A Light on the Hill (Cities of Refuge Book 1) by Connilyn Cossette ~ Review

A Light on the Hill pic

A Light on the Hill (Cities of Refuge Book 1) by Connilyn Cossette

Have you ever wondered how the Hebrews coming out of Egypt experienced the takeover of the populated area of Canaan? No, I’m not referring to the bloody battles, but to the families who settled into the land, coaxed the fields to life, set up businesses, and made their living while trying to settle into a land unlike anything they had experienced so far. Unlike the desert terrain and fertile river banks of Egypt, and the semi-desert areas of the wilderness they spent the past 40 years in, this new land was lush and green. How did they accomplish this? They were surrounded by hostile people supported by the Egyptian government who didn’t take kindly to their invasion. What was it like? That is what this book is all about. This was the era of Joshua, fulfilling God’s command to fill the land. This author paints a realistic picture of what this could have been like through the eyes of young Moriyah, her best friend Ora, and her young 9-year-old neighbor Eitan.

This book is incredible. I think I have discovered a new author (for me) of Biblical fiction that delves into details with enthusiasm and accuracy. She has written several series so far that I haven’t read yet. But I love her writing style, the detail she includes, the imagination that puts flesh on the bare bones of sometimes dry history. With this book, I discovered new perspectives I hadn’t considered before. This book was truly a living experience. I actually felt I was there. I will be certain to pick up her other series and read them, I’m that impressed.

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Besides being a piece of historical fiction, this book is filled with action and suspense. Moriyah has been accused of killing two young teens. She must flee to a city set aside by God as a sanctuary for people to plea for a fair trial. The next of kin has the right to avenge the deaths of the boys without retribution. Along the way, the boys’ father prevents them getting to the nearest safe city, so the group traveling with Moriyah must go to the next city, which will take them through dangerous territory controlled by the Canaanites. There are many dangers to face along the way. Additionally, there is an element of romance during their travels. But because of the accusations against her, Moriyah despairs of a future for her and Derek.

The characters are likable, real, and easily related to. I would call the group traveling together highly colorful. I could barely put the book down because of all the twists and turns in the plot. I even enjoyed reading the book a second time. It was just as fresh as reading it the first time through.

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There are also some wonderfully contemplative moments where Moriyah learns more about the God of Israel whom she thought had abandoned her earlier in her life. The book contains some beautiful word pictures of the grace of God as she learns how He provided grace and mercy to his people. I highly recommend this book. This is the first book in a new series. I am certainly looking forward to reading the rest of the books that follow.

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

 

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My Heart Belongs in San Francisco, California: Abby’s Prospects by Janice Thompson ~ Review

My heart belongs in San Francisco pic

My Heart Belongs in San Francisco, California: Abby’s Prospects by Janice Thompson

My Heart Belongs in San Francisco, California joins the collection of Barbour Publishing’s series that celebrates historical beginnings in America. This book explores the era of the California Gold Rush, the ’49ers, and the roots of San Francisco, the boiling pot of the West. This book places you right there in the middle of all the action from the viewpoint of a young woman from England.

Abigail Effingham was not a typical person traveling out West in the 1850’s. For one, while she was not traveling alone by train, wagon train and coach, she was accompanied by her household’s butler. Her objective was to meet up with her mother in the Oregon Territories where her mother was visiting her sister. Abigail missed her and wanted her to return home to Philadelphia, a city they were well settled after their immigration from England. This trip gave Abby a close-up look at all the frontier had to offer, including the flooding that diverted their path away from Oregon. With a new found determination, Abby decided against Neville’s advice to return to Philadelphia, but to visit San Francisco to wait until the flooding receded in the Spring and her mother could come to her. She couldn’t realize how much this side trip would change her life’s course.

My heart belongs in San Francisco quote1

The people in the hayday of San Francisco were uncivilized, thrill-seeking and out to find their fortunes. Some of them were optimistic, starry-eyed with hope of striking it rich. But if they stayed too long, they often became jaded, swindled, crushed, and hard-drinking gamblers. They were not what Abby was used to. But soon, she inevitably discovered ways to influence a few of them, and being a young person herself, began to improve what was around her. Eventually a young man, Sam (good old reliable Sam), became her protector in more ways than she understood. They developed a strong friendship while she and Neville stayed at the Inn owned by his father. Sam’s family housekeeper, who traveled to California with them years before, became the cook at the Inn. Her food was legendary and she was popular all throughout the city.

