A Light on the Hill (Cities of Refuge Book 1) by Connilyn Cossette ~ Review

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A Light on the Hill (Cities of Refuge Book 1) by Connilyn Cossette

Have you ever wondered how the Hebrews coming out of Egypt experienced the takeover of the populated area of Canaan? No, I’m not referring to the bloody battles, but to the families who settled into the land, coaxed the fields to life, set up businesses, and made their living while trying to settle into a land unlike anything they had experienced so far. Unlike the desert terrain and fertile river banks of Egypt, and the semi-desert areas of the wilderness they spent the past 40 years in, this new land was lush and green. How did they accomplish this? They were surrounded by hostile people supported by the Egyptian government who didn’t take kindly to their invasion. What was it like? That is what this book is all about. This was the era of Joshua, fulfilling God’s command to fill the land. This author paints a realistic picture of what this could have been like through the eyes of young Moriyah, her best friend Ora, and her young 9-year-old neighbor Eitan.

This book is incredible. I think I have discovered a new author (for me) of Biblical fiction that delves into details with enthusiasm and accuracy. She has written several series so far that I haven’t read yet. But I love her writing style, the detail she includes, the imagination that puts flesh on the bare bones of sometimes dry history. With this book, I discovered new perspectives I hadn’t considered before. This book was truly a living experience. I actually felt I was there. I will be certain to pick up her other series and read them, I’m that impressed.

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Besides being a piece of historical fiction, this book is filled with action and suspense. Moriyah has been accused of killing two young teens. She must flee to a city set aside by God as a sanctuary for people to plea for a fair trial. The next of kin has the right to avenge the deaths of the boys without retribution. Along the way, the boys’ father prevents them getting to the nearest safe city, so the group traveling with Moriyah must go to the next city, which will take them through dangerous territory controlled by the Canaanites. There are many dangers to face along the way. Additionally, there is an element of romance during their travels. But because of the accusations against her, Moriyah despairs of a future for her and Derek.

The characters are likable, real, and easily related to. I would call the group traveling together highly colorful. I could barely put the book down because of all the twists and turns in the plot. I even enjoyed reading the book a second time. It was just as fresh as reading it the first time through.

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There are also some wonderfully contemplative moments where Moriyah learns more about the God of Israel whom she thought had abandoned her earlier in her life. The book contains some beautiful word pictures of the grace of God as she learns how He provided grace and mercy to his people. I highly recommend this book. This is the first book in a new series. I am certainly looking forward to reading the rest of the books that follow.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. 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.”

 

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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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The Christmas Shoppe by Melody Carlson ~ Review

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The Christmas Shoppe by Melody Carlson

Parrish Springs was typical small town USA. Then Matilda Honeycutt purchased the old Barton Building in the downtown area and things began to change.

Councilman George Snider didn’t like change. First, the city hired a female city manager, Susanna Elton. So he tried to quietly make her life difficult. Sometimes he wasn’t so quiet about it. That’s how small town politics worked. When Ms. Honeycutt put in a bid for the old vacant building, it was accepted and that didn’t sit right with George Snider, either. He had wanted to buy that old building himself, although many in the community weren’t so excited about that. They had heard he wanted to sell it to a big box discount store. They all knew what would happen then. Local businesses would suffer.

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Matilda began preparing her building for her business. She didn’t tell anyone what type of business it was, but rumors were flying. Other businesses were nervous. Then a big sign was delivered to the old Barton Building. “Christmas Shoppe.” Before the doors were open for business, rumors began to fly all over town. Not all of them were very nice. People were now being nosy, curious, and nasty. They picked on Matilda’s appearance. They picked on the items a few have seen that were to be put on the shelves. It was all a mystery. No one could figure out this new businesswoman.

When the doors opened the mystery deepened. It looked like a shoddy thriftshop, not a Christmas store. People began to get angry and the other businesses on that street signed a petition to close Matilda’s store down. But while all this is happening, mysterious things were going on. Susanna was baffled when she tried to warn Matilda what people were saying about her. She wanted Matilda’s small business to succeed. But Matilda didn’t pay her any mind. One by one, people entered the shop and their lives were subtly changed.

