Tag Archives: Linda Hall

Review: The Bitter End, by Linda Hall

The Bitter End, by Linda HallThe Bitter End, by Linda Hall (2015)

Most contracts see Captain Em Ridge delivering sailboats to wealthy owners who don’t like to do their own long-haul trips. This time, though, she’s ferrying an over-the-top TV host around the Bermuda Triangle looking for evidence of the bizarre.

It’s an uneventful assignment, until they discover an abandoned sailboat whose occupants seem to have vanished over dinner. Unlike the crew of the Mary Celeste, though, someone put out extra food and water for the ship’s cat before disappearing.

Em knows this boat – and the cat. They belong to her beloved Uncle Ferd, the family black sheep – and the one who taught her to sail.

At first she fears he’s been taken by pirates, but the truth may be worse: he’s wanted by the authorities in connection with a murder. In setting out to clear her childhood hero’s name, Em may discover Uncle Ferd isn’t the man she thought he was.

The Bitter End is the second Em Ridge mystery, and I’m looking forward to more in this series. You could start with this one, but book 1, Night Watch, is also a good read and it lets you meet Em at the start of her adventures.

As well as being satisfying mysteries, the books give readers a taste of the sailing life. Author Linda Hall does a stellar job of sharing the experience with readers in a way that feels natural and without confusing us with jargon. Having logged many hours on her own sailboat, she knows the best details to include.

She also knows how to write memorable, flawed characters, and vivid descriptions. My favourite in this book:

“Where the doorbell should have been, a few threads of twisted wire stuck out like the veins of a robot.” [Kindle location 1159]

In the past, Linda Hall has written for the Christian market, but her Em Ridge novels are mainstream. As such, she allows her characters the occasional mild profanity, and there isn’t an overtly Christian thread through the stories. Em’s mother has a rigid faith, which sounds like it has a lot to do with Em’s lack of relationship with her family as well as with God. While I don’t think we’ll see Em experience a dramatic conversion in the series, I do hope we’ll see some resolution in these areas. She’s not happy this way, and her mother’s not healthy her way either.

Em is a widow, and there’s a handsome detective who keeps crossing her path, however he has baggage of his own – including an estranged wife.

These ongoing threads tie the novels together and keep me looking forward to the next one even after the current mystery has been satisfactorily resolved.

Linda Hall is an award-winning writer of mystery and suspense. For more about the author and her books, visit writerhall.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: The King James Murders, by Linda Hall

The King James Murders, by Linda HallThe King James Murders, by Linda Hall (Linda Hall, 2015)

Teri Blake-Addison is a former cop turned private investigator. When she accepts an assignment to locate a missing woman, she has no idea how closely it will tie in with the case that made her quit the police force: the one the media dubbed “The King James Murders.”

The missing woman, Kim Shock, is the sister of Barry Shock, who murdered four teenage girls before killing himself. Kim had moved on from her brother’s death, and become a lawyer. Kim’s friend, Glynis, hasn’t heard from her since she went away with a man she met online.

While Teri investigates, Glynis is falling for the leader of an online ministry. Readers can see how manipulative he is, but Glynis sees only what she wants to see.

Along with a well-constructed mystery, we have the story of Glynis: will she pierce the deception, and will she discover her potential or draw even further into her online world? We also have Teri, her older husband, and her struggle to find a place in his world.

I always enjoy Linda Hall’s mysteries. Her characters and descriptions make them feel real. The King James Murders is an updated version of her previous novel, Chat Room, reflecting the changes to online communication since the first version was published in 2003.

This is book 2 in the Teri Blake-Addison Mysteries series. Book 1 is Steal Away, and while you don’t need to read it to appreciate The King James Murders, it’s also a good read.

Linda Hall is an award-winning author whose novels often feature a connection to the sea. She has written a number of Christian suspense stories and has recently published a mainstream mystery, Night Watch, book 1 in the Em Ridge Mystery series. For more about Linda Hall and her novels, visit writerhall.com.

[Review copy provided by the author.]

Highlights from Write Canada 2015

I spent part of last week at Write Canada, an annual conference for Canadian Christians who write and/or edit. This is my happy place, where I gain practical teaching and build friendships, in an atmosphere that renews my spirit.

