Saturday, May 28, 2011

Blog Tour: A Killer Among Us (Review)

What happens when the hunter . . . becomes the hunted?

Kit Kenyon is a first-rate hostage negotiator. Noah Lambert is a good detective with excellent instincts. These new partners have hardly had time to get used to each other when they are thrown into a grisly murder case. 


As evidence mounts up and more victims are found, Kit and Noah realize they are on the hunt for a serial killer. The problem is, he may be hunting one of them too.

With nail-biting suspense, clever plot twists, and a hint of romance, A Killer Among Us is the latest thriller from Lynette Eason.


What I Thought
I like Lynette Eason's style of writing. She crafts a strong suspense novel, with touches of faith and romance. This is the third book and final book in the Women of Justice series.

Kit Kenyon's pursuit of the serial killer is intense and will capture your interest from beginning to end..

I wish the book didn't seem like it was "forced" a bit to fit into the existing storyline of the first two books. During the second book, Kit's existence is revealed as the missing twin sister of Jamie - a twist in Don't Look Back.

However, maybe some of the feelings of angst and confusion I felt as I read this book was deliberately written into the storyline by Eason. My theory - Eason wanted her reader to feel the same "disconnection" and "frustration" Kit must have felt as she balanced between her newly discovered biological family and her adopted mother.

On a scale of one to five, I give this book a solid three and a half to four. It's a great read, a good finish to the three-book series, and could be read as a stand-alone book - but I always recommend reading them in order.

About The Author
Lynette Eason is the author of Too Close to Home, Don't Look Back, and three other romantic suspense novels.

She is a member of American Fiction Christian Writers and Romance Writers of America.

A homeschooling mother of two, she has a master's degree in education from Converse College. She lives in South Carolina.

Online Resources
Read an online excerpt of A Killer Among Us
A reading group guide to A Killer Among Us.
My review & an interview with Eason for Too Close To Home
My review of Don't Look Back
Buy A Killer Among Us at Amazon.com
Buy A Killer Among Us at Barnes & Noble

About Revell, The Publisher
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life.  They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet. For more information, visit www.RevellBooks.com.

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Blog Tour: How Huge The Night (Review)

Fifteen-year-old Julien Losier just wants to fit in. But after his family moves to a small village in central France in hopes of outrunning the Nazis, he is suddenly faced with bigger challenges than the taunting of local teens.

Nina Krenkel left her country to obey her father's dying command: Take your brother and leave Austria. Burn your papers. Tell no one you are Jews. Alone and on the run, she arrives in Tanieux, France, dangerously ill and in despair.

Thrown together by the chaos of war, Julien begins to feel the terrible weight of the looming conflict and Nina fights to survive. As France falls to the Nazis, Julien struggles with doing what is right, even if it is not enough-and wonders whether or not he really can save Nina from almost certain death.

Based on the true story of the town of Le Chambon-the only French town honored by Israel for rescuing Jews from the Holocaust-How Huge the Night is a compelling, coming-of-age drama that will keep teens turning the pages as it teaches them about a fascinating period of history and inspires them to think more deeply about their everyday choices.

What I Thought
This book is unlike other historical novels I've read set during World War II. Not only does it's descriptions of war, racism, anger and compassion help define it as a strong book, the fact that it is written from the point of view of teenagers, sets it apart from others in its genre.

I really liked the story. It made me think - it also made me want to pull the book it's based upon (Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed) off my shelf to re-read it. That book, based upon the experiences in Le Chambon, tells the true story of how French citizens hid Jews during World War II.

I love how this novel will give me a chance to introduce the subject of "Who is my neighbor" with the students in my church. It shows how students are often faced with a conundrum of decisions during a time of war and civil unrest based upon race, religion and more.

This story focuses on how Julien's decision to help Nina and her brother with may impact not only his life, but those of his family. He has to decide what is important - and what is the value of a human life. He also has to decide if he's going to follow the "masses" or if he is going to stand up for what is right, regardless of the potential negative outcome.

I also thought Nina's story was vivid and helps humanize the plight of Jews during this time period. Her experiences are painful to read about, but again, help encourage further discussion.

On the scale of one to five, with five being the highest, I give How Huge The Night a solid four. This is a story is compelling, heart breaking and unfortunately, it's based upon truth. It will definitely provide a gateway for an abundant amount of discussion with students and adults alike.

About The Authors:
Heather Munn was born in Northern Ireland and grew up in southern France where her parents were missionaries like their parents before them.

