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

A Light on the Hill pic

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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My Heart Belongs in San Francisco, California: Abby’s Prospects by Janice Thompson ~ Review

My heart belongs in San Francisco pic

My Heart Belongs in San Francisco, California: Abby’s Prospects by Janice Thompson

My Heart Belongs in San Francisco, California joins the collection of Barbour Publishing’s series that celebrates historical beginnings in America. This book explores the era of the California Gold Rush, the ’49ers, and the roots of San Francisco, the boiling pot of the West. This book places you right there in the middle of all the action from the viewpoint of a young woman from England.

Abigail Effingham was not a typical person traveling out West in the 1850’s. For one, while she was not traveling alone by train, wagon train and coach, she was accompanied by her household’s butler. Her objective was to meet up with her mother in the Oregon Territories where her mother was visiting her sister. Abigail missed her and wanted her to return home to Philadelphia, a city they were well settled after their immigration from England. This trip gave Abby a close-up look at all the frontier had to offer, including the flooding that diverted their path away from Oregon. With a new found determination, Abby decided against Neville’s advice to return to Philadelphia, but to visit San Francisco to wait until the flooding receded in the Spring and her mother could come to her. She couldn’t realize how much this side trip would change her life’s course.

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The people in the hayday of San Francisco were uncivilized, thrill-seeking and out to find their fortunes. Some of them were optimistic, starry-eyed with hope of striking it rich. But if they stayed too long, they often became jaded, swindled, crushed, and hard-drinking gamblers. They were not what Abby was used to. But soon, she inevitably discovered ways to influence a few of them, and being a young person herself, began to improve what was around her. Eventually a young man, Sam (good old reliable Sam), became her protector in more ways than she understood. They developed a strong friendship while she and Neville stayed at the Inn owned by his father. Sam’s family housekeeper, who traveled to California with them years before, became the cook at the Inn. Her food was legendary and she was popular all throughout the city.

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What I enjoyed so much was the complete makeover of the young lady we know as Abigail, to the self-sufficient woman that emerged as Abby. Her world was turned upside down. We get to watch the sometimes comical change-up as she learned to pluck chickens, make cherry pies, wash dishes and wait tables for the first time in her pampered life.

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Another valuable part of Abby’s life was her integrity and strong will. That included her spiritual life. She knew what she believed and why she believed that way, yet she never viewed herself as better than anyone else. She made friends with those who were like minded and they encouraged each other in their faith. She was always willing to consider a different viewpoint and learn new things, especially learning about God’s character. That part of one of my favorite sections of the book and the best part of the character development that is done so well. If you like historical fiction from a woman’s point of view, then you are sure to enjoy this book.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the Barbour Publishing as a member of the Review Crew. 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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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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My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York: Adele’s Journey by Amanda Barratt ~ Review

My Heart Belongs In Niagara Falls New York pic

My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls New York by Amanda Barratt

Not too many of us are familiar with the term funambulist. It’s an old term, but it is still in use even today. Perhaps we would be more familiar with tight rope walker. And we may even remember a recent figure making news across the world, Nik Wallenda. He has set many records for even his famous family. Like one of the main characters in this book, Nik Wallenda crossed Niagara Falls. Just look at the preparation required for this task to be done safely.

And yet the main character in this book, Drew Dawson, did not make these types of preparations when he walked across the tightrope stretched across Niagara Falls. Why did he do such a risky thing? Why did he put his life on the line, so to speak? Was he trying to imitate the famous Charles Blondin, funambulist extraordinaire of his time? Was he hero worshipping?

One thing I like most about Drew Dawson was his similarity to Nik Wallenda as they walked the line. Listen to Nik as he crossed the Grand Canyon years ago.

There is a striking resemblance between the two. They pray as they walk. I like that similarity. I like how the author created this similarity in her book, My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York. For Drew, it was not for the name or the fame that comes with the deed. It was out of necessity, for his sister’s well being. She was in a wheelchair because of an accident years before. That tells me a lot about the character of this man. It makes him a hero in my eyes.

