Skells: Midtown Blue Series Book three by F.P. Lione ~ Review

Skells pic

Skells: Midtown Blue Series, Book Three by F.P. Lione

This is the third 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. This book, Skells, picks up after Crossroads. Tony and Joe are still partners, covering the area of Midtown Manhattan. This is Tony’s eleventh year as a New York City cop.

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. This book gets a little more involved in Tony’s personal life as he is engaged to his fiance, Michele, and they are planning their wedding. Like the other books, Tony has difficulties with his dysfunctional family. But he and his intended are navigating the murky waters fairly well. They are learning to be a couple.

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You also get to learn a little of the job of being a policeman through the relationships the men and women have on the “inside.” Tony is no longer struggling with his alcoholism, so we can enjoy the day to day relationships and follow a few individuals in the force more closely. What I like best is that all this is portrayed realistically, no drama, just events. The individuals found on the streets are entertainment enough without made up drama to increase angst. Tony is developing a sense of mission that he never had before for the people he works. He even loses some of his callous feelings toward them and tries so see them from their perspective. It’s a refreshing change from other books in this genre.

This book is not churchy or preachy. But we get the sense that Tony is finally coming into his own as a Christian. He no longer relies on his partner to reach out to people in need. He’s no longer awkward in talking about the Lord when he senses they need a helping hand. He cares. That means a lot when reading this book. Tony is also becoming a family man. He loves Michele’s son as if he were his own. The three of them are beginning to feel like a family, which fills the empty place he has had in his life for many years. While he has loved his grandmother, father, mother and sister, they don’t experience the closeness of family he has always noticed in other peoples’ lives.

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I highly recommend this entire series. You don’t have to love the genre to appreciate all the aspects of this kind of life. The relationships in this particular book are well woven, building up to satisfying friendships, and spiritual maturity. This is a series that I would read over and over.

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 Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade ~ Review

My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade

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My Stubborn Heart is one of the sweetest romances I have read in a long time. Two hurting individuals meet while renovating an old home in the reclusive town of Redbud, Pennsylvania. Kate Donovan and her grandmother had arrived to renovate Gran’s childhood home, Chapel Bluff, and return it to its old glory. It was a massive job, requiring them to hire a local contractor for the work. That’s where Matt Jarreau came in. He specialized in working on old homes and restoring them.

Kate’s first impression of Matt was that of tragedy. He had a heart-breaking story filled with sadness and bitterness. She could sense it. Matt was reclusive. He preferred working alone. He didn’t socialize much. People in the small town knew who he was but left him alone. Matt was the local celebrity. He had been a world champion hockey player. He had married a sweet girl, an actual Miss America, but after being on top of the world as a married couple, his wife died of cancer. He was so ripped up about it, he left hockey behind. Kate didn’t know this at first, but she could see that he needed a friend. She was determined to be that friend.

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Kate lived in Dallas. She was a social worker. The job was demanding, but she loved it. That is, she did until one of her children she had worked closely with had committed suicide. It sucked the joy out of her life. She needed a break so that she could get her head on straight about her purpose in life. So she joined her grandmother in a journey up north to remodel Gran’s old childhood home. The break was just what she needed. She loved antiques and old homes and this was just the therapy she needed. She joined Matt daily in taking down wallpaper, designing rooms, painting walls, and so on. Matt was reluctant to work with her, but she was persistent. Keeping everything on a friendly note, she knew God had a purpose for her to be there.

I love the simplicity of the story. It’s not overly complicated. There are a few other subplots, but the story stays true to the major theme–renovation. Not just the home, but Matt’s heart as well. It took a lot of time and patience, but eventually he started to warm up to her friendship. Kate didn’t try for anything deeper than that. She had already set her heart on not reading anything personal in their relationship. She felt that God had sent her for only one thing…to bring Matt’s heart alive again.

