Friday, November 30, 2012

Top-notch suspense: My review of "Placebo" by Steven James

Placebo: A Jevin Banks Novel

about the book...

While covertly investigating a controversial neurological research program, exposé filmmaker Jevin Banks is drawn into a far-reaching conspiracy involving one of the world's largest pharmaceutical firms. After giving up his career as an escape artist and illusionist in the wake of his wife and sons' tragic death, Jevin is seeking not only answers about the questionable mind-to-mind communication program, but also answers to why his family suffered as they did.

Rooted in ground-breaking science and inspired by actual research, Placebo explores the far reaches of science, consciousness, and faith. Readers will love this taut, intelligent, and emotionally gripping new thriller from master storyteller Steven James.

my review....

Steven James has earned a place on my list of "totally awesome authors", and Placebo is another winner! Just when I was wondering how on earth he could come up with a character as appealing and heroic as Patrick Bowers from the Bowers Files series, along comes Jevin Banks, a former magician/illusionist turned exposé filmmaker, and someone who just happens to be trained in martial arts as well. The opening scenes of the book immediately cause you to empathize with Jevin, and things only get more compelling and intense from there as you watch him in action, encountering far more than he bargained for in his latest investigation. I always appreciate when authors can come up with a conceivable plot that allows character to legitimately be in the midst of crime, and Jevin is a man of many talents who is is just real enough to seem believable in his role. The potential love interest in the book is well-handled with a light touch, and I must say that the characters portrayed as psychopaths are truly chilling to encounter!

I enjoyed this story from start to finish, both loving the characters and being mesmerized by the intricate and fascinating plot. Elements of faith are cleverly woven into the story without coming across as being preachy, and as such the book is sure to appeal to a large variety of audience. If you are looking for a top-notch, suspenseful read, then Placebo is what you've been waiting for. 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 Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

about the author...

Steven James
Critically acclaimed author Steven James has written more than thirty books, including Story, A Heart Exposed, and the bestselling Patrick Bowers thriller series. He is considered one of the nation's most innovative storytellers and versatile authors, and is a contributing editor to Writer's Digest. Steven lives in Tennessee with his wife and three daughters.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Your children will be captivated: My review of "Brave Young Knight" by Karen Kingsbury

The Brave Young Knight

In a village on the west side of the kingdom lives a young knight who is widely known as being brave and kind, spending his days helping those in need. When the king announces a series of contests and competitions in which the winner will be chosen as prince of the land, the knight begins to question whether he could ever win such a contest, whether he is truly the strongest or smartest or fastest. As the contests begin, the young knight will be tested in ways he couldn't have imagined, as the competing knights encourage each other to bend the rules to help them gain an advantage. As the contests draw to a close, the king announces his decision before a crowd who wonders, just who will be crowned prince?

Again featuring the gorgeous illustrations by Gabrielle Grimard, Karen Kingsbury weaves another wonderful tale that will delight young readers in "Brave Young Knight". My children crowded around the book as I read it to them, pointing out the vivid scenes and the humorous details, like the knight lifting armfuls of dogs to increase his strength. Although the ending may not be a complete surprise as they fully expected the good knight to win, my children greatly enjoyed following the story from beginning to end, declaring at the conclusion "I absolutely loved that book!". Both this book and another of Karen's stories, "The Princess and the Three Knights", are some of the most beautiful children's books I have ever seen, and they contain stories that not only entertain the children but impart valuable lessons as well. In this tale, children will learn the importance of following God and his ways, even when it seems like there may be an easier but less honest way to do something. They will learn that there are consequences for choosing to sin, and that God rewards those who faithfully follow his word.

I highly recommend this children's book and award it a full 5 out of 5 stars. Plan on introducing your children to this book!

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Zondervan (Zonderkidz), for the purposes of this unbiased review.

About the author and illustrator

 New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury is America’s favorite inspirational novelist, with over 20 million books in print. Her Life-Changing Fiction™ has produced multiple bestsellers, including Unlocked, Leaving, Take One, Between Sundays, Even Now, One Tuesday Morning, Beyond Tuesday Morning, and Ever After, which was named the 2007 Christian Book of the Year. An award-winning author and newly published songwriter, Karen has several movies optioned for production, and her novel Like Dandelion Dust was made into a major motion picture and is now available on DVD. Karen is also a nationally known speaker with several women’s groups including Women of Faith. She lives in Tennessee with her husband, Don, and their five sons, three of whom are adopted from Haiti. Their daughter Kelsey is married to Christian artist Kyle Kupecky.

Gabrielle Grimard has been drawing since she was a very young child. Born in Montreal, Canada, she studied Fine Arts at Concordia University. She began her career as a muralist, painting numerous walls in commercial buildings in the Montreal area. She now lives in the Eastern Townships with her chickens, two children, and husband, who is a wood boat builder. They share an old barn as their creative studio.

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Free ebook (2012): "Angels, Miracles, and Heavenly Encounters: Real-Life Stories of Supernatural Events" by James Stuart Bell

Free for today is a download from Bethany House publishers

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A FREE hysterical Amish read: Operation Bonnet by Kimberly Stuart

Free for download today is a truly hilarious book "Operation Bonnet". I loved it when I read it a couple years ago! Here's the links:

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A charming, delightful Christmas tale: My review of "The Christmas Pony" by Melody Carlson

The Christmas Pony

about the book...

With Christmas around the corner, the Turnbull family is in need of a few small miracles.

It is 1937, and Lucy Turnbull knows better than to wish for a pony this Christmas. Her mother has assured her in no uncertain terms that asking for a pony is the same as asking for the moon. Besides, the only extra mouths they need at their boarding house are the paying kind. Then an interesting pair of strangers comes to town, and Lucy's world changes forever.

my review....

