Hamilton Robb by Reg Quist ~ Review

Hamilton Robb pic

Hamilton Robb by Reg Quist

The best description of this book I can think of is a Western Plus. What I mean by that is that there is a strong element of historical fiction, focusing on the period where much of the West was still pre-state territories–around the mid-1800’s. If I could tack on a subtitle to this book it might be ‘The Making of a Man.’

Still, that tagline doesn’t quite fit. There are actually two men who come face to face, and the contrast is stark. One is pompous and proud, unfriendly to a fault, arrogant, a cattle rancher from Texas. His name says it all, Big Bob Stanton. His life theme seems to be: trample or be trampled. The main character is from Arizona, a former deputy sheriff, a talented gunman who hung up his belt, invested in a small ranch and lived a life of a good neighbor, helping others handle the hardships of life, hard-working, tough as steel and yet humble and friendly.

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There is a face off, staged by one of the worst blizzards in 1888. In history, this blizzard was known as the Children’s Blizzard or the Schoolhouse Blizzard, because it came on in mild January temperatures while children were just being released from schools across the territory. Winds kicked up 50-foot mountains of drifts and temperatures dropped suddenly to 40 below zero F with nearly no visibility during the high winds. Hundreds died, many of them children on the walk home, with heroic stories of teachers saving some of their children.

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The horrors of this storm is the pivotal point of the story. It’s where the focus is on the character development of two men and their people. This is where the story becomes riveting. While the outcome of this showdown is fairly obvious from the beginning, it’s how it is fleshed out that makes the story worth experiencing while reading. The author is meticulous enough in the details of ranch living in the Old West to make this read fascinating without becoming as dry as sawdust. Those are signs to me of a great storyteller, a great writer.

On top of those characteristics, the story is chuckle worthy. It’s not a funny tale, because the hardships of living in that time period keep out such ill-timed humor, but the book was filled with moments I could chuckle over. Tongue in cheek statements, moments of the ridiculous, sarcastic observations are all appreciated with a bit of dry wit.

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This is a man’s western, written from a man’s point of view and with an intended audience of men who enjoy a good historical fiction. I’m not a man, but I enjoyed this book anyway. There were plenty of serious moments and even tragedies, but it has a great ending, filled with hope for the future, the satisfaction of overcoming a huge obstacle. I think women can enjoy this book too. There is even a hint at a romance.

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

phoebe's Journey pic

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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4 Years Trapped in My Mind Palace by Johan Twiss ~ Review

4 Years Trapped in My Mind Palace by Johan Twiss

4 Years Trapped in My Mind Palace pic

What would you do if you were paralyzed from the tip of your head all the way down to your toes? What if your doctor says you are brain dead, yet you hear and understand everything he says? This is the foundation of the story, 4 Years Trapped in My Mind Palace  by Johan Twiss. At first, this story did not turn out the way I had expected. But that soon became unimportant, because I was enthralled with what I was reading.

In spite of the very serious nature of the premise, this is really a book that takes a flight of fantasy in its execution. A twelve-year-old boy, Aaron, becomes paralyzed after being exposed to a rare virus which paralyzes him from head to toe. Very few people know he is even aware of his surroundings, which are bleak, and the activity around him. He recognizes his nurses, parents and doctors by their smells as they approach his bed. The story picks up two years into his “incarceration”, as he calls it, in a nursing home for acute care. By this time he has coped by creating a mind palace where he retreats regularly to act out actions and adventures his mind creates. This is where the story takes an unexpected twist. He gains a roommate.

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Solomon Felsher was a senior citizen with episodes of dementia. But when this former jazz player slipped into those dementia dreams, Aaron was mysteriously pulled into them and he experienced those events along with a much younger Solomon. It’s the variety and action in these events, based on true events in history during Solomon’s lifetime, that makes this such an interesting book to read.

My guess is that the target audience would be young people, perhaps young teens; especially for boys. But the way the book is written, with a touch of fantasy and possibly even a bit of steampunk, it is universally appealing. I know I really enjoyed reading it. I don’t recall ever reading anything even remotely like this story. I give the author an A for creativity. It was fascinating.

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Once I got involved in the plot, I found it difficult to put the book down. The variety of events was intriguing. There are other dynamics that makes this book interesting. A change in Aaron is inevitable, but have no worries. It’s all for the good, and there is actually a happy ending for the book.

