Skells: Midtown Blue Series Book three by F.P. Lione ~ Review

Skells pic

Skells: Midtown Blue Series, Book Three by F.P. Lione

This is the third book in the Midtown Blue series by the writing team of Frank and Pam Lione. The Crossroads follows The Deuce which is focused on Tony and Joe, partners with the NYPD. The events pick up right after the first book where Tony Cavalucci finds the Lord and begins to grow in his faith. This book, Skells, picks up after Crossroads. Tony and Joe are still partners, covering the area of Midtown Manhattan. This is Tony’s eleventh year as a New York City cop.

Because of the authors’ experiences in New York City with the NYPD and downtown missions, this book is filled with meticulous detail on the daily life of the New York City cops. We get a good sense of what it takes to do this job from day to day. This book gets a little more involved in Tony’s personal life as he is engaged to his fiance, Michele, and they are planning their wedding. Like the other books, Tony has difficulties with his dysfunctional family. But he and his intended are navigating the murky waters fairly well. They are learning to be a couple.

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You also get to learn a little of the job of being a policeman through the relationships the men and women have on the “inside.” Tony is no longer struggling with his alcoholism, so we can enjoy the day to day relationships and follow a few individuals in the force more closely. What I like best is that all this is portrayed realistically, no drama, just events. The individuals found on the streets are entertainment enough without made up drama to increase angst. Tony is developing a sense of mission that he never had before for the people he works. He even loses some of his callous feelings toward them and tries so see them from their perspective. It’s a refreshing change from other books in this genre.

This book is not churchy or preachy. But we get the sense that Tony is finally coming into his own as a Christian. He no longer relies on his partner to reach out to people in need. He’s no longer awkward in talking about the Lord when he senses they need a helping hand. He cares. That means a lot when reading this book. Tony is also becoming a family man. He loves Michele’s son as if he were his own. The three of them are beginning to feel like a family, which fills the empty place he has had in his life for many years. While he has loved his grandmother, father, mother and sister, they don’t experience the closeness of family he has always noticed in other peoples’ lives.

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I highly recommend this entire series. You don’t have to love the genre to appreciate all the aspects of this kind of life. The relationships in this particular book are well woven, building up to satisfying friendships, and spiritual maturity. This is a series that I would read over and over.

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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My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade ~ Review

My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade

My Stubborn Heart pic

My Stubborn Heart is one of the sweetest romances I have read in a long time. Two hurting individuals meet while renovating an old home in the reclusive town of Redbud, Pennsylvania. Kate Donovan and her grandmother had arrived to renovate Gran’s childhood home, Chapel Bluff, and return it to its old glory. It was a massive job, requiring them to hire a local contractor for the work. That’s where Matt Jarreau came in. He specialized in working on old homes and restoring them.

Kate’s first impression of Matt was that of tragedy. He had a heart-breaking story filled with sadness and bitterness. She could sense it. Matt was reclusive. He preferred working alone. He didn’t socialize much. People in the small town knew who he was but left him alone. Matt was the local celebrity. He had been a world champion hockey player. He had married a sweet girl, an actual Miss America, but after being on top of the world as a married couple, his wife died of cancer. He was so ripped up about it, he left hockey behind. Kate didn’t know this at first, but she could see that he needed a friend. She was determined to be that friend.

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Kate lived in Dallas. She was a social worker. The job was demanding, but she loved it. That is, she did until one of her children she had worked closely with had committed suicide. It sucked the joy out of her life. She needed a break so that she could get her head on straight about her purpose in life. So she joined her grandmother in a journey up north to remodel Gran’s old childhood home. The break was just what she needed. She loved antiques and old homes and this was just the therapy she needed. She joined Matt daily in taking down wallpaper, designing rooms, painting walls, and so on. Matt was reluctant to work with her, but she was persistent. Keeping everything on a friendly note, she knew God had a purpose for her to be there.

