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Review & Giveaway: In Too Deep by Lynn H. Blackburn

IN TOO DEEP
Dive Team Investigations
Book Two
by
Lynn H. Blackburn
Genre: Suspense / Romance / Christian
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: November 6, 2018
Number of Pages: 352

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When the dive team is called in to recover a body from a submerged car, they aren’t prepared to find an encrypted laptop—or an unsettling connection between investigator Adam Campbell and the dead accountant. 

Adam turns to his friend Dr. Sabrina Fleming—a professor at the local university with unparalleled computer security and forensics skills—to recover the files from the laptop. But the deeper they dig, the deadlier the investigation becomes. When evidence uncovers a human trafficking ring and implicates members of Adam’s own family, he and Sabrina will have to risk everything to solve the case.
The truth could set hundreds free—but someone is willing to do whatever it takes to silence anyone who threatens to reveal their secrets. Award-winning author Lynn H. Blackburn invites readers back to Carrington, North Carolina, where everything is not as it seems, and sinister elements lurk behind the idyllic façade.

PRAISE FOR BENEATH THE SURFACE, BOOK ONE IN THE DIVE TEAM INVESTIGATIONS SERIES:

“Fans of Dani Pettrey’s “Alaskan Courage” thrillers will enjoy this nail-biter of a series opener, which will also be appreciated by romantic and psychological suspense fans.” Library Journal
 
“Just when you think you can relax, Blackburn brings you back to the edge of your seat in this riveting, high-tension suspense story.” 
Patricia Bradley, author of Justice Delayed 
“Blackburn’s Beneath the Surface is completely engaging from the very first page. Dive Team Investigations is bound to be a new favorite series for readers everywhere.” Christian Market
 
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review

For a book with a cover that shows an underwater scene and a punny title like “In Too Deep,” I predicted that at least 50% of the novel would take place in or around the water. It turns out, evidence and clues were disposed of in the water, and we end up only spending about 5-10% of the time in the deep dark. I was hoping to read more about the technical side of crime scene diving, but perhaps Blackburn does that more in Book 1 of the Dive Team Investigations. At any rate, I found this book to be suspenseful and well plotted. I had an inkling of whodunit, but I couldn’t figure out how they could possibly walk away with what they wanted.

Characters make or break a story for me, and it’s difficult to find fault with Adam and Sabrina. When I realized that I’m 10 years older than Sabrina, I started to question how much I have accomplished in my life. I loved how cerebral and logical she was – practically an AI in human skin. I was frustrated by how clueless she was about Adam’s affections, but then again remembered being that age and misreading guys all the time. The drama of their romance proved to be unfounded and was a little anticlimactic for me, but I found their interactions to be cute. I think my favorite relationships and interactions involved the friends and fellow police officers who kept watch over the two as the bad guy(s) kept coming after them.

The underlying, terrible criminal activity that is unearthed in this novel is completely relevant and morbidly fascinating. If you live in the Houston area as I do, you’ve heard your share of stories with similar situations. I hope that books like this one build awareness and encourage people to take notice and take action. Sorry for being so elusive, but I don’t want to ruin the story for you.

I feel bad for saying this, but the Christian bits in this novel took me out of the story a little. I really wish they didn’t, but they did for some reason. However, don’t feel like you need to avoid this book if you’re adverse to religious or Christian novels.

This book is first and foremost a mystery. Don’t miss out on a great story that sheds light on a very ugly and real problem that we have in our country. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good mystery and the satisfaction of justice served.

Lynn H. Blackburn is the author of Hidden Legacy (Love Inspired, June 2017) and Covert Justice, winner of the 2016 Selah Award for Mystery and Suspense and the 2016 Carol Award for Short Novel. Blackburn believes in the power of stories, especially those that remind us that true love exists, a gift from the Truest Love. She’s passionate about CrossFit, coffee, and chocolate (don’t make her choose) and experimenting with recipes that feed both body and soul. She lives in Simpsonville, South Carolina, with her true love, Brian, and their three children.
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Grand Prize: Print Copies of Both Books in the Dive Team Investigations Series
+ Hydro Flask, Candle, & Bath Bombs
2nd Prize: Print Copies of the Series + $25 B&N Gift Card;
3rd Prize: Print Copies of the Series + $10 Starbucks Gift Card
NOVEMBER 6-15, 2018

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Review & Giveaway: Searching for Pilar by Patricia Hunt Holmes

 

SEARCHING FOR PILAR
by
PATRICIA HUNT HOLMES
Genre: Contemporary Suspense / Thriller
Publisher: River Grove Books
Publication Date: April 10, 2018
Number of Pages: 320 pages

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Pilar, an innocent young wife and mother, is abducted during a fake job interview in Mexico City and forced into sex slavery in Houston. Can she survive the horrors of a world—one which many good Americans don’t see or ignore—long enough for her brother Diego to find her?

Searching for Pilar breaks open the secretive and dangerous world of sex trafficking, while exploring human nature and our connections to each another. Diego’s guilt transforms him from a rudderless youth into a man of purpose, and courage. While he searches, Pilar finds a strength that could save herself and a young girl who needs her. The themes of family, love, faith and the law intertwine in this action-packed tale of the Bayou City.

