Flower Swallow by Alana Terry ~Review~

Flower Swallow by Alana Terry

Flower Swallow

Some of us may relate to a time when we saw the world through a child’s eyes. It has always been a mystery to me how that happens. But when it does, there’s a sense of new appreciation for things that have become ‘ho hum’ to us through time and familiarity. I have discovered this book gives us the same kind of perspective. We see what life might be like in North Korea through the eyes of a lost child, a lost boy, known in that country as a ‘flower swallow.’

Once I started reading this book, I became entranced. Because really, what do we know about life in North Korea? Not really enough for us to develop compassion for people who are trapped within a nation whose despotic leaders want them to think they are gods. So this story is told in the first person by a little boy named Woong. From his viewpoint, we understand the people a little bit more; we understand a land in famine, hit by storms, flash floods, cruel dictators, starvation and hard circumstances. Life was so harsh that many children were cut loose from their families to find their own way. In the Western world, we would think of them as “street urchins” thinking back to the eighteenth century London where children often lived in the streets. If you’ve read or watched the story Oliver, that would give you a glimpse of what that life was about. It wasn’t pretty. So too, this boy Woong had a tough life. He wasn’t an orphan, but he was cut loose from family nevertheless.

Flower Swallow street-children Bogota

Street children in Bogota

The author, Alana Terry, creates a character with tons of personality. Unlike the story of Oliver, which was a serious tome from the onset to its conclusion, Woong is a mischievous little guy who thinks and ponders things through. This story is his reflection on his younger years as a ‘flower swallow’, where his adventures and attitudes remind me more of Tom Sawyer than Oliver. I often chuckled, if not at the circumstances, definitely at the way the adventures were explained by a little boy. (His present life sounds as if he’s about 8 or 9, telling this story to his American teacher.)

Flower Swallow street urchins1

19th century London, street children

What I especially appreciate about this book is the combination of pathos and humor. The humor does not detract from the seriousness of the population’s condition. It is so well written, that when the boy speaks of his every day life, you can laugh but with tears in your eyes. You gain such a sense of sympathy devoid of pity. I could appreciate the strength needed to cope and survive in such a hostile environment. I began to admire Woong, and others who barely survived. In fact, I experienced a wide range of emotions while reading this story, including admiration for the author who made this story come alive.

Flower Swallow street children in India

Street children, India

I highly recommend it for your household. This is the type of book you can read with your children, since there are no graphic scenes in this book, although you should be prepared to share harsh reality with your children if they have not been exposed to it before. Yet this book is one that’s appropriate for a wide range of readers. As a former homeschool mom, I can see many applications in this book for children and young people.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from 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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Paralyzed (A Kennedy Stern Christian Suspense Novel Book 2) by Alana Terry ~ Review

Paralyzed (A Kennedy Stern Christian Suspense Novel Book 2) by Alana Terry

ParalyzedParalyzed is the second book of the Kennedy Stern novel series by Alana Terry. This series runs parallel to another series by the same author. That set involves Kennedy’s parents who live in China where they conduct a secret seminary for North Korean refugees. While book 1 and 2 in Kennedy’s series works closely together, you can read each one independently of the other. Of course, I think they are best read back to back, since the events only occur six weeks apart. You can view my review of book 1 here.

Kennedy Stern, after having lived in China ten years, is now attending Harvard University as a pre-med student. It’s only been six weeks since she’d been kidnapped in what turned out to be a high profile case that involved a big political name, underground thugs, and a pregnant girl. Kennedy ended up handcuffed for 24 hours in a filthy darkened basement watching the young teen die from bleeding out. She still had nightmares of the horrors she witnessed. While taking final exams before the Christmas break, she started have coughing fits, and out in the hallway, she thought she saw a familiar ugly face. It frightened her enough that she fled the exam in panic to her dorm room. Then she had to see a doctor for her cough and an excused absence for her professor. The doctor recognized her and asked her several questions. He hinted that she may need counseling, possibly for PTSD. She couldn’t get her mind wrapped around the concept. Could she really have PTSD? She was a Christian. She’d been praying an reading her Bible more often since her traumatic experience. She’d even memorized Bible verses. Didn’t that help?Paralyzed Quote1

