Monday, August 22, 2016

Kept the pages turning: "When Death Draws Near" by Carrie Stuart Parks

When Death Draws Near

about the book...

Death has always been part of Gwen Marcey’s job. But when faced with her own mortality, everything takes on a different hue.
Forensic artist Gwen Marcey is between jobs and homes when she accepts temporary work in Pikeville, Kentucky. The Eastern Kentucky town, located deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, has been plagued by a serial rapist and a series of unexplained deaths. Before Gwen can develop a composite drawing, the latest witness vanishes, just like all the previous victims.
Turning her attention to sketching the face of an unidentified body, she discovers a link between his death and a Pentecostal serpent-handling church. Serpent-handling is illegal in Kentucky, and the churches have gone underground to avoid the authorities and continue to worship as they believe. Gwen is offered a handsome reward to infiltrate the renegade members, a reward she desperately needs as it seems her breast cancer has returned.
Joined by her digitally-obsessed, Generation Z daughter, Gwen goes undercover to a nineteenth century revival, planning to draw the faces of the snake handlers so they can be identified and arrested. Instead she uncovers a murderous plot and a festering evil.
my review...

Carrie Stuart Parks offers up another enjoyable novel with her latest, "When Death Draws Near", a book that kept me turning the pages from start to finish. I have greatly enjoyed watching Gwen in her job of forensic artist in the first two instalments in the series, so I was glad to see her return in a whole different kind of mystery as she goes undercover with a group of snake handlers! Gwen is one of those characters who you just can't get enough of, as she shows herself to be so strong in the face of challenges that may force someone else into just giving up. And I must confess to a bit of character envy, because I wish I could draw with the same skill that Gwen employs in her work with her fantastic memory for faces and her ability to bring them to life. Parks has definitely ratcheted up the "chill factor" in this suspense novel to a whole new level, and I was kept guessing throughout the book trying to figure out who was who and what, exactly, was going on. My only hesitation about the novel is that Gwen ends up choosing to take her daughter undercover with her into a cult where danger abounds. As a parent myself I simply can't imagine doing so, no matter how much I felt I had no other choice. At the same time, though, she shows us that we should never judge people just by what we think we know about them, as readers discover that the members of the cult are all too human, wrestling with their fears and doubts, just like any of us can do.

The Gwen Marcey series continues to fascinate me with its unique characters and well-written plots. "When Death Draws Near" is another solid addition to the series and one I am sure readers who enjoy suspense will be eager to add to their collection. I award this book a rating of 4 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher and the Litfuse Publicity Group, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

about the author...

Carrie Stuart Parks
Carrie Stuart Parks is a Christy finalist as well as a Carol award-winning author. She has won numerous awards for her fine art as well. An internationally known forensic artist, she travels with her husband, Rick, across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement professionals. The author/illustrator of numerous books on drawing and painting, Carrie continues to create dramatic watercolors from her studio in the mountains of Idaho.
Find out more about Carrie Stuart at


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Friday, August 19, 2016

Another satisfying novel from Kellie Coates Gilbert: "What Matters Most"

Cover Art

about the book....

Just when she can't take it anymore, Leta finally catches a break. But when things seem too good to be true, they often are.

Finding her dream job went right out the window when Leta Breckenridge had to quit school to help care for her mother suffering from dementia. When a delinquent account may force her mother into a less desirable facility, Leta is thrilled to land a high-paying job at an Austin public relations firm. But her seemingly ideal job turns into a nightmare when she learns the firm is a front for a political opposition organization--and that the research she's been collecting will be used against Nathan Emerson, the handsome senator she's swiftly falling in love with.

Nathan is a rising political star being pressured to run a bid to unseat the current governor of Texas. He's already in a relationship with a woman much better suited to be a politician's wife, but he's never met anyone like Leta. Could this feisty woman hold the key to his heart--and his future?

With emotional depth and keen insight into what drives us, Kellie Coates Gilbert offers a salient story that calls us to consider what we value most in this life.

my review....

