Tuesday, January 12, 2021

All That We Carried By Erin Bartels

All That We Carried
by Erin Bartels
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 9780800738365

Having read The Words Between Us last fall, I was looking forward to reading All That We Carried when I saw it available for review from Revell. They sent me the book for my review.

Summary:

The most treacherous terrain is found within

Ten years ago, sisters Olivia and Melanie Greene were on a hiking trip when their parents were in a fatal car accident. They haven't seen each other since the funeral. Olivia coped with the loss by plunging herself into law school, work, and a materialist view of the world--what you see is what you get, and that's all you get. Melanie dropped out of college and developed an online life coaching business around her DIY spirituality--a little of this, a little of that, whatever makes you happy.

Now, at Melanie's insistence (and against Olivia's better judgment), they are embarking on a hike in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. In this remote wilderness they'll face their deepest fears, question their most dearly held beliefs, and begin to see that perhaps the best way to move forward is the one way they had never considered.

My Review:

In All That We Carried I can't believe the wide range of emotions I experienced. Who knew that two sisters on a hiking trip could invoke that in me? And I don't even have sisters!

I'll be honest. When I first started the story I was a bit "freaked" out. "Freaked" is probably way too strong of a word, but I was concerned about where the storyline was going to go. And yes, this was in the beginning! *cringe* Melanie, the free spirit sister, is talking about Tarot cards and reincarnation. Full Stop. A fellow book reviewer had LITERALLY just posted a photo of this book and mentioned how much she enjoyed it so I reached out to her about where I was at in the story. She reassured me that it all fleshes out. That was totally a God moment because I was nervous.

Whew... Listen, sometimes a gal has to be reassured. lol

So, I continued on with the story and it all began to make sense. With the accident that claimed their parents lives, Melanie and Olivia coped in their own ways. Melanie began grasping at anything that she thought would be a comfort or positive. Olivia closed ranks on herself and what she was able to control.

Can I just say I related quite a lot to Olivia. In fact, so much so that I cringed when she talked because I could hear myself saying similar things. The need to be right, to be in control. When you go through tragedy you do what you can to make yourself feel safe and that's what these girls did.


One of my favorite aspects of this story is during certain scenes the author then brings you back to a previous time in the girls lives - either when they were little or teens. It would give you a glimpse as to how some things never change. I also appreciated the design of those pages. It was easy to differentiate those past moments with the rest of the story.

You can see God's hand in the story even though the characters are clueless, but in so many ways He's evident. While I started out nervous about the trajectory of the spiritual aspect of this story, I can see how all of that mumbo jumbo fits in. Melanie (and for sure Olivia) is searching. She wants peace. She wants encouragement. She wants to know there's someone greater than her out there. Olivia, unbeknownst to herself, is searching even though she's outright rejected any "god". I just love how He reveals Himself to them as they hike. And THIS quote is why it's so important for parents to do as the Bible says and to train our children up in the way they should go as well as speaking about God all the time.


These sisters have a LOT to work out in their lives needless to say. In their own lives and together. With a decade of separation there is a lot to make up for... if only they can get past their huge chasm between them. And an even bigger chasm possibly in their future if things aren't ironed out on this hiking trip.

If anything can go wrong, it certainly does. But, God! The author's writing makes this hiking trip seem extremely real and you can imagine yourself a fly on their shoulder as they make their way through the Porkies.

And as much as I related to Olivia, how she expected Melanie to react to a bear is how she probably would've expected me to react as well. HA!


About the Author:

Erin Bartels is the award-winning author of We Hope for Better Things (2020 Michigan Notable Book, 2020 WFWA Star Award-winner, 2019 Christy Award finalist) and The Words between Us (2020 Christy Award finalist, 2015 WFWA Rising Star Award finalist). Her short story, "This Elegant Ruin," was a finalist in the Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest in 2014, and her poetry has been published by The Lyric. A publishing professional for 18 years, she is the director of WFWA's annual writers retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She lives in Lansing, Michigan, with her husband, Zachary, and their son. Find her online at www.erinbartels.com.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

The Dress Shop On King Street By Ashley Clark

The Dress Shop on King Street
by Ashley Clark
Publisher: Bethany House
Series: Heirloom Secrets
ISBN: 9780764237607

I judged a book by it's cover which is why I ended up wanting to review this book from Bethany House! What wasn't there not to love or be drawn in by it? Hence, they sent me a copy and now I'm reviewing it!

