Red: The New Rulebook: Christian Suspense series Book 1 by Joy Ohagwu ~ Review

Red The New Rulebook pic

Red: The New Rulebook: Christian Suspense series Book 1 by Joy Ohagwu

Suspense and mystery novels are a great way to challenge our minds. That’s one reason why I read them so often. I purposely look for suspense writers who stay away from becoming too dark and dabbling into graphic horror. I don’t mind fantasy or science fiction either as long as the line isn’t crossed at this same point. There’s a fine line to toe when looking for this kind of balance. So when I find an author who can write this way successfully while engaging the reader’s intelligence, I like to tell others. This book fulfills most of the above criteria. The author is new to me, so the jury is still out, but so far, it looks good.

Robert and Ruby had been friends since they were just children living in an orphanage. All those years ago, they had backed each other up, joining forces and becoming fast friends. Now as adults, they were each traveling their own paths, yet still in contact and still supportive of each other. Both busy in their own lives, until one day Ruby discovered she had been framed for murder. Terrified, the first person she thought to contact was her friend Robert.

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Throughout the rest of this book, they were running for their lives, followed by a mysterious force that seemed to know their every turn. It had something to do with The New Rulebook. What was the New Rulebook? Think of a contemporary TRON gone bad. Or an Anakin Skywalker’s desire to rule the universe benevolently, for the good of everyone, turned sour. The meme, a good idea falls into the wrong hands. And why could Spock not defeat Captain Kirk at 3-D chess? Because he made unpredictable moves that defied logic.

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So how did Ruby and Robert live through their ordeal? They had two things in their favor. You get to find out by reading the book. And while the story comes to a satisfying conclusion, the overall plot is not quite finished. There is more to come in future books. I am eager to read these and find out what comes next.

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I liked the plot and the concept shared in this book. It’s a good premise, and the suspense is kept moving along very nicely. I would like to mention that I think this author has more to offer in the way of refining the details. There were moments when ideas were a little confusing, or the structure of sentences were not clear. A few phrases worded awkwardly were dotted throughtout the book, although more frequently during the first third of the pages. These types of problems were a little distracting in the beginning from the action taking place. Once they are cleaned up, this will be a much better book. I’m looking forward to seeing these improvements.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Torn: The Salzburg Saga Book 2 by D.U. Okwonko ~ Review

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Torn: The Salzburg Saga Book 2 by D.U. Okwondo

The three books in this Saga basically form one continuous story. You will want to read these books back to back because of that. There is no segue. The first story stops abruptly and the next one continues. Torn is the second story in the series. The name is apropos because the second novel becomes the dynamic relationship interplay between the survivors of the plane crash in the frozen mountains of Austria that was introduced to us in Book one.

In this second book, friendships fray under the strain of waiting for rescue and starvation; relationships in one family are going all wrong; new revelations crop up that take everyone by surprise; and tension mounts with the looming threat of death of one of the survivors suffering from hypothermia.

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Book one was packed with action while book 2 is contemplative. It’s a soap opera on steroids when veneers slip after being packed into a tight space together, wearing on the nerves. Tension and revelations take the reader to a whole new level of suspense. Book one sets up the situation, and Book 2 develops it and cranks it up a notch.

To me, this is all great writing. In addition, you now have another point of view when you add Nina’s sister’s perspective. She is home, waiting to hear from her sister, when she learns about the crash. Her brothers come home from their travels to sit with Hazel and the tension mounts as they wait to hear from rescuers’ efforts.

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Again, like book one, I just couldn’t put this book down. I wanted to read it from one end to the other. And again, like the first book, the ending is abrupt, without any solid resolution. This is irritating to me, but when we finally get all three books together, it will read as one book seamlessly. All I can say is that I hope I don’t have to wait very long.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from AXP Books on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Spiral: The Salzburg Saga Book 1 by D.U. Okonkwo ~ Review

Spiral pic

Spiral: The Salzburg Saga Book 1 by D.U. Okonkwo

The three books in this Saga basically form one continuous story. You will want to read these books back to back because of that. There is no segue. The first story stops abruptly and the next one continues. The book Spiral is aptly named. A normal situation where three young lawyers take a corporate jet sponsored by their largest client to participate in a networking event goes all wrong very quickly once they get into the air.

The story is written from basically two points of view, that of Jake’s, the pilot of the jet aircraft, and that of Nina, one of the lawyers in the group. As the situation on the jet becomes tense, we get introduced to all the characters as they interact with each other. Each person has a history which is revealed as the adventure continues and which keeps this event popping with intrigue and interest.