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When I want a unique story to read, especially a Christmas story, Melody Carson is my go to author. Her books are refreshing, unique, and meaningful. I have read many of her Christmas stories, and my heart has always been touched in one way or other. This one is no exception. The plot is slow to develop, but holds our interest in many ways. We become engaged with the characters and with the town atmosphere. They are always so true to life. There is an air of mystery, almost a taste of fantasy, but always with a good heart issue at the core. I tried to guess what the purpose of the puzzling thrift shop could be, but as usual I was carried right up to the final pages unable to predict where the book would take me. And once again, it touched my heart. I highly recommend this book for those who enjoy small town stories, light mysteries, a touch of fantasy, and a good sound Christmas message.

 

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Colors of Christmas: Two Contemporary Stories Celebrate the Hope of Christmas by Olivia Newport ~ Review

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Colors of Christmas: Two Contemporary Stories Celebrate the Hope of Christmas by Ollivia Newport

This book by Olivia Newport has two contemporary stories that revolve around Christmas hope. Christmas in Gold, the first story, also has elements of historical fiction during the main character’s memories.

Through the magic of her pen, this author has chosen to deal with a few issues most of us don’t want to even think about at Christmas. Yet all of us experience loss of one type or another all throughout our lives. We experience loss of jobs, loss of homes, loss of friends, family, fellowship, respect, a good name, things and people important to us. The first Christmas tale tells of an octogenarian who has lost her mobility temporarily and her independence permanently. But this bright, alert and friendly grandmother has a heart of gold and cares for those within her sphere of influence, including her young physical therapist. Astrid’s sensitive nature has picked up how Carly seems unsettled and ill at ease most of the time. She becomes determined to be a blessing to this young mother and attempts to befriend her.

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At the same time, Astrid herself must deal with the changes in her life, precipitated by a fall and broken bones. Now she has an apartment and is making friends at the facility that is her new home.

While this is a contemporary short story, Astrid’s story is enhanced with flashes of memories of her childhood growing up in Nazi Germany. The reader is privileged to catch a glimpse of what life must have been like under the repressive regime for ordinary citizens who only wanted a peaceful life, to make a living, and to take care of their families. These rough experiences formed the woman Astrid had become before she emigrated to America. And all the while, Christmas is getting closer and preparations are buzzing all around her. Her immediate family may not even make it to visit her by Christmas.

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You would think this storyline would make such a tale maudlin, and certainly there are many poignant moments that make the reader pause. But the author has skillfully woven in themes of hope and regeneration into a moderately fast-paced tale I enjoyed reading. It is certainly one of the best Christmas themed short stories I have read this year.

In the second short story, Christmas in Blue, the author treats colors in all their representative forms. In the first story, the presence of gold colored ornaments triggered Astrid’s early memories of life in Germany. There were special gold ornaments in the past which held special significance for her. In the second tale, blue becomes a recurrent theme, woven all throughout the book in sometimes humorous, sometimes cringeworthy ways.

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In the small town of Spruce Valley, Angela was grieving the loss of her best friend. They had been friends for decades, and as Christmas was approaching Angela did not have a celebratory bone left in her body. Carole was the one with all the exuberance over Christmas. Every year she took charge of the town’s annual Christmas celebration called “A Christmas to Remember.” Angela had always been willing to assist her friend , doing anything Carole asked her to do. Carole’s love of all things Christmas carried them forward. But this year, there was no Carole and Angela’s Christmas spirit has fled.

Just eight days before the festival of the year was to occur, Angela discovered the planning committee had put her in charge. Just eight days! From that point on Angela was caught up in a mad dash to pull it all together in spite of how she felt. It was her way to honor her friend Carole. Then everything started to go wrong. Basement leaks, damaged props, melted candles, a broken sleigh, injured people. You name it and it was either broken, damaged or missing. Angela couldn’t help but think this year’s “Christmas to Remember” was going to be known as the “Christmas to Forget” or even as a “Christmas to Regret.”

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While this tale was sometimes filled with frustration, more often you couldn’t help but see the humor as the destruction piled in on itself. Only a miracle could pull all this together in time for the official moment. The author provides some interesting twists to the events, especially when someone special shows up and lends Angela a helping hand. It even made the theme, a blue Christmas, take on a whole new meaning.