I realize this book does not have a Christian theme, which is usually what I place on this blog. But it was such a good book, actually a great piece of literature, that I wanted to share this with my friends. And there were lessons in this story that are consistent with the Bible whether it claims to or not. I love a variety of genres, and this one, a variety of fantasy, historical fiction, and possibly steampunk, just fits the type of book I love to read. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Now go tell a friend about it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this ebook through AXP Books Elite and the author. I reviewed this book voluntarily. 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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The Naomi Chronicles Book 3: Beginning Anew (Inspirational Christian Romance) by Paula Rose Michelson ~ Review

Beginning Anew pic

The Naomi Chronicles Book 3: Beginning Anew by Paula Rose Michelson

Beginning Anew is the third book of the Naomi Chronicles series. The entire series has close bearing on all the books as a whole, so my recommendation is for you to begin with the first book and proceed from there in order. These books are very much chronically ordered and reading the third book will make much more sense if you read the previous two books first.

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As I read this third story, I could see it is a transitional volume. First, Naomi and Chaz (also known as Chaim) are back together after a very rough beginning in their marriage. They have new complications to face both personally and as a couple. Chaz needs to become more comfortable in his new identity. Naomi also has to adjust to the new perception of her identity within the barrio she has lived in for 15 years. And, unfortunately, the Barrio itself undergoes a bit of a transition when the Church Father tries to make peace in the neighborhood. There are a few nail-biting moments when it doesn’t appear this effort is going to work.

Second, while we were introduced to Tia Vida in the first book, and became acquainted with her amazing work among immigrants, we never fully came to understand her as a person. This was true for Naomi, as well, in spite of being adopted by the woman and living with her. So in this third book, Naomi is introduced to the work of the Tia’s in a more personal manner, although Tia Vida passed on long ago, through a new found journal. This adds some new twists to a wonderfully developing plot as well as a hint of mystery.

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I love the new twists; there is also some tension as the newlyweds become more comfortable with each other and among their friends, new and old. While this is a historical piece of fiction, the issues addressed in this story are very relevant, even today. This is an exciting way to learn more of our country’s amazing history as it deals with immigrant life in developing neighborhoods. Even though this is a transition time for the newly married couple, the way it is written, there is not a dull moment in the entire book.

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I read several books a month. Some of them I write reviews for. Most of them do not stick with me over the course of time. I put them down and they are forgotten. That’s not true of any of the books in this series so far. Every single one of them has stayed with me weeks after I’ve read them. I believe it’s a sign of the relevance of the books’ contents. It’s a topic that interests me. It also has historical significance, which I enjoy. But it also reflects how well the books are written. Like most authors, the writing style is not perfect; but it is memorable. This is not just another feel good romance. There is nothing fluffy about this series. There is relevance and purpose behind the fiction. I’m drawn to that type of writing.

Of course, there is another book in the series. Not all of the issues brought up in this book are resolved. So I am looking forward to reading the next piece in this adventure. There are mysteries to be settled.

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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The Naomi Chronicles Book 1: No Other Choice by Paula Rose Michelson ~ Review

No Other Choice new cover

The Naomi Chronicles Book 1: No Other Choice by Paula Rose Michelson

I have to say that this book and its sequel are some of the most intriguing reading I’ve experienced in a long while. It is the kind of story that makes you “walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins.” It is fiction, but based on history. That’s one of the reasons I love these books by this author so much.

First, the author prefaces the piece by asking us to imagine “what if” our beliefs were what threatened our family’s very lives. How would we live to survive? Suppose we saw our families and friends all around us killed or expelled or mistreated because of their similar beliefs? What would you do as a daughter of the house? Would you go into hiding? Live a lie? Fear for your life? Sacrifice for your family’s safety? With this mindset established, Naomi is introduced to us just as she sets foot in immigration as a 15-year-old girl, about to be deported because the family that was supposed to support her suddenly refuses to sponsor her in America. But she is rescued. The question presented in this book is this: was that rescue a blessing or a curse? You have to read this story to find out.

God puts things togeher

This book and book two used to be one story. So you need to purchase the second book to find the resolution to the first, which ends on a mild cliff hanger. Fortunately, book two picks up about five minutes after the first ends. Since this is a series, I didn’t mind that so much. But I feel you should know this and prepare to purchase both books together. In spite of that, book one is complete in that it encapsulates a complete idea and develops it thoroughly.

