“One Final Breath” by Lynn H. Blackburn

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“When investigator Gabriel Chavez had his cover blown by an aggressive reporter, the silver lining was being able to rejoin the dive team. The downside? Dive team captain Anissa Bell–a woman who both fascinates and frustrates him.

Anissa grew up as a missionary kid on the Micronesian island of Yap and always planned to return after college. But she remained stateside, determined to solve the case that haunts her–the murder of her best friend and the disappearance of a three-year-old child.

When Anissa’s fractured past collides with Gabe’s investigation into the tragic shooting death of a teenage boy in Lake Porter, they’ll have to put their complicated history with each other aside in order to uncover the identity of a killer. What they’ll discover is that revenge has no statute of limitations.”

In this third and final installment of Dive Team Investigations we finally have the story that has been brewing since book one. I have looked forward to it since I first met Gabe and Anissa and ‘watched’ their rivalry, knowing that their day would come. This book did not disappoint; it was everything I hoped it would be!  Their backstory, character development, and spiritual growth was so great.  This probably had the strongest spiritual storyline of the three.

I also really enjoyed the mystery. As I have come to expect with her books, the perpetrator is not someone you’ll be able to figure out. What I mean by this is that the person is never a someone you’ve met more than maybe once in the story, and sometimes not even that. It’s just a random person that is almost incidental to story. Honestly, the first time this happened I was kinda disappointed, but once I’ve come to expect it, it doesn’t really bother me. The fact that the mystery tied together her past and her present was really neat, and all around very well done.

This was a very satisfying conclusion to the series and I look forward to reading more books by Ms. Blackburn in the future.

I’m giving this book 4 out of 5 stars!

*Disclaimer: I received an e-copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review.

“The Words Between Us” by Erin Bartels

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“Robin Windsor has spent most of her life under an assumed name, running from her family’s ignominious past. She thought she’d finally found sanctuary in her rather unremarkable used bookstore just up the street from the marina in River City, Michigan. But the store is struggling and the past is hot on her heels.

When she receives an eerily familiar book in the mail on the morning of her father’s scheduled execution, Robin is thrown back to the long-lost summer she met Peter Flynt, the perfect boy who ruined everything. That book–a first edition Catcher in the Rye–is soon followed by the other books she shared with Peter nearly twenty years ago, with one arriving in the mail each day. But why would Peter be making contact after all these years? And why does she have a sinking feeling that she’s about to be exposed all over again?

With evocative prose that recalls the classic novels we love, Erin Bartels pens a story that shows that words–the ones we say, the ones we read, and the ones we write–have more power than we imagine.”

Whew, this is going to be a difficult review. The first thing that drew me to this book was definitely the cover, and then when I read the blurb, it seemed like it would be exactly the kinda book I’d enjoy. Some intriguing backstory and a mystery to boot. To start out on a positive note, Ms. Bartels has incredible talent with words and she can certainly make you feel the story. The storyline itself is also quite intriguing and fascinating.

Unfortunately, I have really struggled to enjoy this book first of all because it seems much more secular than Christian. I’m not saying that I only read Christian books, but if I get a book from a Christian publisher and go into it expecting at least some sort of spiritual story line (even if it’s shallow), it’s very disappointing an aggravating to discover that none of the characters really have any sort of relationship with Jesus Christ nor really so much as the hint of a desire for one. A couple mentions of someone praying, and the main character NOT wanting to talk to God is about as far as it goes. Also, in general, there are frequent references to worldy activities (drinking, partying, etc.), and I may upset some people by mentioning this one, but the main guy is divorced. I realize people justify this in stories by saying ‘that’s reality’ which is true, but that doesn’t make it justifiable because the Bible makes it pretty clear that God hates divorce. So this is been a very difficult book for me.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have only managed to get half-way through the book and I am still undecided as to whether I’ll actually finish it or not. The writing style pulls me in, but the content lacks much to be desired. I truly dislike writing reviews like this, but I have to be honest.

I’m rating this 2 1/2 stars (giving it 1 1/2 above the lowest rating because of the story telling talent) out of 5.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary paperback of this book in exchange for my honest review.

