Smoke Screen by Terri Blackstock – a review

Smoke Screen by Terri Blackstock - a review by Cathe Swanson

Smoke Screen ~ A New Story from a Favorite Author!

I heard a writing teacher say once that it’s much harder to write a truly good character than to write a flawed one. She said that readers would dislike the “perfect” people. I thought I’d feel that way about the hero of Smoke Screen. After Nate nobly saved an entire family (and their dog) from their burning home, then worried more about his team than about his own injuries, he was looking a little too good to be true. Ho hum. But then the the author did her trademark thing: she made his life messy. She gave him a very complicated family. She gave him a bad reputation.  Now, he was a genuinely good and likeable guy, but he was interesting, too.  Terri Blackstock is really good at that!

The heroine was easier to dislike – a weak woman with a drinking problem, when she should have been stronger and stayed sober, if she really wanted to keep her kids. Instead, she wallowed in self-pity and hopelessness. So irritating. But… just as she has in so many other books, Terri Blackstock took that character and made her real. She was still doing all the wrong things, but now I cared about her. I wanted her to succeed. I could identify with the attitude of her sister,,, I wanted to shake Brenna and then dump out all her hidden bottles of alcohol.

The other characters are solid, too. I like where she went with Brenna’s ex-husband at the end of the book. I have a feeling we’ll see more of the siblings in future books.

This book reminded me of Ms. Blackstock’s earlier series, Moonlighters and Intervention, with their complex family relationships and “real life” problems. The plot is creative, and the relationships feel natural. The Christian content is good. with the characters asking hard and honest questions about God and their lives. I was glad to see a return to the author’s previous style, too – It’s written in alternating first-person past tense, which I greatly prefer to her more recent present-tense stories.  

Readers who are looking for her usual suspenseful stories might be disappointed. This one is good, but it’s more of a romance and mystery, with hints of women’s fiction in the family relationships, which are a major element of the book.

I recommend it!

About the Book

Smoke Screen by Terri Blackstock - review by Cathe SwansonBook: Smoke Screen

Author: Terri Blackstock

Genre:  Christian Suspense

Release Date: November 5, 2019

One father was murdered, and another convicted of his death. All because their children fell in love.

Nate Beckett has spent his life fighting wildfires instead of the lies and rumors that drove him from his Colorado home town. His mother begs him to come to Carlisle now that his father has been released from prison, but it isn’t until he’s sidelined by an injury that he’s forced to return and face his past. But that means facing Brenna too.

Fourteen years ago, Nate was in love with the preacher’s daughter. When Pastor Strickland discovered Brenna had defied him to sneak out with Nate, the fight between Strickland and Nate’s drunken dad was loud—and very public. Strickland was found murdered later that night, and everyone accused Roy Beckett. When the church burned down, people assumed it was Nate getting even for his father’s conviction. He let the rumors fly and left Carlisle without looking back.

Now, Brenna is stunned to learn that the man convicted of murdering her father has been pardoned. The events of that night set her life on a bad course, and she’s dealing with a brutal custody battle with her ex and his new wife where he’s using lies and his family’s money to sway the judge. She’s barely hanging on, and she’s turned to alcohol to cope. Shame and fear consume her.

As they deal with the present—including new information about that fateful night and a wildfire that’s threatening their town—their past keeps igniting. Nate is the steady force Brenna has so desperately needed. But she’ll have to learn to trust him again first.

Click here to get your copy.

 

About the Author

Terri BlackstockTerri Blackstock has sold over seven million books worldwide and is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author. She is the award-winning author of InterventionVicious Cycle, and Downfall, as well as such series as Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, the SunCoast Chronicles, and the Restoration Series. Visit her website at www.terriblackstock.com; Facebook: tblackstock; Twitter: @terriblackstock

 

 

Excerpt from Smoke Screen

I woke up in a blinding bright room, my clothes off and something clamped to my face. I tried to reach it, but I couldn’t bend my right arm, and my hand stung. An IV was taped to my other hand, but I moved carefully and touched the thing over my face.

An oxygen mask. I tried to sit up. “What happened?”

T-bird came to my bedside, a sheen of smoky sweat still soiling his face. “Nate, lie back, man.”

“The fire,” I said. “Need to get back. My men.”

“They’re still there. Making progress. But you’re not going anywhere near a fire for a month or so.”

I took the mask off and coughed a little, but managed to catch my breath. “A month?”

