Monday, August 30, 2010

Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope by Mary Beth Chapman with Ellen Vaughn

I've told my kids for years that God doesn't make mistakes," writes Mary Beth Chapman, wife of Grammy award winning recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman. "Would I believe it now, when my whole world as I knew it came to an end?"

Covering her courtship and marriage to Steven Curtis Chapman, struggles for emotional balance, and living with grief, Mary Beth's story is our story--wondering where God is when the worst happens. Here she shows how she wrestles with God even as she has allowed him to write her story--both during times of happiness and those of tragedy.

Readers will hear firsthand about the loss of her daughter, the struggle to heal, and the unexpected path God has placed her on. Included is a sixteen-page full color photo insert.

My Review:
Although no parent should ever have to bury their child, Steve Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman have had to do just that. This shocking tragedy causes them to stretch to see the grace of Jesus through this hurricane of pain. As Christians, they choose to turn to God.

The writing flows smoothly as their lives are revealed in this suprisingly upbeat, interesting autobiography. Many excerpts from Mary Beth's blog are incorporated.

Available September 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thank you to Donna Hausler for my copy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Giveaway! Masquerade by Nancy Moser

1886, New York City:
Charlotte Gleason, a rich heiress from England, escapes a family crisis by traveling to America in order to marry the even wealthier Conrad Tremaine. She soon decides that an arranged marriage is not for her and persuades her maid, Dora, to take her place.

What begins as the whim of a spoiled rich girl wanting adventure becomes a test of survival amid poverty beyond Charlotte's blackest nightmares. As for Dora, she lives a fairy tale complete with gowns, jewels, and lavish mansions--yet is tormented by guilt and the presence of another love that will not die.

Will their masquerade be discovered? Will one of them have second thoughts? There is no guarantee the switch will work. It's a risk. It's the chance of a lifetime.

My Review:
A lovely tale of America's Gilded Age unfolds as the pages turn on this historical romance. Lottie teaches Dora and the reader that "the first rule of being a lady" is to be "polite, prompt, pretty, and proper," and the second rule is to "smile." That sounds doable, but with the rules of dining, the restrictions of proper clothing, and propriety, we see our characters struggle. Each girl wants to be free and marry for love, but is that possible?

Along with a look at the extravagant party given to introduce their special visitor from England to the Four Hundred of society's elite, held inside the mansion owned by the nouveau riche fictional Tremaine family, the reader experiences the horrible conditions of Five Points, the first American slums, where three to four babies would suffocate each night in the airless tenements. What a contrast!

I read this novel straight through; I did not want to put it down. Although I guessed at the ending, I was never certain that I was guessing correctly. If historical fiction is your genre, grab this one.

Discussion questions are included.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and Bethany House for my Advance Reading Copy.

If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.


I am willing to give away my copy of this book. Note: This is an Advanced Reader Copy. It is illegal to resell ARCs.
  • Because of postage, winners are restricted to the United States.
  • No PO Box mailing addresses, please.
  • I'll close the comments at 6 PM EST September 24th and pick the winner. I will contact the winner via email to get her mailing information. She will have three days to respond. If I do not hear from her within three days, I will select another winner.
  • If you're interested, just say so in a comment; be sure to include that all-important email address in code.
    Example of email in code: you[at]yourmail[dot]com

Beyond the Brady Bunch: Hope & Help for Blended Families by Ray and Debbie Alsdorf

A message of hope for blended families, from a couple who has been in the trenches—and made it.

Blending a family is far more messy and complicated than any television show portrays. Beyond the Brady Bunch is a heart book, not a how-to book. Christians who find themselves in the midst of stepfamily life often feel hopeless and far from God, struggling with grief and unforgiveness.

From personal experience, the authors have found that all the how-to steps in the world don't work if there isn't first a heart change. Speaking with honesty and vulnerability they share their mistakes and how God dealt with their hearts.

The book will help stretch hearts, minds, and homes past the image of "perfect" and another "happily ever after" into the hope of God's promise to restore, heal, and rebuild.

My Review:
"Fifty percent of all first marriages end in divorce," and "seventy percent of third marriages" also end in divorce. With shocking statistics like those, it's easy see how this relevant book could be a useful tool in most families. There's plenty of good common sense between the covers.

Family life is messy, and blended families are even messier! We need all the help we can we get, and here is a book chock full of workable ideas. It's filled with personal stories, anecdotes, and case studies. Interspersed are extracts from published material from others experienced with families who are blending.

