Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dark in the City of Light by Paul Robertson

This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Dark In The City Of Light
Bethany House (July 1, 2010)


by
Paul Robertson






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:









Paul Robertson is a computer programming consultant, part-time high-school math and science teacher, and the author of The Heir. He is also a former Christian bookstore owner (for 15 years), who lives with his family in Blacksburg, Virginia.











ABOUT THE BOOK



What Evil Haunts the Shadows of 1870s Paris?



Baron Ferdinand Harsanyi — After his wife's mysterious death, this Austrian attaché holds control over mines whose coveted ore could turn the tide of war.



Therese Harsanyi — Swept up in new romance and the spectacle of Paris, the Baron's daughter is blind to the dangers stalking her family and the city she loves.



Rudolph Harsanyi — Unsure whom to trust, the Baron's son's grief over his mother's death twists into growing anger and a desire to break free.



As France and Prussia plunge toward war, one family is caught in a web of deceit, political intrigue, and murder that threatens to tear them apart.



If you would like to read the first chapter of Dark In The City Of Light, go HERE.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Nightshade by Ronie Kendig (Review)

This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Nightshade
Barbour Books (July 1, 2010)
by


Ronie Kendig






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Ronie has been married since 1990 to a man who can easily be defined in classic terms as a hero. She has four beautiful children. Her eldest daughter is 16 this year, her second daughter will be 13, and her twin boys are 10. After having four children, she finally finished her degree in December 2006. She now has a B.S. in Psychology through Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. Getting her degree is a huge triumph for both her and her family--they survived!!



This degree has also given her a fabulous perspective on her characters and how to not only make them deeper, stronger, but to make them realistic and know how they'll respond to each situation. Her debut novel, Dead Reckoning released March 2010 from Abingdon Press. And her Discarded Heroes series begins in July from Barbour with the first book entitled Nightshade.





ABOUT THE BOOK



After a tour of duty in a war-torn country, embattled former Navy SEAL Max Jacobs finds himself discarded and alienated from those he loves as he

struggles with war-related PTSD. His wife, Sydney, files a restraining order against him and a petition for divorce. Max is devastated.



Then a mysterious a man appears. He says he's organizing a group that recycles veterans like Max. It's a deep-six group known as Nightshade. With

the chance to find purpose in life once again, Max is unable to resist the call of duty and signs on.



The team handles everything with precision and lethal skill...until they're called upon to rescue a missionary family from a rebel-infested jungle and

avoid a reporter hunting their identities.



Will Max yield his anger and pride to a force greater than him...love?



If you would like to read the first chapter of Nightshade, go HERE.



Watch the trailer:



My Review:

I really liked this book. The style is similar to my all time favorite author ever, Dee Henderson. There is more military action than in her books though. That is not a bad comment by the way. There are a lot of characters introduced in this book. The author provides a guide in the front which is helpful in keeping everybody straight. This is a unique concept with interesting plot and characters. It held my attention from the first page. I was cheering for the two main characters in this book, Max and Sydney, to make it. It is the first of Discarded Heroes series and I look forward to reading the next book in the series. Highly Recommended. :)

48 Hour Read a Thon



Wallace at http://unputdownables.net/ is hosting a 48 Hour Read a thon this weekend. I can't do the whole weekend but I will read as much as I can and post several updates.

My List:
I need to read to the end of the third book in The Brothers K.
Dark in the City of Light by Paul Robertson
Fatal Loyalty by Sue Duffy
Final Touch by Brandilyn and Amberly Collins


Are you like me with piles of book (or lists of books) a mile long on your To-Be-Read (TBR) list? Although I do read more than the average Jane, I don’t read as much as I would like to. I keep passing my bookshelf wanting to get some of those books read! So, this weekend I am going to limit the TV and the outings (I’ve been gone for the past week anyway and have a trip to Tahoe coming up very soon… one weekend inside won’t do me any harm), and the random errands and I’m going to READ! I’m rather looking forward to using the next few days to pick a few books off of my shelf to put in my Read-a-Thon pile.

So are you in? Come read with me this weekend!

If You’re In:

1.Choose a few books that you will attempt to finish this weekend (Friday evening through Sunday night).
2.Post your TBR Read-a-Thon books on your blog so your readers can see what you are attempting for the weekend.
3.Challenge your readers to read along with you! (It’s OK if they don’t, but might be fun if they want to choose at least one book to participate with).
4.Join the discussion all weekend long at #bookblogchat on Twitter.
5.Post updates on your blog about what you are reading and what you have finished (full reviews can come later, but this will let your readers know what you are reading so they can either read along or look forward to your reviews!)
6.Visit other blogs that are doing the read-a-long. Post comments and follow your fellow bloggers.
7.Make sure you sign up here with Mr. Linky with a link to your first post so we can follow your progress!
8.*If you don’t have a blog but want to participate: Sign up with Mr. Linky, just don’t add a website (or you can link to your Twitter or GoodReads page).*
If You’re Not In, but Want to Support:

1.Check out the blogs that are participating below in the Mr. Linky list.
2.Visit those blogs and leave comments and encouragement
3.Add to your own TBRs as you see what others are reading!
I hope you’ll join in on the fun. It does not matter how many books you read (1 or 100 — actually, if you read 100 I might be so impressed that I send your name to the Guinness Book of World Records), just read! There are no tangible prizes, but hopefully being part of the community of readers and learning about great new blogs will be incentive enough.

Please spread the word on your own blog and on Twitter!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What's On Your Nightstand? July 27, 2010










Heavens to Betsy! I am definitely still feeling overwhelmed. I want to read everything! The first picture is of the library books I have checked out right now. The second stack is the Steeple Hill books. The third picture is of the books I need to read and review. I have more books on my TBR but these three stacks are the organized. lol I am currently reading Crazy Love by Frances Chan and it is really good. I am feeling very convicted. I am also reading The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake which I hope to finish tonight. I am going to the beach on August 18 for four days so I will be taking a lot of books with me. :)


The Skin You're In by Nancy Rue

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


The Skin You’re In: Discovering True Beauty

Zonderkidz (April 9, 2010)

***Special thanks to Pam Mettler of Zondervan for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Nancy Rue has written over 100 books for girls, is the editor of the Faithgirlz Bible, and is a popular speaker and radio guest with her expertise in tween and teen issues. She and husband Jim have raised a daughter of their own and now live in Tennessee.


Visit the author's website.


Product Details:

List Price: $7.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Zonderkidz (April 9, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310719992
ISBN-13: 978-0310719991

Press the browse button to view the first chapter:



Monday, July 26, 2010

It's Monday What Are You Reading? July 26, 2010


This is a weekly meme hosted by Shelia at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books.
http://bookjourney.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/its-monday-what-are-you-reading-46/


What I read last week:
- Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce
- Ransomed Dreams by Sally John
- Licensed for Trouble by Susan May Warren
- Nightshade by Ronie Kendig

What I am currently reading:
- The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
- The Brothers K
- The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
- A Shore Thing by Julie Carobini
- Dark in the City of Light by Paul Robertson
- The Skin You're In by Nancy Rue

What I am reading next:
- Fatal Loyalty by Sue Duffy
- Final Touch by Brandilyn and Amberly Collins

Reviews I posted last week:
http://abookloverforever.blogspot.com/2010/07/ransomed-dreams-by-sally-john-review.html

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Sunday Salon July 25, 2010

The Sunday Salon.com

* Wow. Sunday night already. The weekend flew by.

* Saturday I ran errands and read books. Today I went to church this morning and came home started the laundry. All I need to do is fold it now. I finished reading Nightshade by Ronie Kendig today and it was really good. My review will be up tomorrow. My sister and I are meeting my Dad at Chile's for dinner. And my diet was going so good. lol I have lost eleven pounds. I think I will get the chicken fajitas. They look like semi healthy. I love the Fajita explosion salad which has over 1400 calories in it. So not getting that. :)

* I have a lot of books that need to be read so hopefully this week I can focus at night.

* I hope everyone has a great week and lots of reading time.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ransomed Dreams by Sally John (Review)

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Ransomed Dreams (Side Roads)

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (June 7, 2010)

***Special thanks to Vicky Lynch of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


When the going gets tough—or weird or wonderful—the daydreamer gets going on a new story. Sally John has been tweaking life's moments into fiction since she read her first Trixie Belden mystery as a child.

Now an author of more than fifteen novels, Sally writes stories that reflect contemporary life. Her passion is to create a family, turn their world inside out, and then portray how their relationships change with each other and with God. Her goal is to offer hope to readers in their own relational and faith journeys.

