Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Debut of New Series by L. J. Sellers Hooks Me Through Female Main Character!

Chapter 1
Roxanne MacFarlane watched on the monitor as three people approached the building. A bearded fifty-something man, a thin eager woman, and a pensive teenage girl. Damn! The reverend had come along. This could get sticky. Rox hoped she didn’t have to resort to kidnapping, but she would do whatever it took to help her client. Every case was personal for her.
The trio disappeared inside the building, so Rox glanced at the second monitor. The view of the lobby was a little distorted, but she could clearly see her partner—her stepdad, Marty, in a fake security uniform—scoot out from behind a small counter. He blocked the access door and gestured for the man in the black cloak to step aside for a weapons search. The reverend looked annoyed but complied.
That was her cue. Time to put on the act. Grabbing the girl and dragging her out would be easier, but at forty years old, Rox was finally learning to pretend. After a deep breath, she bolted down the short hall, opened the door to the lobby, and stepped partway in. “Mia Bankston? You’re late for your appointment.” Rox focused on the girl, a slender fourteen-year-old.
“ I am? I’m sorry.” Mia bit her lip and turned to her mother. The woman shrugged and glanced at the phony spiritual leader and polygamist she’d married. Reverend Jonah was arguing with the security guard, who had his hands under the cult leader’s robe. Nice touch, Marty.
Rox stepped forward, holding the door open. “Let’s get this done right now, or we’ll have to reschedule. I have another appointment soon.”
“ I’d like to wait for my husband.” The mother’s voice was soft and uncertain.
“ I just need Mia to sign.” Rox paused, then projected her voice. “If she wants her money today.” She had lured the girl and her mother—who rarely left the polygamist’s home—with a letter about a phony inheritance.
“ Go ahead,” the self-appointed reverend said. “I’ll be right behind you.” He was pulling ID from his wallet.
Greed had overruled his usual control and caution.
The girl stepped past Rox and through the opening. Rox quickly followed and shut the door behind her, locking the mother out. Rox grabbed Mia’s arm and steered her down the hall. She had rented the small building for a week just for this assignment.
“ What about my mother?” The girl seemed surprised but not alarmed.
So far so good. Ideally Mia’s actions should be voluntary. “Your great-aunt left the money specifically to you. I just need a signature so I can release the funds.” Rox kept moving. She’d done her best to disguise herself with a wig and oversize reading glasses, but she still wanted minimal exposure. During her time at the CIA, they’d never let her do fieldwork, but she’d learned a lot from the operatives anyway.
Behind them the mother screeched, “Why is this door locked?”
The girl stopped.
Damn! Two more steps. Rox gave a small shrug. “Don’t worry, it’s just stuck. Happens every day, but I don’t have time to deal with it right now.” She tugged on Mia’s arm. “Come get your money.”
For a moment, the girl hesitated, her eyes wary.
Rox gave her another charming smile. She was dressed in her only lawyer-looking clothes, a navy skirt and jacket, and she knew she had a trustworthy face. One of the reasons they’d hired her at the CIA—that, and her analytical skills.
Mia shrugged and moved forward. Rox opened the door at the end of the hall, and they entered the room where her client waited.
The girl let out a shocked cry. “Dad?” She stepped forward, confusion and joy playing out on her innocent face. “I thought you were dead!”
“ No, honey. No . . . I’m . . .”
They ran toward each other and embraced in a tight hug.
Rox smiled. This was why she did this work—to reunite people with their families.
The man and his daughter stepped apart and started crying. Tears of joy had always confused Rox. Why did people cry when they were supposed to be happy? It wasn’t logical. But she’d become used to not being able to read people correctly. Except for Marty, whom she’d had a lifetime to figure out.
Rox took a photo of the two, then stepped out of the room to give the family some privacy. Her part was done. Now it was up to her client to convince his daughter to go with him—rather than stay in the polygamous cult and end up as a child bride for a man who already had six wives and fourteen children he controlled with an iron fist. Mia’s father had joint custody, which had been established at birth with his name on the certificate, and never altered in court. But Mia’s mother had taken the girl and gone into hiding.
Rox was careful about custody issues and had done her homework. At fourteen, the girl was free to choose who she wanted to live with. Her client had hired her to find the girl, then get her out. He hadn’t trusted the legal system to help because he had a criminal drug record. But he’d turned his life around and started a business that was doing well enough to afford her twenty-thousand-dollar fee. The second half was being held by a bank that would release it when she showed them the photo. She’d learned early not to trust people to follow through with the final payment, or as she liked to think of it, her success bonus. Her very first client had stiffed her once she had her son back, giving a sob story instead.
Rox left through the back of the building to avoid drama in the lobby with the reverend. Her client would do the same. Marty had probably already escorted Jonah from the building. Her stepdad was an ex-cop and could take care of himself, but she called him anyway. “Are you out?”
“Yep. That bastard came at me when he realized the girl wasn’t coming back, but I hit a few of his pain centers, and he decided to cooperate. I’ll be at the meet-up spot in five minutes.”
She walked a few blocks to her car, then drove another three to join Marty, who was already in his own car. They usually took both in case circumstances called for it. He got out, gave her a high five, then burst out laughing. “I dig the adrenaline rush of messing with assholes to rescue someone in need.”