Write Canada 2015 Canada's largest conference for Christians who write

After many years at the Guelph Bible Conference Centre, the conference moved to a Toronto hotel this year to be more accessible. This was a positive step, although a few logistics need tweaking for 2016.

I missed the restful beauty of the grounds in Guelph, but the open-air market behind the hotel provided fresh Niagara strawberries and there was a lovely little park a few blocks away.

Best thing about this year’s conference, for me?

Janet Sketchley and Matthew Sketchley at Write Canada 2015

One of my sons attended with me. Matthew was a runner-up in the Fresh Ink Contest at the university level. He can write circles around me, and that makes me proud. If you like dark fantasy from a Christian perspective, keep an eye out for him in the next few years.

Other best thing? Early morning and impromptu prayer times with treasured people (you know who you are.)

What did I learn?

From the panel on book launches (I was one of the panelists): One panelist recommended the short ebook, Hosting a Virtual Book Release Party by Shanna Festa. Another reminded me to contact the local cable TV channel with my book news.

From the Titles, Keywords and Blurbs workshop with NJ and Les Lindquist: The homework gave me a decent beginning on the back-cover blurb for Redemption’s Edge #3, and the workshop suggested No Safe Place may not be the best title for this one.

Indie Author/Publisher class with suspense author Linda Hall:

  • Free “simplenote” app for note-taking, syncs from one device to another.
  • Beta Readers: give them a few questions (sequence, believability, characters etc)
  • Android tablet: Google Play Books will read your manuscript aloud in epub format – read along silently with it to see what you catch.
  • If your ebook includes internal graphics, reduce them to 500×700 pixels or less. Link them to full-sized images on your website if necessary.
  • Cover: Can you read the print cover from 10 feet? Can you read the ebook cover in a thumbnail? Keep the title at/near the top so it won’t be lost if print books are stacked in a tier.
  • theindieview.com/indie-reviewers/ is a list of reviewers of indie books.
  • Goodreads for Authors course

Marketing Best Practices with Mark Lefebvre from Kobo:

  • The “3 P’s of Self-Publishing Success: practice, patience, persistence” – to which I add a fourth: prayer.
  • Your “street team” is your secret weapon. Treat them well.
  • Set up an Amazon Central page for the Canadian and international sites, not just the US one.
  • Book signing tip: have a stack of books ten feet away from you, so people can check them out without fear that you’ll “sell at them.”
  • Wattpad can be a great place to find beta readers and reach your target audience, but it needs an investment of time.
  • $1.99 is the worst price for an ebook online.

Going Global: Write Locally, Publish Globally, with Mark Lefebvre from Kobo: In the US, most ebooks sold are for Kindle, but Kobo outsells Kindle in Canada and in the rest of the world (Kobo started in Canada and is now part of the Japanese Rakutan company).

Writing from the Middle with writing teacher and thriller author James Scott Bell: I need to read this book. He made a lot of sense in the one-hour workshop. (No surprise. I’ve learned a lot from his other books on writing.)

The Word Awards Gala (for work published in 2014): My romantic suspense, Secrets and Lies, didn’t win in the suspense category, but to be a finalist is still a positive endorsement of the book’s quality. The suspense winner was Sandra Orchard’s Blind Trust, (Book 2 in an excellent series. I suggest starting with #1, Deadly Devotion.) You can read the full list of winners on The Word Guild site or by clicking the photo below.

Book finalists in The Word Awards, for work published in 2014

Book finalists in The Word Awards, for work published in 2014

Review: Night Watch, by Linda Hall

Night Watch, by Linda Hall (Linda Hall, 2014)Night Watch, by Linda Hall

Captain Emmeline Ridge’s stint delivering a luxury sailboat from Canada to Bermuda is rudely interrupted when the owner’s daughter vanishes over the side in the middle of the night. The ship and crew are brought to Portland, Maine, for an investigation, but the complications have only begun.

Detective Ben Dunlinson, new to the Portland City Police and very new to all things nautical, seems competent despite rumours of past disgrace. The local sailing community, including highly-respected Captain Tom Mallen, offers support.

Compounding Em’s stress, the state medical examiner discovers irregularities in the records of Em’s husband Jesse’s death. Jesse died nearly two years ago in what was called a freak accident, but Em has wondered. And continued to grieve.

