Reminder: Book Sale!

Don’t forget, Pithea on Kindle is currently discounted to $2.99, more than half off its normal price of $7.49. This price will be good through this weekend, so get your discounted copy while you can! And along with that, my novelette The Triangle is free today and tomorrow! See below for links and a little more information.

Hopefully these books can provide a little distraction from your isolation.

Pithea cover, Kindle

Pithea is the first book in a series of speculative, futuristic fiction. Check it out on Goodreads and Amazon.

1
The Triangle is a stand-alone novelette of Christian fiction. Check it out on Goodreads, and go here to get your free copy!

As many who will read this already know, authors, especially self-published or indie authors, need reviews to allow more readers to find their books. If you take advantage of either, or both, of the deals on my books, please make sure to leave me a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or preferably, both!
*Both of these books are also available through Kindle Unlimited.

Self-Publishing Spotlight: Hope Is a Dangerous Place

Do you like…

  • …small towns with dark secrets?
  • …mysteries about missing people from 75 years ago?
  • …teenage sleuths?
  • …stories where the setting is as much a character as the people?
  • …seeing revival?
  • …tornadoes?

If you answered yes to 1 or more of these questions, consider checking out Hope is a Dangerous Place.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Award-winning author Jim Baton believes revival is coming to America. This is what it might look like–

Seventy-five years ago, fifteen-year-old Hope McCormick disappeared. To remember her, the newly incorporated town was named “Hope.” When high school friends Kelsey and Harmonie begin looking into this unsolved mystery, they discover that someone will do anything to make sure the town’s secrets never come to light. Which neighbors are allies, and which face masks a violent enemy? And what will it take for their struggling town to fulfill its original destiny of hope?

About Jim Baton: Jim Baton (pen name) has spent the last 20 years living in the Muslim world, where he’s been involved in a variety of peace and reconciliation activities including interfaith dialogue, training elementary through university students in peace principles, and bringing Christians and Muslims together to pray.

Jim also speaks internationally on the peacemaking themes he’s presenting through the thrillers he writes. These books contain a depth of understanding regarding the roots of the Christian and Muslim conflict, how to bring healing to Abraham’s broken family, how to combat terrorism with non-violence and love, and how to become a true peacemaker.

Hope Is a Dangerous Place was self-published by Jim Baton in February of 2020. It’s available on Kindle, where the price has been discounted for the month of April, and as a paperback. You can read reviews on Goodreads or Amazon. Or see my review here.

Book Review: The Treasure Map

The Treasure Map
by Tyler Scott Hess

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Christian fantasy

Treasure

When a bad report card leads to Jack spending Christmas vacation cleaning out the attic, the last thing he expected to find was a map and letters that magically whisked him away to another place and time. Suddenly he’s seeing events through the eyes of Niko, a young man who lives in a time when the Faithful are persecuted and even publicly executed in an annual celebration. Niko miraculously escapes this execution and then joins a group of rebels who are determined to expose the evils of the State.

I really didn’t know what to expect when I started reading this novella and found that I quite enjoyed it. By the time Jack had visited the other world twice, I was hooked and really wanted to know what would happen. I can’t say the characters were all that engaging, but to be honest, I didn’t really notice while I was reading it. It was a quick, enjoyable read.

By comparison, the “real world” became a bit dull and monotonous. Jack’s plight to clean out the attic was only made slightly more interesting by his inventiveness as he tried to get through it more quickly. But even that didn’t bother me too much, so it must have been less dull than reading about cleaning an attic sounds like it would be. I think the shorter length of the story might have helped with that.

On the other hand, the story in the other world became a bit rushed and muddled in the last quarter or so, so I think in that area, more pages would have helped. It lost a bit of its excitement for me because of this. And the ending was a little confusing.

I’ll just say a few things about the style and editing, which I don’t generally let affect my rating with a self-published book. I’m not saying that there is no burden of responsibility here, but it’s harder for self-published authors. There were some grammar issues, but for me, this area really came down to narration and tense. The first chapter reads like standard fiction–3rd person, past tense, seemingly limited to Jack. Then at the end, it becomes more omniscient, conversational. This crops up again one other place, but I think it would have been better if it had been more consistent. And in the other world, the writing is 1st person and present tense. But at some point in the second half of the book, I began to notice areas where it slipped into past tense. All of these things, and some of what I mentioned above, tell me that the book could have used a bit more editing.