“ Me too. See you at home.”
Marty gave her a mock salute and drove off. She’d loved seeing him in uniform when she was a kid and followed him into law enforcement as an adult. But the department had stuck her in tech support after a year on the street. She’d been disappointed but not surprised. The way her brain worked, with its atypical neurologics made her a great data cruncher. But after six years spent cyber hunting addicts and thieves, she’d gotten bored and joined the CIA. Hoping for fieldwork, she’d ended up as an analyst again. After her sister, Jolene, died, Rox had left the agency and started an investigation firm. Now she was her own operative and doing pretty well. With any luck, the treatments she was about to start—a new form of magnetic brain therapy—would make her even better.
Successful missions were essential. She’d failed to rescue Jolene when her sister was in a cult-like multiple marriage. Rox had taken an overseas CIA assignment instead, and Jo had been murdered by the cult leader while she was gone. Rox would never forgive herself. But she was doing her best to make up for it.
Twenty minutes later, she parked at the bank as her work cell phone rang. Assuming it was her current client, she picked up. “Is everything all right?”
“No. Is this Karina Jones?” The woman’s voice was tentative and stressed.
Jones was the code name she used with clients. Another one already! “Yes. Who is this?”
“My name is Jenny Carson. My husband, Dave, and I need your help.”
“Who referred you to me?”
“Detective Scott Monroe.”
Rox didn’t know Monroe personally, but she knew of him. She and Marty had put out the word about her services among certain law enforcement people with the understanding they would pass it along to others they could trust. Only her first circle of close friends knew she conducted extractions. Beyond that, clients knew her fake name and paid in cash deposits, including some that went directly into a bank account.
“What kind of help do you need?”
“ Our daughter joined that charity cult, Sister Love, and we haven’t seen her in months. We’re worried sick.” The woman choked back a sob.
Another extraction so soon? Rox didn’t feel ready. And she was supposed to start her therapy tomorrow. But the woman sounded so desperate. Plus, the group mentioned was local, so she wouldn’t have to travel. “What specifically are you worried about?” A rescue target had to be at risk for her to take the case.
“ We think the leader is keeping her captive. Other girls work in their soup kitchen, but Emma doesn’t, and we haven’t seen her since she joined.” The mother burst into tears.
This grief she understood. “Have you been to the police?” Of course they had.
“ They won’t help us. Emma is eighteen, and she joined Sister Love willingly.” Jenny Carson had to stop and take a deep breath. “After we didn’t see her at the soup kitchen, we asked the police to check on her. But even if they knew where the cult members lived, they can’t go in there without a search warrant, and they say we don’t have a real reason to think anything is wrong.”
Rox understood the legal limitations officers faced. “Do you have any evidence that your daughter is being abused or restrained?”
A telling pause. This time, Dave Carson spoke, and she realized they were on speaker phone. “No, but they prey on vulnerable girls. We think the leader trolls online for conversations about suicide.”
A flash of rage burned in Rox’s chest. This was a new low. “That’s deplorable. Do you know his name?”
“ Yes.” Mr. Carson was still doing the talking. “We called the state office where charities have to register, and it was founded by Deacon Blackstone and Margo Preston.”
Deacon? She hoped that was his name and not his religious title. The other person, Margo, might not even exist. “How did he contact your daughter?”
“ Online.” Mrs. Carson was still fighting for control of her emotions. “Our girl was in a car accident, and her best friend died.” Another sob. “Emma was devastated, and she joined the group out of guilt. I’m afraid he’ll ruin her life.”
Rox knew she would take their case. “Okay, I’ll meet with you, but I have conditions. Such as, you can never tell anyone where my office is or discuss the details of my services—unless you’re sending me someone who needs my help. Did Detective Monroe mention my fee?”
“ He said you were expensive, but money is no object.”
Good to know. “I’ll need ten thousand in cash up front. Bring it with you when we meet. If the case has unexpected expenses, we’ll discuss them at the time. If I’m successful, I get another ten grand. Are you fine with that?” Rox sometimes reduced her fee for clients who couldn’t afford her rate, so she had to get full payment from those who could.
“ Of course. We just want our daughter back.”
“ Come to my office tomorrow morning at ten. Bring photos of your daughter, a large one and a wallet size. I’ll text you directions and instructions later today.” At the moment, she was still in Salem, fifty miles south, and had to pick up her payment from the bank, drive back home to Portland, and wrap up the details of her current case.
It was unusual to have another extraction so quickly. She often went months without a call and had to supplement her income with other investigative work. But she itched to get started. After six years as a cop and ten with the CIA, she loved the thrill of the chase, even when it was all on paper. Plus Deacon Blackstone seemed like a dirtbag predator, and she couldn’t wait to extract Emma from his clutches.
~~~



Guilt Game:
The Extractor Series




By L. J. Sellers


Anybody who is a reader and browses books anywhere and everywhere, recognizes the name of L. J. Sellers. Given the liberty I gave to myself to not accept new review requests, I took the opportunity to select a book from this prolific writer. I'm certainly glad I did! I read the first book and immediately went out and downloaded the next two...