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The part of the story I like best is the relationship Kate has with God. She prays and listens to Him. She tries hard not to insert her own personal interests in what she thinks God wants her to do. I really like her humble spirit and teachability. So many of us struggle with these character qualities. I felt encouraged in my own prayer life just by watching how Kate kept her expectations in line with what she felt God wanted her to do. Many of us try to do that, but often fail if we don’t use the Bible as a guideline. We often want to read into situations things that aren’t there because we fail to know and understand the God of the Bible as it teaches us. Kate demonstrated a good balance between knowledge and personal application. The author accomplished this in such a natural manner. There was no awkwardness, no preachiness, no finger wagging, no guilt trips. The issue of faith in God was not overtalked or forced. This was truly an enjoyable book to read.

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Amish Cooking Class: The Celebration by Wanda E. Brunstetter ~ Review

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Amish Cooking Class: The Celebration by Wanda E. Brunstetter

The Celebration is the third book in the Amish Cooking Class series. While it is part of a series, I don’t think anyone would have trouble reading this as a stand alone book. There are only a few carry over characters from the other books and their parts are casual and not really needed to make the story line smooth.

Heidi and Lyle Troyer have decided to take in foster children when they discover they may never be able to have children of their own. So now the story picks up from the second book a few months later with two young children whose parents were killed in an automobile accident. For the first six months, the state decided to wait and see if family will come forward to claim responsibility for the two children, Randy and Marsha. In the meantime, Heidi wanted to help her young charges adjust to their new life. She decides to teach another cooking class, but with children this time. A wide variety of families are represented in this class, and little by little we learn a bit of back history for each family.

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Many topics pertaining to children were covered in this book, such as showing kindness to others, teasing, a complaining attitude, adoption as a topic, the value of friendship, reaching out to help someone in dire circumstances, caring for pets and other animals, and so on. And of course, cooking. What I enjoy most about these books is the subtle ways Heidi is able to reach out and help total strangers in their struggles with daily life. Most of us want to make a difference in someone’s life, but we often have no idea how to go about doing this. Ms. Brunstetter’s books demonstrate through fiction good examples of how to touch lives. We don’t have to make a major impact, but even an encouraging word can work wonders for a person on any particular day. The fact that this is a lesson even children can learn, is what makes this such a touching book to read.

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The author does a wonderful job of pulling the reader into the drama with the children and their respective families. There were times when I felt the frustration Heidi must have felt when she couldn’t do much to help a hurting child. At other times, I felt the aggravation when a child is deliberately rude and misbehaving, especially to the younger children. I could relate to the helpless feeling some of the parents felt in their circumstances, to the point where I shed a few tears when things went so wrong. Then again, there were also tears of celebration when finally something came together and worked out well, either for a family or for their children or both. If you enjoy a good Amish story, or a bit of family saga with a little romance, then I highly recommend this book to you.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Barbour 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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Coldwater by Samuel Parker ~ Review

Coldwater pic

Coldwater by Samuel Parker

Have you ever read a book where you are not sure where it is going? Where there seems to be no certain protagonist or antagonist? Where the plot is undetermined except to move forward in a perpetual chase? Have you ever read a book where the driving question seems to be, “What is going on?” That is what reading this book by Samuel Parker made me feel.

I’m not saying this in a negative sense. Some authors make their plots and characters easy to figure out and predict to varying degrees. That is not true with this story. There’s a looming question mark hovering over the events as you read on. Yet the action drives the reader to continue if for no other reason than to try to make sense of what the characters were doing. The author is determined to show rather than tell what is occurring.

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Dotted throughout the tale were rare “Ah ha!” moments of insight, motive or reasons. But for the most part, the action moves forward relentlessly without explanation or narrative. It caused me to pause once in awhile and reflect back to a writing style used in the ’50’s and ’60’s in programs where they used only words and the unknown to develop expectations without special effects. The Twilight Zone and possibly Outer Limits were examples of this. Alfred Hitchcock, writer/producer of thrillers and melodramas, could produce the same effects. The results were often unpredictable and sometimes left the viewer pondering.

I’ll be the first to admit this would not be a book I would have chosen to read for myself. That is the consequences of entering a review program and trusting someone else’s choices. But ultimately, it worked out well. This book stretched my tolerance for suspense since suspense is the main driving force in this story. The events are strange, creepy and dark. And there is a message, but it’s subtle. And even though the book is dark, it is not a horror story, nor gruesome or filled with blood lust. There is definitely some kind of spiritual warfare going on, but the author does not comment on it.

