Tag Archives: Brandilyn Collins

Review: Plummet, by Brandilyn Collins

Plummet, by Brandilyn Collins #Christianfiction #suspensePlummet, by Brandilyn Collins (Challow Press, 2017)

Have you ever done the unthinkable for your child? Have you ever thought how far you’d go to save your son or daughter? [Kindle location 371]

Cara Westling is newly single, thanks to her abusive ex’s abandonment. A new job in a new town should let her and her 13-year-old daughter start a new life – but her boss forces her to help him cover up a death, and then the cover-ups continue.

He’s a man of influence. She knows no-one. If he blames her for the woman’s death, who would believe he’s the one responsible? Worse, who would care for her daughter?

Plummet is the newest Seatbelt Suspense® from Brandilyn Collins, and it’s a fast-paced, intense read.

Cara’s vulnerability, and her daughter Riley’s experiences with cyberbullying, increase the psychological tension, as do Cara’s occasional questions asking what we, the readers, would do in her place. Plummet is a book I didn’t want to read at bedtime or if I was feeling a bit vulnerable, myself. I’m glad I found the courage to finish it, though.

For more about award-winning author Brandilyn Collins and her books, visit brandilyncollins.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Vain Empires, by Brandilyn Collins

Vain Empires, by Brandilyn CollinsVain Empires, by Brandilyn Collins (Challow Press, 2016)

Seven deadly sins. Six people in a remote island mansion. One reality show.

One of the six contestants will win their dream prize, valued at up to $10 million. All they have to do is discover which sin each of their competitors represents – and decide if they themselves represent one too. To help in the discovery? Clues are revealed – and broadcast worldwide. Clues that may destroy each one on the island.

It’s interesting to watch the civilized facades crack as the pressure mounts – and to watch most contestants labelling the others while excusing their own failures and counting themselves as sinless. Most don’t seem to have a faith connection, although one of them, Gina, does.

Chapters alternate among the six contestants, who are different enough that I didn’t have trouble keeping track. This is a book that entices you to keep turning pages, so prepare to lose some sleep.

I enjoyed it, although the ending didn’t work for me. There’s a nice twist, and everything makes sense, but the characters leave the island and that’s it. They’ve been through this great upheaval, but what difference, if any, will it make in their lives? For some characters that’s clear, but not for all. To me it felt incomplete.

Vain Empires comes from a best-selling author of Christian suspense, but it should appeal to most mainstream readers. And if you’ve always wanted to try one of Brandilyn Collins’ suspense novels but were too timid, this is a good one for you. The ticking clock and relentless clues make it tense, but it’s puzzle-tense, not traumatic-tense.

Brandilyn Collins is known for her Seatbelt Suspense® novels, and she also writes contemporary fiction. RT BookReviews calls her “a master storyteller,” and I agree. For more about the author and her work, visit brandilyncollins.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Sidetracked, by Brandilyn Collins

Sidetracked, by Brandilyn CollinsSidetracked, by Brandilyn Collins (Challow Press, 2014)

Life looks like it’s finally coming together for 30-something Delanie Miller. She’s living in a nice Kentucky town, she has friends and her boyfriend is giving signals that he’s ready to propose. With no family of her own, Delanie has assembled one by inviting a few other loners to share her home.

When a friend is murdered, Delanie has to find the truth—or an innocent man will go to jail. That’s something she absolutely can’t allow. Even if it destroys the life she’s worked so hard to build.

Sidetracked is two stories in one: Delanie’s fight to find her friend’s killer, and the events that shattered her teen years and brought her to this place, alone. Both plot threads find closure at the end.

Delanie and her housemates are engaging and quirky. I took a special liking to Pete, the older man who appoints himself as a surrogate grandfather. He spent his working life as a train engineer and he overflows with interesting anecdotes.

I always enjoy Brandilyn Collins’ suspense novels, with strong characters and fast-paced plots. I’ve read enough of them now to know I can trust this author to deliver a crackling tale that’s realistic but that won’t traumatize me. This one jumped to the top of my reading list when I bought it, and it’s a great read.