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There are two major settings: on board the aircraft and on the ground in the mountains of Austria after the jet crashed. The story line keeps us focused on the effort to survive a horrible situation. And while they are just trying to survive, the situation just continues to spiral out of control, getting worse and worse as time lapses. By the end of this first tome, two of the party have died.

There is continuous action in this first book. The pace is rapid enough to keep you reading without being able to put the book down. The author writes an effective buildup to the tension among the group, since there are people to blame and people who are innocent bystanders. At first, it’s unclear exactly who is who. That type of suspense propels the reader right into the next book.

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The author is very effective in building suspense slowly and painfully. I just couldn’t put this book down once I got started. I was immensely grateful that both books were in the same volume so that I could proceed to part 2 of the saga.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from AXP Books on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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A Michigan Photo Presentation: Second Edition by John Macdonald ~ Review

A Michigan Photo Presentation Second Edition pic

A Michigan Photo Presentation Second Edition by John Macdonald

This photographer’s assortment of Michigan photos is impressive. Since I was born and raised in Michigan I have personally visited and enjoyed many places in these photos. As he said in the introduction, the Upper Peninsula alone has nearly 500 waterfalls. It’s impossible to photograph all of them. But that’s not all there is to see in Michigan.

His subjects are the best of all collections: bridges, waterfalls, lakes, sunsets, lighthouses, rock formations, wildlife, flowers, historic churches and buildings. All of them in fabulous color and some monochromatically displayed.

My favorites are the waterfalls and the Fall colors, of course. They are why I love living in this state. It’s a state that’s vast, roaming and beautiful and this photographer has captured much of the best views you can find.

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Perhaps in a future book the author/photographer can include something of our historic towns (such as the ghost town in Fayette State Park), the Indian Petroglyphs in the Thumb area, a couple of the old historic forts and a few more lighthouses. The possibilities are endless.

But in the meantime, enjoy this book. I highly recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this commentary from Story Cartel on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Better All the Time: Book 2 by Carre Armstrong Gardner ~ Review

Better All the Time pic

Better All the Time: Book 2 by Carre Armstrong Gardner

You know how Debbie Macomber takes a community of people and tells their individual stories which stretch over several books and time? I know many authors who have done this; and some of those stories, like Ms. Macomber’s, have even become a television series. Well, Carre Armstrong Gardner has done something similar, although the focus remains on one family, the Darlings. This book is the second of a series, all focusing on the members of the Darling family and their friends.

Book 1, which I have reviewed here, introduced us to the family by way of Ivy Darling, already married to Nick Mason. As their story unfolds, we get introduced to the many other members of the sprawling family that lives in Maine and other parts of the US.

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Jane and Leander Darling are the proud parents of mostly daughters, now adults who are moving on with their lives, and sometimes to other states. Seraphina is the resident college student/grad who has taken on a nursing job nearby. Ivy and Nick live close with their adopted youngsters, Hammer, DeShaun, and Jada. Laura has moved as far away from the family as she could manage, to Arizona. Amy has taken on the position of a local arts director to create a brand new program with theater, concerts and classes. David is dating Sephy’s best friend, Libby. The focus in this book is on the personal issues faced by Laura, Amy, Sephy and a few peripheral friends such as Mitch and Libby.

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All the daughters had experiences which tugged at my sympathies and my heart. But I think of all their stories, it was Sephy’s that resonated most with me. She and I have parallel histories, mostly revolving around emotional eating and being a people pleaser. Her journey sounded so much like mine. I remember those feelings and experiences that were so close to her feelings and experiences, especially when it came time for her to visit her Aunt Sharon. Oh my! It was both hilarious and tragic at the same time; I couldn’t help but laugh in commiseration!

I also loved Amy’s subplot. She could have been me when I was in my 20’s. While reading about her non-relationship with Mitch, I kept yelling at her in my mind, ‘Don’t make the same mistakes I did, Amy!’ Of course, when you are twenty-something and you have the tiger by the tail, who has time to think of long-term consequences. Right? ‘Nuff said.

