Shadow in Serenity
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 2011
Logan Brisco, a man who never stays in one place too long, landed in Serenity Texas. Once a thriving oil town Serenity is looking for a way to get back on the map. Logan is a very smooth talker, an expert on the ways of words and "get rich" schemes.
Carny Sullivan doesn't buy what Logan is selling. She was raised in a traveling carnival and has seen more con jobs than anyone, her wisdom going far beyond the circus tent. Trying to protect her son Jason from the life she has seen becomes a constant battle. Carny is cautious of Logan as the town rallies behind the ideas he presents during a crowded meeting at the bingo hall. From what Carny knows to be true actions say alot about a person and behind that contagious smile lies her greatest challenge yet.
This is a novel of love, sacrifice and hardship and one that will draw the reader from the beginning guaranteeing hours of reading enjoyment. With excellent character development this novel will capture your heart and will keep you guessing until the end. Highly recommend, excellent in every way! Thanks so much to Zondervan and Netgalley for my ARC copy for this review!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2012
You can't con a con--but can you love one? Carny Sullivan--named for the carnival in which she was raised--was taught from a young age how to spot a mark and how to run a con. But when she arrived in Serenity, she left the carnival and her former life behind. When Logan Brisco arrives in town trying to raise investment funds for a new theme park, Carny recognizes a con artist when she sees one. She's determined not to let him ruin Serenity's peace--and Logan is determined not to lose. Despite her best intentions, Carny finds herself drawn to Logan. Is he seeking riches--or redemption?

There are a lot of good things about this book. I thought the former con-meets-con storyline was fresh and well written. Both Carly and Logan are complex, well-drawn characters. It's the conflict between these characters that really drives the novel. I also liked the way Blackstock incorporated the theme of redemption and restoration into the novel. Many Christian novels include the faith plotline almost as an afterthought, but here it's more integral. This is especially notable since the book was originally published under a different title as a secular romance novel.

Where it didn't work for me, however, is that it's really slow. I'm used to more action from a Blackstock novel. I made it through the first half of the novel and wound up skimming the rest just to see how it wound up. It just didn't hold my attention for a thorough read.

If you're looking for a character-driven romance, you might want to give this one a try. If you're expecting something with some action or suspense, though, you might want to look elsewhere.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The last several Blackstock books have been intense dealing with darker issues of life, one particular was Predator. This latest book is very different than these recent books. No dead bodies) However, it is another excellent story that was both entertaining and insightful. The characters are wonderful! Carny Sullivan is a beautiful, street smart, motorcycle riding, single mom. She loves the Lord and the people in Serenity. She instantly sees through Logan Brisco, the smooth talking con artist who has his eyes set on making a fortune in Serenity. The exchanges between Carny and Logan are go from fun filled to deeply touching and everything in between.

Terri Blackstock brings home the ago old question nature or nurture. Carny and Logan both grew up under difficult circumstances, but the outcomes were very different. This story reminds me as a parent the importance of instilling good values in my children as well as a Christian investing in the lives of children around me.

This is definitely a feel good story that you will enjoy reading.

Source: [...]
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2012
4.5 stars

Shadow in Serenity was way better than I expected! I really liked how the story dealt with con artists and scamming people - very unique from most books I've read.

I loved how Carny instantly saw through Logan and realized he was a con man. I also loved how redemption and forgiveness were major parts of Shadow in Serenity.

Overall, Shadow in Serenity was a great read that I enjoyed very much! Unlike most Terri Blackstock novels I've read, there wasn't much (if any) suspense, but I didn't even miss it! If you enjoy stories like this, then I think you'd like Shadow in Serenity. Recommend! :)

*I received an eBook copy of this book via Netgalley for my review. I was not required to give a positive review, only my honest opinion - which I've done. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.*
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I have been a diehard fan of Terri Blackstock since I first started reading Christian fiction over ten years ago. I have always been able to rely on Terri to provide suspenseful stories that keep me awake until the wee hours of the morning. However, this was not one of her stronger novels.

While the carnival/amusement park idea was unique, I felt that I had to suspend belief for a large portion of the story. Like Carny, I wondered how in the world all of Logan's plans would come to fruition if he wasn't in fact a con artist. Without giving too much away, the end of the story was where this was most evident. Considering the amount of time that had passed between Logan's first visit to Serenity and the final chapter of the story, everything progressed much faster than it would in the real world.

On the flip side, I felt that the characters in this story were extremely believable, Logan in particular. His reflections on his past as a product of foster homes combined with the years spent with his con artist mentor made him the most complex character of the story. Having personally met a con artist in my life (but thankfully not his victim), I could identify with some of the techniques Logan used to persuade the town into parting with their hard-earned money.

