Torn: The Salzburg Saga Book 2 by D.U. Okwonko ~ Review

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Torn: The Salzburg Saga Book 2 by D.U. Okwondo

The three books in this Saga basically form one continuous story. You will want to read these books back to back because of that. There is no segue. The first story stops abruptly and the next one continues. Torn is the second story in the series. The name is apropos because the second novel becomes the dynamic relationship interplay between the survivors of the plane crash in the frozen mountains of Austria that was introduced to us in Book one.

In this second book, friendships fray under the strain of waiting for rescue and starvation; relationships in one family are going all wrong; new revelations crop up that take everyone by surprise; and tension mounts with the looming threat of death of one of the survivors suffering from hypothermia.

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Book one was packed with action while book 2 is contemplative. It’s a soap opera on steroids when veneers slip after being packed into a tight space together, wearing on the nerves. Tension and revelations take the reader to a whole new level of suspense. Book one sets up the situation, and Book 2 develops it and cranks it up a notch.

To me, this is all great writing. In addition, you now have another point of view when you add Nina’s sister’s perspective. She is home, waiting to hear from her sister, when she learns about the crash. Her brothers come home from their travels to sit with Hazel and the tension mounts as they wait to hear from rescuers’ efforts.

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Again, like book one, I just couldn’t put this book down. I wanted to read it from one end to the other. And again, like the first book, the ending is abrupt, without any solid resolution. This is irritating to me, but when we finally get all three books together, it will read as one book seamlessly. All I can say is that I hope I don’t have to wait very long.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from AXP 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, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Better All the Time: Book 2 by Carre Armstrong Gardner ~ Review

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Better All the Time: Book 2 by Carre Armstrong Gardner

You know how Debbie Macomber takes a community of people and tells their individual stories which stretch over several books and time? I know many authors who have done this; and some of those stories, like Ms. Macomber’s, have even become a television series. Well, Carre Armstrong Gardner has done something similar, although the focus remains on one family, the Darlings. This book is the second of a series, all focusing on the members of the Darling family and their friends.

Book 1, which I have reviewed here, introduced us to the family by way of Ivy Darling, already married to Nick Mason. As their story unfolds, we get introduced to the many other members of the sprawling family that lives in Maine and other parts of the US.

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Jane and Leander Darling are the proud parents of mostly daughters, now adults who are moving on with their lives, and sometimes to other states. Seraphina is the resident college student/grad who has taken on a nursing job nearby. Ivy and Nick live close with their adopted youngsters, Hammer, DeShaun, and Jada. Laura has moved as far away from the family as she could manage, to Arizona. Amy has taken on the position of a local arts director to create a brand new program with theater, concerts and classes. David is dating Sephy’s best friend, Libby. The focus in this book is on the personal issues faced by Laura, Amy, Sephy and a few peripheral friends such as Mitch and Libby.

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All the daughters had experiences which tugged at my sympathies and my heart. But I think of all their stories, it was Sephy’s that resonated most with me. She and I have parallel histories, mostly revolving around emotional eating and being a people pleaser. Her journey sounded so much like mine. I remember those feelings and experiences that were so close to her feelings and experiences, especially when it came time for her to visit her Aunt Sharon. Oh my! It was both hilarious and tragic at the same time; I couldn’t help but laugh in commiseration!

I also loved Amy’s subplot. She could have been me when I was in my 20’s. While reading about her non-relationship with Mitch, I kept yelling at her in my mind, ‘Don’t make the same mistakes I did, Amy!’ Of course, when you are twenty-something and you have the tiger by the tail, who has time to think of long-term consequences. Right? ‘Nuff said.

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So if this type of storytelling is one you enjoy, go out and get the first book and this one, then go on and read the next book in the series. They really are more enjoyable to read this way. The title of the book is appropriate. Tangled stories do begin to unravel and straighten out, little by little. I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing book three.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers 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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The Harvest of Grace: Book 3 by Cindy Woodsmall ~ Review

The Harvest of Grace by Cindy Woodsmall

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 The Harvest of Grace by Cindy Woodsmall is the third book of a three book series: Ada’s House. This trilogy reminded me how much I enjoy books by this author. Ms. Woodsmall creates tales with emotional dynamics that pulls me in, keeps me reading intently without wanting to put down the book, and connect with the well-developed characters so that I feel I have a vested interest in the outcomes.

The author begins this book with a new character, Sylvia. She is an Amish woman from a community further away from the communities this series focuses on. In her household, there are all daughters, with Sylvia being the oldest. She alone loves the dairy farming, and with the knowledge she gained from her grandfather, has built up her father’s herds over the many years. She has been engaged to be married for awhile, but suddenly her fiance declares his love for her sister and marries her. Living in the same household has become unbearable both because of her heartbreak and the deception of her closest friend and sister. She insists on moving to another community. She begins working for Michael Blank and his wife in Dry Lake.

