“Once We Were Strangers” by Shawn Smucker

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“In 2012, Mohammad fled his Syrian village along with his wife and four sons, escaping to Jordan through the wilderness. Four years later he sat across from Shawn Smucker in a small conference room in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Though neither of them knew it, Mohammad had arrived in Shawn’s life just in time.

This is the story of a friendship. It is the story of a middle-aged writer struggling to make a living and a Syrian refugee struggling to create a life for his family in a strange and sometimes hostile land. It’s the story of two fathers hoping for the best, two hearts seeking compassion, two lives changed forever. It’s the story of our moment in history and the opportunities it gives us to show love and hospitality to the sojourner in our midst.

Anyone who has felt torn between the desire for security and the desire to offer sanctuary to those fleeing war and violence will find Shawn Smucker a careful and loving guide on the road to mercy and unity.”

When I saw the title and subtitle of this book I was immediately intrigued! I’m very familiar with the refugee situation in the Middle East in general and Syria in particular so I knew I wanted to read this.

I guess I’ll start with the negatives and finish with the positives.

First of all, about 75% of it was written from a first person, present point of view. Secondly, it was mostly just telling and not showing. Very similar to diary style, where he said, “We do this, and then so-and-so happens” etc. There is a split timeline, switching back and forth between telling about how the family left Syria, and the present day and how their friendship develops.

So all that the say, the actual writing quality doesn’t have much to recommend it.

Also, I’m not sure where the author stands spiritually. It doesn’t really have any kind of a clear Christian message, and almost sounds like whether your Christian or Muslim doesn’t really matter, it’s just all part of one’s culture.

The reasons I did enjoy it were because, in the first place, so much of Shawn’s relationship with Mohammad mirrored relationships we have built with Middle Easterners. I found myself laughing and nodding my head because much of it was so familiar.

Secondarily, the overall message that Shawn Smucker was putting across is a good and, I would say, needful one for many in our country: that of befriending and giving of ourselves and our time to the immigrants in our country. I would add to that, that we should use these opportunities that we’re given to build relationships, so that we may give the gospel to those in need.

I’m giving this 3 out of 5 stars.

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

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“In Too Deep” by Lynn H. Blackburn

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“When the dive team is called in to recover a body from a submerged car, they aren’t prepared to find an encrypted laptop–or an unsettling connection between investigator Adam Campbell and the dead accountant.

Adam turns to his friend Dr. Sabrina Fleming–a professor at the local university with unparalleled computer security and forensics skills–to recover the files from the laptop. But the deeper they dig, the deadlier the investigation becomes. When evidence uncovers a human trafficking ring and implicates members of Adam’s own family, he and Sabrina will have to risk everything to solve the case.

The truth could set hundreds free–but someone is willing to do whatever it takes to silence anyone who threatens to reveal their secrets. Award-winning author Lynn H. Blackburn invites readers back to Carrington, North Carolina, where everything is not as it seems and sinister elements lurk behind the idyllic façade.”

This second installment in the Dive Team Investigations series was every bit as good as the first, and possibly a little better. First of all, I was prepared for Ms. Blackburn’s style of writing, so I wasn’t disappointed in trying to compare it to someone else’s. However, I enjoyed the overall storyline a little better than the first. Adam and Sabrina were two of my favorite characters in the last book, so I was really looking forward to their story.

I loved Sabrina with her total nerdy-ness and the way she was oblivious to so many guys’ attention. Adam was also great! Such a gentleman, and just an all ’round good guy. I really enjoyed the portrayal of their spiritual growth. It wasn’t really overt, but I would say it was a pretty steady thread throughout.

The mystery was fascinating and was really well developed. The theme of human trafficking and modern day slavery was so good, and brought out some good points that might not be common knowledge. Sex-trafficking is  mentioned incidentally, but absolutely no details.

Sabrina’s backstory with her parents was really good as well, and the resolution of it all was quite satisfying. *SpoilerThere is a part of it that involves infidelity in marriage End of Spoiler.

All in all a really good book, and I’m giving it 5 out of 5 stars!!!

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this ebook from Revell via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

“The Cost of Betrayal” by Henderson, Pettry, and Eason

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“In Dee Henderson’s novella “Betrayed,” Janelle Roberts is freed–thanks to people she doesn’t know–after serving six years of a twenty-year sentence for a murder she did not commit. But a murderer is still at large, and Janelle needs to be somewhere safe with someone she can trust. She may not survive another betrayal.

