If I’m Found (Terri Blackstock) – Review

5 stars

~About the Book ~

Casey Cox is still on the run, fleeing prosecution for a murder she didn’t commit. Dylan Roberts—her most relentless pursuer—is still on her trail, but his secret emails insist he knows the truth and wants to help her. He’s let her escape before when he had her in his grasp, but trust doesn’t come easily.

As Casey works to collect evidence about the real murderers, she stumbles on another unbearable injustice: an abused child and a suicidal man who’s also been falsely accused. Casey risks her own safety to right this wrong and protect the little girl from her tormenters. But doing so is risky and may result in her capture—and if she’s captured, she has no doubt she’ll be murdered before she ever steps foot in a jail cell. Continue reading

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Book Spotlight: A Second Chance – Alexis A. Goring

A Second Chance banner

~ About the Book ~

Newly single food critic and newspaper reporter Traci Hightower is done with dating. After the man of her dreams left her at the altar on their wedding day and ran off with the woman she thought was her best friend, Traci resolves to focus on work and resigns herself to being a bachelorette for life. Marc Roberts is a political reporter who is known as Mr. Nice Guy, the one who always finishes last. However, Marc’s compassion and kindness are of invaluable help to his newly widowed sister Gina Braxton who is trying to raise her two kids in the wake of her firefighter husband’s death. Traci and Marc may be the perfect match, but they don’t know it yet. With God’s guidance and the help of Gina’s matchmaking skills honed by her career as a bestselling romance novelist, there is hope for a happily ever after for these two broken hearts.

~ Excerpt ~

Knee-deep in debt from wedding expenses, Traci Hightower sighed as she filed through the credit card statements. She should be married now, back from her honeymoon in Bali, and settled into her new home with her husband.
Not single and broke.
She slapped an envelope against the desk. Five months of struggling to survive and pay off the debt. Her meager, entry-level journalist salary didn’t stretch far enough. She’d been paying her dues for seven years. She rubbed her temples. The numbers on the credit card statement blurred in front of her eyes.
The doorbell rang. A little thrill rushed through her. She stood from her cross-legged position on the floor and hopped over the mess of papers and laundry that decorated her living room. “Who is it?”
“The woman who gave you birth.”
For the first time today, Traci smiled. She opened the door and reached for a hug from the one person who never left her hanging. “Hi, Mom.”
Her mom returned her daughter’s embrace, then dragged her suitcase inside. She glanced around. “Oh, my.”
Traci locked her door, then turned and shrugged. “I’m so glad you’re here. I’ve been looking forward to this. Can’t you stay for more than two days though?”
Mom stopped picking up the bills from the floor and faced her daughter. “No, honey. I’m sorry, but I need to return home by Wednesday morning. Dad and I have an important meeting later that day.”
Traci’s heart dipped. Mom paused and placed the bills and the stack of paper she’d picked off the floor on Traci’s kitchen counter. “Oh, sweetie.” She cocooned her daughter in another embrace.
Traci snuggled close. She inhaled the familiar scent of her mother’s favorite perfume. It smelt like coconut and lime.
“You always were a cuddler.” Mom stroked her hair. “Still up to your eyeballs in debt?”
Traci nodded.
“Why don’t you let me and your father help?”
Traci took a step back and made eye contact with her mom. “We’ve been through this. I got myself into this mess. I’ll get myself out.”
Mom smiled. “Your father and I were talking. We hate to see you struggling.”
“You don’t exactly live in a palace either. I know you want to retire soon, and I won’t have you dipping into that money.”
Mom reached into her purse. “Living in the nation’s capital area is expensive.” She rummaged through her handbag’s contents. “Have you considered moving home?”
“I can’t do that. I don’t ever want to live anywhere else. My life and career are here.”
“How’s that going for you?”
Traci picked at her fingernails. “It could be better.” Better boss, better pay, better office space. The works.
Mom nodded as she retrieved one sealed envelope from her purse. She looked toward Traci’s kitchen. “Can we make some tea? I’d like to talk with you.”
“Sure. Come with me.” Traci reached for the box of peppermint tea bags and got a bottle of honey from her refrigerator. As she put the kettle on to boil, her mom settled into a wobbly kitchen chair. She smoothed the creased edges of the envelope.
Traci poured the hot water over the tea bags in each mug and the scent of peppermint filled the air. “Everything okay?”
“Just thinking, honey.”
“About what?”
“Have a seat.”
“Sure, just let me allow the tea to steep.” After she placed a plate over each mug and set it aside, she settled into the chair across from her mom. “What’s up?”
“I never did like Greg.”
Traci traced a ring stain on the table. “Do we have to talk about my ex-fiancé?”
“Yes, because your grandfather always trusted my judgment.”
“So, Grandpa didn’t like Greg either?”
“I inherited my instincts of discernment from him. Speaking of discernment, here.” She pushed the envelope within Traci’s reach.
She frowned as she picked it up and tried to flatten its wrinkles. “What’s this?”
“Open it. Read it, and I’ll bring our tea to the table.”
Traci turned over the letter-sized, manila-hued paper that was addressed to her. She drew out the paper.