I absolutely love stories written from the perspective of a child, and 8-yr-old Lucy Turnbull is as precious as they come! "The Christmas Pony" is chock-full of charm, and viewing life through Lucy's eyes reveals a heart-warming story of faith and hope and love. Within pages of beginning the story, I was swept up into her innocence and naivety as she encounters 2 strangers who arrive into town, strangers who she soon convinces to move into her mother's boardinghouse. As she discovers more and more about the newcomers, she also discovers more about herself and her family, and she realizes that though she wishes more than anything for a pony, what she most wishes for is her mother to smile again.

Melody Carlson absolutely lives up to her award-winning reputation with her latest Christmas offering, with wonderful characterization and a story that pleases in every way. Though the story may seem somewhat predictable, predictable is just what's needed when you are getting ready for Christmas and for the warm feelings that you hope will arrive along with your favorite songs and snowy weather. I put down the book feeling like I was ready for the Christmas season to arrive!

I highly recommend this story for anyone looking for a cozy book to keep them company this season. 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 Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

about the author...

Image of Melody Carlson
Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with sales of more than five million. She is the author of several Christmas books from Revell, including the bestselling The Christmas Bus, The Christmas Dog, and Christmas at Harrington's, which is being considered for a TV movie. She is also the author of many teen books, including Just Another Girl, Anything but Normal, Double Take, and the Diary of a Teenage Girl series. She is the winner of a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her many books, including the Diary of a Teenage Girl series and Finding Alice. Melody and her husband live in Oregon.

For more information about Melody visit her website at

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2 free ebooks: At Every Turn by Anne Mateer & "Remembering Christmas" by Dan Walsh

Free for download today is a fun book I quite enjoyed, called "At Every Turn":

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A powerful read! My review of "The Weight of Mercy" by Deb Richardson-Moore

The Weight of Mercy: A Novice Pastor on the City Streets

The Weight of Mercy recounts the story of "Preacher Debbie", a former journalist for 27 years, who felt God's call to become a pastor. After completing seminary school, she accepted a position at an inner-city church, Triune, a church that seeks to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the poor, the homeless, the addicted, the marginalized. Deb's story displays the many lessons she learned as a pastor, from how to learn who she could trust, how to have boundaries with people with addictions, how to love even in the very difficult times. The book is written with humor and grace as she tells her story of interacting with people from all walks of life.

I found Deb's story to be absolutely absorbing, and though I don't normally read non-fiction books in one sitting, I honestly found this book difficult to put down. I opened it expecting just to dive into a chapter or two, and a day later found I'd finished it already! The author writes with an openness and candor that is completely refreshing, and I loved the countless anecdotes sprinkled throughout the book, allowing us to watch her faith in action as she deals with prostitutes and thieves and people struggling to give up crack. She doesn't come across as a know-it-all, but instead freely admits errors she made or times that she felt she didn't live up to her calling. Her story is drama at it's best, and yet it's true as well, while also being totally convicting without necessarily trying to be. It would be hard to walk away from this book and not re-examine my own attitudes towards the people who are so easy to pass by on the sidewalk without giving them a second glance. I found myself wondering, is my church doing a good job at reaching out to the marginalized and oppressed? Am I, as a member of the church, doing all that God has called me to?

I highly recommend this powerful read, and give it a full 5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Kregel, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

about the author...

 Deb Richardson-Moore is pastor of the non-denominational Triune Mercy Center – a mission church that ministers to and alongside the homeless in Greenville, South Carolina.  Moore is a native South Carolinian and a graduate of Wake Forest University and Erskine Theological Seminary. Prior to becoming a pastor, she was
an award-winning writer for The Greenville News, covering art, theater, religion and unconventional features.Moore is married to Vince Moore, who is director of media relations for Furman University. They have three grown children – Dustin, 29, Taylor, 27, and Madison, 22.  The Weight of Mercy is her first book.

Monday, November 26, 2012

An exciting, quick-paced read: A preview and review of "The 13: FALL by Robbie Cheuvront and Erik Reed

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Barbour Books (September 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Sharon Farnell for sending me a review copy.***


Robbie Cheuvront is the worship/associate pastor and an elder of The Journey Church in Lebanon, TN, and cofounder of C&R Ministries with Erik Reed.  He is also a songwriter and formerly tour with BNA recording artists, Lonestar who is best known for their crossover smash, “Amazed”, which was #1 on Billboard Magazine’s Hot 100. The band also won 1999 ACM’s Single of the Year” for “Amazed” as well as ACM’s Song of the Year award. Robbie is married to Tiffany and has two children, Cason and Hadyn, and is currently pursuing a theology degree.

Visit the author's website.

Erik Reed is the lead pastor and an elder of The Journey Church in Lebanon, TN.  He graduated from Western Kentucky University with a BA in Religion Studies.  He also graduated with his MDiv from Southern Seminary.  Erik is married to Katrina, with two children, Kaleb and Kaleigh.


When former black ops specialist turned CIA operative Jonathan Keene is summoned to the White House, he’s not sure what to expect. And neither does FBI agent Megan Taylor.  Together they learn they’ll be working with a former military chaplain Boz Hamilton to track down a man claiming to bear a message from God about the imminent downfall of the United States. As the three of them traverse the country and the globe in search of the Prophet, they’re led deeper down a path of deception and dead ends. Suddenly they’re called to join a battle against an enemy no one saw coming.  As the US is pushed into a situation it hasn’t seen since its inception, a conflict awaits that will test the foundations of the country…and force Keene to face a past and faith he’d rather leave buried. Can Keene—and America—survive?

Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (September 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616267690
ISBN-13: 978-1616267698



This was it. In a matter of minutes, his life would change. Everyone’s life
would change.
He rehearsed his lines, though he knew them by heart. There would be
no teleprompter. There would be no script. There would only be him. And
the camera, of course. And the person who would receive this message.
A small television sat off to the side, monitoring the feed. He could see
his image staring back at him. He watched as the second hand ticked off
the final seconds. Tick. Tick. And then it was time.
The red light above the lens flicked on. With the remote in his hand,
he zoomed in and watched the monitor. This was it. No turning back.
He closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath and let it out
again. His heart was pounding through his chest. He opened his eyes and
set his jaw firm. And then he began.
“Good evening, Mr. President. I am the Prophet. And I have been
commanded to give you a message.”

H i d a l g o C o u n t y S h e r i f f ’ s D e p a r t m e n t
E d i n b u r g , Te x a s , J u l y 2 , 2 0 2 5 ; 1 0 : 3 0 a . m .

Becky Sayers looked at the discolored, flat-screen plasma TV and silently
cursed her boss. “You’d think in this world of technology, we could find a
TV that wasn’t made before I was born,” she mumbled to no one. “I mean,
this thing’s not even in 3-D.” A rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond was
playing—the one in which Raymond fakes going to the doctor so he can
play golf. She’d seen it at least four times, but it was one of her favorites.

She pushed back from her desk and stretched her legs. The switchboard
had been quiet most of the afternoon. A few drunk-and-disorderlies and a
domestic dispute. The holiday weekend usually meant a boring few days
at the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department. But even though Hidalgo
County seemed like half a world away from Washington, DC, the impact of
the last two weeks’ events were being felt. It seemed that everyone was waiting
to see what would happen next.

The green light flashed on her board. She placed the earpiece in
her ear and said, “Thank you for calling the Hidalgo County Sheriff ’s
Department. This is Becky. . . .”

The caller made her complaint and hung up abruptly. Her neighbors
were setting off illegal fireworks; could a deputy come by and take care of it?
All of south Texas had experienced a horrible drought these last few months.
The governor had issued a decree, suspending all fireworks throughout the
entire state. Residents weren’t happy, but they understood. Brushfires this
time of year were common and could lead to damage in the billions of dollars.

Becky keyed her microphone. “Roy, this is Becky. I need you to go out
to Ms. Dobson’s farm, out on Highway 83. Neighbor kids are shootin’ off
sparklers or something.”
She waited for the grumpy complaint that was sure to come. Roy
hated dealing with neighborly disputes. He always tried to pawn them off
on one of the other deputies.
  “Roy, this is Becky—come in.”
“Roy! I ain’t playing! Pick up that radio or else!”
Still nothing.
She switched over to another channel. She couldn’t figure why one
of her deputies would switch channels, but she was starting to get a little
worried. Roy was dependable, if nothing else. He’d never not answered a
call while he was out in the field.
“Roy, this is Becky. You change channels on me to try and get some
R and R?”
Now she was getting worried. She switched the channel back. “Clay,
this is dispatch. Check in—over.”
“Marcus, check in—over.”
She walked down the hall and found her boss, told him what was
going on, and waited for a response. He told her not to worry. It was probably
just weather related. “Probably a sunspot or something, messin’ with
the radios,” he said. “Try again in a few minutes.”
Back at her desk, she waited, watching the end of the show. As the
credits rolled she picked up her microphone. After five minutes of going
through the motions again, she decided this was no sunspot.
She grabbed the phone and called the Cameron County Sheriff ’s
office—the next county over. She told them what was going on and asked
if they were having any trouble. Gina, the dispatcher over there, said none
of her deputies had checked in or returned back to HQ either.
Becky hung up and called Star, Zapata, and Webb Counties. All three
reported the same goings-on. At that point, she dismissed paranoia and
called the state police. She was told that they, too, had a few officers who
weren’t responding, but all of the state police vehicles were equipped with
GPS and were being located as they spoke. The young man at state police
HQ offered to send a few officers her way to check on her deputies as well.
She thanked him and told him where her deputies were last known to be.

July 4, 2025; 12:00 p.m.
Becky stood in front of her fourth TV camera in the last hour and told
her story again. This time it was Fox. NBC and CBS had already been by.

The mysterious disappearance of her deputies two days ago was making
national news. Several sheriff ’s deputies, border patrol agents, and state
and local police officers had all turned up dead, all across the border towns
in Texas. Over the last two days, New Mexico and Arizona had reported
similar tragedies.
Becky was one of the first to discover the disappearances across the
border, therefore she was a hot commodity with the news anchors.
The pretty, blond reporter smiled and nodded as Becky told her story.
She opened her mouth—Becky figured she was about to ask another
question—and then slapped her hand over her left earbud. Her smiled
faded and gave way to a look of disbelief, shock, then horror. Tears filled
her eyes and her face turned ashen. Her arm dropped to her side, taking
the microphone with it.
“What’s wrong?” Becky had never seen a television personality act like
The reporter turned to her, eyes wide. She moved her mouth but
nothing came out.
Becky grabbed the woman by her shoulders and shook her. “Hey,
what’s wrong?”
The reporter looked at Becky blankly and said, “Bomb. . . They’re all
dead.” Her knees gave out, and she slumped to the hard, dry ground.
Becky ran back inside to the flat-screen TV.

