Critical Pursuit by Janice Cantore ~ Review ~

Critical Pursuit by Janice Cantore

Critical Pursuit

Brinna Caruso is a cop with a mission. Twenty years earlier, she was a victim of an abduction. Fortunately, hours later a police officer with a search and rescue dog found her and returned her home. That experience influenced her decision to become involved in search and rescue for abducted and missing children herself. When she joined the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD), she eventually acquired a scent-trained search dog through a federal grant. Hero became her partner. Milo, the policeman who rescued her, kept in touch and mentored her, helping her become the successful cop she is now.

What Brinna doesn’t know is that her abductor is not only alive but in the area. He saw a newspaper article about Brinna in which the journalist made an issue of her 20 year’s anniversary since her abduction and rescue. She also made an issue of Brinna’s mission as K-9 officer to participate in as many searches and track down as many abductors as possible. He decided to do some celebrating himself, by taunting her–new little girls to snatch before he disappeared again.

Jack O’Reilly has been on the force for fifteen years. He was a homicide detective, one of the best at LBPD. But a year before, a drunk driver crushed Jack’s spirit with a head on crash that killed his wife and unborn daughter. Since then, he has only lived to see the man pay for his crime. Nothing else gave him any purpose.

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When one night on patrol with Hero, Brinna defensively shot a young perp after a high speed car chase, the press turned on her, vilifying her actions. She was temporarily re-assigned to patrol status with Jack O’Reilly. She didn’t want to be there with him, and he didn’t want to be there with her. But as Jack got to know Caruso he became impressed with her drive to be every missing child’s savior. Apparently, he’d been growing cynical. Could he ever be the same cop he’d been six years ago?

Both Jack O’Reilly and Brinna Carusso have issues in their lives that they haven’t really faced honestly. This is something most of us can relate with. For Jack, his loss had drained him of desire to keep living. When Brinna worked with him, she observed that his eyes looked dead, as if no one was home inside. He was so bitter, he turned his back on God and forsook a relationship with Him. He didn’t want to believe in a god who took his family away so cruelly.

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Brinna herself was not dealing well with her own haunting past. Not only had she been abducted, molested, abandoned and left to die in the desert, but when she returned home her father disappeared into the bottle, never returning to be a dad for her. Now as an adult, she buries herself in her obsession of rescuing lost children and riding herd on sex offenders. She even partners with the FBI. She did not believe in God in spite of her mother’s faith in one. She felt it best to trust in her own intuitions and instincts. So far, they have served her well. But now her father has cancer and wants to see her.

When she and Jack were assigned to work patrol together, it worked surprisingly well for them. They understood each other and even helped each other, albeit unknowingly and unwillingly at first.

Janice Cantore writes an action-packed adventure/mystery based on her own 22 years of service as a police officer in Long Beach, CA. The action is tight and feels authentic. The bad guy in the story is truly creepy but smart enough to keep the FBI and the local law enforcement hopping to keep up with him and protect the little girls he harms. The author’s talent brings to her readers thrilling action and suspense as well as relevant faith- oriented character development.

I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading the next book, Visible Threat, as well as other books written by this author.

I am reading and reviewing this book for the Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. summer reading program. 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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Crossreads Bookblast with Robin Merrill~ The Jesus Diet ~

thejesusdiet

The Jesus Diet: How the Holy Spirit Coached Me to a 50-Pound Weight Loss

By Robin Merrill

About the Book:

In The Jesus Diet: How the Holy Spirit Coached Me to a 50-Pound Weight Loss, Author/Poet Robin Merrill shares her weight loss experiences through 30 Bible devotions designed to inspire others to join her on her journey toward improved spiritual, and physical, health.

LINK to KINDLE | LINK to PAPERBACK

robin 12 web (2)Robin Merrill is the author of several books, including The Jesus Diet: How the Holy Spirit Coached Me to a 50-Pound Weight Loss (30 Devotions), two collections of poetry from Moon Pie Press, and five Scholastic Book Fair books.