“Yep. Second degree burns on 20 percent of your body. Some of the burns are deep.”

It came back to me, the event that had gotten me here.

“The family. Were they injured?”

“Not a scratch or burn. Turns out it was a U.S. Senator from Kansas. He says you’re a hero.”

“You know I had no choice. They were in the path—”

“Take the praise where you can get it, man. We don’t get that much.”

I looked at my right side. My right arm was bandaged, and so was my side and down my right leg to the point where my boots had stopped the flames. Second degree wasn’t so bad, I told myself. Third degree would have been brutal. I’d be able to leave the hospital soon. I’d heal.

“I won’t need a month,” I said.

“Yes, you will. They can’t let you go back. Doctor’s orders. You’re grounded until he releases you.”

I managed to sit up, but it was a bad idea. The burns pulling on my skin reminded me why I shouldn’t. “I can’t be grounded during fire season. Are you crazy? I need to be there. You don’t have enough men as it is.”

“Sorry, Nate. It is what it is. Why don’t you go home to Carlisle for a while? Take it easy.”

Go home? Pop had just been pardoned, and he and my mom were trying to navigate the reunion. Though she would love to have me home, I didn’t know if I was up to it. My father could be challenging, and fourteen years of prison hadn’t done him any favors.

 

Taken from “Smoke Screen” by Terri Blackstock. Copyright © 2019 by Terri Blackstock. Used by permission of http://www.thomasnelson.com/.

Blog Stops

As He Leads is Joy, November 9

Sara Jane Jacobs, November 9

CarpeDiem, November 9

Christian Bookaholic , November 9

Fiction Aficionado, November 10

KarenSueHadley, November 10

Quiet quilter, November 10

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, November 10

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, November 11

Among the Reads, November 11

Genesis 5020, November 11

A Reader’s Brain, November 11

Robin’s Nest, November 12

All-of-a-kind Mom, November 12

Bigreadersite , November 12

Blogging With Carol , November 12

Betti Mace, November 13

Spoken from the Heart, November 13

D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, November 13

Emily Yager, November 13

By The Book, November 14

For Him and My Family, November 14

A Baker’s Perspective, November 14

Splashes of Joy , November 14

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, November 15

Through the Fire Blogs, November 15

Andrea Christenson, November 15

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, November 16

The Christian Fiction Girl, November 16

Just the Write Escape, November 16

Mary Hake, November 16

Remembrancy, November 17

Simple Harvest Reads, November 17 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)

EmpowerMoms, November 17

Bloggin’ ’bout Books, November 17

Blessed & Bookish, November 18

Older & Smarter, November 18

For the Love of Literature, November 18

Inklings and notions, November 18

Lights in a Dark World, November 19

amandainpa , November 19

Locks, Hooks and Books, November 19

Pause for Tales, November 19

Tell Tale Book Reviews, November 20

For The Love of Books , November 20

Hallie Reads, November 20

Cathe Swanson, November 21

Christian Bookshelf Reviews, November 21

All 4 and About Books, November 21

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, November 21

Batya’s Bits, November 22

Livin’ Lit, November 22

Texas Book-aholic, November 22

janicesbookreviews, November 22

Fragments of Fear by Carrie Stuart Parks

Fragments of Fear by Carrie Stuart Park

Fragments of Fear

Fragments of Fear by Carrie Stuart ParksFrom award-winning author Carrie Stuart Parks comes a new novel with danger that reaches from a New Mexico Anasazi archaeological dig to micro- and nano-chip technology.

Evelyn Yvonne McTavish-Tavish to her friends-had her almost perfect world in Albuquerque, New Mexico, come to a crashing end with the suicide of her fiancé. As she struggles to put her life back together and make a living from her art, she’s given the news that her dog is about to be destroyed at the dog pound. Except she doesn’t own a dog. The shelter is adamant that the microchip embedded in the canine-with her name and address-makes it hers.

Tavish recognizes the dog as one owned by an archaeologist named Pat Caron because she did a commissioned drawing of the two of them months earlier. The simple solution is to return the dog to his owner, but she arrives only to discover Caron’s murdered body.

After meeting undercover FBI agent Sawyer Price the mystery deepens as more people start disappearing and Tavish becomes a target as well. Her only solution is to find the links between microchip technology, an Anasazi site in the desert, her fiancé’s death, a late-night radio show, and the dog. And the clock is ticking.