From that point on, the author provides non-stop suspense. Kennedy’s friend took her out to see the Nutcracker Suite. She enjoyed it but was once again spooked when they attempted to see some of the players backstage, and she wound up alone in a dark hallway. Then they took a subway to get some pizza, but a power outage created new panic; she felt as if someone was following her in the dark tunnel, especially after a smoke bomb forced everyone out of the car and into the unlit tunnel. Once home her shaken nerves were further rattled when her father called to warn her a second man was discovered to have been involved in the kidnapping case. He sent her with an email with a picture of the man. She immediately recognized him from the subway incident. She needed to flee, but she didn’t know where to go. That’s when Pastor Carl Lindgren, a family friend, entered the fray. He had received the same warnings from Kennedy’s dad. Pastor Carl decided she needed to stay with him for her safety. They were anything but safe. What ensued was a terrifying car chase, a shoot out, a hospital visit, police protection, and an ambush. At that point, I just could not put the book down.

Paralyzed Quote2

Alana Terry writes excellent suspenseful scenes that are fast-paced. That alone has me recommending this book to you. But Kennedy’s inner battles are just as interesting to me. Yes, growing up in a missionary family ensured her head was filled with knowledge that made her appear to be a Christian. She prayed, read her Bible, lived by a set of moral codes in spite of her environment, and even memorizing Scripture. But something was missing. She seemed a little two dimensional to me. I kept asking myself, “Where’s the joy? Where’s the relationship, the inner peace, the intimacy between her Heavenly Father and a daughter?” Kennedy’s spiritual life is often too formulaic in my opinion. A true dynamic Christian life is much more than saying prayers, doing good deeds, going to church, and even reading the Bible. It’s vital and alive–an active relationship between a loving Father and His child. there should be dialogue and exchange. I believe this lack of depth has been carefully crafted by the author as an underlying subplot that began in the first book and grows gradually throughout the series. It is not yet resolved in the second book in spite of the satisfactory resolution of the more active portions of the story line. I suspect the quieter theme will continue into the next book or books in the series. I look forward to further development of this character thread because it is an ever pressing issue in today’s world.

Paralyzed Quote3

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from 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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Double Cross (FBI: Houston series) by DiAnn Mills ~Review~

Double Cross by DiAnn Mills

Double Cross

Double Cross is the second book of three in the FBI: Houston series. I have read and reviewed both the first and second books; they are both able to stand on their own as independent novels. The third book, Deadlock, is scheduled to come out in the Spring of 2016. You can read my review of Firewall by DiAnn Mills here.

Houston Police Officer Daniel Hilton loved his grandparents. Together, the three of them loved the Lord and lived for Him. When his Gramps, a respected former accountant, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, they were all affected deeply. During the day, Gramps and Gran stayed at a high security memory facility six days a week. Daniel brought them home every evening after work. When Gramps mentioned some of his friends at the facility had bought life insurance, Daniel was concerned. When a large sum of money was missing from one of their accounts, he felt it was time to investigate. He had the complete cooperation of the facility’s manager. But when some of the patients who had bought the insurance began to die, Gramps demanded they take the case to the FBI. Daniel stubbornly disagreed, but took them anyway.

Double Cross quote1

Special Agent Laurel Evertson was in her office when Daniel and his grandparents arrived. She and her partner handled cases like white collar crimes, including elderly fraud. Laurel took charge of the meeting while two other agents asked questions. Theirs was not the first scam they had heard about. The FBI was investigating what appeared to be an organized attempt at targeting dementia patients. Millions of dollars were at stake. If lives were also threatened, this upped the ante for the Bureau. Laurel thought of an angle of investigation involving a former case of hers where her undercover work sent a man to prison. She wondered what he knew of these fraud cases. She decided going against FBI policy by visiting him in prison without another agent present. Her reasoning was personal. A couple days later, she was sent undercover again, this time making it appear she had betrayed the FBI and was fired. The object was to gain the confidence of the possible ring leader perpetrating the scams. Twists and turns in the plot keep the reader guessing with each new development.

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When I read the first book in this series, the complexity of the plot was amazing; it riveted me to the book from start to finish. The same occurred to me with this book. DiAnn Mills writes more than just fast-paced mysteries and thrillers. She holds the readers enthralled, with questions around every corner. At one point, she had me guessing who could be trusted, who was on which side, who was the double crosser, and who was being double-crossed. While she is doing this, she is adding layers of character development while the major players race against time to prevent more elderly deaths. If you’re not careful, this book will have you looking over your shoulder.