I love the simplicity of the story. It’s not overly complicated. There are a few other subplots, but the story stays true to the major theme–renovation. Not just the home, but Matt’s heart as well. It took a lot of time and patience, but eventually he started to warm up to her friendship. Kate didn’t try for anything deeper than that. She had already set her heart on not reading anything personal in their relationship. She felt that God had sent her for only one thing…to bring Matt’s heart alive again.

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The part of the story I like best is the relationship Kate has with God. She prays and listens to Him. She tries hard not to insert her own personal interests in what she thinks God wants her to do. I really like her humble spirit and teachability. So many of us struggle with these character qualities. I felt encouraged in my own prayer life just by watching how Kate kept her expectations in line with what she felt God wanted her to do. Many of us try to do that, but often fail if we don’t use the Bible as a guideline. We often want to read into situations things that aren’t there because we fail to know and understand the God of the Bible as it teaches us. Kate demonstrated a good balance between knowledge and personal application. The author accomplished this in such a natural manner. There was no awkwardness, no preachiness, no finger wagging, no guilt trips. The issue of faith in God was not overtalked or forced. This was truly an enjoyable book to read.

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Amish Cooking Class: The Celebration by Wanda E. Brunstetter ~ Review

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Amish Cooking Class: The Celebration by Wanda E. Brunstetter

The Celebration is the third book in the Amish Cooking Class series. While it is part of a series, I don’t think anyone would have trouble reading this as a stand alone book. There are only a few carry over characters from the other books and their parts are casual and not really needed to make the story line smooth.

Heidi and Lyle Troyer have decided to take in foster children when they discover they may never be able to have children of their own. So now the story picks up from the second book a few months later with two young children whose parents were killed in an automobile accident. For the first six months, the state decided to wait and see if family will come forward to claim responsibility for the two children, Randy and Marsha. In the meantime, Heidi wanted to help her young charges adjust to their new life. She decides to teach another cooking class, but with children this time. A wide variety of families are represented in this class, and little by little we learn a bit of back history for each family.

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Many topics pertaining to children were covered in this book, such as showing kindness to others, teasing, a complaining attitude, adoption as a topic, the value of friendship, reaching out to help someone in dire circumstances, caring for pets and other animals, and so on. And of course, cooking. What I enjoy most about these books is the subtle ways Heidi is able to reach out and help total strangers in their struggles with daily life. Most of us want to make a difference in someone’s life, but we often have no idea how to go about doing this. Ms. Brunstetter’s books demonstrate through fiction good examples of how to touch lives. We don’t have to make a major impact, but even an encouraging word can work wonders for a person on any particular day. The fact that this is a lesson even children can learn, is what makes this such a touching book to read.

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The author does a wonderful job of pulling the reader into the drama with the children and their respective families. There were times when I felt the frustration Heidi must have felt when she couldn’t do much to help a hurting child. At other times, I felt the aggravation when a child is deliberately rude and misbehaving, especially to the younger children. I could relate to the helpless feeling some of the parents felt in their circumstances, to the point where I shed a few tears when things went so wrong. Then again, there were also tears of celebration when finally something came together and worked out well, either for a family or for their children or both. If you enjoy a good Amish story, or a bit of family saga with a little romance, then I highly recommend this book to you.

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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 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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Ties That Bind: The Amish of Summer Grove Book 1 by Cindy Woodsmall ~ Review

Ties That Bind pic

Ties That Bind: The Amish of Summer Grove Book 1 by Cindy Woodsmall

On the surface, Ariana’s Amish family was typical for their small community of Summer Grove. Many siblings, in their teens or older milled about the kitchen in the early mornings getting ready for a full day of activities either with small children in tow or assisting those families with small children. Some like Ariana were preparing breakfast and others were getting ready to do chores. A contentedness pervaded the atmosphere most of the time. They enjoyed each others’ company. But under the many layers of familiarity lay some rumblings of discontent. No one spoke openly about these feelings, but they were there nonetheless. It was a vague awareness that something disruptive could dispel their peace at any moment and change the entire family dynamics. What would be the trigger?