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There, she meets Aaron Blank after he has come home from rehab. Aaron’s purpose is to help his aging parents sell their dairy farm and move to his new community and work with him at a hardware store he is buying. He wants to take care of them. Sylvia’s at cross purposes with Aaron, because she wants to make the Blank dairy farm profitable again and build up the herd as she had done at home. This conflict is the core of the book.

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But as the third book in the series, other storylines that had begun in books one and two continue as well. So we find Deborah and Jonathan in a relationship, Cara and Ephraim continue their courtship and Cara makes progress toward joining the Amish faith, while Lena recovers from her emotional and physical injuries from the events of the previous book.

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Again, like all the other books in this series, this is not a stand alone book. It is integral to the entire storyline and you need to read the first two books in order to understand the direction and scope. Saying this, I found this book hard to put down. It very effectively wraps up all the loose ends of all the relationship dynamics covered in the three books. There are even new dynamics for Cara when her birth father shows up and the Amish leaders decide she must develop a relationship with him in spite of her feelings about him. This struggle so touched my heart. How can Cara overcome a lifetime of neglect and abandonment?

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If you enjoy living, breathing characters, especially relationship struggles and their resolutions, then you’ll love this story. This author does not do pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by type story telling. Her characters deal with real issues you and I can relate to. I was left feeling like I was part of the community, knowing the hearts of people I care about. The author writes this development so well, that I am compelled to read other books by her. I want more of this type of dynamic writing. And you can be sure I will be reading this trilogy over and over again, without feeling as if it were growing old. I highly recommend this series, and this author.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing). 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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The Church At Third and Main by Reg Quist ~ Review

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The Church At Third and Main by Reg Quist

Have you ever read a book that at one point elicited a response like, “Oh, I remember doing that!” or “Yep, been there, done that, and have the t-shirt for it,” or others like those comments? Deja vu? or “Ah! I know what that’s like”. Or how about this, “Yes, sadly, that is true”? Those were some of my thoughts as I read through this book, twice. That’s because if you have ever been intertwined with the inner workings of a congregation of Christian believers whose church has seen better days and better times, you understand the angst of trying to bring it back to life. Oh, I’m not talking about the church building. That doesn’t really matter so much; it’s the inner soul of a church fellowship, the collective group of people where the total becomes greater than the number of its parts–individuals.

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This is the story of a man who loves God better than himself. He has been approached by a person with God’s interest at heart. And this older member has asked Jonathon McCann to take on a two-year project, to attempt to bring the old congretation with its few remaining members back to life, to impact the neighborhood again, for the Lord. Jonathon was not a preacher or a pastor or a reverend or a Father. He was just a godly man, a husband, a father of children, a friend, a coworker. He was even a businessman. How could he possibly attempt such a hurculean task? That’s what this book is about. For me, since I have been close to this type of experience, seen its attempts, prayed for those who have tried, and cried over the failures and the hurts, this was a riveting read.

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This may not be interesting reading for all persons. This story definitely has a target audience. But I hope you’ll give it a chance. If you’ve ever been a member of a group of people who love God, honor Him, and want to dedicate their lives to Him, then you may have shared some of the experiences found in this book. It will touch your heart and perhaps encourage you to look around and see where you fit in. It certainly touched mine and helped me gain some new perspectives.

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My favorite parts of this book involved times when a few people’s souls were mended from past hurts and slights. These were not the prettiest parts of the story, but certainly central to what Jonathon was trying to do and central to what God is always doing, because His entire message to us humans is about reconciliation. Sometimes the right thing to do is the toughest thing to do. The writer skillfully portrays some of these crucial moments with sensitivity and heart.

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There are also amusing incidents, crazy times, silly people, angry people, vindictive and unforgiving people in this story. A fellowship of Christian believers is like a family. You will always have a wide variety of members like this. They are part of this story and crucial to the plot. This is certainly a memorable book.

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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The Bridge of Peace by Cindy Woodsmall ~ Review

The Bridge of Peace by Cindy Woodsmall

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The Bridge of Peace by Cindy Woodsmall is the second book of a three book series: Ada’s House. This trilogy reminded me how much I enjoy books by this author. Ms. Woodsmall creates tales with emotional dynamics that pulls me in, keeps me reading intently without wanting to put down the book, and connect with the well-developed characters so that I feel I have a vested interest in the outcome.

Cara and Ephraim’s story is continued from the first book into this one. We also get to know Deborah, Ephraim’s sister a little better since she, Cara and Ada live together in Hope Crossing now. Cara is helping Deborah recover when her fiance leaves her and his mother without support. It seems he even left the Amish lifestyle behind him. The three women eventually establish a good business as a bakery in their new setting in spite of a rough beginning, while Ada continues to mentor Cara.