Summary:

Harper Dupree has pinned all her hopes on a future in fashion design. But when it comes crashing down around her, she returns home to Fairhope, Alabama, and to Millie, the woman who first taught her how to sew. As Harper rethinks her own future, long-hidden secrets about Millie's past are brought to light.

In 1946, Millie Middleton--the daughter of an Italian man and a Black woman--boarded a train and left Charleston to keep half of her heritage hidden. She carried with her two heirloom buttons and the dream of owning a dress store. She never expected to meet a charming train jumper who changed her life forever . . . and led her yet again to a heartbreaking choice about which heritage would define her future.

Now, together, Harper and Millie return to Charleston to find the man who may hold the answers they seek . . . and a chance at the dress shop they've both dreamed of. But it's not until all appears lost that they see the unexpected ways to mend what frayed between the seams.

My Review:

I don't know if you're like me, but I'm often hesitant when it comes to debut authors. You just never know what to expect. Well, I can tell you one thing, expect a lot from The Dress Shop on King Street! This story was incredible.

In the time that we're living in, this book is so... timely. My thought throughout the book was, "how do we live like we're still not in the 1940s and 50s?" Millie's world was such a scary place to live in simply for the fact that she was half Black. The fact that parents still worry about their children playing outside because of their skin color just does me in. How have we not changed in the ensuing years?

Sorry, I digress...

Honestly, this book really forces the reader to look back and where our country has come from to where we are now. There's no way around it and while that's good, it's also a sad testament to where we still are.

First there's Millie. Honestly, first there's Rose and Ashley, and a choice that no mother should've ever had to make. Millie is part of their heritage. She's forced to start a new life away from her mama. So many your girls separated from their mama's at an early age in this family. Utterly heartbreaking! Millie pushes into the world of living the Italian side of her family while pushing the Black aside. Her battle with this throughout the story is palpable. You can feel the struggle she has from beginning to end.

And there's Harper. She's a young lady whose dream of owning a dress shop seems to always be just out of reach. When times are hard though, she would just rather run than fight for what she wants. Thankfully, life brings her back to Millie. Millie who has secrets and knows what it's like to run.

We also meet two fellas in this story. Franklin... ah, what a guy. He's the kind of guy who was created to have a zest for life, to take chances, and to fall for one woman for his entire life. Franklin worked his way into my heart from the moment we meet him. Trust me, you'll know why when he jumps onto the scene.

Peter, to me, is the guy you hope your daughter ends up with one day. There were so many great moments with him in this story. He's a historian because of circumstances that happen in his life, and it suits him to a "T". He and Harper have a love for restoring old things: he with buildings and her with clothing and accessories.

Millie is the tie that connects them and as we see the pieces all falling together, it's an amazing tale. One for the ages. I have to tell you, towards the end of the story, I was so emotional. I definitely teared up at one point because it was so beautiful and pulls on the heartstrings.

This story was so wonderfully written and it snuggled its way into my heart. I can't wait to read more from this author!

About the Author:

Ashley Clark (www.ashleyclarkbooks.com) writes romantic women's fiction set in the South. With a master's degree in creative writing, Ashley teaches literature and writing courses at the University of West Florida. Ashley has been an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers for almost a decade. She lives with her husband, son, and two rescued Cocker Spaniels off Florida's Gulf Coast. When she's not writing, she's rescuing stray animals, dreaming of Charleston, and drinking all the English breakfast tea she can get her hands on.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Five Star Books Of 2020

I thought it would be fun to revisit the books I gave a five star rating to in 2020. Looking over my list on Goodreads, I didn't realize I would have so many! I thought I was very stingy on handing those out, but apparently this was the year for some incredible reading!