She has a BA in literature from Wheaton College and now lives in a Christian intentional community in rural Illinois, where she and her husband, Paul, host free spiritual retreats for the poor, especially those transitioning out of homelessness or addiction. When not writing or hosting, she works on the communal farm.

Lydia Munn, daughter of missionary parents, grew up in Brazil. She received a BA in literature from Wheaton College, and an MA in Bible from Columbia Graduate School of Bible and   Missions.

With her husband, Jim, she has worked in church planting and Bible teaching since 1983, notably in St. Etienne, near the small town in the central mountains of France which forms the background of How Huge the Night. The Munns now live in Grenoble, France.

It's A Contest
To celebrate the release, Kregel Publications is giving away a $50 Amazon.com gift card. All you have to do is send a tweet (using #litfuse) about How Huge the Night or share about it on Facebook!

If you tweet we'll capture your entry when you use the hashtag (#litfuse), if you share it on Facebook or your blog, just email us and let us know (info@litfusegroup.com). Easy. (All Litfuse bloggers who post a review are automatically entered and do NOT need to email us.)

Not sure what to tweet/post? Here's an idea.
TWEET THIS:  How Huge the Night - compelling, coming-of-age drama that will keep teens and adults alike turning the pages! #litfuse http://ow.ly/4RBXc

FACEBOOK THIS: How Huge the Night by Heather & Lydia Munn is a compelling, coming-of-age drama that will keep teens and adults alike turning the pages late into the night! http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/text/13181161

Online Resources
Find How Huge The Night On Amazon.com
Read an Excerpt of How Hugh The Night
Read The Book That Inspired The Novel: Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed: The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There by Philip Hallie
Read what others think about How Huge The Night: Follow the Blog Tour here.

As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Litfuse Publicity Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Blog Tour: Project Dad (Review)

What does it take to build a great dad?

Men like to build things. We like to take parts and put them together to make a whole. Did you know that this do-it-yourself talent can help you become a great dad?

In his fresh, humorous style, Todd Cartmell takes you on an action-packed journey to help you become the dad God made you to be and that your kids hope you will be. 


Cartmell shows you that you already have the raw materials at your disposal, then gives you the blueprint for putting them together. Begin your Project Dad today. Your family will never be the same.


What I Thought
Is there a magic formula to build a great dad? As much as we like to have things in an instant - or at a click of a mouse - there's probably not a "easy" button out there for dads to push to go from good to great.

However, Dr. Todd Cartmell may have come up with a way to at least provide dad's with a "DIY" (do it yourself guide) to becoming not just a good dad, but a great one.

Through five topics, Cartmell walks dads through ways to look at how they "see" their children through their eyes (look), mouth (talk), heart (connect), hands (actions) and feet (lead).

Through humor, personal (a.k.a. relatable) stories and well, an easy-to-read writing style, Cartmell challenges dads to not only read the book but begin to apply what they are learning immediately through a highlighted section of key points and several challenging "get to work" questions at the end of each chapter.

This is definitely a dad resource that will stay in my children's ministry reference library. If you are looking for a book to pass along to your favorite seasoned pro or maybe a soon-to-be dad, then I recommend this book.

Don't let the "easy to read" and "humor" labels throw you off. This is definitely a "good things come in small packages" book.

It's A Contest
Want to win a copy of Project Dad: The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide for Becoming A Great Father for the guy in your life (or maybe even yourself?)

Thanks to Revell Books, I have an extra copy of this book, to pass along to a blog reader. Just leave a comment in this post by Wednesday, June 1. The book will be in the mail to you, to give to the lucky guy by Father's Day.

To enter, please leave your favorite "dad" story in the comments below, along with your e-mail, so I can get your shipping address/details should you win this book!

The book will be awarded on Thursday, June 2, and information will be posted back in this review listing the winner.

About The Author
Todd Cartmell is a licensed clinical psychologist and a father of two.

He is in full-time private practice in Wheaton, Illinois, where he works exclusively with children, adolescents, and families.

He conducts parenting workshops across the country and is the author of Respectful Kids. Visit his website at http://drtodd.net/

Online Resources
Todd Cartmell's website - http://drtodd.net/ 
Find Project Dad at Amazon.com
Pick up Project Dad at Barnes & Noble
Read an excerpt online at Revell Books
Find out more at Revell Books

About Revell, The Publisher
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life.  They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet. For more information, visit www.RevellBooks.com.

