Review of YOU CAN RUN by Karen Cleveland

Intense and absorbing. The content may disturb younger readers since it deals with some violence and young children in danger. So, I would rate it PG-13, but it is a clean read.

Karen Cleveland has become one of my favorite spy thriller authors and this book is the best yet. With her family in danger, Jill chooses to flee to a new state and start over again. But she quickly finds out that although you can run, there is no place to hide, especially from spies who want to find you. The action began on page one and continued all the way to an astonishing conclusion that left me stunned. Alex, the reporter in whom Jill confides, is intelligent, independent, compassionate and determined. In short, Alex and Jill are both very strong female protagonists. The plot is centered around rogue agents in the CIA, with plenty of subterfuge and secrecy going on as well as some really tense moments. I enjoyed the unraveling of the story and following the clues as Jill and Alex revealed them. I also really enjoyed the character of Jeremy and his attachment to his dog Max. Mostly, I was just thoroughly engaged in this story and hoping for a good outcome with the odds against Jill for saving her family. What a wild, engrossing ride through the spy world! Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Random House via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”

Bio and photo from the author’s website at

Happy Release Day to Karen Cleveland! This amazing book is available today. Here are a few links where you can buy it:

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If you enjoy spy thrillers, then you really need to get this book! I have enjoyed all of the books by Karen Cleveland and strongly believe that this is her best one yet.

Many Thanks to Random House for giving me the opportunity to read and review YOU CAN RUN!

Review of WHERE I LEFT HER by Amber Garza

Rated PG-13 because of content

This is a thought-provoking story about mother-daughter relationships, friendships and abuse. Whitney and her daughter Amelia had always been close, but suddenly Amelia seems to be pulling away. Then, one day, when Whitney drops Amelia off at a friend’s house, Amelia disappears. This novel is about the desperate search of a mother for her child and her confrontation with the truth of her past. With two timelines, past and present, and a narrator who is omniscient, I never knew what to expect from one chapter to the next. There is a big reveal close to the end, and I certainly never guessed it! I enjoyed following the clues as I encouraged Whitney not to give up but to keep trying to find her missing daughter. The love between the two of them is evident, but teen rebellion is part of the story, too. I can’t say that the relationship between the two of them was particularly healthy, especially since Whitney seemed to cling to Amelia like a lifeline, but their relationship was symbiotic. I enjoyed the slow pealing back of the hidden facets of the characters and the slow reveal of what was really happening between Whitney and Amelia. Great story told in an original and creative way!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”

Amber Garza has had a passion for the written word since she was a child making books out of notebook paper and staples. Her hobbies include reading and singing. Coffee and wine are her drinks of choice (not necessarily in that order). She writes while blaring music, and talks about her characters like they’re real people. She lives with her husband and two kids in Folsom, California.

Author’s Website Twitter: Goodreads

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WHITNEY WANTED TO get rid of her daughter.
How awful is that?
Not forever, of course, but for the night. She was weary of the sixteen-year-old attitude. The rolling of eyes, stomping of feet, the judging glances and biting remarks.
That’s why she wasn’t paying as much attention as she should’ve been when dropping Amelia off at Lauren’s. Her mind was back in their apartment, her butt planted on the couch, bare feet propped on the table, a pint of ice cream in her lap.
“The destination is on your right.” She turned the steering wheel, following the instructions given by the disembodied voice of the GPS in her daughter’s phone. Amelia held it up, giving the illusion that her palm was talking. The house in front of them was nondescript. A tract home, painted tan with beige trim, a cream door, two large windows overlooking the narrow front walkway. The only thing that set it apart from the others was the row of rosebushes lining the left perimeter of the yard, scarlet red petals and thorny, jagged stems.
Whitney pulled her car over, tires hugging the curb.
Amelia hopped out the minute her mother’s foot pressed down on the brakes, as if she was desperate to be free of her.
“You sure this is her house?” Whitney asked.
Amelia shrugged, glancing down at her phone and then back up. “This is the address she gave me.” Her tone was impatient, irritated. That’s how she’d been lately. Distant and moody. Everything her mom said and did annoyed her.
Originally, she’d planned to walk Amelia up to the front door and meet Lauren’s mom. But on the way over here, Amelia had begged her not to do that, pointing out that she was no longer a little girl.
As much as Whitney hated to admit it, she could see her point. Amelia was sixteen. As soon as she finished her driver’s training and passed her test, she’d be driving on her own and then Whitney wouldn’t even have the option of dropping her off at her friend’s. It was time she learned to let go, loosen the death grip a little.
Instead of following her daughter, Whitney stayed inside the car, watching through the smudged glass of the passenger-side window. Amelia’s dark hair swished down her spine as she sped to the front door. When she reached it, she readjusted the blue overnight bag that was secured on her shoulder while lifting her other hand to knock.
Lauren appeared in the doorway, flashing a smile at Amelia. She wore a pink headband that made her look much younger than seventeen. Amelia peered over her shoulder before stepping forward, her lips curling at the corners as she threw her mom another wave. It was the largest grin Whitney had gotten in days, and she welcomed it, grabbed hold of it and then gave it back.
After watching them both disappear inside, Whitney pulled away from the curb. Without even looking in the rearview mirror, she sped toward her night of freedom, dreaming of a couch to herself and a movie Amelia couldn’t make fun of.
SATURDAY, 10:00 A.M.

