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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Irish Meadows: The Courage to Dream Bk 1 by Susan Anne Mason ~ Review~

Irish Meadows: The Courage to Dream Bk 1 by Susan Anne Mason

Irish Meadows

The author, Susan Anne Mason, has skillfully created a world into which we can feel comfortable. The two main characters, Brianna and Colleen, could be our sisters, realistically endearing and frustrating simultaneously. Brianna feels she has grown up in Colleen’s shadow, her father’s favored daughter. Nothing she did seemed to gain his respect. Colleen is the sister we love to hate. She is bold, brash, flirtatious, the apple of her father’s eye, and always on the prowl for rich, handsome bachelors. She played with them and even pit them against each other. Brianna, on the other hand, wanted to attend a university in the fall. She had no use for men at the moment, although her daddy wanted her to get married to a suitable (prosperous) gentleman as soon as possible.

But then Gilbert Whelan returned to Irish Meadows after three years at college. Gil grew up on the farm, the son of the O’Leary’s housekeeper. When she died, James O’Leary took in Gil and treated him like a son. He was big brother to all the rest of the five O’Leary children. Adam, the eldest son, resented Gil for that. Brianna wanted to enlist Gil’s aid in convincing her father to allow her to further her education. But it became a more complicated situation when she discovered her feelings for him were no longer brotherly. Gil himself has felt the stirrings of love for Brianna. When he finally gained the courage to approach James, his mentor and father figure, he was flatly refused. The reason shook him to the core.Irish Meadows quote1

One day a distant relative of mother 0’Leary’s came to stay with the family for awhile. Rylan Montgomery needed a place to stay for a few months while he worked on his internship. His goal was to become a priest. It was Colleen’s duty to ferry him around until he became familiar with the area. When her father caught her in a compromising position one evening, he “sentenced” her to working with Rylan at the orphanage. This was truly punitive for Colleen since she hated all things religious, including priests, church and orphanages. However, working with Rylan day after day brought about subtle changes to her heart. She began to enjoy working with the children. In introspection, she questioned her previous dubious behavior. And…she fell in love with Rylan. Colleen’s world was turned upside down. Family dynamics, secrets, disastrous emotional upheavals and more make this book an intriguing read.Irish Meadows quote2

There’s a lot to like in this book. First, the Point of View (POV) is key to how the author develops tension and suspense. There are four Points of View: Colleen’s, Brianna’s, Rylan’s, and Gilbert’s. This author manages to blend them so well that she avoids the disjointed feeling so common in books with so many POV’s. I feel these points of view are what keeps this storyline moving along without stalling for lack of physical action. That’s excellent characterization.Irish Meadows quote3

Second, the four main characters all have a crisis of heart to meet, deal with, and resolve. Even the secondary characters, Kathleen and James O’Leary, the parents, had to face issues themselves such as what really mattered in life, and how to handle secrets within a family unit. Each issue felt real, urgent, and relevant for today even if the source is a historical novel. I found each of the conflicts plausible and could relate to many of them myself. The author manages to create believable people we can become akin to and care for.Irish Meadows quote4

Third, this is a faith-based book. I love how each voice dealing with an issue was facing something that included a crisis of faith, as well as heart and home. When a faith issue has to be dealt with, even though it may be an entirely private matter between you and God, it does affect those around us because what we believe leads to how we live our lives. That is how this author presents each character’s conflicts. When we are privvy to their thoughts, feelings and the process of resolution within, we appreciate them more for their struggles, even if they are still a flawed individual. I enjoyed the process as I read along, because what they struggled with was thought-provoking and insightful. And since most of this was internal, none of it sounded even remotely like preaching or finger wagging. Rather, I felt blessed to gain a glimpse through the window of their souls. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series which will give us Adam’s story.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy (ARC) of this book from Bethany 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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In Firefly Valley (Texas Crossroads Bk 2) by Amanda Cabot ~Review~

