The Deuce (Midtown Blue Book 1) by F.P. Lione ~ Review

The Deuce pic

The Deuce (Midtown Blue Book 1) by F.P. Lione

CKN Christian Publishing did readers a favor by bringing this book to our attention. Not too long ago I reviewed another book by F.P. Lione, which by the way is a writing team, not a single author. It’s apparent the team loves to use New York City as a setting. So first of all, if you are a country loving person like me, don’t turn away from the book because of this. Give it a fair chance. It is well worth it.

Second, if you are a person who easily gets lost in the trees for the forest, you may struggle a little bit with the beginning half of the book. There are a lot of details, but if you take a moment and look at the big picture, there is a good reason for this. The first half of the book sets the scene, the premise, and the background of the main character, Tony Cavalucci, a 10-year veteran NYPD cop. The reason I say this is because this writing team demonstrates a rare quality I do not find often in the writing industry, in my opinion. Wannabe writers often hear the warning, “show, don’t tell.” In other words, don’t just tell the reader what you want them to know, show them. Make it an experience. Most writers I know try really hard to do this, but it isn’t easy to accomplish. Well, if you want to see how it is done, then read this book. But you must read it all the way through to the end without judgment to understand the point of the story. I’m afraid many readers just won’t get it. The pace is not the breakneck speed we are used to when watching crime and cop shows on television. It tends to move more slowly at first, picking up the pace mid way. It could possibly be too easy to get lost in the details and miss the crux of the matter.

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Thirdly, if you love police procedurals, this is a story you’ll enjoy. At the very least, the first half of the book is about the daily life and matters during the main character’s patrol with his partner Joe. Just be aware this is not written to give you an adrenaline rush. What I appreciate about this part of the book is that it is gritty and nasty, but not crude or graphic. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s family reading, but it is a good clean read without filth. The point however in this first section is that you feel what Tony feels about his life. I think the authors did a remarkable job in portraying the despair and futility that hits Tony day after day. It is written in such a way that the reader is meant to feel this with him. If you don’t, you may miss the crucial turning point for this good cop in the second half of the book.

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I won’t say much about the turning point of this story except to say that it takes time and it’s subtle. It’s not as easy as turning Tony from sour to saint. Not at all. In fact, the way the story ends is much more true to life than most Christian fiction books I read. Instead of a definitive end, you could say that at the conclusion of the book you feel that this is just the beginning for Tony. I felt that way and thought to myself, “I would definitely want to read more.” So if the hints are true, and this is a series, then I’ll be very happy to read more. I hope you will too when you read this book.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from CKN Christian Publishing on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. 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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Mistletoe Memories: 4 in 1 Romance Collection ~ Review

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Mistletoe Memories: 4 in 1 Romance Collection

This book is a collection of four short romance stories centered around Christmas time: ‘Tis the Season by Carla Olson Gade, Mercy Mild by Gina Welborn, Midnight Clear by Lisa Karon Richardson, and Comfort and joy by Jennifer AiLee. All were published in 2013. Each story covers a different period of time but all in the same location: Schooley’s Mountain, New Jersey. All are romances but also involve children, usually orphans finding homes. These are the type of stories you don’t mind if the children read over your shoulder. They are squeaky clean and sweet.

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The basic theme is good people overcoming adversity. From historical romance to contemporary romance, each of these stories fit into this book as part of a whole. Reading this, I felt a sense of continuity that was comfortable. There’s a sense of community even if it spans a couple centuries. Each is the perfect length for a short, feel good Christmas read.

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There’s a lot of fun packed in these four short stories. I had a good laugh over the antics of the children. The romances were sweet. The drama was mild in keeping with the Christmas spirit. And God was honored in each of the stories in many special ways. Overall this is a very pleasant book.

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A Bleu Streak Christmas by T.I. Lowe ~ Review

A Bleu Streak Christmas pic

A Bleu Streak Christmas by T.I. Lowe

A Bleu Streak Christmas is the second book of a three book series. I have read this book without the benefit of reading either of the other books of this series, which I intend to do as soon as possible. I could tell there was some back story with one of the main characters, Maverick King, one of the King twins. In fact, several times there were references to a back story, but in spite of that, the book easily stood alone as its own story. Once I read it however, and found it was part of a series, I definitely wanted to read the other two parts.