Whitney had been up for hours, and still hadn’t heard from Amelia. Last night was restful. Quiet. Peaceful. All the things Whitney had wanted it to be. Much needed. But this morning she was suffering from a serious case of mom guilt. She missed her daughter. Was anxious for her to come home, attitude and all. Unlocking her phone, she shot her a quick text: Ready for me to pick you up?
Even after several minutes, no response came. Not that she was shocked. When Amelia had friends over, they stayed up all night giggling and talking. No matter how many times Whitney would remind them to keep it down, within minutes their muffled voices would return, drifting through the adjoining bedroom wall. Most likely, she’d done the same at Lauren’s and they were both still asleep.
The house smelled like Saturday morning—coffee, creamer, maple syrup.
French toast had been a weekend tradition for years. When Amelia was little, she’d wake up early and bound into her mom’s bedroom, eager for breakfast. But lately it seemed Whitney ate alone more often than not. Even when Amelia was home, there was no guarantee she’d join her. Amelia lived in her room, earbuds perpetually plugged in her ears, as if she’d grown another extremity. Still, Whitney couldn’t bring herself to stop the tradition altogether. The French toast would get eaten, even if it took a couple of days. Whitney didn’t mind leftovers, anyway. Not that she had many this morning. She’d gone for an extra-long jog and had been ravenous.
After cleaning up the kitchen, Whitney went back into her phone and clicked on the Snapchat app. Amelia may have been quiet around the house lately, but she had no problem sharing her life with the rest of the world. Whitney expected to be greeted by smiling selfies of her and Lauren, maybe some photos of the food they were eating, proof to all the other teenagers on social media that they were having a blast on their Friday night together. But nothing had been posted on her story in the last twenty-four hours.
With slick fingertips, Whitney closed out of Snapchat and checked Instagram. Nothing there either. A chill brushed over her neck, causing the hairs to stand on end. She shook the feeling away with an abrupt jerk of her head. Whitney had always been like this. Anxious. A worrier, especially when it came to Amelia. Perpetually thinking the worst. Amelia hated it. So had her ex-husband. It was one of the many things they fought about. And it was probably one of many reasons why Dan had ended up marrying that sunny, smiling, high-pitched preschool teacher. If Whitney had to take a guess, she’d say there were no skeletons in Miss Karen’s closet. No past indiscretions she was afraid of coming to light. No monsters from her past lurking around the corner.
No secret buried inside, so deep the roots had become invisible.
When Dan married Karen, Whitney remembered thinking how he had succeeded in finding someone completely opposite from her, just like he said he would. It didn’t take him long either. He’d met Karen less than a year after they’d split up. He and Karen were friends for a while, and then dated for several years before marrying.
That was how he always defended it.
We were friends first.
We took it slow.
But that was never the point. He should have made Amelia his priority. Whitney hadn’t dated at all
while Amelia was growing up—she’d only started within the last couple of years. Once Amelia hit high school and started having a life of her own, Whitney figured it was time she did too.
Leaning against the counter, she stared out the kitchen window. There wasn’t a view. The window overlooked the apartment across the way. A man stood in his kitchen, his back to Whitney as he drank coffee. His build vaguely reminded Whitney of Jay, and it made her smile.
Going into her last text thread with him, she typed, I miss you.

