Miriam’s Song

Author: Jill Eileen Smith

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 2, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Fans of Smith will likely enjoy her adaption of the story of Miriam.

Miriam and her family have been living during the Israelite oppression in Egypt.  While they have been praying for deliverance, it has been quiet.  When the Pharaoh becomes threatened and decrees that all male Hebrew babies shall be killed, she knows that her mother’s new baby is likely to die soon.  Fortunately, Pharaoh’s daughter finds him and raises him as her own.  Miriam’s little brother, Moses, will change the world for the Israelite people.

I have always enjoyed Smith’s ability to tell a well-known biblical story from a different perspective.  I enjoyed her previous book with the story of King Herod told from his sister’s perspective and felt that this one would be interesting as well.  I was able to get into the story pretty easily having well known characters, but it took a little while for me to get through it.  I’ve done a lot of research on the books of law and had to go back to double check some events based on this book.  I know that fiction is subjective and can be interpreted differently.  I’ve read past authors that have even moved actual events to different timelines to support their stories. With this story, there were some things that didn’t seem to sit correctly, which took time to research and understand her point of view.  Fans of hers will likely still enjoy this book, but I’m hoping the next one turns out to her usual standards.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Beirut Protocol

Author: Joel C. Rosenberg

Series: Marcus Ryker #4

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: March 9, 2021

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Good overall story, but a little different than what I expected.

Marcus Ryker has had his fair share of action and adventure coupled with loss and heartache.  He’s been a marine, secret service agent, CIA liaison, and diplomatic security special agent who has traveled to Russia, Korea, Israel, and all parts of the middle east.  He’s frustrated attacks on the president and Israeli prime minister, participated in an assassination of a global world lead, and thwarted terroristic agendas.  So, when he and his partner Kailea are out making rounds to prepare for the Secretary of State’s arrival and are ambushed the last thing you expect to happen is that he is captured by Hezbollah agents.   If they figure out who they’ve captured, there is no way they will be ransomed or returned.  They will be taken to Beirut and sold to the highest bidder of Ryker’s enemies!  Can he pull off yet another escape and save his team?  Or is this the end of Marcus Ryker?

This series has been loaded with action since the first book and this one kicks it off in the same style.  Until they are captured?  What????  How did this happen?  Marcus always gets out with a narrow miss, but not this time.  What ensues is torture, deprivation, and a less than expected storyline dealing with Hezbollah, Iran, and the Kairos terrorist organization.  It’s really not what I expected to for this series or these characters.  Plus, none of the characters really progress in development in this book.  Everybody pretty much stays the same with a fast pace and short chapters to keep the story line moving.  Overall, it just didn’t have the same feel to it that the previous books did and the faith element that readers have seen with Marcus becomes stagnant as well.  Had this been the first book, I would have had a different opinion and could have seen the characters grow from there, but this one just fell a little flat.  I’m not sure if this is the last book in the series, but I hope that there is one more mission to really hit the nail on the head.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Easy Target

Author: Tim Shoemaker

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: March 9, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A perfect, high-paced read for young adults dealing with bullying and the difficulties they face in school and the complications of social media.

When Hudson Sutton must attend public school after being homeschooled all his life, his parents worry how he will fit in, but Hudson just wants to survive. It doesn’t take him long to figure out how things work and a school project on creating change puts him in the crosshairs of the school bullies. He does make two friends and together they try to take on the bullies to change things at their school. Unfortunately, the plan doesn’t work out exactly like he hoped and he quickly finds himself becoming what he was trying to stop, a bully. Together the friends work to help each other and those around them who don’t even know are being bullied. Will their plan work? Or will it make things worse?

Easy Target starts out nice and slow, but in the best way, there isn’t too much action right away and for a YA/middle grade audience it has a nice pace. The story is right on point with issues that need to be addressed in the world we live in today. The bullying in schools and on social media is an issue that seems to never go away. I loved the way Shoemaker wrote Hudson as he comes in not knowing the dynamics of how a school goes with social parameters and such and thinks he can quickly make changes. As he goes, he learns that none of that is going to be as easy as he hoped it would be. People get hurt and along the way he realizes that making these kinds of changes isn’t going to happen overnight and he can’t go over the heads of others.

