Saturday, July 31, 2010

FREE DOWNLOAD & Book Review: "Katy's New World" (The Katy Lambright Series Book #1) by Kim Vogel Sawyer

"Katy's New World" (The Katy Lambright Series Book #1)
Author: Kim Vogel Sawyer
Publisher: Zondervan
ISBN: 9780310719243
Genre: Young Adult, Spiritual growth, fiction, Christian fiction

Synopsis (from publisher):

When Katy Lambright is given the opportunity to attend a secular high school outside her Mennonite community, she is ecstatic. But as Katy begins to adjust to life outside her community and begins to make decisions for herself, her relationships with her family and lifelong friends become strained. Can Katy balance her new world with the Old Order?




Do you have an e-reader?? For a limited time only, Zondervan is offering "Katy's New World" FREE!! Just click the following links to download for your particular reader:

Nook Edition for iPhone, Kindle, PC, Mac, Blackberry
Kindle Edition for iPhone, Nook, PC, Mac, Blackberry, Android
Sony Edition for Sony Reader, Nook, PC, Mac, Linux

My Thoughts:

It's hard enough being on the outside of a normal group of people, but take a girl in her sophomore year, make her old order Mennonite, and put her in a new school - a secular school when all she's known is the Mennonite school in her community. Katy wants to fit in, but she struggles with what she's grown up learning, what is right, and wanting to fit in.

Katy's struggles with being the new girl make this for an interesting read. She not only has problems with her new school, but now doesn't completely fit in with her community that she grew up in. Katy struggles with trying to find her place and ends up making some choices that not only make some people angry, but gets her into trouble.

This is a great read for teens through adults. It gives great insight to being different and wanted to be accepted. Highly recommended!!

This book is from my personal e-library.

Winners of Tempted by a Warrior


Congratulations to the following winners:

Simply Stacie
nfmgirl
Sandy J
Hott Books-Gina
409cope

You all have been chosen by random.org to receive a copy of "Tempted by a Warrior"!! I have emailed you for your mailing information.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Blind Hope" Blog Tour: "Blind Hope" by Kim Meeder and Laurie Sacher


Blind Hope: An Unwanted Dog & the Woman She Rescued
Authors: Kim Meeder and Laurie Sacher
Publisher: Multnomah Books
ISBN: 9781601422804
Genre: Inspirational

About This Book (from publisher):

An unwanted dog. An emotional rescue.
Two lives forever changed.
Laurie's dreams had been shattered before she came to work at Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch—the ranch of rescued dreams—where broken horses and broken children encounter healing every day. In an attempt to soothe her aching soul, Laurie reached out to save a dog in need. And she soon began to realize that the dog was rescuing her.

An inspiring true story told through the engaging voice of Kim Meeder, Blind Hope reveals poignant life lessons Laurie experienced from her ailing, yet courageous canine friend. Despite the blindness of her dog—and her own heart—Laurie uncovered what she really needed most: authentic love, unconditional trust, and true acceptance, faults and all.

As Laurie and her dog, Mia, both learned to follow the lead of a master they couldn’t see, Laurie discovered the transforming power of God’s grace even for imperfect and selfish people—and she experienced a greater love than she had ever known.

“Love is a bridge that stands firm through difficulties and connects one heart directly to another, not because of how it looks, but because of what it is.”    --Kim Meeder, Blind Hope


Download Chapter 1 Here






My Thoughts:

A beautiful story about unconditional love, hope, faith and healing, "Blind Hope" will tug at your heartstrings. Mia, a rescued dog, teaches her new owner, Mia, about what matters most in life. Who knew that a rescue could bring such enlightenment into another being's life?!

I really did enjoy this book, but at times found the discussions about God a bit much and monotonous. I found the parallels between Mia's relationship with Laurie and Laurie's relationship with God to be very good, but something that I had figured out on my own. I wanted more information about Mia and her life and a bit less about Laurie's discussions with Kim.

The message is really very good and the book is definitely worth reading. Mia alone captured my heart and brought tears to my eyes!!

About the Authors

Kim Meeder is the cofounder and director of Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, an organization that rescues abused and dying horses and pairs them with children in need. Kim’s first book, Hope Rising, propelled the ranch to win the national Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award and launched her extensive public/motivational speaking schedule at schools, churches, and governmental conferences across the United States. She and her husband, Troy, have been married for twenty-five years and live in Central Oregon. The size of their family fluctuates each year with the number of horses and kids that they rescue.

Laurie Sacher is a team leader at Crystal Peaks Youth. Laurie graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University in 2003 and taught English as Second Language in Spain before returning to her native California roots to pursue her passion for kids and animals. When she isn't working at the ranch, Laurie enjoys running with her dog, snowboarding, hiking, horseback riding, and spending time in coffee shops with friends.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Book Review: "South African Gourmet Food & Wine" by Myrna Rosen & Lesley Loon

South African Gourmet Food & Wine: Traditional South African Food & More...
Authors: Myrna Rosen & Lesley Loon
Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.
ISBN: 9780805941876
Genre: Cooking, South African, food, wine

About the Book (from publisher website):

"South African Gourmet Food and Wine: Traditional South African Food and More..." is a superb collection of genuine South African cuisine, including local favorite dishes from a variety of contributors.... [It] offers the cooking enthusiast...a wonderful array of mouth-watering creations as much fun to prepare as they are delicious to eat." - Bookwatch

"South African Gourmet Food and Wine: Traditional South African Food and More..." is an excellent, well-rounded source of South African cuisine, including local-favorite dishes from a variety of contributors. No dish is too complex to be fixed in any kitchen, and many delectables can be made quickly and easily.

From crayfish to sosaties, bobotie to chicken periperi, and from torte to truffles to South African wedding cake - these are a sample of the dishes ready to be prepared from this fun cookbook.

There is an historical section on the KWV wines of South Africa, with wine service suggestions throughout the book as well as many dishes featuring unique wines and liqueurs as ingredients.

Myrna Rosen and Lesley Loon overwhelm the cooking enthusiast with a great array of mouth-watering culinary creations. This book is a must for everyone who loves to cook...and eat!


My Thoughts:

First impressions:

When I pulled this book out of the package, I was immediately taken by the stunning cover. It is simple, but the photographs demanded that I pay much more attention to what was inside the book. Upon opening the book, I found the pages to be nice and heavy and the print to be clear and easy to read. In the middle of the book are 16 pages of gorgeous full color photos of some of the dishes contained in the book.

That's great, but can I really get the ingredients to make all those delicious looking dishes?

My first impressions made me really wonder how difficult the recipes would be, as well as how easily obtainable the ingredients would be. Since it's a South African cookbook, I had assumed I would need a grocery store that carried South African ingredients. I live in the middle of nowhere in a small village where the largest "city" within an hour's distance has a population under 40,000, so you know I'm probably not going to easily find ingredients.

The South African wines and spirits that are discussed and used in the cook book are available by mail-order from one source here in the US. If you live in Canada, you have a few more options. Sadly, because I live in Pennsylvania, I cannot mail order any of these items, so I must either make a trip to Connecticut to purchase them or substitute with something else. With that in mind, I did not try any of the recipes containing alcohol (yet).

What I was most surprised about was the specialty ingredients - there really weren't that many and usually a easily obtainable substitute was given!

Those dishes looked beautiful in the photos - I bet they are difficult to cook and being gourmet, I bet many of them are beyond my taste buds!

What I loved about the book is many of the recipes are not only delicious, but are quite easy to make. I found most of the difficulty was chopping up the ingredients before cooking. (in other words - really quite easy!) The recipes are clear with easy to follow instructions.

Most of the recipes weren't terribly different than what I grew up with. That really surprised me. I had expected more "odd" dishes, but according to the introduction to the book, South African cooking is much like ours - a blend of all different elasticities. This gives more of a new twist to the recipes instead of being blatantly different. With that said, this makes a very user-friendly cookbook that I know I will be reaching for again and again.

There are numerous recipes calling for fish and chicken. Not nearly as many recipes were for red meats and nothing for pork. I found that somewhat surprising.

The recipes I tried were all delicious and most easy to make. The "Portabella Mushroom Soup" was surprisingly easy and yummy.  "Monkey Gland Steak" sounds extremely gross; however, it is not only delicious, but doesn't contain monkey at all!! There were a couple of recipes that were a little more fussy, like the "Chocolate Raspberry Dacquoise Torte", but they were well worth the effort!

So what did I really think of this book?

I just love this cookbook and will be using it a lot in the future. There are so many delicious looking recipes that I haven't tried yet and everything that I have tried, I will be making again in the future. Without being able to view this book in the bookstore, I would have passed it up, assuming the ingredients would have been impossible to obtain, and being "gourmet", the recipes would have been terribly expensive to make and way too unusual for my average cooking style and taste. I would have really missed out on something wonderful!!


I received a complimentary copy of "South African Gourmet Food & Wine" as a member of the Dorrance Publishing Book Review Team. Visit dorrancebookstore.com to learn how you can become a member of the Book Review Team.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour and Review: "Ransomed Dreams" by Sally John

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Ransomed Dreams (Side Roads)

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (June 7, 2010)

***Special thanks to Vicky Lynch of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


When the going gets tough—or weird or wonderful—the daydreamer gets going on a new story. Sally John has been tweaking life's moments into fiction since she read her first Trixie Belden mystery as a child.

Now an author of more than fifteen novels, Sally writes stories that reflect contemporary life. Her passion is to create a family, turn their world inside out, and then portray how their relationships change with each other and with God. Her goal is to offer hope to readers in their own relational and faith journeys.