I read (according to my Goodreads goal) 135 books this year. That includes physical, ebook, and audio copies. I thoroughly got into audiobooks at the beginning of the year (pre-covid). I'm so glad I did because being in the car and doing household chores became even more fun!



On Wings of Devotion by Roseanna M. White

Summary:

All of England thinks Major Phillip Camden a monster—a man who deliberately caused the deaths of his squadron. But he would have preferred to die that day with his men rather than be recruited to the Admiralty's codebreaking division. The threats he receives daily are no great surprise and, in his opinion, well deserved.

As nurse Arabelle Denler observes the so-dubbed "Black Heart," she sees something far different: a hurting man desperate for mercy. And when their families and paths twist together unexpectedly, she realizes she has a role to play in his healing—and some of her own to do so as well.

With Camden's court-marital looming, an old acquaintance shows up, intent on using him in a plot that sends the codebreakers of Room 40 into a frenzy. With their fragile hopes for the future in the cross hairs, Arabelle and Camden must hold on to hope—and to each other—if they want to survive.



Kings Falling by Ronie Kendig

Summary:

Leif Metcalfe and his team, dubbed Reaper, need to recover the stolen, ancient Book of the Wars if they hope to stop the Armageddon Coalition and their pursuit of global economic control. But their attention has been diverted by a prophecy in the book that foretells of formidable guardians who will decimate the enemies of ArC. While Iskra Todorova uses her connections in the covert underworld to hunt down the Book of the Wars, Leif and Reaper attempt to neutralize these agents but quickly find themselves outmaneuvered and outgunned. 

The more Reaper tries to stop the guardians, the more failure becomes a familiar, antagonistic foe. Friendships are fractured, and the team battles to hold it together long enough to defeat ArC. But as this millennia-old conspiracy creeps closer and closer to home, the implications could tear Leif and the team apart.



Before I Called You Mine by Nicole Deese

Summary:

Lauren Bailey may be a romantic at heart, but after a decade of matchmaking schemes gone wrong, there's only one match she's committed to now--the one that will make her a mother. Lauren is a dedicated first-grade teacher in Idaho, and her love for children has led her to the path of international adoption. To satisfy her adoption agency's requirements, she gladly agreed to remain single for the foreseeable future; however, just as her long wait comes to an end, Lauren is blindsided by a complication she never saw coming: Joshua Avery.

Joshua may be a substitute teacher by day, but Lauren finds his passion for creating educational technology as fascinating as his antics in the classroom. Though she does her best to downplay the undeniable connection between them, his relentless pursuit of her heart puts her commitment to stay unattached to the test and causes her once-firm conviction to waver.

With an impossible decision looming, Lauren might very well find herself choosing between the two deepest desires of her heart . . . even if saying yes to one means letting go of the other.



Silent Shadows by Natalie Walters

Summary:

They're running from their pasts into an unknown future. 
But first, they'll have to survive the present.


Nurse Pecca Gallegos moved to the tiny town of Walton, Georgia, to protect her son and escape the dangerous lifestyle that once defined her. When a series of strange circumstances evolves into threats, Pecca finds herself confiding in an unlikely ally--her stubborn patient.

Army veteran Colton Crawford is desperate to recover from the disorder that is ruining his life, and his instincts are on high alert when threats against his nurse and her son force him to take action. But Colton's involvement only ramps up the danger when he uncovers a family secret revealing that whoever is after Pecca is closer--and more deadly--than they realized.

Welcome back to Walton, Georgia, where everyone knows your name--but no one knows your secret.



The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke

Summary:

Seemingly overnight, the German blitzkrieg of Warsaw in 1939 turns its streets to a war zone and shatters the life of each citizen—Polish, Jewish, or otherwise. Sophie Kumiega, a British bride working in the city’s library, awaits news of her husband, Janek, recently deployed with the Polish Air Force. Though Sophie is determined that she and the baby in her womb will stay safe, the days ahead will draw her into the plight of those around her, compelling her to help, whatever the danger.

