Haley’s Hangdog Holiday (Bk 2) by Tamie Dearen ~ Review

Haleys Hangdog Holiday pic

Haley’s Hangdog Holiday by Tamie Dearen

While this book is the second book in a series, it is completely capable of standing on its own. The books in the series are only loosely connected, so you could read these books in any order and enjoy them. And of course each book features a dog as part of the story.

This is the type of story I enjoy reading over and over. It has a well developed plot that includes plenty of humor, realistic struggles for both parties in their lives as Christians, and development with bumps in the road when Haley and Gavin became a couple. Both characters are completely believable. They aren’t perfect, but are both striving to be the best person they can be. Being a Christian is a driving role in both their lives.

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Haley and Gavin had a lot in common. They were both extremely competitive and when they both signed up for a particular degree program in accounting, they came head to head at the top of their classes, striving for the same honors. In spite of that, they didn’t really get to know each other until two years into the degree program, and that by a chance encounter on the ski slopes in Colorado.

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Haley had no intentions of dating at all in school. On the other hand, Gavin had somehow ended up with a reputation as a playboy. It was undeserved, but he didn’t it much. They had to overcome a lot of wrong impressions just to get to know each other. Then came some impressive obstacles. It took a lot of time for those obstacles to be overcome. That is what drew me into the story. How they overcame and resolved those differences is what makes this story a great read.

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My favorite parts of the story have to do with the dogs Daisy and Bojangles. They added quite a bit of humor and dimension to the running storyline, especially for Haley who was not really a dog lover at the beginning of the book. While the dog element is not prominent in the story arc, it is still an important element. That is great for all dog lovers.

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After: Book 1 by Joy Ohagwu ~ Review

After Bk 1 pic

After: Book 1 by Joy Ohagwu

What happens when your world falls apart all of a sudden? That is the theme of this book. Candace Rodriguez is a top ranking singer associated with a record label. Six months ago, she accepted Christ as her Savior. Slowly, her perspectives changed and she changed her behavior accordingly. It didn’t take long before she saw that her music future would have to change as well. Then one day she fell off a stage. She realized at that moment she had to take her future in hand both physically and spiritually.

God takes control and provides a way for Candace to get away to a farm in Maryland owned by a doctor couple where she can get rest and begin to regroup. While there, her faith grows as she waits for the Lord’s leading for her future as a singer. She’s under pressure to create a whole new line up of songs that are fitting with her new found faith in Christ. So she begins to undertake the task of writing enough songs to fill a new album. But her muse has fled. In the meantime, she meets JB Patrickson, who is also pulling up roots to begin life again after a brief stint on Wall Street as a trader. When the housing bubble crashed, so did he.

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JB has a history which makes him a bit gun shy around Candace. He is working hard to make the farm he is managing for his grandmother more prosperous. Their relationship starts out slow, but eventually they become good friends. Candace is trying to become physically healthy as well as spiritually healthy. She works hard to lose weight and JB has become her supporter along with the good doctors.

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What I like best about this book is the great way the author allows spiritual growth to show up in the characters’ lives without being overly talkative about it. Instead of talking it out, the author shows us how Candace grows. I understand Candace’s issue with weight loss too, as I struggle with the same problem. Her hard work was inspiring to me. I felt this was all good writing.

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In spite of working the book out in first person, the different voices were done very well. I usually find the first person use irritating and sometimes immature, but I think I was about half way through the book before I realized that I hadn’t even paid attention to the voice. I found that surprising. For once, the reader is privy to the thought process of a person whose heart is being turned to God and maintaining a mature attitude about it. I found that refreshing. I also like the moderate amount of tension built into the story. It wasn’t extreme, but it kept the story moving forward nicely. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

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Gathering the Threads: The Amish of Summer Grove Bk 3 by Cindy Woodsmall ~ Review

Gathering the Threads

Gathering the Threads: The Amish of Summer Grove Bk 3 by Cindy Woodsmall

The series begins with Ties that Bind followed by Fraying at the Edge before concluding with this book. I have already read quite a few of Cindy Woodsmall’s series and each time I have believed that that one was the best one I have read, that is, until I would read the next series. This time I jumped in on the last book first. I don’t recommend doing that with this author, because when she writes a series, they are usually books that are closely linked to each other. Fortunately, before the first chapter, this book had a running summary of the previous two books that I haven’t read. It was so well summarized that I had no trouble reading this book by itself. But again, I really don’t recommended that. Cindy Woodsmall’s outstanding talent is to connect us deeply with her characters so that the reader forms an emotional bond and experiences the turmoil written about with the character. This is such a rare gift for a writer, so that when I find one I like to search for all their books and read them through.

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That’s how I feel about this series. When I read the summary, I had to chuckle. It read like a soap opera. I say that in the kindest manner possible. This series is intense, if all the books are like this one. There are several well-planned out plots, complex characters, schemes, turmoil, twists and turns, and just plain anguish laid out in the first two books that continue in this one. It was quite an amazing task to see how it all resolved. But it was definitely and happily resolved, in a way only this author can accomplish.