Sally grew up in Moline, Illinois, graduated from Illinois State University, married Tim in 1973, and taught in middle schools. She is a mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother. A three-time finalist for the Christy Award, she also teaches writing workshops. Her books include the Safe Harbor series (coauthored with Gary Smalley), The Other Way Home series, The Beach House series, and In a Heartbeat series. Many of her stories are set in her favorite places of San Diego, Chicago, and small-town Illinois.

She and her husband currently live in southern California.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (June 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414327854
ISBN-13: 978-1414327853

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Topala, Mexico

Eighteen months later

Like everything about the small village tucked into the foothills of the Sierra Madres in central Mexico, sunrise was a leisurely event.

Sheridan waited for it, tea mug in hand, shawl over her cotton nightgown, bare feet chilled against the tile floor of the second-story balcony. Alone, she listened in the dark to the squawk of roosters and clung to their promise that the world would once again know light.

“Oh, good grief,” she murmured to herself with a groan. “That is so maudlin. Truly and hopelessly maudlin. You might try something more chipper. Something like . . . Something like . . .” Her foggy brain offered nothing.

She scrunched her nose in defeat. The morning had shuffled in on the heels of a sleepless night. Chipper was not going to happen, no matter how hard she tried to talk herself into it.

If she could turn the calendar back eighteen months, she would not be talking to herself. No. Eliot would be right next to her, responding, most likely pointing out a dozen chipper thoughts in that funny way of his.

Nostalgia and regret hit her, a powerful one-two punch that still took her breath away. She clenched her teeth, waiting for it to pass, mentally spewing forth a verbal attack at the counselor who had promised her that time healed all wounds, that month by month they would see improvement.

What drivel that was! Eighteen months—or to be more precise, seventeen months, three weeks, and two days; but who was counting? All that time had passed and only one thing was healed: Eliot’s gunshot wound. His other wounds, the invisible ones, still oozed like toxins from a waste dump site. He was not the same man she had married.

Sheridan took a deep breath and let the bitter argument go. Nostalgia and regret settled back down into whatever corner of her heart they’d found to hide out in. Their impact, though, lingered.

Would time ever erase her longing for the Eliot she had married? The animated one, the one others adored, the one who was engaged in every detail of life, whether simple or complex, with every person who crossed his path. The one from B.C.E., Before the Caracas Episode. Now, in their A.C.E. days, he might as well be a deaf-mute for all the interest he showed in the world around him.

Sleep-deprived, she totally blamed him. She didn’t mean to. It wasn’t like he had much of a choice. The bullet that shattered his nerves shattered their life. Everything about it was over. Health, career, home, friends. All gone. Kaput. Some days she barely recognized herself and Eliot. Where were the Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery she once knew? These routines, hometown, health, acquaintances, and even personalities seemed lifted from the pages of some stranger’s biography.

“Oh, honestly. Get over it already, Sher.” She forced a swallow of tea and focused on the scene before her.

A lone sunbeam pierced between two mountain peaks and sliced into the distant mists. Another followed. And another and another until finally pure light broke free. Valleys and canyons burst into sight. Loud birdsong erupted. Then, as if God had uncurled His fist, long fingers of sunlight shot forth and touched the wrought-iron railing where she stood.

It was achingly gorgeous.

Sheridan flicked at a tear seeping from the corner of her eye. “You should have stayed in bed, you foolish, stubborn woman.”

Sunrises were the worst because they represented the best of what had been.

Most days she could ignore that thought. Evidently not today. She and Eliot were morning people. Had been morning people. Their daily ritual of tea and conversation at an east-facing view, awaiting dawn, was seldom missed. With crazy-full schedules, they needed such a time to relate on the deepest levels. Some days their hearts positively danced and sang in union. Naturally, through the years the tune changed now and then, the tempo sped up and slowed down, but the music never stopped. It never stopped. They always talked. They always connected.

Until that day in Caracas.

Now she watched sunrises by herself.

“You really should’ve stayed in bed.”

But it was so beautiful. And it went on and on like a slow waltz. At the bottom of her street now, purple haze still shrouded the town square. The sky brightened in slow motion above it, the fiery ball itself still hiding behind a peak.

Something moved in the semidarkness below. A person. Early risers were not uncommon, but she was startled. Something felt off about this one.

Or was that just her hypervigilance? Compliments of the incident in Caracas, it kicked into gear at times without warning, filling her with anxiety and suspicion.

Now she could see that it was a man. He passed the bandstand, his strides too deliberate for a villager, too American. He headed straight for the steep incline that led up to her house. In city terms, the distance was perhaps a block. In Topala terms, it was simply up beyond the sculptor’s shop.

The sun overtook the peaks and the man came into view.

“No way.” Her heartbeat slowed, but not quite to normal.

Even with his face concealed by a ball cap, his body clothed in a generic khaki jacket and blue jeans, a city block separating them, she recognized him. She recognized him simply because the air vibrated with him.

Luke Traynor owned whatever space he occupied.

Sheridan set the mug on the table beside her, tightened the shawl around her shoulders, and massaged her left arm. She felt no surprise at his unannounced arrival nor at the early hour. It was as if she had always expected him to show up sooner or later.

But as he climbed the narrow street, an uneasiness rose within her. Her muscles tensed. Why was he here? He had promised not to come. Sixteen months ago he promised. Not that she was keeping track. . . .

The sound of a soft whistle drew her attention back toward the square. Javier, the young sculptor, stood on the porch steps outside his shop. Behind him, the handicraft shop owner emerged from his door.

Javier raised his chin in question.

Sheridan gave a half nod. They needn’t be concerned. The stranger was, so to speak, a known quantity. Not that she felt the least bit glad to see Luke. Eliot would most likely be severely distressed at his arrival.

Wishing Luke were an apparition did not make it so. He continued his steady pace, arms swinging gently, head down as if he studied the cobblestones, making his way to her house.

Since that day in Caracas—the day her husband died in every sense except physically, the day this man saved her life—Sheridan had understood intuitively that Luke would always be a part of her life. And there he was, out of the blue, ascending her street in the middle of nowhere on a spring day as if he visited all the time.

She suddenly remembered the date. “Good grief.”

It was Annunciation Day, a day of remembrance, of celebration for when the angel Gabriel visited Mary and announced her future. How apropos. Luke appeared without warning. He would not have come unless he had something to tell her, some message that would irreversibly change her future.

Was this his joke or God’s?

Luke neared and looked up, straight at her.

She saw not the man whose presence had always triggered apprehension in her, but rather the guardian angel who had saved her life.

Sheridan turned and made her way inside, down the stairs, and through the house.

* * *

Sheridan opened the front door and stopped.

Luke Traynor stood less than six feet away, at the low gate in the stone wall where her front terrace met the steep hill.

She returned his steady gaze, knowing full well her own expression did not mirror the one before her. While dread, relief, and excessive gratitude rearranged every muscle on her face, his remained perfectly composed. The sharp nose, thin lips, and deep-set eyes could have been made of the same cobblestone he stood on.

He flashed a rakish grin. “I was in the neighborhood.”

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

He cocked his head, somber again. Always the gentleman, he waited for her to make the first move.

Sheridan clutched her shawl more closely and resigned herself to riding out the emotional disarray rumbling through her. She both loathed and loved this man. Of course he knew that, so it didn’t matter how she reacted to him except that she’d like herself better if she were polite.

With a quiet sigh, she walked to him, planted a kiss on his scruffy, unshaven cheek, and eased into his embrace. Nestled against the rough collar of his jacket, she smelled the familiar scent of him, an indescribable mix of earth, sun-drenched air, and confidence that bordered on lunacy. She felt the hardness of his body, always unexpected given his average height and build.

“Sheridan. How are you?”

“Fine.” She backed away, crossing her arms.

“And Eliot?” he said. “How is he?”

“Fine.”

Luke blinked, a slow movement of lids indicating he could take the truth.

She wanted to shriek obscenities at him. The disconcerting thing about angels, though, was that it was impossible to keep up any sort of pretense. Like an angel, Luke had stayed close beside her for long weeks after the shooting. He had gone with her to the edge of hell, holding on to her until she came back. He knew her better than she knew herself. Glossing over answers was a waste of time with him.

She tried another phrase. “We’re doing about as well as could be expected.”

He nodded.

“Eliot is still asleep.”

“It’s early. Perhaps I can greet him later.”

The resistance drained from her. Yes, Gabriel had come to deliver a message, and he would not leave until he’d done so.

She had no inkling how to shield Eliot and herself from this unexpected source of distress but gave a lame attempt. “I don’t suppose you’re passing through town and simply must be on your way right now, this very minute?”

“Sorry.”

She inhaled, her shoulders lifting with the effort, and blew the breath out with force. “Coffee?”

“Love some.”


Excerpted from Ransomed Dreams by Sally John. Copyright 2010 by Sally John. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.




My Thoughts

"Ransom Dreams" is a book about love, loss, heartache, failure, broken dreams, temptation, healing, and forgiveness. It is thrilling and filled with suspense that will keep you in interested wanting to turn the page to find out more.

The main character, Sheridan, is a realistic character that would frustrate me, because she wasn't always upbeat and happy. She was real with real emotions - fear, anger, frustration, hate. She held grudges and reacted too much like a real person instead of a "good Christian" - a person who you could empathize with and at times dislike, making her a great character. Actually, all the characters were real and very well developed.