None of that detracted enough from the book for me to not enjoy it overall, though. It was a real adventure and a cautionary tale. My guess is that the “Faithful” are meant to be Christians, but to be honest, the Christianity in the book is incredibly light. You could almost insert any real or fictional religion. And one more thing–before Jack even went to the other world for the first time, I noticed a couple of references to Calvin & Hobbes, in that Jack’s little brother’s name was Calvin, and there was a girl Jack’s age named Susie that was only really in the story to be the Susie Derkins of this book. I made a note to watch out for any hint of a tiger, to verify that it wasn’t a coincidence, and then it turned out there was a character later named Hobbes! (I thought it was great, by the way.) I would recommend this for fans of Christian fantasy & adventure books.

Find out more about The Treasure Map

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: The Dandelion Killer

The Dandelion Killer
by Wanda Luttrell

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Christian mystery

Dandelion

When a town socialite is murdered and a 55-year-old mentally handicapped man is found with her dandelion pin, the police take him in for questioning, only for him to escape their grasp. It’s up to his best friend and sister-in-law of the victim, Elayna Evans, to try to prove his innocence before the police re-capture him. She has problems of her own, though, as someone seems to think the victim left something with Elayna before she died. Maybe she’d be wise to stay away from the investigation, but Elayna can’t leave her friend’s fate in the hands of the police…or the real killer.

I enjoyed this book overall. I think my favorite thing was the characterization of Jayboy, the mentally handicapped man. The mystery took some interesting turns, though there was a good deal of predictability in it too. I liked the added pressure of the rising river that threatened to flood the town.

The chapters generally alternated between Elayna’s POV and Jayboy’s POV (always 3rd-person though). Watching Jayboy’s progression through being suspected of murder, then escaping, and then where he goes from there, which I won’t say, was one of the more engaging things about the book. The repetition that I noticed in the author’s style was was prevalent throughout these parts too, but seemed a lot more natural.

Elayna herself was all right as a main character, but she began to grate on me a little. For one thing, there was the repetition I mentioned, which came out a lot in her thoughts about the murder and about her absentee husband (had taken off one day and was gone for 10 years, but she refused to move on). She also was a bit too wishy-washy for my taste.

There’s a character introduced part way through the book who was another favorite of mine. His story has a unique angle to it, if not a little awkward and coincidental. He’s the main place that the Christianity comes into this book, though to be honest, I don’t know why he had to be a pastor. It seems pretty common in these kinds of books, but it’s not like everyone who has a strong faith has to be a pastor. I did find it weird that his full name was pretty much always used, both in narration and in dialog.

As for the mystery itself, I don’t want to be too specific about the ways that it was predictable, because that would give away a lot of the ending from early on. But it was almost like the author tried to make it less predictable by setting up the narration in a way that we get used to, and then changing it on us without us realizing it. However, I don’t know if that was intentional, or just something I read into it. And there’s a New Age angle that feels so against the tone of the book, and I think it’s mostly there as a vehicle for the Christianity.

One of my favorite things about the book was this one scene in a restaurant that was newly opened by the pastor mentioned above, where there was a guy singing a song that was described but not named. From the description, I knew the song was “The Touch of the Master’s Hand” by Wayne Watson, which is a favorite of mine. So that was pretty cool. Overall, I’m glad I read it (though it wasn’t the first time–I was given this book by a sibling and read it a few times after I got it, but that was at least 15 years ago), and would recommend it to people who enjoy Christian mystery books.

Find out more about The Dandelion Killer

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: The House at the End of the Moor

Finished Reading: The House at the End of the Moor
by Michelle Griep

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Historical Christian romance

House Moor

An opera singer in hiding and a wrongly convicted jewel thief collide on the moors when she finds him half-dead and nurses him back to health. When the necklace Oliver is meant to have stolen are found in Maggie’s possession, together they embark on a journey to clear his name and fix some wrongs in her life too. All the while they must stay just one step ahead of the brutish officer who is intent on returning Oliver to prison.

I was right there in this book for the first half or so. There were some narrow escapes and Oliver in a dress was pretty funny. I had my ups and downs with the characters. And then by the second half, things began to get a bit repetitive. It felt like it took longer than it should have for things and relationships to move forward. The plan to catch the real bad guys always felt flimsy at best. And the ending was a little strange.

