Divine Intervention by Cheryl Kaye Tardif begins with mysterious fires and murders that are obviously arson and Gemini lighters being left at the scenes of the crime. Initially these are all the information that Canadian Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Jasmine McLellan and her team have to begin their investigation. Well that is all they have until they arrive at the scene and use their psychic skills to gain additional knowledge. 

Jasmine, or Jasi, is a pyro-psychic. She is capable of discerning information psychically about a fire, its origins and the arsonist. Her partners include a psychometric or touch empath, Benjamin Roberts, and Natassia Prushenko, a victim empath capable of receiving information from victims (living or deceased). All three work as Psychic Skills Investigators or PSI’s in Divine Ops under the guidance of Matthew Divine. Their current case is potentially volatile and highly sensitive because it involves the father of the British Columbian Premier, Allan Baker.

As with most national investigatory agencies, these CFBI agents are stepping on toes with their investigation, especially those of Arson Investigations or AI Chief Brandon Walsh. Sparks fly (pun intended) between Jasi and Brandon, as they do between Natassia and Ben. As this quartet embarks upon their investigation, they begin to realize there is more going on than a potentially politically sensitive murder. The current murder reveals medical malpractice, a for-profit and highly illicit abortion clinic, a previous murder, attempted murder and child abuse within the foster care system and all were covered up. Unfortunately these are secrets that won’t stay hidden. 

The story seemed quite realistic and not at all farfetched given the psychic abilities of the main characters. However, Ben and Natassia seem to have limited secondary roles and are, at times, relegated to doing minor background investigatory work rather than working with Jasi as full partners. The prickly and somewhat off-putting behavior by Jasi takes a bit of getting used to but is accepted as a facade that keeps people away. If she doesn’t have people close then she doesn’t have to worry about them, or so she thinks. To say that Jasi is a bit of a control freak is a major understatement. The arsons, investigations, action and characters (major and minor) provide for a really good story. I would classify Divine Intervention as a mystery-suspense with a slight paranormal and romantic slant. 

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated 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.”


Book 178: SAINT’S GATE Review

A missing painting, a Viking Saint, lost treasure, a murdered nun and a former novice turned FBI agent investigating the painting and murder with the help of an undercover FBI agent. Strange combination but these are the basics at the center of Saint’s Gate by Carla Neggers.

Emma Sharpe is a former novitiate with the Sisters of the Joyful Heart. She realized that she was not suited to life as a nun prior to taking her final vows and was ultimately recruited into the FBI working as an investigator in art theft and fraud. She is called by Sister Cecilia to return to the convent to provide an opinion on a painting. Unfortunately when she arrives to inspect the painting it disappears and Sister Cecilia is brutally murdered on the convent grounds. When her FBI boss turns up and an undercover FBI agent she begins to suspect that there is more going on than she may realize. Her investigation takes her to Ireland and back and she still is having difficulty grasping the connection, if any, between her life and that of Colin Donovan, undercover FBI agent. 

I wish I could say I enjoyed reading Saint’s Gate but regrettably I can’t. The action and dialogue were literally all over the place. At times it felt as if I was dropped into the middle of the story without knowing much about the plot or characters. As a romantic suspense story the romance was expected yet appeared forced and there was little suspense to be found. Although I generally enjoy reading Ms. Neggers’ books, this one seemed to miss on so many levels (plot, characters, and dialogue). 

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated 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.”

Book 177: THE LANTERN Review

Every now and again you read a book and think, wow . . . excellent writing, realistic and incredible characters, wonderful settings and a great plot. Don’t get me wrong, there are great books written and read every day. But there are also plenty of good books and not so good books as well. The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson is one of the great books.