Favourite lines:

Some say memory blurs when you’re shocked beyond belief. Not mine. I still remember every detail of that moment. Kindle location 140

Evidence was a fluid word, manufactured in a suspicious cop’s mind, packaged by a skillful attorney in court. Kindle location 478

Sidetracked is award-winning author Brandilyn Collins‘ newest Seatbelt Suspense® novel. Visit the author’s website to learn more about Brandilyn Collins and her other books. For more about Sidetracked, visit the book’s page, where you can read chapter 1.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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Review: Dark Justice, by Brandilyn Collins

Dark Justice, by Brandilyn CollinsDark Justice, by Brandilyn Collins (Broadman & Holman, 2013)

When Hannah Shire and her elderly mother stop on a deserted road to assist the victim of a car crash, they’re pulled into a terrorist plot to take down the entire US power grid and send the country into darkness.

The victim passes on a message—and a warning not to tell anyone, even the police. With no idea what’s at stake or who to trust or what the message means, Hannah and her mother, Carol, are soon on the run. She tries to keep her daughter Emily out of it, but all the three are in danger.

The story is told in the first person from Hannah’s point of view, interspersed with portions of a hearing taking place after the fact, investigating police handling of the events. This builds the suspense and allows the reader access to information that Hannah doesn’t have.

Dark Justice is a high-stakes terrorist thriller, made more gripping because of the ordinary women protagonists. Hannah misses her dead husband. She’s not used to handling everything alone, and the strain of caring for a mother with dementia has her near breaking before the story even opens.

Brandilyn Collins does an excellent job crafting Hannah’s increasing strain and paranoia while keeping reader sympathy. The pairing of vulnerable characters with the high-stakes threat makes the threat that much more real in readers’ minds. This sort of attack could actually happen, and odds are that real-life people wouldn’t be able to stop it. (Does that mean Hannah, Carol and Emily succeed? I won’t tell.)

Best-selling author Brandilyn Collins is known for her Seatbelt Suspense® fiction. Dark Justice is her most recent release, available in paperback and e-book formats. For more about the author and her other books, visit her website.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Double Blind, by Brandilyn Collins

Double Blind cover artDouble Blind, by Brandilyn Collins (B&H Publishing Group, 2012)

Lisa Newberry is a wreck. In recent years she’s had three miscarriages, lost her husband in a car accident, and barely survived a mugging. Depression is crushing her and she’s desperate and alone.

Her last hope is a clinical trial for a revolutionary new treatment for depression: a tiny electronic chip implanted in her brain. The chip works. But it also gives her visions—memories—of a murder.

Who is the dead woman? Has her body been found? And who killed her? Does he know Lisa has his memories through the tainted chip? Is he coming for her next?

As a suspense novel, Double Blind rates highly—no surprise for Brandilyn Collins fans. It’s a page-turning, bedtime-delaying read. The plot is fast, believable and nicely convoluted. But it’s more than just an exciting story. This is one of those potentially life-changing novels for a lot of readers.

Lisa’s recent life events have only added to self-worth pain from her childhood (raised by a single mother who found fault instead of praise). Negative thought patterns and emotions have deepened the original hurts. She doesn’t feel God anymore and believes He’s left her.

Her mother barges back into her life and learns about the visions. While the two women try to solve the mystery, they’re also repairing their relationship.

Lisa learns (and teaches us by example) to stand up for herself and to reject self-defeating behaviours. She learns to trust that God is always with her, even when her feelings disagree. Her mother learns a few parenting skills. All these are minor threads, rising naturally from the characters’ personalities and experiences. Double Blind is not a preachy novel, nor one filled with plastic-perfect examples that shame readers in our imperfect states.

It may seem odd that Lisa wasn’t under a doctor’s care for depression in the first place. I think it’s because the traumas were so recent and she’d withdrawn herself. Even her closest friend didn’t realize how bad things were.