“Take Back Your Time” by Morgan Tyree

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“We all get 24 hours in a day–but it never seems like quite enough time, does it? Morgan Tyree wants to help you take back your time with her proven time management system. With energy and enthusiasm, Morgan shows you how to organize and manage your time using her simple three-color time zone system of green, yellow, and red–moxie time, multitasking time, and me time. She shows you how to

– identify your most productive times each day
– regulate between essentials and nonessentials
– schedule your three time zones
– match your time zones with your capacities
– welcome the season of life you’re in
– set achievable goals that align with your values

If you’ve struggled to find balance and direction in your overloaded life, let Morgan’s system help you discover the freedom of less hustle and more harmony.”

I have always lived a pretty ‘full’ life, in which there were tasks to be accomplished and I rarely had time to think about being bored (thanks to my wonderful parents, who always  had an answer to boredom if it was ever hinted at ;-), with time, of course, to read and work on hobbies. However, in the past few months, it has seemed like my life has gotten exponentially ‘fuller’ ( I use this word with reason, which I will explain in a minute). Consequently, when I got my monthly email with books to review, and I saw this one, I immediately snagged it, and I am so glad I did!

This book has been just what I need to help me step back a minute and review all that has come onto my plate, and think about the best way to A) plan my time according to my responsibilities and B) consider where I can cut back on some nonessentials (granted there hasn’t been a ton of cutting back, if anything I’ve ‘gone’ and ‘done’ more since I started reading the book than I did even before), but the point is, I’ve consciously made the choice and my noted that my activities are falling under one of my current purposes. (Read the book, to find out what I’m referring to). So why the word ‘fullness’? Because ‘busy’ is where your time and activities are controlling you, but ‘full’ is where you are controlling what you spend your time on and you’re fulfilling the purpose to which God has called you in this season.

I will say, I have not actually finished the book yet just because I’ve been working through it slowly and processing. Secondly, I’ll make the disclaimer, I still haven’t gotten my schedule worked just like I want, nor achieved the discipline I’m ultimately hoping to, but I’m definitely improving. I also want to say setting up this schedule doesn’t mean not having time for relaxation and time to recharge. You just decide according to your time zones when that will be each day.

I know this has probably been a little more like a personal testimony and not really a review, but I think those may be the best kind of reviews, where the book has impacted your life in a positive where and you tell others about it.

*Disclaimer: I received a paperback copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review.

“The Bride of Ivy Green” by Julie Klassen

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“Much has happened in idyllic Ivy Hill in recent months, and while several villagers have found new love and purpose, questions remain–and a few dearly held dreams have yet to be fulfilled.

Jane Bell is torn. Gabriel Locke is back and has made his intentions clear. But Jane is reluctant to give up her inn and destine another man to a childless marriage. Then someone she never expected to see again returns to Ivy Hill. . . .

Mercy Grove has lost her school and is resigned to life as a spinster, especially as the man she admires seems out of reach. Should she uproot herself from Ivy Cottage to become a governess for a former pupil? Her decision will change more lives than her own.

A secretive new dressmaker arrives in the village, but the ladies soon suspect she isn’t who she claims to be. Will they oust the imposter, or help rescue her from a dangerous predicament?

In the meantime, everyone expects Miss Brockwell to marry a titled gentleman, even though her heart is drawn to another. While the people of Ivy Hill anticipate one wedding, an unexpected bride may surprise them all.”

This final installment in the “Tales from Ivy Hill” series was a perfect wrap-up! I have enjoyed this whole series immensely: the country village setting, all the quirky, annoying,  complicated, and sweet characters, and the storylines that started in the first book and threaded their way through to the last. It was basically like a BBC miniseries in book form; what could be better?

I almost wish I could pick a favorite character of the 3 main ones, Mercy, Rachel, or Jane, but I honestly can’t. I loved each of them in their own unique way, and I’ve just gotta say that shows great talent on the part of the author to create 3 (well, okay, a whole town full) of such well-rounded characters both in their strengths and their weaknesses.

The spiritual content wasn’t super strong, but it was consistent and steady throughout the 3 books, so I can appreciate that.

The final conclusion of all the stories, and the happily-ever- afters were eminently satisfying and were cause for a big happy sigh from me. 🙂 I’m giving this 4 out of 5 stars!

*Disclaimer: I received an e-copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

 

“All Manner of Things” by Susie Finkbeiner

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“When Annie Jacobson’s brother Mike enlists as a medic in the Army in 1967, he hands her a piece of paper with the address of their long-estranged father. If anything should happen to him in Vietnam, Mike says, Annie must let their father know.