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I enjoy getting to know a subculture of America I have never become acquainted with, in this case the Spanish Harlem area, or Harlem as it’s known today. The author uses this setting to make the surrounding circumstances Naomi finds herself in alive and familiar. You get to know and somewhat understand her community, watch how Naomi sacrifices her life goals to play an important part of the barrio and in the lives of its citizens. The author writes this so well I felt as if I were part of the community.

Naomi herself is going through a transition. The reader becomes privy to her inner turmoil as she struggles to find her place in life. Then the author adds a sweet romance in the final chapters that brings all the circumstances to a head, adding slight tension in Naomi’s character development.

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I highly recommend this book, and of course, the entire series. It appears there is more to come, so I am looking forward to reading all the books based on how much I enjoyed the first two. I hope you will grow to love this series too.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was approached by this author to write a review of her books, and she offered me this one as a complimentary copy. (But I had already gotten it last year. So technically I am writing this review for my opinion with the blessing of 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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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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In Good Company by Jen Turano ~Review~

In Good Company by Jen Turano

In Good Company

Some of you may have had the pleasure of reading books to your children when they were young. A family favorite of ours were Amelia Bedelia books. She was a scatter-brained individual who took verbal and written instructions way too literally. The results were often hilarious. When I began reading “In Good Company” by Jen Turano, the main character, Millie Longfellow, reminded me of Amelia Bedelia. Not that she understood situations too literally, but her capacity to talk them to death is what brings levity and humor to the story. If you enjoy a light-hearted historical romance, you will enjoy this book.

Millie Longfellow is an orphan who’s had to earn her living from the age of 12. You may call her life dreary and tedious, but she would disagree with you. Though tough times could have made her bitter, she is surprisingly optimistic and upbeat. She has carved out a satisfying life for herself, with a big heart and a great love for children. It wouldn’t surprise you to discover she has become a nanny. Unfortunately, her verbosity has lead to a dismal employment history; instead of talking her way out of misunderstandings, she seems to talk her way into them while high society patrons lose patience with her without listening to her lengthy explanations. Her last rabbit trail ended in unemployment as the story opens. The owner of the agency Millie worked with has nearly given up on her until Mr. Everett Mulberry at the agency office in search of a nanny.

In Good Company quote1

Mr. Mulberry, a product of society’s snobbish elite, is a proper bachelor living in New York. A few months prior, a close friend of his died in a tragic accident. Everett was appointed guardian of the three young children: Thaddeus and Rosetta–5-year-old twins, and their older sister Elizabeth. He promptly brought them home to his country estate. Grieving, angry and lost, the three youngsters have run off every nanny Everett has hired in the past three months. The employment agency owner is frustrated with him and nearly ready to give up on him when Millie returns to the agency’s office. Everett has met Millie before and refused to hire her, but the owner closed the deal so quickly he had no time to decline again. He was stuck with the infamous nanny.

This situation is complicated by Millie’s unorthodox ways of handling the mischievous children, Everett’s unofficial fiance who is determined to gain a position of social prominence and wealth by marrying Mr. Mulberry, the plotting of a Mrs. Abigail Hart, a society matron who has decided to sponsor a few disadvantaged young girls, including Millie and her friend Lucetta Plum, Everett’s interfering mother, a number of disapproving and judgmental socialites, and the mystery surrounding the death of the children’s parents. The story is fast-paced, full of surprises and humor. It’s a delightful read.

My favorite part of the tale occurs when Millie bests the children at their own pranking, with the assistance of the household staff. The situation is funny enough on its own, but becomes interesting with the addition of an irritated flock of peacocks, the unexpected arrival of Everett’s parents traveling abroad, and unfortunately Caroline Dixon, the enraged and jealous fiance. How Millie settles the turmoil, the children and the complications is what makes this book such an enjoyable experience.

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There are other factors I loved about this book. For example, there is the running undercurrent of a brewing romance which has a happy conclusion. There are the comic ways Millie uses to win over the children’s hearts. I enjoyed the bumbling, scheming efforts of Abigail Hart to help along the growing romance. Millie’s friendship with Lucetta is an excellent break in the hilarity, used by the author to ground the story when it needed some moments of quiet. Even Everett undergoes some much needed character growth, especially in his relationship with his wards. I highly recommend this book for a quick light read.

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