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So if this type of storytelling is one you enjoy, go out and get the first book and this one, then go on and read the next book in the series. They really are more enjoyable to read this way. The title of the book is appropriate. Tangled stories do begin to unravel and straighten out, little by little. I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing book three.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Hamilton Robb by Reg Quist ~ Review

Hamilton Robb pic

Hamilton Robb by Reg Quist

The best description of this book I can think of is a Western Plus. What I mean by that is that there is a strong element of historical fiction, focusing on the period where much of the West was still pre-state territories–around the mid-1800’s. If I could tack on a subtitle to this book it might be ‘The Making of a Man.’

Still, that tagline doesn’t quite fit. There are actually two men who come face to face, and the contrast is stark. One is pompous and proud, unfriendly to a fault, arrogant, a cattle rancher from Texas. His name says it all, Big Bob Stanton. His life theme seems to be: trample or be trampled. The main character is from Arizona, a former deputy sheriff, a talented gunman who hung up his belt, invested in a small ranch and lived a life of a good neighbor, helping others handle the hardships of life, hard-working, tough as steel and yet humble and friendly.

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There is a face off, staged by one of the worst blizzards in 1888. In history, this blizzard was known as the Children’s Blizzard or the Schoolhouse Blizzard, because it came on in mild January temperatures while children were just being released from schools across the territory. Winds kicked up 50-foot mountains of drifts and temperatures dropped suddenly to 40 below zero F with nearly no visibility during the high winds. Hundreds died, many of them children on the walk home, with heroic stories of teachers saving some of their children.

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The horrors of this storm is the pivotal point of the story. It’s where the focus is on the character development of two men and their people. This is where the story becomes riveting. While the outcome of this showdown is fairly obvious from the beginning, it’s how it is fleshed out that makes the story worth experiencing while reading. The author is meticulous enough in the details of ranch living in the Old West to make this read fascinating without becoming as dry as sawdust. Those are signs to me of a great storyteller, a great writer.

On top of those characteristics, the story is chuckle worthy. It’s not a funny tale, because the hardships of living in that time period keep out such ill-timed humor, but the book was filled with moments I could chuckle over. Tongue in cheek statements, moments of the ridiculous, sarcastic observations are all appreciated with a bit of dry wit.

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This is a man’s western, written from a man’s point of view and with an intended audience of men who enjoy a good historical fiction. I’m not a man, but I enjoyed this book anyway. There were plenty of serious moments and even tragedies, but it has a great ending, filled with hope for the future, the satisfaction of overcoming a huge obstacle. I think women can enjoy this book too. There is even a hint at a romance.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from CKN Christian Publishing on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Phoebe’s Journey: Part 1: Of Passion and Pride by Kathryn B. Collett ~ Review

phoebe's Journey pic

Phoebe’s Journey: Part 1: Of Passion and Pride by Kathryn B. Collett

My very first reaction after finishing this terrific historical fiction is ‘wow’! Kathryn Collett is a great storyteller. I literally picked up the book and spent hours reading it and couldn’t put it down until I finished. That doesn’t happen to me very often.

In the author’s note at the beginning of the book, she gives a little bit of background about the main character and a little about herself. I find myself drawn to the same type of book she has written. I have always been fascinated by the history behind the very earliest Christians living on the Mediterranean. That’s because after Jesus died, the Mediterranean Sea was the primary vehicle in spreading the Gospel throughout the Roman world. The author explains, “Phoebe is an actual historical woman who lived in the first century. But who was she really? Was she married? Did she have children? What motivated her? Who were her friends? When did she first cross paths with the Apostle Paul? What did she wear? What was she afraid of? Who did she love? These are just a few of the questions I’ve asked at various time.” This is the basis for this historical fiction.

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There are so many things to love about this author’s writing style. First, she is meticulous in her researched details of the lifestyle of citizens of Corinth, the life of the early Christians, and the early ministry of Paul the Apostle. I felt drawn into the story personally. All the details and story line give this book credibility. I felt I was right there, side by side with Phoebe, frustrated with her, desperate to save the family business with her, grieving and angry with her throughout her experiences when life becomes unfair.

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Second, the characters are believable. Human nature hasn’t changed at all in the past couple thousand years, and this author is adept at communicating human nature in all its variations of good, bad and evil.

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Third, for me this was a fast paced adventure. The writing is compelling, establishing an urgency as Phoebe seeks to make things right for her family and friends, in spite of the challenges and limited time she faces. Since this is the first book in a series of three stories, I am looking forward to reading the rest of the books. While this tale has a definitive conclusion, it also heavily implies there is much more to come. There is still more of the mystery to solve, and resolutions to make. I highly recommend this book to you. This is one of those books I will enjoy reading over several times.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Story Cartel on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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