I got very involved with certain characters, changed my mind about others, and loved the storyline. With the twists and turns, I was kept entertained, and then came the ending... The ending was a fantastic surprise - I never saw it coming! I love books that have endings that catch me by surprise.

This book was supplied by the publisher through FIRST for me to honestly review.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Virtual Book Tour: "Masked" by Lou Anders

Masked
Author/Editor: Lou Anders
Publisher: Gallery, July 2010
ISBN: 9781439168820
Genre: fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, anthology

Book Description (from publisher):

WELCOME TO THE SECOND "GOLDEN AGE" OF SUPERHEROES AND HEROINES Superheroes have come a long way since the "Man of Steel" was introduced in 1938. This brilliant new collection features original stories and novellas from some of today's most exciting voices in comics, science fiction, and fantasy. Each marvelously inventive tale shows us just how far our classic crusaders have evolved—and how the greatest of heroes are, much like ourselves, all too human.

In "Call Her Savage," MARJORIE M. LIU enters the dark heart of a fierce mythic heroine who is forced, by war, to live up to her own terrible legend.

In "A to Z in the Ultimate Big Company Superhero Universe (Villains Too)," BILL WILLINGHAM presents a fully-realized vision of a universe where epic feats and tragic flaws have transformed the human race.

In "Vacuum Lad," STEPHEN BAXTER unveils the secret origins of the first true child of the space age—and disproves the theory that "nothing exists in a vacuum."

In "Head Cases," PETER DAVID and KATHLEEN DAVID blast through the blogosphere to expose the secret longings of a Lonely Superhero Wife.

In "The Non-Event," MIKE CAREY removes the gag order on a super-thief named Lockjaw . . . and pries out a confession of life-altering events.

Book includes:

  • Introduction: The Golden Age by Lou Anders
  • "Cleansed and Set in Gold" by Matthew Sturges
  • "Where their Worm Dieth Not" by James Maxey
  • "Secret Identity" by Paul Cornell
  • "The Non-Event" by Mike Carey
  • "Avatar" by Mike Baron
  • "Message from the Bubblegum Factory" by Daryl Gregory
  • "Thug" by Gail Simone
  • "Vacuum Lad" by Stephen Baxter
  • "A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows" by Chris Roberson
  • "Head Cases" by Peter David & Kathleen David
  • "Downfall" by Joseph Mallozzi
  • "By My Works You Shall Know Me" by Mark Chadbourn
  • "Call Her Savage" by Marjorie M. Liu
  • "Tonight we fly" by Ian McDonald
  • "A to Z in the Ultimate Big Company Superhero Universe (Villains Too)" by Bill Willingham
Sneak Peek - Browse inside "Masked"

My Thoughts:

"Masked" is an anthology of superhero stories and since I love superhero stories, this was a must read for me.

These were not the "run of the mill" type stories, but had some interesting ways of obtaining powers, some had human insecurities, and some that really surprised me - the hero isn't always very heroic. The stories are more on the adult level, containing adult themes and language. They are very entertaining, but nothing really grabbed me as exceptional.

For anyone that loves stories about superheroes, this book is a must read!

About the Author:

A 2008/2007 Hugo Award nominee, 2007 Chesley Award nominee and 2006 World Fantasy Award nominee, Lou Anders is the editorial director of Prometheus Books' science fiction imprint Pyr, as well as the editor of anthologies Fast Forward 2 (Pyr, October 2008), Sideways in Crime (Solaris, June 2008), Fast Forward 1(Pyr, February 2007), FutureShocks (Roc, January 2006), Projections: Science Fiction in Literature & Film (MonkeyBrain, December 2004), Live Without a Net (Roc, 2003), and Outside the Box (Wildside Press, 2001). In 2000, he served as the Executive Editor of Bookface.com, and before that he worked as the Los Angeles Liaison for Titan Publishing Group. He is the author of The Making of Star Trek: First Contact, and has published over 500 articles in various publications.

Book was supplied by Gallery for me to honestly review.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Virtual Book Tour & Review: "Beautiful Malice" by Rebecca James


We are returning today with Rebecca James' "Beautiful Malice" Tour. Rebecca was born in Sydney and spent her twenties teaching English in Indonesia and Japan. She currently lives in Armidale, Australia, with her partner and their four sons. She was kind enough to sit down and do a Q&A with me. If you missed it, you can find it here.


Beautiful Malice 
Beautiful Malice
Author: Rebecca James
Publisher: Bantam Books
ISBN: 9780553808056
Genre: Fiction, psychological thriller, suspense


About the Book (from PUYB):

An international sensation that The Wall Street Journal called a “publishing phenomenon,” this layered, poignant, and chilling novel of psychological suspense is the year’s most stunning American fiction debut. From its wrenching opening to its shocking climax, Beautiful Malice unfolds a haunting story in which people, motives, and circumstances are never what they seem.

Who is Katherine Patterson? It is a question she hopes no one can answer. To erase her past, Katherine has moved to a new city, enrolled in a new school, and even changed her name. She’s done the next best thing to disappearing altogether. Now, wary and alone, she seeks nothing more than anonymity. What she finds instead is the last thing she expected: a friend.

Even more unlikely, Katherine’s new friend is the most popular and magnetic girl in school. Extroverted, gorgeous, flirtatious, and unpredictable, she is everything that Katherine is not and doesn’t want to be: the center of attention. Yet Alice’s enthusiasm is infectious, her candor sometimes unsettling, and Katherine, in spite of her guarded caution, finds herself drawn into Alice’s private circle.

But Alice has secrets, too—darker than anyone can begin to imagine. And when she lets her guard down at last, Katherine discovers the darkest of them all. For there will be no escaping the past for Katherine Patterson—only a descent into a trap far more sinister . . . and infinitely more seductive.

My Thoughts:

Hold onto your hats, as this is one book that will take you for a ride through a sick and twisted relationship and friendship. It will keep you on the edge of your seat guessing and wondering why all the way to the end - an ending that I just didn't see coming! This story is complex and downright bone-chilling and after you finish, it will have you looking at relationships just a bit differently - especially the easily made ones.


Rebecca James is definitely a master at weaving this story of psychological suspense. It's so well done that I wondered exactly where she got her influences from as it felt quite real at times. Both the storyline and the characters were very well done and quite believable. Katherine was naive and lonely enough to allow Alice to become so close so quickly. Alice was crafted so well that she made you wonder why, and Robbie was hurt enough to make the triangle work.

Ms. James is certainly an author to watch. Her writing is both captivating and memorable. I know this book will be one I won't be forgetting any time soon. I'm looking forward to her next novel "Cooper Bartholomew is Dead" which is another psychological thriller.

About the Author:

Rebecca was born in Sydney and spent her twenties teaching English in Indonesia and Japan. She currently lives in Armidale, Australia, with her partner and their four sons.

If you missed  my Q&A with Rebecca, you can find it here.

Make sure to visit Rebecca's website where you can find more about her and her book "Beautiful Malice". You can find it at http://www.rebeccajamesbooks.com/.

FIRST Wildcard Tour: "The Cool Woman" by John Aubrey Anderson

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


The Cool Woman

Fidelis (July 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Julie Gwinn, Trade Book Marketing, B&H Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


When I was eight years old, I saw Flying Tigerswith John Wayne and knew I wanted to be a pilot. After graduating from Mississippi State University, I joined the Air Force. My career in the cockpit was nothing less than a thirty-five-year answer to a young boy’s unspoken prayer. With three tours in Southeast Asia behind me, I left the Air Force to work for Delta Air Lines. I flew for Delta for twenty-eight years and retired from the cockpit in 1997.

When I retired, I was a man who would rather be digging post holes with a popsickle stick than be trapped in a house. Then, in January of 2002, my wife watched God transform me into a man who hungers to hide in a room in front a computer monitor, trying to shape words into pictures.

Abiding Darkness, Wedgewood Grey and And If I Die—The Black or White Chronicles—concerned themselves with spiritual warfare and fit well in the thriller/suspense genre. The Cool Womanis an action/adventure novel with a Viet Nam War setting; the protagonist is a cool and competent fighter pilot.


Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Fidelis (July 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805464808
ISBN-13: 978-0805464801

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The rumor circulating in the snack bar Friday morning came straight from squadron operations.

Sixteen Air Force pilots, most of them in flightsuits, two or three in summer-weight tans, were clustered here and there around Orange Flight’s briefing room. They were all watching the door and V debating quietly about the accuracy of what they’d heard. The fact that their flight commander was ten minutes late for the morning briefing made the story more believable by the second.

Second Lieutenant Warren F. Masland sat alone at a table in the back of the room. Masland was the most junior instructor in the flight. If the rumor proved true, the new instructor’s career was going to end before it began.

When the commander, Captain Frank W. Steadman, finally showed up, the pilots watched him shuffle into the room and step onto the dais in much the same way a condemned man might mount the guillotine’s platform. He dropped a stack of paperwork on the lectern then flipped his notebook open and frowned at the first page while he pulled out a cigarette. The conversation groups broke up, and men drifted in Steadman’s direction and began taking seats. The two officers nearest him spoke to their leader . . . he didn’t respond. He got his cigarette going then tapped on the speaker’s stand with his lighter. “At ease, guys. Let’s get this over with.”

The two pilots Steadman snubbed kept their faces expressionless and cut their eyes at each other; the rumor was going to be true.

“Okay,” Steadman had yet to look at his troops, “we’ll divvy up the students first. After that, we’ll play catch-up on paperwork and take a long weekend.”

