Review of End of the Roadie by Elizabeth Flynn

I love a good mystery that keeps me guessing along with the investigators as I read along. End of the Roadie by Elizabeth Flynn was a great one. It's in a series of mysteries featuring investigator D.I. Costello, but I hadn't read any other previous books and was able to catch on to this one fine. There were a few events referred to that I supposed came from previous books, but they didn't impede my reading and enjoying this story.

Review of End of the Roadie

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From the book's description...

Brendan Phelan, rock star, is playing in a stage show that includes guns and whips. As it reaches its climax, a shot rings out—but it's not part of the show. The body of Oliver Joplin, one of the road crew, lies lifeless outside the stage door.

Detective Inspector Angela Costello and her team investigate, but they quickly discover that several stage hands, and Phelan himself, are adept with firearms—and that Joplin was widely disliked and distrusted. So why had Phelan kept him on, despite the reservations of his crew? Joplin's emails reveal the presence of a shadowy figure stalking the dead man. Who might profit from Joplin's death?

Little by little, Costello unpicks the web of lies. But unless one key person opens up, she can't crack the case. And that is not going to happen.

A pop star, raving fans, gun fanatics, and a roadie that no one seemed to like- great elements to combine into a compelling story that kept me guessing "who dun it" right through the very end. The characters are well developed, although there is more action than introspection. The pace of the book is fairly quick which leads to, "I'll just read one more chapter." All of this combined to make an excellent read.

Unlike some mystery stories where the ending seems a little contrived, I loved the way that End of the Roadie developed. I thought that the characters and events were very believable, and I was very close to solving the mystery when the detectives finally revealed who was guilty.

I definitely plan to look for other mysteries in this series from Elizabeth Flynn. You can find the book on Amazon here or on Kregel here. And you read a sample from the Kindle version below.

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Review of Shadow of the Storm by Connilyn Cossette

Some time ago I had the opportunity to read the first book in a new series by author Connilyn Cossette- Counted With the Stars. This series- Out From Egypt- is a biblical fiction series set during the time of the Exodus. I loved that first book and have now had the opportunity to review book two in the series- Shadow of the Storm.

Review of Christian fiction Shadow of the Storm
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From the book's description:

Having escaped Egypt with the other Hebrews during the Exodus, Shira is now living in freedom at the foot of Mt. Sinai, upon which rests the fiery glowing Cloud containing the shekinah glory of God. When the people disobey Yahweh and build a golden idol, the ensuing chaos gives Shira an unexpected opportunity to learn the arts of midwifery. Although her mother wishes for her to continue in the family weaving trade, Shira's gifts shine brightest when she assists with deliveries. In defiance of her mother, Shira pursues her heart's calling to become an apprentice midwife.

When a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself bound to a man who betrayed her, the caretaker of three young children, and the target of a vengeful woman whose husband was killed by Shira's people, the Levites. As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira will come face-to-face with the heartbreak of her past that she has kept hidden for so long. How can she let go of all that has defined her to accept the love she's denied herself and embrace who she truly is?

Once again, I found myself entranced by Connilyn Cossette's writing. The characters are well-developed and are compelling. The story line is an interesting one that drew me in. The setting- at the foot of Mt. Sinai- is an excellent backdrop for the story.

When I read biblical fiction, I'm always cautious. I enjoy biblical fiction, but I want to be sure that any part of the story that directly corresponds to something written in Scripture is accurate to the biblical account. Connilyn Cossette does an excellent job of this. Her characters aren't historical characters mentioned in the Bible, but when their paths do cross biblical characters or when events occur that are directly recorded in Scripture, the book is very true to Scripture.

I have to admit- as I did when I read the first book- I don't often consider the story of the real people who left Egypt in the Exodus. It's one thing to just read about the events in the Bible. It's another to realize that these were real people who were experiencing these amazing events. These books bring them to life.

Throughout the story, we read of the spiritual growth of Shira, the main character, and Devorah, a secondary character. Through the experiences these women have and their own personal growth in their relationship with God, the author draws readers to think about their own relationship with God in a way that isn't "preachy" at all. Instead it is encouraging and inspiring.

Readers could potentially pick up this book and enjoy it without having read the first book in the series. There are references to the characters from the previous book, but Shira's story could also stand alone for new readers.

You can find Shadow of the Storm on Amazon here and can read a sample of the Kindle book below.

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Review of The Name I Call Myself by Beth Moran

Last year I had the opportunity to review a couple of books by Beth Moran. I immediately found another great author and thoroughly enjoyed the books. (You can find my review of Making Marion here and of I Hope You Dance here.)