Dear Traci,
If you’re reading this, it means I’ve passed away, and your mother kept her promise to give this to you at the right time. As you know, I like to cut to the chase first and explain later. So here it is, plain and simple: I left an inheritance for you. It’s enough for you to make a solid and secure living, for it will cover more than what you need for the rest of your life.

Traci dropped the letter, her hands shaking. This could be the answer to her financial struggles and give her what she always dreamed of. Her own bookstore. The thought stole her breath for a moment. She envisioned the words on the sign out front. Hallee’s House. Just like she promised her cousin Hallee before she passed away from cancer. Tears welled in Traci’s eyes.
Forcing herself to take a deep breath and will the emotional waterworks away, she picked the paper off the floor and continued reading.

But you cannot receive the money until after you are married, and before you are, your mother must approve of the man you want to wed. Why? Because your mother inherited my sense of judgment and discernment between right and wrong when it comes to people. She can spot someone who’s going to break your heart from a mile away. I trust that you will listen to your mother now that I’m gone and can no longer advise you. So there you have it, dear. You have an inheritance. Sounds like a movie, right? Only it’s not. It’s better, because it’s now part of the story of your life.
After you’re married, you and your husband need to visit my lawyer, Chadwick Morrison. Provide him with the original copy of your marriage certificate, and he will give you your inheritance.
Your grandmother and I loved you. We wanted nothing more than for you to find the type of love that we had during our lifetime. Now, I trust that you will allow yourself to be guided by God, your mother’s love, and your father’s protection.
With love, your grandfather,
Henry Allen Fort
P.S. Take this seriously. Don’t marry the wrong man just to get the money. Let love happen. There’s no deadline. My will said you had to be married first. It didn’t say when.

“Let love happen.” Traci snorted as she folded the letter and placed it into the envelope. “The last time I let love happen, I was left at the altar with nothing more than a pile of bills.”
Mom placed her mug on the table. “It’s time for you to move on and trust God.”
“I trusted God to bring me a husband. He brought me Greg. Remember? The man who left me on my wedding day and ran off with my best friend?”
“Honey, I know it hurts, but that was months ago. You shouldn’t allow Greg’s actions and wayward heart to tarnish your future. Be glad he showed you his true colors before tying the knot. Honestly, look at this as a blessing. God protected you from a lifetime of heartache.”
Traci focused on her I Love Maryland mug.
Mom touched her hand. “Your grandfather just wanted to see you happy in a committed romantic relationship like he and your grandma had. Like your father and I have.”
Traci sipped her tea.
“Keep the letter.” Mrs. Hightower pushed her chair back. “Do you want me to stay here or at a hotel?”
“Here, Mom, of course. You can stay in my room. I’ll sleep on the couch.”
“Alright then. I’m going to put my luggage in your room. After that, we’ll clean your apartment.”
Traci picked up the mugs while her mind ran a marathon. Forgive her ex-fiancé and move on? Trust God?

~ About the Author ~

alexis-a-goringAlexis A. Goring is a passionate writer with a degree in Print Journalism and an MFA in Creative Writing. She loves the art of storytelling and hopes that her stories will connect readers with the enduring, forever love of Jesus Christ.


~ Giveaway ~

Alexis is giving away an e-copy of A Second Chance. You can enter the giveaway by clicking here.