As sad as it is, this is a problem that has affects generation after generation and we need to prepare our children for it. One thing I loved about this book was how it showed that even bullies can be hurting inside. Not everything is as it seems on the surface and trying to fit in and be accepted will be something that many kids and adults strive for no matter the cost. A lot of times, people lose themselves in the way they change to fit what others think they should act like, look like, or be. When we focus on what is inside and stop trying to please them, we find ourselves to be so much happier. I read this before letting my ten-year-old read it just to make sure it was appropriate for him. I feel it is a book that all young adults, and those getting ready for middle school where the pressure to fit in can be the greatest, should read and keep their eyes out for those around them that are hurting and figure out how they can stay true to themselves and help those around them at the same time. I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Crush

Author: Tracy Wolff

Series: Crave #2

Publisher: Entangled Teen Publishing

Release Date: September 29, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fantastic follow up to the smash hit Crave. Crush is even better with so much drama, adventure, excitement and much more. Don’t miss out!

Grace thought she was getting used to life at Katmere Academy; that is, until she is turned into a Gargoyle for months trying to protect Jaxon, her mate from Hudson, from his brother everyone thought was dead. When she returns, she has no memory of her time frozen as a gargoyle. One thing she didn’t expect when returning is she is not alone. Hudson is now living inside her mind and nothing is as it seems. All along she has been told how horrible Hudson was and he had to be stopped, but none of that lines up with the voice in her head. The biggest trials are just ahead and not only is Grace’s life at stake, but also the lives of all that she has come to care about so much in such a short time since arriving at Katmere and discovering that the creatures she read about in fairy tales are actually real and all around her.

Wow! That’s all I can say about this book. For a sequel to come out blazing at page one and not stop is a hard feat to accomplish but Tracy Wolff has nailed it with Crush. So much tension, drama, suspense, action, and oh so much more on every single page! For an almost 700-page book, the action did not slow down which very rare. As I read through this story, I was enchanted to say the least by Grace and all she was going through. The way Wolff brought about the character of Hudson, which readers heard about in book one but to now have him really be a part of the story, and in such a way that is so different than expected, shows how very talented Tracy Wolff is as an author.

Not once throughout the 700 pages did I feel the action slow down, and the ending has left me aching for more. The last several chapters and what Grace had to go through were absolutely worth the buildup and played out beautifully. This was one of those novels that as I’m reading, I can actually see it playing out in my mind as a movie which I love. My one complaint, as with the first book, is that the books is targeted to a young adult audience but has far too much harsh language for my liking when that is the target audience. I know that a lot of people won’t have a problem with that, but for me, especially with a young adult audience, I wish it could have been toned down some. I will say though that the writing had me so captivated that I could glaze over the harsh language and not let it bother me, which showed the writing has to be incredibly good as it was here. Even so, I still am going to recommend this to an older audience for the adult themes. Those that love a great paranormal romance will not want to miss out on this one.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Dreams Rekindled

Author: Amanda Cabot

Series: Mesquite Springs #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 2, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Come back to the quaint western town of Mesquite Springs, TX and read Dorothy’s story!

Dorothy Clark has always resigned herself that she will never marry.  After her father died, her mother fell into deep depression, and Dorothy doesn’t want to allow an event to do that to her.  Since her brother got married, she is helping run her sister-in-law’s restaurant, Polly’s Place in their absence.  She has always dreamed of being a writer, but never really had an opportunity.  When a newspaper man relocates to Mesquite Springs to start up a paper, Dorothy feels that she might have finally found her chance for her writing.  But will he stir up more than just words in her?

Mesquite Springs is such a fun town to visit in a book, but do the townsfolk sure get divided easily.  In the first book it was the mayoral race that did it and in this book its about the local pastor.  Readers will have a great time trying to figure out what is going to happen with all the different shady characters that show up in town. 