Orange Flight’s briefing room was one of four almost identical rooms in the nondescript, concrete block building that housed the 3525th Pilot Training Squadron. The speaker’s stand was backed by a large green chalkboard and an annotated map of the local flying area. A built-in bookcase on the chalkboard side would provide housing for the incoming trainees’ grade books. In keeping with the Air Force’s penchant for having its written directives weigh as much as its aircraft, an identical set of shelves on Steadman’s left was filled with an array of training manuals, binders full of obscure Air Force Regulations, and a small library of safety-related publications.

“We’ve only got one prior service troop,” Steadman spoke in a monotone, “a first lieutenant naviguesser. I’ll take him; the rest of you will start with two or three studs each.” He paused and let his gaze go to the back wall while he pursed his lips and massaged the back of his neck. “Okay.” He stepped to the side of the podium and took a few seconds to jab the unfinished cigarette out in an ashtray; his expression wasn’t a grimace, but it was close. He propped one foot on the base of the speaker’s stand and looked back at his notebook while smoothing a mustache he’d shaved off six weeks earlier. And finally, the rumor became an official fact. “We’ve got a black kid in the incoming bunch, gents.”

He let that soak in, then looked up to ask, “Any volunteers?”


There are several cardinal rules in the military; forever reigning in the number one slot is: Never volunteer for anything. Added to that, the pilots scattered around the room were well aware that an object in motion is easier for the human eye to detect, and they became military-garbed mannequins.

Except for the ceaseless sigh of air coming from the air-conditioning vents, the room was without sound.

In any group of sixteen men, some are almost certain to be racially biased, but that wasn’t the root cause behind the room’s pervading silence.

In July of the previous summer, a black lieutenant assigned to the T-37 flight down the hall washed out of pilot training. When he busted his final elimination check ride, the trainee told everyone who would listen that he was “kicked out” because of racial prejudice. Actually, the student’s early ouster from the program had nothing to do with skin color; for the instructors who worked with him, the conclusion was unanimous from the beginning . . . the man was not cut out to be a pilot; he didn’t have the “hands,” the heart, or the SA—the situational awareness.

Within hours of the student being eliminated from the program, his congressman stepped in and, without availing himself of the facts, started twisting arms. The colonel in command of the 82nd Flying Training Wing knew he would never make general if he refused to yield, so he granted the student a special dispensation, giving him additional training.

It was a colossal error on the part of all involved.


In the world of aviation, conventional wisdom says: To keep an aircraft in the air, a pilot will always need at least one of three ingredients: airspeed, altitude, or ideas. If any one or two of those ingredients is absent or in short supply, the pilot must have a proportionate abundance of whatever remains.

On his first ride after being reinstated, the young man let the aircraft get “low and slow” while turning final for a landing, thus robbing himself of a significant measure of two of the components he needed to keep his plane flying.

The student immediately—and inexplicably—compounded his problem by pulling both throttles to idle, and the aircraft shuddered—warning of an impending stall. With the aircraft still flying, the instructor took control and initiated a standard stall recovery by pushing the throttles forward and moving to take pressure off the stick—no big deal. Even as the engines were spooling up, the student panicked and used both hands to jerk the stick full back. The abrupt maneuver cost the aircraft the last of its airspeed, and the T-37 stalled. At that altitude, with no airspeed, all the ideas in the world couldn’t prevent what was coming.

People on the ground watched helplessly as the aircraft pitched up and its forward movement stopped. The plane hung motionless for one sickening instant then dropped off on one wing and pointed its nose at the ground—falling, not flying.

The instructor took precious seconds to punch the student on the arm and yell “Eject! Eject!” but the kid’s hands were welded to the stick. The IP ejected too low and was seriously injured. The student was killed on impact.

The accommodating congressman, in an often-practiced scramble to fix the blame firmly on someone else, presided over the sacrifice of everyone from the training wing commander down to the instructor.


Steadman let his eyes move across the silent group and nodded his understanding. He spied Masland and was getting ready to pronounce his sentence when a captain with dark red hair lifted a hand and murmured, “Yo.”

“You’ll take him?” Steadman’s tone said, This is a joke, isn’t it?

The other instructors were so startled they glanced involuntarily at the man with the death wish.

The object of their attention shrugged. “Sure.”

Steadman continued to stare at the volunteer—he didn’t believe what he was hearing. No one in the room believed it. The other pilots retreated to their lifeless states because the issue might not be settled. The redhead, Rusty Mattingly, was the son of the youngest general in the Air Force. The officers in Mattingly’s chain of command tried not to go overboard in showing partiality, but they didn’t assign the junior captain too many “trash details” either.

“Okeydokey,” the flight commander took a deep breath and sighed, “you got ’im.”

Frank Steadman had five years of active duty remaining before he could retire. He pictured the stars on Mattingly’s father’s shoulders and prayed, Lord, please don’t let me get blamed for this.

Masland tried to hide his relief behind his coffee cup and spilled most of the contents in his lap. No one chided him for it.

*********

Sunday afternoon brought that week’s measured interlude of heat-soaked silence. The skies over Williams Air Force Base were clear of clouds and airplanes. Acres of jet trainers—the short, squatty little T-37s and the white, stiletto-shaped T-38s—gleamed in the sun, fueled and ready for Monday. Mann stopped his car at the main gate, handed the young Air Policeman a sheet of his crisp new orders, and asked where he could get something to eat.

The guard barely glanced at the orders while he let his eyes take in the car. “Best burgers in Arizona, sir,” he pointed. “Straight down there at Base Operations.”

Mann stowed the orders back in their envelope while the guard snapped a salute. “Nice car, sir.”

Mann smiled as he returned the salute. “Thanks.” The car, Mann’s college graduation present to himself, was created for an Air Force jet jockey.

He drove onto the base—his first time on a military installation as a commissioned officer—and headed for the burgers. Food first—then a place to sleep.


Forty minutes later, the lieutenant with the crisp orders and cool car had Base Ops almost to himself. He leaned on the counter in the snack bar and licked his finger before passing it across a piece of greasy wax paper—the former resting place of two hamburgers and a double order of fries. He was washing down the last crumbs with a long pull on his milkshake—chocolate—when airplane noises drew his attention to the window. A blue pickup with a yellow FOLLOW ME sign in the back was leading a camouflaged F-4 to a parking place on the ramp outside the operations building. The hulking fighter looked big enough to take off with a T-38 under each wing.

Partner, that right there is a real live jet fighter, thought Mann.

In response to the ground crewman’s gesture that the wheels were chocked, the man in the plane’s front cockpit signaled he was shutting down the left engine. The guy in the back cockpit unstrapped and clambered over the side. The passenger stopped on the ladder to fasten some loose straps in the backseat then dropped to the ground and took a hang-up bag and a well-stuffed B-4 bag from behind a panel somewhere on the plane’s belly. The passenger hefted his bags and walked past the shark’s mouth painted on the nose of the airplane, heading for Base Ops. The man in the F-4 twirled one finger to tell the crew chief he was restarting the left engine and gave a thumbs-out motion for the chocks to be pulled. The fighter was on its way back to the runway before the backseater got to the door of the building.

Mann was watching the fighter taxi out when the passenger from the F-4 stepped into the foyer by the snack bar. Mann turned as the guy stopped to drop his bags and pull off a white helmet with a bright crimson visor cover. The F-4’s passenger rubbed his hand through his hair to stir circulation back into his scalp then put the helmet in its bag. When he looked up to see Mann watching him, he left his bags in the middle of the marble tile floor and started for the snack bar while pulling off his flying gloves. From the insignia and stenciled name strip on the guy’s flightsuit, Mann identified him as a first lieutenant, last name Chance. The patch on the right side of his chest marked him as part of the Tactical Air Command—that, and the airplane he stepped out of, meant he was a member of a fighter outfit. The wings sewn above his name tag told the world he was a navigator—his face said he was tired. Not a long-day kind of tired, more of the weeks-and-weeks kind.

Lieutenant Chance was looking at a slender black guy wearing a tan, summer-weight uniform with second lieutenant insignia on the collar. The veteran airman stuck out a small hand and winked. “I’m Fat Chance. Is this Tucson?” The grip was firm.

“I reckon that’s close enough for government work, sir,” said Mann. “I’m Bill Mann.”

Both men stood relaxed while the new arrival looked over his fellow comedian. New uniform. New brown bars. New flight cap stowed correctly behind a brand-new blue belt. New plastic name tag, precisely fixed on his right pocket—white letters on a black background. MANN.

“Lemme guess.” Chance pulled his own war-weary flight cap out of a calf pocket on his G-suit and settled it over sandy red hair while he continued to run a calculating eye over the welcome committee. “You’re in the class that starts Tuesday.”

Mann’s face went blank with surprise. Good gosh, does it show that much?

“Yeah, it shows.” The navigator spoke before Mann could answer. “You ain’t got a speck of dust anywhere on you. The shoes look like you worked on ’em all morning with a fresh biscuit, the bars just came out of the box, an’ that haircut is short enough to shame a Marine.” He was grinning. “Like my granny used to say, ‘You look like you just stepped out of a bandbox.’”

Mann had to laugh. Here he was in uniform, joking around with a guy who had just climbed out of an F-4. He was definitely in the Air Force. “Guilty,” he said. “Just drove on the base. Left the bandbox in a phone booth.”

“You checked in at the Q yet?”

“No, sir. I figured I’d eat first in case they don’t give us any food for a few days.”

“Smart move . . . an’ don’t call me ‘sir.’” The drawl was straight out of lower Alabama by way of a year in Southeast Asia. “I’m gonna be in that class with you, and we’re gonna be up to our elbows in alligators for the next twelve months, so we don’t have time to play military; we’ll leave that to the Training Command weenies.” He looked at Mann to see if he understood.

