Ocean of Storms by Christopher Mari and Jeremy K. Brown ~ Review

Ocean of Storms

Ocean of Storms by Christopher Mari and Jeremy K. Brown

I am a fan of old-fashioned early and mid-twentieth century science fiction. In fact, I also love the science fiction that was generated in the nineteenth century as well; I believe this is called Steampunk today. While I was growing up, it was simply considered a classic genre of literature. The reason I hark back to that time era is because science didn’t overwhelm the plot and the characterization of the protagonists and antagonists. Subplots and supporting characters were not overtaken by the glitz and glitter of modern technology. They were simply an element of good story telling.

I have since lost interest in the current run of sci fi trends. I rarely read any book of that genre. Technological glitz tends to become outdated too quickly for readers not to get distracted by what’s considered old news. I empathize with authors of that genre trying to please all schools of thought. It’s difficult to hold a reader’s interest. Maintaining a good balance is key. Only once in a rare while does a book appear that manages to hold up to the ideals of literature with science at it’s core. I believe Ocean of Storms has successfully crossed this invisible barrier.

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In my opinion, Ocean of Storms is an instant classic. It has everything it needs to qualify it as an adventure: solid storytelling, development of suspense, a twist on a classic theme, drama with well developed characters, international intrigue, traitors, greed, mystery and more. It is a fast-paced complex tale that does not get so overly tangled that the reader gets lost in too many heads.

The story begins when an EM pulse knocks out communications over the entire planet, setting governments scrambling to gain control over panicking and perturbed citizens. When the source of the pulse was pinpointed to the moon, an immediate second space race ensues. Which country would arrive on the moon first? What the mission discovers in the deep cavern becomes an unexpected twist to a classic theme. For me, the conclusions are memorable. I would love to see a movie made based on this book.

If you are a fan of fast-paced adventure with a touch of drama and intrigue without the cruelty, darkness and gore often dogging the modern genre, I highly recommend this book to you. It even improves on multiple subsequent readings. That’s something I don’t find very often in any genre.

Warning: There is some language that seems inevitable; However, I am pleased that it doesn’t contain the evil presence of venom and lack of value for human life we see often in current books.

Also note that this is not a Christian book. But it is a good book. I will occasionally post one on this site.

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The Naomi Chronicles Book 3: Beginning Anew (Inspirational Christian Romance) by Paula Rose Michelson ~ Review

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The Naomi Chronicles Book 3: Beginning Anew by Paula Rose Michelson

Beginning Anew is the third book of the Naomi Chronicles series. The entire series has close bearing on all the books as a whole, so my recommendation is for you to begin with the first book and proceed from there in order. These books are very much chronically ordered and reading the third book will make much more sense if you read the previous two books first.

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As I read this third story, I could see it is a transitional volume. First, Naomi and Chaz (also known as Chaim) are back together after a very rough beginning in their marriage. They have new complications to face both personally and as a couple. Chaz needs to become more comfortable in his new identity. Naomi also has to adjust to the new perception of her identity within the barrio she has lived in for 15 years. And, unfortunately, the Barrio itself undergoes a bit of a transition when the Church Father tries to make peace in the neighborhood. There are a few nail-biting moments when it doesn’t appear this effort is going to work.

Second, while we were introduced to Tia Vida in the first book, and became acquainted with her amazing work among immigrants, we never fully came to understand her as a person. This was true for Naomi, as well, in spite of being adopted by the woman and living with her. So in this third book, Naomi is introduced to the work of the Tia’s in a more personal manner, although Tia Vida passed on long ago, through a new found journal. This adds some new twists to a wonderfully developing plot as well as a hint of mystery.

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I love the new twists; there is also some tension as the newlyweds become more comfortable with each other and among their friends, new and old. While this is a historical piece of fiction, the issues addressed in this story are very relevant, even today. This is an exciting way to learn more of our country’s amazing history as it deals with immigrant life in developing neighborhoods. Even though this is a transition time for the newly married couple, the way it is written, there is not a dull moment in the entire book.

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I read several books a month. Some of them I write reviews for. Most of them do not stick with me over the course of time. I put them down and they are forgotten. That’s not true of any of the books in this series so far. Every single one of them has stayed with me weeks after I’ve read them. I believe it’s a sign of the relevance of the books’ contents. It’s a topic that interests me. It also has historical significance, which I enjoy. But it also reflects how well the books are written. Like most authors, the writing style is not perfect; but it is memorable. This is not just another feel good romance. There is nothing fluffy about this series. There is relevance and purpose behind the fiction. I’m drawn to that type of writing.

Of course, there is another book in the series. Not all of the issues brought up in this book are resolved. So I am looking forward to reading the next piece in this adventure. There are mysteries to be settled.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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The Hope of Refuge: An Ada’s House Novel by Cindy Woodsmall ~ Review

The Hope of Refuge Cindy Woodsmall book1

The Hope of Refuge: An Ada’s House Novel by Cindy Woodsmall

The Hope of Refuge by Cindy Woodsmall is the first book of a three book series: Ada’s House. This trilogy reminded me how much I enjoy books by this author. Ms. Woodsmall creates tales with emotional dynamics that pulls me in, keeps me reading intently without wanting to put down the book, and connect with the well-developed characters so that I feel I have a vested interest in the outcome.