Then she bit her lip. Too forward? Too soon?
They’d been dating for a couple of months, and he’d only been on an overnight business trip. He was returning later today. She didn’t want to come on too strong.
Backspace. Delete. She tried again: Hope your trip was good.
Too formal?
Whitney paused, thinking.
Why am I making this so hard?
She really liked Jay. That was the problem. He was the first guy in a long time she felt hopeful about. Usually by month two of dating someone, the red flags popped up and her interest waned. That hadn’t happened yet with Jay.
Turns out, she didn’t need to stress over what to text. Jay beat her to it.
Boarding the plane now. Will call you when I’m back, he texted.
Sounds good, she responded.
It was 10:30. There were a million things on the agenda today and waiting around for Amelia wasn’t
one of them.
After hitting the grocery store and Target, Whitney swung by Lauren’s, using the memory of how
they’d gotten there yesterday as her guide. It was a little tricky, since she hadn’t paid enough attention to Amelia’s directions yesterday, but after a few minutes of circling the neighborhood, she came upon a familiar street and turned on it. A couple of houses in, she recognized the rosebushes.
It had been well over an hour since she’d sent the last text to Amelia. Although there hadn’t been any response yet, Whitney was sure she was up by now. Probably hoping to buy more time with her friend.
Whitney had gotten Amelia a bag of gummy worms. She pulled it out of one of the grocery bags. It crinkled as she set it on the passenger seat. Amelia probably wouldn’t even eat them. Certainly, they didn’t fit within the parameters of her latest diet, but, still, Whitney couldn’t resist. Whitney’s habit of picking up treats at the store had started back when Amelia was a toddler, when she’d surprised her with a bag of cookies one afternoon when picking her up from preschool. Whitney would never forget how wide Amelia’s eyes got, how broad her smile became as she clutched the little bag. A lot of things may have changed between them over the past few years, but Whitney didn’t want that to be one of them.
After getting out of the car, she slipped the key ring around her finger and walked up the front walkway, flip-flops slapping on the pavement. It was a warm, spring day. Kids played outside a few houses down. A lawnmower kicked on. A couple rode their bikes past, bright neon helmets bouncing up and down like beach balls bobbing in the waves. Amelia used to love to ride bikes. For a while, it had been a weekend tradition. Whitney couldn’t remember the last time they’d hit the trails together, but she made a note to ask her about it. Most likely her answer would be a big resounding no, coupled with the same cringey, horrified look she had whenever Whitney suggested they hang out. Still, it was worth a shot. Sometimes Amelia surprised her with a yes, reminding Whitney of the girl she used to be before the teenage monster took over.
When Whitney reached the door, she lifted her hand to knock the same way she’d watched Amelia do the day before. A minute passed and no one answered. That funny feeling returned, but she shoved it down, feeling silly.
She knocked again, this time so hard it stung her knuckles. The girls were probably listening to music or something. Or maybe they were in the backyard. It was a nice day. Ears perked, she listened for the sound of her daughter’s voice or of music playing inside. Hearing neither of those, she frowned.
Finally, Whitney caught the hint of footsteps inside.
The door creaked open, an older woman peering out, eyebrows raised. She looked to be in her late sixties, maybe early seventies.

Whitney was taken aback. She’d never met Lauren’s mom, but there was no way this was her. Maybe Lauren’s grandparents lived with them. Recently, Whitney had watched a news report about how the cost of living had gone up, causing multigenerational homes to become a growing trend. And Lauren had mentioned that her parents were divorced. Whitney knew firsthand how financially taxing it was to raise a child alone.
“Hi, I’m Whitney. Amelia’s mom.” Smiling, Whitney jutted out her hand.
But the elderly woman just stared at it, not saying a word. She glanced over her shoulder where a man around her same age stood. He furrowed his brows and stepped forward. Whitney’s body tensed.
Maybe she’s got dementia or Alzheimer’s or something. Whitney caught the old man’s eyes. “Hi, I’m Amelia’s mom. She spent the night here.”
“Nope. Not here.” Shaking his head, he came closer. “You must have the wrong house. They all kinda look the same in this neighborhood.”
Whitney glanced around. Hadn’t she thought the same thing yesterday? She must’ve turned down the wrong street or something.
Face warming, she backed away from the door. “I’m so sorry to have bothered you.”
“No bother at all,” the man said, and the woman offered a kind smile.
Whitney turned on her heels and made her way back to the car. She turned on the ignition and pulled
away from the curb. The couple had already disappeared inside. Whitney drove to the main street and turned right. When she came up on another street, she turned onto it. The man was right. There were lots of houses that looked like theirs. She pulled up in front of one, scanning the yard.
Nope. No roses.
That’s what had set the other house apart. The one she dropped Amelia off at.
She moved farther down the street, carefully looking to the right and to the left, searching for a one-
story house, roses lining the perimeter. Coming up empty, she swung the car around. Maybe her mistake had been turning right at the main street.
Backtracking, this time Whitney turned left.
This street was almost identical to the other two she’d just been down. Same tract homes. Manicured lawns. Shuttered windows. A sea of tan paint and beige trim. The odd red door or colorful lawn art. But, again, no roses. At least, not in the correct spot.
Turning onto another street, she finally found it. The simple house. The roses lining the side.
After parking in front, she leaped out and hurried to the front door. It was answered after only a couple of knocks.
She gasped, taking in the elderly man standing in the doorway. The same one she’d just spoken to a few moments ago.
Oh, my God.
She’d ended up right back where she’d started. As she backed away from the door, apologizing profusely, she took in the shuttered windows, the manicured lawn, the roses lining the perimeter of the yard. Peering back at her car, she envisioned Amelia in the front seat holding her phone, the voice of the GPS speaking in her palm.
There was almost no doubt in Whitney’s mind—this was where she’d left her.