PRAISE FOR SEARCHING FOR PILAR:

“Patricia Holmes fictionalizes the heartbreaking reality of cross-border sex trafficking in her novel, Searching for Pilar. This cautionary tale should be required reading for high school classes to foster awareness, understanding, and ultimately solutions to this horrific epidemic.”  —Joanne F. Phillips, author of Revenge of the Cube Dweller.

“In Searching for Pilar, Patricia Hunt Holmes makes us aware of the terrible nature of sex trafficking in the context of a fast-paced, exciting Houston story that moves from affluence and glitz to barrio cantinas and the federal courthouse. The charitable, can-do nature of Houston is reflected in the wide cast of residents who help a young man on an extremely dangerous mission to find his kidnapped sister.  This book will be an added weapon in our fight against sex trafficking.” –Sylvester Turner, Mayor, City of Houston

I have never been one of those “H-town represent” type of people, but I am a happy resident of a small suburb of Houston. Searching for Pilar digs deep into the one thing I am ashamed of that happens not only in the seedy parts of the city, but even down the street from my idyllic neighborhood. When a local “massage” parlor is busted and the mugshots of spent women with vacant eyes are plastered all over social media, people (mostly men) will often ridicule their looks and say disgusting, degrading things. Very rarely have I seen anyone come to their defense, explaining that perhaps these women had no choice because they are essentially slaves. While there are women who are voluntary sex workers in this country, I think that many people are unaware of how many women and even children are abducted from their countries and sold into sex slavery. I think that these same people would be even more shocked to realize that this sort of thing happens to U.S. citizens as well. Sometimes their financial situation is so dire that they are tricked and trapped into working as prostitutes. Even our children and teenagers can be lured by promises of modeling contracts or movie stardom, only to be taken to another city or even shipped outside of the U.S.
Holmes was shocked to find that many of her friends were unaware of the fact that Houston is the hub of human trafficking in the U.S. She started writing this book about five years ago, before human trafficking was covered in the media regularly. Despite the lapse in time, this story is still relevant and disturbing. Women and children from all over the world continue to be exploited and it makes my stomach hurt to know that so much of these terrible activities are filtered through my city. It disgusts me that predators from all around visit the city under the guise of watching professional sports.
Although a little farfetched, it is the sports tie which allows Diego, Pilar’s big brother, the luxury to come to Houston to find his sister. The fact that rich and powerful men, including sports stars, have access to underground men’s clubs, makes it plausible that Diego could find clues about his sister’s whereabouts. And while I like the clues used to find Pilar, I thought that Holmes sometimes hit the readers on the nose to make sure they don’t miss anything. I would have liked a little more subtlety in the descriptive passages and less exposition in the dialogue.
Holmes’ knowledge of the city of Houston is intricate and the description of the area is vivid. In fact, her description of the places in Mexico are so well written, it made me wonder if she traveled to any of them for inspiration. I could imagine myself in Pilar’s small village and felt myself tense up as she entered Mexico City. It was in those moments of great writing that I completely forgot that Holmes was a lawyer before becoming a writer. Oftentimes, lawyers turned writers tend to write dry, almost clinical novels, but Holmes’ ear for dialogue and eye for description sets her apart from those writers.
Thankfully, for a book about sex trafficking, the gory details are not in every chapter. I appreciated that Holmes seemed to keep the disturbing descriptions to one chapter. It was difficult to read and probably even more difficult to write. But I believe the chapter serves a purpose and Holmes executes it as tastefully as possible. It gives readers a peek at the horrors that these women and girls go through. One chapter was enough for my eyes, so I couldn’t begin to imagine living that life all day, every day for years.
I don’t want to give anything away because this story really was an exciting thriller. Much like the debates that some of the novel’s characters have, I hope that this book starts a dialogue among people who have hard opinions about topics like illegal aliens and prostitution. I hope that people will see that bad guys won’t have a business if “good” guys would just stop buying the product.
I recommend this book to just about any adult reader, but I especially want the people who mock the mugshots of busted sex workers to open their world up a little bit. Maybe a little awareness will lead to actions that result in big changes.

Patricia Hunt Holmes spent 30 years as a public finance attorney with the international law firm of Vinson & Elkins LLP.   She was consistently listed in Best Lawyers in America, Texas Super Lawyers, Top Lawyers in Houston, and awarded the highest degree by her peers in Martindale Hubbell. She was a frequent speaker at national public finance and healthcare conferences.  Patricia has also served on the faculty of the University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Tennessee, and University of Texas Health Science Center Houston. She has written and published in the fields of intellectual history and law.

Patricia has been a member and board member of social service organizations in Houston that focus on helping women, including the United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast Women’s Initiative, Dress for Success Houston, and the American Heart Association’s Circle of Red.  She was a founding member and first board chair of Houston Justice for Our Neighbors, which provides free and low cost legal services to immigrants.  For the past five years, she has been taking writing workshops with Inprint, associated with the outstanding University of Houston Creative Writing Program.  She began to write Searching for Pilar in a workshop after learning that Houston is one of the biggest hubs for sex trafficking in the country.