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I absolutely loved both stories in this book. The author uses keen insight into the hearts of differing personalities, weaving together two amazing tales of hope, encouragement, fellowship and the grace and peace we find in a close relationship with God.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Barbour Publishing, Inc. 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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Our Father written by Rainer Oberthur and illustrated by Barbara Nascimbeni ~Review

Father pic

Our Father written by Rainer Oberthur and illustrated by Barbara Nascimbeni

This is a picture book that features the Lord’s Prayer illustrated and explained for children. The illustrations are simple, representative of items rather than realistic images, and beautifully colorful in toned down but bright earthy tones. The pages are thick and glossy, and the binding is very sturdy. This is a book that will stand up to use over time.

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Phrase by phrase, the book moves through the prayer, using simple but meaningful words that young children can understand about each part. The words make an effort to make the reader feel that God is close to us, caring, loving and accessible. I really like this feature about the book.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from LibraryThing on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or negative. 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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A Michigan Photo Presentation: Second Edition by John Macdonald ~ Review

A Michigan Photo Presentation Second Edition pic

A Michigan Photo Presentation Second Edition by John Macdonald

This photographer’s assortment of Michigan photos is impressive. Since I was born and raised in Michigan I have personally visited and enjoyed many places in these photos. As he said in the introduction, the Upper Peninsula alone has nearly 500 waterfalls. It’s impossible to photograph all of them. But that’s not all there is to see in Michigan.

His subjects are the best of all collections: bridges, waterfalls, lakes, sunsets, lighthouses, rock formations, wildlife, flowers, historic churches and buildings. All of them in fabulous color and some monochromatically displayed.

My favorites are the waterfalls and the Fall colors, of course. They are why I love living in this state. It’s a state that’s vast, roaming and beautiful and this photographer has captured much of the best views you can find.

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Perhaps in a future book the author/photographer can include something of our historic towns (such as the ghost town in Fayette State Park), the Indian Petroglyphs in the Thumb area, a couple of the old historic forts and a few more lighthouses. The possibilities are endless.

But in the meantime, enjoy this book. I highly recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this commentary from Story Cartel 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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Goodbyes and Second Chances by T.I. Lowe ~ Review

Goodbyes and Second Chances pic

Goodbyes and Second Chances: Book 1 by T.I. Lowe

Life can throw us some pretty nasty curves. Some of it may be deserved, but some, and perhaps most, is not. Take, for example, people born into wealth, and people born into poverty and all the gradations in between. How do we deal with this? It depends on our perceptions. And that is what this tale is all about. Think of it as a modern day parable. For the modern part, rock stars and a rock band. The parable? Trailer trash stigma. What can we learn from them? Read and see.

Jillian has known Dillan since she was eight and he was six. Before that, even. They grew up in the same neighborhood with other friends that eventually formed a strong group that had each others’ backs. They all lived in the trailer park. They knew what that meant: stigma. They lived on the “other side of the lake.” Across the lake were the wealthy condos and homes. Would life even give them a chance?

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Dillon grew up with insane talents on several instruments and a smooth silky voice. He was a poet at heart and often wrote his own lyrics. His mother was fierce in her efforts to save him from a reputation as trailer trash. So by the time he was sixteen, he had found an opportunity to make it big in the music world. But to do that, he would have to leave his dearest friends behind, including his jewel, Jillian. He promised he would come back for her. She didn’t believe him. No one came back.

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The author has done a great job portraying the funny moments within the group of friends who lived in each others’ pockets. She includes their struggles, how close this group grew together, and how Jillian fit in as a sort of mom. It made me think of Peter Pan, Wendy and the Lost Boys. There were sad times, sweet moments, victories and failures. Be sure to bring along some tissues, as there were many poignant moments.

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The funniest and most tragic happenings in the story involved Maverick King. His story becomes the focus of book two in this series. He was part of Dillon’s rock band from the beginning. If you enjoy this book, you’ll certainly want to get book two which is told from Mave’s point of view. Overall, Goodbyes and Second Chances has several flawed characters, which we see change and grow up before our eyes. The author has done a great job making the reader feel as if they were part of this close-knit group.

 

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