The Naomi Chronicles Book 2: Choosing to Be by Paula Rose Michelson ~ Review

Naomi Chronicles Choosing to Be new cover

The Naomi Chronicles Book 2: Choosing to Be by Paula Rose Michelson

This is book two of the series, The Naomi Chronicles. Both books are very closely tied, so even though they are complete books and can be read on their own, this second book closely continues the story begun in the first book and resolves much of it. I recommend you purchase them together and read them one right after the other.

The focus of this book divides between Naomi and her husband, Chaz. They are separated after only one week of marriage at the beginning of this story. What’s unique about this book is that the first book emphasized how most of life’s choices had been removed from Naomi’s life in her first thirty years. How many of us readers can identify with that? Stuff happens, and sometimes leads us places we hadn’t originally wanted to go. But now, she is at a crossroads and begins to realize she has many choices to make. The choices do not come easy to her, so this is her opportunity to learn many truths, find her inner peace, especially coming to peace with her past, and figure out how to proceed. Does she go back into hiding, or will she become like a butterfly, finally released from her cocoon?

Also in this second book, we become more acquainted with Chaz as an individual. We only get to know him briefly in the first book, so now his character becomes a little more developed and we see why he does the things he does. There is a twist in the plot here that may surprise you. I know it certainly knocked me for a loop when I learned more of his background. All I will tell you at this point is that there is a resolution for Naomi and Chaz. But the twist and the means of resolution is what makes this part of the tale so interesting.

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Meeting with God

There is so much to love in this second book. First, the author does a remarkable job of fashioning an old world atmosphere in the way Naomi dresses, talks and thinks that’s charming. But it is also in stark contrast to the rest of this new world, and it takes her time to adjust to the American way of life. I find that so endearing. The author uses a small boy to make that transition more palatable for Naomi. As the saying goes, “out of the mouth of babes…”

Second, the same little boy brings in comic relief while Naomi grapples with heavy life issues. How true to life! Often when we are trying to take in what God is speaking to us about, distractions are a way of bringing relief to the intensity of the moment. Either it becomes a way to take our minds off the issue and leads us away, or it helps us focus better on the point God is trying to make. I enjoy seeing how the author uses this feature for Naomi’s good.

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Third, I love the way the author leaves an opening for further development near the conclusion of the book. It makes me look forward to reading more of this series.

If you enjoyed this review, see my review of The Naomi Chronicles Book 1: No Other Choice here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of book 1 (basically) from the author and purchased this book on my own but with the author’s knowledge. My intention is to write a completely honest review. 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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Petticoat Detective (Undercover Ladies Book 1) by Margaret Brownley ~Review~

Petticoat Detective

Petticoat Detective by Margaret Brownley

Combine historical fiction, a female Pinkerton Detective Agency operative, a former Texas Ranger, a bandit who’s adept at keeping his identity hidden even from the best of sleuths, mistaken identity, false assumptions, a killer on the loose, a recent murder, a Madame who sells boots, and you get an adventure you won’t quickly forget. Then add some sly humor, a little bit of romance, some great character work, and the combo makes this book irresistible.

Former Texas Ranger Tom Colton was on a mission. His brother Dave’s last letter to him had indicated a change of heart and a desire to be reconciled with his young son, whom Tom was raising. Now his brother was dead, and Tom wanted to find his murderer and bring him to justice. His recent investigations brought him to Goodman, Kansas, right to the doorstep of Miss Lillian’s Parlour House and Fine Boots. Dave had written about a Rose, one of Miss Lillian’s girls, whom he had fallen in love with and intended to marry. Tom wanted to talk with Rose, hoping to elicit her help in finding Dave’s killer. This part of his quest made him uncomfortable, but he would do whatever it took to get his man.

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Jennifer Layne was a highly trained agent for the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Her job often placed her undercover on a case where she could accomplish more than a man often could. Her quest had also brought her to Miss Lillian’s Parlour House where she was to talk to a Miss Rose whom the Pinkertons believed was a key to their investigation to the identity of the Gunnysack Bandit. She decided to apply to become a “resident.” She had just become established in a room and been made over to look more “decent” in Miss Lillian’s estimation, to get close to Rose. But a complication occurred when Miss Lillian discovered Rose in her room, killed but without evidence of a struggle. Jennifer’s job suddenly took a serious turn for the worse. She wondered if Rose’s death had anything to do with her investigation of the bandit.