Sally grew up in Moline, Illinois, graduated from Illinois State University, married Tim in 1973, and taught in middle schools. She is a mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother. A three-time finalist for the Christy Award, she also teaches writing workshops. Her books include the Safe Harbor series (coauthored with Gary Smalley), The Other Way Home series, The Beach House series, and In a Heartbeat series. Many of her stories are set in her favorite places of San Diego, Chicago, and small-town Illinois.

She and her husband currently live in southern California.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (June 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414327854
ISBN-13: 978-1414327853

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Topala, Mexico

Eighteen months later

Like everything about the small village tucked into the foothills of the Sierra Madres in central Mexico, sunrise was a leisurely event.

Sheridan waited for it, tea mug in hand, shawl over her cotton nightgown, bare feet chilled against the tile floor of the second-story balcony. Alone, she listened in the dark to the squawk of roosters and clung to their promise that the world would once again know light.

“Oh, good grief,” she murmured to herself with a groan. “That is so maudlin. Truly and hopelessly maudlin. You might try something more chipper. Something like . . . Something like . . .” Her foggy brain offered nothing.

She scrunched her nose in defeat. The morning had shuffled in on the heels of a sleepless night. Chipper was not going to happen, no matter how hard she tried to talk herself into it.

If she could turn the calendar back eighteen months, she would not be talking to herself. No. Eliot would be right next to her, responding, most likely pointing out a dozen chipper thoughts in that funny way of his.

Nostalgia and regret hit her, a powerful one-two punch that still took her breath away. She clenched her teeth, waiting for it to pass, mentally spewing forth a verbal attack at the counselor who had promised her that time healed all wounds, that month by month they would see improvement.

What drivel that was! Eighteen months—or to be more precise, seventeen months, three weeks, and two days; but who was counting? All that time had passed and only one thing was healed: Eliot’s gunshot wound. His other wounds, the invisible ones, still oozed like toxins from a waste dump site. He was not the same man she had married.

Sheridan took a deep breath and let the bitter argument go. Nostalgia and regret settled back down into whatever corner of her heart they’d found to hide out in. Their impact, though, lingered.

Would time ever erase her longing for the Eliot she had married? The animated one, the one others adored, the one who was engaged in every detail of life, whether simple or complex, with every person who crossed his path. The one from B.C.E., Before the Caracas Episode. Now, in their A.C.E. days, he might as well be a deaf-mute for all the interest he showed in the world around him.

Sleep-deprived, she totally blamed him. She didn’t mean to. It wasn’t like he had much of a choice. The bullet that shattered his nerves shattered their life. Everything about it was over. Health, career, home, friends. All gone. Kaput. Some days she barely recognized herself and Eliot. Where were the Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery she once knew? These routines, hometown, health, acquaintances, and even personalities seemed lifted from the pages of some stranger’s biography.

“Oh, honestly. Get over it already, Sher.” She forced a swallow of tea and focused on the scene before her.

A lone sunbeam pierced between two mountain peaks and sliced into the distant mists. Another followed. And another and another until finally pure light broke free. Valleys and canyons burst into sight. Loud birdsong erupted. Then, as if God had uncurled His fist, long fingers of sunlight shot forth and touched the wrought-iron railing where she stood.

It was achingly gorgeous.

Sheridan flicked at a tear seeping from the corner of her eye. “You should have stayed in bed, you foolish, stubborn woman.”

Sunrises were the worst because they represented the best of what had been.

Most days she could ignore that thought. Evidently not today. She and Eliot were morning people. Had been morning people. Their daily ritual of tea and conversation at an east-facing view, awaiting dawn, was seldom missed. With crazy-full schedules, they needed such a time to relate on the deepest levels. Some days their hearts positively danced and sang in union. Naturally, through the years the tune changed now and then, the tempo sped up and slowed down, but the music never stopped. It never stopped. They always talked. They always connected.

Until that day in Caracas.

Now she watched sunrises by herself.

“You really should’ve stayed in bed.”

But it was so beautiful. And it went on and on like a slow waltz. At the bottom of her street now, purple haze still shrouded the town square. The sky brightened in slow motion above it, the fiery ball itself still hiding behind a peak.

Something moved in the semidarkness below. A person. Early risers were not uncommon, but she was startled. Something felt off about this one.

Or was that just her hypervigilance? Compliments of the incident in Caracas, it kicked into gear at times without warning, filling her with anxiety and suspicion.

Now she could see that it was a man. He passed the bandstand, his strides too deliberate for a villager, too American. He headed straight for the steep incline that led up to her house. In city terms, the distance was perhaps a block. In Topala terms, it was simply up beyond the sculptor’s shop.

The sun overtook the peaks and the man came into view.

“No way.” Her heartbeat slowed, but not quite to normal.

Even with his face concealed by a ball cap, his body clothed in a generic khaki jacket and blue jeans, a city block separating them, she recognized him. She recognized him simply because the air vibrated with him.

Luke Traynor owned whatever space he occupied.

Sheridan set the mug on the table beside her, tightened the shawl around her shoulders, and massaged her left arm. She felt no surprise at his unannounced arrival nor at the early hour. It was as if she had always expected him to show up sooner or later.

But as he climbed the narrow street, an uneasiness rose within her. Her muscles tensed. Why was he here? He had promised not to come. Sixteen months ago he promised. Not that she was keeping track. . . .

The sound of a soft whistle drew her attention back toward the square. Javier, the young sculptor, stood on the porch steps outside his shop. Behind him, the handicraft shop owner emerged from his door.

Javier raised his chin in question.

Sheridan gave a half nod. They needn’t be concerned. The stranger was, so to speak, a known quantity. Not that she felt the least bit glad to see Luke. Eliot would most likely be severely distressed at his arrival.

Wishing Luke were an apparition did not make it so. He continued his steady pace, arms swinging gently, head down as if he studied the cobblestones, making his way to her house.

Since that day in Caracas—the day her husband died in every sense except physically, the day this man saved her life—Sheridan had understood intuitively that Luke would always be a part of her life. And there he was, out of the blue, ascending her street in the middle of nowhere on a spring day as if he visited all the time.

She suddenly remembered the date. “Good grief.”

It was Annunciation Day, a day of remembrance, of celebration for when the angel Gabriel visited Mary and announced her future. How apropos. Luke appeared without warning. He would not have come unless he had something to tell her, some message that would irreversibly change her future.

Was this his joke or God’s?

Luke neared and looked up, straight at her.

She saw not the man whose presence had always triggered apprehension in her, but rather the guardian angel who had saved her life.

Sheridan turned and made her way inside, down the stairs, and through the house.

* * *

Sheridan opened the front door and stopped.

Luke Traynor stood less than six feet away, at the low gate in the stone wall where her front terrace met the steep hill.

She returned his steady gaze, knowing full well her own expression did not mirror the one before her. While dread, relief, and excessive gratitude rearranged every muscle on her face, his remained perfectly composed. The sharp nose, thin lips, and deep-set eyes could have been made of the same cobblestone he stood on.

He flashed a rakish grin. “I was in the neighborhood.”

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

He cocked his head, somber again. Always the gentleman, he waited for her to make the first move.

Sheridan clutched her shawl more closely and resigned herself to riding out the emotional disarray rumbling through her. She both loathed and loved this man. Of course he knew that, so it didn’t matter how she reacted to him except that she’d like herself better if she were polite.

With a quiet sigh, she walked to him, planted a kiss on his scruffy, unshaven cheek, and eased into his embrace. Nestled against the rough collar of his jacket, she smelled the familiar scent of him, an indescribable mix of earth, sun-drenched air, and confidence that bordered on lunacy. She felt the hardness of his body, always unexpected given his average height and build.

“Sheridan. How are you?”

“Fine.” She backed away, crossing her arms.

“And Eliot?” he said. “How is he?”

“Fine.”

Luke blinked, a slow movement of lids indicating he could take the truth.

She wanted to shriek obscenities at him. The disconcerting thing about angels, though, was that it was impossible to keep up any sort of pretense. Like an angel, Luke had stayed close beside her for long weeks after the shooting. He had gone with her to the edge of hell, holding on to her until she came back. He knew her better than she knew herself. Glossing over answers was a waste of time with him.

She tried another phrase. “We’re doing about as well as could be expected.”

He nodded.

“Eliot is still asleep.”

“It’s early. Perhaps I can greet him later.”

The resistance drained from her. Yes, Gabriel had come to deliver a message, and he would not leave until he’d done so.

She had no inkling how to shield Eliot and herself from this unexpected source of distress but gave a lame attempt. “I don’t suppose you’re passing through town and simply must be on your way right now, this very minute?”

“Sorry.”

