The Deuce (Midtown Blue Book 1) by F.P. Lione ~ Review

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The Deuce (Midtown Blue Book 1) by F.P. Lione

CKN Christian Publishing did readers a favor by bringing this book to our attention. Not too long ago I reviewed another book by F.P. Lione, which by the way is a writing team, not a single author. It’s apparent the team loves to use New York City as a setting. So first of all, if you are a country loving person like me, don’t turn away from the book because of this. Give it a fair chance. It is well worth it.

Second, if you are a person who easily gets lost in the trees for the forest, you may struggle a little bit with the beginning half of the book. There are a lot of details, but if you take a moment and look at the big picture, there is a good reason for this. The first half of the book sets the scene, the premise, and the background of the main character, Tony Cavalucci, a 10-year veteran NYPD cop. The reason I say this is because this writing team demonstrates a rare quality I do not find often in the writing industry, in my opinion. Wannabe writers often hear the warning, “show, don’t tell.” In other words, don’t just tell the reader what you want them to know, show them. Make it an experience. Most writers I know try really hard to do this, but it isn’t easy to accomplish. Well, if you want to see how it is done, then read this book. But you must read it all the way through to the end without judgment to understand the point of the story. I’m afraid many readers just won’t get it. The pace is not the breakneck speed we are used to when watching crime and cop shows on television. It tends to move more slowly at first, picking up the pace mid way. It could possibly be too easy to get lost in the details and miss the crux of the matter.

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Thirdly, if you love police procedurals, this is a story you’ll enjoy. At the very least, the first half of the book is about the daily life and matters during the main character’s patrol with his partner Joe. Just be aware this is not written to give you an adrenaline rush. What I appreciate about this part of the book is that it is gritty and nasty, but not crude or graphic. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s family reading, but it is a good clean read without filth. The point however in this first section is that you feel what Tony feels about his life. I think the authors did a remarkable job in portraying the despair and futility that hits Tony day after day. It is written in such a way that the reader is meant to feel this with him. If you don’t, you may miss the crucial turning point for this good cop in the second half of the book.

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I won’t say much about the turning point of this story except to say that it takes time and it’s subtle. It’s not as easy as turning Tony from sour to saint. Not at all. In fact, the way the story ends is much more true to life than most Christian fiction books I read. Instead of a definitive end, you could say that at the conclusion of the book you feel that this is just the beginning for Tony. I felt that way and thought to myself, “I would definitely want to read more.” So if the hints are true, and this is a series, then I’ll be very happy to read more. I hope you will too when you read this book.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from CKN Christian Publishing on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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The Christmas Cowboy by Shanna Hatfield ~ Review

The Christmas Cowboy by Shanna Hatfield

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If you are looking for a sweet and clean romance, slightly fluffy, but with no crudeness or sex, then this is the read for you. It is one of my favorite romances, with a western flavor, and Christmas related to boot.

Tate Morgan grew up on a ranch; it’s his way of life. On top of that, he is a talented bronc rider taking awards on the rodeo circuit. As you read this story, you are either going to think to yourself, “Is this guy real? He’s too good to be true” or “Ok, what’s his game?” But it turns out that he’s a genuinely nice guy who loves life and people. He’s surrounded by women fans. Sometimes they get on his nerves because of their aggressiveness. He would rather do the chasing when it comes to finding one that would fit into his life. So far, he hasn’t found one he can picture living with and having a family with. Then he meets Kenzie Beckett.

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Kenzie Beckett is a little shy when it comes to cowboys. She’s had some bad experiences. But secretly she really likes Tate Morgan once she gets to know him. The problem is she believes all cowboys are players. So when she thinks she sees evidence of that in Tate, she runs. The best part of the story is how they resolved this issue.

There’s a lot of great humor in this story. That’s one of my favorite parts of this book. I enjoy laughing, and the give and take Tate and Kenzie share is wonderful. And Tate’s friends are great guys too. That’s good writing on the part of the author.

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From time to time I enjoy an uncomplicated plot, especially around the holidays. I find it enjoyable to read a more simple story between larger novels with complex plots and scenes, and non-fiction books. This fits very well in that category. If you enjoy a great, clean story with a feel good romance, a clear cut hero and heroine, a happily after, (and yeah, it’s formulaic) then I recommend this book for you.