Her poems, short stories, articles, and essays have appeared in hundreds of publications, including The Cafe Review, Ledge Magazine, Margie, Pearl, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Stolen Island Review. Three of her poems have been featured on The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. She is a 2013 recipient of an Emerging Artist Award from St. Botolph Club Foundation of Boston.

Robin is also a performance/slam poet who has competed at the national level. She has her MFA from Stonecoast and frequently leads creative writing workshops for writers of all levels.

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We would like to send out a special THANK YOU to all of the CrossReads book blast bloggers!

 

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Haunted Waters (Red Rock Mysteries #1) by Jerry Jenkins and Chris Fabry ~ Review ~

Haunted Waters (Red Rock Mysteries #1) by Jerry Jenkins and Chris Fabry

Haunted Waters

Adventure, excitement and danger seemed to follow Ashley and Bryce Timberline wherever they go. First, their dad died in a mysterious accident. Then they moved to Colorado with their mom and baby brother so they could start their lives over. It was in Colorado that their mom met and fell in love with Sam (Bryce and Ashley call him The Cowboy), who has a daughter age 16. Ashley and her twin are 13. Their baby brother is only four.

Being in a blended family was tough for a teen. So one weekend, Sam suggested a cabin in the mountains adventure with just the four of them–the twins, Dylan and Sam–while their mom stayed home to finish a book she was writing. They had skiing, sledding and tubing to look forward to, satellite hook-up in the cabin and their own pinball machine. To top that off, they were going to view a large gold nugget on display nearby and a replica of a mine shaft where gold was found. That’s when all the adventures began.

Haunted Waters is told in the first person with chapters alternating between Bryce’s point of view and Ashley’s point of view. Their adventure includes thieves, suspicious people who follow them, break-ins, and eventually high speed chases and a life threatening accident. But in the conclusion, the reader is left in suspense when the twins discover a secret about their step-dad.

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This book is perfect for middle grade readers. Ashley and Bryce face relevant situations that other pre-teens and teens would understand, such as bullies at school, and enjoy great laughs at the witty exchange between the twins.

I especially liked how the book’s high interest level but lower reading level makes it appealing to a wide age range. This is a book and series I would want my own children to read. The adventures are fun, the language and attitudes of the characters are clean, while the young people and adults are not perfect or unrealistically “too good to be true.” Since Ashley, Bryce and their mom are Christians, they live their faith out through their daily lives rather than preach about it. They may falter from time to time, but they learn and grow through their experiences.

I am reading and reviewing this book for the Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. summer reading program. 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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Hannah’s Courtship by Emma Miller ~ Review ~

Hannah’s Courtship by Emma Miller

 

Hannahs Courtship

Looking back over her life, Hannah Yoder could see how blessed she’s been. She had married Jonas, the love of her life, born a house full of daughters, five of whom are presently married with Rebecca preparing to be married in the Fall. That left her with Susanna, her special Down’s Syndrome child, and Irwin, her foster son. She lived in a two-hundred-year-old farmhouse on a prosperous farm in an Old Order Amish community in Delaware. Now she was a widow at fifty. To supplement the farm’s income and to remain somewhat self-sufficient, she has taught in the local Amish school for the past five years. She is surrounded by good friends, family and a close-knit community. But even with all that, sometimes she felt something was missing.

Albert Hartman was Seven Poplar’s veterinarian. He had worked hard to study for and establish his practice in this community. Time has slipped by before he’d hardly noticed, and now he was in his mid-fifties, unmarried and alone, only months after his father had passed. He loved his work, sharing the responsibilities with his nephew John, but the spark had gone out from his life. What was all that effort for anyway? What did he have to live for? John and his wife Grace had suggested he take up a hobby. He gave it some thought and felt he would enjoy raising alpacas for fun.