She inhaled, her shoulders lifting with the effort, and blew the breath out with force. “Coffee?”

“Love some.”


Excerpted from Ransomed Dreams by Sally John. Copyright 2010 by Sally John. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.



From the publisher:
Sheridan Montgomery leads a charmed life as the wife of Eliot, U.S. ambassador to Venezuela. But an attack on their lives cripples Eliot, and they retreat to a remote Mexican village. As Sheridan quietly cares for her husband, she sees her dreams slipping away. Luke Traynor shatters their reverie when he arrives to tell Sheridan of her father's heart attack and the evidence implicating him in a conspiracy. Sheridan returns to Chicago to untangle the web of her father's past and is forced to confront her feelings for Luke, a trail of deceit, and the truth about her marriage.

My Review:
This is a great contemporary Christian fiction book. I loved the characters and plot. They were moving and the book held my attention from the first page. This is one of my favorite authors. She writes moving stories with strong characters and interesting plots. This is one of my favorite books I have read this year even though the subject matter is not always pleasant. It is a story about relationships or that is the main focus not the mystery surrounding Sheridan's father. Sheridan and her husband Eliot have not had a normal martial relationship since before he was seriously injured in an attempt on their lives while he was an Ambassador in Caracas. He lives in constant pain and she takes care of him.

One day Luke Traynor, a CIA operative that helped save her life, shows up at their house in Mexico with the news her father is dying. She never had a good relationship with her father and only a strained one with her older sister. Her mother died when she was thirteen. So Sheridan has to leave her safe haven to go to Chicago and help her sister. While there she discovers disturbing information about her father. The book does not end there because the main focus is Sheridan and Eliot. Sheridan and her sister come to terms and start developing a real relationship. The author has a way with words and the plot flows well. I felt like I was really in Mexico and Chicago. This is a really good book. Highly Recommended. :)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Stars in the Night by Cara Putman

This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Stars In The Night
Summerside Press (July 1, 2010)


by
Cara Putman






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



A Word From Cara:



I graduated from high school at sixteen, college at 20, and completed my law degree when I was 27.



My writing journey started in 2005 when I decided to write my first novel. Now I have eleven books published with more on the way.



People say I've accomplished a lot and that I must have life by the proverbial tail. Hardly! I grew up as a home schooled kid when home schoolers were misunderstood and oddities.



I struggle with balancing my writing and law career, plus being a good mom and wife.



I often fear people won't like my books.



I've walked through the deep pain of miscarriage.



Really, I'm just like you – I don't have it all together and have gone through tough times. But in His strength, I've discovered a strength I never knew I had. A strength I want you to discover, too.



In the end I'm just an ordinary mom who has seen God do some wonderful things as I've been obedient to step into the calling He's led me into.



Stars in the Night Background



Stars in the Night was an idea that had begun to percolate in my mind. I’d written two World War II series and was actively looking for my next setting. My husband, a huge World War II history buff, and I were kicking ideas around, and I’d decided Hollywood was probably the next place for me. I’d gone to the library and gotten a stack of research books when I got the call. An editor I knew but had never worked with wanted to know if I might be interested in a new line they were starting. As we talked, I got so excited. And then she emailed me their guidelines, which listed that Hollywood was a location they were interested in setting books.



Only God could have known ahead of time. But because I followed His prompting I was ready to run with an idea. Stars in the Night is the result.







ABOUT THE BOOK



Hollywood 1942. When attorney Audra Schaeffer's sister disappears, Audra flies to Hollywood to find her.



Any day Audra might have been flattered by the friendly overtures of Robert Garfield, a real-life movie star. But on the flight from Indianapolis to Hollywood, Audra can think of little else than finding her missing sister. When Audra arrives in the city of glitz and glamour, and stars, and learns her rising starlet sister has been murdered, all thoughts of romance fly away.



Determined to bring the killer to justice, Audra takes a job with the second Hollywood Victory Caravan.



Together with Robert Garfield and other stars, she crisscrosses the southern United States in a campaign to sell war bonds. When two other women are found dead on the train, Audra knows the deaths are tied to that of her sister.



Could the killer be the man with whom she's falling in love?



If you'd like to read an excerpt of Chapter 1 of Stars In The Night, go HERE.



Contest: Lots of opportunities to win and great prizes, and the grand prize contains some of Cara's favorite classic movies as well as all of her WWII novels: Launch Contest!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Cool Woman by John Aubrey Anderson

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


The Cool Woman

Fidelis (July 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Julie Gwinn, Trade Book Marketing, B&H Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


When I was eight years old, I saw Flying Tigerswith John Wayne and knew I wanted to be a pilot. After graduating from Mississippi State University, I joined the Air Force. My career in the cockpit was nothing less than a thirty-five-year answer to a young boy’s unspoken prayer. With three tours in Southeast Asia behind me, I left the Air Force to work for Delta Air Lines. I flew for Delta for twenty-eight years and retired from the cockpit in 1997.

When I retired, I was a man who would rather be digging post holes with a popsickle stick than be trapped in a house. Then, in January of 2002, my wife watched God transform me into a man who hungers to hide in a room in front a computer monitor, trying to shape words into pictures.

Abiding Darkness, Wedgewood Grey and And If I Die—The Black or White Chronicles—concerned themselves with spiritual warfare and fit well in the thriller/suspense genre. The Cool Womanis an action/adventure novel with a Viet Nam War setting; the protagonist is a cool and competent fighter pilot.


Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Fidelis (July 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805464808
ISBN-13: 978-0805464801

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The rumor circulating in the snack bar Friday morning came straight from squadron operations.

Sixteen Air Force pilots, most of them in flightsuits, two or three in summer-weight tans, were clustered here and there around Orange Flight’s briefing room. They were all watching the door and V debating quietly about the accuracy of what they’d heard. The fact that their flight commander was ten minutes late for the morning briefing made the story more believable by the second.

Second Lieutenant Warren F. Masland sat alone at a table in the back of the room. Masland was the most junior instructor in the flight. If the rumor proved true, the new instructor’s career was going to end before it began.

When the commander, Captain Frank W. Steadman, finally showed up, the pilots watched him shuffle into the room and step onto the dais in much the same way a condemned man might mount the guillotine’s platform. He dropped a stack of paperwork on the lectern then flipped his notebook open and frowned at the first page while he pulled out a cigarette. The conversation groups broke up, and men drifted in Steadman’s direction and began taking seats. The two officers nearest him spoke to their leader . . . he didn’t respond. He got his cigarette going then tapped on the speaker’s stand with his lighter. “At ease, guys. Let’s get this over with.”

The two pilots Steadman snubbed kept their faces expressionless and cut their eyes at each other; the rumor was going to be true.

“Okay,” Steadman had yet to look at his troops, “we’ll divvy up the students first. After that, we’ll play catch-up on paperwork and take a long weekend.”

Orange Flight’s briefing room was one of four almost identical rooms in the nondescript, concrete block building that housed the 3525th Pilot Training Squadron. The speaker’s stand was backed by a large green chalkboard and an annotated map of the local flying area. A built-in bookcase on the chalkboard side would provide housing for the incoming trainees’ grade books. In keeping with the Air Force’s penchant for having its written directives weigh as much as its aircraft, an identical set of shelves on Steadman’s left was filled with an array of training manuals, binders full of obscure Air Force Regulations, and a small library of safety-related publications.

“We’ve only got one prior service troop,” Steadman spoke in a monotone, “a first lieutenant naviguesser. I’ll take him; the rest of you will start with two or three studs each.” He paused and let his gaze go to the back wall while he pursed his lips and massaged the back of his neck. “Okay.” He stepped to the side of the podium and took a few seconds to jab the unfinished cigarette out in an ashtray; his expression wasn’t a grimace, but it was close. He propped one foot on the base of the speaker’s stand and looked back at his notebook while smoothing a mustache he’d shaved off six weeks earlier. And finally, the rumor became an official fact. “We’ve got a black kid in the incoming bunch, gents.”

He let that soak in, then looked up to ask, “Any volunteers?”


There are several cardinal rules in the military; forever reigning in the number one slot is: Never volunteer for anything. Added to that, the pilots scattered around the room were well aware that an object in motion is easier for the human eye to detect, and they became military-garbed mannequins.

Except for the ceaseless sigh of air coming from the air-conditioning vents, the room was without sound.

In any group of sixteen men, some are almost certain to be racially biased, but that wasn’t the root cause behind the room’s pervading silence.