In Mike’s absence, their father returns to face tragedy at home, adding an extra measure of complication to an already tense time. As they work toward healing and pray fervently for Mike’s safety overseas, letter by letter the Jacobsons must find a way to pull together as a family, regardless of past hurts. In the tumult of this time, Annie and her family grapple with the tension of holding both hope and grief in the same hand, even as they learn to turn to the One who binds the wounds of the brokenhearted.”

This book caught my eye first of all because of the cover. I love the soft, muted tones and the impression of homeyness. The blurb also intrigued me because of the time period and themes that were mentioned.

I have got to say Ms. Finkbeiner is an incredibly talented author with an amazing ability to create a setting that pulls you in and basically plays like a movie in your head while your reading. Every time I picked up the book I was always fully immersed in the story.

The storyline itself is definitely not your run of the mill, feel-good, happily-ever-after story (that’s not to say it doesn’t have a happy ending). It involves themes such as a broken home, the hardships of war, etc. It was very real, and in some aspects gritty (though not in a bad or dirty way), but it never felt hopeless.

I felt like the spiritual theme wasn’t very strong. They talked about going to church, but it seemed like the only reason they really relied on God was because of the hardships of war, not because they had an actual relationship with Jesus Christ.

There were a few things I didn’t agree with, but it was mostly just personal preference.

The ending was well done and gave the impression of characters that have a continuing story though not a way that left you hanging and feeling like something is lacking.

Overall a very enjoyable story and I’m giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a paperback copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review.

“Made for the Journey” by Elizabeth Elliot

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“In her first year as a missionary to a small group of native women in the Ecuadorian jungle, Elisabeth Elliot faced physical and spiritual trials. In Made for the Journey, Elliot captures the mysteries and stark realities surrounding the colorful and primitive world in which she ministered. More than just a recounting of her early days, this is a beautifully crafted and deeply personal reflection on the important questions of life and a remarkable testimony to authentic Christian obedience to God.”

Elisabeth Elliot is a name that is known and loved among most Christians today so when I got this opportunity to read and review one of her books, I jumped at it and I am so thankful that I did. Mrs. Elliot’s writing style is so straightforward, commonsense, and yet incredibly engaging. The emotions she expresses and the everyday events (everyday for a missionary, that is :-)) that she describes are so relatable. Funny and sad, difficult and encouraging, she experiences the gamut of emotion. And then the spiritual truths she brings out and the lessons she learns during this time were so apt not only for me, but I would say for every believer in their Christian walk. The lesson of living each day by faith, trusting that the Lord knows best and will faithfully lead us on the path that will be the best for us and bring the most glory to Him. I cannot recommend this book highly enough! Just go read it for yourself.

I will say that Mrs. Elliot does not use the KJV exclusively which is my preference.

*Disclaimer: I received a free paperback of this from Revell in exchange for my honest review.

“Protecting the Poor” Cover Reveal!

We’re counting down the months until Book Three of the “Tales of Faith” series is released! But for now… we get to see the cover of Amanda Tero’s newest
book.
Ready…??

“Protecting the Poor” will release August 26, 2019, completing the “Tales of Faith” trilogy. While “Befriending the Beast” and “The Secret Slipper” are loose retellings of fairytales, “Protecting the Poor” is a retelling of a classic legend: Robin Hood.

About the Book

Sheriff Feroci is now lord over the province, and Abtshire has become a pit of injustice. Being forced into the lord’s service does not give Dumphey as many opportunities to help the poor as he desires. When attempts on his life drive him into the forest, this freedom opens a world of possibilities for helping others. But how can he do so when he is running for his life? And does God want him to do more than simply feed the poor?

Noel has always hidden behind the shadow of his older brother, Dumphey. When life forces him to stand on his own, will he still follow God in the corrupt world in which he lives? Would God really call him to do something that is beyond his power to do?

As Lord Feroci’s sinister plot comes to light, each lad has a choice to make. A choice that could cost them their lives.


Prologue of “Protecting the Poor”

Lord Feroci slammed the desk with his fists. “I didn’t send you on a fool’s errand, Barat.” He clenched his teeth as he glared at the missive opened before him.