The main reason is Roxanne MacFarlane, known as the Extractor. She works to find and bring back children from places that might be called cults, or by one parent taking the child away from the other...any time that a child needs to be returned home... Rox is a former cop and CIA agent, but she left both because she was placed in positions where they most needed her skills... And that was not out in the field. You see, Rox was born with neurological damage to her brain... which resulted mainly in being good with details, numbers, analysis, which she'd been doing effectively and efficiently for both agencies...

But when her step-sister was killed due to being in a cult, Rox was so bothered that she felt she had to do something to change this world where children are stolen--for whatever reasons. Rox's step-Dad, Marty, was crushed by his daughter's death, although he had always treated both girls as his own. Now, Marty, who was also a cop, provides the muscle when an extraction is to be made...

I have always been alarmed by the about of human trafficking, which now is used to cover many types of abductions for various reasons... Teens, especially, are being targeted and at risk by many types of predators... But, make no mistake, money is always the major part of the equation. That's why the book begins with an extraction that is being made. The wife has told her child that her father is dead...Rox takes actions which often are beyond the limits of the local law enforcement. In fact, many of Rox's cases are based upon referrals from local police. She creates scenarios, based upon investigative research of where the child is located and devises the method for extraction...

But one of the most interesting parts of the story is that a new medical procedure has been developed, which, if it works, allows changes to Rox's brain that brings back emotions, awareness, and changed interpersonal relationships. Many of the limitations Rox began with, are now being changed and it is so fascinating to watch her own reactions, as well as those around her. This is a personal connection for me, and it is inspirational to consider how and when this type of change could be made to, say, individuals affected by some forms of autism... Kudos to Sellers for creating this unique character and to allow readers to watch as Rox becomes...different...



Emma was old enough to leave her home to join Sister Love. Her parents had come to seek assistance to bring their daughter home, believing it was a cult. Sister Love ran a kitchen to feed veterans and others needing meals, which was a good thing... But, their daughter was not ever there working... Where was she?

Emma had been driving when there was an accident in which her best friend had died. That friend's parents had blamed Emma...Indeed, Emma blamed herself and had thought of suicide, but realized that there might be some redemption for her if she were to help others in need...

The Guilt Game, as the book is named, is correct. The leaders of this group purposely chose young adults who had, in some way, caused major grief to somebody they loved. This particular cult was led by one man...and without any professional expertise, he counseled each girl, yes, they were all girls, how they could free themselves of their guilt... And when you have a willing participant, who blames herself and accepts the guilt, many prefer to be exactly where they are, even though they might get into situations they are not ready for; e.g., sexual promiscuity.

The importance of the storyline is dominant; although, the action and suspense that arises out of this agreement to extract somebody from a potentially dangerous place is tense, edgy, and a page-turner as readers move further and further into the case, where Rox and Marty are trying to extract Emma...and get her out...in time...

I read the book in one sitting and, as I said, immediately got the next two books. I was immediately hooked on the characters, the underlying story plots, and the thriller-like escapades Rox, especially, gets into... I loved it and highly recommend it to romantic suspense, action thriller and books that respond to things happening in today's world... Do check it out! 


GABixlerReviews




Monday, January 21, 2019

Beautiful Children's Book Helps Talk About Nutritional Foods









I love children's books that effectively use illustrations that are beautiful, attractive and eye-catching for both children and adults...while also using them to provide a simple teaching moment... Let's face it, many children in these days of fast food and junk food are tempted more than ever before... I should know, I was one of those kids... Coming from a home with one parent, four kids and little income, we grew up on easy but filling noodles and other pasta. Vegetables were more expensive...and still are...

Yet, children can be shown the right way, just by presenting them with, Mia, a little friend, in a wonderful book. I wish I could share more of the interior pages...do check out a sample to see what I mean! 

A delightful little unicorn, beginning to think and wonder about this new world, has started asking questions... lots of questions. So that when she asked her mother one day, "What do unicorns eat?" her mother responded "Lots of Things." Well, Mia then asked, "What are Lots of Things..." You get the idea... It was a time when mother just couldn't get into a long discussion, so she referred Mia to her father. He was resting, so Mia decided to go out and ask others what they ate and whether they thought it would be good for unicorns... One of those animals was a beautiful parrot eating berries. So Mia asked about eating berries...


Not the parrot or picture from book...

Mia sat under a tree on the beach
It was a berry tree.
Mia heard a loud screech.
She looked up to see a parrot eating berries.
"Hello," said Mia. "What are you eating?"
"Berries, they make me bright and colorful,"
said parrot
"Do unicorns eat berries?" asked Mia
"Yesssss!" screeched parrot.
~~~