The writing is not only beautiful but beautifully evocative. Ms. Lawrenson paints pictures with words that capture the imagination and allow the reader to step inside of the story and walk alongside the characters. And we step inside the present with the story of Eve and Dom, and then we step into the past with Benedicte. Eve is a French to English translator. She falls in love with Dom and they relocate from the UK to France, pastoral northern France. Dom is, apparently, independently wealthy and they purchase and rehabilitate a farmhouse. Benedicte was born and raised in this farmhouse and the reader is invited to see the past through her story and memories. Eve isn’t exactly naive but she does have a certain sense of naïveté about her, especially when it comes to Dom. She has the sense that something from his past is haunting his present and that it most likely is related to his ex-wife, Rachel. It doesn’t help that the local realtor evidently met Rachel and suspects that something untoward happened to her. Her fears overshadow Eve’s love and longing to build a life with Dom. 

Benedicte is a typical farm girl. Although she longs for more, she knows that she must stay to help her family, especially since her older sister is blind and no longer living at home and their brother cannot be relied upon to help out. Over the years Benedicte has worked the land and kept up the farm/estate as best as she can but she has also suffered major disappointments (hopes for a career that never came to fruition and a lover that . . . disappointed her). In her old age, she reminisces and fears that she is losing her mind as ghostly visages torment her. She questions what really happened to her sister and why has she deserted her? 

The Lantern is filled with psychological horror that gradually builds throughout the story. The reader and characters begin to question what is and isn’t real, and suspect what has and hasn’t happened to people from the past. As I’ve previously stated, the writing is truly beautiful and captures the reader from beginning to end. If you can appreciate beautiful prose, great scenery, and credible characters accompanied by subtle psychological horror, then The Lantern is just the book for you.

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated 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.”

Weekend Ramblings 2

I’ve been suffering from both reader’s and writer’s block over the past week. I finished my reading (yeah!) but have had difficulty starting anything new or writing the reviews for what I’ve read. This is due in part to the fact that I LOVED The Lantern and feel that my review just won’t do it justice…it’s also (possibly, probably, highly likely — take your pick) due to the series of migraine headaches suffered over the past week. Since I generally have a migraine (or two) each and every day this shouldn’t have been anything out of the norm but add in a sinus headache component along with severe allergies and it made for a doozy of a headache for a few days.  On the plus side, I had a few hours of sinus and allergy respite yesterday and went to see The Help movie with some family members. I’ve got to say that I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was and how closely the movie followed the book. For those of you that have read the book, go see the movie! For those of you that have seen the movie, go read the book!

The West Virginia Book Festival made an exciting announcement earlier this week: Jerry West will be speaking at the festival on Saturday, October 22nd at 6:00 PM on his book West by West. Mr. West will also be signing autographs after his talk. Another author of note at the festival is Bonnie Stewart, No. 9: The 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster. Ms. Stewart’s book is scheduled to be released in November by the West Virginia University Press. This year’s festival looks to be just as exciting and interesting as previous years. Don’t forget to mark your calendars for October 22-23 to attend this year’s West Virginia Book Festival!

I guess I should spend some time writing reviews and get back to some reading. My TBR list is huge so I can’t say I don’t know what to read…  Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend. 

If you’re spending a few hours reading this weekend please share your reads with us.

Weekend Ramblings

I currently have two books that I’m reading, or rather supposed to be reading. For some reason I just can’t get in the mood to read. Of course this could be due to current family situations which include a recent death, funeral planning, and multiple birthday celebrations.

The past 12 days have included: my birthday, youngest brother’s birthday (his 41st — celebrated among immediate family), two cousins’ birthdays (recognized but not celebrated), death of an aunt (early Friday morning), and ends with the birthday celebration of an ex sister-in-law today. Thankfully birthdays as adults aren’t as big a deal as when we were children, but my mother insists on a family dinner followed by cards and gift giving. Fortunately I don’t celebrate birthdays, or at least my own for religious reasons, and can usually get out of the mandatory family dinner. However, since my recent birthday was for the big 5-0 I was informed that I HAD to attend. In my family we know that you don’t upset Momma (think of Tyler Perry’s “Madea” without the violent tendencies) so I went. It was kind of funny because there were no cards, gifts or singing but it was a great excuse to get the family together again during the middle of the summer. 