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Blog Tour: A Heart Divided (Review)

Can two families, united by a fued, find themselves instead united by love?

The Caldwells and Wainwrights have been feuding for decades. Still, Sarah Caldwell has misgivings when her father pressures her into distracting a ranch hand while he and her brothers rob the Wainwright place. 

When it becomes clear that hand is actually Cord Wainwright, heir of the Wainwright holdings, Sarah realizes things have gone too far.

As the feud boils over, Cord and Sarah make a most inconvenient discovery--they just might be falling in love. Can they betray their families to see where this attraction leads? Or will their families betray them?

Against the beautiful and wild backdrop of the Rocky Mountains in 1878 comes this sweeping saga of romance, betrayal, and forgiveness from beloved author Kathleen Morgan.

What I Thought
Wow. I really liked this book.

Honestly, when the book first arrived, I wasn't sure. I mean, it's a basic "Hatfields & McCoy" story, set in the Rocky Mountains. Really, when you get down to it, can you really find a unique way to tell this story.

The answer, apparently, is a resounding YES. I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book.

Not only was it a great story - there are some twists and turns that give it a great "redemption" plot - but the strong characters and writing pulled me into the novel until the very last page.

I didn't want this book to end. I felt like I connected with Cord and Sarah through everything going on in their lives and how they chose to rise above the hatred and bitterness of their parents. The emotions were strong, and truly jumped off the pages through the dialogue and the characters.

On a scale of one to five, with five being the highest, I would give it a solid four. This book exceeded my expectations. I would highly recommend it to someone looking for a solid novel to read this summer.

My only hope, at the end of this book, is that Morgan's next work expands the role of Nicholas - Cord's brother.

About The Author
Kathleen Morgan is the award-winning author of many novels, including those in the bestselling Brides of Culdee Creek series. She lives in Colorado.

Find out more about Morgan: http://www.kathleenmorgan.com/html/about_kathleen.html

Online Resources
Check it out at Revell Books (the publisher)
Kathleen Morgan's Website: http://www.kathleenmorgan.com
Buy A Heart Divided @ Amazon.com
Find A Heart Divided @ Barnes & Noble

About Revell, The Publisher
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life.  They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet. For more information, visit www.RevellBooks.com.

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Blog Tour: The DMZ (Interview & Review)

It seems as if terrorism is on the forefront of everything we see - especially in light of Sunday's news about Osama bin Laden.

But even before this week's events - actually even before Sept. 11 - Jeanette Windle began crafting a story that shows how terrorism is alive and well, not only in the middle east, but also in South America.

Using a "ripped from the headlines," Windle has created a story that simply incorporates information about countries, places and situations she has encountered during her life journey.

"Since my books take 18-24 months researching and writing, it always astounds me how current their content is to the news by the time they reach print, something I could never plan," Windle explained.

Drawing from her life as the daughter of American missionaries living in Columbia,  Windle has created The DMZ to include the guerrilla zones, as well as their possible ties to Muslim extremists.

"Having finished a novel set in the counter-narcotics war in Bolivia, where I had a front row seat (CrossFire), I wanted to write a novel about the fascinating country and people in which I grew up," she said. "As I researched what was currently happening there, this is the story that emerged."

Connections Within The Pages
Windle finished this novel actually on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Other than the normal revisions - which take place as a novel is moved from the rough draft stage, the story remains the same - with terrorists planning a flight-related campaign on US soil, from the safety of Columbia.

"It was certainly an extraordinary experience having a story I'd researched and written coming to life in the news," she recalled. "I remember getting a conference call the next day from my publisher, saying: 'We're watching your story on the news.'"

Windle said a line she gave one of her characters - which eventually became part of the book's advertising campaign - took on a greater impact in light of the national tragedy: "Those who are not willing to bleed and die for what they hold dear will always be held captive by those who are." 

"I wrote that phrase thinking of the country where I grew up as a missionary kid and loved dearly the 40 million people being held hostage by less than 20,000," Windle explained. "In a recent poll at the time of my writing, the top Colombian choice on how to handle the guerrillas was to have the Americans come in and defeat the guerrillas for them.

"I never dreamed how relevant that phrase would become to all of us by the time it actually went to print."

While everything in The DMZ is based upon fact, the suspense plot is fiction.

"The original news clipping mentioned about the Iranian 'humanitarian project' in the demilitarized zone is an actual one," Windle said. "In real life, the U.S. embassy did manage to derail it, which permitted me to use it for my fiction plot.  But I always wondered what Iran's Plan B was.