Rosa and Itzhak Dunovich never imagined they would welcome their longed-for first child in the Jewish ghetto, or that they would let anything tear their family apart. But as daily atrocities intensify, Rosa soon faces a terrifying reality: to save their daughter’s life, she must send her into hiding. Her only hope of finding her after the war—if any of them survive—is a medallion she cuts in half and places around her neck.

Inspired by true events of Poland’s darkest days and brightest heroes, The Medallion paints a stunning portrait of war and its aftermath, daring us to believe that when all seems lost, God can make a way forward.



My Dearest Dietrich by Amanda Barratt

A staggering love illuminating the dark corners of a Nazi prison
Renowned German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer is famous for his resistance to the Nazi regime and for his allegiance to God over government. But what few realize is that the last years of his life also held a love story that rivals any romance novel.

Maria von Wedemeyer knows the realities of war. Her beloved father and brother have both been killed on the battlefield. The last thing this spirited young woman needs is to fall for a man under constant surveillance by the Gestapo. How can she give another piece of her heart to a man so likely to share the same final fate? Yet when Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an old family friend, comes to comfort the von Wedemeyers after their losses, she discovers that love isn't always logical.

Dietrich himself has determined to keep his distance from romantic attachments. There is too much work to be done for God, and his involvement in the conspiracy is far too important. But when he encounters a woman whose intelligence and conviction match his own, he's unprepared for how easy it is to give away his heart.

With their deep love comes risk--and neither Dietrich nor Maria is prepared for just how great that risk soon becomes.

Based on detailed historical research and including photos from both Maria's and Dietrich's lives, this is a true love story at once beautiful and heartrending. My Dearest Dietrich sheds new light on a world-famous theologian . . . and the woman who changed his life.



Storing Up Trouble by Jen Turano

After Miss Beatrix Waterbury suffers multiple mishaps due to her involvement with the suffrage movement, her mother decides a change of scenery is in order for her incorrigible daughter. Banished from New York, Beatrix is sent off for an extended stay with her Aunt Gladys in Chicago.

Mr. Norman Nesbit, a gentleman and a brilliant man of science devoted to his work, doesn't have time to be distracted with members of the feminine set. When robbers descend on the train, intent on divesting him from his important research papers, Norman is thrust into Beatrix's company when she has the audacity to interfere—leaving him no choice but to try to save her from herself.

When Beatrix's life is put at stake after she takes employment as a salesgirl, she and Norman find themselves propelled into each other's company again and again. With danger and intrigue dogging their every step, they become surprisingly drawn to each other—until information comes to light that threatens this relationship that's barely had a chance to blossom.



Cry of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

Summary:

Wife. Warrior. Lady of Two Worlds.
As War Looms, Will Her Power Be Enough to Save the Ones She Loves? 
Lady Selene Ravenwood has come into her full power as a dreamwalker--a power greater than any in history. She embraces her new role as Nightwatcher, able to intercede for her people in the dream world, but the dark shadow of war draws ever closer. 

Working together, the Great Houses come up with a plan to secure the borders from the approaching Dominia Empire. But dissension, conflict, and suspicion threaten to destroy their tenuous treaty, and as the empire burns a path across their lands, Damien Maris starts to lose his ability to raise the waters, leaving the lands vulnerable to the empire's attacks. 

The only one who can keep the Great Houses unified and restore her husband's power is Selene. But it will require that she venture deep into the dream world to confront the enemies of her past who will do anything to stop her power. Will it be enough, or will both worlds fall under the empire's might?



Stay With Me by Becky Wade

Summary:

Loving her is a risk he can't afford . . . and can't resist.When acclaimed Bible study author Genevieve Woodward receives an anonymous letter referencing her parents' past, she returns to her hometown in the Blue Ridge Mountains to chase down her family's secret. However, it's Genevieve's own secret that catches up to her when Sam Turner, owner of a historic farm, uncovers the source of shame she's worked so hard to hide.

Sam has embraced his sorrow, his isolation, and his identity as an outsider. He's spent years carving out both career success and peace of mind. The last thing he wants is to rent the cottage on his property to a woman whose struggles stir his worst failure back to life. Yet can he bear to turn her away right when she needs him most?