Review of The Name I Call Myself by Beth Moran
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Recently I found another Beth Moran book to be excited about- The Name I Call Myself.

From the book's description:

All Faith Harp wants is a quiet life—to take care of her troubled brother, Sam, earn enough money to stop the poverty wolves snapping at her heels, and to keep her past buried as deep as possible. And after years of upheaval, she might have just about managed it: Sam's latest treatment seems to actually be working, Faith is holding down a job, and she's engaged to the gorgeous and successful Perry.

But, for Faith, things never seem to stay simple for long. Her domineering mother-in-law-to-be is planning a nightmare wedding, including the wedding dress from hell. And the man who killed her mother is released from prison, sending her brother tumbling back into mental illness.

When secretly planning the wedding she really wants, Faith stumbles across a church choir that challenges far more than her ability to hold a tune. She ends up joining the choir, led by the fierce choir-mistress Hester, who is determined to do whatever it takes to turn the group of ragtag women into something spectacular. She also meets Dylan, the church's vicar, who is different than any man she has ever met before . . .

I wasn't disappointed. I took The Name I Call Myself on a recent vacation so that I could plenty of time to read and enjoy it.

Beth Moran's characters are so real. The main characters are real women with real struggles. They aren't perfect- even the ones who sometimes seem to be at first. They have real dreams and real fears. They react in realistic ways. I think that this is what draws me in to these books so irrevocably. I can relate to the characters.

I also love these books because I get to know the characters enough to want to invest time into reading about them. Beth Moran does an excellent job in helping the reader to get to know the main characters- their inner struggles, their thoughts and feelings. The characters become so real that I want to know what they're doing when I'm not reading. (If you're a reader, you probably won't think I'm crazy here.)

The plot of The Name I Call Myself wasn't just a predictable copy of the previous books from Beth Moran. Occasionally I'll read a really great book, but when I find other books by the author, they seem like the same plot replayed with different people. I definitely didn't find that to be true here- or with the other books I've read from Beth Moran. The plot is original and interesting. There is a hint of danger that makes things a little exciting. There is romance, but it isn't cheesy and flowery. The pace moves along well- not so quickly as to be unbelievable, but not so slowly as to cause the reader to lose interest.

I can definitely recommend The Name I Call Myself. I give it five stars. You can find the book on Amazon here and on Kregel here, and read an excerpt from the Kindle version below.

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What Is Your Response When Times Get Hard? : Review of Shaken by Tim Tebow

As a Christian homeschooling family, we watched Tim Tebow's rise to fame in his early NFL career with great interest. Here was a pro athlete that was unapologetically a Christian. And, because of his time spent homeschooling, we could relate to him and his family there as well.

We were disappointed when we watched Tim cut from first the Broncos, then the Jets, and then the Patriots. But then time passed, and, to be honest, he slipped off the radar. I would occasionally hear things about him and the foundation that he established to minister to children who were facing difficult times and their families, to show God's love in those dark times.

Review of Shaken by Tim Tebow
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I've now had the opportunity to be a part of the launch of Tim's brand new book- Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life's Storms. In this book, Tim talks about his own feelings of being shaken when his lifelong dream of becoming an NFL quarterback dissolved around him.

Throughout the book, Tim looks at how we respond when the bad times in life come. Using examples from his own experiences as well as those of people he's met through the foundation and throughout other events of his life, Tim guides readers to look beyond the struggles and consider God's leading in their lives. He writes in a conversational tone as if he's talking to readers.

Tim begins the book by talking his own experiences in getting cut, once again, from the Patriots. Tim talks about his feelings and emotions and his own questioning of what, exactly, God was doing his life. He's open and authentic as he relates his personal struggles.

Tim guides readers to think about Who they belong to when they're facing hard things. He talks about facing your fears and about responding to the negative people around you. He encourages readers to trust in God's plan even when it seems as if things are out of control. And he talks about the power of taking action and taking a stand for what you believe in. He ends the book with a chapter that talks about the most important thing-a personal relationship with Christ.

The book is written in a down to earth, relatable tone. Readers will feel as if Tim is talking to them personally. Fans of Tim Tebow, sports fans in general, and any reader who is struggling with life's unexpected turns can read and be encouraged as they walk through their hard times.

You can watch a trailer for the book here.

Want to know more? Visit the book's website here.  And purchase Shaken on Amazon here. (The book will be released on October 25, 2016, but it is available for pre-orders.)

Visit As We Walk Along the Road for homeschool support and encouragement.