Just when I thought I was free from the birthday celebrations, this upcoming week has another aunt’s birthday [her 72nd] and my great-niece’s birthday [her 10th]. In between and around all of these upcoming “celebrations” our family is also preparing for a funeral. I guess it will serve as a reminder that with life comes death. Something none of us want to think about but none can avoid. 

Now that I’ve depressed you as much as I am (sorry), I’m off to try and do some reading. Okay I’ll be doing some reading, out for some shoe shopping (a woman can never have too many shoes or handbags or too much jewelry!), then back to reading. I hope to have reviews of The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson and Saint’s Gate by Carla Neggers posted within the next few days. Until then happy reading . . .  

Book 176: SHOE STRINGS Review

One of the absolute best things about reading is the discovery of new-for-me authors. Sometimes these discoveries happen by chance and others by introduction. I was recently introduced to Shoe Strings by Christy Hayes and I’ve got to say I’m glad I had this opportunity.

Angelita Barros is an up-and-coming shoe designer from Atlanta. Her business started under unusual circumstances when she was only a teenager. Since then her business has grown, she has a business partner and a booming retail storefront. Things are looking up when her business is spotlighted in a local magazine. Angelita considers her business partner her family and has not had a relationship with her father, Davi Barros, for many years. Although she is scheduled to go on vacation after a business meeting, she opts to go to the mountains of North Carolina rather than the beaches of Florida. She’s hopeful that the beauty, peace and quiet will afford her an opportunity to catch up on designing and return to Atlanta refreshed and stress-free. All is going well until a near-naked man exits her rental cabin’s bathroom. What a way to meet a man? The man is Jesse Bloodworth, the son of the cabin’s owner and a business owner. Both Jesse and Angelita are fighting demons from their past. Angelita’s father is intruding into her life and trying to force her to make him a business partner of sorts to save not only his job at the Brazilian Consulate in Atlanta but perhaps his life. Jesse is trying to mend broken bridges with his ex-wife, Kerri Ann, his son Ty, and his father Cal. 

Kerri Ann is dealing with her own set of issues and is in love with the town’s resident lawyer, Bryce Jenson, but she doesn’t think she’s good enough for him since she got pregnant as a teenager. Jesse had left his wife and young child after his mother’s death because he knew that his marriage was a mistake and he needed to break free. He returned home when he realized what he had left behind and has been working on strengthening his bonds with his son and his father. Unfortunately his father couldn’t understand Jesse’s decision and can’t understand or accept that Kerri Ann has forgiven him for his actions. Meanwhile Angelita is fighting her own inner demons. She is attracted to Jesse but doesn’t feel that a relationship can progress so quickly after only a week or so and she doesn’t trust her feelings.

The central theme to Shoe Strings seems to be that everyone has feelings of inadequacy to overcome at some point in their lives, or in the words of one of my friends “everybody got issues.” Will Kerri Ann be able to overcome her feelings of inferiority and accept the love being offered to her? Can Angelita see her father for who he really is before forcing her to do something that is wrong for her business and possibly dangerous if not illegal? Will Jesse be able to make amends with Cal? Can he get Angelita to see that love isn’t an either-or situation?

I truly enjoyed reading Shoe Strings (could have been better if there were pictures of the shoes included . . . just kidding). Angelita and Kerri Ann are strong, independent and savvy women. Their inner weaknesses aren’t as masked as they would like and make for some interesting exchanges between themselves and others.  Bryce and Jesse are lightly flirtatious but Southern Gentlemen to the core. Jesse is not as carefree as he initially appears and is remorseful for his past mistakes. He realizes that you may not be able to go back in time and change things but you can definitely work to make things better from each day forward. Although classified as a romance, and yes that fits, it is slightly more in my opinion. Shoe Strings is a great and quick read filled with romance, a little bit of intrigue and a touch of fun.