Written in first-person by each of the two authors, weaknesses are admitted and discussed, with biblical solutions offered. The four adult children of this blended family each share a part while looking back over their experiences.

At the end of each chapter, a bulleted Bringing It Home list helps the reader to focus on the main points.

If you know of a couple about remarry, I suggest this as a good wedding present.

Thank you to FirstWildCard and Karen Davis at The B&B Media Group/David C. Cook for my copy.

And now, the first chapter:

Once upon a Dream …
When Love and Loss Become Our New Reality
White lace and promises, a kiss for luck and we’re on our way.

The Carpenters

“You have gotta be kidding me!” I was in disbelief after reading the new court papers served to my husband.

I was ranting and pacing as he made his way into the house. Waving the papers in my hand, I let it all out—“How can things go from being so good to being so bad in a matter of weeks? A few weeks ago it was fine for me to be in your daughters’ lives, and now, without knowing what hit me, I am suspect at every turn. If I don’t put ponytails in their hair, I haven’t cared for them, and if I do put them in, they’re not the right kind. I send the wrong thing in their school lunches and the wrong drinks for their thirsty little mouths! I can’t do anything right! And now—now you’re getting served court papers to take away the joint custody you have always had with your girls? How can that be fair? How can she do that? This is not what I signed up for!”

We were only two weeks into our new marriage when reality hit us. Before we had opened every wedding gift, we were opening the gift that would keep on giving—the aftermath of divorce and remarriage.

I suspected that Ray’s ex-wife filed the new custody papers because my little boys were now living under Ray’s roof and sharing the girls’ turf. Add to the equation the fact that another woman was in their life, and you have the recipe for blended-family wars. What once seemed smooth was now turning into a full-force battle. It was hard not to take this slap in our faces personally.

My mind raced through anger, frustration, and guilt. Anger that someone else now seemed to have control over my daily life, my finances, and my husband’s future—and frustration that our dream of uniting our two families as one was being dashed right before our eyes.

I went from blushing bride to the wicked stepmother in record speed. The guilt associated with being the one who was apparently the problem was almost more than I could bear. The guilt made no logical sense, because Ray had been divorced several years before meeting me, but if Ray hadn’t married me, his custody arrangement would have stayed the same. Watching him fight for his girls broke my heart. This was our new life—not exactly what we had in mind.

Once a Family—Always a Family

Divorce ends a marriage but not a family. The couple divorces; the children don’t, so they remain the constant link between their divorced parents. Remarriages jolt the entire family dynamic, affecting ex-spouses, in-laws, and all the children. In her book Remarried with Children, Barbara LeBey addresses the drama:

The stepparent is usually blamed for any negatives that occur. The wife’s family will blame the

new husband, his ex-wife, and his children. The husband’s family will blame the new wife, her exhusband, and her children. There’s so much blame to go around, it’s hard to imagine how anyone

can get beyond it. But they can, and will, if they enter the uncharted waters with a loving heart,

an open mind, and a willingness to allow for vast differences.1

From the beginning of my new life in a blended family, rejection and hurt became part of the routine of my existence. I did not like my new reality. I kept wishing I could turn back the clock to a time when everything seemed to have the promise of happily ever after—a time when everything seemed so perfect.

Most single parents I meet have the dream of meeting another love and living happily ever after. And, according to statistics, most adults do remarry after being widowed or divorced. But the sad fact is that approximately 70 percent of remarriages that involve children are failing. We think it’s time to get real about the dream of happily-ever-after-times-two and relinquish it—to the Lord. He can give us what we need to live in a life that is no longer typical, in a family that is not “ordinary,” and in a world where our nuclear ideas of family have been blown apart by the reality that our blended families barely resemble a blend!

Our dream wasn’t supposed to be filled with anger, hurt feelings, court cases, and costly attorneys. We started out with white lace and promises.

The Dream of a New Life

It was a beautiful August day—the pale blue sky spread like a blanket with polka dots of white clouds. The morning was picturesque, the perfect day for a wedding—anyone’s wedding—but this day was reserved just for us. Everything was perfect.

As the limo made its way to the church, I (Debbie) felt far removed from the bustle of life just down the hill and far removed from the pain of my past. This was my new happy ending—this was the day when I had a second chance at love. It was a day to redeem the dream destroyed by an unwanted divorce.

I (Ray) was about as excited as a man can be. After all, I was about to marry the woman of my dreams. As the limo made its way to drop off my groomsmen and me at the church, all I could think of was how blessed I was to have met this wonderful woman. I was excited about our future together. I was marrying a woman I had fallen madly in love with. Our courtship was something movies are made of. Debbie was the answer to my four-year prayer that God would bless me with a godly wife.