As the local vet, Albert had known Jonas and Hannah Yoder for many years. They were neighbors. He was respected in the Amish community even though he was himself Mennonite. One day he visited Hannah to check on her pony; he asked her if he could board his small herd of alpacas in her second barn. It was empty now that Jonas and most of the daughters were gone. He and Hannah agreed to exchange veterinarian care of her stock for the boarding and acreage he needed. His own property had no barn or outbuildings. After this exchange, Albert stopped by twice a day to care for his animals. Sometimes Hannah would stop in to help him or watch the alpacas. If Rebecca and Susanna were home, she would ask him to share a meal with them. The Amish had strict rules about men and women socializing together.

They found plenty to talk about. Susanna has been friends with a neighbor boy since they moved into the small community. Their son David also had Down’s Syndrome. It soon became evident that the two young people liked each other enough to want to do what every other young Amish adults did–they wanted to court. Hannah didn’t know what to do about it. She talked to friends and Albert about her concerns and prayed for wisdom. In all the uncertainties of her situation, Albert wanted to be there for Hannah. It finally occurred to him how much he cared for her. He wondered if she cared for him the way he did for her. Could a Mennonite man court an Amish woman?

Peace I leave with you

The author, Emma Miller, has given her readers an intriguing glimpse into an Amish community and how they handle unique circumstances. Some of her other books are about Hannah’s daughters: Courting Ruth, Miriam’s Heart, Anna’s Gift, Leah’s Choice, Redeeming Grace, Johanna’s Bridegroom, and Rebecca’s Christmas Gift. With deep insight into human nature, first hand acquaintance with country life in Delaware, and understanding the special dynamics that accompany large families, this story stirred my heart. I could feel with Hannah the ache of a mother’s heart over a special child with the desire to hold on too tightly, and to be overly protective.

What I found most compelling about this story was the sweet romance that developed between Hannah and Albert. Hannah is wise and kind, and Albert is strong, responsible and head over heels in love with her. It was heartwarming to read just to what lengths he would go to marry her. If you enjoy reading Amish books and good romance stories, then you will love this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley on behalf of Harlequin Love Inspired. 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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When I Fall in Love (A Christiansen Family novel #3) by Susan May Warren ~ Review ~

When I Fall in Love (A Christiansen Family novel #3) by Susan May Warren

When I Fall in Love

Family and falling in love are two of my favorite topics to read about in fiction. I can tell when a writer enjoys taking pen to paper about these topics when what is read leads to the warmth and joy of both, as if they know exactly what they are writing about. That’s what Susan May Warren does with this book. Of course, the familial relationships have their rough terrain to cover, their rifts to mend, and detours to take. Sometimes the family drama causes tension for the romance that’s developing, and sometimes the romance creates a bump in the road for the family. The romances suffer the same complications. I especially appreciate an author who can weave both elements in the tale.

The major plot in When I Fall in Love revolves around Grace Christiansen and Max Sharpe. Max is a right wing player for the St. Paul Blue Ox hockey team. He helped his team get into the division finals for the Stanley Cup. Owen Christiansen was one of his teammates before an accident took him out of the game permanently. Max has born the guilt of the outcome of that accident this past year, so when another teammate, Jase, asks his assistance for Owen’s sister, whom he’s never met, on a trip to Hawaii, he reluctantly agrees. He believes he owes it to Owen.

Grace Christiansen doesn’t know Max or anything about Owen’s accident. Her desire to become a chef is deeply ingrained in family tradition and camaraderie. She is a foodie and loves to cook for her large family. She has already applied to culinary academy and when her sister and future brother-in-law, Eden and Jase, asked her to go to Hawaii for a culinary course in Hawaiian cooking, she was hesitant but willing. She was going to cook a Hawaiian meal for their wedding.