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There are so many characters that are important to the series. Ariana is the one that stands out the most. Skylar is also another but not as much the focus as Ariana. Book three resolves a long standing issue between Ariana and Quill, a neighbor she had known since her childhood who had left the Amish years ago for reasons no one in the small community of Summer Grove really knew about and thus was a forbidden friend. Nevertheless, he plays a prominent role all throughout the series.

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Among the complexity of details there arises a theme that may surprise the reader as it becomes clear. Ariana learned about bullying while she was “out in the world” with her birth father. Interestingly, bullying takes on a whole different shape and color when she encounters it in the Amish community after she returns. Had it always been there and she had never noticed before? The running questions then became how would she deal with it living at home with her parents while preparing for her upcoming marriage? This was not a cut at the Amish community by the author, but rather a commentary of society, that it can happen anywhere, even in places we don’t expect to find it.

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Finally, just like other books by this author, the spiritual elements of the story are authentic, realistic, respectful while helping us to gain some fresh perspectives on the character of human nature in general. Cindy Woodsmall’s series are some of the best faith-based books I have ever read. They are not filled with platitudes or pat answers. Real issues are realistically dealt with that touched my heart deeply. Even though I haven’t read the first two books, I know I will soon. So I can heartily recommend this series for you. If you like intense, complex characters who are not stereotypical Amish or non-Amish or former Amish, you’ll love this series.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Blogging for Books 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, Part255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Amish Christmas Baby: Book One by Samantha Jillian Bayarr ~ Review

Amish Baby Amish Secrets Collection pic

Amish Christmas Baby: Book 1 of the Amish Secrets Collection

When I first purchased this book it was an individual short story on Amazon.com. Since then, it has been incorporated as part of a collection of three stories. That book is called Amish Secrets Collections. In that book, this story is the first one.

Ellie Fisher has a house full of boys–six of them. But she has always desired a daughter to make her brood complete. But now she’s older and still has no daughters. When the doctor tells her there will most likely be no more kinner in her life, she feels devastated. Then one cold winter night, a wailing baby is left on her doorstep. It’s a little girl.

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Did Ellie dare to think God had given her a gift this Christmas? But soon, Ellie believes she knows who the mother is, and being a midwife, she goes to her aid. Sure enough, she finds the mother at home, one of her neighbor’s granddaughters. She’s in distress, so she brings the girl home to tend to her.

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It becomes clear that the girl wants to give her baby to Ellie to raise. But as elated as she is, Ellie feels conflicted. She struggles with her desire and what she believes is right for baby Grace.

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This is a wonderful, short Christmas story. It can easily be read in just a few hours. The plot is simple, so the characterization is limited. Yet Ellie’s plight will touch your heart as it did mine. I found her faith in God inspiring as well. I hope you enjoy this short read as much as I did.

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Christmas by the Sea: A Surf’s Up Novella by Beth Wiseman ~ Review

Christmas by the Sea pic

Christmas by the Sea: A Surf’s Up Novella by Beth Wiseman

Personally, I loved this story. But I have to add a warning to anyone who may have been unfavorably affected by some of the recent hurricanes and storms, this may be a story that could trigger unhappy memories or worse. If that’s true for you, then don’t attempt to read this story until you’re ready. The device used in this story is a hurricane that affects two main characters in and around Galveston, Texas.

Parker McIntyre was trapped, shoved up against a concrete pillar and somehow unable to get his leg free of whatever was crushing it. The water was creeping up his chest as darkness began to encroach. He figured he was going to die here. He thought about his 4 year old son and began to pray.

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At the last moment, he saw a person come to his aid. Alex Hansen had been to the hospital to visit her father. She knew he had very little time left. By the time she headed home, this unusual hurricane in November was whipping up serious strength. Then she saw someone out in the water. The head was barely visible in the gloom. She immediately called for help dialing 911. Then she plunged into the deepening water. She hoped she could get to him in time!

It was a struggle, but Alex had Parker’s head above water by the time rescue units were there to help. The men took Parker to the hospital, and Alex to her friend’s home. After that, she tried to find him, but couldn’t. She figured she was not supposed to see him again. The same was true for Parker. Parker wanted to find Alex again to thank her for saving his life. But without her last name, he didn’t know how to find her.

As I mentioned before, this is such a great short read. It only took me a few hours to read it, but it was well worth it. I know this is part of a series by Beth Wiseman, but I haven’t read any of the other stories in the series. It stands alone very well. It is packed full of action and I could barely put the book down once I started reading it.

My favorite part is the ending, which I’m not going to tell you about. You are just going to have to read this for yourself. My only regret about this book is that the story isn’t longer and more developed. But this short story has convinced me to seek out this author and try reading some of her other books.

 

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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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Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh ~ Review

Keeping Christmas pic

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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