Book Review Tuesday: Tear Me Apart by J. T. Ellison, Vanished by @mbiermanauthor

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Happy Book Review Tuesday!  Thanks for dropping by to check out what I’ve been reading. As always, I love sharing books, and I have two to chat about today. Check ’em out below…

Book cover for Tear Me Apart by J. T. Ellison shows lighted window in dark house at nightTear Me Apart
by J. T. Ellison
I had expectations going into this book. After reading the blurb, I thought I had a good notion regarding how the bulk of the plot would play out. Um…yeah, that only went so far.
Mindy Wright is a teenage champion downhill skier with a shot at the U.S. Olympic team. She’s got the perfect home life, perfect mom and dad, the world is her oyster. Then a bad crash lands her in the hospital with a broken leg, and in the process, doctors discover she has leukemia and is in need of a stem cell transplant. When her parents are tested for a match, it’s discovered, she’s not their daughter.
You can see where this is headed, right?—wrong. I went into this book with a lot of expectations. But I didn’t plan on Mindy’s aunt working for a government agency, or two characters in the past sharing time and space in a mental hospital. And what about several far too coincidental murders, all of these things spiraling back to Mindy, her perfect parents and her perfect life?
I loved the author’s use of letters to address the past. The story is doled out in bits and pieces, past and present, slowly joining together for an explosive conclusion. The characters are wholly human and horribly flawed, several with agendas that develop as the book progresses. Favorites for me were Juliet, Vivian and Zac, along with Zac’s faithful dog, Kat.
Given the plot, this was a hard book to deliver a satisfying ending, but Elison exceeded expectations. A grand slam home run! If you like stories with complex characters and dark buried secrets with several twists along the way, don’t miss this engrossing book that takes a stark look at human nature. 5 Stars
Genre: Medical Thrillers > Kidnapping Crime Fiction

Book cover for Vanished by Mark Bierman shows a white hand print on a red backgroundVanished
by Mark Bierman

Although this is a work of fiction, it’s tragic to know the book is grounded in reality.  Tyler and John take a mission trip to Haiti. Tyler is grieving the loss of his wife to cancer—who was John’s daughter. Son-in-law and father-in-law have a strong relationship, readily apparent from the start. No sooner do we meet them, however, than a child goes missing, abducted by slave traders. Many of the locals are ready to write the little girl off as lost, as child abductions are commonplace. Tyler takes a different stance, and John is soon in all the way.

What follows is a riveting search to save a life, and a grim look at the ugliness of human trafficking. There were parts of the book that made me squirm, others that brought inspiration and hope. Bierman makes atrocities clear without being graphic, yet the scenes are raw and powerful, the delivery intense. All of the characters are well developed, including secondary roles. The reader becomes enmeshed in the lives of many, the threads that tie various plot points together, expertly handled. Well written and polished, the story moves at a breathless clip and delivers a satisfying ending. Undertaking such a difficult subject is not an easy feat, but Bierman delivered social commentary and an engrossing story in a seamless package.

Amazon Link
Genre: Literature and Fiction


Until next week, I wish you happy reading, and would love to hear your thoughts about the novels above. Let’s chat! 🙂

Book Review Tuesday: The Light: Wake Robin Ridge #4 @MarciaMeara, Earth’s Earliest Ages, George H. Pember, The Whisper Man @writer_north

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over imageWow! It’s a New Year and I’m thoroughly jazzed to start off the week with my first review of 2020! Although I read these book in December, I didn’t want to share them during the hustle-bustle of Christmas for fear they would get overlooked in all the festive merriment.


Book cover for The Light by Marcia Meara shows young boy standing on a rock with hand extended toward a floating orb of lightThe Light: Wake Robin Ridge #4
by Marcia Meara

I have read and enjoyed all of Marcia Meara’s Wake Robin Ridge books, but The Light, is quite possibly my favorite. Rabbit­—a very special eleven-year-old boy who grew up in Appalachia, now the adopted son of Sarah and Mac—takes center stage yet again. Gifted with “the sight” which allows him to see future events as well as “read” others, he is wise beyond his years. An old soul who has a unique way of viewing the world, he has a folksy charm that resonates with every word he utters. Meara’s gift of writing him is exquisite, and despite numerous well-rounded and lovable characters, it’s Rabbit who steals the show.

I adore Mac and Sarah—mostly because of Rabbit’s pure-hearted love for them, and their utter devotion and fierce protective love for him. I’m enamored of several new characters who make their debut in this book—especially Austin—but once you meet Rabbit, you’re eternally smitten. No two ways about it. He’s a character who lingers long after you’ve read the last paragraph.