In July of the previous summer, a black lieutenant assigned to the T-37 flight down the hall washed out of pilot training. When he busted his final elimination check ride, the trainee told everyone who would listen that he was “kicked out” because of racial prejudice. Actually, the student’s early ouster from the program had nothing to do with skin color; for the instructors who worked with him, the conclusion was unanimous from the beginning . . . the man was not cut out to be a pilot; he didn’t have the “hands,” the heart, or the SA—the situational awareness.

Within hours of the student being eliminated from the program, his congressman stepped in and, without availing himself of the facts, started twisting arms. The colonel in command of the 82nd Flying Training Wing knew he would never make general if he refused to yield, so he granted the student a special dispensation, giving him additional training.

It was a colossal error on the part of all involved.


In the world of aviation, conventional wisdom says: To keep an aircraft in the air, a pilot will always need at least one of three ingredients: airspeed, altitude, or ideas. If any one or two of those ingredients is absent or in short supply, the pilot must have a proportionate abundance of whatever remains.

On his first ride after being reinstated, the young man let the aircraft get “low and slow” while turning final for a landing, thus robbing himself of a significant measure of two of the components he needed to keep his plane flying.

The student immediately—and inexplicably—compounded his problem by pulling both throttles to idle, and the aircraft shuddered—warning of an impending stall. With the aircraft still flying, the instructor took control and initiated a standard stall recovery by pushing the throttles forward and moving to take pressure off the stick—no big deal. Even as the engines were spooling up, the student panicked and used both hands to jerk the stick full back. The abrupt maneuver cost the aircraft the last of its airspeed, and the T-37 stalled. At that altitude, with no airspeed, all the ideas in the world couldn’t prevent what was coming.

People on the ground watched helplessly as the aircraft pitched up and its forward movement stopped. The plane hung motionless for one sickening instant then dropped off on one wing and pointed its nose at the ground—falling, not flying.

The instructor took precious seconds to punch the student on the arm and yell “Eject! Eject!” but the kid’s hands were welded to the stick. The IP ejected too low and was seriously injured. The student was killed on impact.

The accommodating congressman, in an often-practiced scramble to fix the blame firmly on someone else, presided over the sacrifice of everyone from the training wing commander down to the instructor.


Steadman let his eyes move across the silent group and nodded his understanding. He spied Masland and was getting ready to pronounce his sentence when a captain with dark red hair lifted a hand and murmured, “Yo.”

“You’ll take him?” Steadman’s tone said, This is a joke, isn’t it?

The other instructors were so startled they glanced involuntarily at the man with the death wish.

The object of their attention shrugged. “Sure.”

Steadman continued to stare at the volunteer—he didn’t believe what he was hearing. No one in the room believed it. The other pilots retreated to their lifeless states because the issue might not be settled. The redhead, Rusty Mattingly, was the son of the youngest general in the Air Force. The officers in Mattingly’s chain of command tried not to go overboard in showing partiality, but they didn’t assign the junior captain too many “trash details” either.

“Okeydokey,” the flight commander took a deep breath and sighed, “you got ’im.”

Frank Steadman had five years of active duty remaining before he could retire. He pictured the stars on Mattingly’s father’s shoulders and prayed, Lord, please don’t let me get blamed for this.

Masland tried to hide his relief behind his coffee cup and spilled most of the contents in his lap. No one chided him for it.

*********

Sunday afternoon brought that week’s measured interlude of heat-soaked silence. The skies over Williams Air Force Base were clear of clouds and airplanes. Acres of jet trainers—the short, squatty little T-37s and the white, stiletto-shaped T-38s—gleamed in the sun, fueled and ready for Monday. Mann stopped his car at the main gate, handed the young Air Policeman a sheet of his crisp new orders, and asked where he could get something to eat.

The guard barely glanced at the orders while he let his eyes take in the car. “Best burgers in Arizona, sir,” he pointed. “Straight down there at Base Operations.”

Mann stowed the orders back in their envelope while the guard snapped a salute. “Nice car, sir.”

Mann smiled as he returned the salute. “Thanks.” The car, Mann’s college graduation present to himself, was created for an Air Force jet jockey.

He drove onto the base—his first time on a military installation as a commissioned officer—and headed for the burgers. Food first—then a place to sleep.


Forty minutes later, the lieutenant with the crisp orders and cool car had Base Ops almost to himself. He leaned on the counter in the snack bar and licked his finger before passing it across a piece of greasy wax paper—the former resting place of two hamburgers and a double order of fries. He was washing down the last crumbs with a long pull on his milkshake—chocolate—when airplane noises drew his attention to the window. A blue pickup with a yellow FOLLOW ME sign in the back was leading a camouflaged F-4 to a parking place on the ramp outside the operations building. The hulking fighter looked big enough to take off with a T-38 under each wing.

Partner, that right there is a real live jet fighter, thought Mann.

In response to the ground crewman’s gesture that the wheels were chocked, the man in the plane’s front cockpit signaled he was shutting down the left engine. The guy in the back cockpit unstrapped and clambered over the side. The passenger stopped on the ladder to fasten some loose straps in the backseat then dropped to the ground and took a hang-up bag and a well-stuffed B-4 bag from behind a panel somewhere on the plane’s belly. The passenger hefted his bags and walked past the shark’s mouth painted on the nose of the airplane, heading for Base Ops. The man in the F-4 twirled one finger to tell the crew chief he was restarting the left engine and gave a thumbs-out motion for the chocks to be pulled. The fighter was on its way back to the runway before the backseater got to the door of the building.

Mann was watching the fighter taxi out when the passenger from the F-4 stepped into the foyer by the snack bar. Mann turned as the guy stopped to drop his bags and pull off a white helmet with a bright crimson visor cover. The F-4’s passenger rubbed his hand through his hair to stir circulation back into his scalp then put the helmet in its bag. When he looked up to see Mann watching him, he left his bags in the middle of the marble tile floor and started for the snack bar while pulling off his flying gloves. From the insignia and stenciled name strip on the guy’s flightsuit, Mann identified him as a first lieutenant, last name Chance. The patch on the right side of his chest marked him as part of the Tactical Air Command—that, and the airplane he stepped out of, meant he was a member of a fighter outfit. The wings sewn above his name tag told the world he was a navigator—his face said he was tired. Not a long-day kind of tired, more of the weeks-and-weeks kind.

Lieutenant Chance was looking at a slender black guy wearing a tan, summer-weight uniform with second lieutenant insignia on the collar. The veteran airman stuck out a small hand and winked. “I’m Fat Chance. Is this Tucson?” The grip was firm.

“I reckon that’s close enough for government work, sir,” said Mann. “I’m Bill Mann.”

Both men stood relaxed while the new arrival looked over his fellow comedian. New uniform. New brown bars. New flight cap stowed correctly behind a brand-new blue belt. New plastic name tag, precisely fixed on his right pocket—white letters on a black background. MANN.

“Lemme guess.” Chance pulled his own war-weary flight cap out of a calf pocket on his G-suit and settled it over sandy red hair while he continued to run a calculating eye over the welcome committee. “You’re in the class that starts Tuesday.”

Mann’s face went blank with surprise. Good gosh, does it show that much?

“Yeah, it shows.” The navigator spoke before Mann could answer. “You ain’t got a speck of dust anywhere on you. The shoes look like you worked on ’em all morning with a fresh biscuit, the bars just came out of the box, an’ that haircut is short enough to shame a Marine.” He was grinning. “Like my granny used to say, ‘You look like you just stepped out of a bandbox.’”

Mann had to laugh. Here he was in uniform, joking around with a guy who had just climbed out of an F-4. He was definitely in the Air Force. “Guilty,” he said. “Just drove on the base. Left the bandbox in a phone booth.”

“You checked in at the Q yet?”

“No, sir. I figured I’d eat first in case they don’t give us any food for a few days.”

“Smart move . . . an’ don’t call me ‘sir.’” The drawl was straight out of lower Alabama by way of a year in Southeast Asia. “I’m gonna be in that class with you, and we’re gonna be up to our elbows in alligators for the next twelve months, so we don’t have time to play military; we’ll leave that to the Training Command weenies.” He looked at Mann to see if he understood.

“Sounds good to me.” Mann was nodding. “Do people really call you ‘Fat’?”

“Yup—that’s my call sign.” He handed Mann the helmet bag, gathered up the rest of his baggage, and headed for the door. “You got wheels?”

“Right outside the door.”

“Excellent.”

The June sun in Phoenix is expected to be harsh; it was brutal. They walked the few steps to the Vette, and Mann pointed at the chrome luggage rack. “Trunk’s full.”

“Nice wheels. ’58?”

“Yep.”

Most pilots have a thing for speed and the Vette would be one of twenty-two sports cars in Willie’s UPT Class 72-01.

