Paralyzed (A Kennedy Stern Christian Suspense Novel Book 2) by Alana Terry ~ Review

Paralyzed (A Kennedy Stern Christian Suspense Novel Book 2) by Alana Terry

ParalyzedParalyzed is the second book of the Kennedy Stern novel series by Alana Terry. This series runs parallel to another series by the same author. That set involves Kennedy’s parents who live in China where they conduct a secret seminary for North Korean refugees. While book 1 and 2 in Kennedy’s series works closely together, you can read each one independently of the other. Of course, I think they are best read back to back, since the events only occur six weeks apart. You can view my review of book 1 here.

Kennedy Stern, after having lived in China ten years, is now attending Harvard University as a pre-med student. It’s only been six weeks since she’d been kidnapped in what turned out to be a high profile case that involved a big political name, underground thugs, and a pregnant girl. Kennedy ended up handcuffed for 24 hours in a filthy darkened basement watching the young teen die from bleeding out. She still had nightmares of the horrors she witnessed. While taking final exams before the Christmas break, she started have coughing fits, and out in the hallway, she thought she saw a familiar ugly face. It frightened her enough that she fled the exam in panic to her dorm room. Then she had to see a doctor for her cough and an excused absence for her professor. The doctor recognized her and asked her several questions. He hinted that she may need counseling, possibly for PTSD. She couldn’t get her mind wrapped around the concept. Could she really have PTSD? She was a Christian. She’d been praying an reading her Bible more often since her traumatic experience. She’d even memorized Bible verses. Didn’t that help?Paralyzed Quote1

From that point on, the author provides non-stop suspense. Kennedy’s friend took her out to see the Nutcracker Suite. She enjoyed it but was once again spooked when they attempted to see some of the players backstage, and she wound up alone in a dark hallway. Then they took a subway to get some pizza, but a power outage created new panic; she felt as if someone was following her in the dark tunnel, especially after a smoke bomb forced everyone out of the car and into the unlit tunnel. Once home her shaken nerves were further rattled when her father called to warn her a second man was discovered to have been involved in the kidnapping case. He sent her with an email with a picture of the man. She immediately recognized him from the subway incident. She needed to flee, but she didn’t know where to go. That’s when Pastor Carl Lindgren, a family friend, entered the fray. He had received the same warnings from Kennedy’s dad. Pastor Carl decided she needed to stay with him for her safety. They were anything but safe. What ensued was a terrifying car chase, a shoot out, a hospital visit, police protection, and an ambush. At that point, I just could not put the book down.

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Alana Terry writes excellent suspenseful scenes that are fast-paced. That alone has me recommending this book to you. But Kennedy’s inner battles are just as interesting to me. Yes, growing up in a missionary family ensured her head was filled with knowledge that made her appear to be a Christian. She prayed, read her Bible, lived by a set of moral codes in spite of her environment, and even memorizing Scripture. But something was missing. She seemed a little two dimensional to me. I kept asking myself, “Where’s the joy? Where’s the relationship, the inner peace, the intimacy between her Heavenly Father and a daughter?” Kennedy’s spiritual life is often too formulaic in my opinion. A true dynamic Christian life is much more than saying prayers, doing good deeds, going to church, and even reading the Bible. It’s vital and alive–an active relationship between a loving Father and His child. there should be dialogue and exchange. I believe this lack of depth has been carefully crafted by the author as an underlying subplot that began in the first book and grows gradually throughout the series. It is not yet resolved in the second book in spite of the satisfactory resolution of the more active portions of the story line. I suspect the quieter theme will continue into the next book or books in the series. I look forward to further development of this character thread because it is an ever pressing issue in today’s world.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. 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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The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn: A Novel by Lori Benton ~Review~

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn: A Novel by Lori Benton

Pursuit of Tamsen LittleJohn

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The term pursuit is apt for this historical fiction romance because it describes the many facets of the story’s events, beginning with the first chapters.