This is the first of three parts in the series. It features an unexpected twist of fortune that seems plausible, and possibly even probable. There are many great and positive things in this family saga, such as relationship building that I absolutely love. However, it seems inevitable that tension builds and two worlds collide with Ariana’s good friend caught up in the middle. Don’t expect a major resolution of the primary tension by the end of this first book, because it builds and leads directly into the next book. You definitely need to prepare to read the second book right away because of the high amount of suspense and heart break. This was so well written, that I was feeling with the Brenneman family when circumstances broke wide open.

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It’s getting to the point where I will read any book by this author because they are that good. Ms. Woodsmall puts her entire heart into what she writes. What she creates is impactful, both heart warming and heart wrenching, view shifting, and absolutely real. She’s a writer that knows how to pull heartstrings with what she writes. In this particular series, she plays on misunderstandings that come between close friends when one party must keep secrets for the sake of confidentiality. The secret he must keep makes Quill look bad in the eyes of the Amish. Such is the misunderstanding that it rocks Ariana’s world because she has lost trust in her good friend. And other circumstances are wearing her trust in others very thin.

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My favorite part of the book centers again around Ariana. She is stubborn and that persistence is what helps her family keep their heads above turbulent waters. She is determined to buy a cafe in downtown Summer Grove so that she can lift her family out of the poverty they have been in for years. She works hard and finally succeeds beyond even her expectations. I couldn’t help but root for her efforts to do something so thoughtful for her family.

 

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Riding Out the Devil: The Story of a Wounded Horse Healer by Hilary Walker ~ Review

Riding Out the Devil pic

Riding Out the Devil: The Story of a Wounded Horse Healer by Hilary Walker

This is such a good all around story. Jack, the horse trainer, grew up in Britain, but found his home in the Americas as a specialist who could work with nearly any kind of horse, especially problem horses. He had a knack for knowing just what the horses needed to fix their problems. He preferred working with the horses alone, but once in awhile he worked with others to help the owner get what needed to be done for his horse.

We discover that Jack prefers his own company. He’s had some bad experiences and as a horse healer, needs some healing of his own. Just recently his mother passed on after a heart attack, and he reflected how she helped him with some health problems he’s had since he was 17 years old. Now that she is absent, he feels the need to help someone else with the same type of healthy problem he had. So when the opportunity came to combine his healing power with a horse and his young 17-year-old owner with the same health condition, he takes on the project, mostly out of guilt. It turned out well, and the opportunity actually made him feel good about himself. Perhaps he wasn’t such a lost cause after all. It became a tribute to his mother and her hard work to make him well in spite of what the doctors told her.

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My favorite part of the book is all that had to do with horses, their training, and care. It was an important part of the characterization of the main character, Jack Harper. It is through the author’s attention to detail in this part of the story that we see a pleasing transformation come for Jack as he worked with the boy and his horse. He not only guided the boy into better eating that made his life more comfortable, he didn’t mind helping someone else as much as he thought he would. And after years of running away from God (in the form of rejecting his former church), he finally found peace within himself and with God.

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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Isaiah’s Daughter: A Novel of Prophets and Kings by Mesu Andrews ~ Review

Isaiah's Daughter pic

Isaiah’s Daughter by Mesu Andrews

Talented award winning storyweaver Mesu Andrews paints a vivid picture with words of ancient life, choosing a handful of the major players in a story from Second Kings, a book in the Old Testament, and puts faces to them, gives them a voice, and personalities we grow to love or dislike, whichever is appropriate at the moment. It is then that we discover how very alike we are in spite of cultures that are nearly three thousand years apart. Our faith journeys are the same.

Ms. Andrews honestly portraying the horrors of living in fear of marauding neighboring nations, man-made customs created to appease non-existent gods, the consequences of falling away from the Torah (Scriptures we know of today as the Bible), and the rewards of trusting the real God of creation.