Just moments before Rose’s death, Tom was directed upstairs to her room. He was told she was expecting him. Somehow he entered the wrong room–Jennifer’s room (as Amy Gardner). He assumed she was Rose, and Amy assumed he was a john! What ensued was a comedy of errors and gaffs until they heard Miss Lillian’s scream, sending them both out to investigate. From that point on, Amy in disguise as a “lady of the night” and Tom worked together on the case. Amy could not divulge her true identity so she had to keep her mouth firmly shut in spite of Tom’s concerns over her chosen profession. The tale comes to a satisfying conclusion, and all the misunderstandings, assumptions, clues and surprises make this a fun read.

faith trust God even unknown plan

This is the first Margaret Brownley book I have read. I’m pretty certain it won’t be the last. There are many reasons why I like this one in particular. First, there is a “who done it” thread running all throughout the story that’s well written. Tom wants to find his brother’s killer. In the process of picking up clues, he believes they lead him to the Gunnysack Bandit. Finding who this bandit is becomes his central focus. Between the Tom and Amy, clues begin to look as if Dave Colton might be the bandit. Disheartened, Tom returns home after the Pinkerton Agency concludes the same thing. But Jennifer doesn’t like the way the clues don’t exactly add up. Eventually she has an idea after the case was closed. The end solution took me completely by surprise. Kudos to the author for keeping the readers guessing right up to the end.

Second, the pull of attraction between Tom and Jennifer (as Amy) is everywhere in this tale, twisted up in the main plot, complicating the urgency of their respective tasks. It is especially evident in Tom, a man of faith. Since he believes Amy is a “sporting woman” he fights his attraction to her all the way to the final chapters. In the meantime, Jennifer has her own conflicts because she too is a person of faith. She barely manages not to compromise her convictions without revealing her involvement with Pinkerton. I was a little surprised whom she took into her confidence. I think you may be too. But it works out well in the end.

Third, the book is heavily laced with good humor from mixed up identities to misunderstandings to just plain silliness. The strands of humor and adventure work well together. This coupling brought me back to re-read the book more than twice.

True friends love you as you are

Finally, I was given this book on CD to review. Jaimee Draper reads the book with so much talent and gusto that her acting ability made the story come alive. She added accents, hesitations, and mispronunciations at all the appropriate places with hilarious results. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audiobook. For all the above reasons, I highly recommend you read it too.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from The Book Club Network on behalf 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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Keepers of the Covenant (The Restoration Chronicles) by Lynn Austin

Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin

Keepers of the Covenant

Have you ever read parts of the Bible and then tried to imagine the events as they occurred in the day to day moments? I used to wish there were more books written that way. This book is one that accomplishes that feat completely. It opens the windows and doors and allows us to live with friends and family of some well-known characters of biblical events. In this case, it’s about Ezra, family man, scholar, Rebbe, husband, brother, friend, son, leader, and teacher. He struggled with daily life justlike you and I do.

Nearly 500 years before Jesus of Nazareth arrived in Galilee, Ezra lived in a world of danger, secular influence, hatred and enemies. About 100 years before his time, a group of Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem and the country of Judah. What were they returning from? Their country had been decimated by enemies over 70 years before that. Their people were taken away or scattered throughout the land. Many lived in Babylon itself. Judah was then filled with neighboring peoples such as Edomites and Amalakites. The first wave of returning refugees helped to rebuild the walls and established businesses and families again. They made efforts to live in peaceful co-existence with the inhabitants. Sayfah and Amina were Edomites living near Bethlehem in a village of their own. Amina was crippled from her younger years. Now she was treated like a servant in her own home and scorned by most of the men. One day she met an older woman who also suffered from a weak, twisted leg. But she was a Jewess, a talented weaver who brought her goods to Bethlehem to sell in the market. They became friends. It was a friendship that would save Amina and Sayfah’s lives years later.