I love it when an author feeds you anticipation, in this case through the title. Because of this, the book feels a little bit like a “who-done-it” on steroids. But my favorite aspect in discovering the who, why, and how of the plot was the surprise (or should I say both surprises) at the end. At least one of them completely caught me off guard. I know this book will be placed with my favorite reads because I will want to read it over several times.

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Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how important the element of faith is in this book. There is no preaching here. Daniel and his grandparents’ faith is expressed through action. They live it, 24/7. It is not compartmentalized and separated from the rest of their lives. It’s this faith-in-action that speaks loudest to Laurel, who can’t quite grasp the concept and personhood of God. In addition, there is one more person of faith I can’t tell you about; it would spoil the plot. It is a part of the surprise at the conclusion of the investigation, the end of the book, and the turning point for Laurel. Now quit pestering me for more details and go read the book! You’ll love it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers 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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Book Blast! Sarah Anne’s Expedient Marriage by Cathy Lynn Bryant and Jessica M. Dorman

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Sarah Anne’s Expedient Marriage
By Cathy Lynn Bryant & Jessica M. Dorman

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About the Book:

Knowing he was about to die, Sarah Anne’s beloved father had arranged for her to marry Alexander Swyndhurst II. Alexander, a recent widower, had no intention of taking another wife; but after learning the young woman’s situation—that she had been the object of at least one man’s unwanted attentions, and that she would soon be left alone and unprotected—he had agreed to the marriage. He had one stipulation, however: He and Sarah Anne would live separately—he in Bristol, England, and she in Amesbury, Massachusetts Bay Colony. Sarah Anne had agreed wholeheartedly with this arrangement.

Will Alexander have a change of heart? What of the dangerous man from her past? What will happen while her husband is away—leaving her alone with only the servants? Even though there are connections, each novel in the series may be read as a stand-alone.

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cathyCathy Lynn Bryant & Jessica M. Dorman
Inspired by interesting characters and events uncovered while doing genealogical research,mother and daughter writing team, Cathy Lynn Bryant and Jessica Marie Dorman, who live in beautiful New England, have masterfully woven the stories of real people and fictional characters from the 17th and 18th centuries to develop inspirational, romantic, works of historical fiction. The Unshakable Faith series includes the following titles: Book 1 Lost Love and Shipwrecked–Madeline Pike Finds Hope in the New Land; Book 2 Grandmother’s Namesake; Book 3 Sarah Anne’s Expedient Marriage.

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Book Blast!! Discerning Truth in a World Filled With Lies by Ron Leonard

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Discerning Truth in a World Filled with Lies
By Ron Leonard

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About the Book:

Are you tired of being lied to? Not sure you can trust anyone outside your immediate family (and you’re even keeping a close eye on them)? Do you hate it when you discover that you’ve fallen for a lie? Then you’re in the right place. This book is dedicated to the belief that the truth can be found and is worth any price. The author shares insights and anecdotes from his various adventures in spotting lies everywhere from our culture to our co-workers.
Whether the lies come to you from advertisers, journalists, politicians, economists, friends, or even the church pulpit, this book will teach you how to question and counter the avalanche of lies you experience every day.
Additional case studies are presented that tie together the various concepts in easily understood vignettes. A bonus section shares insights on truths learned from counseling with real-live individuals and couples. Key points are highlighted by personal stories from the author’s life. Available on Amazon, Kindle, and Smashwords or signed copies are available at www.truthorcounseling.com.

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leonard_120x170Ron Leonard
The author is a Christian therapist, MBA, and Mensa member. He has been married 25 years and has two, yes two, teenagers. After spending four years writing this book he swore not to think about writing another one for many years. Three months later, he has the rough outlines of a fiction book with two heroes, one of whom has schizophrenia.

 

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Book Blast!! No Other Choice: The Naomi Chronicles, Book One by Paula Rose Michelson

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No Other Choice: The Naomi Chronicles, Book One
By Paula Rose Michelson

About the Book:

Naomi will be sent back! She left her family and all she held dear, traveled half way around the world while accompanying a blind, old grandmother because they promised to help her enter America and find her uncle. Instead they handed her over to immigration.

What she does now, she does because there is no other choice!