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Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh ~ Review

Keeping Christmas pic

Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh

For many folks, Christmas is a happy time of year. It’s filled with warm cozy memories, family, food and fun. But it is not that way for everyone. For some people this holiday only brings them pain and emptiness. There may be bad memories or a lack of good memories. What then? Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh is all about one couple dealing with the emptiness of loss at one of the most family oriented times of the year.

Stan and Judith Winters are empty nesters. And this year it was painfully obvious. Their three children are grown, married, with families and good jobs. And they are scattered all over the US. None were able to come home for Thanksgiving, and Judith has just learned that none of them will be able to afford to come home for Christmas either. This has put Judith into a deep depression which she has been unable to shake. Stan and Judith’s best friends, Barney and Betty (I don’t know their last names, but it probably isn’t Rubble!) even tried to cheer Judith up. Nothing seemed to work. Stan knew there had to be a solution to the problem, but he just couldn’t think what it could be.

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There were so many poignant moments in this book. Judith’s feelings are understandable and very true for many other people dealing with the empty nest. It drew me in, made me feel a little sad as I read her plight. But even though the predominant problem is sad, there were still plenty of funny and even feel-good moments. I enjoyed the book so much, in fact, that I have read it several times in the past couple of years.

My favorite part of the story was a discussion between Judith and Betty about their husbands. Keep in mind that this book is written by a male author, so it was so surprising to read their discussion about how men seem to have switches on their feelings, and how often they can switch off those feelings while the wife just can’t do that. The discussion was precious. I found myself agreeing, “Yeah, how is that possible?” The author nailed that conversation.

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The second most favorite part about the story was the description of the ugly ornaments and their significance. Again, I felt a heart tug here because our children and I used to make ornaments when they were younger. There were a lot of fond memories wrapped up in those years. As it turns out, those ornaments play an important part in the resolution, which was a perfect way to end the book. Even if you’re not an empty nester, I believe you’ll enjoy reading this story.

Christ died for you individually Santa kneels

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley on behalf of the author and Revell. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Cries of Innocence by Angela Beach Silverthorne ~ Review

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Cries of Innocence by Angela Beach Silverthorne

This is the type of book that readers will either love or it will step on toes. In any case, it may elicit a strong response from anyone reading it. The premise behind the story in this book is spiritual warfare. It’s not your usual idea of spiritual warfare which we often tend to view in theoretical terms, philosophically discussing things without getting emotionally involved. Instead, you will find spiritual warfare involving people personally from the very beginning.

The main character is Brenda Sue Parrot and her mom, Linda. Home life for this teen was a horror. Her father was always drunk and violent. He was a drug dealer. Her mother works several jobs to hold the family together. Brenda, in usual teen fashion, has little respect for her mother, often blaming her for her troubles. So the beginning part of the story feels like teen angst. But it quickly deepens as strange events begin to happen in her town, to her family and her friends. Fortunately, Bren has grandparents and family that are supportive and help them when the situation begins to look dire.

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The second part of the story shifts from Bren’s high school life to something much more serious. Her perception shifts as she became more and more aware of the battle she was witnessing around her. She moves in with her grandmother at a place called The Haven. For a reader, this part of the story gets a little puzzling and intense. It’s not exactly what I would call action packed, although sometimes it feels like that. I would say it becomes more suspenseful in anticipation of something big that was coming, building on that suspense chapter by chapter. The author does a good job of anticipation and suspense and stretching out mystery as far as it can go. To some extent, I felt the mystery and chaos was being stretched a little bit too far and for too long. However, I got to the point where I couldn’t put the book down. I wanted to solve the mystery, and the missing information and the gaps made me curious.

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The final chapters are basically a showdown between good and evil. Yet it is a physical battle with real physical danger and threats of death everywhere around The Haven. This part of the book is intense, filled with chaos and chaotic events. But in this section you see the most character growth in our main characters, Brenda and Linda, Falon, Moses and GG. Not only do they grow in awareness of more than one type of danger, they grow in maturity and purpose.