"Interestingly, that Plan B has actually materialized very closely within the last year on the Venezuelan side of the border, another startling example of seeing my fiction in the headlines."

Other areas of the novel, including depictions of  Columbia guerrilla camps, cam not from Windle's own experience, but that of friends who spent years in captivity.

"The small Colombian town described in the middle of the guerrilla zone is the same where I spent my own teen years, now in the middle of a guerrilla zone," she continued. "Many of the other characters in the book, including the revolutionaries themselves, are birthed from counterparts I actually knew in Colombia."

Windle said she identifies with her main character - Julie - a missionary kid journalist heading back into the jungle zone where she grew up.

"While I've had friends who did lose their parents because of ministry, I did not lose my parents in the jungle [as happens to Julie], though I spent much of my growing up years separated from them at boarding school," she said, "and once I left home at age 18 for Bible college in Canada, the next time I saw them was at my wedding three years later (and this was well before e-mail/Facebook, or even regular postal service in the Colombian jungle zones).

"The issues of sacrifice Julie deals with in the book that God's call to service inevitably demands, not only from missionary parents but their children, is one with which every missionary kid comes to terms at some point in their adult life. My main character Julie's spiritual struggle was definitely birthed out of my own. So is her conclusion. Whatever the cost, laying down one's life in service to God is indeed worth it!"

Turning News Into Fiction
Windle said as she crafted the novel, using Muslim terrorists using a South American country as a way to strike out at Americans, she wasn't playing on stereotypes, but rather writing the simple truth.

"I was actually stunned to discover the extent of Islamic jihadist involvement in the Colombian guerrilla zones where I grew up," she said. "The question became, why would Islamic fundamentalists ally themselves with leftist revolutionaries whose ideology they loathe? The answer to that birthed The DMZ as simply one fictional possibility."

However, Windle does not consider one billion Muslims as the "bad guy."

"Like millions held captive under communism or the Nazi regime, they too are for the most part also victims of an oppressive totalitarian regime that dictates on pain of death how they pray, think, eat, sleep, live," she said. "The current uprisings across the Middle East are an indicator of how much the average citizen of Muslim nations also want freedom to make their own spiritual, moral, political choices.

"One must remember that in Western nations, Islam is viewed as a religion people choose to follow; in the Muslim world, the reigning totalitarian political regime rules over even the smallest aspects of people's lives without there being any personal choice involved."

Windle said The DMZ, like all of her books, is based upon the reality "on the ground" in the countries to which God has taken her.

"We are told as authors to 'write what we know.' I write about the world I know, a world outside of safe American borders," Windle explained. "The scenarios in my books may be only too real. But if a life spent in some of the planet’s more difficult corners has taught me more than I wish I knew about the depravity of which a godless mankind is capable, it has taught me far more of God’s overriding sovereignty and love.

"If I did not have the absolute assurance that the course of human history and current events as well as my own life lie in the hands of a loving heavenly Father, I would not have the nerve to research, much less write, the stories that I do.

"My ultimate goal in every book I write, however much a "thriller," is to share with the reader my own heartfelt conviction that, for all the turmoil and conflict and pain in our world, this universe does make sense and has both a purpose and a loving Creator."

Turning Beliefs Into Fiction
Windle believes - and the theme runs through her novels - that "Christians are not called to safety from life's storms, not for ourselves, our families, our country."

"We live in a culture here in North America, even within the church, that emphasizes watching our own backs, demanding as our right to be free from the danger and risk and storms so much of the rest of our planet is currently facing," Windle said. "But the Creator God we see in Scripture is not about safety and tranquility.

"Look at the images in the Psalms especially. We serve a God who rides on the wings of the wind, who makes storm clouds His footstool, whose laughter crashes through the thunder and lightning, who shakes the earth with His passing.  Our God is mighty, awesome, powerful, even wild. But He is  not about safety and tranquility."

God, Windle said, never promised a safe, quiet life for His children.

"On the contrary, the God we serve is calling His followers to be out there standing strong in the storm, because in the world of chaos and uncertainty in which we live, someone has to be out there nailing down the loose roof shingles and pulling people from the floodwaters," she said. "If that sounds frightening, it  shouldn’t be because our safety is not, and never will be, in the absence of the storm, but in the presence of a God who loves His children passionately.

"Which is why, in the rising storm assailing our world, the underlying message of The DMZ and all my books is not one of fear or doom-saying but of hope, challenge and faith in a loving heavenly Father who holds my life and yours, regardless of what is happening around us, in the absolute safety of His Almighty hand."
 