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated 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.”

Book 175: THE EVIL INSIDE Review

Salem, Massachusetts has a rich and strange history. It is a beautiful coastal town that is now best known for its history with the Salem Witch Trials. Centuries ago the mass hysteria led to numerous accusations of witchcraft and many innocents died. Now a series of heinous murders, Lizzie Borden style murders, may lead to the lifelong incarceration of a true innocent. Jenna Duffy, a member of the Krewe of Hunters, is asked by her uncle to come to Salem and investigate and perhaps save Malachi Smith, the accused murderer. Is there an old evil lurking in Salem or is this just another case of people judging what they don’t understand? The Evil Inside by Heather Graham is the fourth in the Krewe of Hunters series and seeks to answer these questions.

Jenna begins to work unofficially with her uncle to investigate these bizarre murders. Is it possible that Malachi may have killed his family, a neighbor and a former school teacher without knowing it? What was his motive? Jenna and Uncle Jamie feel that Malachi may be railroaded because of his family’s unconventional religious beliefs (hard to believe that a town can embrace Wicca but have a problem with a fundamentalist Christian faith). Malachi’s father wasn’t loved or understood and was inordinately strict but, were these grounds for murder? Fortunately Jenna and Uncle Jamie are assisted by a well-known Boston attorney, Samuel Hall. Their investigation starts with the house that was the scene of several historical murders just like the Smith family’s murders. What follows isn’t really a paranormal thriller than a basic whodunit mystery. As a mystery, The Evil Inside keeps the reader on the edge with the story twists and turns. The initially antagonistic relationship between Jenna and Sam quickly devolves into the expected love-fest. This story doesn’t involve as many of the Krewe of Hunters, Jackson, Angela and Will make appearances and play secondary roles in the investigation. Jake makes cameo appearances by phone consultations. The ghost of Rebecca Nurse, the first to die as a result of the Salem Witch Trials, makes periodic appearances as well.

The Evil Inside does a great job of weaving the factual history of the Salem Witch Trials into the fictional story line. The inclusion of the ghost of Rebecca Nurse is a nice touch. As a romantic suspense-thriller, this falls a little short. This may be because it has more focus on the sexual aspects of the relationship and not so much on the romance. But as a suspense thriller it excels, with the thrills and mystery front and center. Ms. Graham has taken fact and fiction and woven them into a great story. The Evil Inside is a great suspense-thriller with paranormal elements and a light romance thrown in . . . a perfect read for the weekend. The Evil Inside is scheduled for release on August 30th.

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated 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.”

Book 174: THE CANARY LIST Review

Imagine that there is true evil in the world in the guise of demons. These demons have the capability of possessing humans and perverting them to suit their needs. Now imagine that these possessed humans have infiltrated government and world religions including religious hierarchy. This is the world that 12-year-old Jaimie Piper and her teacher Crockett Grey have been pushed into in The Canary List by Sigmund Brouwer.

Jaimie knows that there is someone or something after her and seeks protection from the only adult she feels she can trust, a teacher. Unfortunately that teacher is an unmarried male and he lives alone. Someone uses this to exploit the situation and remove Jaimie from Crockett’s protection under the guise of him possibly being a pedophile and in possession of child pornography. It doesn’t help that the one person that can attest to Jaimie staying outside of the home under the supervision of a woman, Crockett’s elderly neighbor Nana, has disappeared. Throw a very restrained child psychologist (Dr. Madelyne Mackenzie) into the mix along with an exorcist (Father O’Hare), the foster care system, Satanism, a crazed stalker, add in the Catholic Church and a comatose Pope and you’ve got a mess.