In Firefly Valley

In Firefly Valley is the second book of the Texas Crossroads series by Amanda Cabot. Between the first two books we get acquainted with a trio of men and two close friends. The men were college buddies who kept in touch with each other for years after their graduation. In book one we met Greg Vange and Kate. You can read my Review of At Bluebonnet Lake by Amanda Cabot here. In this second book, we meet Drew Carroll and Blake Kendall, Greg’s friends who came to Texas from California to attend Greg and Kate’s wedding. Lauren and Marisa were childhood friends who had grown up in Dupree, Texas. Marisa moved to Atlanta and became an accountant at a large city firm. She has returned now after being scammed by a man posing as a private detective, who had been her boyfriend until he disappeared with her money. Her mother, Carmen St. George, got her a job working as an office manager at Rainbow’s End in Dupree. Drew met Lauren at the wedding. Blake met Marisa at the resort where he was staying. Dupree would be forever changed by these seemingly casual encounters.

The main plot involves Blake and Marisa. The moment they met, they felt an attraction. But Blake had a secret that eventually strained their budding relationship, while Marisa was dealing with past issues of trust and anger. Reacting to each other’s past nearly destroyed their relationship before it had a chance to get off the ground. Intersected with this storyline are two subplots: Lauren was being courted by Drew whom Marisa believed to be all wrong for her best friend and 7-year-old daughter; and Marisa’s father has suddenly returned to his family after he had deserted them eight years ago. While Eric began the process of proving his recovery from alcoholism to his wife and daughter, Marisa is resistant to reconciling with him. She doesn’t believe he has changed. This becomes a stumbling block in her relationship with Blake as well as her family. There are also several threads running throughout the book which makes the reader wonder if a satisfactory resolution is possible. It all works together to keep the reader’s interest until the conclusion of the story.

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After reading both the first and second books of this series, I realized this author has a talent for creating living, breathing, well-rounded, easily relate-able characters. It didn’t take long before I felt connected to the main players. Lauren is a widow whose young husband died of leukemia a year before. Fiona, Lauren’s daughter, wants a new daddy. Drew, who’d made it big as Greg Vange’s business partner, suddenly finds himself at loose ends. Greg sold his business and Drew is without work. He takes a good look at himself and doesn’t like what he sees. When he seeks out God, together they get his life turned around. Then he meets Lauren, falls in love and realizes he has a way to put his new resolves into action. Blake is an author. His books have hit the best seller list repeatedly. At the opening of the book, he has a contract for another book. But for the first time ever, he has writer’s block. Seeking a change of location in an attempt to stimulate his creative juices brings him to Rainbow’s End. But meeting Marisa, becoming aware of her “daddy” issues, creates a crisis for him in more ways than one.

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I could go on, but I hope you see my point. Amanda Cabot’s characters make mistakes, refuse to admit when they are wrong, need help from their friends, realize flaws in their beliefs and thinking, seek out God’s aid, make attempts at changes, are not perfect, and so on. These are all some of the dynamics that good character-based books use to draw us back to read the story a number of times. This author is a master at writing characters with flaws and heart. This particular “flavor” of weaknesses and strengths, conflict and resolution, is what I like to read. I believe many other readers enjoy this combination of traits too.

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Second, besides great characterization, the author introduces a subtle underlying theme that may make the readers pause and ponder. Can people change who they are, fundamentally? The answer is complex–not an easy yes or no. How a person believes about that question depends on their worldview of humanity. Some use the old idiom that “leopards do not change their spots.” Others believe change and even transformation is possible. This demonstrates an excellent use of a theme that drives a storyline forward toward some type of conclusion. In this case, it helps bring about a satisfactory ending. It worked so well I read the book twice before writing this review.

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Finally, this is a faith-filled story, something I thoroughly enjoy reading. There is no preaching here, just people who naturally include God in their daily lives. They pray and talk about Him as if He is a friend that walks with them daily. None of it is hard hitting or forced. God is just there. When people want to include Him, they do. When they don’t want to include Him, they don’t. The author demonstrates faith that’s as natural as breathing. This is a factor that’s important to me, so that’s what I read. For all these reasons above, I highly recommend this book and the series. A third book is to be released soon. I am looking forward to reading and reviewing it as much as I plan to enjoy other books from this author.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Revell Reads (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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