Hidalgo County, Texas
July 4, 2025; 11:30 a.m.
Jonathan Keene pulled his car off the road onto the dirt path, according
to the directions he’d been given. After a mile, he came to the fork in the
road. Up ahead, on the left, there stood the house.
He parked the car, got out, and surveyed the area. Nothing. No sign
of anyone. The house was a typical single-family home. It needed a coat
of paint, and the railing on the front porch had seen better days. The lawn
was unkempt, but a somewhat new-looking satellite dish sat mounted on
the corner of the roof.
Walking into the house, he noticed the reflection of light coming
from the hillside off to his left. He waited ten minutes. Then, as per his
instructions, he left through the back door and walked slowly up the hill
toward the reflection.
Once at the top, he got to his knees, placed his hands behind his head,
and interlocked his fingers. This was the unsettling part. Out in the open.
No cover. The sun blazing in his eyes. The wind blowing dust everywhere.
It was hard to see anything past twenty feet. He did feel better, though,
knowing that strapped to his back, under his loose shirt, was his Glock
9mm. It lay inches from his fingertips.
After nothing for five minutes, he heard the faint hum of motorcycle
engines. Within seconds he was surrounded by a half dozen, armed
Mexicans. One, covered with tattoos and a scar across his left cheek,
moved toward him. According to the description he’d been given, this was
his informant.
“Hola,” the young man said. “Welcome to Mexico.”
Though the walk uphill had been a short one, Keene knew that in
doing so, he’d illegally crossed the invisible border into the gangbanger’s
“Gracias.” Keene shifted uncomfortably and squinted upward. “You
must be Hector.”
“Do I need to search you?”
“Not unless you want to find the nine mil I got strapped to my back,”
Keene said.
Hector laughed. “Stand up.”
“So what’s so important that you need to talk to the CIA?”
“Follow me.” Hector began walking down the hill toward the house.
Keene followed the men back into the house, thankful to be back on
sovereign US soil.
“I know what happened to those sheriff ’s deputies,” Hector said.
“Yeah, so. Call the police.”
“Nah, CIA, la policía don’t want none of this.”
“None of what?”
“That’s a nice watch. Where was that made? China?”
“Yeah,” Keene said. “What’s that have to do with anything?”
“Lots of stuff in your country made by China.”
“Yeah, so?”
“Funny thing. In the last two months, I been seeing lots of Chinese
people ’round here.”
“Maybe they like the food.”
“Maybe,” Hector answered. “But these Chinese been coming in
droves. In big military trucks. From down south.”
“Interesting.” Keene gave this some thought.
“You want to know what’s really interesting?”
Keene shrugged.
  “These Chinese, they got guns.”
“And tanks. And airplanes.”
“You heard me. They got an army down here. They been bringing it
up here to the border for the last two months.”
“Impossible. We would’ve known about it,” Keene said. This guy was
unnerving him.
“You wanna know what happened to your cops? About three hundred
Chinese foot soldiers, with automatic weapons, crossed your border and
took them out. I got boys all up and down the border saying they see it,
man. Now, I don’t know what’s up with a hundred thousand Chinese
being in my—”
“What did you say? How many?”
“From what I hear, about a hundred thousand.”
Keene’s jaw went slack. There was no way a hundred thousand Chinese
soldiers were living across the border without the United States knowing
about it. Something was wrong.
“You look like you seen a ghost.”
“Why are you telling me this? Why now? Why not two months ago?”
“ ’Cause two months ago, I couldn’ta cared less. You Americans don’t
know what goes on down here. You come to your vacation spots and get
treated like kings. Then you go back home and don’t care what happens
to the rest of us. Well, guess what? These Chinese start showing up and
doing nice things for our communities. Nobody says anything ’cause they
like it. Then, without warning, they start taking over. And our policía don’t
care. They getting paid off. Next thing I know, I start seeing guns, tanks,
and fighter planes. And then they come into town and line up five men
and shoot them in the head. They say, anyone talks or tries to do anything,
they kill the whole town.”
“This is—this is ridiculous!” Keene said. “I don’t know what your
game is, but this isn’t funny. You could get into a lot of trouble—”
“I ain’t playin’!” Hector shouted angrily. “They kill my little brother,
man! And something bad is about to happen! I’m telling you as a favor.”
He hung his head and wiped his eyes. “I don’t know why your government
don’t know about this, CIA, but I’m telling you. Someone had to mess up
big to miss this.”
Keene stood there dumbfounded. There was no way this could be
true. An entire army couldn’t march on the United States’ border and not
be detected. He had to call Jennings. He reached for his phone and felt the
buzz against his leg. He looked at the display. Funny, he thought.
“I was just getting ready to call you,” he spoke into the mouthpiece.
“Get back here immediately,” his boss, Kevin Jennings, ordered.
“Yeah, about that,” Keene said, “I think I need to stay here awhile.
I need to check something out.”
“No, you need to get back here immediately. Turn on the TV.”
“What’s happened?”
“Just do it!” came the reply.
Keene pushed past the group of men and pushed the button on the
television sitting on a makeshift stand. It only took a few moments for him
and the others to see what was happening.
Every channel had interrupted programming, now covering the
breaking news. Plumes of black smoke rose into the sky from devastated
buildings. Bridges and highways melted into a pile of searing red metal.
Ash and debris covered the entire landscape. Cars were turned over and
blown to bits. Then the camera changed. A new city. Same result. Then
another. Then another. Finally the images ended. The cameras returned
to the news station. A disheveled-looking man in blue jeans and a sweater
sat in front of the camera. He opened his mouth and said the words that
would change the course of history.
“Ladies and gentlemen, less than ten minutes ago, the entire West
Coast of the United States of America was attacked. It appears to be a
nuclear strike. Every major city from San Diego to Seattle. The death toll
has to be in the millions. . . .”

Chapter 1
Two Weeks Earlier
The man sat in front of the small camera, rehearsing what he was about to
say. Behind him, the wall was dotted with computer monitors, all displaying
different news websites, with the screens zoomed in showing today’s
date. A bead of sweat rolled down the side of his cheek as he bit into his
lower lip, trying to calm himself. He was moments away from doing something
that couldn’t be undone.
He’d wrestled with himself the last three days, knowing what would
happen if he didn’t do as he was instructed. He’d cried out in desperation,
begging that he wouldn’t have to be the one. He’d even tried to bargain his
way out of it. But it was no use. This would be done. If not him then someone
else. But no. It was his charge. Given to him with explicit instructions.
He would be obedient and do as he was instructed.
The clock on the wall ticked down the seconds as he stared into
the camera. This was it. In a matter of minutes, his life would change.
Everyone’s life would change.
He rehearsed his lines, though he knew them by heart. There would be
no teleprompter. There would be no script. There would only be him. And
the camera, of course. And the person who would receive this message.
A small television sat off to the side, monitoring the feed. He could
see his image staring back at him. He watched as the second hand ticked
off the final seconds. Tick. Tick. And then it was time.
The red light above the lens flicked on. With the remote in his hand,
he zoomed in and watched the monitor. This was it. No turning back.
He closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath and let it out
again. His heart was pounding through his chest. He opened his eyes and
set his jaw firm. And then he began.
“Good evening, Mr. President. I am the Prophet. And I have been
commanded to give you a message.”

