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

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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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Mac’s Way by Reg Quist ~ Review

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Mac’s Way by Reg Quist

Like many of the other books I reviewed for this author, this is a historical fiction Western. Because of the author’s background and family history, and the family lore he grew up with, much of what he writes is authentic and true to history. His books are a great read for their historical content. They are clean but realistic in their form. His stories do not focus on sensational events, crooked people or gore.

In this story we meet Mac. His actual name is Walker Samuel McTavish, born and raised on a small Missouri farm before the War Between the States. He was the eldest son of a hard-working family. Frustrated with his life and seeing nothing profitable in his future he set out to make something of himself. He experienced the life of a mule driver for a freight company which took him all over the country. He was involved in the Civil War. After the war, he worked with other men in Texas to drive cattle to northern markets for cash. This book is filled with his adventures on some of those drives.

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What I liked best in this particular book is the character development of Mac, as he was called during the war. His character was forged through tough times, making him a man I would be proud to call my ancestor. Through these rough times, he gained leadership abilities, gathered around him lifetime friendships and loyalty, and lead them straight on to success.

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In the end, it was fitting that he found not only a piece of land to call his own, but had collected his own herd, a large group of friends, including his family members and leads them to a fertile valley out West with enough land for them to spread out and begin their own lives over. Of this author’s books, this one is my favorite so far.

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Silver Bells by Deborah Raney ~ Review

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Silver Bells by Deborah Raney

In case you’re in need of a sweet, historical romance, Silver Bells by Deborah Raney will fill the need nicely. Christmas isn’t its major theme, but it does resolve very nicely right around Christmas time. And it’s a novella, so it makes for a pleasant seasonal short read. But what attracts me to this story most is how it is filled with good clean humor. The witty dialogue drives this book from beginning to end.

Robert Merrick III works as a managing editor at his father’s paper, the Bristol Beacon. Yes, Rob was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, but right now he is working his way up from the bottom in the business. He does expect to inherit the business some day, but in the meantime, he tries to keep life real. So even though he stays with his dad, he is living on his hard-earned salary.

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Michelle Penn is the new recruit. She wasn’t able to finish college, so after two years she goes to work as a reporter to save up enough money to continue what she started. Unfortunately, Robert Merrick Senior makes the job more difficult for her because he assumes all females are after his son. Every time she turns around, she is being censored by the overbearing father. What is frustrating is that she is not interested in dating anyone yet. She had one painful relationship where she got dumped while the boyfriend went off to Vietnam.

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Still, Rob is interested in Michelle. And she is comfortable around him. He wants to date her, but her reluctance is frustrating and the office policies are inhibiting. Every time he wants to get together with her, she suffers the consequences from his father’s censure. Her job is on the line.

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This book was full of the pleasant banter between friends. One of my favorite chapters was when Rob was driving Michelle to a work assignment and they got a flat tire. He didn’t know how to change a tire! Farm girl to the rescue. The conversation between them was so funny. And it was a turning point for the two of them as well. This is a fun to read light-hearted story of two people who fit with each other in spite of their differing backgrounds and circumstances.

 

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My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah: Leanna’s Choice by Angie Dicken ~ Review

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My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah: Leanna’s Choice by Angie Dicken

I have to say that I have read several of this series, “My Heart Belongs in…” by now and I love all the ones I’ve read. My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah is another great book. It is a historical fiction book covering a time period about 100 years ago when immigrants coming into America were the Greeks suffering from a drought. Their presence was filled with conflict because they often filled in wherever they were needed, even when that gap was caused by workers on strike protesting poor working conditions. As a result, there were demonstrations and riots protesting these interim workers, and Greeks were looked down upon in disdain.

Leanna McKee was a recent newlywed whose husband was killed in a coal mining accident. She had been raised in Boston as a debutante, but rebelled against her upbringing because she was incensed about the treatment of immigrants and their poor working conditions. As a result she broke away from her family, who gained their wealth from such factories, eloped with an workingman and became a teacher of immigrant children in Utah. Her husband’s death left her in a town filled with male mine workers and few other women. She was determined to leave the area and began looking for employment somewhere else.

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Alex Pappas was a friend of Leanna’s husband, working with him in the mines. He befriended Leanna and employed her to watch his niece and nephew before and after school while their family was busy with work. An attraction began to grow between the two, one a widower and the other a widow. But circumstances and prejudices seem to work against them all the time. The Pappas family enjoyed their friendship with Leanna, but would not approve of anything more because she was not Greek.

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The first part of the book begins slowly. We get acquainted with the history of each of the principle characters and their personalities first before the situation changes. I really enjoyed learning something of the Greek culture. Both Alex and Brianna are haunted by their past failings. Alex has turned his back on God after the death of his wife, to his family’s distress, but remains stalwart in supporting his family’s move to America to begin their lives again. He fights against his attraction to Leanna because prejudice against them being together is very strong and could lead to danger for his family.