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In Casiphia, another province of the Persian Empire and near Babylon, Reuben was apprenticed to his father, David of the tribe of Levi. David was a blacksmith, since the Levites had no temple to serve in. Reuben was twelve when he learned that through his second in command, Haman, King Xerxes had pronounced a death sentence for all the Jews living in all his 127 provinces, on the thirteenth of the month of Adar. They were to be killed and plundered. Reuben’s father was angry at his peoples’ helplessness and began to secretly stockpile weapons he made at his forge. Reuben watched in concern as people began to buy the supplies for their protection. When the day finally arrived, the fighting was fierce. Greed motivated some of the hatred against the sons of Jacob. Their enemies wanted the plunder. While most of God’s people survived, some were injured or killed. Reuben’s father was one who never returned from battle alive leaving Reuben at thirteen in charge
of caring for his mother and family. Since he was too young to operate his father’s business, his uncle sold it to another blacksmith who would continue Reuben’s apprenticeship. But Reuben was filled with rage and hatred. He took to the streets at night, and eventually became adept at thievery. He was then taken in by a gang of Babylonian robbers. He turned his back on God.

Ezra’s brother, Jude was also killed in the conflict in the city of Babylon itself. Ezra grew up in a potter’s family although early on, they discovered he had a gift for reading, understanding and interpreting the Torah. So when his brother died, Ezra married his brother’s wife, according to the law, to help provide for her and their family. Eventually he was responsible to provide a son to carry on Jude’s name. Some time later, God laid on Ezra’s heart to petition the King of Persia to allow him to lead a group from his community back to the Promised Land, Israel, to build up the city of Jerusalem. Once the petition was granted, Ezra was appointed governor over the province. This wasn’t the end of the story, however, but the beginning. Somehow Ezra, his family and friends, Reuben and his band of Babylonian robbers, Amina and Sayfah and their adoptive Jewish family all intersect in a powerful way.

This may not be important for everyone, but for me living history is vital for our sense of identity and perspective on life. This book is artistically written to help the reader put faces and heart into people and events we may already have at least a nodding acquaintance with. It deepened my perspective and gave me a greater appreciation of the scope of God’s love and protection. It also heightened my awareness of the types of difficult situations many have faced when putting God’s justice into practice. This is a tremendous object lesson, carried out in the story line, how God tempers His justice with mercy and expects His followers to do likewise.

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This message couldn’t have been conveyed so aptly if the author hadn’t written with authenticity and well-researched detail. Such a writing style drew me into the scenes and into the very hearts and minds of the characters. I was right there, experiencing the events unfold and feeling their pain and joys. Excellent writing. It was all there: the pain of loss, feelings of helplessness, moments where hope had fled, funny vignettes that often accompany child rearing, the bond of marriage when it transcends the mechanics of every day life, the struggle to belong, and the joy of victories big and little.

The third element I enjoyed about this book was the complexity of the plot. You can’t say that Keepers of the Covenant is all fast-paced adventure and action, nor is it completely character-driven. The author takes the best of both genres and seamlessly blends them. They are well-balanced. Readers may already know the basic story, but the draw is how the author pulls it all together and includes us in the ride. The book is filled with sensitivity and flair–adrenaline and contemplation. I’m definitely going to read other books by Lynn Austin.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from bookfun.org on behalf of 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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Where Trust Lies (Return to the Canadian West Bk 2) by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan ~Review~

Where Trust Lies (Return to the Canadian West Bk 2) by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

Where Trust Lies

Where Trust Lies is the second book in the Return to the Canadian West series. Book 1 is entitled Where Courage Calls. The protagonist of both books is Beth Thatcher who had rejected a life of ease to attend college and then choose to teach in the Canadian West where life was more about a roof over your head and food in your belly than shopping excursions in an upscale store and the latest fashions. That was in book 1. In book 2, Beth has returned home for summer vacation after completing her first year of teaching.

There had always been a gulf between Beth and her mother and youngest sister, Julie. She had hopes she could somehow close that gap over the summer. When she arrived home, she found her family preparing to go on a 6-week cruise from Toronto to the St. Laurence River and on to the east coast, finally moving into the United States before returning. At first she was reluctant to go on the trip, but her father challenged her to get to know her mother as adult to adult, rather than as a daughter to a mother. But Beth had another reason to hesitate. In her year away from home Beth had attracted a suitor–Jarrick “Jack” Thornton, an officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He was stationed out west and Coal Valley, where Beth taught, was part of his jurisdiction. He requested they keep in touch over the summer to become more acquainted with each other. She agreed to write.

