“Like Never Before – Great Depth, Spiritual Insight and Romance

I have enjoyed all of Melissa Tagg’s books to-date.  She is excellent at developing her characters and weaving spiritual truth into contemporary, realistic settings.  “Like Never Before” is book #2 in the Walker Family Series, and while you needn’t have read “From the Start” (book #1) to enjoy this book, you’ll really enjoy it a lot more if you have.  Themes found in “Like Never Before” include the guilt a working, single parent can struggle with, the guilt of moving on after the death of a spouse – and how the death of a spouse can affect extended family relationships.  Divorce,  disappointment with God,  false security and reconciliation are other themes that combine to make “Like Never Before” an emotionally engaging story with great depth, spiritual insight, romance and a hint of mystery.  It had been awhile since I’d read the first book in the series (again, these books can stand alone but are better as a series), so it took me a little while to “refamiliarize” myself with the Maple Valley setting- for that reason I felt like it was a bit of a slow start.  But, as I got into the story and the characters, I developed a great appreciation for its depth.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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A Good Lesson in NOT Judging a Book by its Title or Cover

Siri Mitchell consistently delivers entertaining and insightful historical romance, and “Flirtation Walk” is no exception. Do not judge this book by its title or its cover; “Flirtation Walk” refers to an actual pathway at West Point Military Academy, and the cover- while demure and sentimental-in no way reflects the story line or plot. Rather, I found this a fast-moving, entertaining, and purely enjoyable read. I loved the use of 1st person for the main character- it was refreshing and caused me to realize I rarely see books in 1st person anymore. The “con-girl gone good” and “good-guy trying to go bad” angle that forms the story-line was unique and well-developed. As always, Ms. Mitchell’s characters are believable and well-rounded. I enjoyed the incidental history about West Point Military Academy and I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Review of Elizabeth Camden’s “Until the Dawn”

Set in New York in the early 1900’s, “Until the Dawn” takes on the opposing worldviews of naturalism and Christianity, and in particular the untenable belief that if you cannot see or prove something, it must not exist.

Author Elizabeth Camden packs in some thought-provoking metaphors, like the idea that we may limp along in life as best we can with painful, infected emotional or spiritual wounds, which-unhealed- ultimately destroy our relationships and rob of us joy.

Camden’s characters are always entertaining, dynamic and realistic.  This is a romance, so of course there’s a small element of predictability, but one thing that sets Camden apart in this genre is her humor and ability to keep things real.  She’s also an excellent descriptive writer, in this case vividly portraying isolated, small-town life along the Hudson River. (She includes some incidental history of the development of weather forecasting as well).

Fans of Elizabeth Camden won’t be disappointed, while those unfamiliar with Camden will gain appreciation of a great writer who always manages to address relevant issues of contemporary society in a framework of historical fiction.  “Until the Dawn” will definitely provide you several hours of absorbing entertainment.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Review of “Forgiven” by Terri Roberts

Forgiven: The Amish School Shooting, a Mother's Love, and a Story of Remarkable Grace

School shootings are all too frequently in the headlines, but after the reporters, the analysts and the politicians have moved on, what remains for the families of both the victims and the perpetrator is grief, the unanswerable question “why”, and a road that leads either to bitterness or healing.

Terri Roberts chose healing after her adult son, Charlie, a married man and the father of  three young children, shot ten Amish schoolgirls one October morning in 2006, killing five and wounding the other five, before taking his own life.  The Amish response to the Nickel Mines School shooting stunned the world; from the first day it was one of  forgiveness, compassion and gracious concern for the family of their daughters’ murderer.

Terri’s book “Forgiven” is a mother’s heart-wrenching testimony to the power of that forgiveness, the  healing it brought her, and how she learned to surrender to God in circumstances she could not control and had no power to change.

Terri’s story is gripping and well-written.  In a world where grief, tragedy, and evil cannot be avoided, the message Terri Roberts offers is one every person needs to hear.  To forgive and (perhaps to be forgiven) is the only path to healing when we suffer because of another person’s choices.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Blogger Bonus Program Week 1 Challenge

I decided to join a blogger bonus program with Bethany House Publishers and its pretty cool!  So far I’ve had a chance to chat with Melissa Tagg, the author of “From The Start”. Melissa also wrote “Made to Last” and both books are great romantic comedies that pack a good faith-building theme.

One of the challenges of the blogger bonus program this week is to share a favorite quote from the book, “From the Start”.  This wasn’t hard, because one of the things I most enjoyed about this book was the theme of waiting on God and being willing to hold plans loosely.  Here’s my favorite quote:

“More and more I’m seeing the value in stepping back and waiting.  Discerning when it’s right to hold on and when it’s right to loosen up and let go.” 