Chance rested the bags gently on the rack and took the helmet bag from Mann. He pulled a huge cigar out of it, ran it under his nose, grinned, and waved it at Mann. “Gen-u-wine Cuban.” He fired up the cigar, took off his G-suit, and slid into the passenger seat of the Vette. “Let’s go find the Q first. I’ll grab a shower and some civvies, then we’ll hunt us up a beerysoda.”

Mann got behind the wheel.

The navigator waved his cigar to take in the car. “I even like the color.”

Mann was backing out of the parking spot. “They told me red increases the horsepower by 15 percent.”

The redhead ran a hand through his hair. “Closer to twenty-five.”

Monday, July 19, 2010

It's Monday What Are You Reading? July 19, 2010

This is a meme hosted by Shelia at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books:
http://bookjourney.wordpress.com/

What I read last week:
- Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon
- Resurrection in May by Lisa Samson
- Perfectly Dateless by Kristin Billerbeck
- Latte Daze by Erynn Mangum
- A Hidden Affair by Pam Jenoff
- In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce
- The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce

What I am currently reading:
- The Brothers K
- The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
- A Shore Thing by Julie Carobini

What I am reading next:
- Stars in the Night by Cara Putman
- Ransomed Dreams by Sally John
- The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
- The Family Greene by Ann Rinaldi

Reviews I posted last week:
http://abookloverforever.blogspot.com/2010/07/latte-daze-by-erynn-mangum-review.html

http://abookloverforever.blogspot.com/2010/07/perfectly-dateless-by-kristin.html

http://abookloverforever.blogspot.com/2010/07/brothers-karamazov-by-foydor-dostoevsky.html

http://abookloverforever.blogspot.com/2010/07/touching-clouds-by-bonnie-leon-review.html

http://abookloverforever.blogspot.com/2010/07/resurrection-in-may-by-lisa-samson.html

http://abookloverforever.blogspot.com/2010/07/motorcycles-sushi-and-one-strange-book.html

http://abookloverforever.blogspot.com/2010/07/back-on-murder-by-j-mark-bertrand.html

The Huge TBR Readathon Take Two


Kristen at Bookworming into the 21st Century is hosting the Huge TBR Readathon again.
http://www.bookworminginthe21stcentury.com/2010/07/huge-tbr-readathon-take-2.html

It runs today through Sunday July 25. Friday July 23 she is doing a Review a thon. I have several reviews I need to write so that is great.

I am not making a list but I have lots of books to read. lol :)

Winner of Change and Cherish Series

The winner of the Change and Cherish series by Jane Kirkpatrick is ...

Kailia Sage

Congratulations!

Thank you to everyone who entered.




Here is your sequence:

1
2
4
3
Timestamp: 2010-07-20 01:28:49 UTC

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday Salon July 18, 2010

The Sunday Salon.com

* I had a pretty good weekend even though the weather was dreary for most of it. They always go by so quick. I read a few books.

* I did some housecleaning today. Still have some to go. It never ends. I need to reorganize the Tupperware cabinet. It has spilled onto the counter for right now.

* Does anyone have any green cleaning tips? I am addicted to Lysol spray and Clorox wipes.

* I hope everyone has a great week and lots of reading time. :)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Latte Daze by Erynn Mangum (Review)



Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: NavPress (July 1, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-1600067129

About the book:

Maya Davis already has many titles—Christian, barista, maid of honor (new), possible girlfriend (newer), aunt (newest)—and her life is about to become even more complicated. Just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse, her ex-boyfriend proposes to her roommate and best friend, Jen. It’s not long until their apartment becomes Wedding Central. As if that weren’t enough, Jen’s obnoxious mom moves in to help plan the wedding, and Maya’s genius brother and sister-in-law announce that they're expecting. Then to top it off, there's the whole matter of Jack—is it love? Who wouldn't need a coffee break!

My Review:
I loved this book. It is the second in the Maya Davis series. I recommend reading them in order as comments will make more sense in the book plus the first book is good also. This is a great Christian chick lit book. This book will mostly appeal to young adults but other ages will like it too. It held my attention from the beginning and I did not want to put it down. It is definitely Christian. Maya reads her bible before she goes to bed and often she expresses her thoughts. Her roommate and fiance, and her boyfriend are all Christians. The book is not overdone or preachy. It is natural. The characters and plot are unique, interesting, and believable. This author is known for the humor in her books and there were plenty of lol moments in this book. I love how the characters and relationships evolve in this book and I can't wait to read the next book in the series. Thankfully I only have to wait until October. This is going on my keeper shelf next to all of this author's other books and on my favorites list for the year. Highly Recommended. :)


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Perfectly Dateless by Kristin Billerbeck (Review)




Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 259 pages
Publisher: Revell (July 1, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-0800734398

About the book:

Daisy Crispin has 196 days to find the right date for the prom. There’s only one problem – her parents won’t let her date or even talk to a guy on the phone. Oh, and she’s totally invisible at school, wears lame homemade clothes, and possesses no social skills. Okay, so maybe there’s more than one problem.

Can she talk her parents into letting her go to the prom? Or will they succeed at their obvious attempts to completely ruin her life?

Perfectly Dateless is hilarious, shocking, and totally real. You’ll fall in love with Daisy’s sharp wit and resourcefulness as she navigates the world of boys, fashion, family, and friendship.


My Review:
This book is about more than just finding a date for prom. Daisy Crispin is an interesting character. Her mother and father are very conservative Christians and she feels smothered not that she wants to be a bad kid just a more normal one. Her mother makes her wear homemade clothes. She is not allowed to date, have a cell phone, or go to prom. Her life is filled with work, school, and helping her crazy friend Claire. Her friend Claire is only similar to Daisy in the fact they are both outcasts at school. Daisy works for a company that makes checks answering the phones and helping with the accounting. Claire is almost Daisy's opposite. Her parents have a lot of money and she gets to do what she wants when she wants too. The book has journal entries by Daisy in it and they were the best part. There are some funny moments in the book. The book turned more serious toward the end. I thought the ending was rushed and a little choppy. So overall a good Christian YA book. Recommended.





Available July 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Review copy provided by Revell.

Nightshade by Ronie Kendig

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!



You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:





and the book:



Nightshade

Barbour Books; Discarded Heroes edition (July 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Camy Tang and Ronie Kendig for sending me a review copy.***



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:








Ronie Kendig grew up an Army brat, married a veteran, and they now have four children and a Golden Retriever. She has a BS in Psychology, speaks to various groups, volunteers with the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and mentors new writers.





Visit the author's website and her book website,.









Product Details:



List Price: $12.99

Paperback: 368 pages

Publisher: Barbour Books; Discarded Heroes edition (July 1, 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 160260777X

ISBN-13: 978-1602607774



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:





Prologue



Crazy lights swirled against the evening sky. Day morphed into the merriment of night. Cotton candy and hot dogs. Teens decked out in Goth gear contrasted sharply with young couples dragged from ride to ride by squealing offspring. White smeared over a man’s face as red encircled his mouth. Like a giant maraschino cherry, his nose squawked when a child squeezed it. He threw his head back and laughed. The little boy stood perplexed, as if uncertain whether to laugh or break into tears.



Olin Lambert shifted on the park bench as a parade of kids trailed the balloon-toting clown through the park. He glanced at his watch. His contact was la—



The boards under his legs creaked. A man dressed in a navy jogging suit joined him.



“You almost missed the fun.” Olin tossed a few kernels of popcorn into his mouth.



Rolling his shoulders, the man darted his gaze around the carnival insanity. “You know how dangerous this is? What it took for me to get out here without being seen?”



The danger and risk to his contact were no greater than what was stacked up against Olin. They both had a lot to lose—careers, reputations, families. . . . “We could leave now.”



“You know this has to happen.”



After a sip of his diet cola, Olin stuffed the half-full bag of popcorn on top of the overflowing trash bin. He wiped his hands and turned back to the man. “So, the body count’s finally high enough?”



Blue eyes narrowed. “I’m here. That should tell you something.”



“Indeed.” Olin waited as the ice cream vendor wheeled his musical cart past. “I need full autonomy for me and my team.”



Music burst forth as swings whirled occupants in a monotonous circle. A performer tossed flaming sticks and maneuvered one down his throat, swallowing the flames. Ohs wafted on the noisy, hot wind from the audience gathered around him. A scream pierced the night—a woman startled by another clown.



“Okay, fine. Just get on with this. I’m a sitting duck out here.” He rubbed his hands and glanced around.



Olin swiped his tongue along his teeth, took a draught of his soda, then slumped back against the slats. “I want it in writing. Two copies. Mine. Yours.”



The man shook his head. “No trails.”