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When Jarrick learned of this opportunity to travel with her family, he urged Beth to go. They could keep in contact with each other through letters, phone calls and telegrams. So it was decided that Beth would go, albeit a little reluctantly. Not only was Beth’s mother and two sisters going, but so were little JW and his nanny, her mother’s best friend, Mrs. Montclair, her daughter and their maid, and their own tour guide Emile Laurant. Close quarters, differing interests, the rapid pace of events, and personality conflicts kept the pot bubbling with tension and interest. At the apex of the story, Julie was abducted, throwing the small circle of family and friends into turmoil and onto their knees in prayer. None of them were ever the same again.

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It was so good to read another of Janette Oke’s books again. I have already read nearly all the books she’s written. Like the first book in this series, her voice is distinct and heart felt. Where the focus is usually historical fiction of the Canadian west, this book explores the historical east. Building community is one of Oke’s writing talents; in this book that legacy continues but within the tight circle of friends and family on the cruise. Writing in tandem with her daughter allows for the sense of contemporary issues as well. The new voice brings with it freshness that nevertheless blends well with the familiar Oke memes. Mother and daughter make a fine writing team.

Another reason I enjoy reading this author’s books is that faith in God is nearly always faith in action. It is the driving force for many of her characters’ actions, yet not portrayed as if these men and women who loved God could do no wrong. It is their inner struggles that brings life to every individual and makes them real to us. The reader can’t help but empathize with people whose faith is neither great nor less than their own. We falter where they falter, and gain courage from the same God these characters draw courage. There’s no preaching here, only life lessons and hope.

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Finally, the authors write with humor, keen observation of various personalities amidst the conflicts and employ some fairly intense suspense. There is an undercurrent of romance, especially when Jarrick rushes to Beth’s side at the height of the frightening events of Julie’s abduction, and a strong sense of more to come at the book’s end. Events do resolve, so there is not a cliff-hanger, although not all threads in this book are settled. It seems that there must be at least one more book in this series to come. The issue of trust, dealt with all throughout the book, is not yet completely finalized. I’m looking forward to reading more.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House for their blogging program. 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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To Everything A Season (Song of Blessing Bk 1) by Lauraine Snelling ~review~

To Everything A Season (Song of Blessing Bk 1) by Lauraine Snelling

To Everything A Season

To Everything A Season is part of the Bjorklund family saga that is covered in five series of stories. All of these are historical fiction with some romance included in many of the tales. The Song of Blessing series is the fifth Bjorklund family series. I like to think of it as a two-in-one series because it wraps up the previous series’ loose ends as well as begins a new series about the Bjorklunds in Blessing, North Dakota. It is able to stand on its own, although I think it would be appreciated best if read along with its predecessors. This book came out in 2014 and the second book in the new series, A Harvest of Hope (Song of Blessing Bk 2) by Lauraine Snelling, has just been released (2015). This book is a springboard for the next book which will be more about Trygve and Miriam.

Here is the breakdown of the Bjorklund Family novels and series:

An Untamed Heart (prequel to the Red River of the North series. October 2013)

Red River of the North series (First Bjorklund family series)

An Untamed Land
A New Day Rising
A Land To Call Home
The Reaper’s Song
Tender Mercies
Blessing In Disguise

Return To Red River series (Second Bjorklund family series)

A Dream To Follow
Believing The Dream
More Than A Dream

Daughters of Blessing series (Third Bjorklund family series)
(This series has limited print availability but is available in e-book format)

A Promise for Ellie
Sophie’s Dilemma
A Touch of Grace
Rebecca’s Reward

Home to Blessing series (Fourth Bjorklund family series)

A Measure of Mercy
No Distance Too Far
A Heart for Home

Song of Blessing series (Fifth Bjorklund family series)

To Everything A Season
A Harvest of Hope (Spring, 2015)

The main theme in this book is about community and about the ones who make this community special. Since this is a series that continues the Bjorklund saga, attention is focused on an elderly couple whose legacy includes the community of Blessing, populated by Ingaborg and Haakan’s large family and their friends. There are numerous subplots and threads because the community is growing by leaps and bounds.

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One of the unusual things about this thriving North Dakota village is its hospital. There were not many hospitals available in remote areas in the early 1900’s. This one is very new and run by two female doctors, Dr. Ingrid Bjorklund Jeffers and Dr. Elizabeth Bjorklund, the senior Bjorklund’s daughter and daughter-in-law. Dr. Elizabeth was trained in Chicago and returned to open this one in her remote town mostly supported by the Chicago parent hospital. Much of the action in this story centers around the doctors, patients and the burgeoning community.