~ Tour Schedule ~

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Weekend Book Buzz

Welcome to another Weekend Book Buzz! It’s been another busy week, so let’s start with a recap of what’s happened right here at Fiction Aficionado this week (click on graphics to read the reviews): Continue reading

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Unquiet Ghosts (Glenn Meade) – Review

4 stars

~ About the Book ~

Eight years ago, her husband and children were killed in a plane crash. Now, new evidence reveals that they didn’t die—her husband deliberately vanished—and that he knows a secret the powerful forces will stop at nothing to keep hidden.

Kathy Kelly’s world was shattered when a plane carrying her husband—an Iraq War veteran and devoted father—and her two children vanished from the sky one night. No trace of the plane was ever found.

Eight years later, Kathy has struggled to rebuild her life, but then wreckage of his plane is found in the wilderness of Great Smoky Mountain National Park—hundreds of miles from where her husband’s plane should have been. The pilot perished in the crash, but there is no sign of Jack or the children. Could they have made it out alive after all? But if so, where have they been all this time? Where are they now?

As Kathy searches for any clue about what happened to her family, the investigation uncovers some unsettling clues—including a briefcase containing millions of dollars in cash, a priceless mask stolen from an Iraqi museum, and a clue that links Jack’s disappearance with the suspicious death of Kathy’s mother years ago.

But she soon learns that others have been looking for the wreckage and its occupants for a long time. Others who are determined to make sure she never finds her family and that they remain dead. Shadowy, powerful people who will kill for what was on board—a secret her husband was the keeper of. A secret so powerful it will open a Pandora’s box of bloody revenge—one that reaches back into the past and into the highest echelons of wealth and power, all the way to the White House.

This breathless, pulse-pounding thriller examines the very real billions in cash and priceless artifacts that vanished into the pockets of powerful American men during the Iraq war, and examines the extreme lengths some people will go to protect the secrets of what really happened to all that money.

~ Excerpt ~

I always imagined that death in a plane crash would come instantly if the aircraft exploded in midair. But I could never cease contemplating the stark terror they would have felt if the aircraft was still intact as it sank through bubbling storm clouds, buffeted by extreme turbulence—their panic a living thing, death looking them in the face as they plunged toward the ground.
I shuddered every time I visualized that image. Sometimes I cried with despair—my beautiful daughter and son and husband having to endure the crushing, chaotic fear as their aircraft plummeted to earth. It broke my heart, shredded by soul to pieces.
And after their deaths, the hardness of my own heart truly frightened me. I no longer cared about the suffering of others. Music that had once stirred my heart no longer moved me. I became numb, unaffected. The loss of a child at any stage of life is so unnatural, so wrong, that purpose seems difficult to reclaim. But the loss of two children and my husband was a devastation I never believed I would recover from. I kept expecting to wake up and discover it was all some cruel joke and that everything was OK. But it wasn’t.
You learn a lot when you lose someone you love. You learn even more when you lose your entire family. I learned that to come through the trials my husband had come through in Iraq, to get past losing friends and comrades in battle, he must have had incredible strength and fortitude.
I had neither.
I crumbled.
Haunted by absence, I used to visit the cemetery at all hours of day and night, lying down on the ground beside the graves. I would stretch myself out on the cold earth and feel it seep into my bones as it must have seeped into theirs, wherever they lay. For such a long time, my heart felt as brittle as charcoal, my soul as gouged as the earth covering the fresh graves of this burial ground.
Twice I actually thought I saw Jack in the woods behind our house, where he used to stroll and play with our children. I ran out, calling his name, following the mystery figure deep into the woods, but there was no one there.
People who knew me then must have thought I was crazy. And for a time I was. My doctor recommended antianxiety medication. I rejected the prescription. I wanted to feel the pain. It was all I had, all that allowed me to recall the happiness of my past life.
And now, though my dreams still reclaimed me briefly, especially on anniversaries, they came less often.
I miss you, Jack. I miss you, Amy and Sean.
I would always miss them.
Standing there, lost in the limbo between the present and the past, I heard a noise behind me and turned. I never imagined who would be standing there, not for a second, and it sent a shock through me like a bolt of lightning…

~ Review ~

Write this down if you want, and never let anyone tell you otherwise: Love has a price. There never can be—never will be and never has been—a single love that comes without agony.