The corner of Olin’s mouth quirked up. “You’ve already got one.” He nodded to the ice cream vendor, who reached over the register and tapped a sign with a hole in the center where a camera hid.



A curse hissed through the night. “You’d bleed me out if you could.”



“Whatever it takes to protect these men.”



Eyeing him, the man hesitated. “The men? Or you?”



“One and the same. If they’re protected, I’m protected. Whatever happens out there, we’re not going to take the fall for it.”



“If it goes bad, someone will get blamed.”



Olin pursed his lips and cocked his head to the side. “More dust has been swept under the proverbial Capitol Hill carpet than anyone will ever admit. You have to decide: Is the cost high enough? How many more lives are you willing to sacrifice?”



“Seven.”



On his feet, Olin tugged up the hood of his jacket. “Then we’re through.”



The man caught his elbow. “Sit down.”



Teeth clamped, Olin returned to the bench. He bent forward and rubbed his hands together, more than ready to forget he’d ever tried to deal with this man, the only man with enough power on the Hill and the right connections to both fund and authorize deep-six missions. Missions nobody wanted to acknowledge.



The din of merriment swallowed the silence between them. A beat cop worked the scene, glancing their way as he walked, no doubt making a mental note to watch them.



“Get me their names. I’ll write a carte blanche.”



Olin’s gut twisted. “Not happening.” If he revealed the names of his elite, he would essentially place them on individual crosses to be crucified by some politician who got wind of this or by someone far more dangerous—media—if something went south. “Project Overlook happens under my guidance with all the freedom and resources I need, or it doesn’t happen and you have one heckuva mess to clean up.”



“If I do this, I could get put away for a long time, Lambert.”



“And a million people will die if you don’t.”



“We should sit back and let Congress grant the authorization to go in there.”



A deep-chested laugh wormed through Olin. “You’ve been around too long to believe that. Thick bellies and big heads crowd the halls of the Hill. They want the power and none of the responsibility.” Had he been wrong in talking to the man next to him? What if he went to the Hill and spilled the news about Project Overlook? They’d be dead before the elite soldiers he had in mind could get their feet wet.



He let out a long exhale. “If you aren’t going to pony up, this conversation is over. You contacted me because you knew I could take care of this little snafu. So let us go in and quell this before it destroys more and the body count rivals 9/11.”



He eyed Olin, a slow grin cracking his lips. “You’ve always impressed me, Lambert, even though you’re Army.”



“Navy lost the last game, Admiral.” Olin let his gaze rake the scene around him. “These men are fully capable, and the situation can be tamed before anyone is the wiser. We don’t have time to wrangle the pundits. Let’s get it done, Mr. Chairman, sir.”



Chairman Orr stood and zipped his jacket. “You’ll have it by morning.”



Chapter 1



Cracking open the throttle ignited a wild explosion of power and speed. Zero to sixty in less than three seconds left Max Jacobs breathless. Gut pressed to the spine of his Hayabusa, he bore down the mountainous two-lane road away from civilization, away from . . . everything. Here only pine trees, concrete and speed were his friends.



His bike screamed as it ate up the road. The thrill burst through him. He needed the rush. Craved it. Stop running, Max. Her words stabbed his conscience. Made him mad.



Rounding a bend, he slowed and sighted the drop-off in the road—remembered a full 10% grade, straight down. His gaze bounced between the speedometer and the cement. Common sense told him to decelerate. The boiling in his veins said otherwise.



He twisted the throttle.



Eighty.



Max leaned into the bike and felt the surge.



Ninety.



He sucked in a breath as he sped toward the break.



The road dropped off. The Hayabusa roared as the wheels sailed out. He tried to grip the handlebars tighter as nothing but tingling Virginia oxygen enveloped him. Silence gaped.



This could be it. This could end it all. No more pain. No more life without Syd . . .



Take me. Just take me.



The Hayabusa plummeted.



Straight down. Concrete. Like a meteor slamming to earth.



The back tire hit. A jolt shot through the bike. Then the front tire bounced. Rattling carried through the handlebars and into his shoulders. He grabbed the brake—



Stupid! The brake locked. Rear tire went right. He tried to steer into the skid but momentum flipped him up. Over. Pops snapped through his back as he spiraled through the air. In the chaos his bike gave chase, kicking and screaming as it tore after him.



Crack! Pop! The sound of his crashing bike reverberated through the lonely country lane. Scenery whirled. Pine trees whipped into a Christmas-color frosting. Tree bark blurred into a menagerie of browns, drawing closer and closer.



Thud! His head bounced off the cement. He flipped again.



Finally. It’d be over. He closed his eyes. No more—



THUD! “Oof.” The breath knocked from his lungs. Pain spiked his shoulders and spine. Fire lit across his limbs and back as he slid from one lane to another. Down the road, spinning. Straight toward the trees.



He winced, arched his back. Kicking, he tried to gain traction. If he wasn’t going to die, he didn’t want to end up paralyzed. Just like you not to think it through.



He dumped into a ditch.



Smack!



Everything went black.



He blinked. Pain shrieked through his body, his thighs and shoulders burning. “Argh!”



Max pried himself onto all fours, hanging his head. A crack rent the face shield. A wicked throb pulsed through his temples and . . . everywhere. He fought with the helmet. Growled as he freed the straps. He pawed it off, cursing at the thing for saving his life. Those head whacks as he somersaulted through the air should’ve punched a hole in his skull. Warmth dribbled down his brow. He pressed a palm against his forehead. Sticky and warm. Blood. He grunted and strained to look across the road. Mangled. Twisted. His bike. Him.





Why couldn’t God just let him die? Humanity would be one up, and he wouldn’t have to face his consummate failures in life. “Just let me go!” he growled and pounded a fist against the pavement. He’d do anything to go back to the Middle East, pump some radicals full of lead, and unleash the demon inside. Anything that told him he still had purpose in life.



But that wasn’t an option anymore. Another bad choice. Could he get anything right? Maybe his father had been right to up and leave them. Just like his mother.



A glimmer of light snagged his attention. Less than a mile down the road, a black SUV barreled up the road from town. Max tensed. He’d seen a vehicle like that three times in the last week. But out here? In the middle of nowhere, invading his self-inflicted punishment? This wasn’t a coincidence. And he didn’t like being hunted.



Max dragged himself into the trees, wincing. Using his forearm, he wiped the blood from his face. Why? Why couldn’t he just die? Nothing here for him. No reason.



Sydney. . .



He banged the back of his head against the tree. Pain drove through him like an iron rod. Good. It felt good to hurt. A relief to the agony inside.



Glass popping and crunching snapped his attention to the road. The SUV sat like a giant spider. He wondered who was in the vehicle as he eased farther into the foliage. A carpet of pine needles concealed his steps. He glanced back to the intruder.



The SUV shifted as a man climbed out. Large, African American, and an expression that said he didn’t mess around. Whatever the guy wanted, he wouldn’t take no for an answer. At least not easily.



Even from ten yards away, Max could see the muscle twitching in the man’s jaw. He swallowed and licked his lips, readying himself for a confrontation. He swung back and gazed up at the canopy of leaves. Could he hoof it back to his apartment? Gathering his strength, he shrugged out of the shredded leather jacket, wincing and grunting as it pulled against raw flesh.



“You through? Or you want another go at it?”



What? Max peered around the trunk, surprised to find the man at the edge of the road, hands on his hips as he stared into the trees.



“We took you for stronger.” The man glanced back at the bike. “But maybe you’re nothing but broke and no use to no one.”



Heart thumping, Max jerked back and clenched his teeth. Who was this joker?



“So, what’s it going to be, Jacobs? You ready to face a little reality?”



How does he know my name? “Who are you?” Max hissed as the tree rubbed his raw shoulder. “What do you want?”



“You.”



Max drew the SOG knife from his pocket and opened it. Holding it down, he pushed into the open, making sure his injuries didn’t show him weak. “What’s the game?”



The man’s eyebrow arched. He angled his left shoulder forward, tugged up his sweater’s sleeve, and flexed his oversized bicep. A tattoo expanded across his muscle. Marine. Force Recon, if Max made out the symbol correctly.



An ally? As he struggled out of the ditch and back onto the road, Max collapsed the blade. Heat rose from the cement, aggravating the exposed flesh on his back and legs.



“Navy and Marines, you and me. Almost brothers. It’s the Rangers I don’t like. So, I forgive you for coming at me with a blade. This time.”



Max stared. Confusion—and pain—wrapped a tight vise around his skull.



“What’s it going to be, squid?” The guy pointed to the wreck of a bike on the road. “You don’t have a ride back to town. So why don’t you climb in and listen to what I have to say?”