Cover Art

More info on the book here:  http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/from-the-start/353800

An Entertaining Contemporary Story of Love and Life: “From the Start” by Melissa Tagg

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Melissa Tagg does a great job incorporating a strong Christian message into an entertaining, contemporary story of love and life. Her characters, Colton Greene (a professional football player forced into early retirement because of an injury) and Katherine Walker (a one-hit writer who’s feeling washed up) learn to trust God’s plan as better than their own when their paths intertwine through shared hopes, disappointments, trials and triumph.  Ms. Tagg creates a strong sense of small-town life and community, of fall and football, and the challenge of finding one’s way when life brings unexpected changes.  Humorous, realistic, and unrushed- “From the Start” will provide you with several hours of enjoyable reading.  If you’re not familiar with Melissa Tagg I’d recommend this book as well as her first novel, “Made to Last”.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Baker Publishing Group.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Review of “Sabotaged” the final book in Dani Pettrey’s Alaskan Courage Series

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“Sabotaged” wraps up the Alaskan Courage series with the-ultimately-happy ending the reader expects and a great dose of intrigue and adventure along the way.  As a whole, this is a good, clean series that delivers well-developed suspense and romance.   Its mildly edgy as far as Christian fiction goes and will keep you turning the pages, though it won’t keep you up at night.  The modern, outdoors adventure and the “who-done-it” crime scenes will appeal to older teen or young adult readers and I’d recommend it if you’re shopping around for a young woman in that age group.

This series stands apart from others in the Christian romance genre because of the Alasakan setting and the emphasis on outdoors adventure.  You definitely want to read these books in order as there are a lot of characters to keep track of, but that gets easier with each subsequent book because you become more familiar with who’s who (and who’s with who), and because by book three author Dani Pettrey begins to keep the focus on the two main characters who are hooking up (while solving the latest crime) and she relegates the others to the background- which really helps.

“Sabotaged” has a great plot line that keeps you guessing, although the action is a bit stilted at the climax.  There’s also a considerable amount of gushy “happily-ever-after” at the end, but since this is the final book in the series that’s understandable.  Again, this is an entertaining series- read this book last but if you’re looking for a good series definitely give the Alaskan Courage series a try.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Heavy on the history- just the way I like it! “Beyond All Dreams” by Elizabeth Camden

Elizabeth Camden’s historical, romantic fiction is always heavy on the historical side, which is exactly what I love about her books.  Set in Washington DC at the turn of the century, “Beyond All Dreams” depicts the controversy over the extravagance that went into the construction of the Library of Congress (one of my favorite places to visit in DC!) and the scheming and maneuvering that defines Congress.  This book also focuses on the role of women in the workplace and the particular rules that governed them as employees, giving the reader a great appreciation for how much culture and society have changed in that regard over the past one hundred and some years.  Camden’s characters are likeable and real, though if I’m going to compare apples to apples, I have to say that “Beyond All Dreams” doesn’t quite measure up to “Against the Tide”- which is my all-time favorite book by Elizabeth Camden.  However; this is still a great read- especially if you’re a fan of history, if you enjoy visiting Washington DC and want to know more about the historical landscape of the city, and if like me, you particularly like your history candy-coated with a fictional story-line.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Patmos Deception by Davis Bunn

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I always enjoy Davis Bunn’s international “thrillers”  (in quotes because they’re not intense or suspenseful enough to be thrillers, but that’s the closest genre description I can think of. Perhaps international, religious intrigue is more accurate. ) I believe one of Bunn’s greatest giftings as an author is his ability to really create a sense of place, drawing the reader into the story not so much because she connects with the characters or the plot but because she is able to imagine herself in the setting.  The food, the smells, the sights- Bunn takes you there.  In the Patmos Deception you will vicariously travel to Greece and become truly hungry for Greek food and you’ll probably begin longing for an extended vacation there – I know I did.  Compared to other recent books by Bunn (The Lion of Babylon series in particular) this book develops the characters a lot better and gives you a far greater sense of connection to them.  You can actually visualize them and care about them to the extent that anyone cares about fictional characters.

As for the plot, it was interesting, but it was a bit convoluted, twisting here and there without building a great sense of momentum.  As the characters work to uncover an international smuggling ring involving Greek antiquities they spend plenty of time building friendships, eating really, really good food and boating.  They also exchange incidental lessons in Greek history and modern-day economical hardships.  Personally, I enjoyed all of that, I’m merely commenting on it because I think it did contribute to the sense that the story meanders a bit.   Finally, the Patmos Deception does contain a cliffhanger, and not one I expected since its about relationships as opposed to international intrigue, but it did produce the desired effect – I’ll be on the lookout for the next book in this series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.