Review of Realm of Darkness by C.F. Dunn

A few years ago, I stumbled across the phrase P.A.B.D. on a book review blog. It stands for Post Amazing Book Disorder and refers to that feeling you have when you've finished an amazing book, and you stumble around a bit disoriented as you try to assimilate back into real life. And, of course, any book read after that one can't possibly measure up.

Review of Realm of Darkness

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Every one of the books in The Secret of the Journal series by C.F. Dunn has done this to me. Every one.

I've read and review previously:

Mortal Fire
Death Be Not Proud
Rope of Sand

And now I've read Realm of Darkness.

I'm to the point in the story where I can't give too much description of the book without giving away the story line. But from the book's description:

Emma and Matthew are finally free to marry, but Matthew's secret continues to haunt them.

Emma D'Eresby can look forward to a future with Matthew Lynes. She at last reveals to Matthew the nature of her relationship with Guy Hilliard—her supervisor at Cambridge—and the reason she has found it difficult to forgive him or to trust any other.

Their joy at marrying is short-lived as, to her disgust, Emma discovers that Guy is visiting the United States to attend the history conference at which she is the keynote speaker. Although everyone seems charmed by him, Emma doesn't trust Guy. Worse still, she discovers that Ellie is dating Guy, bringing him within the family fold.

Long-held grudges and wounds surface and it is clear that Guy poses a threat to everything Emma loves.

There are so many things that I loved about this book. It would probably be easier to tell you the few- if any things- I didn't like. But here are a few of my favorite things.

~The characters are so very well developed. The book is written in first person from Emma's point of view. But hers isn't the only character that is so well-developed. All of them are. And these books have a large cast of characters. Now, it helps that this is a series and not a single book. But in every book I think Dunn has done an awesome job helping the reader to get to know the characters.

~The story is so different. I can't spell out too much because I don't want to give spoilers. But this isn't your everyday love story. There's a twist that is done so well that it's believable enough without being trite and too predictable.

~The beginning of the book has a recap of what's happened so far. Chalk it up to the fact that I read sixty to seventy books a year or blame it on the fact that I'm old. If I have to wait more than a month or so for a sequel, I'm forgetting prior books. The author does me a tremendous favor here by giving a recap at the beginning. Although I remembered the basic plot, I found myself nodding and saying "Oh yes, that!" as I read through.

~The romance in the story is just so..romantic. I love a good romance. I love to feel sweet and sappy. But I also love the deep "I'd do anything for you." romances. This, on occasion, is both. But it's mostly deep and thoughtful. It's a poetry and love sonnets sort of romance that you just want to last forever.

In the back of the book, we are promised that the 5th and final book is coming in September 2016. Since we don't have far (it's August 2016 as of this review), I'll probably be holding my breath.

I give this amazing book 5 easy stars- and would give more if my system allowed. You can find it on Kregel here and on Amazon here. You can read a Kindle preview below.







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Review of Bridge to Haven: a Beautiful Story of Love and Redemption by Francine Rivers

Years ago, I fell in love with the writing of Francine Rivers when I read the book Redeeming Love. It's a beautiful allegory of the book of Hosea, set in the Old West. Since then I've found and read most of her books. And I was very thrilled to win a gift card that allowed me to get her newest book, Bridge to Haven.

Review of Bridge to Haven

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From the book's description...

To those who matter in 1950s Hollywood, Lena Scott is the hottest rising star to hit the silver screen since Marilyn Monroe. Few know her real name is Abra. Even fewer know the price she’s paid to finally feel like she’s somebody.

To Pastor Ezekiel Freeman, Abra will always be the little girl who stole his heart the night he found her, a wailing newborn abandoned under a bridge on the outskirts of Haven. Zeke and his son, Joshua―Abra’s closest friend―watch her grow into an exotic beauty. But Zeke knows the circumstances surrounding her birth have etched scars deep in her heart, scars that leave her vulnerable to a fast-talking charmer who lures her to Tinseltown. Hollywood feels like a million miles from Haven, and naive Abra quickly learns what’s expected of an ambitious girl with stars in her eyes. But fame comes at a devastating price. She has burned every bridge to get exactly what she thought she wanted. Now all she wants is a way back home.