Mia asked eight different animals about what they ate and from that she was able to learn quite a lot of what foods would be good for her... But, when she came to a group of children, who were having a birthday party, and was given the food they were eating... Mia learned what she most liked that day! What do you think she ate?

I was delighted with the entire experience with Mia and her quest for information on foods to eat! It certainly can be used as a teaching tool, as mothers or others read the book to a questioning child and is given the types of food that are good for Mia, as well as those which taste great on special occasions!

And, there was a tiny addition to the story that is challenged as you begin the book...👀! On each page, there is a tiny set of eyes watching from various places... I had to work hard to find a couple of them, but it was fun to find them in so many unlikely parts of the woods. Kudos to the illustrator...for this and the entire beautiful complementary painting-like pages!

The book is 25 pages, but doesn't list a proposed age range... This reader suggests pre-school to the 2nd or 3rd grade... And is highly recommended.


GABixlerReviews








Michael Bo specializes in communicating with children, and he has a gift for explaining complex topics in a way that is clear, simple, straightforward, and light. 

A part-time teacher, Michael Bo has also worked as a private children's tutor, racking up thousands of hours of classroom time. Throughout his teaching career, he has come back to one notion again and again, that it is possible to distill lessons into stories that children want to hear. He has now applied that notion in his writing, and he has applied it to great effect, drawing in young readers and holding onto their attention while he passes along information conducive to living a better life.

When Michael is not in the classroom or busy at his writing desk, he enjoys hiking and traveling. He has visited countries on six of the seven continents, and his favorite destinations are Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Kyiv, Los Angeles, and Sydney.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Heaven's Open Book by Sheldon Pearl - A Reality Check Needed?




You know, these days, in America, especially, I've been hesitant to acknowledge I'm a Christian... Not that I am ashamed of following Jesus Christ, but I'm ashamed that there may be people who call themselves Christian, but who are demonstrating to the World, perhaps, something that is not at all like Christ's teachings.  Heaven's Open Book takes this issue right to the forefront of each of our lives--by merely telling us stories about people... Some of the people you may recognize through your own experiences. Some may surprise you... But, in the end, God has spoken through this little book--How Can you Tell a Christian? By His Love...



Clifford jumped down from the last stone ledge, and scooped up his wife in his arms, reminiscent of his wedding night, twenty years ago. Sandra surrendered to his amorous affectation, and smiled, as dozens of excited pairs of eyes zoomed in on the loving couple. 
“You could get to do this more often, if church was…” whispered Sandra. 
But Clifford barged in, stopping her in mid-sentence. “Don’t start,” Clifford replied, easing her gently on to the sand. “And, remember that this is a wedding, and not your church revival meeting.” 
Sandra chuckled. “No difference, Clifford. I keep telling you that anywhere the Christian goes, he’s on holy ground… And please don’t embarrass me today.” She twitched her mouth in the direction of the men. “Many of your ungodly friends are over there.” 
“Ok, dear,” Clifford replied, sarcasm wrapped around his lips. “Your little boy will be obedient today.” 
He looked at the group of ladies and laughed. Then, turning to Sandra, he said, “Your angel sisters going to give you the shock of your life one of these days, when Bob Marley’s ‘If night should turn into day,’ hit them.” 