Excerpted from Where I Left Her by Amber Garza, Copyright © 2021 by Amber Garza. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

A Nation Worth Dying For

The brave men and women who were killed in Afghanistan yesterday laid down their lives for others. They had families at home, waiting for them and now mourning their loss. What are you willing to die for? Your loved ones? A stranger? Your nation? Dr. Denison’s Forum today brought tears to my eyes as I reflected on the sacrifices that our armed forces face daily. My husband served for over two decades and each time he was away, I prayed for his safety, but I never really thought he was in harm’s way. I never considered that he might not return to his family whole and sound. My heart aches for the families who will never see their loved ones again. And my soul cries out to God for a nation that sacrifices so many because of the incompetence of the leadership. Lord, have mercy on your people and lead us to the right path.

Dr. Denison August 27, 2021

Evil Days

As the days become more and more evil and more people are turning away from God, it is up to us who bear His Name to be wise and to use the time we have wisely. Look at the newspapers. Listen to the news. There is nothing happening that surprises God, but there is a lot of evil in the world. It reminds me of the “days of Noah” when people thought that everything they did was just fine. And then, the floods came. God promised not to destroy the earth with another flood, but He also promised a new Heaven and a new earth. Perhaps we need to be looking up more and less at our electronic devices. Just a thought.

Have a blessed day, filled with wise choices.

Where I Have Been

I didn’t tell my readers that I would be absent from my blog for a while because I wasn’t sure how long I would be gone and when I would return. But I did know that while I was gone, I was not planning on blogging. You see, my husband and I went on what we called a “marathon trip” this summer.

First, we went to Maryland to meet our newest grandson, Nathan Henry. He is two months old today.

Then, we went to Pennsylvania to celebrate the graduation of our second grandson Tyler. This is Tyler and his mom, our daughter Hope, at his graduation party.

The next thing we did is come home and wait for our car to be repaired. When that finally happened, we left to go to Florida to visit my siblings, whom I hadn’t seen in seven years. They are the two youngest in my family.

This is my baby brother James, his wife Amy, his Golden Retriever Ary and me!
This is, from left to right, my BIL Dave and my sister Denise, my husband Harry and I and Denise’s sons Tommy and Joey, with Denise’s dog Pixie.

We just got home on Friday and today I am leaving to go to my sister’s house in Glen Allen (about an hour away from me) because my brother and his wife are flying in from Colorado this afternoon.

This is my brother Steve, his wife Lee Ann and their children Megan and Cody.

So, now you know about my summer adventures and why I have been too busy, too preoccupied if you will, to write on the blog. I hope to do better once I return from my sister’s house next week.

A Big Mess of Our Own Making

The United States is in a big mess, not that we didn’t make the mess, just an observation that it exists. Of course, we made the mess, so we might as well own it. For years, we have rested on our laurels, knowing that we are the best, the most powerful, the peacekeeper of the world. And then, things started to change. First, with a President who wanted to put America first. Now, we have a President who wants to put America last. Neither attitude is right. The correct attitude is to clean up America and put her at the feet of Jesus, submissive to the will of God.