In spite of her pampered background, Tamsen was not the type of woman to allow others to take her over and control her. She wanted a voice in her destiny, contrary to the custom of the day. So when her stepfather arranged a suitor for her, she would not cooperate with the arrangement unless she wanted to. Her stepfather only cared for his own gain, without thought to Tamsen’s welfare. After only one meeting with Ambrose Kincaid, plantation owner, she saw only entrapment and decided to flee the village of Morganton as soon as possible. She would have done it sooner but for her mother. It was not soon enough to escape her stepfather’s cruelty to her mother. In a fit of rage, he struck her mother down in Tamsen’s presence. Horror stricken, she fled with the aid of a young man she’d met briefly in the stables.

Jesse Bird and his pa, Cade, were rugged men of the North Carolina mountains–trappers, drovers, hunters, wagon train guides, sometimes wanderers. They’d arrived in Morganton at the tail end of a cattle drive and were soon to embark on a trek out west guiding a group of settlers. Jesse caught a fleeting glimpse of Tamsen in town and was struck by her beauty. It was no wonder when she asked him to help her escape a day later that he was ready to move the world for her.

It was a good thing Jesse and his pa were Godly men with principles. Jesse knew exactly what to do. Cade would guide the wagon train while Jesse traveled a parallel but lesser known trace to avoid being seen. Tamsen, grief stricken about her mother’s cruel death and the abrupt circumstances depended completely on their good will. It was unfortunate then, when they encountered Charlie Spencer, a trapper on the trail with his pack mules who stopped to talk with them. Jesse claimed they were a newly wed couple, but Charlie didn’t think Tamsen looked like a blushing bride. She looked haggard. And once Charlie arrived in Morganton, he learned what he thought was the truth, that Tamsen had been abducted by her mother’s murderer. The trapper agreed to guide Tamsen’s stepfather and her would-be suitor in the search for her. The pursuit was on.

Eventually the trio arrived at the men’s cabin, in a remote corner of Tate Allard’s settlement, Greenbird Cove, where they often exchanged labor for the privilege. Tamsen, always waited on hand and foot by slaves, quickly learned just how much she did not know about day to day living skills. Tate’s wife and daughter took her under their wing to teach her, while the men learned to tolerate her cooking. They were there only a few weeks before the search party came near enough to them that they were forced to flee again, this time hiding out in a friendly Cherokee village; Thunder Going Away was a friend of Jesse and Cade. Again, Tamsen learned to adapt and take on new skills, as well as a few words in Cherokee, trying to prove her worth to Jesse and to herself. But even with friends in the small native village, they were at risk of a different nature–a historical upheaval, the establishment of a new state in the hills of east Tennessee and west North Carolina. They were again forced to run for their lives.

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While The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn is a historical fiction romance, the history by no means overtakes the major plot, Tamsen’s escape from her stepfather. The history is interesting, plays an important role in both aiding and thwarting the trio’s efforts to find a refuge. I enjoyed that element of the story because I had never heard of the state of Franklin and the struggles in the Carolinas of the late 18th century before reading this book. I so much appreciate the research the author put into it, especially for the tidbits that made this book come alive. The author also included an Author’s Notes and Acknowledgments section at the back of the book detailing her research. I enjoy this as much as I love commentaries on my favorite movies. More authors should include this in their writings.

In this book there is more than one type of pursuit within its pages. The first is obvious and accounts for the exciting action. The second is the romance developing between Jesse Bird and Tamsen. Jesse believed she was the one for him, sanctioned even by God. From the first day of their flight, he was determined win her trust and convince her of his dependability to care for her. The author didn’t portray Jesse as a perfect man. He knew his failings. You can’t help but admire his patience and determination, his strength of character and his skills. The development of their relationship from rescuer/damsel-in-distress, to companions, to romance is a lovely story in and of itself. I came to care for these characters, even the mysterious Cade.

Amidst the excitement and suspense of the chase and the quest for a peaceful sanctuary, there is a third type of pursuit going on. Jesse, Tamsen and even Cade needed to come to terms with the new direction their lives were going. For Tamsen, it was a personal journey to find herself for the first time in her life. She was moving from grief, fear, insecurity, dependence and distrust to finding her independence, her place in life. Jesse knew his life would never be the same. He had someone to care for, someone who needed him. And Cade, too, realizes his adopted son is his own man now. The author masterfully works out this conflict/resolution for each character individually and collectively, as a family growing to care for each other. It’s one thing that makes this tale so endearing for me.

