Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Orion by Tony Ross

Book review:

David Johansen thought he'd escaped the violence of his past. He had no idea how wrong he was. Faced with a killer's deadly ultimatum, and trapped in an overcrowded, snowbound hotel, David must protect both a frightened young woman and the people of the small town he calls home...while confronting the darkest secrets of his heart. Orion is the suspenseful, page-turning sequel to the award-winning Victor: The Reloaded Edition.

My review:

  This is the second in a series of books that I have reviewed. They are different from your average Christians suspense in that they deal with cloning. It is a good different though, and I enjoyed the book a lot.

 Orion is even more suspenseful than the first book, and I would actually label it more of a thriller than just suspense. A lot happens in the book, and it is pretty much non-stop page turning suspense and drama. It is one of those types of books that I had no clue what was going to happen next, and was clueless to the who. The author did a great job of not just spinning a great story that is a nail biter, but he also showed a realistic picture of what fear in a large crowd of people can be like and what some of those people will do to protect themselves.

 The identity of the killer wasn't just a surprise to me, it was actually a shock. I truly did not see it coming. I have to give the author kudos for doing such a great job on that. Orion is truly a great read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

 I was given a copy of this book by a friend for the purpose of reviewing it.

About the author:

Tony Ross is an author who's not afraid of the dark.

In his first book, The Ugly Duckling's Revenge, he opens the door to his own past struggles with alcoholism and depression. He shares what God did to pull him out and offers a message of hope to readers: "If God can do it for me, He can do it for you!"

His next two books, Victor and Orion, are what Tony defines as "thrillers for thinkers," stories filled with action, adrenalin and deep spiritual meaning, stories that look into the deepest darkness of man to shine a brighter light. Victor won a silver medal for Christian Fiction in the Readers Favorite 2013 International Award Contest.

Melody's Memory is a departure from thrillers; it's a novella focusing less on suspense and action and more on the condition of the heart. Tony invites readers to open the long-locked doors of their own hearts, shine the light on what may be hidden there, and allow healing to come.

Tony is now revisiting the world he created in Victor and Orion in The Black Cat Chronicles, a series of short novellas set before Victor. He is also in the process of editing Brimstone, the third book following Victor and Orion.

When he's not writing, Tony enjoys country living, backyard campfires, recreational reading and outdoor sports. He has been a member of the ministry team at Calvary Apostolic Church in Clintonville, WI since 2004. Tony is happily married and has five children.

Dead Sea Rising, Dead Sea Chronicles #1 by Jerry Jenkins

Book description:

Nicole Berman is an archaeologist on the brink of a world-changing discovery. During her first dig in Jordan, she believes she has found concrete evidence of a biblical patriarch that could change history books forever. But someone doesn’t want the truth revealed. While urgently trying to connect pieces of an ancient puzzle, a dangerous enemy is out to stop her.

My review: 

  This is going to be a mixed review. The book was well written and interesting, as Jenkin's books always are.

  There are three stories going on in the book, and the author bounces back and forth between the three. First, there is the modern day story with the main character's mother having an accident that doesn't appear to be an accident. The second story is about her father's time fighting in Vietnam. The third story is way back B.C. centering on Abraham's father and the birth of Abraham. Maybe the next book will solve my confusion, but I was left confused at the end of the story. I kept expecting the three stories to come together and have something to do with each other, but they didn't.

 I felt the plot did not reflect the description of the book, unless I missed something. And as I said, maybe the next book will resolve that.

 I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the author:

Jerry Bruce Jenkins is an American novelist and biographer. He is best known as co-author of the Left Behind series of books with Tim LaHaye. Jenkins has written over 185 books, including mysteries, historical fiction, biblical fiction, cop thrillers, international spy thrillers, and children's adventures, as well as non-fiction. His works usually feature Christians as protagonists. In 2005, Jenkins and LaHaye ranked 9th in Amazon.com's 10th Anniversary list of Hall of Fame authors based on books sold at Amazon.com during its first 10 years. Jenkins now teaches writers to become authors here at his website. He and his wife Dianna have three sons and eight grandchildren.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Under the Midnight Sun, The Heart of Alaska #3 by Kimberly Woodhouse & Tracie Peterson

Book description:

Tayler Hale is ahead of her time as one of the first women naturalists. She has always loved adventure and the great outdoors, and her remote job location also helps keep her away from the clutches of the man to whom she once made a foolish promise. It seems she must keep running, however, and in secret, her boss from Yellowstone arranges for a new job . . . in Alaska.

The popular Curry Hotel continues to thrive in 1929 as more visitors come to Alaska and venture into the massive national park surrounding Denali. Recent graduate Thomas Smith has returned to the hotel and the people he considers family. But when a woman naturalist comes to fill the open position and he must work with her, everything becomes complicated.

The summer brings unexpected guests and trouble to Curry. With his reputation at stake, will Thomas be able to protect Tayler from the danger that follows?