Two of the main characters are Cara and Ephraim. Cara had been running since she was 15. She found respite once she married Johnny. The best thing that ever happened to her was their daughter Lori. But Johnny had cancer. And now she is on the run again, with Lori in tow. The one thing she has from her past that has brought her peace and direction is her diary from her mother. In it, she recently found a clue to past memories that were fleeting now. Acting on those clues, she left the city she grew up in and found herself without cash, out in the country, with Amish all around her.

perfect time

Ephraim found the mother and child in his old rickety barn. His first impulse was to chase them away. But eventually he learned that Cara had a reason for being in his barn. It had to do with memories from twenty years before. They couldn’t stay in the barn, and no one else seemed to want to help the two. So he took a risk, and did something that was dangerous to his standing in the Old Order Amish community. He let them stay in his house while Cara worked to get enough to set out on her own.

This isn’t a simple Amish tale. The author includes some truly heart-wrenching details, with twists and turns I didn’t anticipate. In spite of Cara’s rough background, and desperation at facing so many wrong turns, I had to admire her for her desire to care for her daughter and keep her safe; and what Ephraim had to do to protect this mother and daughter may also take you by surprise. I absolutely loved this book. It was so well written, I had difficulty finding a place to stop reading just to do normal every day tasks. Their story resolves nicely at the end. Be sure you have a box of tissues on hand toward the final chapters; you may need them!

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Looking ahead to the second book, the subplot in this book involving Ephraim’s sister, Deborah, and one of his good friends, Mahlon, becomes one of the main plots of the next book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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The Naomi Chronicles Book 2: Choosing to Be by Paula Rose Michelson ~ Review

Naomi Chronicles Choosing to Be new cover

The Naomi Chronicles Book 2: Choosing to Be by Paula Rose Michelson

This is book two of the series, The Naomi Chronicles. Both books are very closely tied, so even though they are complete books and can be read on their own, this second book closely continues the story begun in the first book and resolves much of it. I recommend you purchase them together and read them one right after the other.

The focus of this book divides between Naomi and her husband, Chaz. They are separated after only one week of marriage at the beginning of this story. What’s unique about this book is that the first book emphasized how most of life’s choices had been removed from Naomi’s life in her first thirty years. How many of us readers can identify with that? Stuff happens, and sometimes leads us places we hadn’t originally wanted to go. But now, she is at a crossroads and begins to realize she has many choices to make. The choices do not come easy to her, so this is her opportunity to learn many truths, find her inner peace, especially coming to peace with her past, and figure out how to proceed. Does she go back into hiding, or will she become like a butterfly, finally released from her cocoon?

Also in this second book, we become more acquainted with Chaz as an individual. We only get to know him briefly in the first book, so now his character becomes a little more developed and we see why he does the things he does. There is a twist in the plot here that may surprise you. I know it certainly knocked me for a loop when I learned more of his background. All I will tell you at this point is that there is a resolution for Naomi and Chaz. But the twist and the means of resolution is what makes this part of the tale so interesting.

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Meeting with God

There is so much to love in this second book. First, the author does a remarkable job of fashioning an old world atmosphere in the way Naomi dresses, talks and thinks that’s charming. But it is also in stark contrast to the rest of this new world, and it takes her time to adjust to the American way of life. I find that so endearing. The author uses a small boy to make that transition more palatable for Naomi. As the saying goes, “out of the mouth of babes…”

Second, the same little boy brings in comic relief while Naomi grapples with heavy life issues. How true to life! Often when we are trying to take in what God is speaking to us about, distractions are a way of bringing relief to the intensity of the moment. Either it becomes a way to take our minds off the issue and leads us away, or it helps us focus better on the point God is trying to make. I enjoy seeing how the author uses this feature for Naomi’s good.

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Third, I love the way the author leaves an opening for further development near the conclusion of the book. It makes me look forward to reading more of this series.

If you enjoyed this review, see my review of The Naomi Chronicles Book 1: No Other Choice here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of book 1 (basically) from the author and purchased this book on my own but with the author’s knowledge. My intention is to write a completely honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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The Naomi Chronicles Book 1: No Other Choice by Paula Rose Michelson ~ Review

No Other Choice new cover

The Naomi Chronicles Book 1: No Other Choice by Paula Rose Michelson

I have to say that this book and its sequel are some of the most intriguing reading I’ve experienced in a long while. It is the kind of story that makes you “walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins.” It is fiction, but based on history. That’s one of the reasons I love these books by this author so much.

