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Review & Giveaway: Burden of Proof by DiAnn Mills

BURDEN OF PROOF
FBI Rapid Response, #1
by
DiANN MILLS
Genre: Inspirational /Mystery / Suspense / Romance
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Date of Publication: October 9, 2018
Number of Pages: 416

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Reeling from a negotiation gone wrong, FBI Special Agent April Ramos is caught off guard when a frazzled young woman shoves a crying baby into her arms, then disappears. Worry for the child’s safety quickly turns to fear when a man claiming to be the girl’s father abducts them at gunpoint. April puts her hostage negotiation skills to use to learn more about who she’s dealing with: Jason Snyder, a fugitive accused of murder. 
As Jason spins a tall tale about being framed for the killing of his business partner, April must sort through his claims to find the truth. A truth that becomes all the more evident after April overhears a conversation between Jason and the local sheriff and realizes something more sinister may be happening in their small town of Sweet Briar, Texas. But aligning herself with a known fugitive to uncover the burden of proof could cost April her job . . . or worse, her life and the lives of other innocent people.
PRAISE FOR DiANN MILLS:
“The tension level rises as layers of lies are peeled away in multiple plot twists.” —Library Journal

“DiAnn Mills is a master of fast-paced and intricately plotted romantic suspense.” —Colleen Coble, Bestselling author

“[A] fast-moving, intricately plotted thriller.” —Publishers Weekly
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review
I was excited to get a copy of DiAnn Mills’ latest book because she never fails to capture my undivided attention. I get a little breathless when gripped with suspense or excitement, and this book is filled with so many moments that make your heart skip a beat. Mills is especially skilled when it comes to writing dialogue. Each characters’ speech sounds natural and flows just as well as the non-dialogue text. When Mills switches the point of view, there is no confusion because the character’s voice shines through very clearly and the writing style is concise.
I can say with all honesty that Mills’ books are all very unique. Although I’ve read several FBI-mystery-romance books by her, they are all very different from each other, as well as books by other authors in the same genre. You would think that there are only so many meet-cute scenarios that can happen between an FBI agent and a paramour, but Mills will raise you another. In fact, she will keep them coming since this is the first book of a new series.
I’m Filipino, so I’m excited to see a Filipino protagonist whose ethnicity is not central to the plot. Sure, Mills throws in an Adobo reference – you should try this dish if you haven’t yet (it’s not the same as the Hispanic Adobo dish) – but April could be any ethnicity really. But since she’s not just any ethnicity, I’m going to nitpick a little. April is uncomfortable during long prayers, but most Filipinos are (or were at one time in their life) Catholic, so super long prayers – Hail Mary, anyone? – should be no biggie. April’s parents would prefer that she was a university professor rather than an FBI agent. Are you kidding? Filipinos love to brag and most of them love guns as well. And they live in Texas? Game over. They have guns of all shapes and sizes. And they would bring all those guns to the range to show their friends while they proudly talked about their FBI agent daughter.
But overall, I’m really amazed at how Mills’ characters spring to life in every book, this one especially. I think she is very successful with her portrayal of April’s struggle to do the right thing because I was constantly second guessing myself on what was the “right” or best thing to do in that situation too. I feel lucky to not have to make decisions that place my family on one side of the scale and the community on the other. I suppose most normal Joes like myself don’t have to.
I look forward to reading the next book. While you wait for the next installment, I suggest you pick up one of her FBI Task Force novels.

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.
Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne du Maurier, Inspirational Reader’s Choice, and Carol Award contests. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian fiction books of 2014.
DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. 
DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers.
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Review & Giveaway: Anahuac by William D. Darling

ANAHUAC
A Texas Story (Volume 2)
by
WILLIAM D. DARLING
  Genre: Historical Fiction / Thriller
Publisher: Canned Peas Productions
Date of Publication: October 3, 2017
Number of Pages: 244

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The Anahuac of 1972 is more than just an isolated outpost on Texas’s Trinity Bay – it’s a place where greed and justice uncomfortably intermingle, where the evangelical fervor of charismatic preachers resonate, where blacks and whites navigate a fragile co-existence, and where a murder leads to even darker mysteries than murder. 
Jim Ward, introduced in Morgan’s Point as a young, idealistic Houston prosecutor, returns in Anahuac as an older, more conflicted, more complicated man, coming to Anahuac to defend a man who appears guilty of a horrible crime. His discoveries lead to entanglements in the very nature of good and evil, in a town that is at once of its time and timeless, steeped in a history that is unexpectedly but definitively drawing Ward in its narrative web.
 