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Meanwhile back in Dry Lake, where the story originated, Teacher Lena is having difficulties in school with a rebellious and angry student, a bull in the neighboring pasture threatens the school children, Grey is having marital difficulties, Jonathan is attracted to Deborah, Israel is beginning to see Ada, and Dwane is being downright creepy. While we don’t know these characters now, this authors manages to capture our interest in them quickly as our sense of community grows. Suspense builds, and so does the drama. I recommend you bring along a box of tissues when you read this book. The drama in this tale is just as heart-wrenching and touching as those in the first book.

Midst all the emotional valleys and mountain tops, this author holds it all together with great humor and meaningful life lessons. I found it helpful to read this book right after book 1 of the series. The three books together run seamlessly into each other, building on the storyline right at the beginning. You can read them independently, but you would lose some of the references to the action that went on before. Because of that, I recommend purchasing these books together.

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One other thing really attracts me to this author’s works. She weaves into her stories examples that steadfastly demonstrate God’s involvement in our everyday lives. These stories are like word pictures in action. We’re not preached at, but we see God’s principles enacted throughout the book in such a way that it has to touch our hearts. Whenever I read her books, I find myself delving into deep thoughts of spiritual meaning, how God can live through me more effectively, showing how much He loves His children. All this comes so naturally to the author’s pen, that we barely notice it while reading these tales. This is why Cindy Woodsmall is one of my top favorite authors.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House (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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Blue Christmas by Diane Moody ~ Review

Blue Christmas by Diane Moody

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Have you ever heard of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events? Things start out fine, but then get worse and worse. Well, this story is a bit like that with events that begin very well, but then there are surprise twists and turns that seem to get worse and worse. But the best part about this book is that it is the Christian version and so much more upbeat, with a terrific ending. You will not be disappointed.

Hannah was alone this Christmas. Her family was off enjoying a Colorado ski trip where she should be, but since she was assistant manager at the local grocery store, and the manager had just had a family emergency, she was next in line to supervise. On this Christmas Eve, she was feeling a bit sorry for herself when a kind, motherly customer she saw in the store regularly invited to attend Christmas Eve services with her. She wouldn’t take no for an answer either. That was the beginning of an incredible journey for Hannah.

Jason McKenzie is a star. His rock band, Out of the Blue, was a teen favorite. But living on the road was exhausting and from time to time he’d come home for a respite. He showed up on Christmas Eve and was immediately enchanted with Hannah.

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One of the things I like most about this story, besides the fact that it’s a Christmas story, is the humor infused in the tale. There’s a laugh around every corner. It’s good clean humor and makes this story just perfect.

Second, this story means more when you read the history behind the writing of this tale. I love reading where authors get their ideas. This one has a wee bit of truth and a bunch of fun fabrication. And this is one of those books that doesn’t lose its appeal when you read it the second time or third time. That’s my kind of book!

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Cinderella Texas by Molly Noble Bull ~ Review

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Cinderella Texas by Molly Noble Bull

Cinderella Texas by Molly Noble Bull is one of the newest published books by this author (2017). Both main characters love the Lord and are Christians, but have chosen vastly different lifestyles for themselves. The disparity makes this a unique type of story. The issues are not a matter of right and wrong; rather their choices are what places a wall between the two. The conflict/resolution issue in this story is still emotional, a matter of finding a place, a middle road, in which to meet. How they do this is what drives this story forward.

Alyson Spencer was a city girl, through and through. She was born, reared and educated in Dallas, TX and preferred living there. She never expected to get work anywhere else. When nothing else she wanted turned up, she took a job teaching a rancher’s children at his home. But she was not prepared for the desolation of the location in southern Texas and the distinct lifestyle of the family there. There were no modern conveniences at all. She’d signed a contract for a year of teaching without knowing this ahead of time, so how would she be able to endure the deprivation?

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Quatro Greene, Alyson’s employer and widowed father of her two new students, looked too young to have children. What was unsettling was his wealth. Yet he didnt live like a wealthy man. Neither did his family. They chose this nearly Amish-like lifestyle as a means of practicing their faith. Alyson respected that. It even intrigued her. Yet she just wasn’t certain it was a lifestyle she could adapt to within a year. The only thing she and Quatro had in common were a love for his children and a love for God. Quatro on the other hand, was a confusing person. His feet were planted in two different worlds: his personal life and his business life. How did he live with that?

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The author’s writing style mixes well the serious issues with humor at the quandry Alyson finds herself in. If you like Amish fiction reads, then some aspects of this genre may be familiar to you. However, the mixing of two worlds is the main issue, making this book more unique. That’s the feature I like the best.

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Alyson’s character is well developed in this story. I wish, however, we could see a little more inside Quatro’s head. It would flesh out the development of characters more thoroughly than was there. I wanted to know more about his struggles and how he balanced his worlds. The resolution put forth in this book could make an interesting part two. I can also see how you could develop a sequel to this book by amplifying any resolution with more details. I hope the author will consider this idea.

 

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