I loved this book as much as the others I've read from Francine Rivers. She has the ability to write characters that are real and believable. They are real people with faults and flaws. And even the ones who are believers have struggles- just as in real life.

The character development is excellent, and I definitely felt as though I got to know the characters and connected with them as I read. The storyline was interesting, and I liked the setting in 1950s Hollywood. Events that happened were believable, and the story flowed well. And- without giving away too much- the book ends with something unresolved, just as in life things don't always all work out in a nice, neat wrapped up way.

Most of all, Bridge to Haven has a beautiful story of love and redemption. It's not preachy in any way. But, throughout the book, we can see God's love and redemptive plan as well as the loyalty and love of family and friends. In Abra's story, we can see ourselves, often veering from God's perfect will but ever able to return to him and be blessed- never without hope, even if it seems so at times.

I can definitely recommend Bridge to Haven. I give it 5 stars. You can find the book on Amazon here and read a Kindle sample below.







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Review of The Beautiful Pretender by Melanie Dickerson

Sometimes I like a light, easy read- nothing very deep but something enjoyable. The Beautiful Pretender fits that description.

Christian fiction

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From the book's description...

After inheriting his title from his brother, the margrave has two weeks to find a noble bride. What will happen when he learns he has fallen for a lovely servant girl in disguise?

The Margrave of Thornbeck has to find a bride, fast. He invites ten noble born ladies who meet the king’s approval to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks, a time to test these ladies and reveal their true character.

Avelina has only two instructions: keep her true identity a secret and make sure the margrave doesn’t select her as his bride. Since the latter seems unlikely, she concentrates on not getting caught. No one must know she is merely a maidservant, sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter, Dorothea.

Despite Avelina’s best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can’t deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse—far deadlier—consequences

There was nothing particularly deep or thoughtful about this book, but it was a fairly likable read. The Medieval setting with princes and princesses and lords and ladies is one I enjoy. The characters weren't extremely well-developed. I felt as if there was more action and less reflection.    The story line is one I've seen done before, so it wasn't particularly new or different. I did enjoy the romance of the story. I thought it was a sweet story.

I give this one 3.5 stars and a G rating for content. You can find it on Amazon here and read a Kindle preview below.





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Wild Montana Skies: The Start of a New Series From Susan May Warren

I just have to say: I love Susan May Warren's books. I just love them. I really don't think I've yet read one that I don't love.

And now Susie May has a new series- Montana Rescue. And I was thrilled to review the first book- Wild Montana Skies.

Review of Christian fiction

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The story:

Kacey Fairing is a search and rescue pilot. She ends up back in her hometown, out of the army and looking for a new start to life. Just as she gets into town, she's caught up in rescue operations because of a flood. And then she discovers that her rescue partner is her hometown sweetheart who she never wanted to meet again.

Ben King has been traveling and singing country music. But when his partner steals his song and sets out to be a solo act, he heads back to his hometown. His dad has fallen and had several other medical concerns, so Ben feels as if he needs to get his dad to agree to go with him to Nashville and live where he can have care. Then Ben is determined to get his career back on track. But then he gets caught up as the partner of Kacey Fairing- his high school sweetheart.

As with all of Susan May Warren's book, the romance was sweet, the storyline was interesting, and the characters were well developed.

Kacey and Ben were realistic characters. They weren't perfect. They didn't have perfect lives. They had made bad choices and had had to face the consequences of bad decisions. I appreciate book characters that are real. I can't relate to the perfect characters who always do the right thing.

I love that no matter how many romance/fiction books I've read from Susan May Warren, the stories are varied and interesting. You would think there would only be so many ways that characters could develop a relationship. But their stories are all different.

As with many others before, I love yet another Susan May Warren story. I finished this one one night where my husband found me sniffling happily with another moving ending to another great book.

I give this one 5 stars- of course- and a PG rating for content. You can find the book on Amazon here  (a preorder as of the writing of this post).



Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.


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The Prince Warriors by Priscilla Shirer: a Book About Spiritual Warfare Written for Young Adults

Do you have teens who love action and adventure books? Patricia Shirer has authored a new series- The Prince Warriors. I was able to read for review the first book in the series- The Prince Warriors.