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What I enjoyed so much was the complete makeover of the young lady we know as Abigail, to the self-sufficient woman that emerged as Abby. Her world was turned upside down. We get to watch the sometimes comical change-up as she learned to pluck chickens, make cherry pies, wash dishes and wait tables for the first time in her pampered life.

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Another valuable part of Abby’s life was her integrity and strong will. That included her spiritual life. She knew what she believed and why she believed that way, yet she never viewed herself as better than anyone else. She made friends with those who were like minded and they encouraged each other in their faith. She was always willing to consider a different viewpoint and learn new things, especially learning about God’s character. That part of one of my favorite sections of the book and the best part of the character development that is done so well. If you like historical fiction from a woman’s point of view, then you are sure to enjoy this book.

My heart belongs in San Francisco quote4

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

 

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

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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.

Skells quote 1

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.

Skells quote 2

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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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.

Ties that Bind quote2

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

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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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The Christmas Cake (The Holiday Collection: Timeless Stories of Faith, Hope, and Love Bk. 2) by Joyce Swann ~ Review

Christmas Cake, The pic

The Christmas Cake by Joyce Swann

The Christmas Cake is much shorter than a novella. It is a short story. In fact, this little story is much more than a piece of entertainment. It is allegorical in nature. Or to put it in more understandable terms, it is a word picture. A word picture helps us understand a concept that is difficult to grasp until someone makes a comparison with an item and shows you how they are similar and different. Word pictures are very effective ways to tell people how you feel, what your viewpoint is, or to teach a unique concept. I used to use word pictures when I was an upper elementary teacher. It’s very satisfying to look into someone’s face and see that they “got it” when you use a word picture to explain something.

Christmas Cake, The quote 1

You could also call this mini book a miniature sermon in fiction form. In any case, there is no finger wagging. When someone says something is “preachy,” take into account that preaching is usually teaching something. People pay to go to college classes where they are taught something. Most of the preaching I grew up with was that type of learning. That is a far cry from finger wagging, which I call nagging. There is no nagging in this story. It is a beautiful fiction piece of a mother with a destructive nature, and a daughter who loves the Lord Jesus spending time together on a Christmas Eve.

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During their talk the mother unintentionally reveals that her former husband, Michelle’s dad, became a genuine Christian during his bout with cancer. That was 10 years ago, and Michelle hadn’t known! So even if her conversation with her Mom was distressing, she now had that comfort for her heart. But then, later she realizes she must somehow tell her Mom how to become a Christian herself. She asks God to give her the words she needs.

Christmas Cake, The quote3

God gives her the illustration of the Christmas cake she is making for Christmas dinner. This is a wonderful word picture. I wish I had thought of this when I was teaching! In fact, this little story is a great tool to use if you are thinking of a way to tell someone what being a Christian is all about. And to top it off, the 100 year old recipe is included with the book. What a great bonus. I plan on making this recipe soon; it is very much like a cake recipe I had gotten from my own grandmother several years ago.

Christmas Cake, The quote4

I encourage you to invite a friend over, bake the cake together and use the illustration in your conversation. Or use it to help your children and grandchildren understand why we need Christ as our Savior! Enjoy the book.

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A Goose Creek Christmas by Virginia Smith ~ Review

A Goose Creek Christmas pic

A Goose Creek Christmas (Book 4) by Virginia Smith

This is book four of the “Tales from the Goose Creek B&B” series. I haven’t read any of the other books in this series, so it seems to be sufficiently independent of the other books. This is also a novella although I did’t see any indication of that in the description. However I was able to read it through twice in just a few hours, so it is short.

This is a great light read filled with zany, quirky characters, a small town feel, and the ability to help you set the mood for the season.

A Goose Creek Christmas quote1

Albert and Millie Richardson are in their twilight years, have bought themselves a Bed and Breakfast and just recently remodeled it. They are anticipating their years of retirement when Al was unexpectedly released from his work as computer specialist. His pride was hurt more than anything else, since he was already prepared to retire in another year, so he decided to delay telling his wife for awhile so as not to upset her over the upcoming holidays. Well, that was his excuse anyway.

In the meantime, Millie had her hands full with one of her neighbors who takes on the task of decorating the downtown business district of Goose Creek. The problem was that her tastes clashed with those of the community, especially the downtown businesses. She was so distracted with this dilemma that she didn’t notice that her husband suddenly had more time on his hands than he used to.

A Goose Creek Christmas quote2

There are so many amusing moments in this short tale. I enjoyed taking the time to get to know this local community. If you are in the need for momentary breaks during the Christmas season, this is the book for you. It is a pleasant and sweet diversion.

 

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