Book Review: Judgment Day *Win FREE Copy*

Title:  Judgment Day: A Novel
Author:  Wanda L. Dyson
Publisher’s Synopsis:  Sensational journalism has never been so deadly.

The weekly cable news show Judgment Day with Suzanne Kidwell promises to expose businessmen, religious leaders, and politicians for the lies they tell. Suzanne positions herself as a champion of ethics and morality with a backbone of steel—until a revelation of her shoddy investigation tactics and creative fact embellishing put her in hot water with her employers, putting her credibility in question and threatening her professional ambitions..

Bitter and angry, Suzanne returns home one day to find an entrepreneur she is investigating, John Edward Sterling, unconscious on her living room floor. Before the night is over, Sterling is dead, she has his blood on her hands, and the police are arresting her for murder. She needs help to prove her innocence, but her only hope, private investigator Marcus Crisp, is also her ex-fiancé–the man she betrayed in college.

Marcus and his partner Alexandria Fisher-Hawthorne reluctantly agree to take the case, but they won’t cut Suzanne any slack. Exposing her lack of ethics and the lives she’s destroyed in her fight for ratings does little to make them think Suzanne is innocent. But as Marcus digs into the mire of secrets surrounding her enemies, he unveils an alliance well-worth killing for. Now all he has to do is keep Suzanne and Alex alive long enough to prove it.

I’d never heard of Wanda Dyson before I read Judgment Day, but I will be reading her next book, Shepherd’s Fall.  This book is exactly the kind of book I enjoy reading.  As I started reading, Suzanne (a reporter for a sensational “expose” type show) does an extremely sloppy job of “reporting” that made my skin crawl.  At first, I was ticked at the author.  After all, I wasn’t invested in the story enough to be lost in it, but it didn’t take me long.  My anger transferred to the selfish, narcissistic reporter and then I followed the story, disgusted at the lies, corruption, and so-called justice that the book showed.  And that is exactly how it should be.

Judgment Day is a fast-paced, story with numerous subplots that don’t leave you lost and confused.  That alone is very difficult to accomplish.  I thought I had one of them figured out (hard not to say which, but I don’t want to give away the story), but I was wrong.  To be honest, I’m glad.  The red herring was a bit cliche for today’s books, so the real “Story” in the book packed a much more powerful punch– an apt metaphor considering the number of physical attacks in the book.

This book reads like a suspense/thriller movie.  You watch the scenes unfold, almost begging the characters not to enter the dark alley, the house, the woods.  You want to become a champion against black market everything and political corruption.

In my opinion, the weakest part of the book is in the relationships– they seem a bit token.  However, I don’t know if that’s a bad thing for this particular story.  The plot drives this story and the vehicle is the characters.  Characterization is brilliant.  The fact that the relationships seem inserted because that is what you’re supposed to do didn’t really bother me.  In fact, I didn’t even notice until I started thinking about it.  I particularly loved that one in particular wasn’t explored until the last page.

Now, at the risk of being considered morbid etc., one main character really did bother me, though.  I think it was a little too “neat and clean” that this one lived.  I tend not to be of the “kill ’em off” camp, but I think the book would have had stronger impact had the one character died where appropriate.  Then again, that character’s influence on that last page wouldn’t have happened and it was quite hilarious.

Wanda Dyson is a wonderful writer.  If you like Mark Mynheir or Dee Henderson, you’ll love this gal.  Get the book.  Just do it.

This book was provided by Water Brook for review.  The opinions are mine and unbiased by the free book.  Furthermore, I like to share the wealth, so I will be giving this copy away.  Just leave a comment and tell me if you’ve ever read anything by Wanda Dyson.

If you’d consider ranking my review at Water Brook, I’d appreciate it.  Just click HERE.  It seems as if the number of rankings tend to improve the selection of books I am allowed to review and that means it improves the selection I get to give away!

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An Interview with Liz Johnson

Liz Johnson is the author of the book I’m reviewing this week, Vanishing Act.  She kindly allowed me to ask her a few interview questions for my readers!  I just want to thank her for that now.  Stay tuned for the book review!