Em is a resourceful and intelligent woman, trying desperately to figure out what’s going on. Who’s behind this current murder? And how could it possibly be tied to Jesse? Em’s emotional state causes some questionable choices about who to trust, until I wanted to crawl into the book and yell at her. (I’m not saying if those choices turned out to be right or wrong, just that at the time they looked wrong. No spoilers here.)

Linda Hall is one of those gifted authors who can weave memorable characters, lifelike settings and intriguing plots into novels that are too easy to keep reading when we should stop to sleep. I always enjoy her minor characters, the ones with not a lot of page time but who deepen the story. In this case, I liked Em’s neighbours in the small point of land on which she lives.

One of the fun things about this mystery is the authentic sailing setting. The author knows her sailing, and her descriptions include details that draw readers into the experience. This is woven organically into the story, and never presented as an info-dump or lecture.

Favourite lines:

His fingers kept crawling up the sides of his squall jacket like crabs. [Kindle location 90]

Thinking about my current bank account made me want to crawl into a corner and chew on the ends of my sweater sleeves. [Kindle location 1455]

Night Watch is book one in the Em Ridge Mystery series. It’s a mainstream novel and does contain occasional mild profanity. That didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story, but if it’s an issue for you, be warned.

Award-winning author Linda Hall has written many novels for the Christian market, and this is her first mainstream mystery. Her most recent publication was the short story anthology, Strange Faces, also mainstream. You can read my review here.) You can find Linda Hall online at writerhall.com or on Facebook.

[Advance review copy provided by the author.]

Review: Strange Faces, by Linda Hall

Strange Faces, by Linda HallStrange Faces, by Linda Hall (Linda Hall, 2014)

It’s been too long since we’ve had fresh fiction from Linda Hall. Strange Faces is a collection of six short stories and a novella. Most are new, with a few reprints from other anthologies. I had read one story before, but happily read it again.

Linda Hall has a gift for evoking memorable characters and situations. Most of these stories are suspense or mystery, with the occasional strand of magic or the unexplained. Because the author weaves a form of magic of her own in these tales, pulling us into the fictional world, it’s a believable experience. Sometimes too believable, in the stories with narrators we discover to be less than trustworthy—I was reading in a public place and found myself studying the strangers around me and wondering…

In these stories we meet young and old, damaged and whole, down-and-out and starting over. Linda Hall never shies away from social issues in her mysteries, and readers will met lonely souls, caregivers, victims of bullying and of dementia. Many stories deal with family ties and loyalty.

As well as strongly-drawn characters, the author gives us vivid descriptions. Here are two of my favourites:

From “Pickers and Choosers” the narrator describes a television “muted but with the captioning picking its way across the bottom of the screen like little white crabs.” [Kindle location 30]

From “A Small Season of Magic” the narrator describes an old man: “his white head looked like a patch of dandelions gone to seed.” [Kindle location 1309]

The characters and their situations feel real. Each story contains a depth and richness, as if we’re joining fully-developed individuals in a slice of their lives. Back story is always introduced in an organic way in just the right amount to let readers discover what we need to know.

Well worth a read!

Award-winning author Linda Hall’s novels include the Terri Blake-Addison series, Canadian Mountie series, Coast of Maine series and others. For a full list, see her website: writerhall.com. [Note that her previous novels have been Christian fiction. The stories in Strange Faces are clean mainstream.]

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Writers and Musicians

Fans of Canadian suspense writer Linda Hall will be happy to know some of her stories are available in various ebook formats through Smashwords. Currently there are two free short stories, one 99-cent short story and the novel, Steal Away, for $2.99. The short stories may not be suspense, but Steal Away is the first in a series featuring private investigator Teri Blake-Addison. I highly recommend it, and you can read my review of the paper version here.

A Better Way is a new blog from Canadian writer Jan Cox, reflecting on the “better way” Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen… and discovering how we can choose that way as well.

Part of living the better way–God’s way–is gratitude and praise. Check out Marcia Laycock’s excellent post, “Maybe it’s Time we Pay Attention,” on Grace Fox’s Growing with Grace blog.

The Barn Door Book Loft spotlights and interviews 3-6 Christian authors each week and hosts book giveaways.