Chapter 2
The sun had begun to set over Washington, DC, as the streets bustled
with the commuters going home from work. Slivering rays of light pierced
their way through the buildings, making way for the cool early summer
breeze that wound its way off the Potomac and into the city streets. Soon
the breeze would give way to the hot midsummer. Soon you would be able
to see, as well as feel, the heat wafting up from the pavement, making DC
inhabitants wistful for the pleasantries of June.
The president was just a few minutes away from giving his highly anticipated
speech on health-care reform. Rarely did a president call together both
chambers of Congress for the purpose of an address to the nation outside of
the State of the Union address. But since President Calvin Grant had taken
office, it had been one of his major priorities to put an end to all of the
infighting with the health-care industry once and for all. This speech was
to be the exclamation point at the end of a three-year, grueling bipartisan
reform effort. Though it was no secret that the president had been working
on the new policy, details of it were. The only thing that had been leaked
so far had been the fact that President Grant had successfully achieved what
none of his three predecessors could, a comprehensive bill with regulation
that all parties agreed upon. Outside of that, not even a hint of what was
to come had been available, which had every news anchor and pundit both
frustrated and in anticipation.
The news anchors outside the Capitol seemed to be in deep conversation
with their cameras, floating their ideas and predictions of what was to
come. And then, as if being led by a conductor, they all nodded in unison,
each to his respective camera, signifying the president’s speech was about
to begin.
Inside the chamber of the House of Representatives, significant leaders,
from both parties, lined the aisleway, hoping to get a photo opportunity
with President Grant as he passed by. The room, as was typical for this
sort of event, was a cacophony of noise as everyone continued conversations
and settled in. Finally the outer doors to the House chamber swung
open, and the sergeant at arms entered. Immediately the room quieted, as
if someone flipped a switch. Then came the announcement.
“Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States!”
As was traditional, the room was again flooded with noise as the members
of the Senate and House, along with everyone else in attendance,
stood and applauded as the president slowly made his way to the floor of
the chamber, shaking hands, signing autographs, and posing for pictures
along the way. Finally, with the business of being sociable behind him,
President Grant held his hands up to quiet the almost eight-minute opening
Only a few moments later and the speech was in full swing, and the
president had wasted no time in commanding the attention of the entire
nation. So far, the speech had lived up to its expectations. With the news
of his wife being diagnosed with cancer only a few weeks earlier, he was
expected to deliver a stunning blow to the health-care reformers. And with
the content of the speech being perhaps the closest-kept secret in all of
Washington, the entire room, as well as the rest of the country waited
on bated breath to hear what the president had to say. That and the fact
that President Grant was thought of as perhaps one of the most beloved
presidents in recent history, it was a sure bet that this address would go on
record as being one of the most viewed events in all of television history,
not just presidential history.
Homes all across the country were tuning in to hear what the president
would say. Ratings were already pouring in from all over the country.
Indeed, this was already a record-setting event. Within the first ten minutes,
the reports were already surpassing the collective quarterly ratings.
President Calvin Grant had the nation waiting on bated breath for his
next thought.
The speech was just over forty-five minutes when, just as promised,
President Grant landed his final blow. The news was simple. He had already
been working with members of Congress and had the support needed to
change the health-care system. His plan would strip away the potential for
many of the frivolous lawsuits that plagued the industry. New law was being
introduced to allow Americans unprecedented access to good health insurance.
And there were major stipulations being put on the insurance companies,
regulating how they underwrote policies and collected revenue. No
longer would there be massive abuses, deterioration of services, and rising
costs. The message was simple. There was about to be a complete overhaul
of the American medical system. An overhaul that would eliminate the
government-run policies of previous administrations and give the medical
field back to the private sector, but with some “seat belts,” as President Grant
liked to call it.
The speech ended in thunderous applause. And though there had
been some lines drawn previously in the speech between parties, the final
five minutes brought both sides of the chamber to their feet in rousing
After the speech, President Grant made his way through the chamber,
once again pausing for photos and signing autographs. He tried to be as
pleasant as he could, but there were bigger things on his mind right now.
Tess, his wife, was at home, lying in bed. He wanted nothing more than to
get home and see how she felt.
After another fifteen minutes of meet-and-greet obligations, he finally
excused himself, reminding everyone where he really needed to be right
now. He asked the Secret Service agent in charge of his detail to make
ready the motorcade. He wanted to leave in the next few minutes.
The drive back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was quiet. He waved to
the guard as the car passed through the security entrance. Once inside, he
headed straight upstairs to the private residence.
Tess was lying in bed and greeted him with a huge smile.
“You were amazing, Calvin. I’m so proud of you.”
“Nah,” he brushed it off. “Just a bunch of no-good politicians trying
to make things worse is all we are!”
“I wish I could’ve been there.”
“Me, too, Tess,” he said, sitting down on the edge of the bed. He took
her hand in his and kissed it gently. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” she said.
“I’ll leave you to rest,” he said, standing back up. “Besides, I’m going
to go surf the net and see all the good stuff they’re saying about me!” He
Tess smiled back at him and said, “Don’t stay up too late. You need
your rest.”
“Look who’s talking.”
He left her to sleep and stepped into his private office. He sat down and
turned on the monitor to wake up the computer. In just a few moments,
the desktop came alive. He opened a browser window and typed in his
search. Already, there were over twenty-five thousand results for his speech.
He was looking down the list when he heard a ding. His private e-mail.
He assumed it was one of his staff, congratulating him on a successful
speech. He decided to check it because, well, he thought at least one
positive response would be nice before he started sifting through all the
negative ones.
Opening the mail server he saw the new message. There was no
subject. There was no return address. He didn’t think much of it, so he
double-clicked the icon and watched it open. It was a video. And it definitely
wasn’t from one of his staff. But he was afraid that he knew who this
was. And what this was about. He had heard from this man before. Just
not like this. How did you get into my private e-mail? he thought. He stared
at the still image of the man on the screen. Should he call for Agent Green?
Should he just step away from the computer and not touch anything? No,
he decided. He wanted to see it. He pushed Play.
The man sat still on a stool and stared into the camera. A bead of sweat
rolled down his forehead and clung to the top of the bandana that covered
every inch of his face below the eyes. He wore a plain, long-sleeved, white
T-shirt and blue jeans. His shoes were everyday work boots. All in all, a
very nondescript, average-looking man—with the exception of the face, of
course. Behind him stood a white wall with what appeared to be computer
monitors with websites showing today’s date.
A few seconds, which might as well have been hours, passed as the
strange man closed his eyes and took a deep breath. As he opened his eyes
again, he began to speak.
“Good evening, Mr. President. I am the Prophet. And I have been
commanded to give you a message.”
The man swallowed hard and then continued, “I am a servant of the
Lord Most High. And I have been instructed to warn you. Since the days
of our forefathers, the United States has become a prosperous nation,
strong in her defenses. She has done great moral things in the name of
peace and freedom. She has been an open door for those who are in search
of something greater. And she has brought stability to the world.”
The man blinked hard and wiped the sweat from his brow.
“But,” he continued, “‘I have this against you,’ says the Lord. ‘That
you have abandoned the love you had at first.’
“Therefore, thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, the day of the Lord comes,
cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to
destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of the heavens and their constellations
will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the
moon will not shed its light. I will punish the world for its evil, and the
wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant,
and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless. I will make people more
rare than fine gold, and mankind than the gold of Ophir. Therefore I will
make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at
the wrath of the Lord of hosts in the day of his fierce anger. Behold, my
anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, upon man and beast,
upon the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not
be quenched.’
“Yet fourteen days, and the United States shall be overthrown!”