I liked Maggie well enough, but I didn’t really care for Oliver. He was violent and usually seemed to chalk it up to the victim deserving it. I didn’t agree with him most of the time. I really liked Cassius, though, though I won’t say who he was exactly, so I don’t spoil anything. I even liked Nora, for all she was in the story. And then there was Barrow, the officer trying to return Oliver to prison. And I’m sure we’re supposed to dislike him, but violence and wholly inappropriate behavior, alongside a self-righteous attitude was a bit too much for me. Even the pay-off for him, which I began to suspect and frankly would have been really disappointed if the build-up led to nothing, didn’t satisfy me.

This book is rife with coincidences. Besides the fact that Oliver happens to end up in the house of the woman who ended up with the necklace he was accused of stealing, he was at her last performance before she went into hiding. They both want to bring down the same man. And then near the end of the book, there’s this huge, out of nowhere coincidence that I do not understand why it was even written into the story.

I also don’t understand the perspective and tense choices the author made for this book. From Maggie’s POV, it’s 1st-person and present tense. For the other POVs (Oliver’s & Barrow’s are the only ones I can remember), it’s 3rd-person and past tense. At times, changing from one to the other left me feeling a bit disoriented. I have never understood the decision to do something like this.

There was an interesting focus on father-child relationships that I liked. I appreciated the atmosphere presented especially while on the moor. Once the story moved to the city, I missed the moor. The Christianity in this book was a bit muddled. Besides Barrow and his warped sense of God, I’m not sure where Oliver ended up at the end. It almost seemed like his redemption came from the love of the woman, the fact that she was willing to marry him, not from God.

Overall, I did enjoy the book to a degree, but was kinda glad when it was over. I was excited to read this book, because I’d read a Christmas novella by the author last December and really liked it. I’m not giving up on Michelle Griep yet and have my eye on a few of her other books. I would recommend this book for fans of Christian romance, especially the historical variety, and judging from other reviews, I’m in the minority again anyway. So if you like this kind of book, please read those other reviews too!

Thank you to Netgalley and Barbour Publishing, Inc. for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Find out more about The House at the End of the Moor
Publication date: April 1, 2020

See what I’m reading next.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: Hope Is a Dangerous Place

Finished Reading: Hope Is a Dangerous Place
Hope Trilogy #1
by Jim Baton

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Christian mystery, suspense

Hope

A recent transplant to the small town of Hope, Colorado, high schooler Kelsey already knows that there are certain families who hold a lot of power in town. When a journalism assignment leads her, her best friend, and the class loner to dig into the origins of the town, they find an unsolved mystery. A teenager disappeared 75 years in the past, and when the town was incorporated not long later, it was named as a memorial to her. What Kelsey discovers is that all of the towns oldest and most powerful families were potentially involved in that mystery. And someone doesn’t want the past dug up.

The prologue drew me in from the beginning, making me wonder how the premise could tie in with what was set up there. Though I found the characters a little weak, I was intrigued and wanting to know more about the mystery. And then I hit the wall at the end.

The mystery of Hope’s disappearance was a slow burn, but was interesting enough to drive the story up to a point. From almost the first point that Kelsey and Harmonie began to look into the disappearance, they were targeted in increasingly dangerous incidents. It certainly seemed like something really bad happened all those years ago.

Kelsey, unfortunately, does not make a very interesting main character. She’s all over the place in regards to Christianity. She seems to be a believer, and even has some insight for her pastor father who goes through some rough times. Yet she’s also belligerent and doesn’t seem to care about the language she uses. She also doesn’t seem like a high schooler in a lot of ways. Other characters aren’t much better–many of the male characters are chauvinistic to the point that I had to keep reminding myself this was set in 2020, not the 1990s or earlier. I think some of this might be because this book is clearly setting up the fictional town for a revival, and showing why it needs it, but it’s still strange to me.

I don’t want to seem like it’s all negative, though. Though Kelsey is the main character, there are several large side characters that I felt were stronger.

As for the wall I mentioned…the book ended right as a huge puzzle piece was going to be revealed. I felt incredibly let down, and at first thought maybe the book was just missing a few pages. Originally, I thought the story goal was not resolved at all, which is a huge no-no. Even in a series, trilogy, etc., each individual book often has its own internal story goal. I thought that goal was something that I won’t state to avoid spoilers. But I did wonder after I’d had some time away from the book if the story goal was actually something else that was resolved, albeit in a somewhat anti-climactic way. However, if that’s the case, I think it could have been written in a way to make the unresolved plot not seem like it was just about to be resolved, only for the book to end. The upside, though, is that if does leave the reader wanting more.