“Enough of your maliciousness. Wish you could be even half as committed to Christian values as those ladies.” She tugged at his shirt. “Let’s go join them.” The Campbells were a mismatched couple.
Sandra described them as ‘unequally yoked,’ and Clifford’s simple solution, was for Sandra to ‘get real’. 
But the couple was not always at loggerheads. Twenty years ago, when they were newlyweds, they were youthful party-goers, ‘mashing up the place’ every Saturday night. And even ten years after their marriage, happiness oozed from the relationship. 
But Sandra had found ‘a new life,’ and a ‘new lover.’ Her values suddenly took a right about turn, and her tolerance level for ‘the former things,’ was at the lower end of the open-mindedness meter. 
Clifford had become ‘the unbelieving spouse,’ who had to be sanctified by her righteousness. But even that, had proven difficult, given Clifford’s insatiable appetite for ‘the things of the world,’ and his frequent criticism of her ‘holier-than-thou’ church brethren.
Sandra drew closer to the group of ladies. Her presence appeared to be the arranged signal for them to split up. 

Clifford grinned, and walked past the cluster of silent men, flicking his head in the direction of the ladies. The men followed him. 
“How did that boy find his way into Bro Manny’s house, to snatch his only daughter?” asked Hector.
“He must be a magician.” 
“Magician my foot,” responded Clifford. “When the girl’s body crying out, you think she need anything else than a man? They believe that Jesus going to wash away her libido, simply by calling his name.” He looked around and laughed. “You hear that the boy got her pregnant, and that’s why they getting married?” The men were animated. 
The spicy intimation, suddenly lubricated their quiet tongues. And the resulting blabber, far outdid anything the women could have mustered. But, it was Hector who stole the show.
“Bro. Manny, and his pious wife, operate as if the girl’s strong craving is the Devil’s doing,” he blurted, folding his lips to contain the snigger. “But they’re to be blamed. Clover hear them many nights, urging the Holy Ghost not to bar them out of heaven for partaking lavishly in ‘unchristian-like conduct’.” 
“The wedding is a farce,” Clifford said, “‘cause they say the boy is a ‘worldian,’ and going to drag her down to hell. Yet because he’s rich, they going through with it.”
The wedding ceremony was brief, and wasn’t worth the time and effort the guests had sacrificed to attend. But the bride and groom were happy, and were more concerned with the opportunity to taste of the once forbidden fruit, and to revel in the behind-closed-door, ‘unchristian-like conduct’. 
Clifford approached his wife. She was the center of attention among the ladies. “What do you want?” Sandra asked, her voice slightly impatient. 
“Going to leave with the boys. You can drive home?” 
“Crazy? Want me to support you and your friends’ immoralities? I’m already forced to commit to certain aspects of our marriage. But I’ll never support your sinful activities, willfully.” 
Clifford chuckled and walked away. “Well, honey, get a ride with one of your unrighteous virgins.” He hissed his teeth and muttered, “We’ll see who has the extra oil...”


~~~ 

There are five different couple stories in Part I. They have a range of emotional issues and sometimes are humorous, sad, but never not...possible.. Only you know how you would react in each situation, so, go ahead, think through each of the stories. Wonder what you'd do? I know I had fun doing it, especially since I'm not married and was an onlooker. But I've met some "unequally yoked" couples as they say, so I wasn't completely without knowledge...

For instance, Clifford, the individual who is now "unequally yoked" to his wife of many years interestingly tells his wife to check with the "unrighteous virgins" to "see who has the extra oil..." I had sung this little song for many years as a child, but later began to wonder: This didn't make sense... So I was happy to see that the author had concluded my thoughts as well...

This leads to Part II, Transformation and Revelations

Meeting the Father, the Son or the Holy Ghost is an individual thing, isn't it? No matter how many times it's happened, we all have a different experience. In Part II, Clifford, one of the main male characters, is transformed...and also dies during the book...



But some of the characters of this book won't be there in Heaven... 





The sub-title of this book relates to God's judgment.  Well, this book is fiction and talks about many of our own thoughts throughout our lives... The last chapter is called "Reality Check" and we still see Clifford dealing with his daily living... It's an important book if you want it to be...It's also a reminder book if you need that at this time... But's it is indeed a reality check as to where we are in relation to God. It's not a book to be enjoyed, although your emotions will certainly be involved in reading. But I've also mentioned that it is kinda fun to have your values reviewed through looking at the lives of other people and how you'd be in the various situations they get involved with. 

It's a time in America where love is not the main emotion that drives our lives. We are going through a government shutdown where millions are being hurt, for no reason, merely by being denied a chance to report to work and get paid for it... We shall be known for our love...Do we all need a reality check? Let this recommended book help!



GABixlerReviews




Sheldon Peart is retired and lives in Jamaica, West Indies. His long working career has allowed him to experience life from different perspectives. Now, with time on his hand, he has focused his attention on the one area he has always loved - writing. This has given him real joy and fulfillment, and with his love for storytelling, he has found a fitting substitute for the long arduous hours which his working career demanded. He has written three books- 'Beyond the Fence,' ' That Blooming System' and 'Heaven's Open Book'.His fourth book 'The Real Principal' will be published in early 2019.

He is an avid guitarist,enjoys a good debate and gets tremendous satisfaction from his community work in the field of education. He is married and has four adult children and three grandchildren.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Zia Westfield's Two Great Suspense Books in Series! But...

When I saw the storyline for Book 2, I immediately thought it would be good to read Book 1 first. What I discovered was that there was little relationship between the two books...and had totally different characters and no continuing reference back to the first book. Both books have excellent stories and I thoroughly enjoyed the stories...But... 

By the second book, I was seeing an obvious issue for me--one I can only consider as what has been referred to as, formula books... This issue was first discussed for Harlequin books which does indeed have a specific formula... I haven't made a study of them, as obviously I am not a fan...