1.  What first inspired you to write?  (Original question, I know.  Snort)

I don’t know that there’s any one thing that first inspired me to write. I’ve just always loved telling stories. I do believe that God has given me a passion and talent for writing, and it’s important to me to keep using it.

2.  How/where did you get the idea for Vanishing Act?

Vanishing Act really began with a character, Nate Andersen, who had a small role in my first book, The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn. He really caught my attention, and I was so excited about telling his story. But it wasn’t until I pulled out an old story that I’d written in college, that I found the whole story about a girl on the run and a man intent on protecting her.

3.  Who is your favorite character in the book?  Why?

Hmmm … I guess Nate is my favorite. I love how he deals with the sins of his family. I mean, it’s horrible that he’s dealing with that, but his desire to be a man of integrity is so strong that I can’t help but love him.

4.  When will your next book be published?

My next book, Code of Justice, is scheduled to release in March 2011. Of course, that’s if I can finish the line edits on time. 🙂

5.  Do you work on one book at a time or several like me?

I typically do one book at a time. When I’m not on deadline, sometimes I’ll play around with a few different stories, but if I have to keep a schedule, I focus on whatever’s due first. If I try to write more than one at a time I get confused and sidetracked.

6.  What is the most rewarding part of writing?

The most rewarding part of writing is definitely seeing the finished manuscript. Even before it’s made into a book, just typing THE END makes me feel great! It’s such a feeling of accomplishment and pride in a job well done. Of course, seeing the final product in bookstores is never bad either.

7.  What is the least enjoyable part of writing?

The least is definitely the start of the book. Sometimes it feels like torture just to get myself in front of my computer and actual writing. But that feeling passes.

8.  What genre do you enjoy reading that you’d never want to write?

I don’t know. I’d hate to say that I’d never want to write any genre. I read all sorts, and I write all sorts like YA, contemporary romance, historical, and I even have an idea for a futuristic dystopian society book. But I think it’s fair to say that if I were going to write a very literary novel, I probably wouldn’t be as good at it as other genres that I’ve tried.

9.  Do you control your characters or do they dictate parts or all of the story?

I certainly control the outcome of the story. I know where we’re going, once we start. But there have been several times when a character is doing something out of character and demands a change.

10.  What advice would you give aspiring/struggling authors?

Probably the biggest lesson I’ve been learning this year and want to pass along is to have FUN! Yes, writing is a business. Yes, it requires a lot of work. But if you focus only on those things, you miss out on the pure joy of writing something that you love reading. So write what you want to read. Write what makes you smile.

Book Review: Vanishing Act

Book: Vanishing Act

Author: Liz Johnson

Publisher’s Synopsis: Eighteen months ago, Nora James watched as her father was shot in an alley—and then she fl ed. She changed her name, her appearance and her job, hoping to keep her father’s shooter at bay. For months, it worked…but now her luck has run out. A ruthless assassin is on her trail, and soon Nora, now known as Danielle, will be found. But this time, she has FBI agent Nate Andersen by her side—right? The handsome agent would give his life to protect Danielle, but he’s wary of giving his heart…until a deadly confrontation leaves him with both on the line.

I’ll confess, when I read the back of this book, I expected to be able to predict the plot, the twists, and the outcome.  While I did peg the “bad guy” almost immediately, I did not figure out the rest.  That alone gives this book a thumbs up.  That leaves one more thumb to go, right?  Well, how about the fact that the characters are interesting, the plot is engaging and the spiritual encouragement is right on the nose for the primary area that the women I know usually talk about?  What is it?  Fear.  This book is a mini gold-mine of reminders that our fears are not bigger than the God who can conquer them for us and through us.

Yes, the book is a romance.  Thankfully, Liz Johnson isn’t so sappy that I gag reading her– sappier than I usually am, but then so are most writers.  The main characters have a relationship that gets intense a little early, but considering the situation, their personalities, and their personal issues, it makes sense.  It fits.  And, once the book was over, I realized that it takes place over a longer period of time than I’d realized as I read it.  Hey, sometimes I just get lost in a story and miss little details like how many days or weeks have passed.  Sue me.