“Aye, sir. I cannot help that others are the fools.”

Feroci released his anger in a growl. Barat stood patiently, his arms crossed.

“We’re losing time, Barat.”

Barat didn’t respond.

“You’re not doing enough.” He raised his head to glare at his man. Barat stared him down. Nothing could phase this man. Which was exactly why Feroci had him in his employ. But ’twas irksome at times. Feroci blew out his pent-up air and fell back into his chair. “What do you suggest?” Barat was the only man in Abtshire from whom he would even consider suggestions. The man had proven his loyalty on the battlefield, taking more than one scar for Feroci. Feroci had returned the favor as many times. They were in this together.

Barat finally stepped forward, but he didn’t sit in the seat across Feroci. Instead, he took the missive from Feroci’s desk and held it at two corners. “I say, we do this…” He pulled at the paper and it ripped—something weak giving way to a greater force that commanded it. That sight alone gave Feroci strength and he nodded in satisfaction.

“Aye. Something made from pulp cannot stand against an iron fist. They will give way.”

“Call another meeting.” Barat layered the two pieces of paper and held them over one of the candles that shed light in the dim room. A small strand of smoke wove upward before the paper burst into flame. Extra light illuminated the room then dimmed as the paper turned into gray ash. “We know their weaknesses as well as their strengths. Use their weaknesses against them. Convince them that there is no other choice.”

Feroci leaned forward and grabbed the quill he had dropped when Barat had entered. He ran his fingers across its smoothness before taking a clean paper. “Well put.” He dipped the quill in ink. “Matheny … ’tis a vast city, but given the right promise, the townspeople will rebel and overthrow Lord Nedry.” He wrote a few lines, shaping the concept that Barat had supplied. “Haar is closer to the king, so that could pose problems.”

“Then wait on Haar. We’ve three cities between our province and them.”

Feroci didn’t look up from his writing. “Lord Alexandre is on my side. If he works with me, mayhap we can claim the help of Belmis, Metz, and Kiralyn.” He paused at the last name. The anger that had dissipated boiled under the surface once more.

“You can’t obtain Kiralyn—”

“Curse you, man!” Feroci threw his quill at Barat. The man didn’t flinch. “We’ll have to overthrow Lord Kiralyn and sever any ‘blood ties’ to the king. I will obtain the throne.” He stood and his chair crashed backward. Obtaining Lord Trent’s domain from the king had been an easy task. The unfortunate lord had conveniently died in battle with no other witness besides Barat. The king had promoted Feroci from sheriff to lordship, giving him reign over Abtshire, Fordyce, and Keller. Controlling the latter two was nothing—they were mere hamlets compared to the likes of Matheny. Feroci had the talent and ability for so much more.

He had to gain control before Yzebel gave birth to their child—his heir. It must be his heir. He had no use for a lass. But a son—a son he could shape and mold, without the meddling of others, to follow in his footsteps … aye, that son would establish their family as royalty forever. The land was now under the leadership of a man who had gone mad since his daughter’s return. Why had he named Princess Belle as heiress of the kingdom? She had left her father and had been raised by Lord and Lady Kiralyn. This, Feroci would know—he was one of the only lords the king didn’t refuse to see after the death of his wife. In the king’s dark hours of grief, he had made substantial promises to Feroci for his help. Promises that had blown away much like the ash of the letter Barat had burned.

Feroci had written. Barat had spoken. Nothing would sway the king’s mind. He was going against all tradition of the land and naming a woman as leadership, should he pass before she married.

“I can’t marry the lass myself, and I haven’t a son to do so. I will make the king pay,” Feroci hissed. He walked to the window and pulled back the drapes that blocked the fading daylight. A lad stood below, staring up at him. Recognition slammed Feroci when his eyes locked onto the lad. He was more of a threat to Feroci than he would ever know.

“Barat.”

The man joined him.

“How much did he hear?”

The lad’s gaze shifted to something in the distance. He turned and walked toward the barracks—the place he should have already been at this time of day.

Barat’s dark eyes followed the lad’s movement. “You can finally make your move against him.”

Finally. Feroci liked the sound of that word. He had waited too long, but he would wait no longer. “Take care of him.”

The silence between them sealed the promise.

“But don’t make it a matter of convenience.” Feroci let the drapes fall. “I don’t want to raise suspicion.”

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