Summary:

There's a lot of irony in hitting rock bottom
After a heartbreak leaves her reeling, January Sanders is open to anything--including moving into a cabin on her aunt's wedding-venue property and accepting a temporary position at her aunt's church despite being a lifelong skeptic of faith. Choosing to keep her doubts to herself, she's determined to give her all to supporting Grace Community's overworked staff while helping herself move on. 

What she doesn't count on is meeting the church's handsome and charming guitarist. It's a match set for disaster, and yet January has no ability to stay away, even if it means pretending to have faith in a God she doesn't believe in.

Only this time, keeping her secret isn't as easy as she thought it would be. Especially when she's constantly running into her aunt's landscape architect, who seems to know everything about her past-and-present sins and makes no apologies about pushing her to deal with feelings she'd rather keep buried.

Torn between two worlds that can't coexist, can January find the healing that's eluded her, or will her resistance to the truth ruin any chance of happiness?



Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar

Summary:

Can a Canaanite harlot who made her living enticing men be a fitting wife for a leader of Israel? Shockingly, the Bible's answer is yes.

This 10th anniversary edition of Pearl in the Sand includes new features that will invite you into the untold story of Rahab's journey from lowly outcast to redeemed child of God. Rahab's home is built into a wall, a wall that fortifies and protects the City of Jericho. However, other walls surround her too, walls of fear, rejection, and unworthiness… Years of pain and betrayal have wounded Rahab's heart—she doubts whether her dreams of experiencing true love will ever come true…

A woman with a wrecked past—a man of success, of faith... of pride. A marriage only God would conceive! Through the heartaches of a stormy relationship, Rahab and Salmone learn the true source of one another's worth and find healing in God.



Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke

Summary:

All her life, Hannah Sterling longed for a close relationship with her estranged mother. Following Lieselotte's death, Hannah determines to unlock the secrets of her mother's mysterious past and is shocked to discover a grandfather living in Germany. Thirty years earlier, Lieselotte's father is quickly ascending the ranks of the Nazi party, and a proper marriage for his daughter could help advance his career. 

Lieselotte is in love - but her beloved Lukas is far from an ideal match, as he secretly works against the Reich. Yet Lieselotte never imagined how far her father would go to ensure her cooperation. Both Hannah's and Lieselotte's stories unfold as Hannah travels to Germany to meet her grandfather, who is hiding wartime secrets of his own. 

Longing for connection yet shaken by all she uncovers, Hannah must decide if she can atone for her family's tragic past and how their legacy will shape her future.



The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

Summary:

Charlotte owns a chic Birmingham bridal boutique. Dressing brides for their big day is her gift—and her passion. But with her own wedding day approaching, why can’t she find the perfect dress—or feel certain she should marry Tim? Then Charlotte purchases a vintage dress in a battered trunk at an estate sale. It looks brand-new, shimmering with pearls and satin, hand-stitched and timeless in its design. But where did it come from? Who wore it? Charlotte’s search for the gown’s history—and its new bride—begins as a distraction from her sputtering love life. But it takes on a life of its own as she comes to know the women who have worn the dress. Emily from 1912. Mary Grace from 1939. Hillary from 1968. Each with something unique to share. For woven within the threads of the beautiful hundred-year-old gown is the truth about Charlotte’s heritage, the power of courage and faith, and the beauty of finding true love.



To Dwell Among Cedars by Connilyn Cossette

Summary:

As they fight for the soul of Israel, will they find healing for their own?

Eight years ago, after the Philistines surrendered the stolen Ark of the Covenant back to the Israelites, Eliora and her brother left their Philistine homeland to follow it to the community of Kiryat-Yearim. Though they both were lovingly enfolded into a Levite family that guards the Ark, Eliora can't stop feeling like she doesn't belong. 

Meanwhile, a faction of discontent Hebrews finds Kiryat-Yearim to be an unfit resting place and believes that the sacred vessel should be in the hands of the priests who mean to restore the Holy of Holies in a new location. Under the guise of gathering Hebrews to worship together for the festivals, Levite musician Ronen has been sent by his uncle to find where the Ark has been hidden and steal it back. But Ronen never expected that the Philistine girl he rescued years ago would now be part of the very family he's tasked to deceive.