“Sounds good to me.” Mann was nodding. “Do people really call you ‘Fat’?”

“Yup—that’s my call sign.” He handed Mann the helmet bag, gathered up the rest of his baggage, and headed for the door. “You got wheels?”

“Right outside the door.”

“Excellent.”

The June sun in Phoenix is expected to be harsh; it was brutal. They walked the few steps to the Vette, and Mann pointed at the chrome luggage rack. “Trunk’s full.”

“Nice wheels. ’58?”

“Yep.”

Most pilots have a thing for speed and the Vette would be one of twenty-two sports cars in Willie’s UPT Class 72-01.

Chance rested the bags gently on the rack and took the helmet bag from Mann. He pulled a huge cigar out of it, ran it under his nose, grinned, and waved it at Mann. “Gen-u-wine Cuban.” He fired up the cigar, took off his G-suit, and slid into the passenger seat of the Vette. “Let’s go find the Q first. I’ll grab a shower and some civvies, then we’ll hunt us up a beerysoda.”

Mann got behind the wheel.

The navigator waved his cigar to take in the car. “I even like the color.”

Mann was backing out of the parking spot. “They told me red increases the horsepower by 15 percent.”

The redhead ran a hand through his hair. “Closer to twenty-five.”



My Thoughts:
Please Note: For those that are long-time followers of my blog, you have seen this review before. I have had so many new followers join my blog since I posted this review, that I decided to repost my old review again. This is just such a good book, that I decided to post for this tour.

This military thriller will keep you captive and hold you in its grip until the very last page. "The Cool Woman" transports you back to the early '70's Vietnam War, where the main character, Bill Mann, is a Douglas A-1 Skyraider pilot who's main mission is to rescue downed pilots and other military troops that are in trouble. Bill is such a believable and engaging multi-layered character who entrances you with his story and sears himself to your memory long after the story is finished.

John Aubrey Anderson brings his experiences of being a pilot in Southeast Asia to make this an extremely realistic book. I found myself feeling like I was sitting in the cockpit of the plane on the missions, at the base intermingling with the other pilots, and even had times I was hungry for a bologna, cheese and pickle sandwich.

"The Cool Woman" is a fantastic read. It will keep you spell bound, make your heart race, and even make you squirm with anticipation at the suspense. The storyline is well written with an exciting plot. It holds a theme of honesty, integrity, trust and brotherhood that is important when everyone's life is on the line, but also intermingles some humor that is sure to make you smile. Throughout the book runs the question and the importance of God and when all the chips are down, where does one turn. The book holds and excellent message without being overbearing on the subject, and in my opinion, a very realistic view and message.

I really look forward to reading other books by Mr. Anderson. I find his style both enjoyable and easy for both sexes to relate to.

I did not receive this book to review for this tour. Instead, I had received this book last year from B&H to honestly review.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Social Media Tour: "An Inconvenient Friend" by Rhonda McKnight

ABOUT THE BOOK

In Secrets and Lies, Samaria Jacobs tried to seduce Dr. Jonah Morgan. Now she’s back in An Inconvenient Friend. Her creed is “If at first you don’t succeed, try…try…again.”

Samaria Jacobs has her sights set on Gregory Preston. A successful surgeon, he has just the bankroll she needs to keep her in the lifestyle that her credit card debt has helped her grow accustomed to. Samaria joins New Mercies Christian Church to get close to Gregory’s wife. If she gets to know Angelina Preston, she can become like her in more than just looks, and really work her way into Greg’s heart.

Angelina Preston’s life is filled with a successful career and busy ministry work, but something’s just not right with her marriage. Late nights, early meetings, lipstick- and perfume-stained shirts have her suspicious that Greg is doing a little more operating than she’d like. But does she have the strength to confront the only man she’s ever loved and risk losing him to the other woman

Just when Samaria thinks she’s got it all figured out, she finds herself drawn to Angelina’s kindness. Will she be able to carry out her plan after she finds herself yearning for the one thing she’s never had . . . the friendship of a woman?






ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rhonda McKnight is the owner of Legacy Editing, a free-lance editing service for fiction writers and Urban Christian Fiction Today, a popular Internet site that highlights African-American Christian fiction. She’s the vice-president of Faith Based Fiction Writers of Atlanta. When she’s not editing projects, teaching workshops about writing or penning her next novel, she spends time with her family. Originally from a small, coastal town in New Jersey, she’s called Atlanta, Georgia home for twelve years. Visit the author online at http://www.RhondaMcKnight.net.


Would you like to become an influencer for this tour? You will become eligible to win a Bath and Body Works Spa Bag that includes: 

GRAND PRIZE
  • an autographed copy of An Inconvenient Friend by Rhonda McKnight
  • an autographed copy of Secrets and Lies by Rhonda McKnight
  • an autographed copy of A Woman's Revenge by Tiffany L. Warren, Sherri Lewis and Rhonda McKnight
  • a $25 Gift Card courtesy of Tywebbin.com


SECOND AND THIRD PLACE PRIZES

  • an autographed copy of A Woman's Revenge by Tiffany L. Warren, Sherri Lewis and Rhonda McKnight

   
SIGN-UP to be an influencer at http://bit.ly/AnInconvenientFriendSocialMediaTour

Virtual Book Tour - Author Spotlight: Bill Walker - Author of "A Note from an Old Acquaintance"

A Note From an 
Old Acquaintance 2


I'm excited to be able to again host Bill Walker, author of the soul searching romance novel, A Note From an Old Acquaintance. Today, in his guest post, he shares how important setting is when writing a story. Thank you, Mr Walker, for this fascinating post!

I'll start off this post by asking a silly question: Is setting really that important? I mean couldn't most books work just about anywhere? Okay, that was two questions, but even though the answer seems obvious, many writers often consider setting in a lesser light than their human characters. Yet, one would never even think to set a book like Gone With The Wind in Brooklyn, would they? For that book the setting was as important as any of the human characters. I'd even go so far as to say the setting in GWTW is a character, a living breathing part of the book.


For my novel, A Note from an Old Acquaintance, Boston is an integral part of the story. I used it because I spent many years living there and am intimately familiar with it. It was a natural choice because it goes back to that hoary old piece of writing advice: "Write what you know." And while it's true many fine books are written by authors who conduct exhaustive research, there is no substitute for having "been there and done that."


So, how does one make one's settings more vivid without overdoing it? My best advice is to use just a few choice words to describe the room. This isn't the 19th century, where readers expected to be told every little agonizing measurement and detail. Instead, what contemporary writers do is weave those choice words into the narrative as they go along. Modern readers are far more visual and sophisticated and will fill in the spaces in their minds. In that sense, writing has become more cinematic. The other important part of setting is mood, the "feel" of the place. What is the atmosphere like in that room you're writing about? Here are a couple of examples:


Sherry wanted to cry when she first saw the inn's romantic attic room. It smelled of cinnamon and roses, mixed with the salty tang of the sea air billowing the homespun curtains. Late afternoon sun pooled on the scuffed slatted floor where dust motes swirled in the golden light; and the quilt-covered four-poster bed, nestled into the only corner of the room that was truly square, sagged in the middle, like an old swaybacked nag. She smiled, wondering how many honeymooners had spent their days and nights in it? Sherry squeezed her new husband's hand, knowing the island's rustic charms would have to wait a few days while they gave that saggy old bed a workout it would never soon forget.


Or this:


The single bare bulb cast a weak, jaundiced light around Mr. Hammond's basement, a light that did nothing to dispel the shadows or his fear. Jimmy tried the ropes again, but only succeeded in tightening the knot, something the old man had told him would happen. His tears had long-since dried, and his eyes felt puffy and gritty. But that wasn't the worst part. It was the crumbling moss-coated brick walls that seemed to close in on him and the hard dirt floor darkened by his urine. He could smell it now, the sting of ammonia tickling his nose. There was another smell, too. It came from the dark-red effluence congealing on the porcelain mortician's table with the drain in the center. All that was left of his buddy, Paul. Tears leaked from his eyes again and his nose began to run. He should have left the old man alone. He should have tried to earn money some other way. Now, he was going to end up like Paul...like the corpse of that dead rat rotting in the corner.


Both of these passages give very different impressions of the setting without going into too much detail. It's those kinds of images you want to convey to enhance whatever setting you choose. Done with care and finesse, proper setting can be a powerful force that together with plot and character will propel your story along in the readers mind and keep them turning those pages. And that's what all writers want.



About the Author:


Bill Walker is a graphic designer specializing in book and dust jacket design, and has worked on projects by Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King. Between his design work and his writing, he spends his spare time reading voraciously and playing very loud guitar, much to the chagrin of his lovely wife and two sons. Bill makes his home in Los Angeles.


If you'd like to learn more about Mr. Walker or his work, you can visit him at: http://www.billwalkerdesigns.com/


If you missed my review of A Note From an Old Acquaintance, you can find it here.


This book was part of my own personal library. I did not receive a copy from PUYB to review.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour & Review: "Nightshade" by Ronie Kendig

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


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


Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:



Nightshade

Barbour Books; Discarded Heroes edition (July 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Camy Tang and Ronie Kendig for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Ronie Kendig grew up an Army brat, married a veteran, and they now have four children and a Golden Retriever. She has a BS in Psychology, speaks to various groups, volunteers with the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and mentors new writers.


Visit the author's website and her book website,.




Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books; Discarded Heroes edition (July 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 160260777X
ISBN-13: 978-1602607774

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Prologue

Crazy lights swirled against the evening sky. Day morphed into the merriment of night. Cotton candy and hot dogs. Teens decked out in Goth gear contrasted sharply with young couples dragged from ride to ride by squealing offspring. White smeared over a man’s face as red encircled his mouth. Like a giant maraschino cherry, his nose squawked when a child squeezed it. He threw his head back and laughed. The little boy stood perplexed, as if uncertain whether to laugh or break into tears.

Olin Lambert shifted on the park bench as a parade of kids trailed the balloon-toting clown through the park. He glanced at his watch. His contact was la—

The boards under his legs creaked. A man dressed in a navy jogging suit joined him.

“You almost missed the fun.” Olin tossed a few kernels of popcorn into his mouth.

Rolling his shoulders, the man darted his gaze around the carnival insanity. “You know how dangerous this is? What it took for me to get out here without being seen?”

The danger and risk to his contact were no greater than what was stacked up against Olin. They both had a lot to lose—careers, reputations, families. . . . “We could leave now.”

“You know this has to happen.”

After a sip of his diet cola, Olin stuffed the half-full bag of popcorn on top of the overflowing trash bin. He wiped his hands and turned back to the man. “So, the body count’s finally high enough?”

Blue eyes narrowed. “I’m here. That should tell you something.”

“Indeed.” Olin waited as the ice cream vendor wheeled his musical cart past. “I need full autonomy for me and my team.”

Music burst forth as swings whirled occupants in a monotonous circle. A performer tossed flaming sticks and maneuvered one down his throat, swallowing the flames. Ohs wafted on the noisy, hot wind from the audience gathered around him. A scream pierced the night—a woman startled by another clown.

“Okay, fine. Just get on with this. I’m a sitting duck out here.” He rubbed his hands and glanced around.

Olin swiped his tongue along his teeth, took a draught of his soda, then slumped back against the slats. “I want it in writing. Two copies. Mine. Yours.”

The man shook his head. “No trails.”

The corner of Olin’s mouth quirked up. “You’ve already got one.” He nodded to the ice cream vendor, who reached over the register and tapped a sign with a hole in the center where a camera hid.

A curse hissed through the night. “You’d bleed me out if you could.”

“Whatever it takes to protect these men.”

Eyeing him, the man hesitated. “The men? Or you?”

“One and the same. If they’re protected, I’m protected. Whatever happens out there, we’re not going to take the fall for it.”


“If it goes bad, someone will get blamed.”

Olin pursed his lips and cocked his head to the side. “More dust has been swept under the proverbial Capitol Hill carpet than anyone will ever admit. You have to decide: Is the cost high enough? How many more lives are you willing to sacrifice?”

“Seven.”

On his feet, Olin tugged up the hood of his jacket. “Then we’re through.”

The man caught his elbow. “Sit down.”

Teeth clamped, Olin returned to the bench. He bent forward and rubbed his hands together, more than ready to forget he’d ever tried to deal with this man, the only man with enough power on the Hill and the right connections to both fund and authorize deep-six missions. Missions nobody wanted to acknowledge.

The din of merriment swallowed the silence between them. A beat cop worked the scene, glancing their way as he walked, no doubt making a mental note to watch them.

“Get me their names. I’ll write a carte blanche.”

Olin’s gut twisted. “Not happening.” If he revealed the names of his elite, he would essentially place them on individual crosses to be crucified by some politician who got wind of this or by someone far more dangerous—media—if something went south. “Project Overlook happens under my guidance with all the freedom and resources I need, or it doesn’t happen and you have one heckuva mess to clean up.”

“If I do this, I could get put away for a long time, Lambert.”

“And a million people will die if you don’t.”

“We should sit back and let Congress grant the authorization to go in there.”

A deep-chested laugh wormed through Olin. “You’ve been around too long to believe that. Thick bellies and big heads crowd the halls of the Hill. They want the power and none of the responsibility.” Had he been wrong in talking to the man next to him? What if he went to the Hill and spilled the news about Project Overlook? They’d be dead before the elite soldiers he had in mind could get their feet wet.

He let out a long exhale. “If you aren’t going to pony up, this conversation is over. You contacted me because you knew I could take care of this little snafu. So let us go in and quell this before it destroys more and the body count rivals 9/11.”

He eyed Olin, a slow grin cracking his lips. “You’ve always impressed me, Lambert, even though you’re Army.”


“Navy lost the last game, Admiral.” Olin let his gaze rake the scene around him. “These men are fully capable, and the situation can be tamed before anyone is the wiser. We don’t have time to wrangle the pundits. Let’s get it done, Mr. Chairman, sir.”

Chairman Orr stood and zipped his jacket. “You’ll have it by morning.”


Chapter 1

Cracking open the throttle ignited a wild explosion of power and speed. Zero to sixty in less than three seconds left Max Jacobs breathless. Gut pressed to the spine of his Hayabusa, he bore down the mountainous two-lane road away from civilization, away from . . . everything. Here only pine trees, concrete and speed were his friends.

His bike screamed as it ate up the road. The thrill burst through him. He needed the rush. Craved it. Stop running, Max. Her words stabbed his conscience. Made him mad.

Rounding a bend, he slowed and sighted the drop-off in the road—remembered a full 10% grade, straight down. His gaze bounced between the speedometer and the cement. Common sense told him to decelerate. The boiling in his veins said otherwise.

He twisted the throttle.

Eighty.

Max leaned into the bike and felt the surge.

Ninety.

He sucked in a breath as he sped toward the break.

The road dropped off. The Hayabusa roared as the wheels sailed out. He tried to grip the handlebars tighter as nothing but tingling Virginia oxygen enveloped him. Silence gaped.

This could be it. This could end it all. No more pain. No more life without Syd . . .

Take me. Just take me.

The Hayabusa plummeted.

Straight down. Concrete. Like a meteor slamming to earth.

The back tire hit. A jolt shot through the bike. Then the front tire bounced. Rattling carried through the handlebars and into his shoulders. He grabbed the brake—

Stupid! The brake locked. Rear tire went right. He tried to steer into the skid but momentum flipped him up. Over. Pops snapped through his back as he spiraled through the air. In the chaos his bike gave chase, kicking and screaming as it tore after him.

Crack! Pop! The sound of his crashing bike reverberated through the lonely country lane. Scenery whirled. Pine trees whipped into a Christmas-color frosting. Tree bark blurred into a menagerie of browns, drawing closer and closer.

Thud! His head bounced off the cement. He flipped again.

Finally. It’d be over. He closed his eyes. No more—

THUD! “Oof.” The breath knocked from his lungs. Pain spiked his shoulders and spine. Fire lit across his limbs and back as he slid from one lane to another. Down the road, spinning. Straight toward the trees.

He winced, arched his back. Kicking, he tried to gain traction. If he wasn’t going to die, he didn’t want to end up paralyzed. Just like you not to think it through.

He dumped into a ditch.

Smack!

Everything went black.

He blinked. Pain shrieked through his body, his thighs and shoulders burning. “Argh!”

Max pried himself onto all fours, hanging his head. A crack rent the face shield. A wicked throb pulsed through his temples and . . . everywhere. He fought with the helmet. Growled as he freed the straps. He pawed it off, cursing at the thing for saving his life. Those head whacks as he somersaulted through the air should’ve punched a hole in his skull. Warmth dribbled down his brow. He pressed a palm against his forehead. Sticky and warm. Blood. He grunted and strained to look across the road. Mangled. Twisted. His bike. Him.


Why couldn’t God just let him die? Humanity would be one up, and he wouldn’t have to face his consummate failures in life. “Just let me go!” he growled and pounded a fist against the pavement. He’d do anything to go back to the Middle East, pump some radicals full of lead, and unleash the demon inside. Anything that told him he still had purpose in life.

But that wasn’t an option anymore. Another bad choice. Could he get anything right? Maybe his father had been right to up and leave them. Just like his mother.

A glimmer of light snagged his attention. Less than a mile down the road, a black SUV barreled up the road from town. Max tensed. He’d seen a vehicle like that three times in the last week. But out here? In the middle of nowhere, invading his self-inflicted punishment? This wasn’t a coincidence. And he didn’t like being hunted.

Max dragged himself into the trees, wincing. Using his forearm, he wiped the blood from his face. Why? Why couldn’t he just die? Nothing here for him. No reason.

Sydney. . .

He banged the back of his head against the tree. Pain drove through him like an iron rod. Good. It felt good to hurt. A relief to the agony inside.

Glass popping and crunching snapped his attention to the road. The SUV sat like a giant spider. He wondered who was in the vehicle as he eased farther into the foliage. A carpet of pine needles concealed his steps. He glanced back to the intruder.

The SUV shifted as a man climbed out. Large, African American, and an expression that said he didn’t mess around. Whatever the guy wanted, he wouldn’t take no for an answer. At least not easily.

Even from ten yards away, Max could see the muscle twitching in the man’s jaw. He swallowed and licked his lips, readying himself for a confrontation. He swung back and gazed up at the canopy of leaves. Could he hoof it back to his apartment? Gathering his strength, he shrugged out of the shredded leather jacket, wincing and grunting as it pulled against raw flesh.

“You through? Or you want another go at it?”

What? Max peered around the trunk, surprised to find the man at the edge of the road, hands on his hips as he stared into the trees.

“We took you for stronger.” The man glanced back at the bike. “But maybe you’re nothing but broke and no use to no one.”