PRAISE FOR ANAHUAC: 

“Austin writer William D. Darling’s second novel, Anahuac, is an entertaining, engrossing legal thriller that offers both darkly humorous and good-natured thrusts at life, love, and law . . . first-rate reading, especially for readers who enjoy legal thrillers, lawyer procedurals, suspense, Texas settings, and characters who live large.” – Lone Star Literary Life
“Darling draws vivid portraits of his setting while also bringing in historical currents like women’s liberation, the growth of container shipping, and the rise of the prosperity gospel, adding interest to what’s otherwise a fairly simple courtroom drama.” – Kirkus Reviews
I’m a Texan originally from the east coast who’s had occasion to meet some of these characters from another planet. Darling weaves us through the minds of lawyers with jealousies, insecurities, questions of faith, honor, and guilt as they tackle the case of a horrible crime that has the potential to put a man of God away forever. I held on tight as we went through the engrossing trial, which did not disappoint! If you love history, crime, passion, religion, and suspense, this is a must read! – Kristy Recker (an Amazon reviewer)
While certainly a period piece, I’m glad that this book didn’t delve too far into Texas history because it already has so much to offer on its own. There is no point in making a masterpiece of the backdrop when the main players, the main point of the story, are so captivating and brilliant already.
I suppose the history of Anahuac leading up to the novel’s present time in the 1970s does serve as a sort of primer before Darling paints his characters with broader and more colorful strokes. Rather than telling us about racial or gender tension, he shows how that strain originated in history and how it evolved into what it was in the 70s. He does the same thing when explaining why the residents of the small town are suspicious of outsiders, even those who are also from Texas but from another town. We’ve seen that trope in movies, but it’s never really explained.
Even before the detailed choreography of the courtroom scenes, one can sense that Darling is an attorney. How? The opening scene all but tells you who murdered Sarita and the main character, Jim, is not really trying to figure out who did it. Jim’s focus is to make sure that the jury can’t say for certain that Reverend Randall Clay killed her. As he builds his case, he might briefly wonder who was really behind it, but his laser-like focus is on making sure his client is found not guilty. And Darling writes the story with this same focus and mission, to let the reader in on what is known for certain and what is hypothetical, with the intent of having us draw the most logical conclusion.
The story of the impending trial is the main thread of the novel, but there are a few other strands woven in concerning the married lives of the couples and the people in their circle that add further tension. I don’t know if those storylines added much to the novel, but I’m pretty sure they carried over from the first book. I think that if I had read Morgan’s Point, I would be more interested in the subplots.
Growing up in a Christian home in Texas, I just had to also mention my specific thoughts on Reverend Clay. I found him fascinating because he struck me as a Billy Graham at first, or maybe I just got that vibe because his medium was radio. But then I definitely likened him to Joel Osteen because of the solicitation for money and the questionable financial practices of his operation. And then he went right back to being a Billy Graham because he could actually spout scripture and theology off the top of his head without stuttering. Anyway, he was a great character and I wouldn’t mind reading about what his deal really is.
My only critiques are production things: the text could use some proofreading and the cover could be less literal and maybe scaled down a bit.
Overall, I thought this was a great read. There is not a wasted word on the page. If you skim, you miss something significant. If you like courtroom dramas, this book is definitely for you.