Review of Newton and Polly by Jody Hedlund

Several years ago I came across author Jody Hedlund when I read her book A Noble Groom. I loved the book- her writing style, the character development. I've since reviewed two of her other books- The Preacher's Bride and Luther and Katharina: A Novel of Love and Rebellion. I've loved each one and recently had the opportunity to review another- Newton and Polly: A Novel of Amazing Grace. It's the story behind the author of one of my favorite hymns of all time- "Amazing Grace."

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From the book's description:

Now remembered as the author of the world’s most famous hymn, in the mid-eighteenth century as England and France stand on the brink of war, John Newton is a young sailor wandering aimlessly through life. His only duty is to report to his ship and avoid disgracing his father—until the night he hears Polly Catlett’s enchanting voice, caroling. He’s immediately smitten and determined to win her affection.

An intense connection quickly forms between the two, but John’s reckless spirit and disregard for the Christian life are concerns for the responsible, devout Polly. When an ill-fated stop at a tavern leaves John imprisoned and bound, Polly must choose to either stand by his side or walk out of his life forever. Will she forfeit her future for the man she loves?

Step back through the pages of history, to uncover the true love story behind a song that continues to stir the hearts and ignite the faith of millions around the globe.

Historical fiction is one of my very favorite genres. When it's well-done I can envision the time and people well. But for me to really appreciate historical fiction, I want the story to be true to known facts. This can be a little dicey when authors write about real people as the main characters of their stories.

Jody Hedlund does this well. In this book as well as The Preacher's Bride and Luther and Katharina, the main characters are real people. And Jody Hedlund has taken what's known about them historically and has given the reader a look into the relationship they had with their wives. She stays true to the historical information available, and she makes the men and their wives real, believable people for the reader to "meet."

In this book, Polly and John are both well-developed characters.  The theme of God's grace runs throughout- not only in the life of John, who decidedly needs God's grace to change a life that's gone astray, but also in the life of Polly, who thinks that she has to work to earn God's love.

Needless to say, I give this one five stars. I loved it, and I'll be looking for others by the author. You can find Newton and Polly: A Novel of Amazing Grace on Amazon here. You can read a Kindle preview of the book below.

Review of The Preacher's Bride

Review of A Noble Groom

Review of Luther and Katharina: A Novel of Love and Rebellion

Visit As We Walk Along the Road for homeschool support and encouragement.

Prince Noah and the School Pirates: A Celebration of the Strengths of All Children

Some time ago I had the opportunity to review The Prince Who Was Just Himself by Silke Schnee. Silke is the mom of three boys, one of whom- Noah- has Down's Syndrome. I loved the book- a beautiful, gentle fairy tale that celebrates that fact that Prince Noah, while responding to people differently than some children, has his own special gifts and abilities.

Review of Prince Noah and the School Pirates
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Silke Schnee has now written a second book that features Noah, along with her other two sons. In this book, Prince Noah begins school. But school, in those days, takes place on ships. And children are assigned to a particular ship with other children "like them." There is an all boys ship, an all girls ship, a ship for children with only one leg, a ship for children with eye patches, and a ship for children who are different, like Noah.

Noah, along with his brothers and all of the children of the kingdom, set sail and begin to learn. Unfortunately things don't always go well. The girls only do handwork on their ship, by Maya wants to learn math. The boys are so rough and tumble on their ship that their teachers despair of ever teaching them anything except climbing and diving. The children with eyepatches have a very, very quiet ship because they've learned that, although they can't see, they can learn all about the world around them by listening. On Noah's ship, he's busy dancing and learning the letter A.

Trouble comes when the school ship meet pirates. The children are all marched up to a tower and locked away. But they realize that, in working together, they can each use their own special gifts and abilities to get free of the pirates and safely back to their teachers. The newly freed children end their school voyage all together on one ship where things go much more smoothly when they're each using their strengths and working together.

As with The Prince Who Was Just Himself, I love this book. It's such a sweet, gentle way to talk with kids about how, though we're all different, we can each be celebrated for the strengths we possess.

Whether you're reading Prince Noah and the School Pirates to a child with special needs or to a child society might call "normal," this cute, make-believe story is an excellent way to have good discussions about the fact that we're each unique with different strengths we can contribute to a group.

You can find Prince Noah and the School Pirates on Amazon here.

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Review of The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jefferies

Sometimes when I see a new book everywhere I look, I just can't help myself. It doesn't matter how much- or little- that I know about the book or the author or even if the genre is my typical fare or not, I just have to jump on board and read it too. This was true of The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jefferies.