my review....

The 13: Fall is an exciting, quick-paced read that poses some fascinating "What If?" scenarios about America coming under attack. I loved the whole idea of the Prophet, a man who has been given the task of sharing a difficult message that God has given him. He is an intriguing character who serves to remind the reader of the importance of living for God, and I look forward to seeing where the plot-line of the prophet will lead in the follow-up book "The 13: Stand". I don't want to give away too much of the plot line, but do want to say that on the whole the premise of the book is entirely too plausible about how the downfall of the United States could occur, something that is chilling to consider. That said, I do wish that the authors had made it clear earlier in the book on why America did not respond with a nuclear strike once they experienced an attack, as only near the end was a single paragraph thrown in that spoke to this. Up until that moment I kept wondering why, when America was attacked, they wouldn't have immediately responded with a nuclear strike from a submarine or alternate location of a nuclear arsenal. Except for that one area that nagged me, I found myself entertained by the book from start to finish, and I also appreciated how the authors wove faith into the story.

I definitely plan on reading the follow-up book to see how things will resolve, and recommend you look for this book if  you enjoy thrillers with non-stop action that still manage to speak to faith and God. 4 out of 5 stars.

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2 Free Christmas ebooks: Christmas at Harrington's by Melody Carlson & Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas by John Blase

Grab a Christmas Fiction ebook free today from author Melody Carlson!

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By John Blase / David C. Cook


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Unfolds layer by layer into gripping suspense: My review of "The Black Box" by Michael Connelly

The Black Box (Harry Bosch Series #18)

about the book....

In a case that spans 20 years, Harry Bosch links the bullet from a recent crime to a file from 1992, the killing of a young female photographer during the L.A. riots. Harry originally investigated the murder, but it was then handed off to the Riot Crimes Task Force and never solved.

Now Bosch's ballistics match indicates that her death was not random violence, but something more personal, and connected to a deeper intrigue. Like an investigator combing through the wreckage after a plane crash, Bosch searches for the "black box," the one piece of evidence that will pull the case together.

my review....

The Black Box is a smart read, a journey into a seemingly unsolvable cold case that unfolds layer by layer into an ending of gripping suspense. Harry Bosch is one of those characters who is easy to connect with, certainly not a perfect hero but one with flaws like you and I, yet offering much to admire in his drive to uncover the truth and bring closure to families who have been impacted by tragedies. In between the focus on the police case, the reader catches scenes of his home life, and it is clear he is a father who does his best to put his daughter first as much as possible, and I really respect that in a character and the example that this sets. Beyond the first explosive scene, much of the story is spent sifting through the past in trying to solve the case, and therefore it took me some time to feel a strong momentum in the book's pacing. Nevertheless, the author throws in some twists  and turns as well as some often hilarious tension with Harry's boss O'Toole, adding some excellent drama to the book. Overall, this is a book that was thoroughly entertaining, and as I was drawn further  into the story, I found it harder and harder to put the book down and step back into the real world. I really enjoyed the last few chapters as the truth of a conspiracy is revealed, and the conclusion is well done.

Readers who have enjoyed previous books by Michael Connelly should plan on picking up this latest offering, and will no doubt be pleased they did. 4 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Hachette Book Group (Little, Brown and Company), for the purposes of this unbiased review.

 about the author....