William D. Darling is a lifelong storyteller and very nearly a native Texan, arriving in his beloved state as an infant in 1942. His first novel, Morgan’s Point, introduced readers to both the mid-‘60s rough-and-tumble world of the Houston courts where Darling came of age, and the Galveston Bay region that has long fascinated him. His latest novel Anahuac, serves as a sequel to Morgan’s Point as well as its own fascinating tale.
Darling, who has lived within the legislative bustle of Washington, D.C. and in the beauty of a Central Texas ranch, currently resides in Austin, where he and his wife have built a longstanding law practice.
UPCOMING AUTHOR APPEARANCES:
January 12, 2018, 7:00PM

Anahuac Reading & Signing

Deep Vellum Books3000 Commerce StreetDallasTXUS 


January 20, 2018, 10:00AM

Anahuac Reading in Anahuac
William D. Darling brings it on home! He’ll read from Anahuac in the city where the new novel is set for the first time ever.
Chambers County Library202 Cummings StreetAnahuacTXUS 

February 17, 2018, 4:30PM
Anahuac Houston Release Event
William D. Darling will sign and read from Anahuac, celebrating the release of the book with friends and well-wishers in the city he once called home, as part of a multi-author event.
Murder by the Books2342 BissonnetHoustonTXUS 

 

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Review: Riverside by Brett Burlison

RIVERSIDE

 

by

Brett Burlison

Genre: Thriller / Suspense / Action Romance
Publisher: Barton Creek Press
Date of Publication: January 4, 2016
Number of Pages: 348

 

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It’s summer 1993 in Austin. Two young lovers decide to move in together and open a cafe only to be hindered by their own pasts, drugs, and bad guys from New Orleans. Set in Austin, Texas in the early nineties.
Bobby Patrick, abandoned by his mother as a child and by his alcoholic father during high school, wants a better life for himself and his true love, Katie. The couple decides to open a café and chase their dreams under the radiant Austin sunsets. There, the long, hot days of summer in inspire their passion–but complications arise when Katie’s former love interest returns, bringing with him a whirlwind of trouble.
As Katie’s dark past reveals itself, Bobby fears it could threaten all they have been striving for. Along with Katie’s best friend, Sara, with whom Bobby has his own secret history, the couple becomes tangled up in a drug deal and falls under close watch by Austin police and New Orleans mobsters. 
Bobby must find a way to protect Katie, help Sara, and help himself to thousands of dollars from the ill-fated deal. If he can’t, his future with Katie could be shattered forever. 

Part romance and part suspense story, Riverside is a tell-your-friends-about-it, good old-fashioned crime novel about a young couple struggling for the American dream, and the lengths to which they will go to protect it.

 

“A steamy tale and beguiling thriller, with plenty of local color and some provocative twists.” – Kirkus Reviews
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300b2-review
I didn’t even read the synopsis before signing up to review this one. To me, there is only one Riverside in Texas. And just as I figured it would be, that Riverside is Burlison’s Riverside as well.
My Riverside was cheap, somewhat ghetto (really depended what complex you lived in), but had great eats and epic college parties. In fact, most apartments on east Riverside wouldn’t let you live there unless you were a college student.
Burlison’s Riverside houses college dropouts with a similar backdrop, despite the 20-year time difference. (By the way, I didn’t notice the year it was set in until they talked about the Clinton administration.) These young 20-something-year olds seem to drink beer, smoke weed, and have sex around the clock when they’re not working shifts or eating at iconic restaurants such as Kerbey Lane and Trudy’s.
As soon as Paul shows up leading a parade of coke heads to back bedrooms, you know that something bad is going to go down. Especially when you find out that he’s responsible for the stitches on our protagonist’s noggin. The ape chest thumping of young males throughout the book can be annoying, but I found myself worried about Bobby’s well being.
As juvenile as Bobby and Katie’s romance is, I still wanted them to make it out of this thing unscathed. A tall order when Katie’s best friend is the increasingly erratic Sara, who is obviously jealous of the two’s relationship (you find out later why). Not to mention, Sara is willing to do anything to help her boyfriend Paul. And Katie wants to look out for her friend. Of course, Bobby is a standup guy who won’t let anything bad happen to his girlfriend Katie. You see where this is all going?
Throw in an older lesbian couple who grows hydroponic weed and a cop buddy willing to help with messy matters for a cut of the money, and you’ve got quite the colorful cast. I didn’t know what to expect but I found myself hoping that the two lovebirds didn’t end up in jail or dead.
Riverside was an entertaining read and I recommend it especially to anyone who has lived or partied in Austin. I will be on the look out for more of Burlison’s work.