I know many don’t like books with such cliffhangers, but for some, just knowing it will end that way in advance can help a lot. So you’ve now been warned. At this point, it’s difficult for me to recommend the book without knowing the outcome of the trilogy. I’ll be interested to find out how the story continues when the next book comes out, and I’ll be steeling myself for another major cliffhanger.

One final note: As I touched on above, there is a decent amount of language in this book, at least for a Christian book. I know Christian authors often have to decide which way to go in this regard–I’ve had this internal debate myself. But the amount used in this book doesn’t seem like there was any uncertainty on the author’s part, and the fact that the apparently Christian main character swore quite a bit really puts me off.

Find out more about Hope Is a Dangerous Place

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Sale!

Social distancing, businesses closing down, etc., isn’t affecting me as much as it is others. I already work from home, homeschool, and am an introvert. Though I will admit that being told I can’t go out and do things makes me want to all the more. But still not much. But for those who are already going stir-crazy, or just for those who happily find themselves with more time to read than normal, I’m offering discounts on digital versions of both of my published books. My full-length novel Pithea will be more than half off for the next 2 weeks, and my novelette The Triangle is free now through Monday! See below for links and a little more information.

Pithea cover, Kindle

Pithea is the first book in a series of speculative, futuristic fiction. Check it out on Goodreads and Amazon.

1
The Triangle is a stand-alone novelette of Christian fiction. Check it out on Goodreads, and go here to get your free copy!

As many who will read this already know, authors, especially self-published or indie authors, need reviews to allow more readers to find their books. If you take advantage of either, or both, of the deals on my books, please make sure to leave me a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or preferably, both!
*Both of these books are also available through Kindle Unlimited.

Book Review: Stealth Retribution

Finished Reading: Stealth Retribution
Nanostealth
#3
by Vikki Kestell

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Christian sci-fi thriller

Stealth Ret

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the first 2 books in the series, Stealthy Steps and Stealth Power.

Again picking up where the previous book left off, right there in the cave where the nanomites and Gemma became Super-Gemma, she and her friends hatch a plan to start thwarting the evil military general who has been after the nanomites’ creator and, due to the mites infesting Gemma, after her too. Gemma is about to have more on her hands than escaping General Cushing, though, as a young friend of hers is in danger, and her own twin sister is in town to muck things up as well.

I enjoyed this book through most of it. I really liked the way the storyline with Cushing played out, taking Super-Gemma from Albuquerque to the White House and back. By the end of this book, I could easily compare it to a comic book super hero origin story. If my review and rating were based just on the resolution regarding Dr. Bickel and Cushing, I would have given it 4 stars, maybe more. However, things got really weird on the theology side of the story, and I felt very strange about the whole thing by the end.

I thought it a little odd at the end of Stealth Power, when Gemma became a Christian, and then the nanomites felt the presence of Jesus inside her. But I let it go, accepted it as the fiction that it is, and moved on. But by the 2nd half or so of this book, the nanomites are receiving instructions from Jesus. Surrendering their will to Jesus. And…being forgiven by Jesus? It took a lot more suspension of disbelief than I prefer to swallow all of that. Add to that the fact that the associate pastor who was once my favorite character had become simply a vehicle for faith-professing in the book, and even as a Christian, I felt very Bible-thumped (I don’t know if that works in this context, but I’m sure it’s clear what I mean). And in the end, I have no idea what the real purpose of Gemma’s twin, Genie, was in this book, other than to be another convert for Zander’s cause.

The first book was mostly in 1st-person from Gemma’s point of view, with a little 3rd-person if the author wanted to show things happening with other characters. This was explained in the fact that Gemma was keeping a journal of everything happened after she became invisible. However, the journal aspect was sort of abandoned in book 2, and by this point, it’s more like half-1st person, half-3rd person. Which is strange and confusing. The writing style as a whole still put me off a bit, especially in the 1st-person parts. It’s incredibly casual and conversational. In the end, I think the author’s style isn’t really for me, but the story about the nanomites, the invisibility, and Gemma escaping the bad guy is unique and interesting! I only wish there hadn’t been so much else to bog it down.

The series continues on for one more book (at this time), which from the synopsis is clear is a divergent from the main story arc in the first three. I plan to read it soon, because I did come this far. At this point, I would still recommend the series to fans of Christian mysteries & thrillers and lovers of this type of sci-fi, especially since I think many others wouldn’t be so bothered by the things that bothered me. Some other reviews do mention being put off by the nanomites’ seeming religious experience, but also express that the story outside of that is good.

