Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren

Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren

It's release day for Susan May Warren's latest book. 

Let’s begin with the summary:

Search and rescue pilot Kacey Fairing is home on leave in Mercy Falls, Montana, twelve years after she joined the military to escape the mistakes of her past. With a job waiting for her as the new lead pilot of Peak Rescue in Glacier National Park, Kacey hopes to reconnect with the now-teenage daughter she sees only between deployments. What she doesn't realize is that someone else is also back in town.

Ben King has been building his country music career since the day Kacey shut him out of her life. Now all of that's on hold when his injured father calls him home to help run Peak Rescue until he's fully recovered. It doesn't take long, though, to discover his father's ulterior motives as Kacey Fairing walks into the house and back into his heart.

With Mercy Falls in a state of emergency due to flash floods, Kacey and Ben are forced to work together to save lives. But when floodwaters turn personal, can they put aside the past to save their future?

And now, my review:

Thanks to Susie, I’ve had John Denver’s song “Montana Skies” in my head for as long as this book graced my nightstand. (*wink) I don’t mind.

First, I recommend reading Susan’s prequel to this story, entitled If Ever I Would Leave You. You could probably read this novel without having read the prequel (i.e., it would make sense), but if the prequel is still free in e-book format, why not have a read? It’s a short story/novella and it reads fast. Oh, and it’s yummy. See my review here.

The setting for these books (the prequel and this story and the rest of the Montana Rescue Series) takes us into the wilds of Montana. We get to participate with the characters on rescue missions, as a backdrop for several relationships we’re following. We’ll see the main characters from the prequel in this story, but at the center are a couple whose past mistakes in their romance hinder their chance at a present one.

The hero is a musician who chose his dreams over his one-time girlfriend, the heroine. Both of them have grown up since then, and each of them has secrets.

I liked all the music references—the song lyrics. The SAR team are a fun group of characters, each member competent in her/his role. I’m looking forward to the second book in this series.    

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sarah’s Smile by Dawn Kinzer

Sarah's Smile by Dawn Kinzer
Isn't that a gorgeous cover? I’m thrilled to post a review today of a book written by one of my dearest friends. We’ve been writing buddies for years and have worked together on each other’s books. This is her debut novel, which releases October 14, 2016.

Here’s the summary:

Romance. Heartbreak. Scandal. Secrets. Second Chances.

In 1902, Sarah McCall is waiting to leave for the mission field when the man she once loved steps back into her life. Abandoned as a child by her mother and gambler father, she strives to overcome a tarnished history she didn’t create and a heartbreak she can’t forget.

Peter Caswell returns to his Wisconsin hometown a pastor, dedicated to his four-year-old daughter and new congregation. But no matter how hard he tries to move on with his life, he can’t forgive himself for his wife’s death.

When Sarah learns that Peter is returning to Riverton, the letter giving her departure date for Africa can’t come soon enough for her. They were best friends—she loved him and supported his dreams—but he married another and broke her heart. Although ten years have passed since he left Riverton, Peter hopes Sarah still cares enough to give him a second chance. But a charming newcomer pursues her affections—and Sarah’s childhood nemesis manipulates her way into Peter’s life. Will Sarah and Peter find their way to forgiveness and each other, or will past mistakes make a life together impossible?

And now, my review:

This book creates a feeling of not only stepping back in time, but of walking into a peaceful, Midwestern town. Dawn’s descriptions are delicious! Her voice is distinctive and fresh in historical fiction.

Our hero is running from a painful secret that he’s sure disqualifies him even as it restricts his hopes for the future. In fact, though he doesn’t know it, his secret is holding him hostage. I think readers will relate to this as we all have regrets—those moments in our pasts we wish we could overcome.

Our heroine is determined to serve God, and she’s convinced she’ll have to move to another country to do so. But is she running away? There is a lot of pain in her past that she may need to face. Readers will relate to the fact that in order to heal, we must face the facts of our pasts and come to terms with them. The truth sets us free! Forgiveness, another of the themes, brings freedom too.

Overall, this was a gentle, satisfying read peopled with flawed, lovable characters. Dawn’s well-researched details were a treat. (Especially how the “cashiers” at a large store in 1902 communicated with the main office in order to give customers change when they purchased items. I found that fascinating!) I loved the humorous moments in the story, and I highlighted several instances of those beautiful descriptions. Dawn has a way with dialogue and story that will make this book—and this series—reader favorites.

Don’t miss this one!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Catching Heat by Janice Cantore

Catching Heat by Janice Cantore

I hadn’t read any of the earlier books in this series, but this looked interesting.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Twenty-seven years after the deaths of Detective Abby Hart’s parents, she’s desperate to find the proof that will put the mastermind—the governor’s wife—behind bars. When she joins a newly formed task force and teams up with PI Luke Murphy, Abby is sent to San Luis Obispo to work the cold case of a murdered college student. Realizing their investigation will bring them near the town where Alyssa Rollins grew up, Abby decides to do a little digging of her own into the Triple Seven fire.

Luke is eager to help Abby close the books on a case they both have personal stakes in. But as she uncovers long-held secrets, Abby stumbles into an explosive situation, and Luke fears that her obsession may prove deadly.

And now, my review:

It’s always a plus to pick up a book written by someone who has the insider’s knowledge of a given career field. This author is a retired police officer, so her police procedural details were solid and they added a lot to the read.

