The Crossroads: a Midtown Blue series book 2 by F.P. Lione ~ Review

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The Crossroads: a Midtown Blue series book 2 by F.P. Lione

This is the second book in the Midtown Blue series by the writing team of Frank and Pam Lione. The Crossroads follows The Deuce which is focused on Tony and Joe, partners with the NYPD. The events pick up right after the first book where Tony Cavalucci finds the Lord and begins to grow in his faith.

Because of the authors’ experiences in New York City with the NYPD and downtown missions, this book is filled with meticulous detail on the daily life of the New York City cops. We get a good sense of what it takes to do this job from day to day. In the first book we also discover that Tony’s family is dysfunctional and that his life is wrapped up in the drama they cause for him. Tony used to lean heavily on drinking to deal with this mess. But now, he is determined not to depend on drink to escape and must face his trials head on, with the help of his partner Joe Fiore, who is also a genuine believer in Christ.

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The first time Tony brings his new girlfriend to a family dinner, she and her little 4-year-old son are nearly roasted in family judgmentalism and disapproval. This causes a rift between Tony and Michele and leaves Tony wondering how he is supposed to handle his family in a way that reflect his newfound belief. This is a frequent topic between Tony and Joe as they work their beat day after day. When Tony feels all is hopeless, Joe assures him that God is working in his family. Sure enough, Tony is later astonished when his alcoholic mother contacts him and wants to make amends. At first he doesn’t believe she is changed, so he cautiously holds her at arm’s length and watches to see what happens next.

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The part of this story I like best was the detail describing how the city banded together to prepare for New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square. I was never aware of how much preparation it took to host this event and make it safe for everyone. Just that part of the book was worth the read.

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Another part I like about both the books in this series is the details of all the action the police officers carried out in a typical day. It reminded me of the very old police shows on TV with a little droll humor, some unremarkable events, some food for thought and a touch of strangeness. I found it fascinating. If you enjoy this type of book, then I highly recommend this for your reading.

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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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My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York: Adele’s Journey by Amanda Barratt ~ Review

My Heart Belongs In Niagara Falls New York pic

My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls New York by Amanda Barratt

Not too many of us are familiar with the term funambulist. It’s an old term, but it is still in use even today. Perhaps we would be more familiar with tight rope walker. And we may even remember a recent figure making news across the world, Nik Wallenda. He has set many records for even his famous family. Like one of the main characters in this book, Nik Wallenda crossed Niagara Falls. Just look at the preparation required for this task to be done safely.

And yet the main character in this book, Drew Dawson, did not make these types of preparations when he walked across the tightrope stretched across Niagara Falls. Why did he do such a risky thing? Why did he put his life on the line, so to speak? Was he trying to imitate the famous Charles Blondin, funambulist extraordinaire of his time? Was he hero worshipping?

One thing I like most about Drew Dawson was his similarity to Nik Wallenda as they walked the line. Listen to Nik as he crossed the Grand Canyon years ago.

There is a striking resemblance between the two. They pray as they walk. I like that similarity. I like how the author created this similarity in her book, My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York. For Drew, it was not for the name or the fame that comes with the deed. It was out of necessity, for his sister’s well being. She was in a wheelchair because of an accident years before. That tells me a lot about the character of this man. It makes him a hero in my eyes.

Adele Louise Linley did not fully appreciate this quality in Drew when she first met him. In fact, she didn’t know what he did for a living until awhile into their friendship. In the meantime, Adele was in the United States to perform an unsavory duty for her mother and brother living in England. She was in the states to marry for money to save her ancestral home. Even though she was drawn to Drew, he did not have the money she needed to save her home. The fact that things didn’t work out for either of them the way they had planned was an opportunity for God to work His will for a better plan in their lives.

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In this lovely romance, Drew and Adele are drawn to each other, but are at cross purposes. They could see no way out of their individual dilemma’s by a close association with each other. So Adele continued to dazzle American men with her delicate allure while Drew continued his path to create a safe haven for his sister using what skills he had available to him–tightrope walking. Yet their paths would cross from time to time.

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The plot in this book was tight, intelligent and fraught with tension. Two very determined people were set in their way to fix what was wrong with their lives regardless of the consequences. It was intriguing how God worked in two opposite worlds, the world of affluence and the world of deprivation, to answer some desperate prayers.

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In spite of this, my favorite part of the entire story is Adele’s wedding. I won’t tell you more, but for me it packed a wallop of a punch to the story line. And with it came a very satisfying ending.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Netgalley on behalf of Barbour Publishing, Inc. 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, Part255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Nik Wallenda Niagara Falls tightwalk

 

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Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin ~ Review

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Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin

What a remarkable book this is! I don’t usually gush over a book, but this one was exceptional. Lynn Austin is becoming one of my favorite authors for her excellent research and writing style. She knows how to draw in the individual reading the book and involve them in the story. Not only does she develop her characters well, but the action is terse and sometimes breathtaking. I enjoyed every minute of this novel, although when things got tough, enjoy might not be the word to describe what I was reading. But I was definitely involved and feeling with the characters in their struggles.