There is a resolution of a sorts for this story. The events do come to an end. This is not a happy book, so you can’t really call the ending a happily ever after (HEA). Rather, it is a serious book with suspenseful momentum. Eventually it resolves but leaves the reader in a pondering state where we are allowed to come to our own conclusions. I’d like to offer kudos to the superb writing talent of author Samuel Parker.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Librarything.com 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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Mac’s Way by Reg Quist ~ Review

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Mac’s Way by Reg Quist

Like many of the other books I reviewed for this author, this is a historical fiction Western. Because of the author’s background and family history, and the family lore he grew up with, much of what he writes is authentic and true to history. His books are a great read for their historical content. They are clean but realistic in their form. His stories do not focus on sensational events, crooked people or gore.

In this story we meet Mac. His actual name is Walker Samuel McTavish, born and raised on a small Missouri farm before the War Between the States. He was the eldest son of a hard-working family. Frustrated with his life and seeing nothing profitable in his future he set out to make something of himself. He experienced the life of a mule driver for a freight company which took him all over the country. He was involved in the Civil War. After the war, he worked with other men in Texas to drive cattle to northern markets for cash. This book is filled with his adventures on some of those drives.

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What I liked best in this particular book is the character development of Mac, as he was called during the war. His character was forged through tough times, making him a man I would be proud to call my ancestor. Through these rough times, he gained leadership abilities, gathered around him lifetime friendships and loyalty, and lead them straight on to success.

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In the end, it was fitting that he found not only a piece of land to call his own, but had collected his own herd, a large group of friends, including his family members and leads them to a fertile valley out West with enough land for them to spread out and begin their own lives over. Of this author’s books, this one is my favorite so far.

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Jabez by Joy Ohagwu ~ Review

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Jabez by Joy Ohagwu

The book Jabez fits into the AFTER series written by Joy Ohagwu. Book 1 tells the story of Candace and JB Patrickson. That book is an inspirational romance. Once Candace and JB are married, he then feels confident enough to tell his life story to her. So this book is the story he tells Candace on the way to their honeymoon. That would make this book 2, although I think of it more as book 1.5. It could be easily incorporated into book 1 as part of JB’s back story.

When Jabez was ten, he was well used to the drunken rages his father would get into. He had a hiding place, and his mother had a hiding place. It was not enough to keep them safe, however, and eventually Jabez was beaten senseless and woke up in the hospital. Things only got worse from there when his father returned to their home. No one else knew the situation they were in. His father owned a reputable construction company and seemed like a straight up guy to everyone else. But JB and his mother often went entire days without a meal. His father had to control everything. When JB was old enough to work for his father, he was expected to work in construction and live at home.

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One day, he and his mother found a safe place across the street to hide. They slept in the pews at night in the church to avoid getting beaten. Then he met Pastor Yohanna who began to help them in subtle ways. He encouraged Jabez to find his own path and became a role model for him. For the first time in his life, Jabez saw a father figure the way it was supposed to be. He began to attend church and special meetings the pastor set up for a few other young people who had challenges in their lives that blocked their successful entry into the world. His transformation was not an overnight success. It was a huge struggle far into JB’s adult life.

This author writes in an understanding manner about the impact of abuse this type of experience has on a growing child and on an emerging adult. When a person has heard their entire young life they will not amount to anything good, they tend to believe what they hear, even though their minds can tell them otherwise. Parents are the first authority figure a child experiences, and what they are told is often taken for the truth. It’s extremely difficult to shake off that first voice in spite of good influences in their lives afterward. The author does a great job showing us what this type of struggle to overcome abusive programming is like.

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It was the faith of the Pastor that leads him to step out of his comfortable place to lend an understanding ear and a shoulder to lean on for the young people in JB’s group. And it was faith in Jesus Christ that finally brought JB over the edge from abusive thinking to victorious thinking. This could be so many peoples’ stories. I pray that this short novella helps many people to understand how difficult it is to shake abusive influences, but that it is possible.

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