In Dani Pettrey’s “Deadly Isle,” Tennyson Kent is trapped on the isolated island of her childhood by a storm surge, and she is shocked when the typically idyllic community turns into the hunting grounds of a murderer. Cut off from any help from the mainland, will she and first love Callen Frost be able to identify and stop a killer bent on betrayal before they become the next victims?

In Lynette Eason’s “Code of Ethics,” trauma surgeon Ruthie St. John saves the life of Detective Isaac Martinez. After a betrayal leads to him getting shot and then attacked while in recovery, Isaac is now a key witness determined to testify. But someone is intent on silencing him–and those around him–forever. Together, Ruthie and Isaac go on the run, desperate to escape the killers hunting him. “

This was my first time to read a combo thriller with these authors. I’ve read Dee Henderson and Dani Pettrey, and like them both, but this was a first for Lynette Eason. I was not disappointed! I will definitely be reading more from her.

In Ms. Henderson’s book, I really liked the fact that she took an innocent woman that had been imprisoned, and wove the story around her, as well as the fact that we get to see Paul and Ann Falcon again. The process of how the woman learns to face and overcome the trauma she went through at the murder of her boyfriend, and her subsequent conviction of the crime, was well done. Ultimately, we are left with an unsolved murder, but the point was that she found peace with place in her life to which the Lord brought her.

4 of 5 stars

The second story also had an intriguing story line, but unfortunately it fell a little short for me. I found the main girl incredibly annoying and even naive as to the dangers of her job. She’s supposedly a coast guard, and as such thinks she can basically face any enemy by herself and take care of herself. Even the best in police and rescue positions realize the need for a good partner to have your back, but she was always going out on her own and never listened to the cautions of the main guy in the story. I did enjoy the resolution and was completely surprised by who the culprit was, but still not my favorite.

3 of 5 stars

The third story by Ms. Eason was my favorite. The writing was quality, the storyline great, the characters likable, and it kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time! I also appreciated the spiritual thread throughout the story! The family dynamic of Ruthie’s family was great! Definitely recommend this one.

5 of 5 stars!

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this ebook from Bethany House Publishers via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

“An Hour Unspent” by Roseanna M. White

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“Once London’s top thief, Barclay Pearce has turned his back on his life of crime and now uses his skills for a nation at war. But not until he rescues a clockmaker’s daughter from a mugging does he begin to wonder what his future might hold.

Evelina Manning has constantly fought for independence, but she certainly never meant for it to inspire her fiancé to end the engagement and enlist in the army. When the intriguing man who saved her returns to the Manning residence to study clockwork repair with her father, she can’t help being interested. But she soon learns that nothing with Barclay Pearce is as simple as it seems.

As 1915 England plunges ever deeper into war, the work of an ingenious clockmaker may give England an unbeatable military edge–and Germany realizes it as well. Evelina’s father soon finds his whole family in danger–and it may just take a reformed thief to steal the time they need to escape.”

It’s no secret that Roseanna White is one of my absolutely favorite authors, and this series, Shadows Over England, has been absolutely fascinating! The setting being WWI, there has been intrigue, suspense, and spies! What could be better?

Honestly, it is so difficult to say that one book is better than another, but if such a thing were possible, this was the best!

Ever since book 1 Barclay has been one of my favorite characters so I was eagerly anticipating his story, and he certainly did not disappoint. We get to find out his backstory and how that plays out in the present. So wonderful!

And then Evelina. I know some people have mixed/negative feelings about her, but I really liked her! I didn’t necessarily agree with her at all times, but I very much enjoyed seeing her growth, and the relationship/resolution with her mother was so well done.

Then of course we get to see other characters from previous books (including a couple glimpses of Margo)!

The story line was amazing!

The suspense as good or better than any of read.

Spiritual content was spot on.

Resolution perfect!

I’m giving this story 6 out of 5 stars!!! 😀

Can’t wait for the next series!