First, the author prefaces the piece by asking us to imagine “what if” our beliefs were what threatened our family’s very lives. How would we live to survive? Suppose we saw our families and friends all around us killed or expelled or mistreated because of their similar beliefs? What would you do as a daughter of the house? Would you go into hiding? Live a lie? Fear for your life? Sacrifice for your family’s safety? With this mindset established, Naomi is introduced to us just as she sets foot in immigration as a 15-year-old girl, about to be deported because the family that was supposed to support her suddenly refuses to sponsor her in America. But she is rescued. The question presented in this book is this: was that rescue a blessing or a curse? You have to read this story to find out.

God puts things togeher

This book and book two used to be one story. So you need to purchase the second book to find the resolution to the first, which ends on a mild cliff hanger. Fortunately, book two picks up about five minutes after the first ends. Since this is a series, I didn’t mind that so much. But I feel you should know this and prepare to purchase both books together. In spite of that, book one is complete in that it encapsulates a complete idea and develops it thoroughly.

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I enjoy getting to know a subculture of America I have never become acquainted with, in this case the Spanish Harlem area, or Harlem as it’s known today. The author uses this setting to make the surrounding circumstances Naomi finds herself in alive and familiar. You get to know and somewhat understand her community, watch how Naomi sacrifices her life goals to play an important part of the barrio and in the lives of its citizens. The author writes this so well I felt as if I were part of the community.

Naomi herself is going through a transition. The reader becomes privy to her inner turmoil as she struggles to find her place in life. Then the author adds a sweet romance in the final chapters that brings all the circumstances to a head, adding slight tension in Naomi’s character development.

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I highly recommend this book, and of course, the entire series. It appears there is more to come, so I am looking forward to reading all the books based on how much I enjoyed the first two. I hope you will grow to love this series too.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was approached by this author to write a review of her books, and she offered me this one as a complimentary copy. (But I had already gotten it last year. So technically I am writing this review for my opinion with the blessing of the author.) I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Review: The Beyond Suffering Bible Where Struggles seem endless, God’s Hope is infinite

The Beyond Suffering Bible

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For many years, Bible publishers have released many types of application Bibles where the intention is to aid a specific target group of readers to better understand God’s Word as it applies to them. The first application Bibles I can remember were Men’s Study Bibles, Women’s Study Bibles, and Teen Study Bibles. These books consisted of the Scripture of a complete Bible, but with added commentary pages, footnotes, and marginal notes from the targeted point of view. Now, you can find boys’ application Bibles, girls’ application Bibles, students’ applications Bibles, Warrior Application Bibles for those who were or are in the military, and life lessons from certain individuals’ points of view (such as the Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible). I remember fondly the Scofield Bible my grandmother gave to me so many years ago. I loved all the extra insights written in the margins and footnotes. Now I have a new favorite Application Bible: The Beyond Suffering Bible.

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Application Bibles come in many translations. This particular Bible uses the New Living Translation. In the first few introductory pages you’ll find an explanation of the different types of translations. The NLT is meant to be a thought by thought translation written to flow smoothly as it’s read aloud. This is one of the reasons I love this Bible so well. It is easy to read and understand. A person suffering from physical or mental anguish does not need to struggle with a language or cultural barrier while they are seeking God’s help in enduring their various trials. I believe this translation is a great fit for this type of application Bible.

Another reason I love this book is for its devotional aspect. This feature is where the rubber meets the road! Interspersed among the pages of each chapter are page-long devotionals written with the sufferer or their caregivers and supporters in mind. The Foundation that has partnered with Tyndale House to publish this unique Bible is Joni and Friends. Joni Eareckson Tada herself has been a quadriplegic since 1967. Her organization has spearheaded an outreach ministry called the International Disability Center which reaches out to people all over the world affected by disabilities of all kinds. They are uniquely qualified to write devotions that will touch the reader’s heart, no matter what has caused their suffering.

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I could go on and on and tell you more about the variety of features packed into this special book, but I would like to share with you how this book particularly impacts my life. There are many kinds of disabilities. None of them are worse than any other kind of disability. For example, there are physical and very visible disabilities, physical but invisible afflictions, and invisible and perhaps not-so-physical disabilities. My own malady is invisible: Bipolar Type 2. There are people who think mental illnesses are not a legitimate disorder but a by-product of an overly self-centered society; that may contribute to it, but the affliction is very real to me. I know dozens of others who would agree with me. Several Mental illnesses are difficult to diagnose, and patients get treated more or less by trial and error. I need to rely heavily on God and a support group to help cope with the inner turmoil that hits me in cycles. This resource is a Godsend for me. I can see how much this Bible will mean to many who suffer in silence and without a good support system in their lives. I plan on using this Bible as much as possible in my devotions.

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So now you know how excited I am about this resource. I just know it’s going to be proven invaluable for so many individuals, support churches, caregivers, support organizations, those who bear the burden of any type of disability, whether visible or invisible, and indeed, anyone who suffers. There are no other books out there quite like this one. I encourage you to purchase one of these for yourself or share one with someone you know who may benefit from it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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