I’ve been captured recently by the music of Geoff Moore, specifically his new album, “Saying Grace,” which is not yet widely available (you can get it at any of the stops on his cross-Canada tour with Steven Curtis Chapman). I wish I could share my favourite tracks with you: “I Believe,” “Saying Grace” and “The Long Way.” You can hear some of his other music on the Geoff Moore facebook page. Or searching YouTube will bring up older material including a duet with the legendary Larry Norman: “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?

Review: Critical Impact, by Linda Hall

Critical Impact, by Linda Hall (Steeple Hill, 2010)

Critical Impact is romantic suspense that opens with a bang—literally. Makeup artist Anna Barker narrowly escapes death when an explosion rips through city hall. Two of her students are killed, and the mayor is seriously injured.

Anna herself may lose the use of her hand—the hand she relies on in her work. Ironically, she and her team were preparing to do the injury simulation makeup for a mock disaster exercise.

Deputy Stu McCabe is first on the scene to rescue Anna. Despite incriminating evidence that links her to the blast, his instincts say she’s innocent. And his heart needs her to be.

She claims she saw her abusive ex-boyfriend at the scene. Or was the attack aimed at the mayor? Or at one of Anna’s students?

Anna’s aunt is involved with the mayor’s wife in a cult-like church that celebrates the explosion as an act of God’s wrath. Living with her mother and aunt, will Anna get the support she needs? Especially when “accidents” start happening?

Critical Impact is the third the Whisper Lake series, set in small-town Maine. Readers will recognize characters from the first two novels. As always, Linda Hall delivers well-thought-out characters and a complex plot, and she finds a way to get us thinking about our faith. Steeple Hill novels aren’t in stores long, but they’re always available through the online stores.

Check out Linda Hall’s website to learn more about the author and her books. There’s also a “Fans of Linda Hall” book club on Facebook.

[Review copy from my personal library]
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Review: On Thin Ice, by Linda Hall

On Thin Ice, by Linda Hall (Love Inspired, 2010)

Megan Brooks and Alec Black were in deeply love as teens, planning an early wedding because of a surprise pregnancy. Tragedy struck, they each made hard choices, and they haven’t seen one another since.

Until now.

As the 20th anniversary of their ill-fated wedding date approaches, members of the wedding party begin dying under suspicious circumstances.

Megan fears she’s next, so she tracks Alec to his home in Whisper Lake Crossing, Maine. As hard as it is to see him again, she knows they need to work together to save their lives. Dare she hope they can also rekindle their relationship, or will Alec still put his family first?

As always, Linda Hall delivers a novel with well-developed characters: individuals who have known pain and who, by the story’s end, may be surprised by hope. Also as always, she provides a villain who’s disturbingly real.

Because Love Inspired books are shorter than some, she doesn’t have room to delve as thoroughly into the secondary characters and plotlines as she otherwise would. It’s still a satisfying read, and short enough to finish in an evening. It’s set in snowy February, but for me it made the perfect antidote to a hot summer evening.

On Thin Ice is the second instalment in the Whisper Lake series, and I enjoyed recognizing characters from the first book, Storm Warning. Book three, Critical Impact, comes out in October 2010.

Linda Hall is a multi-published, award-winning Canadian suspense author. To learn more about her and her books, visit writerhall.com

[Book source: my personal library]
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2010 Canadian Christian Writing Awards

The Word Guild’s 2010 Canadian Christian Writing Awards were presented on June 16 in Mississauga, Ontario, recognizing work published in 2009. For a complete list, see The Word Guild Awards site.

The awards cover articles, blog entries, reviews, short fiction… and books. Some of these books I’ve reviewed, and others are on my ‘to read’ list. If you’re looking for some good reading this summer, you might check these out:

Apologetics: Red Letter Revolution: If We Did Revolution Jesus’ Way by Colin McCartney (Castle Quay Books)

Biblical Studies: Jesus, the Final Days by Craig Evans (Augsburg Fortress Canada)

Children: Terrific Tuesday by Wendy van Leeuwen (Gumboot Books)

Christian Living: Beyond the Clutter: Discovering Personal Authenticity by David Wiens (Word Alive Press)

Christian Living Award of Merit: Master Mind: Thinking Like God by Dwight J. Olney (Word Alive Press)

Culture: Ninety-Nine Windows: Reflections of a Reporter from Arabia to Africa and Other Roads Less Travelled by Thomas Froese (Essence Publishing)

Culture Award of Merit: The Tender Heart of a Beast by Michael “Bull” Roberts (Trimatrix Management Consulting Inc.)