Connelly, Michael (1000054)Michael Connelly is the author of the recent #1 New York Times bestsellers The Drop, The Fifth Witness, The Reversal, The Scarecrow, The Brass Verdict, and The Lincoln Lawyer, as well as the bestselling Harry Bosch series of novels. He is a former newspaper reporter who has won numerous awards for his journalism and his novels. He spends his time in California and Florida.


A word of caution

Typical readers of Christian fiction should know that there are many uses of bad language used in the book, so that if you find such language offensive you should know to steer clear of The Black Box.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Wonderfully encouraging: My review of "Heaven Changes Everything" by Todd & Sonja Burpo

Heaven Changes Everything: Living Every Day with Eternity in Mind

about the book...

How would you live your life differently today if you knew that no matter what happened, everything would be okay, even wonderful, in the end?

Todd and Sonja Burpo's almost-four-year-old son Colton made an unforgettabel trip to heaven and back during the darkest, most-stressed-out days of their lives. Times were tough, money was scarce, and the bills, frustrations, and fears were piled high.

The story of Colton's visit to heaven changed their lives–and the book they wrote about it, Heaven Is for Real, gave new hope to millions of readers.

Now, in more than forty unique inspirational readings based on excerpts from their story, Todd, and for the first ever Sonja, from her perspective as a mom, share what happened next–in their lives and in millions of others. Through their own experiences, and based on the stories hundreds of readers have shared, they show you how believing heaven is for real helps us survive hardships here on earth, including the death of a loved one or the loss of a child through tragedy, miscarriage, and even abortion.

The daily readings provide a powerful reminder that, beyond the hardships we may face in this life, God's incredible gift of heaven awaits us. Imagine being completely fearless on earth because you know that after this life you're going to heaven, and you know, really know, you're going to love it there. That's the promise heaven holds for us.

Heaven is God's last word–and believing it's real changes everything.

my review....

If you enjoyed the amazing book "Heaven is for Real", then you are going to love its wonderful companion, "Heaven Changes Everything". The book is written in short inspirational chapters, which is great to either consume one day at a time, or to read all at once. I myself have enjoyed using the book as a devotional, taking my time to savor an entry, the accompanying verse, and the challenge arising out of that chapter. I love the childlike faith that permeates this book as little snippets are shared, primarily about Colton's visit to heaven and the wisdom that he gave arising from that experience. It may not be necessary for someone to have first read "Heaven is for Real" in order for them to enjoy this devotional reader, but it will be a much more rich reading experience if they have the full background of Colton's story and what he encountered. This devotional reader is greatly encouraging, and turns our attention to the hope that lies in heaven, the hope that there is so much more to come, and that heaven will be a place where truth is revealed, we reunite with loved ones, and where there will be no more death or tears or crying. Out of all the chapters, I was most challenged by the one entitled "A Battle to Come", a chapter that reminds us that Jesus ultimately wins the overall war, but we remain in a daily battle to stand up for our faith and fight the good fight to spread the love of Jesus.

Heaven Changes Everything would make a perfect gift for a loved one in your life, and you may just want to pick up a copy for yourself as well! People who are struggling with some difficult circumstances will find a lot of hope in the readings that remind us that our experiences now are temporary, and the hope of heaven is real indeed. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Thomas Nelson.

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Free Christmas ebook: A Marriage Carol by Gary D Chapman, Chris Fabry

Free for download today is a wonderful Christmas fiction book:

A Marriage Carol

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

A smart police thriller that had my pulse racing: My review of "NYPD Red" by James Patterson & Marshall Karp


about the book....

It's the start of Hollywood on Hudson, and New York City is swept up in the glamour. Every night, the red carpet rolls out for movie stars arriving at premieres in limos; the most exclusive restaurants close for private parties for wealthy producers and preeminent directors; and thousands of fans gather with the paparazzi, hoping to catch a glimpse of the most famous and beautiful faces in the world. With this many celebrities in town, special task force NYPD Red is on high alert-and they can't afford to make a single mistake.

Then a world-renowned producer fatally collapses at his power breakfast, and top NYPD Red Detective Zach Jordan is the first one on the scene. Zach works with his beautiful new partner, Detective Kylie MacDonald-who also happens to be his ex-girlfriend-to discover who the murderer might be. But this is only the beginning: the most brutal, public, and horrifyingly spectacular crimes they've ever encountered are about to send all of New York into chaos, putting NYPD Red on the ropes.

Zach and Kylie know there's no way of telling what a killer this deranged will do next. With the whole world watching, they have to find a way to stop a psychopath who has scripted his finale down to the last explosive detail. 

my review....

James Patterson is at the top of his game with NYPD Red, a smart police thriller that had my pulse racing and my fingers churning through the pages until I reached the end. I honestly felt as if I were watching a movie unfold before my eyes, as the writing is so vivid! The plot is quick-paced and intriguing, with an antagonist, The Chameleon, who is perfectly psychotic and creepy, providing a fantastic chase of cat-and-mouse as Zach and Kylie race to stop him. I find that some books are so detailed on gruesome acts a killer carries out that I can scarcely read them; NYPD Red is not a book like that, but provides just enough detail to add to the suspense, while also appealing to a broad audience base. The dialogue is crisp, and the action expertly executed, and results in a thoroughly entertaining read.

Every so often I just want to pick up a fun book, one that isn't going to make me think to much or leave me feeling deeply emotional, and NYPD Red certainly fits that fun description, a book that is written with skill and will provide you with a few hours of enjoyment. I strongly recommend this book for readers who enjoy a good thriller and who have enjoyed past books by James Patterson. 4 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Hachette Book Group (Little, Brown and Company), for the purposes of this unbiased review.

+++Please note: This book contains numerous uses of bad language, and has a couple of mild sex scenes. If you are a reader who is offended by such things, then NYPD Red may not be for you. If you are a reader who is not offending by reading such books or watching a movie with similar elements where you can enjoy the show without being offended by language, then you will enjoy this book.

 about the authors....