Double Blind is the newest novel from Seatbelt Suspense® novelist Brandilyn Collins. You can learn more about the author at her website or find her Facebook page. You can also read an excerpt from Double Blind.

[Review copy provided by The DeMoss Group for a fair review.]


Review: Gone to Ground, by Brandilyn Collins

Gone to Ground, by Brandilyn CollinsGone to Ground, by Brandilyn Collins (B&H Publishing Group, 2012)

Amaryllis, Mississippi, is like any other small town. Except for the serial killer.

Gone to Ground opens with an excerpt from the (fictional) Pulitzer-prize-winning article on the first five killings, by local-born journalist Trent Williams. Portions of the article appear throughout the novel to give readers more background.

When a sixth victim is found, three Amaryllis women know who killed her. They each have evidence. They’re each afraid to go to the police. And each one would name a different man.

Brandilyn Collins gives us three vibrant, believable characters: Cherrie Mae is a widow who cleans houses, and she’s getting up in years; Tully is barely 20 and pregnant, with an abusive husband; Deena operates a hairdressing salon and used to be married to one of Amaryllis’ police officers.

The three women take turns telling the story, each one in first person. That doesn’t usually work for me but it does in this story because each of the three has a distinct voice.

Chapter headers tell us who’s sharing this part of the narrative, but I always knew even if I forgot to look. Cherrie Mae, Tully and Deena have similar southern accents, but they’re each so focused on what they know (or fear they know) that it’s easy to tell who’s talking by what they’re talking (and thinking) about.

One thing they agree on: the police chief may be more interested in making an arrest than in getting the right man. Unless they can solve the mystery and present proof he can’t ignore.

Best-selling suspense author Brandilyn Collins is one of my favourites in the genre, and I look forward to each new release. Gone to Ground is a satisfying read with a well-crafted plot and appealing characters. I especially liked Cherrie Mae.

Visit Brandilyn Collins’ website to view a trailer for the novel and read an excerpt.

Other reviews of Gone to Ground: TitleTrakk.comReading with Monie, The Suspense Zone (spoiler alert), Book Reviews from an Avid Reader and The Random Thoughts of Crazy Mandy.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Over the Edge, by Brandilyn Collins

Over the Edge coverOver the Edge, by Brandilyn Collins (B&H Publishing Group, 2011)

What if a man who watched his wife die of Lyme disease decided his best revenge was to infect the wives and children of the doctors and researchers who’ve convinced the insurance companies that there’s no such thing as chronic Lyme?

He starts with Jannie McNeil, wife of Dr. Brock McNeil, who is one of the loudest voices denying chronic Lyme. Her symptoms hospitalize her, but the standard Lyme test comes back negative. Her husband accuses her of faking, as if she’d make this up to discredit him.

An anonymous phone call tells her to convince Brock to recant his position on Lyme—or her nine-year-old daughter will be the next victim. Brock pulls farther away and thinks she made up the mystery caller too.

Over the Edge is a fast, compelling read. Jannie is a likeable and multi-layered character who’s trying to find out what’s happening to her, keep her family together, and protect her daughter.

What she (and readers) learn about the “Lyme wars” screams of injustice and wilful blindness on the part of traditional medical experts who stand to lose both face and funds if the true extent of Lyme were acknowledged.

I’m thankful not to have Lyme, but I’ve read enough from people who’ve experienced it to place myself on their side of the controversy. The author herself is a Lyme survivor and knows what she’s talking about.

But this isn’t an in-your-face, prove-my-point, sensationalist novel. It’s excellent suspense fiction with a heart-catching subplot about Jannie’s crumbling family relationships.

Jannie’s troubles bring her to a major crisis of faith, and she realizes she has a choice: to turn away from God or to praise Him despite her pain. Her decision to praise—in defiance of the circumstances—resonated with me from the times I’ve made that same hard choice.

The scope of the novel doesn’t allow readers to see how some of the loose ends weave in after the end, specifically Jannie’s relationship with her mother, and any repercussions from Brock’s research.