Click here to purchase your copy.

My review

With her usual deft characterization, Carrie Stuart Parks has brought to life a cast of unique and believable people (and dog) in Fragments of Fear. This book moves fast, with as many twists and turns as any thriller, without losing sight of the individuals’ character development. The book begins with a rather ditzy, anxiety-ridden woman, burdened with shock and sorrows, but as soon as I started getting impatient with her, the story shifted, and I was hooked.

Each of the supporting characters is well-drawn and has a meaningful role in the story, just as every detail is important to the tightly-constructed plot. The author knows art and archaeology, and that expertise is obvious in the story. There’s also murder, theft, a disappearing corpse and chip technology in the mystery. The ending was surprising and satisfying.

I had to look up the breed of dog in the story, because it sounded so unusual. This is Marley, a Puli.  Not kidding.

It’s action-packed suspense, all the way through, but there’s a little romance and a light faith theme. If you like thrillers and suspense, you will enjoy this one!

About the Author

Carrie Stuart Parks

 

Carrie Stuart Parks is a Christy finalist as well as a Carol Award-winning author. She has won numerous awards for her fine art as well. An internationally known forensic artist, she travels with her husband, Rick, across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law-enforcement professionals. The author/illustrator of numerous books on drawing and painting, Carrie continues to create dramatic watercolors from her studio in the mountains of Idaho.

More from Carrie

Using Art to Solve Crime: Techniques Used by Forensic Artists

Since 1981, I’ve been a forensic artist—an amazing feat since I’m only . . .um. . . well, younger than that. In those years, I’ve seen some shifts and trends, but some things have never changed. Despite the overwhelming prevalence of computers in almost every other field, they have never been able to replace a trained forensic artist. Artists have an amazing toolbox of techniques we use to gather the information we need to help solve crime.

  1. The pencil. Any forensic artist worth her weight in graphite knows the power of the lowly pencil and a sketchpad. Law enforcement would love a photographic image of the suspect, but all we have to work with is memory…and memory is faulty. The more the image looks perfect, the more imperfect it is for helping to identify a suspect. We want the drawing to just suggest a likeness and eliminate those not similar.
  2. Now that we brought up the subject of memory, a forensic artist needs to understand how memory works. The average witness will remember between four and five facial features. When they describe the person they saw, they will do so from their strongest memory to their weakest memory, from most important to least important. We listen carefully to the order of facial features.
  3. Whole vs Parts. We don’t look at faces as individual parts, although a particularly outstanding nose or Marty Feldman eyes might catch our attention. We will remember the face as a whole, with the proportions of the face an unacknowledged part of that. Forensic artist prefer to use reference photographs where the whole face is viewed.

Want more? Check out the rest of my article at The Strand Magazine

 

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, July 23

All-of-a-kind Mom, July 23

Blogging With Carol, July 23

A Reader’s Brain, July 23

A Baker’s Perspective, July 24

The Avid Reader, July 24

CarpeDiem, July 24

Fiction Aficionado, July 25

Christian Bookaholic, July 25

Godly Book Reviews, July 25

Through the Fire Blogs, July 26

Livin’ Lit, July 26

The Becca Files, July 26

Inklings and notions , July 26

Real World Bible Study, July 27

Cathe Swanson, July 27

D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, July 27

For Him and My Family, July 28

Lights in a Dark World, July 28

Retrospective Spines, July 28

Bigreadersite, July 29

Simple Harvest Reads, July 29 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)

Mary Hake, July 29

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, July 30

Blossoms and Blessings, July 30

EmpowerMoms, July 30

Aryn The Libraryan, July 31

Stories Where Hope and Quirky Meet, July 31

For the Love of Literature, July 31

Inspired by fiction, August 1

Ashley’s Bookshelf, August 1

By The Book, August 1

Tell Tale Book Reviews, August 2

Remembrancy, August 2

amandainpa, August 2

Pause for Tales, August 3

For the Love of Books, August 3

Just Your Average reviews, August 3

Hallie Reads, August 4

A Good Book and Cup of Tea, August 4

Daysong Reflections, August 4

Little Homeschool on the Prairie, August 5

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, August 5

Texas Book-aholic, August 5

janicesbookreviews, August 5

Giveaway

Fragments of Fear by Carrie Stuart Parks

To celebrate her tour, Carrie is giving away a copy of her book, Fragments of Fear. Be sure to visit the other blogs stops (above) to read their reviews of this excellent book and leave comments for nine extra entries into the giveaway.

