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.

Imagine The Great Flood quote1

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.

perfect time

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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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