And, isn’t that the point of a book?  To get lost in the story?  Isn’t that what makes a good book?  So, for that I give the book my other thumbs up.  Both thumbs waggle in the air cheerfully.  This book is a great read, nice and suspenseful, but light enough that it never feels like a chore to keep your mind on the plot.  That says everything.

I apologize.  I usually give away the books I review, but this book is mine.  Ms. Johnson kindly signed it to me and it’s going right next to another book of hers on my shelf.  I’ll read it again…  That should also say a lot.  So, go zip over to Amazon, snag you a copy of this nice inexpensive book, wait impatiently for the UPS truck, grab your beverage of choice (I recommend Coke), find a bag of Reese’s Pieces somewhere, and curl up in your favorite reading spot.  It might not hurt to throw something in the crockpot first.  I guarantee you’re not going to want to put it down to go make dinner.

Book Review: Forget Me Not

Title: Forget Me Not

Author: Vicki Hinze

Publisher’s Synopsis: Crossroads Crisis Center owner Benjamin Brandt was a content man—in his faith, his work, and his family.  Then in a flash, everything he loved was snatched away.  His wife and son were murdered, and grief-stricken Ben lost faith.  Determination to find their killers keeps him going, but after three years of dead ends and torment, his hope is dying too.  Why had he survived?  He’d failed to protect his family.

Now, a mysterious woman appears at Crossroads seeking answers and help—a victim who eerily resembles Ben’s deceased wife, Susan.  A woman robbed of her identity, her life, of everything except her faith—and Susan’s necklace.

The connections between the two women mount, exceeding coincidence, and to keep the truth hidden, someone is willing to kill.  Finding out who and why turns Ben and the mystery woman’s situation from dangerous to deadly.  Their only hope for survival is to work together, trust each other, and face whatever they discover head on, no matter how painful. But will that be enough to save their lives and heal their tattered hearts?

WOW.  What a page turner!  I loved this book.  I’ve never read anything by Vicki Hinze before this, but I’ll be looking for more.  This book starts you off on the edge of your seat and won’t let you up until the end.  I couldn’t stop reading, even when I wanted to.  When forced to do it, I went to bed and dreamed up scenarios.

The main character’s faith is wonderful.  She has that kind of faith that all of us want, need, and respect.  She also, thankfully, is real.  She’s not perfect, she has her moments, but she’s CHARACTERIZED by a complete and abiding faith in the goodness of God.  Oh, and I didn’t mind having my theory that a person with memory loss would still have the Holy Spirit in them and they’d know that they knew the Lord.  My own character, Ella, was just validated by this book.

This isn’t an easy book to read.  There are several subplots going on at one time and she literally drops you into them all almost at once.  As you read, you peel back the layers of this story until, at the end, you see the whole picture.  I found myself rereading portions to be sure I understood what I read and to find out who someone was again.  There are a lot of characters.  There are a lot of plots.  She does a great job of juggling it and keeping the book moving forward, but this is not a lazy read for a hot summer afternoon.  Save it for a day when you’re ready to engage your thought process as well as your heart.

I loved how the relationships developed, but I’ll admit, it did feel awfully sudden.  It’s a personal pet peeve of mine to read about people falling for each other within hours/days of meeting… particularly when there are murder attempts, amnesia, and deep grief in play.  Just sayin’.  That part seemed a bit implausible to me, but I’m not a natural romantic, so what do I know?  Aside from that little quibble, and a few places where the writing was awkward (minor minor quibble but I tend to tell all), Ms. Hinze did a masterful job of telling this story in a way that kept you reading… long after you should have been sleeping.

Would I recommend it?  OH YES!  I definitely do.  Without caveat.  Buy. The. Book.  Period.  If you don’t like tension and suspense, well then maybe not, but otherwise, you’ll be entertained, your mind engaged, your sympathy alerted, and your soul nourished by the example of Susan/Kelly/Karen’s faith.

I want to thank Multnomah for providing this book for review.  They’re nice that way.

They also provided a copy for giveaway.  I’m here to give that book away.  So…  post a comment and tell us if you’ve ever known anyone who suffered from amnesia of any kind!!!  I’ll draw soon.