Might ignore the nickname jab, but the guy assumed too much. “You flash a tattoo and think I’ll just bend my knee? I don’t think so.” A silent brotherhood had closed Max’s knife. But he didn’t want company. The oaf’s or anyone else’s. But how else would he get home?



“What? You think you’re going home? To your can opener and mattress?”



Mr. Recon had a point. Still, he knew too much, and that made Max stiffen—fiery shards prickling his back.



“No obligation. Show me a little respect, and just hear me out.”



At least, as the man had said, he’d have a ride. Eyes on the large man, Max pocketed the knife as he trudged to the other side of the SUV and opened the door.



He paused at the plastic covering the seat. He jerked his gaze to the driver.



Mr. Force Recon grinned. “You’re predictable, Jacobs.”



Max lowered himself onto the seat, cringing as new fire crawled over his back and legs. He buckled in, the irony of the seat belt crossing his mind. “So what’s this about? Why have you been following me?”



A crisp cologne swirled in the air-conditioned interior as Mr. Recon folded himself behind the steering wheel. “You’ve been recruited, Lieutenant Jacobs.”



Max snorted. “Already did my time. I’m out.” He gulped against the flurry of emotions within.



“Yeah? How’s that working out for you?”



Glaring, Max resisted the urge to thrust his SOG into the guy’s gut. He’d left the service for Sydney. Only it’d been too late. And in one fell swoop, he lost everything. “Why don’t you tell me? You seem to know everything.”



Mr. Recon pursed his lips and nodded. “Okay.” He rubbed his jaw. “You were discharged ninety days ago. In that time, you’ve been arrested twice, once for fighting. The second time—less than three days ago—for assault against your now-estranged wife.”



The words cut deeper and stung worse than his now-oozing flesh. Max looked at his hand and flexed his fingers.



“Yesterday you were hit with a permanent protective order by said wife. She filed for separation.” He leaned on the console and again arched that eyebrow. “How am I doing?”



“If you knew anything about me, you’d dull your edge.”



Wrist hooked over the steering wheel, Mr. Recon continued unfazed. “The military discharged you. Honorably. A veteran of two wars. Untold combat situations and medals. They tried to put you out medically two years ago, but you fought it.”



“And won.”



“Yessir.” The man nodded for several seconds. “So, why now? Why’d you let them put you out this time?”



Max shoved his gaze to the heavily tinted windows. That was a story nobody needed to hear. Bury it six feet under and walk away.



“You’re a discarded hero, Lieutenant Jacobs.”



Head whipped back to the driver, Max fought the urge to light into the guy. But something in the amused eyes betrayed a camaraderie. An understanding. Acceptance.



“Who are you? What’s your story?”



“Name’s Griffin.” He bobbed his head as they pulled onto the highway, driving east toward the Potomac. “My story. . . ?” A toothy grin. “Let’s just say I got smart.”



The sound of crinkling and rustling plastic pervaded the cabin as Max shifted to alleviate a pinprick fire shooting down his leg. He hissed and clamped a hand over his thigh. “So, what’s the gig?”



“The gig is whatever nobody else will do. What you should ask about is our group—and I do mean our group, Lieutenant. Because you are fully a part of this. Are you ready to step out of the medical trappings of your discharge, of the devastation that has become your life since you’ve returned from your last tour?”



Max grunted. “Yesterday.”



“That’s what I like to hear.” Tires thumped over docks as Griffin steered into a warehouse. “Then this is where it starts.”





Elite soldiers stood in a semicircle, waiting. For what, Max wasn’t sure. And he wouldn’t ask. If his guess was right, then time would tell—because Griffin seemed to be the guy in the know, and his relaxed posture against the SUV said things were going according to plan.



“Hey, dude, want me to look those over?” A blond guy dressed in khaki shorts, a faded tank, and a pair of flip-flops motioned to Max’s scrapes and lacerations.



Right. Beach bum wanted to play nurse. “I’m good.”



“About as good as a dog in a meat grinder,” the guy replied.



Max clenched his teeth. Whatever kind of circus Griffin was running. . .



A diesel engine growled, the sound reverberating off the aluminum in the cavernous space, preempting the shiny blue dualie truck pulling into the dank building. The engine cut. A guy stepped out and donned a black cowboy hat that added about five inches to his six-foot-two frame.



Griffin’s laugh rumbled as he pushed off his SUV. “Colton.”



A broad grin spilled under the rim of the man’s Stetson. “Hey.” The two clasped hands and patted backs. “How’s Dante?”



A quiet dialogue carried between the two for several minutes that effectively cut out the rest of those gathered. Yeah, they had a friendship, one that said they trusted each other with more than superficial things. Something about the tight bond rankled Max. Hit deep.



“Why are we here?”



Max’s gaze bounced to the shortest and youngest of the six men in the building. The Kid had read his thoughts. A warehouse full of warriors? This setup smelled rotten.



“If you’ll be patient—” Griffin paused and glanced behind him. “I think it’s time.”



A black Chrysler 300 glided into the middle of the grouping. The hollow clunk of an opening door echoed off the steel rafters and grime-laden windows. A man emerged. White hair feathered back. A sun-bronzed nose sported dark-tinted sunglasses. The thud of the door almost swallowed the crunching of his squeaky shoes. New, expensive shoes. Maybe even tailor-made. He gripped the rim of his glasses and drew them off.



Was the old man supposed to mean something? Be someone who mattered? Irritation skittered along Max’s shoulders as the old man shook hands with Riddell and the cowboy.



“Who’s the hoo-hah?” Max mumbled to himself.



“You kidding me, man?” The blond look at him and smirked. “That’s—”



“For those not enlightened,” an authoritative voice cut through the surfer’s explanation, “my name is General Olin Lambert. I am a member of the Joint Chiefs. But among the seven of us, I am merely a citizen of the United States just like you.” Blue eyes probed each man.



Right into Max’s soul.



“With Mr. Riddell’s help, I’ve hand-chosen each and every one of you for a very specific purpose. There isn’t anything about you or your lives that I don’t know.” Lambert paused, as if to let his words sink in, but Max just wished he’d get on with it. Scabs were forming on his scrapes.



“Chosen us for what, ese?” asked the Hispanic man.



“A black ops team.”



And that meant two things: military and that this meeting was over. Max turned and started walking.



“It’s not military, Mr. Jacobs.”



Hesitation held him at the large, garage-style door he’d entered. “How can you do black ops without military aid, intelligence, and backup?” He turned around, ignoring what felt like glass stuck to his calves and thighs.



“I didn’t say we wouldn’t have aid or intelligence.” Creases pinched Lambert’s eyes at the corners. “I said it’s not military.”



“Come again?” the beach bum asked, disbelief coloring his words.



“Let the general explain.” Griffin leaned back against the truck with his cowboy buddy.



“Thank you, Mr. Riddell.” Lambert tucked his sunglasses in his left breast pocket, then threaded his fingers in front of him. Impressive and commanding. “Each of you has returned from combat changed, affected.”



Nervous glances skidded from man to man. Max glued his attention to the general, refusing to acknowledge the truth of Lambert’s words.



“You’re what I’ve dubbed discarded heroes.”



Grunts of approval rang through the building, and the group seemed to tighten in around the old man. Being a general, he knew what it was like to have slanted glances of pity from those who knew where you’d been, what you’d probably done, and what it was like to go against a politically correct ideology and fight for freedom on foreign soil. Or to have some tree hugger spit in your face and call you a murderer.



“You served your time, saw and experienced things no normal person would be expected to deal with. Sure, you were trained. Taught to expect evil. Demanded success. However, when confronted with the true terrors of war, no human mind can dissolve the images embedded in memory for all time.



“Then it’s time to get out. They yank you back here, give you a once-over, and toss you out with a ‘thank you very much and have a good life.’ So you go home, try to reintegrate into society, and—”



“It’s screwed up,” the Kid said. He shrugged when the others scowled at him. “Well? I’m right, aren’t I? From what I heard you saying earlier,” he pointed to the beach bum, “you’ve spent time in Afghanistan—a lot.” Then to the Latino, “You probably did your tours of duty in Panama or the like.” His gaze came to Max.



“Don’t.” Fists balled, Max willed his feet to remain in place. He didn’t want anyone digging in his brain.



“Mr. Vaughn is correct,” Lambert said. “You’ve all seen combat. You’ve all been trained to kill; then you come back, and what do you do with those skills but go out of your mind?”



Max shifted. Was it over yet? He eyed the wide-open berth to freedom behind the blue dualie.



“Max Jacobs.”



Hearing his name felt like a detonation that blasted his attention back to the general.