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this ebook from Bethany House Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

“Beneath A Prairie Moon” by Kim Vogel Sawyer

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“Abigail Brantley grew up in affluence and knows exactly how to behave in high society. But when she is cast from the social registers due to her father’s illegal dealings, she finds herself forced into a role she never imagined: tutoring rough Kansas ranchers in the subjects of manners and morals so they can “marry up” with their mail-order brides. Mack Cleveland, whose father was swindled by a mail-order bride, wants no part of the scheme to bring Eastern women to Spiveyville, Kansas, and he’s put off by the snooty airs and fastidious behavior of the “little city gal” in their midst. But as time goes by, his heart goes out to the teacher who tries so diligently to smooth the rough edges from the down-to-earth men. How can he teach her that perfection won’t bring happiness?”

I had heard of this book from a good friend, so when I got the opportunity to review it, I was overjoyed!

I have come to enjoy Kim Vogel Sawyer for her homey stories, with great character lessons and this one was no exception, such a sweet and lovely story.  Honestly, the best thing about this book (and it was all great!) is the characters! Mrs. Sawyer did a great job of portraying each of them in a well rounded way, and made me feel like I actually knew them personally. I don’t just mean the main characters either. Other than the 4 or so main characters, there were about 10 or so secondary characters and each one was special and endearing.

This is the funny part though, for about half the story, the main female character is almost my least favorite. She had such a hoity-toity attitude about things, but ultimately that was what made her change of heart so much more meaningful.

I really enjoyed the matchmaker element, and getting to know all the bachelors (as I mentioned above, secondary characters). Honestly though, the most admirable of all, was Mack and his determination not to just put an advertisement in the mail, but the wait for the Lord to send a young lady across his path in His timing. Loved that!

Reading about the ‘courtship lessons’ put me very much in mind of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. So cute!

Spiritual content was really good! Seeing the spiritual growth and character development of each one was so wonderful.

All in all, this was such a fun, warm, and cozy story, and I highly recommend it!                   5 out of 5 stars!

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this ebook from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

“Dead Drift” by Dani Pettrey

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“Burning debris littering the ground . . . smoke pluming in the acrid air . . . this is just the beginning if he fails.

Seven years ago, operative Luke Gallagher vanished to become part of an elite team set on capturing a deadly terrorist. When Luke returns to face those he left behind, their help becomes his only hope of stopping his target’s latest threat of an attack that would shake America to its core.

Private investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving or looking for Luke after he disappeared. But she also never imagined he left her or his life by choice. Now he’s back, and together they must unravel a twisting thread of secrets, lies, and betrayal, all while on the brink of a biological disaster.

Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist’s next mark?”

I have eagerly anticipated this story since the first book in the series. Kate and Luke’s story has been a thread through each of the books, gaining momentum with each successive one, and I was so excited when they finally got their own book. All the questions of why Luke disappeared and what he’s been doing were answered, as well as a loose thread that had been hanging from the first book about Griffin McCray’s sister. So very satisfactory.

This book followed along in the same style I’ve come to expect and enjoy from Dani Pettrey…didn’t want to put it down!

The characters were well done, and Kate is one of my favorites! It’s always great to follow the stories of those from the previous books as well, and see the developing relationships.

The spiritual content was also good. Kate and Luke spoke of their relationship with Jesus Christ throughout, and prayed for guidance. Luke acknowledged that his relationship with the Lord had suffered through the years, but I appreciated that he recognized and repented of his wrong actions.

I only have a couple disclaimers to make. First of all, there’s a scene where two of the characters go to a tattoo parlor and get tattoos for the sake of making a necessary contact. I was disappointed because it was talked about as a very positive thing and something one of them had been wanting for a long time. There was quite a bit of romance, kissing, etc. and throughout the books, the two main characters will often stay in the same house and sometimes the same hotel room, even though they never sleep together. Not a very good testimony, in my opinion.                                                                      Lastly, there was another almost-torture-scene in this book that had me shuddering! It involved a lady in this case, and though nothing bad was happened, it was certainly hinted at.

Overall, I would still rate this 4 out of 5 stars! An thrilling conclusion to a great series!

*Disclaimer: I received this ebook from Bethany House Publishers via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

“Quest for Leviathan” by Amanda Tero

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Intro

Are sea monsters a real thing? What about fire-breathing dragons? According to the Bible, there is a fire-breathing sea creature who really existed: the leviathan. Amanda Tero brings this dragon to life in her newest short story, “Quest for Leviathan.” Join Anath and his crew of ninety-nine rowers as they face the waves of the Mediterranean Sea and the power of Leviathan.