This is a historical fiction piece with a double plot taking place in two time lines. The main plot involves a group of families living in Leiden, the Netherlands in 1847. A group of people drew away from the established state church and became known as Separatists. Persecution was inevitable. People were accosted, homes harmed and businesses were threatened. The De Jong family were in the middle of this. So Geesje tells this story as an older woman, settled in Holland, Michigan 50 years later. Her family owned a printing business. Even though they moved to a different city where there were Separatists in the Netherlands, their business was still threatened. Eventually a group of people decided to emigrate to America where they would have freedom to worship God as they pleased. The group eventually settled the Holland, Michigan area of West Michigan.

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The story is long because there were so many adverse conditions and situations for the group to overcome. In the meantime, there is another two stories happening in the latest of the historical periods called the ‘present.’ One is about a young woman in her early twenty’s who is struggling to find herself. This story becomes intertwined with the grandmotherly woman Geesje who is telling this story as a project for her town’s celebration of their semi-centennial. Derk is a secondary character who lives next to Geesje and calls her Tante (aunt). She’s been like a mother to him since his own died many years before. He is encouraging her to write her story while at the same time he has befriended Anna at the hotel where he works for the summer.

West Michigan has always had as fascinating history as the rest of the state. As a teacher, I was already aware that the Dutch had settled that part of the state and knew some of the history. This book made it all come to life for me. The Great Lakes have their own fascinating history and lore, legends of great shipwrecks, and filled with the history of the native americans as well. There is no simple way to tell this story, so this book is filled with intrigue and struggles.

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An integral part of the book was the personal faith of the travelers. Encapsulated in this life of faith is the personal struggle of Geesje herself since the beginning of the story. Hers was not a perfect journey. Her faith wavered, was tested, and she often questioned God and His wisdom. The more she experienced the more involved I felt with this woman. This was not a pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by type of story. She was hurt, and circumstances forced her into some horrible situations. I shed a lot of tears of empathy reading this book. My heart was troubled, hurt, frightened and saddened right along with her. To me, that’s a sign of a great book. If you love historical fiction, then I highly recommend this book to you.

 

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Silver Bells by Deborah Raney ~ Review

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Silver Bells by Deborah Raney

In case you’re in need of a sweet, historical romance, Silver Bells by Deborah Raney will fill the need nicely. Christmas isn’t its major theme, but it does resolve very nicely right around Christmas time. And it’s a novella, so it makes for a pleasant seasonal short read. But what attracts me to this story most is how it is filled with good clean humor. The witty dialogue drives this book from beginning to end.

Robert Merrick III works as a managing editor at his father’s paper, the Bristol Beacon. Yes, Rob was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, but right now he is working his way up from the bottom in the business. He does expect to inherit the business some day, but in the meantime, he tries to keep life real. So even though he stays with his dad, he is living on his hard-earned salary.

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Michelle Penn is the new recruit. She wasn’t able to finish college, so after two years she goes to work as a reporter to save up enough money to continue what she started. Unfortunately, Robert Merrick Senior makes the job more difficult for her because he assumes all females are after his son. Every time she turns around, she is being censored by the overbearing father. What is frustrating is that she is not interested in dating anyone yet. She had one painful relationship where she got dumped while the boyfriend went off to Vietnam.

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Still, Rob is interested in Michelle. And she is comfortable around him. He wants to date her, but her reluctance is frustrating and the office policies are inhibiting. Every time he wants to get together with her, she suffers the consequences from his father’s censure. Her job is on the line.

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This book was full of the pleasant banter between friends. One of my favorite chapters was when Rob was driving Michelle to a work assignment and they got a flat tire. He didn’t know how to change a tire! Farm girl to the rescue. The conversation between them was so funny. And it was a turning point for the two of them as well. This is a fun to read light-hearted story of two people who fit with each other in spite of their differing backgrounds and circumstances.

 

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A Way in a Manger by Amy Brady ~ Review

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A Way in a Manger by Amy Brady

I really enjoy devotional books, especially when they have a theme or a central thought to them. In this case, this one focuses on the names of God’s Son assigned to Him by Scripture. The author’s theme comes from the Bible verse in Isaiah 9:6 which states that He shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace. With this as her outline, each week is dedicated to a series of devotionals focused on one of the above 5 names.

Some people like to read Advent material for the month of December. But when I read this devotional, I realized it wasn’t limited to Advent material. The contrast I think is that Advent is traditionally about the events of Christmas, the history surrounding it and the timeline, this book is more of a devotional with the intention of helping us view Christmas in a new and fresh way. The author provides more insights to the five characteristics mentioned in Isaiah as Jesus lives in us day by day as our Savior and Lord. It is not about the baby in the manger, but about the Jesus who rose from the dead and lives in our hearts and lives right now.