Heart thumping, Max jerked back and clenched his teeth. Who was this joker?

“So, what’s it going to be, Jacobs? You ready to face a little reality?”

How does he know my name? “Who are you?” Max hissed as the tree rubbed his raw shoulder. “What do you want?”

“You.”

Max drew the SOG knife from his pocket and opened it. Holding it down, he pushed into the open, making sure his injuries didn’t show him weak. “What’s the game?”

The man’s eyebrow arched. He angled his left shoulder forward, tugged up his sweater’s sleeve, and flexed his oversized bicep. A tattoo expanded across his muscle. Marine. Force Recon, if Max made out the symbol correctly.

An ally? As he struggled out of the ditch and back onto the road, Max collapsed the blade. Heat rose from the cement, aggravating the exposed flesh on his back and legs.

“Navy and Marines, you and me. Almost brothers. It’s the Rangers I don’t like. So, I forgive you for coming at me with a blade. This time.”

Max stared. Confusion—and pain—wrapped a tight vise around his skull.

“What’s it going to be, squid?” The guy pointed to the wreck of a bike on the road. “You don’t have a ride back to town. So why don’t you climb in and listen to what I have to say?”

Might ignore the nickname jab, but the guy assumed too much. “You flash a tattoo and think I’ll just bend my knee? I don’t think so.” A silent brotherhood had closed Max’s knife. But he didn’t want company. The oaf’s or anyone else’s. But how else would he get home?

“What? You think you’re going home? To your can opener and mattress?”

Mr. Recon had a point. Still, he knew too much, and that made Max stiffen—fiery shards prickling his back.

“No obligation. Show me a little respect, and just hear me out.”

At least, as the man had said, he’d have a ride. Eyes on the large man, Max pocketed the knife as he trudged to the other side of the SUV and opened the door.

He paused at the plastic covering the seat. He jerked his gaze to the driver.

Mr. Force Recon grinned. “You’re predictable, Jacobs.”

Max lowered himself onto the seat, cringing as new fire crawled over his back and legs. He buckled in, the irony of the seat belt crossing his mind. “So what’s this about? Why have you been following me?”

A crisp cologne swirled in the air-conditioned interior as Mr. Recon folded himself behind the steering wheel. “You’ve been recruited, Lieutenant Jacobs.”

Max snorted. “Already did my time. I’m out.” He gulped against the flurry of emotions within.

“Yeah? How’s that working out for you?”

Glaring, Max resisted the urge to thrust his SOG into the guy’s gut. He’d left the service for Sydney. Only it’d been too late. And in one fell swoop, he lost everything. “Why don’t you tell me? You seem to know everything.”

Mr. Recon pursed his lips and nodded. “Okay.” He rubbed his jaw. “You were discharged ninety days ago. In that time, you’ve been arrested twice, once for fighting. The second time—less than three days ago—for assault against your now-estranged wife.”

The words cut deeper and stung worse than his now-oozing flesh. Max looked at his hand and flexed his fingers.

“Yesterday you were hit with a permanent protective order by said wife. She filed for separation.” He leaned on the console and again arched that eyebrow. “How am I doing?”

“If you knew anything about me, you’d dull your edge.”

Wrist hooked over the steering wheel, Mr. Recon continued unfazed. “The military discharged you. Honorably. A veteran of two wars. Untold combat situations and medals. They tried to put you out medically two years ago, but you fought it.”

“And won.”

“Yessir.” The man nodded for several seconds. “So, why now? Why’d you let them put you out this time?”

Max shoved his gaze to the heavily tinted windows. That was a story nobody needed to hear. Bury it six feet under and walk away.

“You’re a discarded hero, Lieutenant Jacobs.”

Head whipped back to the driver, Max fought the urge to light into the guy. But something in the amused eyes betrayed a camaraderie. An understanding. Acceptance.

“Who are you? What’s your story?”

“Name’s Griffin.” He bobbed his head as they pulled onto the highway, driving east toward the Potomac. “My story. . . ?” A toothy grin. “Let’s just say I got smart.”

The sound of crinkling and rustling plastic pervaded the cabin as Max shifted to alleviate a pinprick fire shooting down his leg. He hissed and clamped a hand over his thigh. “So, what’s the gig?”

“The gig is whatever nobody else will do. What you should ask about is our group—and I do mean our group, Lieutenant. Because you are fully a part of this. Are you ready to step out of the medical trappings of your discharge, of the devastation that has become your life since you’ve returned from your last tour?”

Max grunted. “Yesterday.”

“That’s what I like to hear.” Tires thumped over docks as Griffin steered into a warehouse. “Then this is where it starts.”



Elite soldiers stood in a semicircle, waiting. For what, Max wasn’t sure. And he wouldn’t ask. If his guess was right, then time would tell—because Griffin seemed to be the guy in the know, and his relaxed posture against the SUV said things were going according to plan.

“Hey, dude, want me to look those over?” A blond guy dressed in khaki shorts, a faded tank, and a pair of flip-flops motioned to Max’s scrapes and lacerations.

Right. Beach bum wanted to play nurse. “I’m good.”

“About as good as a dog in a meat grinder,” the guy replied.

Max clenched his teeth. Whatever kind of circus Griffin was running. . .

A diesel engine growled, the sound reverberating off the aluminum in the cavernous space, preempting the shiny blue dualie truck pulling into the dank building. The engine cut. A guy stepped out and donned a black cowboy hat that added about five inches to his six-foot-two frame.

Griffin’s laugh rumbled as he pushed off his SUV. “Colton.”

A broad grin spilled under the rim of the man’s Stetson. “Hey.” The two clasped hands and patted backs. “How’s Dante?”

A quiet dialogue carried between the two for several minutes that effectively cut out the rest of those gathered. Yeah, they had a friendship, one that said they trusted each other with more than superficial things. Something about the tight bond rankled Max. Hit deep.

“Why are we here?”

Max’s gaze bounced to the shortest and youngest of the six men in the building. The Kid had read his thoughts. A warehouse full of warriors? This setup smelled rotten.

“If you’ll be patient—” Griffin paused and glanced behind him. “I think it’s time.”

A black Chrysler 300 glided into the middle of the grouping. The hollow clunk of an opening door echoed off the steel rafters and grime-laden windows. A man emerged. White hair feathered back. A sun-bronzed nose sported dark-tinted sunglasses. The thud of the door almost swallowed the crunching of his squeaky shoes. New, expensive shoes. Maybe even tailor-made. He gripped the rim of his glasses and drew them off.

Was the old man supposed to mean something? Be someone who mattered? Irritation skittered along Max’s shoulders as the old man shook hands with Riddell and the cowboy.

“Who’s the hoo-hah?” Max mumbled to himself.

“You kidding me, man?” The blond look at him and smirked. “That’s—”

“For those not enlightened,” an authoritative voice cut through the surfer’s explanation, “my name is General Olin Lambert. I am a member of the Joint Chiefs. But among the seven of us, I am merely a citizen of the United States just like you.” Blue eyes probed each man.

Right into Max’s soul.

“With Mr. Riddell’s help, I’ve hand-chosen each and every one of you for a very specific purpose. There isn’t anything about you or your lives that I don’t know.” Lambert paused, as if to let his words sink in, but Max just wished he’d get on with it. Scabs were forming on his scrapes.

“Chosen us for what, ese?” asked the Hispanic man.

“A black ops team.”

And that meant two things: military and that this meeting was over. Max turned and started walking.

“It’s not military, Mr. Jacobs.”

Hesitation held him at the large, garage-style door he’d entered. “How can you do black ops without military aid, intelligence, and backup?” He turned around, ignoring what felt like glass stuck to his calves and thighs.

“I didn’t say we wouldn’t have aid or intelligence.” Creases pinched Lambert’s eyes at the corners. “I said it’s not military.”

“Come again?” the beach bum asked, disbelief coloring his words.

“Let the general explain.” Griffin leaned back against the truck with his cowboy buddy.

“Thank you, Mr. Riddell.” Lambert tucked his sunglasses in his left breast pocket, then threaded his fingers in front of him. Impressive and commanding. “Each of you has returned from combat changed, affected.”

Nervous glances skidded from man to man. Max glued his attention to the general, refusing to acknowledge the truth of Lambert’s words.

“You’re what I’ve dubbed discarded heroes.”

Grunts of approval rang through the building, and the group seemed to tighten in around the old man. Being a general, he knew what it was like to have slanted glances of pity from those who knew where you’d been, what you’d probably done, and what it was like to go against a politically correct ideology and fight for freedom on foreign soil. Or to have some tree hugger spit in your face and call you a murderer.

“You served your time, saw and experienced things no normal person would be expected to deal with. Sure, you were trained. Taught to expect evil. Demanded success. However, when confronted with the true terrors of war, no human mind can dissolve the images embedded in memory for all time.

“Then it’s time to get out. They yank you back here, give you a once-over, and toss you out with a ‘thank you very much and have a good life.’ So you go home, try to reintegrate into society, and—”

“It’s screwed up,” the Kid said. He shrugged when the others scowled at him. “Well? I’m right, aren’t I? From what I heard you saying earlier,” he pointed to the beach bum, “you’ve spent time in Afghanistan—a lot.” Then to the Latino, “You probably did your tours of duty in Panama or the like.” His gaze came to Max.

“Don’t.” Fists balled, Max willed his feet to remain in place. He didn’t want anyone digging in his brain.

“Mr. Vaughn is correct,” Lambert said. “You’ve all seen combat. You’ve all been trained to kill; then you come back, and what do you do with those skills but go out of your mind?”