James Patterson has had more New York Times bestsellers than any other writer, ever, according to Guinness World Records. Since his first novel won the Edgar Award in 1977, James Patterson's books have sold more than 240 million copies. He is the author of the Alex Cross novels, the most popular detective series of the past twenty-five years, including Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. Mr. Patterson also writes the bestselling Women's Murder Club novels, set in San Francisco, and the top-selling New York detective series of all time, featuring Detective Michael Bennett. He writes full-time and lives in Florida with his family.

Marshall Karp has written and produced numerous TV shows, plays and movies. He is the author of the Lomax and Biggs book series.


2 free fiction ebooks: A Lancaster County Christmas & Informed Consent

Today 2 ebooks have become free for download for a limited time. They are:

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Informed Consent
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Informed Consent: A Novel                 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A masterful conclusion to the Solitary Tales series: My review of "Hurt" by @travisthrasher


about the book...

His Rebellion Will Soon Turn to Hope

When Chris Buckley first encountered the mysteries of creepy Solitary, North Carolina, he had little idea how far he would fall into the town’s shadows. After losing the love of his life, Chris tried to do things his way. He hunted answers. Then he gave up trying to find them.

But now Chris comes back to Solitary knowing there’s a purpose for his being there. As he watches his place in a twisted and evil bloodline become clear, Chris waits for the last battle—and wonders who will be left when he finally makes his stand.

The fourth and final book in the Solitary Tales shines light into deep darkness as Chris’s journey to Solitary comes to a dramatic close.

my review....

"Hurt" is a fabulous conclusion to the series that has brought us the thoroughly likable character of Chris Buckley. These books may be aimed at a teen audience, but I have fully enjoyed each one of them, even as an adult. Thrasher's prose is beautiful to read, full of depth and emotion that is balanced by suspense and some truly shocking imagery. This is probably my favourite book out of the four book series, particularly for how it is able to fully explore Chris' spiritual journey and his understanding of God. Some of the scenes where Chris is peering beyond the veil, catching glimpses of what heaven will be like, are beautiful to behold. I love how the author reveals Chris' utter humanness, the times he falters and makes mistakes, and yet balances this with his courage and his strength. Here is a character who teens can truly look up to, one they can identify with in the everyday struggles Chris deals with, and yet be inspired by as he puts his own needs and wants last.

I highly recommend not only this book, but the entire series, especially for teen readers who are looking for a clean alternative to many of the other options in the literary market. Well done Travis Thrasher! Here's hoping Chris has a future in another series one day! 4.5 out of 5 stars.

An egalley of the book was provided by the publisher, David C. Cook, via netgalley, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

about the author...

Image of Travis Thrasher
Critically acclaimed and creatively diverse novelist Travis Thrasher has made a career out of defying expectations.Writing stories that have moved, haunted and provoked readers, Thrasher has told tales in a variety of genres. His one common theme is brokenness, and his one common tactic is surprise. He lives with his wife and three daughters in a suburb of Chicago.

For more information on Travis, go to

This biography was provided by the author or their representative.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

A riveting, absorbing read: My review of "Fire of the Raging Dragon" by Don Brown

Fire of the Raging Dragon

about the book...

In the very near future, China, now the world's largest industrial producer and consumer of Mideast Oil, passes a law that all new cars manufactured in that nation will be operated on natural gas. Beneath the floor of the South China Sea, around the contested Spratly Islands, billions of gallons of natural gas wait to be mined. But at the center of the Spratlys, the remote but strategic island of Itu Aba is occupied by China's historic enemy, Taiwan.

When the new, power-hungry Chinese President, Tang Qhichen, orders Chinese Naval forces to attack Taiwanese forces on Itu Aba, U.S. President Douglas Surber responds, ordering the U.S. Seventh Fleet to try and quell a burgeoning naval showdown between the two Chinas.

Aboard the submarine tender U.S.S. Emory S. Land, one of the first ships in the naval war zone, is Ensign Stephanie Surber, a recent Naval Academy graduate who is also the First Daughter of the United States. As the Emory S. Land steams into harm's way, Ensign Surber's life is gravely threatened. The President must make a decision. Will he take a stand against evil? Or will he save the life of his daughter?

my review....

"Fire of the Raging Dragon" is a riveting, absorbing read, one that had me clutching the pages tightly as the plot unfolded at a breakneck pace. The plot seems all too real - what if the uneasy stalemate between the 2 Chinas truly was to explode and catch America in the fall-out? What if China was to exercise it's economic might and power over the trillions of dollars of American debt it holds? I enjoyed this second installment in the Pacific Rim Series even more than the first, finding it to be a book that is tightly plotted and filled with suspense. The story line of Stephanie, the US President's daughter, was intense indeed, and I could barely contain my urge to skip to the end of the book to see how things would resolve!

In short, Don Brown's books simply keeping getting better and better. With the exception of an overuse of exclamation marks throughout some scenes of the book, this book is well-written and seems well-researched and realistic. Fire of the Raging Dragon is sure to please fans like myself, who eagerly anticipate Brown's latest release, and equally sure to earn new fans as well. I highly recommend this book and award it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Zondervan, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

about the author...

Don Brown is the author of Malacca Conspiracy, The Navy Justice Series and Black Sea Affair, a submarine thriller that predicted the 2008 shooting war between Russia and Georgia. Don served five years in the U.S. Navy as an officer in the Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps, which gave him an exceptional vantage point into both the Navy and the inner workings of 'inside-the-beltway' as an action officer assigned to the pentagon. He left active duty in 1992 to pursue private practice, but remained on inactive status through 1999, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He and his family live in North Carolina, where he pursues his passion for penning novels about the Navy.

Find more information about "Fire of the Raging Dragon" at Zondervan's  product description page: 

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