The underlying premise to this story is that Jaimie is genetically predisposed toward being sensitive to the demon-possessed. She is, in effect, the “canary” in detecting evil. Although there are others like her around the world, they are few and far between. These women have been used by the Catholic Church for centuries to ensure that evil does not gain a hold on the church, especially its cardinals or would-be popes. The intrigue involved in uncovering who is and isn’t evil within the church and their individual motives and power struggles made for some interesting reading. I had difficulty accepting the author’s premise (yes I know it is fiction) that demons are using priests to exploit children as the excuse for the church-related pedophilia cases. The action was all over the place, much like a rollercoaster ride. At times it was hard to keep track of all of the scheming as well as plot twists and turns. I won’t tell you how it ends but the ending left me saying “what?” and wondering what exactly had happened. The only characters that seemed realistic were Jaimie and Crockett. They had their flaws and frailties and weren’t afraid to show them. This, in my opinion helped to show their humanity. The others were somewhat flat and seemed to be more caricatures than characters. The Canary List isn’t a bad story nor was it badly written but there was just something that kept it from being little more than a decent read.

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the publisher through Blogging For Books. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated 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.”

Book 173: HUSBAND AND WIFE Review

Imagine that you’re preparing to attend a friend’s wedding, the babysitter is downstairs keeping the children engaged, your husband is looking for a shoe and he decides to tell you that he had an affair a year ago while you were pregnant. So begins Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart. 

Sarah Price is forced to accept that her marriage is far from perfect. She also realizes that Nathan’s newest book INFIDELITY has far-reaching implications now that he’s admitted to his own infidelity. She has given up on her own creativity as a poet to work and support their family so Nathan could continue to write. Sarah thought she was happy but soon realizes that she has just become accepting of life changes rather than being truly happy. In an effort to regain her sense of self, she plays hooky from work, packs up the kids and travels from North Carolina to Texas by car. She stays with friends in Texas and starts a “relationship” with a college friend that seems to appreciate her for who she really is.

In many ways Sarah has to learn to accept that she is providing more restraints on her life than anyone else. She can’t blame Nathan or circumstances on where she is with regards to being a poet. She decided that she couldn’t write poetry anymore and that she had nothing more to offer creatively. When she realizes that marriage and life is about compromise as well as growth, she realizes that creativity is ultimately in the mind of the beholder. If she wants to write poetry she can, if she doesn’t then she won’t. Along with this realization comes the knowledge that you can’t ever go back in time. 

Although I condemn Nathan’s extramarital activities, I found that I could only sympathize with Sarah so far. Her reaction of “you had an affair so I should be able to have one too” is very childish. I found Husband and Wife to be a decent read, providing a credible and realistic story even with the juvenile attitudes and behavior.    

Book 172: HEART OF EVIL Review

What do an old Louisiana plantation, a civil war re-enactment and things that go bump in the night have in common? These are all elements in the second Krewe of Hunters book Heart of Evil by Heather Graham. (Yes I know I read the books out of sequence, but it didn’t seem to make that much of a difference.)

Ashley Donegal is the co-owner/operator of a hotel in her family’s plantation home. During a Civil War re-enactment a man is murdered. It just so happens that this particular man was portraying her forefather, Marshall Donegal, and the body is left in the family cemetery. Ashley’s grandfather is concerned, seeks some favors from old friends, and before you know the Krewe of Hunters is on the scene to help with the investigation. The first to arrive on the scene is Jake Mallory, an old Donegal family friend and ex-lover to Ashley. What follows is an investigation into the past and present with a little help from some family ghosts. 

I rather liked the incorporation of past with the present in terms of the Donegal family history. Sorry to say but that was about all I really liked from this particular story. The characters seemed to be a bit flat, most of the action was expected, and even the romance seemed forced. I sadly found the ghosts to be more entertaining than anyone else. This particular series seems to be a hit-or-miss combo for me, as I found book one – Phantom Evil to be an okay read, book three – Sacred Evil to be a good read, and now book two –  Heart of Evil back to being an okay read.   

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated 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.”