It states at the back of her books:


Zia Westfield creates suspenseful, exciting stories with romance at the heart of them. There is nothing more thrilling than watching two people fall in love despite the odds and the danger surrounding their every move.

Westfield uses what could be referred to as a formula which was ...Boy meets girl, both are immediately attracted, both have past baggage, both fall in love within hours or days of meeting, both men are in "security," both women are hurt but have made it back to be strong women, both have a short time frame in which something must be accomplished...and both the men and women use similar dialogue related to their relationships with the other... even sexual thoughts...

For the first book, I enjoyed this interchange and was intrigued by the way each individual's back story was played out; by the second book, I was somewhat bored and irritated that I knew what was going to be said and done as the intimacy developed. Even with different words and different situations, the intimate story was NOT indeed "more thrilling than watching two people fall in love..."If you've read it once, well it's not so thrilling when you read the same "moves," fears, and lack of self-confidence, by the next two characters... and possibly subsequent books.

Which is a shame because though her romance thriller formula did not work into the second book with me; it should definitely not be used in further series books, in my opinion.  On the other hand, Zia Westfield's suspense stories are spectacular, well written, unique and creatively done, and keeps readers interested from the beginning to the end... Readers should not be able to think of each character as anything other than unique...When we find ourselves thinking, was that Gemma or Kelsey that we are thinking about, that's a clue... And if Sam and Jack are alike in temperament, feelings about emotional support, plus a bad background...what is it that makes them different? What I do know that I could not differentiate between either of the four characters except by their professional interests and activities in any real way after I read both books... Should I be able to? After having read hundreds of series books, this is the first time this issue has come to mind...Good or Bad? You decide.

I hope Westfield starts to apply her unique creativity to her entire book...The romance should be part of the overall book and not seen as something separate from that overall romantic suspense story. By using a formula for the romance, it feels like we can merely insert each new man or woman and they will, in essence, do the same old romantic moves that have been established for the series... 

I'd love to hear some feedback related to my thoughts on this issue!


“You know I’m a reporter with the Carville Gazette, right?” Since O’Malley chose that moment to deliver her drink, she waited until he moved away from the table. “I’m sure you’re familiar with the paper, Detective Donahue, given the number of times you’ve been in it.” She took a sip from her cola and eyed him over the top of her glass.
“Like I said, I know who you are and I don’t do interviews.” Even his Captain knew better than to stick him in front of a bunch of press vultures.  
“I know. Your feelings for my profession have been made crystal clear on more than one occasion.” She cocked her head to the side, a frown working its way across her forehead. “You know you aren’t what I expected.” 
“What did you expect?” 
“Someone more arrogant, more full of himself. Someone hung up on the power of the badge.” 
“What makes you think I’m not?” He didn’t know why he was prolonging the conversation. He should just get up and leave. He had no use for reporters, and though Gemma Fitzgibbons almost tempted him enough to rethink that, his scars were fresh enough that simply sitting across from her made his shoulder blades itch. 
“Call it reporter intuition, I don’t know. I don’t like contradictions and you’re a contradiction. Open the envelope, detective.” 
Reluctantly, Jack reached for the envelope and pulled it closer. He let it remain there unopened and tapped the table with his fingers as he examined his companion carefully. She seemed to be on her last nerve and the tension she generated suggested she wasn’t as comfortable with this situation as she pretended to be. Now why was that? There were no markings on the envelope, nothing to indicate where it came from or what was inside. 
Cursing the bad luck that had led him to O’Malley’s for a drink tonight, he told himself to get over it and lifted the flap that had been tucked in rather than sealed. He tipped the envelope so that the contents spilled out across the table. Photos landed on the table surface. Jack picked one up and studied the grainy dark image. A man who looked a hell of a lot like him passed a white substance to a greasy-looking leather-clad bum. It had every appearance of a drug buy. Each photo he fingered showed his look-alike selling drugs to at least three different customers. As the images coalesced in his mind, fury rose up like a skyrocket. 
“What the hell kind of stunt are you pulling, Ms. Fitzgibbons?”
“Are you denying the man in the picture is you?” 
“Damn right, I’m denying it.” He lifted one of the photos. They had to have been doctored in some way. With technology nowadays, anything was possible. He’d need a professional to analyze them.
“How can you deny it when you’re right there in each frame?” 
He leaned forward getting as much in her face as he could with the table between them. “I’m denying it because it’s a setup, that’s why. I never posed for these photos or was in whatever dive that’s pictured here. If you bought these off of someone, you’ve been had.” She’d been a dupe. He’d buy that. But it still burned his gut that someone was trying to implicate him in a crime. 
Gemma tapped a nail on one picture. “You’re exchanging drugs for cash in this one with a woman, and again in this one with a man. You’re a homicide detective and my sources say you aren’t involved in narcotics busts. How do you explain these scenes?”
“I don’t have to. I know they’re fakes. Somebody sold you a bill of goods, lady. Get over it. And I suggest you sharpen those reporter instincts of yours.” He pulled his wallet out of his pocket and yanked out some bills, which he tossed on the table. He made to slide out of the booth when her next words made him pause. 
“I took those pictures.” She gripped one photo of him standing with a lowlife scum. The lighting was dim and his face was in profile. The quality was a bit grainy as if from a cell phone rather than a regular digital camera. Even so, the man in the picture looked a lot like him, except it damn well wasn’t. “I was chasing down another story when I saw you.” She shrugged her shoulders. “I was curious. I started snapping shots...
~~~