“You served eight years with the SEALs. Your experience in command and combat no doubt left indelible scars. Watched your best friend toss himself on a grenade to save the team.”



Bile pooled at the back of Max’s throat as the memory surged. He flared his nostrils, pushing the images back into the pit from which they’d been drawn.



Lambert stalked the inner perimeter, as if prepping troops for war with a pep talk. “Lieutenant Jacobs is the man I’ve chosen as team leader, but his position is no more valuable than anyone else’s. You’ve all seen war. In this building are years of tactical experience. Incredible wisdom. And one element that makes each of you vital for this to work.”



“What’s that?” Cowboy asked, his arms folded over his thick chest.



“Loyalty, Mr. Neeley. Your duty with the Marine Special Operations Team is bloated with exemplary conduct, commendation after commendation.” He waved his hand around the cozy circle. “I’ve reviewed all of your files and found the same thing in every one.”



Awkward silence cooled some of the tension in the room, and once again Max eyed the exit.



“Mr. Reyes, your career as a pararescue jumper, specifically your medic skills, saved dozens of lives.”



“Pair o’ what?” Cowboy taunted.



“Hey,” Reyes grinned. “You’re just jealous. I’m a PJ. Why you think they call me Fix?”



“Because you put everyone in one?” Griffin chuckled, eliciting more laughter.



“Nah, man. It’s ’cause of this,” he said as he drew out a crucifix from his shirt and kissed it. “My crucifix. They called me Cru at first, then since I’m a medic, they started calling me Fix.”



Swallowing his groan, Max ran a hand through his short crop. Religion and military. This was starting to feel worse than an AA meeting. And there wasn’t a point. “This is a lot of flowery, moving discourse, but what do you want from us?” Max mentally shook off the way the others looked at him. Was he the only one who was still waiting for the boom to lower?



“Mr. Riddell, if you please.” Lambert pointed to the black SUV as Griffin opened the tailgate. “Give each man one.”



Griffin handed out small black packs that bore a lone symbol. A strange star backed by a sword and wings. The Kid, the Beach Bum, and the Latino dug into the packs, almost excited. In seconds, a black phone, keys, a watch, and a set of duds spilled across the gray cement floor in front of them.



Max remained in place, his pack dangling from his clenched fist. He didn’t like being played. And this definitely felt like a setup.



General Lambert faced him. “Is there a problem, Mr. Jacobs?”



He dropped his pack onto the floor. “Not seeing the point.”



Behind the general, Griffin seemed to grow several inches as he towered over the aged officer. “What?” he growled. “You want to take another nose-dive off that hill? Hope this time there’s only enough of you left to fill a baggie? Want to make that estranged wife of yours a widow before you can be called a failure?”



Hands coiled, Max drew up his shoulders. Saw red. No. No. He wouldn’t give in to the goading. He dragged his attention back to the general.



“Ease up, Legend,” Cowboy said, patting Griffin’s chest. “Give the guy a chance.” Lambert remained unwavering. “The point, Lieutenant, is to establish a team that can penetrate hostile situations without any entanglements, without any blame on the good ol’ US-of-A or any other entity or government. You returned from two tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, and a covert mission nobody in this room will ever know about. You were the best, a natural, your CO said. But you were so volatile after those experiences took their toll they tried to discharge you, and your compatriots nicknamed you after a volatile chemical. Somehow you held it together. Then jumped ship out of the blue.” More than recitation of information lurked behind the general’s blue eyes. A knowing—no, an understanding, quiet and unnerving. “Tell me, Mr. Jacobs, what are you doing with your life now?”



“Minding my own business,” Max answered through tight lips.



Lambert laughed. “And that’s exactly what you’ll be doing as part of my team. Funding isn’t a problem. You’ll have unlimited resources.”



“That’d be a change,” the Kid grumbled.



“To go where?” the Beach Bum asked.



“Doesn’t matter,” the Kid interrupted. “Man, how is this any different than military? Igot out for a reason.”



“You’ll go wherever needed.” The general turned toward the younger man. “Yes, Mr. Vaughn, you did get out for a reason. Tell me, did abandoning the one thing you loved the most give you the love of your father after all?”



The Kid paled.



“Why?” Max couldn’t stand it anymore. “Why are you doing this? What’s this thing to you?”



Lambert lowered his head then looked back at Max. “I am. . .discarded just like you.”



“Bull.” Max tucked his hands under his arms. “You sit in a cushy chair in a carpeted office. You’re paid, you’re connected—”



“I know what you guys have been through.” The general tapped his temple. “MAC-V SOG in Nam. Two tours.”



Max’s eyebrows shot up. That meant the man before him had likely seen more carnage than the rest of them put together.



“Heard the phrase ‘peace with honor’?”



Max shrugged. “Yeah, sure. Who hasn’t?”



“It was a platitude.” Lambert’s eyes flamed under his passion. “The armchair generals lost the war, not the grunts on the ground. We won every battle they let us win. But that doesn’t make it any easier when you’re the only guy who comes home from your unit with all his parts and pieces still connected where God put ’em.



“I may not be young, I may not have done combat tours in Iraq like you, Lieutenant, but I was tossed aside, too. For years I languished.” The general pushed to his feet, his voice thick and his eyes weighted by the story. “But I slowly remembered that I’d joined the military for a reason—I wanted to be a man. A real man willing to defend my country with life and limb. I knew then I could screw up my career or I could do my best to make a difference in the lives of those who came after.”



Silence hung rank and thick in the abandoned warehouse. Something akin to admiration leaked past Max’s barriers as he watched the indignant rise and fall of the old man’s chest. A smile threatened his resolve as the old man glared at the hulking men around him.



Lambert’s lips tightened over a clean-shaven jaw. “What’s it going to be, gentlemen? Do you have what it takes to finish the fight with the gift God gave you? Or are you going to turn tail, accept what the government stamped on your papers, and leave—go quietly into the night?”



“Whoa-hoa!” Laughing, Beach Bum stepped forward. “Old Man’s got some fire under that shiny dome.”



Lambert spun toward the bum. “What’s it going to be, Sergeant Metcalfe?”



The blond pursed his lips, considered Lambert, then nodded. “I’m in.”



The bright blue eyes shifted to the Latino.



“You need some CPR, ese? You look worked up.”



A half smile slid into Lambert’s face. “A little passion never hurt, eh, Mr. Reyes?”



“You all right, old man.” He hooked Lambert’s hand and patted his back. “You all right.” Reyes leaned in toward the general’s shoulders and looked at the Kid. “But I don’t know about this kid. He don’t look like he’s out of diapers yet.”



“That’s wrong. That’s just wrong.” The Kid’s face flushed. “I spent six years in the Rangers. I have enough—”



“Rangers.” Max couldn’t help but grunt his disapproval. “That explains a lot.”



The Kid’s chin jerked up in defiance. “I’m in.”



It seemed Lambert grew with each affirmation. He shifted to the cowboy. “Mr. Neeley?”



Cowboy gave a slow, firm nod, his hat shading his eyes. “I’m ready.”



Lambert smiled. “Good. Good.”



They were all crazy. Joining a group like this meant more problems. “What if we get in trouble out there?”



“Then get out of trouble,” Lambert said. “Understand that this team does not exist. If anyone comes looking, there will be nothing to find. Only one man besides those of us in this facility knows it exists, and he’ll pay the highest cost if that confidence is broken. No one—and I mean no one—will know your names.”



“So our orders are coming from on high?” Metcalfe asked.



A twinkle brightened Lambert’s eyes and gave silent assent to the question, although he gave no answer. Instead, he continued. “Any mission, any activity will be utterly and completely disavowed by the United States. You will be disavowed. If you get into trouble, Mr. Jacobs, count on your ingenuity to get out. If you are killed, no one will know.”



“Or care.” The Kid shrugged, a sick smirk in his face.



Max wanted to punch him.



“Or maybe that’s where Sergeant Metcalfe, call sign Midas, will come in with his golden touch.” Lambert ambled toward him.



The beach bum made a tss noise and shook his head. “Nothing golden, just hard work.”



The general’s smile disappeared behind a stern facade. “What is your answer, Lieutenant Jacobs?”



“This is crazy.” What else could he do? Flip burgers at the nearest fast food? What was worth staying here for? No wife. No family. “Fine.” The separation papers told him he had nothing left here anyway. “I’m in.”



“Good.” General Lambert’s smile softened his commando persona. “Look around. The men here are your new brothers, your family. Only they will understand when the horrors of war invade your sleep. Only they will be there when you’re pinned down and need an extraction.



Arms wide, Lambert smiled like a proud father. “Gentlemen, welcome to Nightshade.”