My review:

  Unless you read a lot of fiction, you may not understand getting attached to fictional characters....but it happens, especially with a series. In the first book of this trilogy, the authors introduce the then late teens Thomas, a likable clumsy and gangly orphan. He had a crush on the main female character of book #1, but she had other romantic interests, and he was like a brother. The authors may not have planned it, but Thomas became the most liked character of the series, not just by me, but by other readers. This.....finally....is his story.

  Words can be overused at times, and some words used to exaggerate. Awesome may be a word that is overused, but is not an exaggeration for this book. It is no surprise, as this was a great series.

 What's to like?

The characters: 

There is the already mentioned Thomas, who has been a focused on in the other books, but becomes one of the two main characters in this story. He has to be the most likable person in these books, and there have been several. Then there is the female protagonist, Tayler, trying to make it as a woman in a man's world, and getting push-back from the young college graduate, Thomas. The budding attraction between these two who rub each other wrong for a lot of the time is enjoyable and humorous.

 Others from the previous two books are back, including the grumpy head of the hotel kitchen, Mrs Johnson, and her two would be suitors.....whose antics had me laughing out loud.

The suspense:

 This isn't suspenseful as the books I usually read, but it does have its suspenseful moments and its not-so-nice guys making an appearance. I always enjoy that in a book.

The romance:

 I may be a bachelor, but I am a romantic at heart, and have come to enjoy romance in a book, as long as it is done right and not overly gushy or unrealistic. There were actually three romances going on in this book, one that was downright hilarious (mentioned already). The main one involved the hero and heroine of the story, and it was also humorous at times, and very entertaining. I admit I was cheering on Thomas, and hoping and figuring he would get the girl. Spoiler: he does.

Christian content:

 I have never understood Christian fiction authors who avoid Christian content, or readers who don't like it - and both exist. Woodhouse and Peterson are not afraid to go there, and they go there very well in this book. The main takeaway in that area from this book is forgiveness. Via a fictional preacher, they tackle that subject well enough that I had to say "ouch". It is an area I need help in, and am undoubtedly alone in.

Plot and setting:

  This book and series was set in the early 1900's at the Curry Hotel, an actual hotel near a railroad and Mount Denali. The authors did a tremendous job of describing the hotel, mountain, and other areas. I feel it is a mark of a great author who can paint a great picture with words and cause the reader to feel they are stepping into the story and seeing what the fictional characters are seeing. And that happened in this book, and the previous two. It caused me to wish I could visit that area some day.

  The Heart of Alaska was a great read, and a true treat to enjoy. I was sad to see it end, but Under the Midnight Sun brought the series to a truly great and satisfying end, and left the recurring characters in a great place to end the book. I definitely recommend this book, and the whole series.

 I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the authors: 

Kimberley Woodhouse (www.kimberleywoodhouse.com) is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than fifteen fiction and nonfiction books. A popular speaker and teacher, she's shared her theme of "Joy Through Trials" with more than half a million people across the country at more than 2,000 events. Kim and her incredible husband of twenty-five-plus years have two adult children. She's passionate about music and Bible study and loves the gift of story. You can connect with Kimberley on her website and at www.facebook.com/KimberleyWoodhouseAuthor.

Tracie Peterson (www.traciepeterson.com) is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 novels. Tracie also teaches writing workshops at a variety of conferences on subjects such as inspirational romance and historical research. She and her family live in Montana.

 Under the Midnight Sun, and the other two books in the Heart of Alaska Series is available from Bethny House Publishing, part of the Baker Publishing Group.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas By Ace Collins

Book description:

The fascinating stories and origins behind Christmas traditions such as the colors of red and green, the Christmas tree, caroling, nativity scenes, the Yule log, gift-giving, stockings, advent wreaths, mistletoe, and holly.

The cheer of a crackling hearth fire. Colorful cards from friends and loved ones. An evergreen tree festooned with ornaments. The golden traditions of Christmas—gifts, wreaths, stockings, carols, mistletoe, and more—infuse our celebration of the season with meaning and glowing memories. And, in ways you may not realize, they point us to the birth of Christ. Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas reveals the people, places, and events that shaped the best-loved customs of this merriest of holidays. Here are spiritual insights, true-life tales, and captivating legends to intrigue you and your family and bring new luster and depth to your celebration of Jesus’ birth. Discover how:

  • after eighteen centuries of all but ignoring the event, churches began to open the door for believers to commemorate Jesus’ incarnation.

  • the evergreen tree, once a central theme in the worship practices of pagan cultures, came to represent the everlasting love of God.

  • the magi’s three gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh—are filled with spiritual symbolism.

The traditions of Christmas lend beauty, awe, and hope to the holiday, causing people all over the world to anticipate it with joy. The stories in this book will warm your heart as you rediscover the true and eternal significance of Christmas.

My review:

 Ace Collins has a few of this type of book out, and I have enjoyed each one. I meant to get this review up before Christmas, but got too busy...so here it is on New Year's Day.

  He covers twenty-sex traditions of Christmas, from Advent to the Yule Log. The book is not just informative, but it is also written in an interesting and easy to read manner. I was familiar with all twenty-sex things he covered, but I learned a lot, and there were some traditions I had no clue as to where they originated.