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Toward the end of the book circumstances looked bleak, and I began to feel the despair of the characters as they fought against unfair treatment and snobbery. There were some interesting twists in the plot and the tension was well built. The author had me rushing to the very end in suspense to see how it was going to work out.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Barbour Publishing as part of the Barbour Review Crew program 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, Part255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Silent Star by Tracie Peterson ~ Review

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Silent Star by Tracie Peterson

Two lonely, hurting persons find each other in the midst of a war-saddened era in American history. What a beautifully written story. This author delves into the psyche of human nature, that when people hurt, they hurt others. Sometimes they don’t even realize they are dumping their hurt on someone else until a turn of events brings it to their attention.

Andy Gilbert was a young man who lived alone in his parents’ house. His mother had recently died of cancer and he missed her. When his father died earlier in a car accident, Andy had had to quit school to earn a living and take care of his mother. He became a telegram delivery boy. At a time when all his friends and schoolmates had gone off to fight in the Great War (WWII), he was forced to stay home, classified as 4F because of a painful foot injury. However, the physical pain was nothing compared to the change of attitudes the townspeople of this small Pennsylvania village had toward him. Sometimes his telegrams brought bad news to families with sons, cousins, and nephews at war. So now he was avoided and shunned, and superstition overtook small town closeness. It was a sad plight all the delivery boys shared. But none felt it as strongly as Andy did. He was truly alone.

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Estella Nelson was a widow who had moved in with her mother after her husband’s untimely and sudden death 10 years ago. Now that her mother had passed on, she had moved back to her hometown. One day she came across a young man who was obviously distressed, grieving at his parents’ graves. This chance meeting became the beginning of a deep friendship where each fulfilled a need the other had for acceptance and companionship.

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All wrapped together is the poignancy, the tragedy and meanness of human loss and sadness, the Christmas spirit in the true sense of the word, and victory in overcoming such human frailty. The very claim that God has overcome the pain in the world is encapsulated in this holiday short story. If Christmas means even the slightest bit of loneliness and sadness to you, I think you will experience the essence of God’s love while reading this book. I highly recommend it.

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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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Buttermilk Sky by Jan Watson ~Review~

Buttermilk Sky by Jan Watson

Buttermilk Sky

I admire authors like Jan Watson who can somehow lay aside the present cultural influences and nuances and immerse themselves in the past, populate that world with people who live and breathe in our minds and hearts, and allow us to share in this created world. How do they do that? I love the authors who write contemporary fiction works that come alive as well, but there’s a special place in my heart for writers who dig into the past and then give it to us as if they had just walked the streets themselves and carried on conversations with the characters. They write with authenticity and reality and make the past come alive. I’ve discovered that Ms. Watson, a new author for me, accomplishes this very well.

Buttermilk Sky is a turn-of-the-century tale that follows Jan Watson’s previous historical novels: Tattler’s Branch, Skip Rock Shallows, Still House Pond, Sweetwater Run, and the Troublesome Creek series which includes Troublesome Creek, Willow Springs, and Torrent Falls. The book stands completely on its own although reading her other books would deepen the atmosphere and heighten our appreciation of the sub-culture captured in these books.

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Young Sheriff Chanis Clay is following in his father’s rather large shoes as peacekeeper and law enforcement officer in a Kentucky mountain county and specifically the community of Skip Rock. He loves his work, but has much to learn about human nature and life in general. Still, he feels he’s ready to settle down and has his heart fixed on Mazy Pelfrey for his life’s companion. He loves her and all his dreams and goals include her. He even bought a house and started its renovation. But Mazy is not ready to commit herself to marriage yet. She feels restless and unsettled; she wants to experience a bit of life first. So Mazy leaves her family, her twin, her beau, and her mountain community to live in Lexington, take a secretarial course and make some new friends. Most of this story focuses on Mazy as she tries to find her place as a single girl in life.

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This book was a fun, quick read for me. The author sprinkles in plenty of humor and laughs for both Chanis and Mazy in their separate worlds. The sheriff deals with incidences among the mountain folk with amusing tongue-in-cheek wit. My favorite episode was when he nearly lost Frank Cheney, a giant of a man turned bank robber, when transporting him from one community’s jail to another nearby jail. Eventually, Chanis’ dealing with Frank literally changed his life. Mazy’s way of adapting to city life, trying new foods, wearing new clothes, all the while trying not to look like a country bumpkin, is often rib tickling.

At first, Mazy appeared to me to be a shallow, unthinking piece of fluff, content to imitate everyone else and gain favor with her study group’s leader, Eva, no matter what it took. But eventually she realized the futility of her efforts, and the real Mazy emerged. The Mazy of the final chapters was a 180 degree turn-around from the Mazy of the beginning of the story. Her journey from first to last is what makes this book great reading for women.

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Finally, as a faith-based read, the author includes many thought-provoking moments of revelation for both the main characters, without being preachy. Character development and faith in God with all its practical implications were woven together seamlessly throughout the book. A real, vital relationship with God should be as natural as breathing. The author demonstrates this in her writings. It is something I greatly appreciate among authors I read the most. I am looking forward to reading more books by this author.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from Netgalley on behalf of Tyndale 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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