Torn: The Salzburg Saga Book 2 by D.U. Okwonko ~ Review

Torn pic

Torn: The Salzburg Saga Book 2 by D.U. Okwondo

The three books in this Saga basically form one continuous story. You will want to read these books back to back because of that. There is no segue. The first story stops abruptly and the next one continues. Torn is the second story in the series. The name is apropos because the second novel becomes the dynamic relationship interplay between the survivors of the plane crash in the frozen mountains of Austria that was introduced to us in Book one.

In this second book, friendships fray under the strain of waiting for rescue and starvation; relationships in one family are going all wrong; new revelations crop up that take everyone by surprise; and tension mounts with the looming threat of death of one of the survivors suffering from hypothermia.

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Book one was packed with action while book 2 is contemplative. It’s a soap opera on steroids when veneers slip after being packed into a tight space together, wearing on the nerves. Tension and revelations take the reader to a whole new level of suspense. Book one sets up the situation, and Book 2 develops it and cranks it up a notch.

To me, this is all great writing. In addition, you now have another point of view when you add Nina’s sister’s perspective. She is home, waiting to hear from her sister, when she learns about the crash. Her brothers come home from their travels to sit with Hazel and the tension mounts as they wait to hear from rescuers’ efforts.

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Again, like book one, I just couldn’t put this book down. I wanted to read it from one end to the other. And again, like the first book, the ending is abrupt, without any solid resolution. This is irritating to me, but when we finally get all three books together, it will read as one book seamlessly. All I can say is that I hope I don’t have to wait very long.

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

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Spiral: The Salzburg Saga Book 1 by D.U. Okonkwo ~ Review

Spiral pic

Spiral: The Salzburg Saga Book 1 by D.U. Okonkwo

The three books in this Saga basically form one continuous story. You will want to read these books back to back because of that. There is no segue. The first story stops abruptly and the next one continues. The book Spiral is aptly named. A normal situation where three young lawyers take a corporate jet sponsored by their largest client to participate in a networking event goes all wrong very quickly once they get into the air.

The story is written from basically two points of view, that of Jake’s, the pilot of the jet aircraft, and that of Nina, one of the lawyers in the group. As the situation on the jet becomes tense, we get introduced to all the characters as they interact with each other. Each person has a history which is revealed as the adventure continues and which keeps this event popping with intrigue and interest.

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There are two major settings: on board the aircraft and on the ground in the mountains of Austria after the jet crashed. The story line keeps us focused on the effort to survive a horrible situation. And while they are just trying to survive, the situation just continues to spiral out of control, getting worse and worse as time lapses. By the end of this first tome, two of the party have died.

There is continuous action in this first book. The pace is rapid enough to keep you reading without being able to put the book down. The author writes an effective buildup to the tension among the group, since there are people to blame and people who are innocent bystanders. At first, it’s unclear exactly who is who. That type of suspense propels the reader right into the next book.

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The author is very effective in building suspense slowly and painfully. I just couldn’t put this book down once I got started. I was immensely grateful that both books were in the same volume so that I could proceed to part 2 of the saga.

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

 

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Phoebe’s Journey: Part 1: Of Passion and Pride by Kathryn B. Collett ~ Review

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Phoebe’s Journey: Part 1: Of Passion and Pride by Kathryn B. Collett

My very first reaction after finishing this terrific historical fiction is ‘wow’! Kathryn Collett is a great storyteller. I literally picked up the book and spent hours reading it and couldn’t put it down until I finished. That doesn’t happen to me very often.

In the author’s note at the beginning of the book, she gives a little bit of background about the main character and a little about herself. I find myself drawn to the same type of book she has written. I have always been fascinated by the history behind the very earliest Christians living on the Mediterranean. That’s because after Jesus died, the Mediterranean Sea was the primary vehicle in spreading the Gospel throughout the Roman world. The author explains, “Phoebe is an actual historical woman who lived in the first century. But who was she really? Was she married? Did she have children? What motivated her? Who were her friends? When did she first cross paths with the Apostle Paul? What did she wear? What was she afraid of? Who did she love? These are just a few of the questions I’ve asked at various time.” This is the basis for this historical fiction.

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There are so many things to love about this author’s writing style. First, she is meticulous in her researched details of the lifestyle of citizens of Corinth, the life of the early Christians, and the early ministry of Paul the Apostle. I felt drawn into the story personally. All the details and story line give this book credibility. I felt I was right there, side by side with Phoebe, frustrated with her, desperate to save the family business with her, grieving and angry with her throughout her experiences when life becomes unfair.

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Second, the characters are believable. Human nature hasn’t changed at all in the past couple thousand years, and this author is adept at communicating human nature in all its variations of good, bad and evil.

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Third, for me this was a fast paced adventure. The writing is compelling, establishing an urgency as Phoebe seeks to make things right for her family and friends, in spite of the challenges and limited time she faces. Since this is the first book in a series of three stories, I am looking forward to reading the rest of the books. While this tale has a definitive conclusion, it also heavily implies there is much more to come. There is still more of the mystery to solve, and resolutions to make. I highly recommend this book to you. This is one of those books I will enjoy reading over several times.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Story Cartel 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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Goodbyes and Second Chances by T.I. Lowe ~ Review

Goodbyes and Second Chances pic

Goodbyes and Second Chances: Book 1 by T.I. Lowe

Life can throw us some pretty nasty curves. Some of it may be deserved, but some, and perhaps most, is not. Take, for example, people born into wealth, and people born into poverty and all the gradations in between. How do we deal with this? It depends on our perceptions. And that is what this tale is all about. Think of it as a modern day parable. For the modern part, rock stars and a rock band. The parable? Trailer trash stigma. What can we learn from them? Read and see.