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Grace and Max somehow missed each other at the airport where they were supposed to meet, but it turns out they were seated next to each other (seats 9B and 9A). Grace hates to travel; when she sat down in the plane her nervousness was obvious to the passenger next to her. Max had no choice but to help her through the experience, especially when she got sick. They became friends before they realized Jase and Eden had set them up. But then they discover their love of cooking and the fun began until secrets Max was keeping complicated their relationship.

The subplots in the book move the reader closer to the Christiansen family, helping us understand how the family dynamics influenced Grace’s life, her fears, her relationship with God, and her life goals. Owen has become angry and bitter after the accident that destroyed his career in hockey. Hurting people hurt people; so when Owen met Raina Beaumont, Grace’s culinary assistant, at his brother Derek’s wedding, he took advantage of her then callously left her. Soon after, Raina meets Casper, the middle son of the Christiansen boys. She realizes the two men are nothing alike and is attracted to Casper. Just as she thinks she can trust Casper, he finds out she has a secret and leaves her. Her friendship with Grace is the only thing keeping her from running away herself. But because Grace understands how devastating keeping secrets can be, she is determined to help Raina.

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Relationships and family are an important ingredient in this book. There is back history, deep secrets, internal battles being waged against fears. It is those fears that are preventing many of the characters in the story from the joys and triumphs of even simple victories. All in all, it is a complex yet satisfying story to read. The author has written this book in a contemporary voice, populating the story with people who could be our family or friends. The issues they face could be ones any of us may have to experience. I was drawn to care about Raina’s and Casper’s relationship as much as I cared about Max and Grace’s future. And during this journey, I was given the opportunity to ponder some important facets about love, life and our relationship with God.

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In addition to its contemporary draw, I couldn’t help loving the humor the author injects into Grace’s friendship with Max, her sister Eden, and her three brothers. It’s well balanced with some of the more serious moments and issues some of the characters have to face. As a reader, I just knew that Max and Grace’s romance would survive the hurdles thrust before them, because their relationship just sparkled with humor and wit. I enjoyed this author’s writing style so much that I’m looking forward to finding and reading the rest of the Christiansen Family series.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. through their Blog Program. 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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Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre ~ Review ~

 

Oliver and the Seawigs

Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

Oliver Crisp was ten when his parents claimed they had discovered everything there was to discover. They should know, since they had been world travelers and explorers since before Oliver was born. He hardly remembered his home since they only spent two weeks of every year living in it. But it was right outside this home he scarcely remembered where they discovered brand new, uncharted islands…a whole cluster of them. So of course, before they even set foot in their house, they took off in their orange inflatable dinghy to look at the largest of the group. They invited Oliver, but he was still busy unpacking his things in his room and didn’t really want to go. Hours later, he realized they hadn’t returned. Looking out his window, he was startled to see that most of the islands were gone! With the inflatable dinghy bumping into the shore, he saw no sign of his parents.

Oliver was not flustered. He packed a rucksack of useful things, hopped aboard the dinghy and took off to look at the one remaining island. There, he met a talking albatross who warned him that the island was about to leave the area. Oliver refused to leave; he was determined to find his parents. The island shivered and shook while it moved away, taking Oliver on the adventure of a lifetime. On this journey, he met some wacky but friendly creatures, and some even wackier ones that were not at all friendly. Eventually he found his parents, encased in clear baubles, captured by a vain and selfish island. Oliver’s new friends were willing to help him, even the sad little island called Cliff.

book weekend

The author, Philip Reeve, employs a great sense of humor in creating this story. If my children were young again, this book would be at the top of my “read aloud” pile. The tri-color pictures created by Sarah McIntyre complement the light-hearted and silly tone of the story. They are animated and lovable and perfect for this 67-page book. The book would be an easy read for middle graders, and a good challenge for early elementary grade readers. But I believe many ages will enjoy this delightful story, especially if it was read to them.