An added bonus is the inclusion of the Brown Mountain Lights, an unexplained phenomenon that has long fascinated me. Meara does an excellent job of weaving their appearance into a multi-layered plot which covers the gamut from high-brow society to misguided con artists.

If you like family stories with plenty of warmth, ­­­threads of the supernatural and folklore, plus a well-plotted mystery, don’t miss the latest in the Wake Robin Ridge Series. Five big glittery stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Paranormal & Urban Fantasy > Ghost Fiction


Earth’s Earliest Ages
by George H. Pember

Book cover for Earth's Earliest Ages shows alien-looking humanoid in profile, large head, ears and eyes, three pyramids and prehistoric looking bird flying above pyramidsSomeone recommended this book to me, and I found it to be an intriguing read. Originally published in 1884, it is somewhat dense—you won’t breeze through it—but also highly interesting. The author starts at the Beginning. And I do mean THE BEGINNING, as in prior to when God said, “Let there be light.”

Pember takes the reader through the creation of Earth, the Fall, life outside the gates of Eden, the sin of Cain and the rise of Watchers or b’nai ha Elohim (“sons of God”) who mingled with humans, resulting in the birth of the Nephilim, half celestial, half human beings. All from a Biblical perspective.

He offers the belief that Nephilim (as well as Principalities of the Air) were the ancient gods of Babylonia, Egypt and Persia, as well as the gods of Rome and Greece. But there’s much more, including a close look at life leading up to the Great Flood. Later, he addresses how the sorcerers of Ancient Egypt were able to duplicate several of the plagues Moses—through God—inflicted on Pharaoh and the Egyptians.

Earth’s Earliest Ages, was written in a time when Spiritualism was exploding. The first half of the book is devoted to studying Old Testament events and comparing Pember’s day to the days of Noah. The last half of the book takes an in-depth look at Spiritualism, Theosophy, and Buddhism. Although I found the section on Spiritualism interesting (due to the amount of research I did on sham aspects of the religion for a novel), I waded through the chapters on Theosophy and Buddhism. That aside, Pember offers up several interesting theories and backs them from a Biblical perspective. Despite being published over a century ago, the text has been updated through multiple editions, and still resonates with the state of our world today in many ways. 4 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Nonfiction > Biblical Studies


The Whisper Man
by Alex North

Book cover for The Whisper Man by Alex North shows ragged handprint with open butterfly wings serving as palm. Blackimage on white backgroundChalk this up to one of my favorite reads of the year! After his wife dies unexpectedly, Tom Kennedy moves with his young son, Jake, to the tiny village of Featherbank in an effort to start fresh. Jake is a sensitive child, prone to talking to an imaginary friend. At first things appear to be moving in the right direction, then Tom learns that he and his son have moved into the neighborhood “scary house.” Worse, Featherbank is also the site of several child abductions and murders decades in the past. The serial killer responsible was known as the Whisper Man due to a habit of whispering to his victims outside their bedroom windows. Just before Tom and Jake settle into their new house, a young boy goes missing. Then Tom overhears Jake reciting part of a rhyme: “If you leave a door half open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken…”

Where to begin? This is a highly suspenseful, creepy read with intricate layers. Not only do we have Tom and Jake—with Tom struggling on so many levels to be the father Jake needs—but two detective inspectors are also front and center. DI Pete Willis is the man responsible for bringing the Whisper Man to justice decades ago, and DI Amanda Beck is the lead on the current abduction case. A case that bears eerie similarities to the Whisper Man’s crimes.

Twists and turns? Oh, yes! I smugly thought I had part of the story figured out early on, only to have the proverbial rug wrenched from under me. Plus, there are HUGE surprises in store. WOW moments that induce goosebumps. I’m in awe by how expertly the author wove everything together.

Originally, I was a little cat-shy about reading a story that involved child victims, but there is nothing graphic here. The past is only touched on in a sinister, but distant way. What makes this book so unforgettable is the atmosphere North conjures in most every scene—like a storm waiting to break. The creep-factor is subtle, but deliciously wrought, and the ending delivers another jaw-dropper. If you like well-written, tightly plotted, suspenseful reads with a hint of eeriness, don’t pass up The Whisper Man. I highly recommend this one! Five whopping big stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Horror Suspense > Ghost Mysteries > Ghost Thrillers

Book Review Tuesday: Haunted House Ghost @jamescudney4, My Girl @JacqBiggar, Through the Nethergate by Roberta Eaton Cheadle, Moonlight Becomes You by Mary Higgins Clark

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I’m back with my second and final Book Review Tuesday post for the month of December. As mentioned in last week’s post, I won’t be sharing reviews on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve, as I fear many readers won’t be online and I’d like to give the authors of the books I’ve read as much exposure as possible. Today’s variety includes a cozy mystery, a second-chance romance, and young-adult horror.