Bleu Streak is a rock band with shaky beginnings. But by the time this book starts, they are established and raring to go on tour. Some of the members of the band are married with children. It doesn’t seem to hinder them from traveling, although it has slowed them down a bit. In fact, one of the wives is very pregnant, and will not be able to perform her usual jobs while traveling, so the band decided to hire a personal assistant to the manager. They hired Izzy Walker. As soon as Mave sees her, sparks start to fly. Unlike the “plastic women” he is used to, those that hang around rock stars, she doesn’t seem impressed with him. In fact, she shies away from him most of the time. So now he is intrigued.

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Interestingly, this book is written in the first person. Half the story is from Mave’s point of view, while the other half is from Izzy’s point of view. Don’t expect formal language; this is not historical fiction. They talk in the moment, in the way you would expect someone in that age group to talk or to think. I’m not usually very comfortable with first person, but the author does this pretty well. It felt authentic and helped me gain a fresh point of view.

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What I enjoyed most about this book were the pranks all the band members would play on each other. They were a family, with that family feel you get when you are comfortable in your skin and with each other. So the pranks were funny and downright creative. There were a lot of great belly laugh moments. I completely enjoyed this book, and that made the reading go quickly. It is supposed to be a novella, but it had the feel of a full length book. I felt I left the story knowing something of the experience of members of a band on tour. In the end, I couldn’t help but be impressed with the fibre of this group of guys. Big hearted, kind, caring, bumbling, funny, but family. Nicely done, T.I. Lowe.

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The Christmas Cowboy by Shanna Hatfield ~ Review

The Christmas Cowboy by Shanna Hatfield

Christmas Cowboy pic

If you are looking for a sweet and clean romance, slightly fluffy, but with no crudeness or sex, then this is the read for you. It is one of my favorite romances, with a western flavor, and Christmas related to boot.

Tate Morgan grew up on a ranch; it’s his way of life. On top of that, he is a talented bronc rider taking awards on the rodeo circuit. As you read this story, you are either going to think to yourself, “Is this guy real? He’s too good to be true” or “Ok, what’s his game?” But it turns out that he’s a genuinely nice guy who loves life and people. He’s surrounded by women fans. Sometimes they get on his nerves because of their aggressiveness. He would rather do the chasing when it comes to finding one that would fit into his life. So far, he hasn’t found one he can picture living with and having a family with. Then he meets Kenzie Beckett.

one gift is life altering

Kenzie Beckett is a little shy when it comes to cowboys. She’s had some bad experiences. But secretly she really likes Tate Morgan once she gets to know him. The problem is she believes all cowboys are players. So when she thinks she sees evidence of that in Tate, she runs. The best part of the story is how they resolved this issue.

There’s a lot of great humor in this story. That’s one of my favorite parts of this book. I enjoy laughing, and the give and take Tate and Kenzie share is wonderful. And Tate’s friends are great guys too. That’s good writing on the part of the author.

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From time to time I enjoy an uncomplicated plot, especially around the holidays. I find it enjoyable to read a more simple story between larger novels with complex plots and scenes, and non-fiction books. This fits very well in that category. If you enjoy a great, clean story with a feel good romance, a clear cut hero and heroine, a happily after, (and yeah, it’s formulaic) then I recommend this book for you.

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Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh ~ Review

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Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh

For many folks, Christmas is a happy time of year. It’s filled with warm cozy memories, family, food and fun. But it is not that way for everyone. For some people this holiday only brings them pain and emptiness. There may be bad memories or a lack of good memories. What then? Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh is all about one couple dealing with the emptiness of loss at one of the most family oriented times of the year.

Stan and Judith Winters are empty nesters. And this year it was painfully obvious. Their three children are grown, married, with families and good jobs. And they are scattered all over the US. None were able to come home for Thanksgiving, and Judith has just learned that none of them will be able to afford to come home for Christmas either. This has put Judith into a deep depression which she has been unable to shake. Stan and Judith’s best friends, Barney and Betty (I don’t know their last names, but it probably isn’t Rubble!) even tried to cheer Judith up. Nothing seemed to work. Stan knew there had to be a solution to the problem, but he just couldn’t think what it could be.

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There were so many poignant moments in this book. Judith’s feelings are understandable and very true for many other people dealing with the empty nest. It drew me in, made me feel a little sad as I read her plight. But even though the predominant problem is sad, there were still plenty of funny and even feel-good moments. I enjoyed the book so much, in fact, that I have read it several times in the past couple of years.