To read more about Over the Edge and to view the trailer, click here. To read an excerpt, click here. The book includes a discussion guide as well as extra Lyme information and resources. There’s also an online community at Lyme Over the Edge, where Lyme sufferers can share their stories.

You can learn more about award-winning suspense novelist Brandilyn Collins, her other books, and her own Lyme experience at her website, Seatbelt Suspense®.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Deceit, by Brandilyn Collins

Deceit, by Brandilyn Collins (Zondervan, 2010)

Some evil shouts from rooftops, some scuttles in the dark. The greatest evil tips its face toward light with shining innocence.

Baxter Jackson shone with the worst of them. (p. 15)

Brilliant opening words for a suspense novel! These are the angry thoughts of Joanne Weeks, whose best friend Linda was Baxter’s first wife. Now his second wife is dead too, and Joanne believes he killed them both.

Problem is, Baxter is larger than life in the small California town of Vonita. He’s rich, successful, admired by all except Joanne. He’s even head elder of their church.

But Joanne knows Baxter abused Linda, even if the rest of the town—chief of police included—thinks he’s a model citizen.

A frightening encounter with a hooded man (see the book cover) gives Joanne a new mission: find Melissa, the teenaged foster child who was living with the Jacksons at the time of Linda’s death. “HM,” as Joanne calls the man, says Melissa knows where Baxter buried the body.

Joanne is a professional skip tracer, making her living by finding people who don’t want to be found. But can she find Melissa and convince her to talk before Baxter learns what Joanne’s up to—and stops her permanently?

Joanne’s part of the story is told in first person and alternates with Melissa’s from six years earlier. Melissa’s scenes are told in the third person.

The first-/third-person switch works for me in the novel because it makes a clear break between present and past. As the two plots play out, with occasional third-person scenes from an unidentified man who’s keeping tabs on Joanne, there are some unexpected twists along the way.

In her typical Seatbelt Suspense® style, Brandilyn Collins gives us a wild ride from the opening pages. I’ve read enough of her novels now to trust her delivery: she may scare me, but she won’t traumatize me with explicit scenes.

A big part of what makes her novels bestsellers is the characters: they’re real, with thoughts, experiences and motivations that make sense—and that drive the plot to come out the way it does.

Brandilyn explains some of how she does this in her non-fiction book for writers, Getting Into Character. It’s harder than it looks!

Deceit is the perfect name for this book. It seems like everyone’s lying, even Joanne, whose job sometimes involves gaining information under false pretences. She hasn’t thought anything of it until Melissa demands, “Is that what the Bible says—don’t lie except when you ‘have to’?” (p.186)

If she can stay alive long enough to see Baxter behind bars, Joanne knows she needs to think about Melissa’s accusation. For readers interested in this and other thought-provoking questions, see the discussion guide for Deceit.

You can read an excerpt from Deceit and learn more about the author and her other books at the Brandilyn Collins website. Brandilyn also blogs at Forensics and Faith.

Her next suspense novel, Over the Edge, releases May 2011. You can read a teaser for Over the Edge here. The plot is based on Lyme Disease, and Brandilyn says it’s the novel she was “made to write”. (Her Lyme-Over the Edge blog says, “Brandilyn was struck with Lyme in 2002. She was miraculously healed in 2003 and was completely well for six years. The year 2009 brought a reinfection, which she is managing to keep under control.”) Lyme-Over the Edge is a place for people to share their own experiences with Lyme Disease.

[Book from my own collection.]

Review: Last Breath, a novel by Brandilyn Collins and Amberly Collins

Last Breath, by Brandilyn Collins and Amberly Collins

Last Breath, by Brandilyn Collins and Amberly Collins (Zondervan, 2009)

Last Breath picks up where Always Watching, book one in the Rayne Tour series, leaves off, and it’s been a long wait to find out what happens.

Shaley O’Connor is the sixteen-year-old daughter of rock star Rayne O’Connor. Book one took her through paparazzi harassment and even worse: the deaths of some key members of Rayne’s concert tour team. Shaley herself was in danger, and the villain’s dying words warned her the problems were far from over.