Our invitations read:

Ray and Debbie invite you to share in their joy

when they exchange marriage vows and begin

their new life together.

Our new life together included four children, all within a fouryear age range—two in first grade, one in second grade, and the oldest in fourth grade. I (Ray) had the girls and Debbie had the boys. Together we were all going to be the new little family—a real-life Brady Bunch.

The girls looked like little dolls, with curly hair, fancy satin dresses, and shoes right out of a fairy tale. The boys looked like little men with their pint-sized tuxedos, a splash of men’s cologne, and spiffed-up hair. After running about the building and doing the silly things kids do, they took their cue from the wedding coordinator and walked down the aisle to the delight of our guests. Once in their places, they waited with the bridesmaids and groomsmen for the wedding to begin. So far, the day was picture perfect.

Most brides are nervous on their wedding day, and I (Debbie) was about as nervous as any bride could be. I stood by the double doors of the church, my heart pounding. As the doors opened and the guests rose, I made my entrance down the center aisle, gazing at my handsome new prince waiting for me at the end of a rose-petaled path. For a moment I felt like Cinderella. My prince’s smile melted me, and it was all I could do to keep myself from running toward him and the kids. It was a moment I will never forget—a romantic snapshot etched in my memory. After we said, “I do,” we spontaneously gave each other an unrehearsed high five! Our guests laughed. We were going to make it—Ray and Debbie were starting their new life together.

We would never have believed that just a short time later, in the heat of a custody battle, we would seriously doubt the vows we made on that picture-perfect wedding day.

The Day We Became the Brady Bunch

At our reception, the new brothers and sisters entertained the guests by singing the Brady Bunch song. We all smiled, chuckled, and applauded. Ray and I felt a flush of parental pride rush through us. Oh, how adorable we all were on that day—Mr. and Mrs. Blend and the little Blends. We assumed that life would continue down this delightful path.

In record speed, the darling rendition of the Brady Bunch song was replaced by the sound of kids fighting, competing, and trying as hard as they could to position themselves in the new family. And we found ourselves in constant squabbles over the territorial rights of our own children. Add to that the ex-spouse dramas, and let’s just say our life was quickly becoming more than hard. We were suddenly face-to-face with an enemy we were ill-equipped to fight. Life was about to become more challenging than we ever thought possible.

Instead of a glorious new life, we quickly learned that the Bradys don’t exist in the real world—only in a Hollywood studio. I can’t recall a television episode where a stepchild or an ex-spouse treated Mr. Brady unfairly. I never saw a show with a court-custody scene featuring Mr. and Mrs. Brady fighting the past to hold on to their future.

There was never mention of strained finances, bad relationships, or past hurts. And Mr. Brady never mentioned a husband-in-law, nor did Mrs. Brady have to deal with the ghost of a wife past, even though both are common in blended families.

After You Say, “I Do”

We have counseled many couples in blended families, as well as taught blended-family classes at our local church. The thing that gets to us the most is the amount of pain people are in. The pain level in some of our classes is almost palpable.

When doing premarital counseling for those going into a remarriage with children, we share with couples the realities of what to expect after they seal their vows with a kiss. Most couples assure us that things are great, and that though they believe these unfortunate hardships are the experience of some, certainly nothing of the sort will happen to them—they are in love and committed to the Lord. (They all say this and really believe it!)

Sadly, most couples usually call us before they hit the threemonth mark. By that time, the realities of life in the blender have begun to rear their ugly heads. What couples can’t accept are the same things we found hard to accept—once you say, “I do,” things change. Shortly after we tied the knot, everything became real to all involved—and the children, who seemed excited that we were getting married, began their individual struggles to adapt.

It’s such a strange contradiction of emotion—on one hand, the new husband and wife are in love and happy to start a life together, but on the other hand, they see the children beginning to show signs of strain and unhappiness. The duality of this family structure can quickly get things off balance.

It became apparent that our new life would be a long, hard journey of two families trying to merge as one. Our union began to seem more like a collision course than a merge, and emotions were set to boil rather than blend. We had hoped that if we tried hard enough and did it “right,” we could overcome any adversity our blended family faced. After all, we were “in love.” Maybe you have felt the same.

We Need More Than Self-Strength

Remember the children’s classic The Little Engine That Could? The story gives hope that, with enough hard work and optimism, anything can be accomplished. As the little engine chugs along with, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.…” it makes its way up even the most daunting hill.

