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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The Church At Third and Main by Reg Quist ~ Review

Church at Third and Main pic

The Church At Third and Main by Reg Quist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Imagine…The Great Flood by Matt Koceich ~ Review

Imagine…The Great Flood by Matt Koceich

Imagine The Great Flood pic

Wow! I was blown away by this book. It hits the ground running and never lets up the pace from there to the end. This read is a definite thumbs up.

In a series of quirky events, ten-year-old Corey is thrown into an adventure of epic proportions putting him right in the scene of a huge flood–THE Flood–just before the doors to the boat are about to close. Moment by moment Corey’s life is in jeopardy while evil all around him is trying to prevent him from reaching safety.

Not only does Matt Koceich write appropriate age-related physical conflict to create suspense in this book, but he also includes the more subtle battles of the mind and will, including deception, betrayal and temptation. Although the book is short in length, only 110 pages, the author skillfully blends all the elements together to make a fast-paced read for early readers. The high interest level is sure to attract reluctant readers as well.

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As a parent years ago, my children and I would read together all the Magic Treehouse books as the stars in this series would travel the world to solve puzzles and find missing pieces. This has that type of feel to it, but without the pictures and with great foundational teaching. It is a chapter book which I believe will lend itself to being read aloud to very young children.

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If the author develops this into a series, and I think that may be his intention, then we are in for a treat. In the meantime, I highly recommend you pick this up for your young readers and listeners. They’ll love this adventure. In fact, anyone between the ages of 7 to 107 will enjoy this book.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Barbour Publishing on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or negative. 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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My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island: Maude’s Mooring by Carrie Fancett Pagels ~ Review

My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island Maude's Mooring pic

My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island: Maude’s Mooring by Carrie Fancett Pagels

I enjoyed this book so much. The beautiful Mackinac Island makes the perfect setting for this endearing historical romance. Since I live in Michigan, I might be a little biased. I especially enjoy visiting this island with its rich history and colorful background. There aren’t too many residents of the state who haven’t visited this site at least twice in their lifetimes. The author makes full use of the unique geographical features on the island and its beautiful views. That includes the abundance of lilacs which fill the air with its fragrances, even today.

Mackinac Island Lilac Festival 2017 is 69th

The story begins the moment Ben Steffan lands on the island and literally runs smack into Maude Welling at the docks. She looked upset and perhaps a bit angry. She apologized as she hadn’t seen him in front of her. Then she turned and rushed toward the village where he assumed she lived. He continued his stroll, to assume the persona of a wealthy industrialist, Freidrich Konig, he was trying to portray. He had a job to do. But when he looked up from the lovely brunette he had run into, he spotted two people he had known in Detroit. He hoped they didn’t blow his cover.

Maude continued down the street completely disoriented. Not only had she suffered the loss of her mother a year ago, but now she’d lost her fiance. She had expected Greyson’s arrival so they could wed and run her family Inn together. But without notice, he arrived on the docks with his wife! How was she to run the inn herself? Will her father now fulfill his threat to sell it and move down state? She didn’t want to leave the island. Could this day get any worse?

Mackinac Island

The author writes a tender love story that is much more than a casual summer read. She includes a touch of mystery, some duplicity on both the characters’ parts, not a few misunderstandings, heroic action, a bit of a twist and great character development. Both Ben and Maude have reached some crossroads in their lives. Both are attracted to each other, but have secrets that could stop their relationship developing before it even begins. How the author resolves this conflict is heart warming and life affirming.

Mackinac Island Grand Hotel

I especially enjoyed the touches of historical events where the men in the community must be prepared at a moment’s notice to become a rescue team in case there is a shipwreck or collision in the icy waters surrounding the island. At one point, the author uses one such event as a means to draw Ben and Maude together in spite of their determination to back away. What a great story.

Mackinac Island Lilacs Grand Hotel

“Everything you have comes from God, by His will, and for His glory only. Don’t ever fool yourself into thinking that anything here on earth truly belongs to you.” –Pastor McWithey

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

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The Hope of Refuge: An Ada’s House Novel by Cindy Woodsmall ~ Review

The Hope of Refuge Cindy Woodsmall book1

The Hope of Refuge: An Ada’s House Novel by Cindy Woodsmall

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

Two of the main characters are Cara and Ephraim. Cara had been running since she was 15. She found respite once she married Johnny. The best thing that ever happened to her was their daughter Lori. But Johnny had cancer. And now she is on the run again, with Lori in tow. The one thing she has from her past that has brought her peace and direction is her diary from her mother. In it, she recently found a clue to past memories that were fleeting now. Acting on those clues, she left the city she grew up in and found herself without cash, out in the country, with Amish all around her.

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Ephraim found the mother and child in his old rickety barn. His first impulse was to chase them away. But eventually he learned that Cara had a reason for being in his barn. It had to do with memories from twenty years before. They couldn’t stay in the barn, and no one else seemed to want to help the two. So he took a risk, and did something that was dangerous to his standing in the Old Order Amish community. He let them stay in his house while Cara worked to get enough to set out on her own.

This isn’t a simple Amish tale. The author includes some truly heart-wrenching details, with twists and turns I didn’t anticipate. In spite of Cara’s rough background, and desperation at facing so many wrong turns, I had to admire her for her desire to care for her daughter and keep her safe; and what Ephraim had to do to protect this mother and daughter may also take you by surprise. I absolutely loved this book. It was so well written, I had difficulty finding a place to stop reading just to do normal every day tasks. Their story resolves nicely at the end. Be sure you have a box of tissues on hand toward the final chapters; you may need them!

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Looking ahead to the second book, the subplot in this book involving Ephraim’s sister, Deborah, and one of his good friends, Mahlon, becomes one of the main plots of the next book.

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

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