Jillian has known Dillan since she was eight and he was six. Before that, even. They grew up in the same neighborhood with other friends that eventually formed a strong group that had each others’ backs. They all lived in the trailer park. They knew what that meant: stigma. They lived on the “other side of the lake.” Across the lake were the wealthy condos and homes. Would life even give them a chance?

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Dillon grew up with insane talents on several instruments and a smooth silky voice. He was a poet at heart and often wrote his own lyrics. His mother was fierce in her efforts to save him from a reputation as trailer trash. So by the time he was sixteen, he had found an opportunity to make it big in the music world. But to do that, he would have to leave his dearest friends behind, including his jewel, Jillian. He promised he would come back for her. She didn’t believe him. No one came back.

Goodbyes and Second Chances quote 2

The author has done a great job portraying the funny moments within the group of friends who lived in each others’ pockets. She includes their struggles, how close this group grew together, and how Jillian fit in as a sort of mom. It made me think of Peter Pan, Wendy and the Lost Boys. There were sad times, sweet moments, victories and failures. Be sure to bring along some tissues, as there were many poignant moments.

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The funniest and most tragic happenings in the story involved Maverick King. His story becomes the focus of book two in this series. He was part of Dillon’s rock band from the beginning. If you enjoy this book, you’ll certainly want to get book two which is told from Mave’s point of view. Overall, Goodbyes and Second Chances has several flawed characters, which we see change and grow up before our eyes. The author has done a great job making the reader feel as if they were part of this close-knit group.

 

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Irish Meadows: The Courage to Dream Bk 1 by Susan Anne Mason ~ Review~

Irish Meadows: The Courage to Dream Bk 1 by Susan Anne Mason

Irish Meadows

The author, Susan Anne Mason, has skillfully created a world into which we can feel comfortable. The two main characters, Brianna and Colleen, could be our sisters, realistically endearing and frustrating simultaneously. Brianna feels she has grown up in Colleen’s shadow, her father’s favored daughter. Nothing she did seemed to gain his respect. Colleen is the sister we love to hate. She is bold, brash, flirtatious, the apple of her father’s eye, and always on the prowl for rich, handsome bachelors. She played with them and even pit them against each other. Brianna, on the other hand, wanted to attend a university in the fall. She had no use for men at the moment, although her daddy wanted her to get married to a suitable (prosperous) gentleman as soon as possible.

But then Gilbert Whelan returned to Irish Meadows after three years at college. Gil grew up on the farm, the son of the O’Leary’s housekeeper. When she died, James O’Leary took in Gil and treated him like a son. He was big brother to all the rest of the five O’Leary children. Adam, the eldest son, resented Gil for that. Brianna wanted to enlist Gil’s aid in convincing her father to allow her to further her education. But it became a more complicated situation when she discovered her feelings for him were no longer brotherly. Gil himself has felt the stirrings of love for Brianna. When he finally gained the courage to approach James, his mentor and father figure, he was flatly refused. The reason shook him to the core.Irish Meadows quote1

One day a distant relative of mother 0’Leary’s came to stay with the family for awhile. Rylan Montgomery needed a place to stay for a few months while he worked on his internship. His goal was to become a priest. It was Colleen’s duty to ferry him around until he became familiar with the area. When her father caught her in a compromising position one evening, he “sentenced” her to working with Rylan at the orphanage. This was truly punitive for Colleen since she hated all things religious, including priests, church and orphanages. However, working with Rylan day after day brought about subtle changes to her heart. She began to enjoy working with the children. In introspection, she questioned her previous dubious behavior. And…she fell in love with Rylan. Colleen’s world was turned upside down. Family dynamics, secrets, disastrous emotional upheavals and more make this book an intriguing read.Irish Meadows quote2

There’s a lot to like in this book. First, the Point of View (POV) is key to how the author develops tension and suspense. There are four Points of View: Colleen’s, Brianna’s, Rylan’s, and Gilbert’s. This author manages to blend them so well that she avoids the disjointed feeling so common in books with so many POV’s. I feel these points of view are what keeps this storyline moving along without stalling for lack of physical action. That’s excellent characterization.Irish Meadows quote3

Second, the four main characters all have a crisis of heart to meet, deal with, and resolve. Even the secondary characters, Kathleen and James O’Leary, the parents, had to face issues themselves such as what really mattered in life, and how to handle secrets within a family unit. Each issue felt real, urgent, and relevant for today even if the source is a historical novel. I found each of the conflicts plausible and could relate to many of them myself. The author manages to create believable people we can become akin to and care for.Irish Meadows quote4

Third, this is a faith-based book. I love how each voice dealing with an issue was facing something that included a crisis of faith, as well as heart and home. When a faith issue has to be dealt with, even though it may be an entirely private matter between you and God, it does affect those around us because what we believe leads to how we live our lives. That is how this author presents each character’s conflicts. When we are privvy to their thoughts, feelings and the process of resolution within, we appreciate them more for their struggles, even if they are still a flawed individual. I enjoyed the process as I read along, because what they struggled with was thought-provoking and insightful. And since most of this was internal, none of it sounded even remotely like preaching or finger wagging. Rather, I felt blessed to gain a glimpse through the window of their souls. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series which will give us Adam’s story.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy (ARC) of this book from Bethany House Publishers. 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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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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