Adele Louise Linley did not fully appreciate this quality in Drew when she first met him. In fact, she didn’t know what he did for a living until awhile into their friendship. In the meantime, Adele was in the United States to perform an unsavory duty for her mother and brother living in England. She was in the states to marry for money to save her ancestral home. Even though she was drawn to Drew, he did not have the money she needed to save her home. The fact that things didn’t work out for either of them the way they had planned was an opportunity for God to work His will for a better plan in their lives.

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In this lovely romance, Drew and Adele are drawn to each other, but are at cross purposes. They could see no way out of their individual dilemma’s by a close association with each other. So Adele continued to dazzle American men with her delicate allure while Drew continued his path to create a safe haven for his sister using what skills he had available to him–tightrope walking. Yet their paths would cross from time to time.

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The plot in this book was tight, intelligent and fraught with tension. Two very determined people were set in their way to fix what was wrong with their lives regardless of the consequences. It was intriguing how God worked in two opposite worlds, the world of affluence and the world of deprivation, to answer some desperate prayers.

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In spite of this, my favorite part of the entire story is Adele’s wedding. I won’t tell you more, but for me it packed a wallop of a punch to the story line. And with it came a very satisfying ending.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Netgalley on behalf of Barbour Publishing, Inc. 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.”

 

Nik Wallenda Niagara Falls tightwalk

 

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Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin ~ Review

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Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin

What a remarkable book this is! I don’t usually gush over a book, but this one was exceptional. Lynn Austin is becoming one of my favorite authors for her excellent research and writing style. She knows how to draw in the individual reading the book and involve them in the story. Not only does she develop her characters well, but the action is terse and sometimes breathtaking. I enjoyed every minute of this novel, although when things got tough, enjoy might not be the word to describe what I was reading. But I was definitely involved and feeling with the characters in their struggles.

This is a historical fiction piece with a double plot taking place in two time lines. The main plot involves a group of families living in Leiden, the Netherlands in 1847. A group of people drew away from the established state church and became known as Separatists. Persecution was inevitable. People were accosted, homes harmed and businesses were threatened. The De Jong family were in the middle of this. So Geesje tells this story as an older woman, settled in Holland, Michigan 50 years later. Her family owned a printing business. Even though they moved to a different city where there were Separatists in the Netherlands, their business was still threatened. Eventually a group of people decided to emigrate to America where they would have freedom to worship God as they pleased. The group eventually settled the Holland, Michigan area of West Michigan.

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The story is long because there were so many adverse conditions and situations for the group to overcome. In the meantime, there is another two stories happening in the latest of the historical periods called the ‘present.’ One is about a young woman in her early twenty’s who is struggling to find herself. This story becomes intertwined with the grandmotherly woman Geesje who is telling this story as a project for her town’s celebration of their semi-centennial. Derk is a secondary character who lives next to Geesje and calls her Tante (aunt). She’s been like a mother to him since his own died many years before. He is encouraging her to write her story while at the same time he has befriended Anna at the hotel where he works for the summer.

West Michigan has always had as fascinating history as the rest of the state. As a teacher, I was already aware that the Dutch had settled that part of the state and knew some of the history. This book made it all come to life for me. The Great Lakes have their own fascinating history and lore, legends of great shipwrecks, and filled with the history of the native americans as well. There is no simple way to tell this story, so this book is filled with intrigue and struggles.

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An integral part of the book was the personal faith of the travelers. Encapsulated in this life of faith is the personal struggle of Geesje herself since the beginning of the story. Hers was not a perfect journey. Her faith wavered, was tested, and she often questioned God and His wisdom. The more she experienced the more involved I felt with this woman. This was not a pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by type of story. She was hurt, and circumstances forced her into some horrible situations. I shed a lot of tears of empathy reading this book. My heart was troubled, hurt, frightened and saddened right along with her. To me, that’s a sign of a great book. If you love historical fiction, then I highly recommend this book to you.

 

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Silver Bells by Deborah Raney ~ Review

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Silver Bells by Deborah Raney

In case you’re in need of a sweet, historical romance, Silver Bells by Deborah Raney will fill the need nicely. Christmas isn’t its major theme, but it does resolve very nicely right around Christmas time. And it’s a novella, so it makes for a pleasant seasonal short read. But what attracts me to this story most is how it is filled with good clean humor. The witty dialogue drives this book from beginning to end.