The short chapters were a solid technique for creating swift pacing. Unfortunately, the characters weren’t layered enough to keep me reading.

I had a difficult time getting into this story. Perhaps that’s in part due to the fact that this is book three in the series. These characters were new to me, and their relevant story began long ago. The story’s opening chapters included a lot of backstory, which dulled the reading but didn’t help me care for the characters or get into the story.

Currently, funny enough, my husband is gladly reading away. He suggested that perhaps this just wasn’t my preferred genre. He may have a point. The romance moved very slowly.

All that said, readers who enjoy crime/detective novels and/or those who have read the earlier books in this series will enjoy this book.  

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Love Like There’s No Tomorrow: How a Cardiac Arrest Brought My Heart to Life by Ocieanna Fleiss

Usually, I review fiction on this blog, but today I make an exception for an exceptional book.

Let's begin with the summary:

A few years ago, Ocieanna Fleiss—wife and work-at-home mother of four young children—would have described herself as overwhelmed, stressed, and focused on finishing her to-do list. But when at age forty-two, a sudden cardiac arrest stopped her heart, everything changed.

During those quiet months of recovery, as she reflected on her life, a pattern arose. Like a loving father, Christ had always walked with her—through childhood neglect, miscarriages, the death of her parents, and even through her own death!

Amazed by God’s loving hand in her life, Ocieanna overflowed with a desire to love in a new, more profound way. Out of this desire, transforming truths gently came to light: truths that changed her life forever and will show you how God can weave everything in your life into His elaborate plan.

And now, my review:

Open this book to the first page. Let the words flow through your mind. You’ll be hooked by the very first sentence: That day in January, the day my wife died, was the best day our family had experienced in months.
The day his wife died… We begin the book in her husband’s POV (point of view). I liked this aspect because his story made the account immediate and relatable (in so much as I’ve been married twenty-five years, and I would never want to see my husband in such a state as Michael saw his wife).

Ocieanna is my friend. We’ve been writing buddies for over a decade. We’ve gone on retreats and attended conferences together. I remember getting the call about Ocieanna’s cardiac arrest. Our mutual writing buddy, another close friend, had heard the news and wanted to make sure I knew. I couldn’t believe what she shared could be true. I’d just seen her, alive and well, a few days earlier.

Reading this memoir’s opening took me right back to those heart-breaking moments. The narrative is so compelling and heart-wrenching that I could neither stop reading nor stop tearing up. 

But the story, like her miraculous life, doesn’t stop there. Ocieanna opens up that beating-again heart and shares her story—the consuming, life-sucking stress leading up to the event. The way she looked at life before she died (wow, that’s powerful) and how she looks at life now. The way she sees her kids, and how she frames the mundane. But my favorite part is how she now experiences God’s love—in new ways. His acceptance. His peace. 

I’m so grateful for my friendship with Ocie and through her very vulnerable and tender book, you can experience her friendship and wisdom too. I’m grateful God gave her back to us, and I’m thankful she had a chance to share her story. Read this book. You won’t be sorry.

Highly recommended.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal

Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal

I’ve always loved creating art. When the recent adult coloring craze hit, complete with intricate designs, I immediately jumped in. So, I was excited to see/experience this book for review.

Here’s a summary:

Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal invites you to bring creative journaling and the calming act of coloring into your quiet time with God. This beautifully designed interactive prayer book from Tyndale’s Living Expressions collection helps guide your thoughts as you pray about concerns such as health, overcoming stress, personal relationships, and more. Gratitude gives you a way to celebrate and give thanks to God for the many blessings he provides. Filled with over 100 designs to color, plenty of space for journaling and sketching, and 40 needs-based prayers, Gratitude helps you express your devotion to God with your whole heart!

And now, my review:

The book is more compact than I expected, only measuring 6x8 inches. But that size makes it easier to carry around. The cover is made of cardboard that’s 1/8” thick, so the journal is protected. Some of the pages have more printed color (color provided by the publisher/artist) than others. A few even have a black background already filled in. Others are completely colored in by the publisher. Some images are more intricate than others, and there are many themes—gardens, flames, flowers, ocean waves, cottages, etc. I liked that aspect very much. Something for everyone. 

I also liked the wholesome, upbeat feel of the journal, in general. This book has the potential to bring relaxation and blessing to the user and would make a nice gift.

Here’s the setup: Each double page (left plus right when the book is opened) is themed. These often include a prayer with lines to write your own thoughts, and a Scripture, as well as art for you to color. These elements are varied throughout the book.

I’ve always been a "journaler." I’ve never been a fan of guided journaling—pages that tell me what to think, or what to say to God, or what to pray. The prayers were adapted from an earlier publication from 2014 of prayers for mothers (see title page). They read in a religious and somewhat formal voice, almost as if the author is trying to tell the reader what to think or how to relate with God. They are (as the description explains above) “needs-based” prayers. Perhaps if all of them were instead gratitude based, the general feel of the journal would be more “we’re all on the same level” rather than the hint of condescension and direction (and blanket application).

I like the idea of a creative place to write my thoughts and then express myself in art and colors. The concept of this creative journal is welcome. I’m just looking for something a little less directive. Perhaps a Scripture and then space to write and then space with art to color would be more my taste.