In one of the subplots, the Chicago hospital has sent three nurses-in-training out to the Blessing hospital for a year of hands-on experience. One of Ingaborg’s nephews, Trygve Knutson, became smitten with one of the nurses, Miriam Hastings. Their relationship blossomed quickly until an event at the hospital contributed to a misunderstanding between them. The books ends with a cliff-hanger and the realization that their story would continue in another book.

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One of the things that stands out most to me is how well the author built a community to which I became attached quickly. As I read the story, there were many hints of a back story that sounded intriguing and which engendered a desire to look up all the former books of the series and read them. I also sensed a closure to an era of Bjorklunds that centered around one couple, one family, and the beginning of a new era fitting for a new community filled with young families with new challenges to face. There’s the aura of a passing of the baton. It draws me in, anticipating the new series.

Not only was the baton of heritage being passed on from one generation to the next, but so was the legacy of faith-in-action being handed over from the older generation to the younger. This is aptly illustrated when a gang of bank robbers hit their small bank. When the gang was accosted, the youngest brother, just a child, was injured and left behind by his older brothers. The hospital staff and the community pitched in to help this boy recover. No one condemned him, preached at him, or rejected him. He was accepted and cared for and treated like someone of value–a new experience for him. When he was released from the hospital, he was taken in by the senior Bjorklunds where his physical and emotional healing continued. I think that this storyline too is going to be a perpetual theme continued in the new series.

With great character development, a sense of community to love, a bright future ahead, living and breathing faith that transcends mere words, this is a series and book I highly recommend to you.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Netgalley on behalf of 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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Buttermilk Sky by Jan Watson ~Review~

Buttermilk Sky by Jan Watson

Buttermilk Sky

I admire authors like Jan Watson who can somehow lay aside the present cultural influences and nuances and immerse themselves in the past, populate that world with people who live and breathe in our minds and hearts, and allow us to share in this created world. How do they do that? I love the authors who write contemporary fiction works that come alive as well, but there’s a special place in my heart for writers who dig into the past and then give it to us as if they had just walked the streets themselves and carried on conversations with the characters. They write with authenticity and reality and make the past come alive. I’ve discovered that Ms. Watson, a new author for me, accomplishes this very well.

Buttermilk Sky is a turn-of-the-century tale that follows Jan Watson’s previous historical novels: Tattler’s Branch, Skip Rock Shallows, Still House Pond, Sweetwater Run, and the Troublesome Creek series which includes Troublesome Creek, Willow Springs, and Torrent Falls. The book stands completely on its own although reading her other books would deepen the atmosphere and heighten our appreciation of the sub-culture captured in these books.

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Young Sheriff Chanis Clay is following in his father’s rather large shoes as peacekeeper and law enforcement officer in a Kentucky mountain county and specifically the community of Skip Rock. He loves his work, but has much to learn about human nature and life in general. Still, he feels he’s ready to settle down and has his heart fixed on Mazy Pelfrey for his life’s companion. He loves her and all his dreams and goals include her. He even bought a house and started its renovation. But Mazy is not ready to commit herself to marriage yet. She feels restless and unsettled; she wants to experience a bit of life first. So Mazy leaves her family, her twin, her beau, and her mountain community to live in Lexington, take a secretarial course and make some new friends. Most of this story focuses on Mazy as she tries to find her place as a single girl in life.

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This book was a fun, quick read for me. The author sprinkles in plenty of humor and laughs for both Chanis and Mazy in their separate worlds. The sheriff deals with incidences among the mountain folk with amusing tongue-in-cheek wit. My favorite episode was when he nearly lost Frank Cheney, a giant of a man turned bank robber, when transporting him from one community’s jail to another nearby jail. Eventually, Chanis’ dealing with Frank literally changed his life. Mazy’s way of adapting to city life, trying new foods, wearing new clothes, all the while trying not to look like a country bumpkin, is often rib tickling.

At first, Mazy appeared to me to be a shallow, unthinking piece of fluff, content to imitate everyone else and gain favor with her study group’s leader, Eva, no matter what it took. But eventually she realized the futility of her efforts, and the real Mazy emerged. The Mazy of the final chapters was a 180 degree turn-around from the Mazy of the beginning of the story. Her journey from first to last is what makes this book great reading for women.