Robert Merrick III works as a managing editor at his father’s paper, the Bristol Beacon. Yes, Rob was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, but right now he is working his way up from the bottom in the business. He does expect to inherit the business some day, but in the meantime, he tries to keep life real. So even though he stays with his dad, he is living on his hard-earned salary.

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Michelle Penn is the new recruit. She wasn’t able to finish college, so after two years she goes to work as a reporter to save up enough money to continue what she started. Unfortunately, Robert Merrick Senior makes the job more difficult for her because he assumes all females are after his son. Every time she turns around, she is being censored by the overbearing father. What is frustrating is that she is not interested in dating anyone yet. She had one painful relationship where she got dumped while the boyfriend went off to Vietnam.

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Still, Rob is interested in Michelle. And she is comfortable around him. He wants to date her, but her reluctance is frustrating and the office policies are inhibiting. Every time he wants to get together with her, she suffers the consequences from his father’s censure. Her job is on the line.

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This book was full of the pleasant banter between friends. One of my favorite chapters was when Rob was driving Michelle to a work assignment and they got a flat tire. He didn’t know how to change a tire! Farm girl to the rescue. The conversation between them was so funny. And it was a turning point for the two of them as well. This is a fun to read light-hearted story of two people who fit with each other in spite of their differing backgrounds and circumstances.

 

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A Texas Legacy Christmas by DiAnn Mills ~ Review

A Texas Legacy pic

A Texas Legacy Christmas by DiAnn Mills

A Texas Legacy series is a series of four books, of which this Christmas tome is the last. I read this without reading the previous three books and did not have any problems following the storyline. I could see that there was some history hinted at, but the missing parts did not in any way detract from the book. In addition, this author is well known and has written about 50 books altogether. Her usual genre is Christian suspense filled with tension and terse relationships. While A Texas Legacy Christmas was not built on that foundation, it certainly contains great well-rounded characters the reader can relate to. It is also a historical fiction like the other books in this series. But it is still capable of standing alone.

Unlike many of the other Christmas stories I have been reviewing, this is not a short story or an in-between story. It is a full length novel and completely developed from beginning to end. It contains not one, but two sweet romances. The two main characters were once childhood friends, attending the same one room schoolhouse, living in the same community, Kahlerville. Zack Kahler’s family is vast and the town was named for them because they were the founders. Growing up, Zack developed a passion for the newspaper business. After a stint as reporter for the New York Times, he returned to his home town and purchased the local newspaper. He had great dreams of what he was going to do with this icon in his hometown. Before he moves back, Zack has a run-in with a set of twins living on the streets. To make a long story short, he ends up adopting them and bringing them back while he established himself in business. It was a stretch, but he felt this was what God was leading him to do.

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Chloe Weaver had a difficult time as a child. Her mother, part Native American, died when she was very young. Her father took to the bottle in his grief and never recovered. His neglect of his daughter caused her to be teased by other children in school, while she never had clean clothes and enough to eat. Her embarrassment was complete when she received charity from others in town in the form of blankets, clothing and such. One boy in particular stood out. Zack Kahler would share a sandwich with her on the sly. Without his help she would often go without food. She is now grown and keeping the account books and serving customers at the village’s only boardinghouse. When she hears that Zack has returned to town with two children in tow, her heart beats faster; she still loves him, but has he changed since adulthood? Was he married? Where was his wife?

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Zack could stay with his parents, who would love to have their grandchildren around more, but he chooses to stay at the boardinghouse with Curly and Charlie. There they all become better acquainted with Chloe whose presence helps he adjust to having children to care for. As he searches for a home for himself and the twins, his relationship with Chloe seems to pick up right where they had left off, upon graduation from school. Their romance is sweet but slightly complicated by Zack’s new business, the twins and a rival for Chloe’s affections and time.

While the storyline does not have many twists or turns, and is a bit predictable, it is a lovely romance with a few complicated elements that delay our expectations a bit. I loved the historical elements, the emerging of modern inventions like the automobile and towns moving from settlement to growing, vibrant communities. The author’s writing is smooth and connected and gives us the full experience of community and its growing pangs. I highly recommend this book for those who love historical romance as a genre, and this author in particular.

 

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