Max shifted. Was it over yet? He eyed the wide-open berth to freedom behind the blue dualie.

“Max Jacobs.”

Hearing his name felt like a detonation that blasted his attention back to the general.

“You served eight years with the SEALs. Your experience in command and combat no doubt left indelible scars. Watched your best friend toss himself on a grenade to save the team.”

Bile pooled at the back of Max’s throat as the memory surged. He flared his nostrils, pushing the images back into the pit from which they’d been drawn.

Lambert stalked the inner perimeter, as if prepping troops for war with a pep talk. “Lieutenant Jacobs is the man I’ve chosen as team leader, but his position is no more valuable than anyone else’s. You’ve all seen war. In this building are years of tactical experience. Incredible wisdom. And one element that makes each of you vital for this to work.”

“What’s that?” Cowboy asked, his arms folded over his thick chest.

“Loyalty, Mr. Neeley. Your duty with the Marine Special Operations Team is bloated with exemplary conduct, commendation after commendation.” He waved his hand around the cozy circle. “I’ve reviewed all of your files and found the same thing in every one.”

Awkward silence cooled some of the tension in the room, and once again Max eyed the exit.

“Mr. Reyes, your career as a pararescue jumper, specifically your medic skills, saved dozens of lives.”

“Pair o’ what?” Cowboy taunted.

“Hey,” Reyes grinned. “You’re just jealous. I’m a PJ. Why you think they call me Fix?”

“Because you put everyone in one?” Griffin chuckled, eliciting more laughter.

“Nah, man. It’s ’cause of this,” he said as he drew out a crucifix from his shirt and kissed it. “My crucifix. They called me Cru at first, then since I’m a medic, they started calling me Fix.”

Swallowing his groan, Max ran a hand through his short crop. Religion and military. This was starting to feel worse than an AA meeting. And there wasn’t a point. “This is a lot of flowery, moving discourse, but what do you want from us?” Max mentally shook off the way the others looked at him. Was he the only one who was still waiting for the boom to lower?

“Mr. Riddell, if you please.” Lambert pointed to the black SUV as Griffin opened the tailgate. “Give each man one.”

Griffin handed out small black packs that bore a lone symbol. A strange star backed by a sword and wings. The Kid, the Beach Bum, and the Latino dug into the packs, almost excited. In seconds, a black phone, keys, a watch, and a set of duds spilled across the gray cement floor in front of them.

Max remained in place, his pack dangling from his clenched fist. He didn’t like being played. And this definitely felt like a setup.

General Lambert faced him. “Is there a problem, Mr. Jacobs?”

He dropped his pack onto the floor. “Not seeing the point.”

Behind the general, Griffin seemed to grow several inches as he towered over the aged officer. “What?” he growled. “You want to take another nose-dive off that hill? Hope this time there’s only enough of you left to fill a baggie? Want to make that estranged wife of yours a widow before you can be called a failure?”

Hands coiled, Max drew up his shoulders. Saw red. No. No. He wouldn’t give in to the goading. He dragged his attention back to the general.

“Ease up, Legend,” Cowboy said, patting Griffin’s chest. “Give the guy a chance.” Lambert remained unwavering. “The point, Lieutenant, is to establish a team that can penetrate hostile situations without any entanglements, without any blame on the good ol’ US-of-A or any other entity or government. You returned from two tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, and a covert mission nobody in this room will ever know about. You were the best, a natural, your CO said. But you were so volatile after those experiences took their toll they tried to discharge you, and your compatriots nicknamed you after a volatile chemical. Somehow you held it together. Then jumped ship out of the blue.” More than recitation of information lurked behind the general’s blue eyes. A knowing—no, an understanding, quiet and unnerving. “Tell me, Mr. Jacobs, what are you doing with your life now?”

“Minding my own business,” Max answered through tight lips.

Lambert laughed. “And that’s exactly what you’ll be doing as part of my team. Funding isn’t a problem. You’ll have unlimited resources.”

“That’d be a change,” the Kid grumbled.

“To go where?” the Beach Bum asked.

“Doesn’t matter,” the Kid interrupted. “Man, how is this any different than military? Igot out for a reason.”

“You’ll go wherever needed.” The general turned toward the younger man. “Yes, Mr. Vaughn, you did get out for a reason. Tell me, did abandoning the one thing you loved the most give you the love of your father after all?”

The Kid paled.

“Why?” Max couldn’t stand it anymore. “Why are you doing this? What’s this thing to you?”

Lambert lowered his head then looked back at Max. “I am. . .discarded just like you.”

“Bull.” Max tucked his hands under his arms. “You sit in a cushy chair in a carpeted office. You’re paid, you’re connected—”

“I know what you guys have been through.” The general tapped his temple. “MAC-V SOG in Nam. Two tours.”

Max’s eyebrows shot up. That meant the man before him had likely seen more carnage than the rest of them put together.

“Heard the phrase ‘peace with honor’?”

Max shrugged. “Yeah, sure. Who hasn’t?”

“It was a platitude.” Lambert’s eyes flamed under his passion. “The armchair generals lost the war, not the grunts on the ground. We won every battle they let us win. But that doesn’t make it any easier when you’re the only guy who comes home from your unit with all his parts and pieces still connected where God put ’em.

“I may not be young, I may not have done combat tours in Iraq like you, Lieutenant, but I was tossed aside, too. For years I languished.” The general pushed to his feet, his voice thick and his eyes weighted by the story. “But I slowly remembered that I’d joined the military for a reason—I wanted to be a man. A real man willing to defend my country with life and limb. I knew then I could screw up my career or I could do my best to make a difference in the lives of those who came after.”

Silence hung rank and thick in the abandoned warehouse. Something akin to admiration leaked past Max’s barriers as he watched the indignant rise and fall of the old man’s chest. A smile threatened his resolve as the old man glared at the hulking men around him.

Lambert’s lips tightened over a clean-shaven jaw. “What’s it going to be, gentlemen? Do you have what it takes to finish the fight with the gift God gave you? Or are you going to turn tail, accept what the government stamped on your papers, and leave—go quietly into the night?”

“Whoa-hoa!” Laughing, Beach Bum stepped forward. “Old Man’s got some fire under that shiny dome.”

Lambert spun toward the bum. “What’s it going to be, Sergeant Metcalfe?”

The blond pursed his lips, considered Lambert, then nodded. “I’m in.”

The bright blue eyes shifted to the Latino.

“You need some CPR, ese? You look worked up.”

A half smile slid into Lambert’s face. “A little passion never hurt, eh, Mr. Reyes?”

“You all right, old man.” He hooked Lambert’s hand and patted his back. “You all right.” Reyes leaned in toward the general’s shoulders and looked at the Kid. “But I don’t know about this kid. He don’t look like he’s out of diapers yet.”

“That’s wrong. That’s just wrong.” The Kid’s face flushed. “I spent six years in the Rangers. I have enough—”

“Rangers.” Max couldn’t help but grunt his disapproval. “That explains a lot.”

The Kid’s chin jerked up in defiance. “I’m in.”

It seemed Lambert grew with each affirmation. He shifted to the cowboy. “Mr. Neeley?”

Cowboy gave a slow, firm nod, his hat shading his eyes. “I’m ready.”

Lambert smiled. “Good. Good.”

They were all crazy. Joining a group like this meant more problems. “What if we get in trouble out there?”

“Then get out of trouble,” Lambert said. “Understand that this team does not exist. If anyone comes looking, there will be nothing to find. Only one man besides those of us in this facility knows it exists, and he’ll pay the highest cost if that confidence is broken. No one—and I mean no one—will know your names.”

“So our orders are coming from on high?” Metcalfe asked.

A twinkle brightened Lambert’s eyes and gave silent assent to the question, although he gave no answer. Instead, he continued. “Any mission, any activity will be utterly and completely disavowed by the United States. You will be disavowed. If you get into trouble, Mr. Jacobs, count on your ingenuity to get out. If you are killed, no one will know.”

“Or care.” The Kid shrugged, a sick smirk in his face.

Max wanted to punch him.

“Or maybe that’s where Sergeant Metcalfe, call sign Midas, will come in with his golden touch.” Lambert ambled toward him.

The beach bum made a tss noise and shook his head. “Nothing golden, just hard work.”

The general’s smile disappeared behind a stern facade. “What is your answer, Lieutenant Jacobs?”

“This is crazy.” What else could he do? Flip burgers at the nearest fast food? What was worth staying here for? No wife. No family. “Fine.” The separation papers told him he had nothing left here anyway. “I’m in.”

“Good.” General Lambert’s smile softened his commando persona. “Look around. The men here are your new brothers, your family. Only they will understand when the horrors of war invade your sleep. Only they will be there when you’re pinned down and need an extraction.

Arms wide, Lambert smiled like a proud father. “Gentlemen, welcome to Nightshade.”


My Thoughts:

There is nothing better than military fiction to keep me on the edge of my seat. I love the action, adventure, and danger. "Nightshade" is one read that definitely delivers! This is one page-turning, "keep you on the edge of your seat" book.

The storyline is quite realistic as are the characters. Max is a former Navy SEAL that comes home to live a quiet civilian life, only to find out that he can't adjust. He is strong, well trained, but has problems with anger and haunting dreams. He's a character that I absolutely adored. His wife, Sydney, on the other hand, was too influenced by others, and I found that frustrating.

"Nightshade" is book one of the "Discarded Heroes" series. For me, this series holds great promise. I can't wait to read book 2!

Book was supplied by FIRST for me to honestly review.

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