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The author’s conversational style makes this book’s pages easy to understand, as if it were two people carrying on a conversation in a small cafe over a cup of coffee. Each day there is a “Passage to Ponder,” some unique insights and some questions to make us think. I gained several different perspectives that gave me more to think about when I read this book. This is the type of material I will enjoy reading and re-reading for many years to come.

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Pieces on Earth: A Christmas Novella by Cathy Bryant ~ Review

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Pieces on Earth: A Christmas Novella by Cathy Bryant

I have read several books written by this author and they are all winners. This author writes her books as a ministry. Her writing is purposeful and heart touching. Her characters not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. Faith in God is an integral part of their lives. Even when the characters are fumbling and faltering in their relationship and walk in Christ, they are still in earnest about getting right with God.

Pieces on Earth is a beautiful novella about a Mom and daughter’s struggle to make sense of their lives when their husband and father does not come home after being deployed in Afghanistan. They feel broken in pieces and try hard to carry on, especially since Liv is expecting a baby. To help her 4-year-old daughter, Liv begins to tell her the gospel story from the beginning of the Bible in such a way that the child can understand. Each night the discussion between them helps not only little Chesney see the big picture, but helps Liv gain some fresh perspectives herself.

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Other losses are experienced in the group of Navy wives and they reach out to help each other. Then Liv’s risky pregnancy takes a turn for the worse and the doctor has placed her on bed rest for the remainder of the term. Liv couldn’t believe that her life could reach any lower point than this. She felt she was drying up like a desert.

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I loved this story. For a novella, it is well plotted out, has great points to make, and carries a great message. The simple plot helps the reader contemplate our lives and what our purpose is. The book focuses on character development over action and aims its message toward our hearts rather than offers only entertainment.

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A Texas Legacy Christmas by DiAnn Mills ~ Review

A Texas Legacy pic

A Texas Legacy Christmas by DiAnn Mills

A Texas Legacy series is a series of four books, of which this Christmas tome is the last. I read this without reading the previous three books and did not have any problems following the storyline. I could see that there was some history hinted at, but the missing parts did not in any way detract from the book. In addition, this author is well known and has written about 50 books altogether. Her usual genre is Christian suspense filled with tension and terse relationships. While A Texas Legacy Christmas was not built on that foundation, it certainly contains great well-rounded characters the reader can relate to. It is also a historical fiction like the other books in this series. But it is still capable of standing alone.

Unlike many of the other Christmas stories I have been reviewing, this is not a short story or an in-between story. It is a full length novel and completely developed from beginning to end. It contains not one, but two sweet romances. The two main characters were once childhood friends, attending the same one room schoolhouse, living in the same community, Kahlerville. Zack Kahler’s family is vast and the town was named for them because they were the founders. Growing up, Zack developed a passion for the newspaper business. After a stint as reporter for the New York Times, he returned to his home town and purchased the local newspaper. He had great dreams of what he was going to do with this icon in his hometown. Before he moves back, Zack has a run-in with a set of twins living on the streets. To make a long story short, he ends up adopting them and bringing them back while he established himself in business. It was a stretch, but he felt this was what God was leading him to do.

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Chloe Weaver had a difficult time as a child. Her mother, part Native American, died when she was very young. Her father took to the bottle in his grief and never recovered. His neglect of his daughter caused her to be teased by other children in school, while she never had clean clothes and enough to eat. Her embarrassment was complete when she received charity from others in town in the form of blankets, clothing and such. One boy in particular stood out. Zack Kahler would share a sandwich with her on the sly. Without his help she would often go without food. She is now grown and keeping the account books and serving customers at the village’s only boardinghouse. When she hears that Zack has returned to town with two children in tow, her heart beats faster; she still loves him, but has he changed since adulthood? Was he married? Where was his wife?

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Zack could stay with his parents, who would love to have their grandchildren around more, but he chooses to stay at the boardinghouse with Curly and Charlie. There they all become better acquainted with Chloe whose presence helps he adjust to having children to care for. As he searches for a home for himself and the twins, his relationship with Chloe seems to pick up right where they had left off, upon graduation from school. Their romance is sweet but slightly complicated by Zack’s new business, the twins and a rival for Chloe’s affections and time.

While the storyline does not have many twists or turns, and is a bit predictable, it is a lovely romance with a few complicated elements that delay our expectations a bit. I loved the historical elements, the emerging of modern inventions like the automobile and towns moving from settlement to growing, vibrant communities. The author’s writing is smooth and connected and gives us the full experience of community and its growing pangs. I highly recommend this book for those who love historical romance as a genre, and this author in particular.

 

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