My favorite part of the story was a discussion between Judith and Betty about their husbands. Keep in mind that this book is written by a male author, so it was so surprising to read their discussion about how men seem to have switches on their feelings, and how often they can switch off those feelings while the wife just can’t do that. The discussion was precious. I found myself agreeing, “Yeah, how is that possible?” The author nailed that conversation.

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The second most favorite part about the story was the description of the ugly ornaments and their significance. Again, I felt a heart tug here because our children and I used to make ornaments when they were younger. There were a lot of fond memories wrapped up in those years. As it turns out, those ornaments play an important part in the resolution, which was a perfect way to end the book. Even if you’re not an empty nester, I believe you’ll enjoy reading this story.

Christ died for you individually Santa kneels

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley on behalf of the author and Revell. 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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Merry Kisses A Riverbend Romance Novella 5 by Valerie Comer ~ Review

Merry Kisses A Riverbend Romance Novella 5 by Valerie Comer

Merry Kisses A Riverbend Romance Novella 5 by Valerie Comer

This is a new author to me, but I did enjoy this book very much. So much, in fact, that I read it twice in a row, back to back. What attracted me to the story most was the element of conflict between the two prominent characters, Sonya Simmons and Heath Collins. I have to say that the topic of interest was one I hadn’t read in other books before. I think it will be especially interesting to those who are young Christian parents.

I enjoy novellas. They are unique because the story usually remains focused on a single topic. Novellas can be used by authors as prequels, sequels, as a way to supplement a series with characters that are on the peripheral, or use a familiar setting but with entirely new characters. Because a novella is shorter, you can read it in just a few hours. But what I like most is that it is a way to showcase an author’s ability to delve into some great characterization in a short period of time. A few are successful at growing their characters satisfactorily. This author has that talent. Because of the interesting topic the main characters have conflict over, we become privvy to some interesting thought processes and provoking ideas.

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Another element of the story I enjoyed was the great humor the author employed when Sonya and Heath are together. The situation Sonya got into at the beginning of the story was funny and yet serious at the same time. And Heath was an entirely likeable guy. He didn’t mean to get Sonya into trouble, and his efforts to ingratiate himself with Sonya were humorous.

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Third, I just enjoy Christmas stories. Period. I found the situation of conflict between the two that included some interesting aspects about Christmas thought provoking and plausible, since I used to be a young parent once and struggled with some elements of the holidays too. I recommend this book, especially if you enjoy Christmas novellas.

 

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Entrusted: Surrendering the Present (Surrendering Time Bk.1) by Julie Arduini ~ Review

Entrusted surrendering the present pic

Entrusted: Surrendering the Present (Surrendering Time Bk 1)

Jenna Anderson leaves Ohio and big cities behind when she takes a job in the tiny town of Speculator Falls, located in the Adirondacks. It’s a bit of culture shock when she discovers her GPS and her little car won’t work well in the mountains. And that’s just the beginning of her troubles.

Jenna’s presence in the little town is both welcomed and unwelcomed. She has become the new director of the senior citizen center in town. It wasn’t long before she learned that she was hired by Sara Bivins who went behind the backs of the town council. So now she was tasked with bringing life back to the center while trying to win the town council over to having the center open again. Her primary obstacle is Ben Regan, the local grocer and councilman, Sara’s grandson.

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The author does a terrific job of building tension between Jenna and Ben. The tension exists because while there is some conflict, there is also some attraction between them. There is also some great personalities among the seniors at the center while Jenna brings the community to life with her original suggestions. It doesn’t take long for the reader to develop a sense of anticipation, facing conflicts as she gains approval in the little town. I loved the way each personality plays into the general theme of growth, acceptance, a sense of community and trust.

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The other thing I enjoy about this book is that this author does not shy away from writing about spiritual issues, using many of the senior citizens’ wisdom as well as the wisdom of the local church’s pastor in facing doubts, fears, and change. While I realize some readers do not like “preaching” in their books, I rather enjoy it, especially when it’s done with warmth and heart and out of genuine love and concern. That’s the way it’s supposed to be anyway since living a Christian life is about relationships and reconciliation with God rather than as a religion of do’s and don’ts. This author adroitly shows us how this can fit into a small community such as Speculator Falls.

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This book is a short read. I easily read it in just a few hour’s time. I enjoyed the romantic elements in the book. The author did a lovely job in the space of a short story of developing her main characters. There were also other people in the story whose story is going to be continued in the next two books of the series. There are no undeveloped cliff hangers. The important issues are nicely resolved.

 

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