Certainly anyone in a blended family can relate to hoping for the future while muttering, “I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.…” But once we walk down the aisle, the powers of hell are determined to see us fail. And when that happens, we all need someone bigger and more powerful than ourselves. We need the help and hope that only God, who created us all and understands us all, can give.

How could we have known? Who tells couples these things? We were all wrapped up in planning a wedding, considering what the kids would wear, without ever considering what life would be like after the ceremony. While we were busy budgeting a reception menu, it never crossed our minds that once we took the romantic walk down that aisle, we would quickly be marched back to court. We have talked to countless others who were also blindsided by the change in events once they said, “I do.”

After the Honeymoon—One Couple’s Story

Marci and Mike had the perfect life in mind too. They had been married just a few months when problems started to erupt. Actually, they started bubbling earlier, but they took time to come to a full boil. When they married, Mike was forty and had joint custody of his eight-year-old daughter. Marci was thirty-nine with two children—a ten-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old son—and full custody.

Immediately after the honeymoon, Marci’s two children became the focal point of jealousy and bitterness for Mike’s ex-wife and his only daughter. The ex was insistent that her daughter was constantly being cheated, slighted, and left out. The ex began to tell Mike that his love was now directed only at Marci

and her children. Mike argued that it simply was not true, that his only “baby” was everything to him, his heartbeat—but his exwife now felt threatened, and she pulled out all the stops to make things difficult.

Naturally, Mom’s feelings transferred to Mike’s daughter. The girl began to refuse to go over to her dad’s new house—because she suddenly didn’t like Marci and her two kids.

Mike was devastated. His new life was not supposed to turn out this way. They had planned to be one big happy family. But before long, both Marci and Mike started being territorial and protective of their own children. Both were deadlocked in a competition to protect their turf—the children from their respective previous marriages. Steeped in pride and unwilling to let go, Marci and Mike almost brought their marriage to a devastating halt.

How could this be? They had been so in love, and the children had gotten along perfectly during the courtship. Did some evil switch get flipped? Was this a cruel joke of fate? Would they survive?

Why was the real life after the wedding so hard?

Let’s Take a Closer Look

The Problem

Blending isn’t natural and is a challenge for all involved. Mike and Marci found that there was an unanticipated competition based on biological family ties. This competition is normal, but because it was unanticipated it seemed much worse than it really was. Ex-spouses often feel threatened once there is a remarriage and may work very hard to sabotage the children’s relationship with both the biological parent and the new stepparent.

The Path

There would be hurdles to jump and new things to consider, but if Marci and Mike put their heads in the sand (denial) or hardened their hearts (bitterness) toward to each other, or toward anyone in their extended family circle, family devastation would follow.

The Promise

If they asked for God’s help, He would give it. He would answer in spiritual ways that would affect all practical decisions. In Christ, all things are possible—even love in a blended family.

If my people, who are called by my

name, will humble themselves and

pray and seek my face and turn from

their wicked ways, then I will hear

from heaven … and will heal their

land. (2 Chron. 7:14)

The Plan

Marci and Mike needed to get real, admitting to themselves and each other that this was harder than they thought it was going to be. It was important to quit trying to “play” family; it was time to turn their hearts to God so that a proper foundation for their new family could be established. Without this reality check and the desire for a proper solid foundation, everything else would continue to fall short of what the couple was looking for.

Maybe you can see parts of your dynamics within Mike and Marci’s story. Though life didn’t end up exactly how they dreamed it would, there were many practical things they could begin doing. Let’s use them as a case study and discover how what they could do differently applies to us as well.

• Mike and his daughter needed some alone time to help with the adjustment. Mike was

trying to do all things together, involving both his daughter and his stepchildren. His daughter needed to know she had her daddy still and his love always. This alone time would help strengthen their relationship and negate the things her mom was saying about Daddy not caring about her as much as he cared for Marci’s kids.

• Both Mike and Marci needed to build alone time with their children into their schedules and not feel guilty about it. In time, after things had blended better, Marci could take Mike’s daughter for alone time and vice versa.

• Mike and Marci also needed to look for ways to make peace with his ex-wife. Meetings often don’t resolve things, because there is unspoken underlying hurt involved. They needed to start praying for her weekly and to find things that might bless her.

• If Mike’s ex-wife was not open to negotiation, they needed to leave her be and continue committing the situation to God and doing what they knew to be right. They needed to refuse to play her game, choose to bless her, and continue to make Mike’s daughter feel part of the family in tangible ways.