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One of my favorite features of this book is the love story between young Prince Hezekiah and a resident of Isaiah’s household, Ishma. Because Isaiah was a cousin to the king, they lived near the palace and saw each other often. Prince Hezekiah lived in the shadow of his wicked father, King Ahaz. The prophet Isaiah was the royal household’s tutor. He made sure they were instructed in the Lord’s ways in hopes of restoring the nation to the days when David was king. Eventually, Isaiah and the prince realized how sharp Ishma was, so they broke tradition and included her in their tutoring sessions. She became Hezekiah’s intellectual companion; they challenged each other continually. All the while, Isaiah was preparing Hezekiah to become the nation’s next king. Would Hezekiah follow his father, or go back to the ways of King David?

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A second feature I loved is how the author portrays the biblical characters as human, flawed, sometimes faced with the enormity of the responsibility they faced for so many human lives. Decision were sweated over. Hezekiah sometimes second guessed his decisions. He made mistakes in judgment. He allowed others to sway his decisions. Even Isaiah, as God’s prophet, admitted he did not always understand what God told him.

There is a good lesson in this for us. Because even now as we look back on prophecy, we have a greater context to look back upon than King Hezekiah and Isaiah had, so when something applied to Jesus’ day, we can see that. They were unable to. But even though we have a larger context to draw from, we still do not understand it all because not all prophecy has been fulfilled. Some applies to the future yet to come. Believing in God’s Word is all part of our faith journey. Sometimes we have to trust in God without completely understanding it all first.

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Overall, this was an exciting, action-packed historical fiction that sought to balance out the fiction and the facts of a familiar to some Bible story. I admire the author’s hard work and ability to bring together this story spread out over several books of the Old Testament. She did a remarkable amount of research and to a reader who enjoys biblical historical fiction as well as other types of historical fiction, the story rings true. I highly recommend this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Blogging for Book 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.

More info: For More information

Read Chapter one: Read Chapter One

Author bio: Author bio

 

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Coldwater by Samuel Parker ~ Review

Coldwater pic

Coldwater by Samuel Parker

Have you ever read a book where you are not sure where it is going? Where there seems to be no certain protagonist or antagonist? Where the plot is undetermined except to move forward in a perpetual chase? Have you ever read a book where the driving question seems to be, “What is going on?” That is what reading this book by Samuel Parker made me feel.

I’m not saying this in a negative sense. Some authors make their plots and characters easy to figure out and predict to varying degrees. That is not true with this story. There’s a looming question mark hovering over the events as you read on. Yet the action drives the reader to continue if for no other reason than to try to make sense of what the characters were doing. The author is determined to show rather than tell what is occurring.

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Dotted throughout the tale were rare “Ah ha!” moments of insight, motive or reasons. But for the most part, the action moves forward relentlessly without explanation or narrative. It caused me to pause once in awhile and reflect back to a writing style used in the ’50’s and ’60’s in programs where they used only words and the unknown to develop expectations without special effects. The Twilight Zone and possibly Outer Limits were examples of this. Alfred Hitchcock, writer/producer of thrillers and melodramas, could produce the same effects. The results were often unpredictable and sometimes left the viewer pondering.

I’ll be the first to admit this would not be a book I would have chosen to read for myself. That is the consequences of entering a review program and trusting someone else’s choices. But ultimately, it worked out well. This book stretched my tolerance for suspense since suspense is the main driving force in this story. The events are strange, creepy and dark. And there is a message, but it’s subtle. And even though the book is dark, it is not a horror story, nor gruesome or filled with blood lust. There is definitely some kind of spiritual warfare going on, but the author does not comment on it.

There is a resolution of a sorts for this story. The events do come to an end. This is not a happy book, so you can’t really call the ending a happily ever after (HEA). Rather, it is a serious book with suspenseful momentum. Eventually it resolves but leaves the reader in a pondering state where we are allowed to come to our own conclusions. I’d like to offer kudos to the superb writing talent of author Samuel Parker.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Librarything.com 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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