Ronen's attempts to charm Eliora into revealing the location of the Ark lead them in unexpected directions, as they must battle betrayal and fear to help establish Israel's leadership for a better future.



The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox

Summary:

When Ivy Rose returns to her hometown to oversee her late grandmother's estate sale, she soon discovers that the woman left behind more than trinkets and photo frames--she provided a path to the truth behind Ivy's adoption. Shocked, Ivy seeks clues to her past, but a key piece to the mystery is missing.

Twenty-four years earlier, Harvey James finds an abandoned newborn who gives him a sense of human connection for the first time in his life. His desire to care for the baby runs up against the stark fact that he is homeless. When he becomes entwined with two people seeking to help him find his way, Harvey knows he must keep the baby a secret or risk losing the only person he's ever loved.

In this dual-timeline story from debut novelist Amanda Cox, the truth--both the search for it and the desire to keep it from others--takes center stage as Ivy and Harvey grapple with love, loss, and letting go.



The Red Canary by Rachel McDaniel

Summary:

Music sparks her world, but can love ignite her heart? 

In 1928, soot from the local mills and music from speakeasies linger in the Pittsburgh air. When the manager of The Kelly Club is found dead, nightclub singer Vera Pembroke is thrust into peril. As the only witness to the crime, she’s sentenced to hide away in the Allegheny Forest with a stuffy police sergeant as her guardian. 

Sergeant Mick Dinelo harbors a burning hatred for Pittsburgh’s underworld after the devastation it left on his life—and heart. He should be out exposing the culpable gangsters rather than tending to the impetuous woman who defies his every effort to keep her safe. 

Mick and Vera must set aside their differences to solve the murder that someone wants to keep buried beneath the soot of Steel City. 


AND, my favorite book of 2020 is:



Dawn of Vengeance by Ronie Kendig

Summary:

A haunting prophecy upended his identity. Now it demands his life.

Once a formidable bounty hunter, Marco Dusan is plagued by insecurity as he tours the realm he now rules. This quiet, backwater planet is not as untouched as he'd once thought. Evidence of collusion between Droseran factions and the powerful Symmachians with their forbidden technology litters his encounters. Worse, all signs indicate Xisya, the alien who tortured him, is still snatching Kynigos Brethren--but to what end?

Lance Corporal Eija Zacdari works hard to win a coveted place on the Symmachian hyperjump program, but instinct tells her their intel is flawed. Despite nearly failing the tests, she is assigned to the team-and lands in the middle of a bewildering conspiracy.

Haunted by a prophecy that promises pain and war, Marco forges alliances to protect the primitive world against Symmachia's devastating influence. But one truth becomes painfully clear: the biggest threat to their world may be much, much closer to home.



Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Between Earth And Eden By E.L. Irwin

Between Earth and Eden
by E.L. Irwin
Series: The Guardian Series
Publisher: Independent
ISBN: 979-8694880572

I was thrilled when the author reached out to me on Instagram! When she told me about her book

Summary:

Long ago, when First Eden fell, when the Deceiver came, bringing untruth and corruption, a new realm was formed to blanket the earth. New Eden it was called. Like fabric lovingly stitched together, it was put in place, unseen, to keep the denizens of Earth safe. But war has broken out and fierce battles are being waged between good and evil for the souls of humanity. Guardians, appointed by the King Himself are all that stand between Earth and Eden, between their salvation and their destruction.

Though human and thoroughly unaware of the supernatural world around her, Jane Tanner finds herself hunted and caught up in a web of dark forces. Her twin brother Cash has already fallen prey to one of Hell’s own. Now, to keep her safe, Jane’s Guardian will move heaven and earth to ensure her protection.  But those dark powers are moving and dominions are rising and Jane’s Guardian will need to decide quickly just how far he’ll need to go to fulfill his duty and covenant oath.