Gemma Fitzgibbons is a sharp, smart, and snazzy investigative reporter that was moving fast to grab first-page bylines on important stories. It was an interesting by-product of another story, when she happened to sight Detective Donahue in a sleaze bar, apparently selling drugs.  Donahue was furious because it had been unscrupulous reporters who had badgered and wrote about his father when a scandal had happened years ago. He wasn't going to have that happen to him...

I admire that Gemma went directly to the source to discuss what she had seen, and she wasn't about to let him off without fully investigating what had actually happened...

But before that happened, both were caught up in a much more important story. Gemma had explained why she was in the stripper joint talking to a potential witness, and immediately Jack had recognized the location, how it connected to a murder. Gemma had found a possible witness that the police had not discovered...and Jack immediately moved to meet with her to go over what she had seen...

When Jack meets Gemma's family--an aunt and a niece, Dana takes a liking to Jack and as security becomes an issue, Jack becomes more involved and concerned enough to want to ensure Gemma and her family are protected.

The amazing twists and turns in this suspense story are pulled together in such a way that all situations that had occurred in both Gemma and Jack's early lives were brought forward for a new examination...and resolution... It's a book where you have to say, "I didn't see that coming..." The type of book I love...

It's also the type of book that you really can't share too much without giving parts of the story away...  This first book was totally satisfying and can be highly recommended...




