cookbook all about raw eating.

I finally took a real, honest look at Trim Healthy Mama when I watched a video by the sisters where Serene is quite frank about the detrimental effects her raw vegan diet had not only on her health, but that of her infants. Nothing like eye opening conviction, right from the source! I began stalking THM’ers online, Pinterest pages and the Trim Healthy Facebook pages and forum. I requested the book from my library, and once it was in my hands, I knew I needed my very own copy.

It’s much more than a “diet book.” Serene and Pearl have done an astounding amount of research and experimented on themselves searching for the right balance of great foods and healthy choices. They have so much good and documented information packed into the book. Not to mention the recipes. The back chapters on spiritual and emotional health are frank and thought provoking. All of this places your total body health right in the hands it’s supposed to rest in. The One Who created you.

If you would have asked me right around the holidays how I was doing, I wouldn’t have been honest. I was falling apart. Worried about my spiritual and physical health, how was I going to get everything together for ministry, my kids, my hubby, my grandkids? I was heading for a crash, and I am so very grateful that the Lord placed these two books into my hands right when I needed them. My only regret is that I don’t have a copy of each to give away.

Till next time, let your dreams soar high, and your prayers even higher!

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What’s the Buzz? Mondays

Happy New Year!

On “What’s the Buzz? Mondays” I’ll add a little of this and that…just to keep you up to date on things that are buzzin’ in my life as #crazyauthor.

Book Buzz:

To Tuscany, With Love by Gail Mencini…tells the story of seven friends who spend a summer in Italy as youths, and reunite 30 years later. Secrets are broken and friendships, as well as old romances, mend. Some semi-graphic details I would have been happy without, and I frankly think the book would have been better without, but it was a decent read.

NASCAR Buzz:

34 days, 0 hours, 42 minutes, 23 seconds till the Daytona 500…more or less party_19

WIP Buzz:

Angels Unaware: Chapters 1-4 in process editing, still looking for the original owner of the shot I want to use as the cover

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Trial and Triumph (Lakeville 4): cover designed, 23,453 words in process

Wynter’s Gift (Lakeville Christmas Novella): cover designed; editing to begin in May

By The Hand of His Grace (Lakeville 5): cover designed, still under 5000 words

Bible Buzz:

Studying Acts with Community Bible Study and reading through Psalm 119

What’s buzzin’ around you?

Till next time, dream big!
Barbara

Book Review: Pain Redeemed by Natasha Metzler

Before I begin, I must confess: Natasha sent me this book to review months ago. January 22, to be exact. Notice it’s now MAY. When I opened it up and I read the beginning about infertility, my first thought was, “This ain’t for me. I’ll get back to it.” Oh, how foolish I am. For GOD, the One who knows pain and how to heal it, knew what was coming. He knew that my weak little mind was not wrapping itself around the concept of healing. He knew that one day soon, I’d be unpacking a box that I hadn’t touched in 6 years, and that box would spill out a slew of emotion that I’ve been neatly carrying around in a sealed box. I sealed up my grief over losing my Mom, insisted to myself that I was handling it well, and moved on.

Natasha’s book, Pain Redeemed, is available on her website in PDF, ebook and paperback. I promptly went and bought the Kindle version which comes with a short study guide. I was ready to plunge fully into this marvelous healing that Natasha was talking about in her book.

Death isolates. It leaves people feeling empty, lost, and so very alone. Chapter 4.

Natasha chronicles her journey through pain. It isn’t the exact brand of pain I am feeling; I’ve never known the pain of infertility. Yet, it is still pain and it is searing and deep and taking my breath away. Natasha walked through it, and in her book she shares her most intimate struggles. Empty, lost, alone. We’ve all been there, but sometimes it’s harder for us to climb out of it. It becomes a slippery slimy inside of a barrel and we can’t make it to the top.

Why is the cross at the very center of our faith? Why does communion, baptism, being a servant, all of the Christian faith center on death? Because if you don’t look death in the face you’ll learn to overlook it. Chapter 6

A good reminder. We do overlook death, and by that, our sin that starts to pile up. She brings the reader to see that there are ways to handle the hurt without piling sin on top of it.

In Chapter 10, Natasha closes the book with an astounding confession: she has overcome, yet she still struggles. What? There’s no clear cut and clean way to step out of this? No, my dear friends. For in this world, we will have troubles. (John 16:33) It is in our troubles, in our most desperate moments that we turn to He who has overcome the world. (the rest of John 16:33) The reminder of what I have forgotten. I can look into the face of my struggle, knowing that HE has been there, and HE has overcome it. Yes, the hurt may still hurt. But, because of my hurt, I can minister to others in compassion. As she so succinctly reminds the reader, it’s not about me. It’s about Him. It’s always about Him.

So, as I work my way through the six study questions at the end, I’m so thankful that God gave me exactly what I needed, what He knew I would need, when Natasha sent me the book. It was a good, Biblically based look at grieving and it’s place in our lives. Thank you, Natasha, for opening yourself up and allowing His grace and mercy to pour out.

Natasha lives on a farm in Northern New York with her husband, Amos. She blogs regularly at http://natashametzler.com/ and is a contributing writer at http://ylcf.org/ and http://allume.com/.