Review of fiction book The Tea Planters Wife

After seeing the book surface in multiple review groups, I just had to read it.

From the book's description:

Dinah Jefferies' unforgettable new novel, The Tea Planter's Wife is a haunting, tender portrait of a woman forced to choose between her duty as a wife and her instinct as a mother... Nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper steps off a steamer in Ceylon full of optimism, eager to join her new husband. But the man who greets her at the tea plantation is not the same one she fell in love with in London. Distant and brooding, Laurence spends long days wrapped up in his work, leaving his young bride to explore the plantation alone. It's a place filled with clues to the past - locked doors, a yellowed wedding dress in a dusty trunk, an overgrown grave hidden in the grounds, far too small for an adult... Gwen soon falls pregnant and her husband is overjoyed, but she has little time to celebrate. In the delivery room the new mother is faced with a terrible choice, one she knows no one in her upper class set will understand - least of all Laurence. Forced to bury a secret at the heart of her marriage, Gwen is more isolated than ever. When the time comes, how will her husband ever understand what she has done? The Tea Planter's Wife is a story of guilt, betrayal and untold secrets vividly and entrancingly set in colonial era Ceylon.

I wasn't disappointed.

Although the book is written in third person, it's told from the perspective of Gwendolyn Hooper, the young woman on an adventure to be the wife of a wealthy tea planter in Ceylon. Gwen develops well into a very likable heroine. And through her interactions, the other characters in the cast are also well-developed.

The book is written in a style I would describe as hauntingly beautiful. Although there are happy moments, the tone is such that I constantly expected something difficult or bad to happen. The story isn't really a depressing one, though. And it is so well-written that, even overshadowed by this feeling or foreboding, the story is quite beautiful at times.

I was drawn into the story immediately, and this became one of those books I couldn't put down. There is an air of suspense that hovers around some of the characters, and I was constantly making predictions about what the mystery would turn out to be and then being inclined to read "just one more chapter" to see if my suspicions were correct.

My only complaint about the story at all is that has a rather precipitous ending. After a fairly lengthy story, multiple things seem to be resolved in a very quick manner in the last chapter or two. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the book up until this point, I found the ending rather abrupt, making the conclusion of a wonderful story a little bit choppy and less believable.

On a side note, I thoroughly enjoyed the historical setting of The Tea Planter's Wife. Set in Ceylon- now Sri Lanka- in the early 1900s when it was an English colony, it was a place and time I've not read very much about. It was also interesting to see how the American depression affected Gwen and her wealthy English husband in Ceylon- something I've also not read or thought much about.

Despite the ending, I give this one five stars. The rest of the story really was that good. This is not Christian fiction- as I often review- and there are a few scenes in the book. There isn't much detail given at all.

You can find The Tea Planter's Wife on Amazon here and read an excerpt of the Kindle book below.

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Review of The Captive Heart by Michelle Griep

Michelle Griep was a new to me author, but I quickly found myself engrossed in The Captive Heart.

From the book's description:

Proper English governess Eleanor Morgan flees to the colonies to escape the wrath of a brute of an employer. When the Charles Town family she’s to work for never arrives to collect her from the dock, she is forced to settle for the only reputable choice remaining to her—marriage to a man she’s never met. Trapper and tracker Samuel Heath is a hardened survivor used to getting his own way by brain or by brawn, and he’s determined to find a mother for his young daughter. But finding a wife proves to be impossible. No upstanding woman wants to marry a murderer.

Christian fiction review

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There were several things that I particularly enjoyed about The Captive Heart, and I'll be on the lookout for more from the author.

  • The character development was excellent. The story is told in third person, but it alternates between the view of Eleanor and Samuel, so I felt as if I got to know both of the main characters well. They were developed through reading about their thoughts and inner feelings as well as by the action that happened throughout the story.
  • The historical time period and historical events that were unfolding is another thing that really drew me to the this story. Set in the 1700s in the American colonies, the story focused on the colonists and their devotion to either the English soldiers or the new groups of rebels springing up. It also included a story line that illustrated how the division between England and the settlers affected the American Indian tribes. There is enough of a story that the tale could be continued in further novels. (I hope!)
  • The romance that develops between Eleanor and Samuel is very well-written. It's a sweet romance that is a continual struggle of attraction and annoyance between the two.
I can definitely recommend The Captive Heart. It was one of those stories that I was sorry to see while at the same time wanting it to work out and loose ends to be resolved. I give it five stars. You can find the book on Amazon here and read an excerpt from the Kindle version below.

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