For me, this book has the classic feel of “My Father’s Dragons”, “Where the Wild Things Are”, and “Caps for Sale”, “The Song and Dance Man,” “Owl Moon,” and “The Polar Express.” A bully is overcome, right trumps wrong, a young boy is a hero and saves the day. I highly recommend the book for your children.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley, on behalf of Random House Children’s Books. 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 Midwife by Jolina Petersheim ~ Review ~

Midwife

The Midwife by Jolina Petersheim

When you read this book, be prepared for an unusual chronology. The prologue is a glimpse into the future, mysterious and puzzling. It does not prepare you for what’s to come, but rather sets the tone for the book.

In the opening chapters we are introduced to Beth Winslow, a graduate student assigned to Dr. Thomas Fitzpatrick. To assist in the completion of her Master’s degree, she has agreed to become the gestational surrogate for the doctor and his wife, Meredith. It’s 1995 and soon Beth will be faced with a life changing dilemma.

Then we are transported to the present, 2014, and meet Rhoda Mummau, a midwife for Hopen Haus in the tiny community of Dry Hollow, Pennsylvania. Hopen Haus is a charity home for unwed pregnant girls, run by the Mennonite church. The house had just received some unwelcome (for religious reasons) publicity and out of the past, Rhoda’s past, Ernest Looper shows up and offers his services as handyman. It is clear that he and Rhoda share some type of history.

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From then on the story hops from Beth in the past to Rhoda in the present. The author keeps the reader mystified about their connection until about a third of the way through the book when we start to see some patterns.

After the newspaper article about Hopen Haus was published, Amelia arrives. She is pregnant like the other girls and is trying to decide what to do with her life. We begin to see what living at Hopen Haus is like through the eyes of one of the patients. Amelia makes friends with Lydie, a 16-year-old Mennonite living at the Haus until she has her baby. It’s an odd friendship, a rich city girl and a mennonite; but it works.

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At first, I found the shifting chronology to be annoying and confusing. It appeared aimless to me until some of the puzzle pieces fell into place. What kept me motivated to read was the desire to make sense of the opening story. Looking back, I can better appreciate the chronology presented since it was the timing of revealed factors that added to the suspense and urgency. I’m still not a fan of this approach, but in this story it serves to increase expectations. I just couldn’t put the book down.

What genre is this book written in? I can tell you better what it is not than what it is. For example, it is not a typical romance although there is a satisfying conclusion and the presence of some romance. Midwife quote1It is not a boy meets girl kind of story. Many of the characters are not who they claim to be. Yet this is a story that does not easily fit into the mystery, suspense, or thriller genres. There is some mystery, some suspense, but those are not the driving force. It has more character development than action, so it is not a thriller or an action and adventure book. This is not even a “bonnets” story, even though the midwife, Rhoda, is Mennonite, wears a cape dress, apron, and a prayer kapp. Being Mennonite is pretty much incidental because the central issues revolve around identity, acceptance, pain, loss, hiding, finding love, and resolution. In essence, it is a contemporary tale that deals with some hard-hitting issues at the core. The thought provoking problems seem to have come out of the author’s “what if” file, assuming she has one. I don’t think you can pin a particular genre to this book. As I read, the thing uppermost in my mind was a big question mark.

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The segment I found most heartwarming was the friendship Rhoda found in Fanny Graber, the head midwife of Hopen Haus when Rhoda first arrived there pregnant and frightened. A special friendship developed between the elderly Mennonite and the young girl. Rhoda met the Lord because of Fanny. It was the first time she felt completely accepted, wanted and loved. Eventually, Fanny taught her to be a midwife. It was a task Rhoda adopted as her own mission–to care for the girls who came for assistance–even after Fanny had passed on.

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There are parts of the book that will grip you and emotionally wring you dry. Most of the accounts are told in the first person, so that the point of view becomes personal to the reader. Toward the end, the resolution includes some twists in the plot that, in spite of a few clues, will still surprise the reader. That said, I still found more satisfaction from the second reading of the book. Once I had more of the pieces in place in my mind, it was easier for me to follow.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley on behalf of 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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