I liked seeing Dorothy grow more in this book.  She had a little bit of growth as a supporting character previously and really blossomed into this book.  She wasn’t shallow, she is actually very intelligent and good hearted.  I can’t wait to see what is in store for the final book of the trilogy.  I think I know who the main characters will be and am excited to see how it is going to play out!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Facing the Dawn

Author: Cynthia Ruchti

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 2, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

One of the best contemporary fiction books I have read in a very long time. A story full of heart, faith, strength, and a longing to survive even during the hardest of circumstances.

Mara Jacobs has been struggling for years while her husband, Liam, has been off on humanitarian missions digging wells in Africa. It is admirable that Liam is off helping others while she stays and takes care of their children. She is exhausted working at a cheese factory and having a hard time keeping her kids out of trouble. When Liam doesn’t return home and one hardship leads to another, Mara struggles even more and the future looks darker than ever before. With her darkest days in front of her, Mara quickly realizes that no matter how dark things look she is never alone or unloved.

I don’t read a lot of contemporary books, suspense is more my thing, but occasionally it is nice to have a novel such as this. This book had me so captivated that I read it in one sitting. The story both touched my heart and ripped it in two at times. I loved the way Ruchti was able to make me feel such a connection to these characters. Mara has a beautiful character arc, as well as several other characters throughout the pages, exhibiting so much growth, reflection, and redemption. I did not see several of the twists coming that really pulled at my heart strings, which was such a nice surprise. With a book like this it is usually pretty easy for me to tell where the story is going but so many moments took me by surprise and had me grinning with how well it was written. This is the first book I have read by Cynthia Ruchti but I can guarantee it won’t be my last. I recommend this book to readers that want to sit down, put the troubles of the world behind them and dive into a story that will captivate them and move them to tears.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Unknown Threat

Author: Lynn H. Blackburn

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 2, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

By far the best Romantic Suspense book I have read this year! Fans of Blackburn will not want to miss this fantastic read!

When three Secret Service agents all die with unusual circumstances Special Agent Luke Powell knows he is lucky to be alive and is now on a mission to find whoever is responsible for taking out his fellow agents. After more agents are attacked and Luke is injured, the FBI is called in to help. FBI Special Agent Faith Malone is put in charge of the investigation and uses every resource at her disposal to figure out who is targeting the Secret Service. She has worked on a task force with several of the agents attacked and doesn’t mind working with Luke once again. Even injured, Luke refuses to leave the case to the FBI with his team being the target. Together they work to save the rest of the team and bring down the monster dead set on killing them all.

The start of this new series by Lynn Blackburn is her best work yet!! So much action, drama, suspense, tension, with just a little bit of romance at all the right spots. I absolutely loved the way this story started with a bang and didn’t let up. There was no slow build to the more suspenseful moments, they started from page one and didn’t stop. This is one of the ways Lynn Blackburn has gotten so much better with each new book and one of the best in romantic suspense, top notch writing with no “extra” just to add to a word count. So many books have the same boring plots that end the same and you don’t even have to read the whole story to know what’s going to happen or how it will play out. I genuinely found myself on the edge of my seat while reading Unknown Threat and can’t wait for the rest of the series. I loved the little throwbacks to other characters in her previous series and fans will love seeing these characters make an appearance. This is a fantastic start to a new series, and I think readers will fall in love with these new characters. I recommend this series to fans of romantic suspense, especially if you like it heavy on the suspense. If you have never read anything by Lynn Blackburn, I highly recommend starting here and then diving into all the others.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Crave

Author: Tracy Wolff

Series: Crave #1

Publisher: Entangled Teen Publishing

Release Date: April 7, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Fans of Twilight will not want to miss this series that is fun, engrossing, and a swoon worthy read. Like Twilight but oh so different and oh so fun to read.

Grace’s world turned upside down when her parents died and she is sent to live with her only other family in Alaska, a complete opposite environment from her home in California. When she steps foot inside the academy where her uncle is headmaster of the boarding school, she feels as lost as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. The place is filled with monsters of all kind and the one thing they have in common is their hatred for her. Upon her arrival, Jaxon Vega gives her a warning that if she won’t leave, she better watch her back. It doesn’t take long though for him to follow her every move and vow to do all he can to protect her.