Book cover for cozy mystery Haunted House Ghost by James J. Cudney shows cartoon sketch of old house on hillside in front of full moon with cartoon ghost aboveHaunted House Ghost
A Kellan Ayrwick Cozy Mystery (Braxton Campus Mysteries Book 5)

by James J. Cudney

This is my first Braxton Campus mystery. It was a delight discovering these characters—and there are many. When you join a series in progress, it’s easy to get lost, but not with the Braxton series. The author did an excellent job of establishing who was who, as well as explaining the relationships that connected all the people in this fabulous fictional setting.

College professor and amateur sleuth, Kellan, moves into an old house only to discover it may be haunted by ghosts of the past. Set during Halloween, this cozy relies on past connections, family histories, plenty of secrets, and a cast of suspects that keeps the reader guessing. Toss in a fifty-year old skeleton, an eccentric psychic, plus Halloween happenings, and you can’t go wrong.

Kellan’s family is a delight—especially Nana D who is fond of calling him “brilliant one.” His developing romance with town sheriff, April, adds a nice hint of romance to the layers of mystery. Grab your scorecard, tally up the suspects, and take your best guess. If you like cozies, you’re sure to enjoy this charmer! 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychic Mysteries > Mystery Series > Ghost Mysteries 


Book cover for My Girl by Jacquie Biggar shows couple sharing a kiss behind a bouquet of flowersMy Girl: Gambling Hearts—Book Three
by Jacquie Biggar

Jacquie Biggar does it again! If you love second chance romances, you’re sure to love this story! Trish is a city girl from a corporate background, Aaron, a Texas rancher. Romantically involved for a time, family conflicts forced them to part. Now Trish, her parents, and her fiancé, are the first guests at the ranch Aaron owns along with his sibling—a place now opening as a dude/guest ranch.

Sparks fly right from the get-go, but there is plenty of trouble in the form of Trish’s slimy fiance (her father forced the arrangement) and her interfering parents. There’s also a surprise or two tucked into the plot, including how some of these characters end up. But one thing you can count on is the HEA at the end. It’s a sweet journey getting there with plenty of ups and downs, but the conclusion will leave you with a fuzzy feeling and a sloppy grin. I love everything Jacquie Biggar writes, but she really hit a home run with this charmer. Of special note: although this is the third book in a series, it easily stands on its own as well. 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genres: Western Romance > Women’s Romance Fiction


Book cover for Through the Nethergate by Roberta Eaton Cheadle shows young girl standing in open doorway at top of dark staircase descending downThrough the Nethergate
by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Margaret is a girl with a special gift that allows her to see ghosts who are trapped in an overworld between Heaven and Hell. She’s able to help them regain life, then help them move on in the hereafter. When she moves in with her grandfather after the death of her parents, Margaret encounters a number of ghosts, and a particularly nasty black dog that is actually the embodiment of Hugh Bigod, an evil spirit who has held the ghosts trapped for centuries. Hugh has his own ideas how Margaret’s gifts can be used to his benefit.

This is a YA horror novel that will also appeal to adults, especially with the deep research the author layers into the historical aspects of the book. I found those the strongest and was enthralled by how skillfully Cheadle brought the past to life. There are a few POV issues and a good deal of internal thought, the latter which occasionally bogs things down, but for the most part this is a quick and easy read. Margaret’s grandfather is also a strong character, and the background of many of the ghosts adds a fascinating aspect. Most of the spirits are based on historic figures. I don’t usually read books that employ Lucifer as a character, and admit to skimming some of those chapters, but overall, I found this a compelling story on multiple levels. 4 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Young Adult Horror


Book cover for Moonlight Becomes you by Mary Higgins Clark shows full white moon on surrounded by clouds on dark skyMoonlight Becomes You
by Marry Higgins Clark

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book by Mary Higgins Clark. I was anxious to try this one because of a plot thread regarding Victorian burial customs. Maggie Holloway reconnects with her stepmother, Nuala, at a cocktail party. The two women haven’t seen each other since Maggie was a child but their connection is immediate. Shortly afterward, Nuala is murdered by an unknown assailant and Maggie inherits her home.

The plot involves residents of Latham Manor, a luxury living center for seniors, complete with medical staff on the premises. Maggie becomes friendly with one of Nuala’s friends, only to have that woman die unexpectedly. She soon realizes that several residents of Latham Manor have passed away in a short amount of time, and while visiting their graves discovers Victorian burial bells by their tombstones. Although this isn’t the main thread of the story, it adds an interesting twist.