I appreciated that Terri went back to her last novel written for the general market and rewrote it to appeal to a Christian audience. Never once did it seem that the story was rewritten as all the Christian elements blended seamlessly throughout the story. But if I compare it to some of her recent novels, it was not up to the same caliber that I've come to expect from her. It was only slightly suspenseful and romantic, yet still engaging enough that I wanted to read it to the very end. My rating is 4 Stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I was given a few books by Terri Blackstock a while back by a friend, but I have never had a chance to read them. When I received a request to review the Christian book, Shadow in Serenity, I instantly recognized the author's name. I eagerly accepted to read it. The book tossed no to my nightstand, with a few others, and with the holiday madness, the book had slipped my mind. After a night of tossing and turning, I flipped on the nightstand light and grabbed Shadow in Serenity. Instantly, I was hooked after reading the first chapter - the introduction of Logan Brisco, a stylish con artist with a rocky past. Abandoned by his mother, Logan lived in foster homes until meeting a local con artist who took Logan under his wing. After a stint behind bars and a name change, Logan lands in Serenity Texas with the greatest swindle of all.

One by one, Logan is convincing the citizens of Serenity to invest in his great idea - building a theme park in the county. Everyone is hypnotized by his charming self and smooth talking, except for one woman named Carny Sullivan. She has seen her share of liars and cheats in her life, and now she has spotted one more - Logan. With all her power, she is determined to protect her son, family, and friends by exposing Logan's lies.

Shadow in Serenity is a character driven drama with some romance thrown in it. Despite Logan being a con artist, I could not help feeling sorry for him as I learned more about his past. The heroine, Carny, is smart, strong character who knows when she is being lied to. There are a few dry moments here and there, but the interesting characters, snappy dialogue, and believable plot make up for it. I enjoyed my first read from Terri Blackstock and I look forward to reading more of her books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2011
This is my first step into Terri Blackstock's work and, while it wasn't as edge-of-your-seat suspenseful that I was expecting, it was an engaging story that kept me reading. I thought it was neat that Terri rewrote Shadow in Serenity (original published for the general market) with a Christian message woven in. And she did it so seamlessly--even when I read, at the end, how she'd added the Christian elements, I almost found it hard to imagine the book without them.

Terri goes deep with her two main characters, Carny and Logan. More especially with Logan, in my opinion. He has such a complex past and watching him slowly change throughout the course of the book was wonderful. Carny also was a fun character, but she was a bit hard to get to know for the first half of the book. Both characters come together beautifully, though, by the end of the story in a very sweet romance.

I didn't think I would like the whole "Can't con a con artist" theme, but surprised myself by getting very "into" the story. Probably due to Terri's writing style. It captured my attention and I found the book a very easy read. I will admit that, towards the end when Carny leaves Serenity to revisit her childhood, I had trouble staying "in" the story. It seemed like everything was moving along so well...and then Carny skips town for a week to reminisce her childhood. Kinda threw me out of the book and, I confess, I skipped through that part.

From what I hear from my friends who are fans of Terri's books, this isn't her best work. So the fact that, while it wasn't her best, it still was able to capture my attention speaks volumes about the author. I am certainly looking forward to trying more books by Terri in the future!

I reviewed this book for Zondervan via Shelby at Shelton Interactive. It was not required that I give a positive review, but solely to express my own thoughts and opinions of this book, which I have done.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2011
This book really differed from a lot of other Christian fiction books in that the "hero" started out as the villain. In the first few chapters, I found myself thinking, "Surely, this is not the guy she will fall in love with?" The book was hard to put down as the reader is allowed to also see things from Logan's perspective as he begins to feel convicted about his life and actions. No cookie-cutter "perfect" and righteous hero here! And, I think that's why I liked the book so much. I loved the reminder of how God's grace and redemption can change a person's heart and turn his life around!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2011
When Logan comes to the small town of Serenity to swindle a naive town out of its hard-earned money, he didn't count on meeting Carny, a former con artist herself. Will he be able to pull of the ruse without losing his heart in the process?

Terri Blackstock is one of my favorite Christian suspense authors, so I found this book a little slow as it focused more on a romance than a mystery. The characters are vivid, the town is enrapturing, but the plot dragged on for a little too long.

Fans of Terri Blackstock will enjoy this book, but it's definitely not my favorite by her.
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on June 24, 2015
**SPOILERS**

I'd never read Blackstock before, and borrowed it from my library because the cover, title, and synopsis made it seem like a romantic thriller or suspense novel, and I'd gone into it hoping for some action. While I wasn't immediately curious about the plot, I thought it would be worth my time if there were plenty of shady deals gone bad and bullets flying. I was disappointed; it wasn't anything like the impression I'd gotten. There was a lot more talk than action, a good chunk of the conflict was internalized. Also, I didn't realize the novel had a Christian theme—the only hint was a mention of the Christy award, but I didn’t know what that was—and as an agnostic, I was uncomfortable with the religious element. But I'm open-minded, and decided to overlook the minor aspect, though it got harder to stomach closer to the end.