This is Naomi’s journey from adolescence to womanhood, from frightened isolation and captivity to the noble status of heiress. Trapped in a life where all who know her think her a saint, saddled with a mission and responsibility many would shirk from placed upon her shoulders, Naomi agrees to marry because that seems to be the easiest way to sidestep more issues.

As timely as the immigration debate of today is, author, William Struse’s endorsement says, “Duty, sacrifice, and faith are carried in the arms of love by a courageous young woman, who rises above her own flaws to help others.”

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Paula Rose Michelson0011Paula Rose Michelson
As a Messianic Jew, Paula Rose Michelson wanted to write about life, love, choices, and forgiveness. She researched what befell the Jews baptized into the Catholic faith to survive the Inquisition, and when she began to write The Naomi Chronicles, Naomi told her the story you are about to read.

Because of her extensive background in recovery as a Chemical Dependency – Lifestyle Disorder Councilor, her work with The Rubicon Center, and as the founded LAMB Ministries in 1988, where she continues to mentor women suffering from trauma and abuse the way God mentored her, the author knows that though her heroine’s story is unique, Naomi’s issues of fear and hiding are universal, for they are seen in anyone who is masking their real pain.

Paula Rose Michelson is the wife of Lutheran Pastor and Chosen People Field Missionary, Ron Michelson. The mother of two married daughters, and grandmother of seven grandchildren, when not involved in ministry, writing, speaking, or teaching the effective use of scripture, you will find Paula researching her next book or meeting with friends.

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A September Bride (A Year of Weddings novella) by Kathryn Springer ~Review~

A September Bride (A Year of Weddings novella) by Kathryn Springer

A September Bride

A September Bride is one of Zondervan Fiction’s Year of Weddings novellas of 2014. I have reviewed several of the books in this series. If you are interested, here are the links to my reviews:

A December Bride,
A January Bride,
A February Bride,
A March Bride,
An April Bride,
A May Bride,
A June Bride.

I will be reviewing October and November’s books soon.

All the stories in this series are stand alone books. This one is bright, cheery, filled with good humor and laughs, a sweet romance, small town family dynamics and a happy ending. Conflict is on the light side with just a smidgen of mystery. It’s the perfect read for a get-away or a weekend.

Anne Price was looking for a new start in her life. So when she was offered the opportunity to manage a small town bookstore, she jumped at the chance. Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, Anne felt Red Leaf was a refreshing change for her. Everyone treated her like family and she immediately became involved in the town’s events. She even joined the historical society. She finally felt like she belonged–until she met no-nonsense Deputy Jesse Kent, her employer’s son. He regarded her with suspicion and wariness. She knew with her friendship with Lorna, the owner of the Second Story Bookshop, she’d be bumping elbows more than she liked with Jesse. But what had she done to earn his dislike?

Deputy Jesse Kent had gone on a three-week training conference. When he’d returned, his mother had hired a manager for her bookstore and seemed to have found a male admirer. Both were disturbing changes. His mother liked continuity, such as Monday night meatloaf; but here she was with a new manager, a new recipe, and even possibly a boyfriend. Why had all this change happened? All this prompted memories of another time years ago when he’d had to stand by helplessly while she’d had her trust betrayed with a so-called suitor turned con-artist. He had stolen the savings of many townspeople including her own. Jesse was only twelve at the time, but the event laid the foundation for his desire to become a law enforcement officer to protect his mom and his community. He couldn’t help being wary of the two newcomers, Michael and Anne. With Anne, there seemed to be an air of mystery around her, yet his mother trusted her completely. He only hoped it was merited; he was going to do what he could to be certain it was.

perfect time

The one thing I most enjoyed about this book was the author’s sense of humor. There were many occasions for a few chuckles and a smattering of giggles. Good clean humor.

Second, the light romance combined with good character development was a treat to read. Both Jesse and Anne had obstacles to overcome before their relationship could get off the ground. Jesse’s lack of trust was a major issue he had to overcome. Anne simply didn’t believe in herself. The author worked this out well, considering how short the novella is. Both Anne and Jesse were likable and even lovable in their own unique ways.

Finally, the author includes faith issues as part of the character development. Faith was part of their lives. It blended in seamlessly with the story line and felt as natural as breathing. The issues didn’t seem forced or unrealistic. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good, light romance.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley on behalf of Zondervan Fiction. 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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