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So in the end, there is a touch of fantasy, other-worldliness, lots of suspense and anticipation, a sense of danger, a mystery, some back story, conflict, a gospel message and a salvation message from a Christian point of view, and much more. I believe the intended target audience is YA, although this book could appeal to many ages. This is by no means a boring book! I enjoyed reading this and would read other books by this author.

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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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Red: The New Rulebook: Christian Suspense series Book 1 by Joy Ohagwu ~ Review

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Red: The New Rulebook: Christian Suspense series Book 1 by Joy Ohagwu

Suspense and mystery novels are a great way to challenge our minds. That’s one reason why I read them so often. I purposely look for suspense writers who stay away from becoming too dark and dabbling into graphic horror. I don’t mind fantasy or science fiction either as long as the line isn’t crossed at this same point. There’s a fine line to toe when looking for this kind of balance. So when I find an author who can write this way successfully while engaging the reader’s intelligence, I like to tell others. This book fulfills most of the above criteria. The author is new to me, so the jury is still out, but so far, it looks good.

Robert and Ruby had been friends since they were just children living in an orphanage. All those years ago, they had backed each other up, joining forces and becoming fast friends. Now as adults, they were each traveling their own paths, yet still in contact and still supportive of each other. Both busy in their own lives, until one day Ruby discovered she had been framed for murder. Terrified, the first person she thought to contact was her friend Robert.

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Throughout the rest of this book, they were running for their lives, followed by a mysterious force that seemed to know their every turn. It had something to do with The New Rulebook. What was the New Rulebook? Think of a contemporary TRON gone bad. Or an Anakin Skywalker’s desire to rule the universe benevolently, for the good of everyone, turned sour. The meme, a good idea falls into the wrong hands. And why could Spock not defeat Captain Kirk at 3-D chess? Because he made unpredictable moves that defied logic.

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So how did Ruby and Robert live through their ordeal? They had two things in their favor. You get to find out by reading the book. And while the story comes to a satisfying conclusion, the overall plot is not quite finished. There is more to come in future books. I am eager to read these and find out what comes next.

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I liked the plot and the concept shared in this book. It’s a good premise, and the suspense is kept moving along very nicely. I would like to mention that I think this author has more to offer in the way of refining the details. There were moments when ideas were a little confusing, or the structure of sentences were not clear. A few phrases worded awkwardly were dotted throughtout the book, although more frequently during the first third of the pages. These types of problems were a little distracting in the beginning from the action taking place. Once they are cleaned up, this will be a much better book. I’m looking forward to seeing these improvements.

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, Part255: “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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Hope Crossing: The Complete Ada’s House Trilogy by Cindy Woodsmall ~ Review

Hope Crossing: The Complete Ada’s House Trilogy by Cindy Woodsmall

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This is the trilogy, Ada’s House, that includes three full-length novels: The Hope of Refuge, The Bridge of Peace, and The Harvest of Grace. I have already written reviews of each book separately, so this book review is only about a few things about the bound trilogy.

Review for Book One

Review for Book Two

Review for Book Three

When it comes to binding three full length books into one volume, I feel a little ambivalent. On one hand, it’s convenient to have all three books in one volume. No searching, no hunting for a missing book. I like the convenience. On the other hand, it makes for a large, heavy book to hold up to read. Since I have carpal tunnel in one hand, it was uncomfortable if sitting up in a comfortable chair. It was not a problem sitting at a table. What I was given was a soft bound book, but it was still heavy. However, eventually, the spine broke and the book split in half. My given preference would be to have three separate volumes.

For an overview: The story begins with someone living outside the Amish communities that eventually come into focus for these books. We follow Cara’s story all throughout the three books. In a great twist of events, she discovers she was supposed to grow up in the Amish community of Dry Lake with her relatives. But instead, she ended up in foster care. She falls in love with Ephraim, makes friends in the community, and over the course of the three books struggles with personal issues to join the Old Order Amish community whole-heartedly to marry him.

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All the books are beautifully written, filled with people I came to care for, and full of great dynamic characterization. I cared for the people in these stories. I disliked the villains, felt fear with the ones in pain, triumphant with overcomers, and rejoiced with the marriages of friends. It was nearly like taking a journey with close companions. I would heartily recommend this trilogy. Just choose buying the three books separately and forgo the huge book of all three bound together.

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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