Click HERE to enter to win a copy of Fragments of Fear

Christian Fiction in every genre and an Amazon gift card!

Have you read Christian fiction lately?

Celebrate Lite Mid-Winter giveaway - Christian fiction in every genre - Contest ends Feb 11, 2018Check out the awesome collection of  books in this giveaway! It’s a sampler with 17 books, representing Christian fiction in every genre, from sweet Amish romances to psychological thrillers and suspense – and everything in between. Historical, contemporary, western, WWII, sci-fi and fantasy… It’s a great opportunity to try something new.

I have eclectic reading habits, so I already own half of these books. Maybe you do, too, so it would be even better if you win the GRAND prize: a $50  Amazon gift card! Seriously… that’s as good as cash. I love Amazon.

My book, Baggage Claim, is included in this giveaway.  It’s sort of a hybrid suspense/romance/family/women’s fiction/comedy/drama/coming-of-age/mystery book.  I had so much writing it. It made me laugh and cry even as I wrote it,  and I can’t wait to revisit the Upper Peninsula and all of the characters — especially the kids — in the next book in the Great Lakes series, which I am writing now!

So enter to win, because both prizes are awesome! The giveaway ends on February 11th.

 

 

Baggage Claim Blog Tour and a Giveaway with a Grand Prize

Grand Prize Baggage Claim Blog Tour Giveaway

Celebrate Lit’s Baggage Claim Blog Tour

Baggage Claim is being featured in an online book tour until April 10th. I’ve been blessed by several kind reviews from experienced book reviewers. It’s interesting to read other people’s perspectives on my story. Some people found it suspenseful, others not so much. Most of them liked the children. Some readers thought the book is very romantic, some found it not very romantic at all.  A few people were surprised by the romance!

(Note: I am not good at writing romance. My editor laughed at my first attempt at the kissing scene. I spent two hours rewriting those two lines and then realized I hadn’t actually described the kiss – just the lead-up to it. That’s how I left it.)

The Grand Prize

Celebrate Lit, the organizer of the blog tour, is hosting a giveaway for readers. I enjoyed putting together a grand prize package that reflects my own interests and – hopefully – appeals to readers. I included:

A decorative suitcase

Suitcase… baggage… get it?? I collect beautiful chipboard boxes. Well, not “collect”, exactly. I just keep buying them because they are beautiful. I usually get them on sale at Michaels and then try to find things to store in them so I can justify my purchases. Michaels also has inexpensive, pretty photo/shoe boxes, too, and I use them to store crafting supplies, projects, and all sorts of other things. Sometimes, I even use them for photos and shoes. (Cathe takes a deep breath and curbs her enthusiasm) This suitcase has metal clasps and a leather handle. Isn’t it pretty?

A paperback copy of Baggage Claim

I will sign it if you want me to. 🙂

An assortment of handmade cards

I love making cards. It’s like scrapbooking for the person with a short attention span. Instant gratification. Besides, in this digital age, getting real mail is a treat. I have included 14 assorted cards: birthdays, babies, weddings, get well, thinking of you, sympathy, congratulations and a couple that are blank inside.  They were fun to make, knowing they would be going to a reader!

A box of Earl Grey tea and a pretty cup

Tazo teas are nice. I like most kinds of tea, but I usually drink coffee, so I decided a full-size coffee mug would be preferable to a dainty teacup.

A handmade quilted mug rug

I have been a quilter and teacher of quiltmaking for over 25 years. My website, GloryQuilts, has more information about that side of me. Mug rugs seemed remarkably silly when I first saw them, but I use them every day. They’re like an oversized coaster or snack mat. I also use one for a mouse pad sometimes. When I give them as a gift or sell them, I include this poem on a tag:

This useful little mug rug
for your table or your desk,
is a safe and pretty coaster
where your coffee mug can rest.
It makes a handy mouse pad
and a crumb catcher, too,
so enjoy your morning coffee
with a muffin and the news.

How to enter the contest

Visit the Celebrate Lit website or any of the blogs listed there to enter the contest. No purchase is necessary. You can earn bonus entries, too!

Celebrate Lit

Tell me…

I’m interested in your opinions. Do you enter many giveaways? What kind of prizes appeal to you?  A free Kindle? Books? Gift cards? Packages like this one? Leave a comment and let me know.