 

Brett Burlison is a writer, lawyer, and Texan living in Northern California. He grew up in the piney woods of East Texas and went to school in Austin.

He practices law in San Francisco, and writes romantic suspense stories about young couples up against difficult odds.

 

 

  
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Review: The District Manager by Matt Minor

THE DISTRICT MANAGER
by
Matt Minor
Genre: Political Suspense
Publisher: Dead Tree
Date of Publication: June 30, 2016
Number of Pages: 266
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“Doing the right thing means you don’t eat”
So begins the sweltering narrative of District Manager, Mason Dixon, a haunted man serving Texas House District 100. After a constituent reaches out to his office with disturbing information about twisted activities going on in district, Mason finds himself drawn into a game of cat and mouse with a malevolent entity.
While these events unfold, Mason begins dating a county judge’s assistant. Brenna is a single mother who is ready to start the next chapter of her life. Can she and the stoical Mason connect? Or will she become collateral damage to his unorthodox, occupational hazards?
Mason soon finds that the danger has reached the highest ranks of the district, and that the century-old structure where he offices is not haunted, but instead possessed by an all too real menace.
Can a man who is profoundly broken restore order when the very core of order itself has been corrupted? 
“Matt Minor knows Texas politics from the inside, and he weaves a devious tale of deceit and death and even a little romance. Buckle your seat belt and hang on for the ride.”  — Bill Crider

 

Review
I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t retained much from my Texas history or government classes. I went into this novel unsure of what exactly Mason Dixon did for a living, but I remembered the significance of his namesake at least. And this might be a misstep, but I like to have a clear picture of each character so that while I read, I have a movie playing in my head. For some reason, I pictured a Matthew McConaughey type sweating buckets (perspiration is big in this book because the Texas heat is practically a character on its own). But a chapter or two in, Mason turned into more of a Chris Pratt because I found out he’s a lot younger than I thought (35 if I remember correctly), and still acts like a college guy in some respects.
So once I solidified Mason’s looks, I tried to understand what exactly his job was. His boss is this political guy with a very political name (Halliburton Crane), and yet he seems to involve himself in some messy business. I definitely didn’t peg him for someone to actually go out to the middle of the boon to check out a complaint on possible dogfighting with pit bulls. I got the feeling that most people who share his job description were more pencil pushing, phone fundraiser-types, but Mason was anything but that. He can dig into files, but the man knows how to shoot a .38 accurately.
The mystery behind the absent wife sort of unfolds slowly, I suppose to explain his trepidation of starting a relationship with the very sexy Brenna. Maybe it also has to do with Minor’s decision to slowly reveal Mason’s opinion of bad cops. I don’t know how long it took Minor to write this novel, but I found that Mason’s feelings about law enforcement are very timely with what is going on in our country right now. In fact, all of the ugly things in this novel are very relevant today: political corruption (here and Mexico), human trafficking, marijuana (should it be legalized?), and animal abuse.
I would be curious to see what else Mason Dixon gets himself into in the future. I hope that Minor plans on making a series about the guy.
Matt Minor presently serves as a Chief of Staff in the Texas House of Representatives. He has worked as a political campaign manager and is a well-regarded public speaker. Matt has authored official state publications, oversees syndicated editorials, and is a speechwriter and district radio legislative commentator. Prior to his life in state politics Matt was a professional musician and entertainer. Matt’s hobbies are centered on the arts, including the craft of poetry, an interest that has brought academic recognition and numerous awards.
His first novel, The Representative was an Amazon Political Fiction Bestseller the summer of 2015. It was accepted and archived into the Texas State Legislative Library. In April of 2016 The Representative won an IPPY Gold medal for Southern-Region Fiction.
Matt Minor resides with his wife Stacy on their ranch property in Wharton County, Texas. He lives in Austin during legislative session.
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