The books are written to illustrate the spiritual warfare that we are all involved in, whether we're aware of it or not. There is plenty of adventure and fast-paced action taking place to grab the attention of readers.

Review of The Prince Warriors for teens


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In this first book of the series, Evan and his brother Xavier, along with two other teens- Levi and Brianna, are caught up in an alternate world. Evan and Xavier are siblings constantly at odds with each other. Levi and Brianna, who hang out at the same rec center as the boys, struggle with taking up for a bullied kid. The four find themselves in Ahoratos, an alternate world, being guided by Ruwach, an elf-like creature.

In Ahoratos the four fight evil in a very real way. Back in their normal lives, they are encouraged to make good decisions in the struggles they experience. They also realize that they can be called to return to Ahoratos to go on missions.

The book is written to make readers aware of the spiritual battles that we face all of the time, even though we aren't usually aware of them. No mention is directly made of the Bible or God or anything spiritual. But, if readers are knowledgable about the Bible and spiritual warfare they'll make the connections when the four teens are armed with the armor of the Spirit found in Ephesians and when they are introduced to a Book with rules and instructions for their time in Ahoratos.

I think that the books will capture the readers of teens. There's plenty of adventure and fighting and excitement and magical elements that will hold their attention. What I'm not sure of is whether or not teen readers will "get" the connection with the idea of spiritual warfare.

I think teens that have read much of the Bible or that have been taught biblical concepts may understand the references in the book, but readers who haven't had the biblical teaching may not even catch on that the book has spiritual references. In some ways this may be effective because the book will appeal to a larger audience. But if you're choosing it because of a Christian worldview, you'll probably have to add some explanation and discussion with your teens in order for them to catch on.

If you're interested in The Prince Warriors series, you can learn more at the website here and watch a trailer for this first book here. You can purchase The Prince Warriors on Amazon here. You can see a preview of the Kindle version below.









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The Captain Takes a Wife: Historical Fiction by Doris Durbin

The Captain Takes a Wife begins with a chance encounter. Set in the South at the end of the Civil War, it's a fast-moving story that involves love at first sight, gentlemanly bravery, and a young woman on the run from danger.

Historical fiction review

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From the book's description:

Sarah Franklin, a young teacher escaping an arranged marriage to a corrupt man, runs straight into the arms of Captain Harry Richardson as he prepares to board a train leaving Macon, Georgia, in 1875. She begs him to help her, and the captain soon finds himself in the midst of a ruse to hide her identity from her pursuers. When he impulsively kisses her in front of his amazed friends and some curious newspaper reporters, everything changes, and events soon spiral out of control.

Harry is a handsome man who carries his Bible and sidearm in a worn, leather valise. He fought on the side of the Confederacy until he was captured at Missionary Ridge; he spent time in a northern prison, but was released when he agreed to go west and fight the Indians with the U.S. Cavalry. Now that the war is over and he has earned his theology degree, Harry is looking forward to a new beginning as a circuit-riding preacher in the North Georgia mountains. But first, he must survive the train trip, protecting a woman he barely knows and putting his life in jeopardy to battle a determined band of hired gunmen.

In this inspirational historical tale, a soldier-turned-minister learns that even if you're starting a new life, there are some things you can't leave behind.


I was eagerly anticipating this read when I had read the synopsis above. I like this time period in historical fiction. And the idea of a dashing hero come in to save the day unexpectedly was one I thought would make a sweet romance and an interesting story.

Unfortunately I thought the story often fell flat.

The storyline was an interesting one, but the events unfolded in a pretty unbelievable manner. Sarah and Harry were falling in love before they had met when she attended a revival meeting at which he was preaching. He was drawn to her and she to him in such a way that when they actually ran into each other- literally- there was love at first sight. Harry was willing to believe everything she told him as she was running away, jump in and protect her, and then offer to marry her. In addition, all of his friends took all the events at face value and jumped to Sarah's aid as well, including Harry's buddies who abandoned all of their plans in an instant and jumped on the train Harry was boarding when they saw events unfold.

I wanted to like the story, and there were a few likable elements. Sarah and Harry were likable characters, but they weren't very much developed. I felt as if there was much action- a chain of events- but not much look into the thoughts and intents of the characters.