…against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12, NKJV


My Review:

If you are a fan of Frank Peretti or Ted Dekker, then you are going to really enjoy E.L. Irwin!

I had ZERO clue what to expect with this story. E.L. is a new-to-me author and I had no idea what genre her book was in. So to find out it's a spiritual thriller, I was pretty intrigued... and a bit nervous. Ha!

The first few chapters were interesting and I wasn't sure if I would like her style for an entire book, but I was all in for trying. There was no dialogue. We only read the thoughts of the Guardian or the Hunter. It's rather spooky to be honest.

Then the human character of the story starts to interact with others and dialogue begins. I have to say, I was relieved. lol I mean, like I said, I was intrigued by the first four chapters of none of that. Once there was talking I felt ready to settle in.

But honestly, you can't really settle in with this story. It keeps you on edge pretty much the entire time. I do NOT like scary stories - horror stories if you will. This was NOT a horror story, but it does have that scary slant to it. I mean, we're talking about demons. Those who serve Satan. So, it's not full of frills. Not even close.

Jane has been in a type of bondage ever since her twin brother was in an accident. When she tries to move forward with her life, the Hunter is ready to pounce. Her Guardian will have none of it when it comes to the Hunter. The Guardian has to be very careful because he's walking a very fine line with his protection of Jane.

I'm not sure there's a more sinister character out there than Theron. I mean, as readers our warning bells are going off and all I wanted to do was pull Jane away from him kicking and screaming. He's lascivious from the start and he makes me wonder how many creeps like that did I manage to avoid, and then I remember how many I didn't. :(

Then there's Aurek. There are details that make me giggle like a school girl when he lands on the scene. Maybe it's his eyes... or his car. Maybe both? For some reason he made me think of Chris Hemsworth. He's who I'm hoping my Guardian is. Mine is probably some portly, little fella who just stuffed a Little Debbie into his mouth. tee hee hee Let's hope not!

I have to say, I haven't read a book like this in probably a decade, if not more. I LOVE books that remind us that there's a spiritual battle going on around us. That's the one thing about books like this. I become hyper aware of the spiritual realm. Not to the point of Jane who sees "things" and hears things. Whew, thank goodness. But this is why I compare her to Peretti because he altered my understanding of the spiritual world and Irwin has reignited it.

Now here are a couple of asides from reading the story. And keep in mind, I still gave this a 4 star review. One is just a wondering and the other is a heads up. Keep in mind that this book isn't marketed as Christian fiction, but there is clearly the faith element.

So, first, Jane isn't a believer so I'm wondering what's so "special" about her. Why is she so important? We don't find that out in this book so I'm hoping we will in book 2. Maybe it's simply because she's a human and the Hunter hates them all. If that's the case, then I'm good with that. She's full of goodness and light, but she's just a "good person". I'm hoping there's a salvation element in book 2 as well! Of course, since this isn't an explicitly Christian novel, that might not happen.

Then, there's the sensualism in the story. There's definitely a dark side that is trying to pull Jane in. To weaken her, to dull her light. It fits the story (although it made me squirm), so I didn't find it gratuitous. I mean, this is life. Again, stronger than what I typically read. I tend to not read books with anything much more than some smooching. lol There are only a couple scenes that far into this category. This is just a heads up for friends who shy away from intimacy scenes. Whew!

I'm really looking forward to the second book! See, even with those two pieces above, the parts above that are why I want to read book 2. Remember 4 star rating! Anyhow, I have a feeling there will be some epic spiritual battling going on!

About the Author:

A child of divorce and abuse, E.L. Irwin found escape in reading and writing, and through the school of hard-knocks, learned to be a fighter. She's a self-described rebel who wears her heart on her sleeve and tends to shoot from the hip on subjects that matter. She enjoys riding horses, wearing heels, shooting her XD.40, tattoos, and of course, a good book and hot coffee.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

To Dwell Among Cedars By Connilyn Cossette

To Dwell Among Cedars
by Connilyn Cossette
Publisher: Bethany House
Series: The Covenant House
ISBN: 9780764234347

Connilyn Cossette easily became one of my favorite overall authors and probably my favorite Biblical fiction author the past couple of years. To be on her launch team for book 1 of The Covenant House series was simply an honor. I received the book for being part of her team.