There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and the book bogs a bit as each are introduced and their connections to the others become apparent. The story starts with a bang then slows down for quite a while before gaining momentum again, but it’s worth sticking with. While I deduced the identity of the killer around the 60% mark, it was entertaining to see the mystery unravel. The suspenseful ending, along with a nice wrap for the various plot threads made for a satisfying read. 4 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Fiction > Psychological Thrillers
(Note: I think this reads more like cozy despite the tags on Amazon)


I’ve seen a few of these books getting a lot of attention in the blogosphere within the last few months, so my guess is that some of you have read them, or have them on your TBRs. Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts about today’s reviews!

Book Review Tuesday: Serang @Virgilante, If Darkness Takes Us @bsmithnovelist, My Baby Wrote Me a Letter @JacqBiggar

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over imageHello, and welcome to my first Book Review Tuesday of December! Bear with me, because I plan to share several books I read in November today and next week. After that, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve pop up on Tuesdays and I know many people go offline until the first of the year. Because I want to ensure the authors have exposure for their hard work, I won’t be reviewing on those days. Hopefully, that makes sense. :)

I’m pleased to say all of today’s books earned 5-Star reviews from me. Now, let’s get started!


Book cover for Serang by C. S. Boyack shows young female monk with shaved head in martial arts poseSerang
by C. S. Boyack

A vivid story that follows an orphan’s path as she matures from a child adrift, to a confident young woman and warrior. Serang is a character from Boyack’s popular Voyage of the Lanternfish tale, but you needn’t have read that book to enjoy this story. It stands on its own, allowing the reader to grow with Serang.

Through the course of the story she learns valuable lessons—many from a wise monk—faces multiple challenges and discovers herself along the way. There is danger and adventure. Heartbreak as well, but there is also plenty of humor, and the ending delivers a beautiful reward. As a reader I loved seeing the growth of Serang’s character. Enjoy this as a backstory to Voyage of the Lanternfish, or as a brand-new tale. Either way, it is a wholly entertaining read!

Amazon Link
Genre: Coming of Age > Travel Adventure Fiction


Book cover for If Darkness Takes Us by Brenda Marie Smith shows high tension utility tower shrouded in darknessIf Darkness Takes Us
by Brenda Marie Smith

I’ve always had a weak spot for apocalyptic novels. What makes this one so intriguing is the author confines the action to a single suburban neighborhood. A solar pulse is responsible for wiping out the power grid, turning life upside down. Bea Crenshaw is a 70ish woman who has her four grandkids for the weekend when the disaster strikes. As the world she knows falls apart around her, she steps up to take charge, not only in protecting her family—teaching them how to function in a world without internet, cell phones, or even refrigeration—but also taking on a leadership role in her neighborhood. Fortunately, Bea has been stockpiling goods for some time, preparing for the day when tragedy strikes, though she never expected it to come from the sun.

The kids vary in age from grade school to older teens, and each are forced to do some serious growing up before the book is over. Bea is a strong character who does what she can in an impossible situation. There are plenty of hardships including balancing the need to help others with caring for your own family. Bea has a huge heart, but she can also be secretive and controlling when she needs to be. She makes a unique MC, especially in a novel of this type. Her oldest grandson, Keno, is also particularly strong, as is neighbor Jack Jeffers. The characters lodge in your heart, including many of the secondary ones who arrive halfway through the book. The pace moves swiftly, and the author’s easy style of writing will keep you flipping pages to find out what happens next. The ending is rather surprising and not one I expected. As an apocalyptic novel this one is unique in its approach and characters, and well worth reading.

Amazon Link
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction > Thrillers > Dystopian Science Fiction


Book cover for My Baby Wrote Me A Letter by Jacquie Biggar shows young woman in front of old manual typewriting, sepia-tone wash over coverMy Baby Wrote Me a Letter
by Jacquie Biggar

This is a beautiful, heart-warming story of family, long-ago secrets, and healing. When Grace Freeman discovers a letter from her mother–a woman who abandoned her, her brothers and her father many years ago–it opens a door to the past and wounds that have never quite healed. Impacting the emotional level even more—Grace is expecting her first child, and her Navy husband is overseas.

I love Jacquie Biggar’s stories. She knows just how to tug on a reader’s heartstrings, and she does it again in this tender short story that touches on so many levels—fathers and daughters, sisters and brothers, fathers and sons, husbands and wives. The warmth in this story is like wrapping yourself in a cozy blanket, then settling in front of a fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa. Sheer bliss!

I particularly enjoyed the thread regarding the names Grace chose for her unborn baby. Each one made me smile and appreciate the effortless warmth in this beautiful tale. A true gem!

Amazon Link
Genre: 90-Minute Literature and Fiction Short Reads > Family Life Fiction > Contemporary Short Stories


Have you read any of these? Are they on your TBR? Did you have a hard time balancing NaNo and reading, like I did? I can’t wait to get back to my regular patterns, LOL!