General Readership: The Tender Heart of a Beast by Michael “Bull” Roberts (Trimatrix Management Consulting Inc.)

General Readership Award of Merit: The Little Ones by M.D. Meyer (Word Alive Press)

Independently Published Fiction: The Lathe of God—A Quest For Noah’s Ark by Angus L. Franklin (iUniverse Inc.)

Independently Published Fiction Award of Merit: The Little Ones by M.D. Meyer (Word Alive Press)

Independently Published Non-fiction: In the Arms of my Beloved – A Journey through Breast Cancer by Sandra Crawford (independently published)

Independently Published Non-fiction Award of Merit: The Bishop or the King: How the Anglican Church of Canada Has Failed to Defend Its King by Ron Corcoran (Essence Publishing)

Instructional: The Leadership Edge: Seven Keys to Dynamic Christian Leadership for Women by Eileen Stewart-Rhude (Castle Quay Books)

Instructional Award of Merit: Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You by Bonnie Grove (Beacon Hill Press)

Leadership/Theoretical: Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation by James K.A. Smith (Baker Publishing Group)

Leadership/Theoretical Award of Merit: 1 and 2 Peter: Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible by Douglas Harink (Brazos Press)

Life Stories: In the Eye of Deception by Nikki Rosen (McMaster University: Innovative Press)

Life Stories Award of Merit: The Bishop or the King: How the Anglican Church of Canada Has Failed to Defend Its King by Ron Corcoron (Essence Publishing)

Relationship: Majesty in Motion: Creating an Encouragement Culture in All Your Relationships by Stewart Brown (Word Alive Press)

Special: One Goal: A Praise and Prayer Journal by Gerry Organ (Word Alive Press)

Novel—Young Adult: If Only You Knew by Mags Storey (Kregel Publishing)

Novel—Contemporary: Talking to the Dead: A Novel by Bonnie Grove (David C. Cook)

Novel—Futuristic/Fantasy: After the Flood by Shane Joseph (Hidden Book Press)

Novel—Mystery/Suspense: Captives of Minara by Eric E. Wright (Word Alive Press)

Novel—Romance: If Only You Knew by Mags Storey (Kregel Publishing)

Novel—Romance Award of Merit: Shadows on the River by Linda Hall (Harlequin/Steeple Hill)

Review: Storm Warning, by Linda Hall

Storm Warning, by Linda Hall (Steeple Hill, 2010)

Nori Edwards doesn’t feel at home anywhere since her husband’s tragic death. In search of a fresh start, she buys a tourist property on scenic Whisper Lake, Maine. She plans to fix up Trail’s End before her teen daughters return from their volunteer stints at summer camp. She and the girls will live in the main building, an old hunting lodge, and rent out the cabins.

Finding workers is only her first problem. Except for the attractive Steve, the local workforce wants nothing to do with Trail’s End. Rumour is, the place is haunted—by the ghost of its original owner, and perhaps by a crazy killer lurking in the woods.

Strange events multiply until Nori begins to think there really is a ghost. Or is it someone very much alive?

Steve Baylor hopes helping with Nori’s renovations will let him find traces of the two teens who vanished there two summers ago. The fact that the new owner is attractive is a nice plus, but Steve has secrets of his own and needs to keep his distance.

As always, Linda Hall’s characters are realistic and their struggles resonate with our own. Both Nori and Steve carry hurts that still need healing and that make it hard to trust and love again. Steve is learning to depend on God, and Nori needs to re-learn the same thing.

Nori is a muralist, another of the interesting careers Linda investigates for her heroines. We don’t learn a lot about it in this book, but it adds to the story’s appeal.

Award-winning Canadian author Linda Hall can be counted on to deliver a good read with strong characters. Storm Warning is her 16th novel, and I think I’ve only missed reading one. Her next novel in the Whisper Lake series, On Thin Ice, releases in April 2010. You can find Linda online at her website and at the Craftie Ladies of Suspense blog.

Review copy purchased by reviewer (from Chapters.ca).