"What Matters Most" may be my most favourite Kellie Coates Gilbert novel yet - and since I have enjoyed each one of her books so far, that is saying something. What I most loved about the story is the central character of Leta, as she has sacrificed so much in her life to provide love and care for her mother, who has dementia. You just can't help but like a person like that! Her vulnerable financial state makes her a perfect pawn, and yet I admired that she stuck to her values and really was a true hero in the story. The plot is chock full of twists and turns and the result is a gripping story that I didn't want to put down for a single moment. The romance that blossoms between Leta and Nathan is truly a unique one, as at first Nathan is already in a relationship. Also, as a senator there is a lot of pressure from his family, and society, to be with someone in a similar social class, and Leta seems nowhere near that. I love that Gilbert doesn't allow her characters to dip their toes into the moral cesspool that they could have, though I don't want to give the story away so that's all I will say. Rather, they maintain their integrity and make some difficult decisions along the way. That makes the ending all the sweeter! I have no doubt that readers will really relate to many of the situations these characters find themselves in, from caring for ageing parents, to financial struggles, to finding themselves facing a variety of ethically difficult decisions. All of these issues are packaged in an interesting, well-plotted novel that I am sure fans of Gilbert will love.

Contemporary fiction doesn't get better than this! I really enjoyed Kellie Coates Gilbert's newest fiction offering, and award it a high rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

 about the author....

Kellie Coates Gilbert

Kellie Coates Gilbert is a former legal investigator and trial paralegal, and the author of A Woman of Fortune and Where Rivers Part. Gilbert crafts her emotionally charged stories about women in life-changing circumstances in Dallas, Texas, where she lives with her husband. Learn more at

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

An entertaining historical novel: "No Way Up" by Mary Connealy

Cover Art

about the book....

The Fight for the Cimarron Ranch Has Just Begun!

When Cimarron Ranch patriarch Chance Boden is caught in an avalanche, only the quick actions of hired hand Heath Kincaid save him. Before leaving by train to receive treatment to save his leg--and possibly his life--Chance demands that Heath read the patriarch's will and see its conditions enforced immediately. If Chance's three bickering adult children, Justin, Sadie, and Cole, don't live and work at the ranch for an entire year, ownership of the ranch will pass to a despised distant relative. 

Before long, however, Heath discovers that the avalanche may have been intentionally set--and that more danger lurks ominously. Finding his own future--and a desired future with Sadie--locked up in saving the Cimarron Ranch, Heath and the Boden siblings must work together against outside forces that threaten them all.

my review....

The Cimarron Legacy series starts off in fine form with Mary Connealy's latest novel "No Way Up". Hired hand Heath Kincaid is a downright heroic character who you can't help but like from the get go as his quick-thinking saves his boss, Chance, who owns the ranch Heath is working on. As he suddenly finds himself in the centre of a maelstrom of intrigue and danger surrounding the ranch - not to mention the arguing taking place between Chance's children Justin, Sadie and Cole - Heath rises to the challenge in a way you can't help but admire. The sparks that are soon flying between Heath and Sadie lead to some hilarious and witty dialogue that had me grinning many times, and I can guarantee that readers who love a good romance are going to enjoy this one indeed! I was particularly intrigued by the historical setting of the novel in the New Mexico Territory and by Heath and Sadie's efforts to conquer climbing the Mesa in their pursuit of the truth of exactly what is going on at their ranch. Now, I did find myself having to suspend my disbelief a couple of times as I pictured Heath and Sadie scaling the sides of the Mesa, as I wasn't totally convinced that people in that day and age would place their lives in such danger like that. But then again, who is to say what people would do for the right motivation? Despite my feelings about these scenes, my enjoyment of the novel was not impacted at all. The overall plot is filled with action and adventure, and the book was difficult to put down.

"No Way Up" is a great historical novel and I award it a solid 4 out of 5 stars. Make sure you give this book a try, because there are sure to be more great novels coming in this series - and I'm glad there are!
Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

 about the author....

Mary Connealy

Mary Connealy writes "romantic comedies with cowboys" and is celebrated for her fun, zany, action-packed style. She has more than half a million books in print. She is the author of the popular series Wild at Heart, Kincaid Brides, Trouble in Texas, Lassoed in Texas, Sophie's Daughters, and many other books. Mary lives on a ranch in eastern Nebraska with her very own romantic cowboy hero. Learn more at

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