Summary:

As they fight for the soul of Israel, will they find healing for their own?

Eight years ago, after the Philistines surrendered the stolen Ark of the Covenant back to the Israelites, Eliora and her brother left their Philistine homeland to follow it to the community of Kiryat-Yearim. Though they both were lovingly enfolded into a Levite family that guards the Ark, Eliora can't stop feeling like she doesn't belong. 

Meanwhile, a faction of discontent Hebrews finds Kiryat-Yearim to be an unfit resting place and believes that the sacred vessel should be in the hands of the priests who mean to restore the Holy of Holies in a new location. Under the guise of gathering Hebrews to worship together for the festivals, Levite musician Ronen has been sent by his uncle to find where the Ark has been hidden and steal it back. But Ronen never expected that the Philistine girl he rescued years ago would now be part of the very family he's tasked to deceive.

Ronen's attempts to charm Eliora into revealing the location of the Ark lead them in unexpected directions, as they must battle betrayal and fear to help establish Israel's leadership for a better future.

My Review:

I started enjoying the Old Testament in a new way a couple years ago when I was in my Bible study. That was the first time I'd read any Connilyn Cossette novels. It was amazing because her fiction went along with what I'd been learning in the Bible. Once again, one of the true stories of the Bible that I read about and really fascinated me was the topic of To Dwell Among Cedars.

One of the things I love most about Connilyn's writing is that she brings us to a time in history and makes it come alive for the reader. YES, it's fictional, but the way she writes you could see something like this story happening at the same time.

I loved the main character, Arisa. We meet he as a little girl and then once again as a young woman. While she's grown up in so many ways, she's also stayed that same little girl, trying to earn her place and love. Then there's her brother, Lukio. Oh that poor, precious boy. So much going on inside of his mind and heart as he's growing up. You can see glimpses of what's to come while he's a little boy.

Azuvah, their nursemaid, is so wonderful. She's such an example of how we can pour into the life of those around us. I want to have a heart like hers, especially for children. I love how she fills Arisa and Lukio up with the history of her people and tries to instill a love for God for them in the midst of their Philistine ways.

Don't you just love a story that works up your dander?! Your ire builds for the choices the characters are making? The good characters and the not so good. You want to stop them in their tracks, scream at them, or put them over your knee? Whew, Connilyn got me with her characters in this story. Of course, on the opposite side of that coin are people like Elazar and Yoela who I just wanted to hug and spend time with.

Oh, and we can't forget about Ronen. He's a Levite musician who, well, who hasn't been following his calling. Like the other men in his family (who have survived) he wants vengeance and the ark back where it "belongs". Once again we see how what we sow into the lives of those in our care can harm or build up. Unfortunately, for him, his uncle has a bone to pick with Elazar's family. :(

You can see how God is moving throughout this story. The truths about Who we worship or what we worship will come to the forefront as you read through this story. Not only do the Levites struggle with that as well as the Israelites, but even the individual characters in this story. The story of the Ark being taken to the battle never fails to remind that the power isn't in the thing, but in the One who created it.

I think readers will be able to see themselves in one way or another through Arisa, Lukio, or Ronen. It's a powerful way to reflect on how we see ourselves in light of our Creator!

And now we wait. We wait for Lukio's story. Getting a glimpse into it at the end of this story makes me nervous for what's to come in book two. Nervous in a very good way. So much anticipation!!

About the Author:

Connilyn Cossette (www.connilyncossette.com)is a Christy Award and Carol Award winning author whose books have been found on ECPA and CBA bestseller lists. When she is not engulfed in the happy chaos of homeschooling two teenagers, devouring books whole, or avoiding housework, she can be found digging into the rich ancient world of the Bible to discover gems of grace that point to Jesus and weaving them into an immersive fiction experience. Although she and her husband have lived all over the country in their twenty-plus years of marriage, they currently call a little town south of Dallas, Texas, their home.

 
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Woven by Words by Mimi B is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.