What Now?

Because life will not feel normal and will be difficult in the adjustment phase, you will face emotional changes and challenges that you need to keep in check. Find a way to cope with your emotions—get counseling, join a support group, or talk to friends. Make sure you don’t confide in your child about all of your feelings. Rather than confiding adult things to your child, make time for your child and continue to build a relationship with him or her. Make sure you keep your word and are on time when you have a parent-child date. Continue living life; maintain your job, friendships, and schedules. Most of all, stay connected to Christ.

The prophet Jeremiah voices God’s promise of help and hope:

Call to me and I will answer you

and tell you great and unsearchable

things you do not know. (Jer. 33:3)

When we humble ourselves before God, He begins to do a work in us. But humbling your heart before God is not a quick fix. Blending still takes time.

Author and stepfamily expert Ron Deal likens this new American family to a Crock-Pot rather than a blend. He advises setting the pot on low and letting it simmer toward the blending of flavors and ingredients. In The Smart Stepfamily he says,

Stepfamily integration hardly ever happens as quickly as adults want it to.… Stepfamily researcher

James Bray discovered that stepfamilies don’t begin to think or act like a family until the end of the second or third year. Furthermore, Patricia Papernow, author of the book Becoming a Stepfamily, discovered that it takes the average stepfamily seven years to integrate sufficiently to experience intimacy and authenticity in step relationships. Fast families can accomplish this in four years, if the children are

young and the adults are intentional about bringing their family together. However, slow families, according to Papernow, can take nine or more years. In my experience, very few adults come into their stepfamily believing it will take this long.2

There is nothing natural about blending two households together. It’s as if you are transported to another country with no way back into your homeland. You are now on new territory with new sights, new customs, and new foods, and you must learn to live according to the new culture—you may even have to learn a whole new language! You are permanently planted in this new land, and you are never going back to the country you previously knew. Dr. Don Partridge calls this new land another universe—like being

in outer space. Barbara LeBey’s Remarried with Children says, “If the joining of two people in marriage is comparable to joining two different cultures, then the joining of two people who have been married, divorced, and have children would be more like merging two different galaxies.”3

Guess we better get our space suits on and figure out how to walk on the moon! Or at the very least, we need to reidentify who we are now—not who we were, or who we dreamed we’d be, but who we are today.

Bringing It Home

• Has blending your family turned out to be harder than you anticipated? If so, how?

• Have you asked for God’s help, or are you trying to figure life in the blended family out on your own?

• What choice do your actions demonstrate?

• Are you holding on to His promise of healing your family? If so, what specific promises are most important to you?

• Or, as we did at first, are you trying to do this with your own strength, goodwill, kind heart, and fairy-tale hopes of a better tomorrow? If so, how effective has that been so far? Why?

• What are you and your spouse doing to heal your relationships with your former spouses? Remember that God has called us to be peacemakers.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Malacca Conspiracy by Don Brown

Set in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the United States, The Malacca Conspiracy is a bone-chilling tale of terrorism on the high seas, of political assassination and nuclear brinkmanship. And for Zack and Diane—your favorite JAG characters from Don Brown’s popular Navy Justice series—a story of hope for a longstanding romance that is now or never.

When a dastardly plot is hatched in the Malaysian seaport of Malacca to attack civilian oil tankers at sea, to drive up the price of crude oil futures, and to assassinate the Indonesian President and use fat windfall profits to finance a nuclear attack against American cities, Navy JAG officers Zack Brewer and Diane Cocernian reunite in a sizzling race against the clock to foil the conspiracy before disaster strikes.

But as President Mack Williams sends ships of the U.S. Seventh Fleet towards the Malacca Straights to reassert control over the sea lanes, will Navy JAG officers Zack Brewer and Diane Colcernian survive this dangerous and final high-stakes drama of life and death?

My Review:
This Christian fiction action-packed novel is intense, dramatic, with scenes switching from various points in Indonesia, to ships at sea, to major US cities, to the White House. If there were a newspaper story about the plot, the headline would read, "Extremist Muslims use nuclear power to control the world." Pitting an extreme example of an evangelical United States President against an equally over-the-top member of the Islamic faith creates a tension that could make fiction come to life.

Characters Zack Brewer and Diane Cocernian provide romance that adds to the appeal. Fans of the author's earlier series will be pleased to read about their ongoing attraction.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and Zondervan for my copy.