Find out more about Stealth Retribution

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: North! or Be Eaten

Finished Reading: North! or Be Eaten
The Wingfeather Saga
#2
by Andrew Peterson

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Children’s fantasy

North

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain spoilers for the first book in the series, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.

The danger is real as the Igibys escape the clutches of the Fangs of Dang and head north toward the Ice Prairies. The Lost Jewels of Anniera begin to realize their full potential along the way, but there are a lot of obstacles to overcome. Surviving Fangs, the Stranders, and even the wilds of Skree itself, the Igiby family gets separated, and that’s when things really get bad for young Janner, the Throne Warden of Anneira. Worse yet is when he loses his little brother, the High King of Anneira, whom he is meant to protect. Surprises await around every corner in this action-packed, heart-filled fantasy!

I don’t know if I can adequately express how much I enjoyed this book. The imagination that went into the characters, the creatures, and the plot itself is vast and enviable. I was swept up in the horrors, the betrayal, and the victories right along with the characters. I was annoyed every time I had to put it down and plunged back in with voracity every chance I got.

As in the first book, the main character really is Janner, the oldest of the Igiby children, and in this book it was even more clear why that was the best choice. He grew up so much in this book, even though only a short time passed (I don’t know how much for sure…months, maybe?). Leeli really blossomed in this book as well, even though we didn’t get to see her as much. She’s courageous and has a beautiful spirit, and I love her! Tink, who is know more and more as Kalmar, has a rough time of it in this book, but boy was that ending incredible.

At times, I felt like the action didn’t slow down enough for me to catch my own breath, but looking back at it, I don’t think it was a bad thing. There were some pretty dark moments, so I wonder about the age range it’s meant for, considering that my daughter falls into the middle grade range. I don’t think it would scare her, necessarily, but I wonder if she would still be bothered by some of it, though she is on the low end of that range.

I highly recommend this book, and the series so far, for folks of all ages who enjoy clean, fun fantasy adventures. Also, you might see it labeled as Christian, and there are some references to a deity that many of the people believe in, but it is not overtly Christian. I have a feeling I’m going to love the rest of this series and want to re-read many times. There’s no way I’m waiting for the new versions of the last 2 books to come out before I read them.

Thank you to Netgalley and WaterBrook & Multnomah for providing me a copy of this book to review.
**Note: This book has been out since 2009, but a new hardcover edition will be released tomorrow, with a beautiful new cover and new illustrations inside.

Find out more about North! or Be Eaten

See what’s coming up.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: Home Song

Finished Reading: Home Song
Cape Light
#2
by Thomas Kinkade & Katherine Spencer

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Christian drama

Home Song

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the first book in the series, Cape Light.

Fall comes on strong in the quaint New England village, and relationships and dramas from the previous book are continued. The focus in this story is on 2 key people–Mayor Emily Warwick, who is busy with her re-election campaign, and Sara Franklin…the mayor’s long-lost daughter, who hasn’t actually told her birth mother that she’s the daughter she gave up 20+ years ago.

I gave Cape Light 3 stars, and was really happy to find this second book a huge improvement on the first. I liked the main characters so much more this time around, and the storylines were much more compelling. By the second half of the book, I was really caught up and highly anticipated seeing what would happen.

In the first book, the closest things to main characters were Jessica Warwick and Sam Morgan. Though many characters were introduced, and many story arcs were established, they were the driving force. Their romance was the story goal–the only thing that was tied up in that book. Their personalities suffered greatly because of the daunting task of setting out an entire town’s worth of characters and stories, so there wasn’t much time left to develop them or their relationship to my preference. Unfortunately, that made it all the worse that their relationship drama continued in this book. The fruition of it was good, but frankly, they both made me angry in this book. Fortunately, their parts were small.

In a similar vein, another romance that developed in this book was in some ways like a rehashing of the Jessica/Sam storyline of the previous book, wherein the woman didn’t want a relationship because she didn’t know how long she’d be in town. The big difference is that the two characters in this case had more depth. They had actual lives and their own stories to tell. I liked them so much more, and their story definitely took a different turn.

Other arcs that were set up in the first book were continued in this one in some way, or even came to fruition. Since unraveling the lives of the different people in this town was what made me care enough about the first book to want to continue the series, I was glad to see this happen. And there is still plenty more to carry my interest into the next book. I’m looking forward to the next much more than I was after finishing the first one, and now I feel safe recommending this book, and the one before it, to fans of Christian fiction, especially involving romance.

Find out more about Home Song

See what’s coming up.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!