There are several aspects of this series that have totally hooked me. I was a huge fan of Twilight when it came out and looking back now, I can say it isn’t the best writing, but the story is engaging and the characters pull you in. Same thing can be said for Crave, the story is very intriguing, and I love the references to Twilight. Wolff doesn’t just play it off like no one here has ever heard of the series, instead she very cleverly adds nods to the other famous YA Vampire series.

Grace comes into the scene with lots of baggage and trying to figure out how to move on with her life with her parents gone. The last thing she expects to find is all the fantastical things the academy holds within. The way it leads up to revealing who and what all is around her is done beautifully. The story slowly unfolds but at just the right speed to keep the reader’s attention. There is a lot to unpack here and one of the best aspects of the story is the ending with the three chapters from Jaxon’s point of view. This gave so much more to the story than having to only rely on the single point of view, but it also was a tease with only three chapters of the story done this way.  Readers are left with a perfect cliffhanger ending that left me thirsty for more,

I am really happy I already have book two in hand and can start it right away and don’t have to wait for it come out, that would be torture. My only problem with the book is all the harsh language, especially with a target audience of teens and young adults I have a hard time with seeing some of those words. The story itself is good enough that I can overlook most of that and recommend to those that loved Twilight and enjoy a great read full of characters of all kinds.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Falling From Trees

Author: Mike Fiorito

Publisher: Loyola College

Release Date: February 9, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great collection of short stories that will make readers think about future!

Mike Fiorito crafts a series of short stories that contain both science fiction and speculative fiction.  Most of the science fiction stories are geared toward space travel, in one form or another, or with alien presence.  I like how the aliens in each of the stories are more altruistic than what they are usually presented as in books and/or movies. 

The stories with speculative fiction center around climate change and the future of our planet.  This trend has been increasing across the board as the genre seems to be leaving behind the traditional destruction dystopian stories for stories of weather impacts and how we as a race are going to manage those in the future.  I found myself thinking about these events as it seems all too realistic and what I would do if the world suddenly changed.  I think that is the mark of a good author when they are able to make you think beyond the story you are reading.

Some of the stories have some mild language, which makes this book more appropriate for older young adults forward.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The English Wife

Author: Adrienne Chinn

Publisher: One More Chapter

Release Date: June 23, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Two stories full of secrets that can finally bring out the truth!

Ellie Burgess has kept her life in order with the way she wants it to be in London with the threat of war.  She is studying art and engaged to her lifelong friend George.  But after the war begins and her best friend is killed in a bombing, she feels that she must do her part and join the fire service.  Her predictable love life also takes a turn when she meets a Newfoundlander named Thomas Parsons.  She realizes that she loves George but has never been in love with him as she is with Thomas.  She makes a decision that compromises every relationship within in her family and elopes with Thomas before he is sent off to war.  After almost of year of no correspondence after he is taken a POW, Ellie has all but decided that Thomas has perished until she finally receives a letter from him back in Newfoundland.  She packs up her belongings with their newborn son and heads across the Atlantic in a course that will forever change her life.

Sophie Parry is on a flight from London to New York for an interview with a prestigious architecture firm on September 11, 2001.  When her plan is diverted to Gander, Newfoundland and she realizes that she is not getting to New York anytime soon, she decides to call on her Aunt Ellie that she has never known.  Her mother hated her aunt and she never knew why.  Could it be fate that brought them together now?

I love a book that manages to come full circle from beginning to end.  There were quite a lot of little twists towards the end of the book, several of which were quite surprising.  I loved reading both stories, and it took having Ellie’s backstory to really understand Sophie.  I really felt for Ellie with all that she had to go through, but she was a trooper.  I also enjoyed watching Sophie’s character get developed and grow with an understanding of what to live for instead of how she was living.  There is so much going on in this novel that it would take a long time to unpack, but I feel that the reader should enjoy the gift that this book really is.  There is a lot of Newfoundland slang throughout the book that is pretty easy to pick up on.  This is the first book that I’ve read set there, but it seems like it would be a beautiful place to visit. 

There is a little bit of foul language throughout the book, but it doesn’t overpower the story.  Even so, I recommend this book for mature readers.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.