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I am also impressed with the way this author has given her readers a glimpse of the warmth of family life and friendship Jesse and Cade held with many of the local Native Americans, especially the Cherokee who regard them as kin. The amusing way Tamsen met Catches Bears for the first time will be memorable for me for a long time to come. And the peace they found living in Thunder Going Away’s village is a meaningful contrast to the conflict and suspense in the rest of the book.

Finally, the author provides a twist of circumstances at the end that I had not anticipated. While this is secondary to the main resolution of the story, it provides a very satisfying conclusion with a touch of irony. I definitely recommend this book for anyone who enjoys historical fiction romances. This book has much to offer.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Blogging for Books on behalf of Waterbrook Press. I was not required to write a positive review.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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Fearless by Mike Dellosso ~ A Review ~

Fearless by Mike Dellosso

“Suddenly he felt a presence there with him and opened his eyes. A face materialized out of the smoke, hovered over him. Small, soft, white…the face of an angel. Blue eyes that seemed to glow from their own light. Hair the color of flax and pulled back off her face. A girl. A young girl, just a child. She smiled at him and placed her hand on his chest. Her smile was sweet and innocent, the smile of a child who’s never known the worst of this world. Oddly, in the midst of such chaos, such hellfire, she showed no signs of fear.”

Fearless
From the very first paragraph, Fearless starts out in a sprint and doesn’t slacken pace for the entire book. With elements of the paranormal, suspense, mystery, and intrigue, the action keeps the reader guessing every step of the way. Once I started reading, I found it difficult to put the book down.

First a fire, then the mysterious appearance of a little girl out of the blue. Her name is Louisa, but she can’t remember her last name, who she is or where she is from, but her appearance saved Jake from the fire. While investigation to find her family draws a blank, the police chief places Louisa with Jim and Amy, foster parents who are still grieving the loss of their own unborn daughter. Her presence brings mixed reactions from the couple. Amy has reservations, but Jim wants the diversion.

A serial killer is loose in the little village of Virginia Mills. There seems to be no motive, no evidence or clues, and no reason to the killings. Alicia was in a dead end relationship and lying to herself that her boyfriend loves her. She wants to end it all, until the day she talks with Louisa, the little girl who saved Jake’s life. One touch from her hand and Alicia feels renewed.

Jim takes Louisa around town hoping that something will help trigger some memories, giving them some clues to her identity. One of the stops is the elementary school playground where the children from the school are playing. She seems to blend in and fit well. When she spots a girl in a wheelchair, she stops to talk with her. Jim doesn’t take much notice until he sees the wheelchair bound girl actually get up and take a few tentative steps. Louisa said all she did was pray for the girl.

God hears our prayers

Nearby on a remote farm, an older couple lives contentedly until a man disturbs their peace and takes them captive in their own home. He talks of a purpose but none of it makes sense to them. He builds a cage down in the basement and locks them up like animals until he done doing…what?

These seemingly unrelated events overlap with a few common threads between them, but are so obscure they keep the reader puzzling over them until the final chapters begin to coalesce.

What I find unique about this book and the events unfolding before us is the way the author creates an atmosphere of unease. The reader is kept off kilter first by the eerie awareness Louisa seems to possess whenever she comes in contact with people. She seems to look into their very souls and discerns what others either can’t or won’t understand. Her faith in God is simple and pure, and seems to put others off. Like the old black and white television mysteries of the 1940’s where most of the suspense is in the imaginations and anticipations of the viewers, people read into it mystique and almost diabolical intent that’s simply not there.

Secondly, the author takes a different tack and relates the operations of the serial killer from the point of view of the killer himself. The reader becomes privy to his distorted reasoning and preparations. The darkness surrounding him becomes part of the eerie atmosphere of the entire book. It was one of the reasons why I found the book so hard to put down even when I really needed to.

I found some of the descriptions of the killings disturbing. I’m not so sure I can justify the detail, although the details do serve as a clue to the identity of the killer, which is kept a secret until the very end. If you find that type of violence uncomfortable, then I do not recommend this book for you. However, overall, the writing style is exceptional, fast paced, and alluring. He makes the combination of paranormal, suspense and mystery work through excellent storytelling. I am curious to see if other books he writes are as compelling as this one is.

He careth for you

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from The Booketeria on behalf of Charisma Media and Charisma House Book Group/Realms. I was not required to write a positive review. 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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