If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fatal Loyalty by Sue Duffy

Where do you run when you know you cannot hide?

Andie Ryborg has nowhere else to go. Her father's campaign for governor and his aggressive war on drugs has chased her from their family home. Drawn to Miami's exotic Coconut Grove, Andie hopes to find a quiet refuge where she can discover herself apart from the public eye. But even in that seclusion, even with an officer assigned to protect her, Andie's privacy has been violated. Someone is watching

Evan Markham's entire life has been a tug-of-war between what is and what could be. He is drawn to a life that is beyond his reach and emotions have clouded his judgment. Evan knows that earning someone's trust isn't easy, especially when he plans to break it. But in the secret corridors of the criminal underworld, he knows what must be done, and he is determined to see it through. Whatever the cost

When enemies close in, a sudden turn of events leaves them both questioning. Where is God in all of this? Who is this enigmatic stranger who offers to help? They both know their lives are in danger. But what about their hearts?

My Review:
This Christian fiction suspense novel did not "grab" me even though there were many twists and turns, even though it was set in Florida--MY state, and even though I could not completely figure out the ending. Perhaps it was me; you may find it wonderful.

The characters were unbelievable. Andie leaves her home in a panic and chooses to stay overnight with someone she met a few hours earlier? That would not be my choice.

The plot was bumpy rather than smooth. A scene of suspense involves a man running for governor being threatened by someone following his car. The would-be governor is told to "get down!" This is followed with a scene in an art gallery with a disgruntled art critic fussing at an artist. Bumpy. We never find out the results of the car chase.

Even the research is a bit sloppy. For example, this small error: the author uses "Dade Community College" as a location in South Florida. It's been Miami-Dade Community College for as long as I can remember.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and Kregel Publications for my copy.

If you would like to read the Prologue, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Bishop by Steven James

The fourth book in the Patrick Bowers Files series.

FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers's cutting-edge 21st-century geospatial investigative techniques and impeccable logic have helped him track some of the country's most grisly killers. But those skills are pushed to the limit in this new installment of the highly-acclaimed, award-winning The Bowers Files series.

This time it's a congressman's daughter who is found dead even as her killers launch a spree of perfect murders in the Northeast. With nothing to link the crimes to each other, Agent Bowers faces his most difficult case yet--even as his personal life begins to crumble around him. Known for his intricately woven, masterfully plotted novels of high-octane action and spine-tingling suspense, Steven James delivers once again. The Bishop is a gripping, adrenaline-laced story for readers who are tired of timid thrillers. Strap on your seat belt and get ready for a wild ride. The game is on.

WARNING: This book contains violence and graphic descriptions of disturbing crime scenes. It takes the reader inside the minds of psychopathic killers.

My Review:
Do you enjoy being frightened? If so, this intense thriller should be your next read. It literally had my heart pounding within the first few pages, and I'm sure to stay awake tonight. Although I usually steer clear of books or movies that cause my pulse to race, I had previously read two others in this series from the Bower's Files, so I expected it to be worth the missing sleep. It is!

The author knows how to flesh out characters. Special FBI Agent Patrick Bowers, PhD, a coffee expert, struggles to keep order in his fast-paced life. It's been just over a year since his wife died of cancer, leaving him with her teenage daughter to raise. Two female agents strive for his attention, but he barely seems to notice; after all, there are two serial killers on the loose! His ability to sort through details keeps the reader riveted. Could that sharp insight come from the coffee he drinks?

Tessa, Pat's bright seventeen-year-old stepdaughter, is quite good at eye-rolling and sarcasm. She's just beginning to trust Pat when she meets her birth father, causing complications in a well-woven sub-plot.

Tessa, a devout fan of Edgar Allan Poe, challenges Patrick to think differently as she sites a comparison/contrast of Poe's Dupin to Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. Further, she contends that Doyle "cheats" his readers. There's even a tie-in of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I thoroughly enjoyed these periods of literary relief. (It gives the reader a chance to breathe!)

Written in the first-person account of Agent Patrick Bowers, and interspersed with a third-person point of view for many of the other characters, allows the reader a unique look inside their minds, including a glimpse of an evil mind. Oh, the games people play! Shudder ... some minds I don't wish to revisit.

The story takes place in the nation's capitol, and the author's research on primate's metacognition, computer technology, and the question of free will is extensive and thought-provoking.

Despite the heart pounding, I definitely loved this one.

Thank you to Donna Hausler at Baker Publishing Group for my copy of this book published by Revell.

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If you would like to read an excerpt, click here.