The book is a fairly light and easy read, and there is a tender romance that unfolds. If you're looking for that and don't mind events being a little unbelievable, you may enjoy The Captain Takes a Wife. I give the book 3 stars and a G rating for content. You can find the book on Amazon here and read a Kindle sample below.












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Helping Teens Discover How to Speak Love Languages: A Teen's Guide to the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman and Paige Haley Drygas

My husband and I were fortunate to take a class and learn about the 5 love languages idea before we were married. The original idea comes from Gary Chapman's book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts.  The concept of the five love languages is something that has impacted our marriage and our parenting in profound ways. I know it's something that has strengthened our relationships. So I was very interested to see A Teen's Guide to the 5 Love Languages. 

We've shared the concept of the five love languages with our children often, so they understand the concept. But I love the idea of a book especially written for teens. In A Teen's Guide to the 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman along with Paige Haley Drygas explain the concept of the five love languages using words and examples that teens can relate to.

Review of A Teen's Guide to the 5 Love Languages


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The 5 Love Languages

The idea behind the five love languages concept is that we all have a different way of expressing love. We receive and express in five main ways:

  • Physical touch
  • Words of affirmation
  • Time spent together
  • Acts of service
  • Gift giving
Relationship problems can arise if people don't speak the same love language. You think you're showing love, but the recipient doesn't feel loved. 

My husband and I speak different love languages. One of his primary love languages is physical touch. My main love language is acts of service. I feel unloved when I've been gone and come home to find the house messy, dirty dishes piled up, and the laundry undone. Meanwhile he's wondering why I won't hug and touch and be more physical because he's missed that while I was gone. The result is that both of us can end up feeling slighted and wondering why the other doesn't love us more.

Thankfully, because we know about love languages, we can make an effort to avoid this disconnect. We try really hard to deliberately speak the other person's love language even if it doesn't come naturally.

A Teen's Guide to the 5 Love Languages

Because knowing about love languages is a key to good relationships, learning about them in the teen years is really important. Teens are often struggling with relationships- with their parents, their siblings, and with members of the opposite sex. Learning about love languages can improve their relationships in the short term but also set them up well for marriage later on (if that's the direction God leads them).

In this teen version of the 5 love languages book, Gary Chapman and Paige Haley Drygas explain the concept of love languages using language and examples that teens can understand and relate to. The book covers each of the love languages, giving specific examples of how they play out in relationships. 

As each love language is explained, teens are also given a "warning", a caution against using the opposite of each love language. For example, the opposite of using words as a love language is harassing and speaking harshly to someone. An opposite of listening (quality time) is excluding others. I really liked these examples that used situations that teens encounter regularly.

One thing I wondered as I began reading over this book is how it would address relationships with the opposite sex. We've discouraged close, exclusive relationships for our teens. And I wondered if a book on love languages would focus on these relationships. I was pleased with the way those relationships were handled. The authors talk about the difference between romantic love and real love- deliberately choosing to speak someone else's love language. It was emphasized over and over that love is a choice.

At the end of each chapter there is a section that encourages teens to pause and think about what was in the chapter. There are also occasionally specific action steps teens can take in regards to the chapter. After describing each love language, the book deals specifically with family relationships, anger (which teens can struggle with), and love relationships. There is also a question/answer with Gary Chapman and a questionnaire to help teens discover their love language.


I really like this teen version of the love language book. I'm going to bribe encourage both of my teens to read it. You can find more information about love languages, discover your love language, and get other resources at The 5 Love Languages website. You can find A Teen's Guide to the 5 Love Languages on Amazon here. And you can read an excerpt from the book below. You can also enter to win your own copy of the book. The giveaway will end on July 23.













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The Life We Never Expected: Beautiful and Moving Encouragement for Parents of Children With Special Needs

When I read the synopsis of The Life We Never Expected I knew I wanted to read it.

What do you do when hard or painful circumstances turn your world upside down, resulting in a life you never expected? Andrew and Rachel Wilson grappled with this question after both of their children were diagnosed with regressive autism. Refreshingly honest, this book explores the highs and lows of raising children with specials needs, reflecting on the broader question of how to cope with suffering of all kinds. Sharing personal stories from their lives and encouragement rooted in the truth of God’s Word, Andrew and Rachel highlight lessons they’ve learned related to fighting for joy and thriving in the midst of trials—ultimately pointing readers to Christ, the One who promises to make all things new.