He pulled the SUV as close to the front porch as he could, but he was still soaked by the time he reached the top step. He pushed the bell next to the door and prepared to meet the crazy cat lady. 
The door opened, and Sam stared dumbfounded. The woman before him was dressed in shawls and a long dark grey skirt, and had one cat in her arms while another curled up on a straight back chair that butted up against the wall. But she was years younger—younger than him, he’d guess—and punch-in-the-gut beautiful. None of it made sense and he said the first words that popped into his mind. 
“What happened to the other crazy cat lady?”
Kelsey Tremayne winced at the question. When she’d opened the door, she hadn’t been sure what to expect. The security system needed a major upgrade. She had barely been able to hear the detective identify himself, and the rain and poor camera quality had made it impossible to see his badge clearly. Though she’d debated the risk in letting him approach, she had decided to chance it. She gripped the pepper spray she held in her hand which was concealed by the shawls. It hadn’t been easy to call the police given her history with them, in fact, her stomach still felt queasy over the decision, but she needed the incidents on record.
Crazy cat lady, indeed. “Please come in, Detective.” She stepped back and petted Sabina, the white Persian mix that had sought comfort in her arms when the thunder had started. The detective entered, dripping water on the wood floor, and surveyed her from head to foot. 
He was tall, over six feet, if she had to guess, with a rangy build, brown close-cropped hair, and a stubborn jaw. Kelsey could imagine what he saw. A not-very-tall, not-very-short, brown-haired, brown-eyed female with more cats than friends. Okay, he wouldn’t be able to guess the last, but it wouldn’t take long for him to stumble onto the truth. Then again maybe he already knew it. After all, he’d asked about the other cat lady...
The detective splayed his hands on his hips and watched her. “Ms. Tremayne, you called the station and reported a burglary.” Kelsey wet her lips and wished he’d asked for a drink. Her mouth felt dry and her throat parched...
He wouldn’t believe her. She could tell from his stance and from the way his gaze swept over the room. He had made up his mind about her. Maybe he’d even heard the rumors about her. He’d obviously heard the ones about her aunt or why would he have called her the “crazy cat lady?” Suddenly the room seemed to shrink. Her pulse rate increased and sweat broke out on her brow. A panic attack was imminent if she didn’t do something to head it off. That would be all he would need to see to confirm that she was as crazy as her aunt. She couldn’t let him. “I’m sorry, detective, for wasting your time. You should go. I made a mistake. I’m sorry. Please chalk it up to the horrible weather...”
~~~

This second in the series, taking place in Carville has a wonderful diverse and tentacled story line that pulls readers in and keeps them interested and trying to project what would be happening. I did pretty good but at the closing I was feeling like a major event had not been closed out...Thankfully, the Epilogue told me everything and more that I had been worried about! 

Two abductions, disappearances of teenage girls had taken place years ago. One had returned and she is now the main character, Kelsey Treymayne. Kelsey's aunt had recently died and she has returned to the family home to help decide what to do--her father and her had been named as co-owners.

Unfortunately Kelsey had lost all memory of the entire summer when she had been taken, but had received rough treatment from the police and others in the community, when they decided that she had to have been the one who killed the other girl, although she had never been found. Unfortunately, Kelsey was very cautious about interacting with police.

Needless to say, Kelsey was not anxious to return to Carville. Her aunt had apparently become reclusive, and a hoarder, so much so that Kelsey wasn't sure she could clean out the house in the time she had before she had to go back to work. The large home was oppressive, dark and unwelcoming... But, perhaps it was made more so, because she had seen a man looking in her window, who had disappeared when she screamed. She had earlier called the police to report a potential burglar, but had become so upset that she sent the officer away...

Now, she knew she really needed help... And the first thing Detective Sam Carmichael had done when she called him back, was to find a wire fixed across a step going to the basement. He knew it would have been bad, whether it had been there since her aunt had been alive, or whether it had been placed there since Kelsey had arrived. The woman was indeed in danger... and prints outside the window where she had seen the man was definite proof...

Before long she was in a car accident... There was no doubt, somebody was planning on hurting Kelsey...But Who?

Two wonderful characters add to the flavor and enjoyment of the book. Sam finds a stray dog and names him Knight... and Kelsey is called by a local social worker to see if she was work with a found runaway girl who would not talk to anybody... But Kelsey was able to connect through her work as an art therapist and psychologist. It worried, Kelsey, however, that much of the story she was told by the young girl, seemed to bring flashbacks of her own abduction years ago...

Although I enjoyed the story of suspense and drama within this book, and would highly recommend it, I was also concerned that the thrust of the romantic plot within this second book was very similar in method and procedure in this second book. I called it formula writing on my blog, if interested. Essentially, the meet-greet of male and female were totally mapped, even to the point of, while words were different, the thoughts, fears, and emotional responses of each were alike in both books... I found that I paused each time, recognizing what was going to come, and was never wrong... To have this happen within a unique suspense and delightfully creative story was disruptive to me, enough to make a note of it, hoping it doesn't occur in the next book.

Do check it out... read other reviews or decide that my concern won't bother you... The suspense story itself is fantastic...



GABixlerReviews





Zia Westfield creates suspenseful, exciting stories with romance at the heart of them. There is nothing more thrilling than watching two people fall in love despite the odds and the danger surrounding their every move.

She makes her home in Tokyo with her husband and three sons. She holds a full-time job, volunteers too much because she doesn't know how to say "no," and generally finds peace between the pages of a book or when she's writing out the stories in her head.