What I Thought
When I first learned of the storyline of this novel, I was intrigued. I've found myself drawn to books set in Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, but never considered how terrorism may not limited to the Middle East, but may in fact be spreading to South America.

I'll admit, I was drawn to read the book by Wiindle's mixing of news and fiction. That aspect alone was intriguing.

First off, you should know this book is hefty. It's probably not "beach reading" - it's large both in size and well, depth of story.

Because of the way Windle has crafted the book - she takes the first 100 or so pages to set the back story - it took me a while to get into the "meat" of the story. That was a bit frustrating.

However, I'm glad I hung on, because this is one of those novels that will make you think - you may even find yourself doing your own research to determine what is real and what is fiction.


This novel is a solid three on the scale of three to five stars. It's well written and researched. It will definitely make you think. You may not agree with everything Windle's put into this novel - but I do think her experience as a missionary kid (or MK) in Columbia gives the book an air of authenticity.

Windle's written a few other novels (you can find out more on her blog), and at least one has caught my eye several times in the bookstore. After having the opportunity to interview and read The DMZ, I'll probably pick up at least one more book by Windle. She's definatley an author on my "go see" list (go and see what they've finished the next time I'm at the bookstore looking for something to read!).

FYI - This novel, meant to be a stand-alone, does finish with a bit of an open ending. At this time, Windle said she doesn't plan to craft a sequel - but that could change.

More About The Book
Jeanette Windle's book The DMZ (Kregel Publications, 12/21/2010, ISBN: 9780825441936), a suspense novel that takes place in the jungles of Colombia, weaves her knowledge from her own childhood in Colombia with her meticulous research that even the US government couldn't ignore it. But Windle turned her government questioners into fast fans of her work with her attention to detail and skill at telling a compelling story.

In The DMZ, Windle explores the relationship between the Islamic fundamentalist groups and the guerrilla warfare in Colombia. More than a decade after the end of the cold war has chilled the Marxist rebel movements around the world, one hot spot remains-Colombia. The inexplicable loss of three major US assets draws the attention of the world to the Colombian demilitarized zone-the "DMZ." Are the local Colombian rebels responsible? Or is a deadly Middle Eastern secret cloaked by the jungle canopy of the DMZ?

Among the contingent of politicians and media headed for the DMZ is reporter Julie Baker, whose parents had been missionaries in Colombia. Old hurts and terrors resurge as she revisits the place of her birth-and her parents' deaths. When Julie's own abduction by guerrillas triggers a time bomb that has been ticking under the feet of the US for a decade, she is left with more questions than answers.

With the fate of two countries resting in her hands, Julie must put aside her own terror to face just what God's call to sacrifice will mean for her past and her increasingly uncertain future.

About The Author
As the child of missionary parents, Windle, an award-winning author and journalist, grew up in the rural villages, jungles, and mountains of Colombia, now guerrilla hot zones.

Currently based in Lancaster, Pa., Windle has lived in six countries and traveled in more than 30 on five continents. She has 15 books in print, including political/suspense best-seller CrossFire, The Parker Twins series and Tyndale House Publishers releases: Betrayed, Veiled Freedom, and Freedom's Stand.

Online Resources
Find out more about Windle on her website: http://www.jeanettewindle.com/
Check out Windle's blog: http://www.jeanettewindle.blogspot.com/
Or friend her on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jeanette.windle
Find The DMZ: At amazon.com

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Litfuse Publicity Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Today

It's been a long, good day of vacation.
When I "surface" into the real world, it's a day of mixed emotions.

Emotions that would take too long to process and honestly, I'm not ready to be public with them.

However, this quote, posted on Facebook by my cousin, really really helps start to put into words, the feelings I have related to the national news of Osama bin Laden's death.

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.” - - Martin Luther King, Jr.

I also think this Biblical passage, posted by Rick Warren also help process this day from a Christian perspective....

"I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people.I only want them to turn from wicked ways so they may live" Ezekiel 33:11

I closed last night on Facebook, shortly after hearing the news with this blessing, taken from Numbers 6:24-26, we would say at the end of each youth group gathering (when I was a teenager) ....It continues to be my prayer today, for everyone....

May the Lord bless you and keep you,
May the Lord make His face shine upon you,
and be gracious unto you,
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you peace.

May we ultimately find peace in this crazy, chaos-filled world.
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