The novel started slow, and I was tempted to skip forward to something more interesting than Logan's ridiculous flirting, but resisted. If a man worked that hard to flatter and charm me, I'd immediately be suspicious, because he was clearly sucking up. At first I thought Logan would be the villain and some other guy, most likely an FBI agent, would come looking for the conman, and that guy would be the hero of the story. When I realized Logan was the intended hero, I almost gave the book up. I wondered, How on earth could I end up rooting for a scum-sucking conman? I went into the novel hating his lying, cheating guts, and highly doubted he'd truly redeem himself. But at that point I wanted to see Carny kick his ass, so I stuck with it.

I'm glad I did. While it won't make it into my favorite novel list by any standards, it was still a good book. The plot was an unusual one, and the characters were interesting and well-developed, for the most part. The town of Serenity and its inhabitants are extremely charming. It tread the line of introducing too many characters, but I managed to remember who’s who. The pace was a bit slow. At points I'd think, All right, come on, let's go, hustle up. The lack of romance in the “romance” novel baffled me, I mean they didn’t kiss until about three-quarters in and they never made love—then I figured out it was a Christian novel and was like, Ahh, yes, gotta promote that chastity. It also explained why Carny’s first husband bothered to marry her, though he was apparently a terrible person and totally the type to knock someone up and carry on boozing. But we can’t have illegitimate children, even if it breaks character.

I had a problem with the heroine's name being Carny. I could sort of buy why she had that name, sad and awful as it was, but every time I heard it I got a sense of taunting or mockery. It always sounded as if people were making fun of her, and it really turned me off the character and hindered my ability to take her seriously. I don't understand why she didn't change it to a real, respectful name--could have done it when she changed her last to Sullivan--because for all her preaching about despising her childhood and upbringing, she allowed everyone to identify her as Carny. Seems counter-intuitive to me.

Logan Brisco. I was seriously impressed by his transformation. I couldn’t believe I’d fallen in love with the skeez from the first chapter. If he’d been a completely bad person who’d suddenly found God and turned good, I’d have been skeptical. But Blackstock did an extraordinary job planting deep roots of goodness within the briar patch of bitterness in Logan’s soul, and when his conscience started to rear and his compassion broke through, it didn’t come across far-fetched at all. He was the most complex and developed character in the story, and writing a challenging character like that took some major author-balls.

The last and biggest thing I had a problem with was the climax. The quality of the novel declined immediately after Logan’s heavenly epiphany. A chapter of conflict resolution in which he confessed to the townspeople and began seeking redemption should have followed it. Then there could have been an epilogue about the newlyweds watching the park being built and the townspeople having forgiven Logan at last. But no.

Logan went from intellectual to stupid, and tough biker chick Carny turned into a weepy, wallowing, wimpering martyr. It didn’t make any sense to me that he’d had that heart-to-heart with her, told he loved her, admitted his HUGE deception, promised her he’d be at church the next morning, then he didn’t think it was important to let her know he had an unexpected change of plans and had to leave? He’d decided to wait until after church and after she’d had time to think the worst of him to call her? Seriously? He’d been fully aware the whole time of just how he came across to her, that she’d constantly feared he’d skip town—and he didn’t think alarm bells would clang in her head when he didn’t show, with no explanation to the woman he loved?

No. Just no. That’s lazy writing, right there, and set the stage for one of the biggest clichés in romantic fiction—the misunderstanding. The melodramatic misunderstanding that broke hearts, betrayed trusts, and provided a catalyst for the last thing you’d actually want to do to your true love. I was thoroughly disappointed when I realized that was how it would go. Although, I expected Carny would give Joey the picture, Joey would immediately find the goods on Logan, and Logan would be arrested for violating his parole, and he’d be all, Wtf? to Carny and they’d have to spend that much more time in an already long novel resolving THAT issue. But that didn’t happen, thank goodness. Instead, Carny just skipped town herself—coughhypocritecough—and spent a week crying to her parents and Rose. Boo hoo, a conman done conned me. Though I didn’t bother to find out if that was what actually happened. Though it could have been a lot worse, I could have given him money and my body, too. Boo hoo hoo.

SERIOUSLY? The Carny from the first half of the novel would have gotten pissed and tracked him down just to punch him in the face. I liked and respected that Carny.

But the end scene was cute, and everyone got their happily-ever-after.
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