Then we had to wait for the next book to release!

Living the rock star life has stresses of its own, but Shaley’s biggest issue (apart from the danger she met in book one) is that she never knew her father, and her mother won’t even tell her his name. Mother and daughter have a good relationship, but Shaley needs to know.

When Rayne is hospitalized, Shaley won’t leave her side. Rayne overhears Shaley talking about the words the killer whispered with his last breath, and knows danger still haunts them.

Partly to distract Shaley while the police search for threats, Rayne decides to tell her daughter the truth about her father. This love story from the past alternates with scenes from the present as we watch suspicious characters plotting to reach Rayne and Shaley.

Last Breath is a young adult novel that adults will enjoy too. Grandmothers, mothers and daughters are all reading this series. I preferred Last Breath to Always Watching simply because there were no teen-girls-at-the-mall scenes (in my 40’s I don’t relate well, but I really liked both books).

This novel is both suspense and love story—and a bewildered teen trying to protect her mother, stay safe, and figure out life. I had the rare chance to read the entire novel in one sitting, and I’m glad—it would have been really hard to put down.

It ends with more closure than the first book, but I still want to read the last instalment: Final Touch comes out in May 2010. I have a feeling Cat, the malicious photographer, will find a way back into Shaley’s life.

You can read the first chapter of Last Breath here, but don’t read it unless you’ve already read Always Watching. The series is worth reading in order, with no spoilers. Also, check out an interesting podcast interview with the mother-daughter writing team at the Fiction Addict blog.

Thank you to Lena Nelson Dooley for offering Last Breath on her blog, A Christian Writer’s World. I won my copy there!

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Review: Exposure, a novel by Brandilyn Collins

ExposureExposure, by Brandilyn Collins (Zondervan, 2009)

Exposure is the sixth Brandilyn Collins novel I’ve read, and I think it’s time to officially call myself a fan. After reading Dark Pursuit, I started asking “when’s the next one coming out?” and picked up Exposure and Always Watching (co-written with daughter Amberly Collins) as soon as they released.

Always Watching is a fast-paced young adult read, and it’s now circulating among my nieces.

In Exposure, Kaycee Raye’s syndicated column on fighting fears helps a lot of people. But the realization that a person’s worst fears can come true has turned her private world into a terrifying place. A fearful woman… doesn’t sound like an ideal protagonist for us to bond with, but Brandilyn Collins pulls it off in her usual “seatbelt suspense”® style.

As terrified as Kaycee is, she’s determined to fight this inner battle because something more important is on the line. Her best friend’s young daughter disappeared on the way to Kaycee’s house. Hannah is nine years old—the same age as Kaycee when she realized she’d absorbed all of her mother’s fears.

But Kaycee’s mother never saw things that weren’t there—someone watching, a camera, images. Is Kaycee cracking up, or is the old joke true: “Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out to get me”?

Kind police officer Mark says he believes her, but he’s also the one who accused her of making money from other people’s fear. And she can’t offer proof of what she’s seen. Even her trusted friend suggests it’s a product of her own mind.

As these scares pile up, the search for Hannah intensifies. And there’s another plot thread running through the novel, complete with stolen money, mobsters, and a mother and child on the run.

Brandilyn Collins brings everything together for a tense and satisfying conclusion that I did not see coming. I was so pleased with myself for deciphering some of her clues… and completely missed the twist at the end.

Exposure is a fast-paced read that I didn’t want to put down. Yes, it’s intense, thanks in part to the author’s masterful use of deep point of view to pull readers into Kaycee’s heart and head, but it’s not the traumatic type of scary.

Brandilyn Collins is a  multi-published, best-selling author. For information on her other books, visit her website. Click here to read an excerpt from Exposure. Better still, grab a copy of the novel, buckle your seatbelt, and as Brandilyn Collins’ tagline warns, “Don’t forget to b-r-e-a-t-h-e!”®