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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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Freed to Forgive by Julie B. Cosgrove





Lone Star Literary Life Blog Tours

presents
 
Freed to Forgive
 
by 
 
Julie B. Cosgrove
 
Genre: Inspirational/Suspense
Shackled by her past, can she be freed to forgive?
 
Abused in her Mexican village, Marisol’s anger is her ticket to freedom in America or so she thinks. But her temper lands her in worse and worse situations. Trafficked and pregnant, she gives up the baby so it can have a better life.
 
Now, ten years later, her past returns to haunt her, just when she has caught the eye of Jesse, the one man who wants to know her…and not just her body. Marisol has struggled hard to disguise her past, but will the unforgiving spirit she harbors prevent her from embracing her future?
 
Though delicately worded with veiled descriptions, this faith-based novel does depict some disturbing, yet unfortunately all too common, sex trafficking scenes necessary for the plot.
 
 
BUY LINKS
 
 
 
Praise for Julie Cosgrove
 
I’ve bought Julie B Cosgrove‘s new book and will read it when released. After reading others from Julie, I know this one will be a dynamite read too.
Gay N Lewis, author of the Sara books
 
Ms Cosgrove writing style weaves into a descriptive story demanding not to be put down. The story arc and the character development are well-toned. Julie B. Cosgrove holds the reader in the palm of her hand. Just when you think all might go well for the main character, another event far worse than the one before befalls her all delivered by the expertly crafted and well-accomplished Ms. Cosgrove. 
Victoria Caine Pitts.
 
The author takes a very real, very dire situation and educates you about it through this book, intertwining edge-of-your-seat twists and turns along the way. She stabs your heart with a strong awareness of the horrific human trafficking problem our country faces by putting it right in front of you.If this story doesn’t tug at your heartstrings and inspire you to get involved, nothing will.
 


And in the midst of all that, Julie manages to subtly teach a lesson in faith – faith to give God control and wait for his timing, 
no matter how powerful your storm.
 

 

Believable characters, a plot that never ceases to shock and intrigue, and descriptive visuals are just a few elements that make this book worthy of your time. I highly recommend it to anyone who…well, to anyone, really.  
Emily Skeen, romance author
 
 I really enjoyed the way the issues was woven into the story without feeling it was thrown in my face. Cosgrove spent the time to develop the characters enough to make me have that deep connection with them but not get bored, a fine line that a lot of authors cross.  
Jessica Higgins, ereader
 
Julie B. Cosgrove is a great author who knows how to pull at your heart with her writing. 
Author Mary Ball
 
Author Julie Cosgrove has used her amazing word-weaver-skills to paint a story full of intrigue, suspense, and humor… 
she has raised the bar for us other authors.  
DiAne Gates, author of Roped
 
Julie Cosgrove is a talented story teller who knows how to create realistic plots and not drag them on and on with needless verbiage.
Violet Wickes, reader



Shoes shuffled towards her. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you. You speak English?” 

She bobbed her head.


He bent down to meet her face. A black shirt came into view as a whiff of woodsy men’s cologne filled her nose. A small, wooden cross dangled from beneath his open collar. Marisol dared to raise her eyes, just a touch. They were met by a warm smile. Two strong hands gently clutched her arms. “Come into the church. We can talk. Perhaps I can help you.”


Alarms went off. No. Never go anywhere with a strange man—ever again. 

Marisol twisted from his grip, gaze returning downward.


The man released his hands and held them out, palms up. “My name is Pastor Jake. You can trust me.”


One eye cocked enough to peer into his. Honesty oozed from them, as did reverence, etched by slight crow’s feet. He appeared to be in his late thirties now. A gold band glimmered on his left ring finger.


A shudder raced under her skin. She willed her shoes to move—away from the man, the marquee, and her memories. But they locked to the sidewalk.


His eyes narrowed. “Do I know you?”


Marisol inhaled a shaky breath. Yes, you do. But she’d never reveal it. To do so would dredge up too much sorrow. 



Freelance writer, author and speaker Julie B Cosgrove leads retreats, workshops, and Bible studies. She writes regularly for several Christian websites and publications and has been published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul, Faith Filled Family Magazine, Upper Room’s Devozine and Alive Now, The Secret Place, Light from the Word,The Journey and Good News Daily. 

Besides freelance writing and editing for clients, Julie has personally published three Bible studies,two inspirational works, a devotional and several novels – Focused (2012), Hush in the Storm (2014) and Legitimate Lies (2015), Freed to Forgive (2015) with Greener Grasses, Navy Blues and a three book cozy mysteries series, The Bunco Biddies coming in 2016-2017. 


She is a member of North Texas Christian Writers, Texas Association of Authors, Advanced Writers and Speakers, American Christian Fiction Writers, Toastmasters International, Daughters of the Holy Cross and several web-based author groups Julie has one grown son and lives in Fort Worth, TX with two cats. 

 
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