Review of The Life We Never Expected for parents of special needs kids

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Having several friends with children who have special needs and having taught special education before I stayed home with my own children, this is something that is near and dear to my heart. And there was something else. Beyond just the subject of special needs, something in this description really resonated with me. Because the fact is that whether it's children with special needs or a problem in our marriage or the unexpected death of a love one, we've all had times when something unexpected happened, when life certainly didn't go the way we had planned. And so I requested The Life We Never Expected to review.

And then life happened. It lay on my review shelf amid other projects awaiting my attention. And I thought I picked it up with all of the reading I gathered for our vacation. But it ended up that I had missed this one. So I arrived home with the intention of a hurried read-through, a review, and then a more in-depth reading...if the book was as good as I expected. I picked up The Life We Never Expected, opened it, and was immediately captured.

I was captured by the raw honesty. Andrew and Rachel Wilson, the book's authors, are the parents of two autistic children. Their children have some pretty intense needs. And their children are still pretty young. But Andrew and Rachel don't claim to be experts who have this whole journey through special needs figured out. They don't claim to understand God's plan and working in their lives. Instead, they tell readers that they looked for a book like this when each of their children was diagnosed and couldn't find one. And so they've written one.

The Life We Never Expected isn't a manual that will tell Christian parents the "right" way to handle the curveball of a special needs child. Andrew and Rachel don't come across as holier than thou people who are especially spiritual and have learned how to copy with all that comes their way. Instead, the book is a raw and honest look at how Christians deal with suffering. And, just as the thought resonated with me when I read the book's synopsis, this book is NOT just for parents with special needs kids. In the introduction Andrew says that the book is written for those parents. It's also written for friends and family members of parents with special needs kids. But it's also written for anyone who's suffered from something unexpected they've encountered, someone who's had life take an unexpected turn.

The chapters of the book follow a cycle- Weeping, Worshiping, Waiting, Witnessing, Breathing. This cycle is taken from Psalm 130- a Psalm of suffering. As Andrew explains in the book's beginning, the Psalmist seems to follow this cycle as he deals with the suffering in his own life. And, as Andrew says, grief and dealing with suffering isn't a linear experience. It's a cycle that can happen over and over again as we process. And for parents of special needs children, it's a cycle that they'll experience over and over as they learn more about their child and care for their child.

In the chapters of the book, Andrew and Rachel follow this cycle, sharing stories from their lives that fit each of these five categories. In some of the stories, you can feel their intense grief. In others you can see bright rays of sunshine that have come into their lives because of their special needs children. But over and over throughout these stories, Andrew and Rachel comfort parents of special needs children and those of us who have experience suffering in other ways. They comfort, not with meaningless platitudes or with success stories that show how life has finally worked out for them in the end, but by consistently bringing readers face to face with God's truths.

The book provides room to grieve, to weep. But it also beautifully, relentlessly points the reader again and again to God's amazing grace, amazing gifts, and amazing love.

There are so many quotes that I've underlined that my book is looking quite marked up. And since this has been a quick read-through, I'm sure I'll read it again, so I can chew on it a little more. Here are just a few of the words that have gone straight to my heart.

  • "I love my kids most not by loving them the most but by first loving God."

  • "I was always inclined to think that God's purposes came about through great leaders...Mostly, however, they don't.They come about through millions of unnamed people doing unheard-of things, in unnoticeable ways to the glory of God."

  • The Lion has tears in his eyes, and although I will never understand all that he's doing, I know that he isn't doing it because he doesn't love me. The cross proves that."
I encourage you to read this book. If you are the parent of special needs children, you need to read this book. If you have friends or family members with special needs children, you need to read this book. If you've ever suffered because of something unexpected in your life, you need to read this book. 

You can find The Life We Never Expected on Amazon here. You can also read a Kindle sample below. And you can enter to win your own copy of the book from FlyBy in the giveaway below.


The Life We Never Expected by parents of special needs kids








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