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Finally, as a faith-based read, the author includes many thought-provoking moments of revelation for both the main characters, without being preachy. Character development and faith in God with all its practical implications were woven together seamlessly throughout the book. A real, vital relationship with God should be as natural as breathing. The author demonstrates this in her writings. It is something I greatly appreciate among authors I read the most. I am looking forward to reading more books by this author.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from Netgalley on behalf of Tyndale 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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Jessie (Coastal Chronicles Bk 2) by Rebekah Lyn ~Review~

Jessie (Coastal Chronicles Bk 2) by Rebekah Lyn

Jessie

The era was the 1960’s. America found itself in the space race, an extension of the Cold War, with Russia. President Kennedy had issued a challenge to the US to get a man to the moon by the end of the decade. Russia won the first round by getting the first man into orbit. The question was, could any nation get a man to set foot on the moon safely? Patriotic fervor was on the rise, and the nation rose to meet the challenge at a time when the country was also fighting in a senseless war overseas. To some readers, all this may be just a history lesson; but to many baby boomers, this was part of our personal life story. The author, Rebekah Lyn, brings fresh perspective of this exciting era by allowing readers to experience it all through the eyes of Jessie, the youngest of four brothers growing up in the coastal region of Florida within viewing distance of the earliest launch sites at Cape Canaveral (later renamed Cape Kennedy for 10 years).

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Jessie Cole was nine when it occurred to him to become an astronaut. None of his brothers were as obsessed with the space program as he was. Their interests waned over time as they followed other interests, while Jessie never lost his focus. What the boys did have in common was their sense of adventure, enhanced by living on the hunting mecca of Merritt Island. Among other adventures, the boys had built a treehouse just ten miles from the earliest launch sites. They enjoyed ring-side seats for many of the launch events.

Space Coast From Space Station

Eventually the space program bought the island to expand the site, and families were moved to the mainland, including Jessie’s family. Jessie’s father took this move hard; he had kept a still on the island for many years to support his habit. The Coles’ new home was adjacent to a larger area of wilderness, so the brothers didn’t mind the move. Instead of just a treehouse, the boys built a hidden fort in the forest, with several huts inside for their “stash”. But life wasn’t quite the lark it appeared to be on the surface. Eugene Cole was a mean drunk, bitter and disillusioned with his life. Often, Jessie and Max as the youngest and the oldest took the brunt of his rages and beatings. It wasn’t the most supportive environment for a budding astronaut. Nor were Jessie’s grades anything to boast about. With poverty nipping at their heels, Jessie’s prospects for the future looked grim and foreboding. But Jessie possessed grit and tenacity. He eventually realized as soon as he entered High School his grades mattered. Putting pride aside, he asked for help. But would his father drag him down? Would his inner resentment and turmoil short circuit his efforts?

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The author in this coming of age chronicle has managed to capture the three dimensions of an important era in US history by tying it intricately to the obstacles a young boy must overcome to realize his dreams. Jessie faced numerous physical, mental and spiritual hurdles. Symbolically, this reflects obstacles our nation and society has faced from its inception. Many of those struggles are currently ongoing. Jessie’s story reflects the story of the ’60’s…dreams, trials, struggles, wars and betrayal, bullies, friendships, failures, money issues and successes.

Another aspect of this story that I admire is how well the author conveyed the details of the space race with its failures and successes in its various stages, as NASA broke orbit, spent time in space, and finally reached the moon. Learning from the epic fails and accidents were valuable lessons of the consequences of our ambitions and the need to weigh the merits against the drawbacks. Jessie too realized these same factors in his own life. They were important agents needed to help move him forward if he was to ever become an astronaut. Seriously good writing here.

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Finally the author’s creation of family life in the ’60’s (very much similar to my own family growing up), populated with living breathing people we care about and empathize with, is top notch. Jessie’s family is endearing, warts and all. His mother was the strong female figure, the pillar, that kept the family unified and strong, even during the temporary absence of their father. By the conclusion of the book, we see some truly wonderful character development, pithy and heart-warming. I highly recommend this book for you to enjoy. Young adults may enjoy the retro atmosphere, and people my age may like a reflection of the past events we remember. Everyone else, it’s a good story. Go read it.

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