 

Book Review: The Hartfield Mysteries Series by Chautona Havig

If you are a fan of Chautona’s, you’re already familiar with eccentric mystery author, Alexa Hartfield. She lives in the quaint town of Fairbury, makes regular but brief appearances in many of Chautona’s books and wears clothing from the Edwardian through the Roaring Twenties eras. She is utterly unconcerned about what people think of her vast and eclectic wardrobe, and she is generous to all who call her friend, and even those who may not. Her books are all best sellers, and at least one is a movie. Yet, she is human, and as all of us humans, has some heartbreak in her life. happily, she has a whole series of stories in which she is the main character!

The Hartfield Mysteries Series begins with Book One: Manuscript for Murder. In it, we get to know Alexa better. Meet her family. Understand some of her woes, one of which is that someone is replicating the murders from her latest, unpublished novel in Fairbury. A side story appears when Alexa meets a young fan in need of a transplant and her handsome, eligible father. A relationship develops, but not the one you may think! In the meantime, people are still being killed at an alarming rate. She’s increasingly discouraged as the spree goes unsolved and considers giving up her beloved career. As she strives to help the police, the story stays lively; you’re not quite sure who the perp is until it’s unveiled and then you shout, “OF COURSE!” and your family all look at you as though you’ve just fallen from a tree branch. Come on, that happens to everyone, right? *Ahem*

The second book, Crime of Fashion, opens with Alexa’s entry into the fashion industry. She agrees to partner in a line of clothing inspired in some ways by her own individual style. With the news that her young friend is being taken to the hospital, Alexa hurries to Chicago to be near her (and the handsome, unattached father) which ruffles Fairbury officer and avowed bachelor, Joe, who helped solve the last crime wave. As it happens, mayhem follows her, and joe is afraid she is again in danger. Someone does not want the new clothing line to be successful. On top of that, both Joe and Alexa are confused about their relationship and are trying to make some sense of it all.  Once again, Chautona hints at, but doesn’t reveal the killer until you’re sure it’s someone else. A very surprise ending, in more ways than one!

The third, Two O’Clock Slump, will be coming soon! Keep your eyes on her website! It’s promising to be a good one, what with a wedding and all (oops! did I just say that? *wink, wink*)

In reading through the reviews on Amazon, one person said “You can’t go wrong with a novel by Chautona!” and they are so right! Stop by her website and check out all of her books, enter a contest or two and please do not miss her post about Project Stephen. Here’s more about it from my Facebook page:

You all know Chautona. I mention her at least 2 times a week, probably more. She’s an amazing author, a true mentor in every good way, and an awesome friend. Almost a year ago, her life, as well as her family’s, changed forever when her 3 year old grandson Stephen stepped on a downed power line. 
Chautona is writing a fictionalized account of the story. ALL PROCEEDS WILL GO FOR STEPHEN’S CONTINUED CARE. Please take a moment to read the post and forward to as many of your friends as possible. Support the Havig family with your prayers as well. Thank you, my friends.

Be blessed and hold your loved ones close this weekend,

Barbara

Book Review: The Story Jar by Robin Lee Hatcher and Deborah Bedford

Brag warning: I am friends with RLH on Facebook and Goodreads. So there. 😉 Yes, I can get all fan girl about it, but I won’t (anymore).

Robin posted last week about Authorgraph (hence, the nifty widget to the right, where you can request a personalized signature from me for your Kindle versions of my books. Way cool, right?) I decided that I must have one from Robin, so I made a quickie purchase. The title intrigued me, and I always like to read stories that have co-authors to see the way they mesh styles.

In the forward, Robin tells how this book came to be written. I’m hoping to present the idea of a story jar to my Bible study group. What a wonderful way to remember all that Jesus has done, and continues to work, in our hearts.

I read this book in a total of 5 hours. It would have been 5 straight hours but I did need to sleep a bit in between. The main plot takes place in a small church where Beth Williams is hired to clean the sanctuary. She’s care worn, discouraged. In the course of her duties, a woman comes in to sit. Beth discovers she is the former pastor’s wife. As she’s cleaning, Beth discovers a jar hidden underneath a chair on the platform. Mrs. Halley opens the jar and by that opens Beth’s heart to the wonderful ways Jesus touches the hearts of others when it seems that there is no hope.

This is the beauty of this book; it’s three stories! As Mrs. Halley takes treasures from the jar, she tells Beth about two special people. The first, written by Deborah Bedford, involves a pastor’s family dealing with the wife’s battle with breast cancer. The second, by RLH, touches on the fears of every mother: a wayward child and the hard road of reconciliation.

In the end, Beth is able to release her own fears, and her two sons, into God’s loving hands. It’s a wonderful celebration of mothers, their love for their families and the way the family loves them. As a special bonus, several other well known Christian authors pay tribute to their mothers, including Francine Rivers, Jerry B. Jenkins, Karen Ball and others.

You can find Robin’s books in print and Kindle on Amazon, and at her website (which is in the midst of a makeover).

Deborah Bedford’s books, print and Kindle, can also be found on Amazon. Her website is found here.