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

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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.

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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.

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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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My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade ~ Review

My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade

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

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

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

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

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

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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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A Bleu Streak Christmas by T.I. Lowe ~ Review

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A Bleu Streak Christmas by T.I. Lowe

A Bleu Streak Christmas is the second book of a three book series. I have read this book without the benefit of reading either of the other books of this series, which I intend to do as soon as possible. I could tell there was some back story with one of the main characters, Maverick King, one of the King twins. In fact, several times there were references to a back story, but in spite of that, the book easily stood alone as its own story. Once I read it however, and found it was part of a series, I definitely wanted to read the other two parts.

Bleu Streak is a rock band with shaky beginnings. But by the time this book starts, they are established and raring to go on tour. Some of the members of the band are married with children. It doesn’t seem to hinder them from traveling, although it has slowed them down a bit. In fact, one of the wives is very pregnant, and will not be able to perform her usual jobs while traveling, so the band decided to hire a personal assistant to the manager. They hired Izzy Walker. As soon as Mave sees her, sparks start to fly. Unlike the “plastic women” he is used to, those that hang around rock stars, she doesn’t seem impressed with him. In fact, she shies away from him most of the time. So now he is intrigued.

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Interestingly, this book is written in the first person. Half the story is from Mave’s point of view, while the other half is from Izzy’s point of view. Don’t expect formal language; this is not historical fiction. They talk in the moment, in the way you would expect someone in that age group to talk or to think. I’m not usually very comfortable with first person, but the author does this pretty well. It felt authentic and helped me gain a fresh point of view.

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What I enjoyed most about this book were the pranks all the band members would play on each other. They were a family, with that family feel you get when you are comfortable in your skin and with each other. So the pranks were funny and downright creative. There were a lot of great belly laugh moments. I completely enjoyed this book, and that made the reading go quickly. It is supposed to be a novella, but it had the feel of a full length book. I felt I left the story knowing something of the experience of members of a band on tour. In the end, I couldn’t help but be impressed with the fibre of this group of guys. Big hearted, kind, caring, bumbling, funny, but family. Nicely done, T.I. Lowe.

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Entrusted: Surrendering the Present (Surrendering Time Bk.1) by Julie Arduini ~ Review

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Entrusted: Surrendering the Present (Surrendering Time Bk 1)

Jenna Anderson leaves Ohio and big cities behind when she takes a job in the tiny town of Speculator Falls, located in the Adirondacks. It’s a bit of culture shock when she discovers her GPS and her little car won’t work well in the mountains. And that’s just the beginning of her troubles.

Jenna’s presence in the little town is both welcomed and unwelcomed. She has become the new director of the senior citizen center in town. It wasn’t long before she learned that she was hired by Sara Bivins who went behind the backs of the town council. So now she was tasked with bringing life back to the center while trying to win the town council over to having the center open again. Her primary obstacle is Ben Regan, the local grocer and councilman, Sara’s grandson.

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The author does a terrific job of building tension between Jenna and Ben. The tension exists because while there is some conflict, there is also some attraction between them. There is also some great personalities among the seniors at the center while Jenna brings the community to life with her original suggestions. It doesn’t take long for the reader to develop a sense of anticipation, facing conflicts as she gains approval in the little town. I loved the way each personality plays into the general theme of growth, acceptance, a sense of community and trust.

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The other thing I enjoy about this book is that this author does not shy away from writing about spiritual issues, using many of the senior citizens’ wisdom as well as the wisdom of the local church’s pastor in facing doubts, fears, and change. While I realize some readers do not like “preaching” in their books, I rather enjoy it, especially when it’s done with warmth and heart and out of genuine love and concern. That’s the way it’s supposed to be anyway since living a Christian life is about relationships and reconciliation with God rather than as a religion of do’s and don’ts. This author adroitly shows us how this can fit into a small community such as Speculator Falls.

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This book is a short read. I easily read it in just a few hour’s time. I enjoyed the romantic elements in the book. The author did a lovely job in the space of a short story of developing her main characters. There were also other people in the story whose story is going to be continued in the next two books of the series. There are no undeveloped cliff hangers. The important issues are nicely resolved.

 

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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.

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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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