About the Book

Leviathan took the life of his father. Anath has spent three years preparing for the voyage that will end the threat of Leviathan. Yet as the Valor launches into the depths of the Mediterranean, an inward quest also begins, taking Anath to depths he is not willing to face.

My Review

As a personal friend of Amanda’s I always enjoy ever opportunity I get to read and review her work. Having read her first works and accompanied her on her journey as an indie author, it has been an absolute pleasure to see how she has developed her talents and her author voice. This was such a great short story! I have to say that chapter 39 of Job has always fascinated me, and I have always loved the descriptions of leviathan and behemoth. I would love to know what they actually looked like in real life. That being said, the illustrations in this book are excellent and just about how I would picture the real life leviathan to look like. Plus the fact that I also know the illustrator personally (in fact have known her since she was quite a small girl, even longer than I’ve known Amanda), makes this story just that much more special. I very much enjoy well-done and accurately portrayed Biblical fiction, and this particular setting goes even farther back than most that you will read. I was fascinated by all the elements she was able to pack into such a short story. The character development of Anath really left nothing to be desired, and honestly I’ve always enjoyed seafaring stories, so this was such a treat in every sense of the word. The resolution didn’t seem abrupt, but came about just right, which is often a somewhat difficult achievement for short story writers.

Overall, this was an intriguing and well-done literary work, and I give it 5 stars!

*Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this story from the author in exchange for my honest review. Thanks, Amanda!

Purchase an e-copy on Amazon or order a paperback.

Add to your Goodreads shelf.

Giveaway!

Amanda is giving away TWO print copies of “Quest for Leviathan”

to one winner — one for you, and one for your friend!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author

Amanda Tero began her love for words at a young age—reading anything she could get her hands on and penning short stories as young as age eight. Since graduation, she has honed her writing skills by dedicated practice and study of the writing craft. She began her journey of publication with a few short stories that she had written for her sisters and continued to add to her collection with other short stories, novellas, and novels. It is her utmost desire to write that which not only pleases her Lord and Savior, but also draws the reader into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. 

 

Connect with Amanda

Email: amandaterobooks@gmail.com

Website: http://amandatero.com/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/amandaterobooks

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amandateroauthor/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/amandaruthtero/

 

Why don’t you check out the other blogs participating in this tour!

June 8 – With a Joyful Noise (Release Day Post)

              Resting Life (Spotlight, Review)

              The World of the Writer (Review)

              Authoring Arrowheads (Review)

              Purely by Faith Review (Review, Interview)

June 9 – Victoria’s Book Nook (Spotlight, Review, Giveaway)

              Bekah’s Books (Spotlight, Review, Interview)

June 11 – Clothed with Scarlet (Spotlight, Review, Giveaway)

              Reveries Reviews (Review)

June 12 – Chosen Vessels (Spotlight, Review)

              My Purple Pen (Review)

              Read Another Page (Review)

June 13 – Once Upon an Ordinary (Review)

              Maidens for Modesty (Review)

              Yahweh Sisters (Review)

June 14 – Honey Rock Hills (Review)

              Life of Heritage Corner (Spotlight, Review, Interview, Giveaway)

              Kaylee’s Kind of Writes (Review, Interview)

June 15 – The Red-Hooded Writer (Review)

              Blossoms and Blessings (Spotlight, Review, Interview, Giveaway)

              Lit Aflame (Review, Interview)

June 16 – The Left-Handed Typist (Review)

              Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen (Review, Interview, Giveaway)

June 18 – Great Books for God’s Girls (Review, Interview)

              Peculiar Miss Darcy (Character Interview)

June 19 – Done in Love (Spotlight, Review, Interview, Giveaway)

              Creating Romance (Spotlight, Review, Giveaway)

June 20 – Keturah’s Korner (Review, Interview)

              Rock and Minerals 4 Him (Spotlight, Review, Giveaway)

June 21 – A Baker’s Perspective (Review, Giveaway, Character Spotlight)

              Christian Author: A.M. Heath (Review, Interview)

June 22 – Writings, Ramblings, and Reflections (Review)

              Views from the Window Friend (Review)

              Hunting for Truth (Spotlight, Review, Giveaway)

June 23 – Reading on the Edge (Spotlight)

              Summer Snowflakes (Review, Giveaway)

June 25 – With a Joyful Noise (Giveaway Winner Announced)