Another thing I’ve learned: Sometimes those we worship harbor unimaginable secrets.

Glenn Meade’s newest thriller is a thoroughly engrossing read, and packs quite an emotional punch to boot—although, maybe that’s just because I’m a female reader (and a wife and mother)! Kathy Kelly’s life has already involved devastation upon devastation, but nothing could possibly prepare her for the events that unfold in these pages—events that also make a serious statement about the realities of war and the potential breeding ground it creates for greed and corruption.

Kathy is the primary narrator of the story, and her point of view is presented in the first person, which made her character particularly easy to identify with. She’s a character given to reflection—profound and intensely personal reflection, at times—and during the first third or so of the book, the details of her past devastations unfold in tandem with the present day situation. There were occasions when I felt as though she wallowed in her reflections a little, and there was some repetition that I thought should have been picked up in edits, but it was such a compelling story that my eyes were riveted to the page regardless.

As the novel progressed, it became focussed on the present day situation, where Kathy finds herself desperate for answers, constantly pulled in different directions, and unsure of where to turn and whom to trust. The tension is heightened by those times when secondary characters take the narrative reins, letting the reader in on circumstances that are as yet hidden from Kathy, but even then it was impossible to predict what would happen next or who was really what they seemed. And when it came to the final showdown? Boy, oh boy!

When the dust settles, the novel is brought full circle with some reflections from Kathy that mirror the opening of the novel. It’s a poignant ending that drives home the point that “[War] breaks us all in the end, even those of us who are mere watchers from the shore, for we are broken by the same cruel tempest that destroys the ones we love.

This is a physically and emotionally tense thriller that is well worth the read.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review.

Release Date: 11 July 2017
Pages:  432
Publisher:  Howard Books

Amazon  //  Goodreads

~ About the Author ~

glenn-meade-landscape-frameGlenn Meade was born into a working-class family in Dublin, Ireland. After finishing secondary school he had a tough time choosing between studying theology or engineering, but eventually engineering won out and he studied telecommunications. Soon after graduating, he lived and worked in New Hampshire. He worked as a specialist in the field of pilot training—having had a life-long interest in aviation—and has also been a journalist for the Irish Times and the Independent.

While living in New Hampshire, he persistently tried to interview the famously reclusive author of CATCHER IN THE RYE, J.D. Salinger, an effort that only served to vex Salinger, who set his dogs on Meade, who luckily managed to outrun Salinger’s hounds and survive.
He began writing in earnest in the late eighties, when he wrote and directed his own plays, mostly for the Strand Theatre in Dublin, but Meade decided to turn his efforts to thriller writing in the mid-nineties.

His novels to date—SNOW WOLF, BRANDENBURG, THE SANDS OF SAKKARA, RESURRECTION DAY, WEB OF DECEIT, THE DEVIL’S DISCIPLE, THE SECOND MESSIAH—have been translated into twenty-six languages, and have enjoyed critical and commercial success.

Connect with Glenn:  Website  //  Facebook  //  Twitter

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First Line Friday – 17 March 2017 – If I Run (Terri Blackstock)


Welcome to First Line Friday! I’m very excited to share today’s first line with you because I’ve been waiting to read this book ever since I finished the first in the series. Talk about gripping reading! Let me introduce you to If I’m Found: Continue reading

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Word Nerd Wednesday – Prestidigitation


Welcome to Word Nerd Wednesday—and boy, do I have a mouthful for you today! Today, we’re playing a game of ‘What do you think it means’ inspired by Kristy Cambron’s latest release, The Illusionist’s Apprentice. If you haven’t read my review of this fabulous book yet, be sure to check it out here. Continue reading

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Top Ten Tuesday – My Spring (Autumn!) TBR Part 2


Top Ten Tuesday is back to its regular schedule today with the girls from The Broke and The Bookish, but if you caught last week’s post you’ll know I got in a week early! When I saw that this week’s post would be a Top Ten list of spring (otherwise known as autumn in my part of the world) TBR titles, I knew there was no way I could fit them all in one post, so I split mine into two parts. If you want to see what made it on to my first-half-of-spring list, you can read last week’s post here. Continue reading

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