“And Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he was king for thirty-one years in Jerusalem. And he did what was correct in the eyes of the Lord, and he walked in the ways of David his father and did not turn either to the right or left. And in the eighth year of his reign, while he was still a young boy, he began to seek out the God of David his father; and in the twelfth year he began to cleanse Judah and Jerusalem from high places, Asherah poles, idols, and carved and cast images. So they tore down the altars for the Baals, and he cut down the incense altars that were above them and smashed the Asherah poles and carved and cast images. And he crushed them to dust and scattered them before the graves of those who sacrificed to them. In the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, and as far as Naphtali, in their ruins all around, he broke down the altars, beat Asherah poles and the images into powder, and cut down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel. Then he returned to Jerusalem.”
‭‭2 Chronicles‬ ‭34:1-4, 6-7‬ ‭MEV‬‬

An eight-year old ruler of Israel was wiser than any of our 500 + Congressmen, our President and our Supreme Court. He recognized that the way back to prosperity and peace was by cleaning out the sin and the idols and following only God. My prayer for our nation is that we turn back to God.

It broke my heart yesterday when I saw what was happening in Afghanistan. No, I do not think that we could or should stay there forever, but whenever a vacancy is allowed to happen, evil has a tendency to sweep in and take over. That is what is happening in Afghanistan. Evil is reigning there, and we are powerless to stop it. The plan to leave the country in the hands of their own military failed because they were not ready. Do you leave your three year old to cook dinner after showing her how it is done? And when she gets burned or destroys the house, do you then say, “I thought you were ready for this responsibility. I guess I was wrong” and then walk away? How sad that this is exactly what the U.S.A. did to Afghanistan!

My prayer today:

Have a blessed and safe day. Please keep the Afghanis in your prayers.

Review of BEYOND THE TIDES by Liz Johnson

This was a charming love story about enemies who become friends and then develop a romantic relationship. Meg Whitaker and Oliver Ross are the central characters, both of whom are delightfully quirky. Meg is a physics teacher and the daughter of a lobster fisherman. When her dad decides to sell his business in order to focus on her mom’s failing health, Meg is distraught to find out that her dad is selling the business to Oliver, the guy who ruined her science project and ruined her chances to attend an Ivy League college. Her father, desperate to sell but also unwilling to anger Meg, comes up with the solution to have the two share the business and see who does the best work with it. The humor in this book is outstanding as the two enemies gradually begin to accept each other, let go of a decades old grudge and forgive. I enjoyed the subtle Christian themes that ran throughout the book and the fact that it is definitely a clean read. The theme of letting go of old dreams and embracing new ones is a good lesson to learn for everyone. There is also a small mystery involved when their lobster boat keeps getting sabotaged and the revelation of who was the culprit was a surprise. Although I was not sure at first that I would enjoy a book about lobster fishing, I really did. The setting of Prince Edward Island and the small town life there was perfect for the story, a story that was not complicated and was somewhat predictable, but it was thoroughly enjoyable.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”

A totally clean Christian read
Information about the author and this photo are from her website at

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Review of HOSTILE INTENT by Lynette Eason

This is one of the best romantic suspense books that I have ever read! From the very beginning, it was captivating, with a scene from a home that was as mesmerizing as it was devastatingly awful. The story of Ava Jackson meeting up with her childhood crush Caden Denning was fascinating, but the crux of the story was a serial killer who was wiping out entire families, including the young children. The motive behind these evil actions is the center of the story and what kept me reading at a rapid pace to find out. From the first murders until the breathtaking last scenes, this was a non-stop runaway train of a book. The details of the crime scenes are not graphic so they did not disturb me, but just the thought that entire families were wiped out instantly was enough to make me want to do who would do such a thing. The plot is wrapped up in international intrigue and Ava’s secretive father is involved in a great deal of what is happening, so she seems to be a focus of the killer, too. Caden is her self-appointed protector and a real hero just when she needs one. With her father declared dead, her mom dying and a killer on her trail, Ava decides to trust Caden with her life. The characters were realistic and well-rounded, the type of people I would want to meet and be friends with. I was enthralled by the work that the FBI analysts did, especially Daria, who was intuitive as to needs and how to find solutions when there seemed to be none. I enjoyed seeing the FBI portrayed as capable heroes as they should be. I especially enjoyed Ava’s intelligence in figuring out puzzles and clues left behind by her father as well as her grit and determination to seek the truth at all costs. There were definitely some unlikeable characters, but that is by design, because who can like a villain who kills families or anyone involved with him? I just loved this book from cover to cover and think that is is the best of the series although any of them can be read as a standalone. My favorite part of the book? It was a clean read! No expletives, steamy sex or graphic displays of violence. Kudos to the author for writing explosively good romantic suspense that appeals to readers who don’t want any of the distasteful elements in their books.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”

Christian romantic suspense. Clean read with some really intense scenes, so I would rate it PG-13.
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