 There are people who try to say Christmas came from pagan traditions, and this book would be great for them. Woven throughout these traditions is the proof that they are wrong. Reading this before and during the Christmas holidays can make the season more meaningful, and help one appreciate the traditions and meaning of Christmas.

About the Author

Ace Collins is the writer of more than sixty books, including several bestsellers: Stories behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas, Stories behind the Great Traditions of Christmas, The Cathedrals, and Lassie: A Dog’s Life. Based in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, He continues to publish several new titles each year, including a series of novels, the first of which is Farraday Road. Ace has appeared on scores of television shows, including CBS This Morning, NBC Nightly News, CNN, Good Morning America, MSNBC, and Entertainment Tonight.

Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas is available from Zondervan Publishing.

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers for the review copy.

Indivisible by Travis Thrasher

Book description:

Inspired by true events, Indivisible is a story of love, service, and finding each other all over again.

Darren and Heather Turner share a passion for serving God, family, and country. When Darren is deployed to Iraq as an army chaplain, Heather vows to serve military families back home as she cares for the couple’s three young children.

Darren knows he’s overseas to support the troops in their suffering as their chaplain. What he doesn’t know is how he will get through his own dark moments. And as communication from Darren dwindles, Heather wonders what is happening in her husband’s heart. Meanwhile, she’s growing weary in the day-to-day life of a military base—each child’s milestone Darren will never see, each month waiting for orders, each late-night knock on the door.

When Darren returns, he is no longer the husband Heather once knew. She is no longer the woman Darren wed. And so it’s at home that the Turners face their biggest battle: to save their marriage.

Based on the screen play by David Evans, Indivisible is a tribute to the beauty of serving our country, the courage of choosing love in the darkness, and the power of a God who never gives up hope.

My review:

 I actually don't have a review for this book. I requested it to review a few months ago, and never received it. I contacted the place I review it for 3 times, and no one ever got back to me. The book is still sitting on my account, and I am afraid if I don't do something, I will be penalized....plus it hinders me from requesting books. So I am doing this, so I can at least provide links and get the book off my account as waiting for review.

My top favorite books of 2018

 My goal for the year was to read 130 books. I bypassed that and hit 221. For the last few years or so, I have compiled my top favorite books of the year. With 221, it was difficult to pick my top ones. Most people would try for their top 10, but that just wasn't going to happen. Mine is y going to be the top 20, which was hard enough to do. The books are  in no order of ranking, except in the order I read them for the most part. There are some by my favorite authors, but they are my favorites for a reason, so of course their books are on the list. Most are fiction, but that is what I mostly read. There are a few cases of two books in the same series, and I  coupled those together instead of listing them separately.

  I read a lot of great books. My favorite genre' is Christian suspense, so those show up a lot in my top 20. There are books I liked so well that I re-read the ending a few times and other parts that I liked. There is even one I read twice. And I read a lot of really good ones that are not on my list. These are just the ones that I liked the most, or impacted me the most.

 So here are my top 20 favorite books of 2018:

1) Oath of Honor and Called to Protect  (Blue Justice, #1 & #2) by Lynette Eason

2) Dangerous Illusions and Hidden Peril (Code of Honor Series #1 & #2)  by Irene Hannon

3) View From Rainshadow Bay (Lavender Tides #1)  by Collen Coble

4) Out of the Ashes (Heart of Alaska #2) by Kimberly Woodhouse  and Tracie Peterson

5) The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

6) Not by Sight, Only by Death, and A Treacherous Mix (The Ozark Trilogy, #1, #2, #3) by Kathy Herman

7) Send Down the Rain by Charles Martin

8) Dead Drift, Chesapeake Valor #4 by Dani Pettrey

9) Thirst of Steel (The Tox Files #3)  by Ronie Kendig

10) The Soldier's Surprise Family by Jolene Navarro

11) A War of Loves by David Bennett

12) In Too Deep (Dive Team Investigations #2)  by Lynn H Blackburn

13) Lonestar Christmas by Jolene Navarro

14) A Bodyguard for Christmas (Murphy #3)  by Carol Post

15) Christmas Hideout (McKade Law #3)  by Susan Sleeman

16) The Christmas Child (Redemption River #4)  by Linda Goodnight

17) A Secret to Die For by Lisa Harris

18) Home to Crossroads Ranch by Linda Goodnight

19) His Surprise Son by Allie Pleiter

20) The Rancher's Secret Child (Bluebonnet Springs #3)  by Brenda Minton

Honorable mentions: The Love Inspired Suspense line has several series of books that are done by different authors, each book by a different author. They feature the same characters, with each book centering on a different character. There is usually one mystery/plot that goes through all the books, and each book having its own mystery that gets solved in that book. These books are not only great suspense novels, but it impresses me that these authors get together and have to all know the characters, in addition to what the other authors did with, and are planning on doing with those characters. There are a few series involving K-9 officers and their dogs, which I found fascinating even though am not a dog lover.  If I listed all of the books in theese series I read this year, that would have taken up my top 20 just on those books, so I am doing an honorable mention:

1) Without A Trace, various authors

2) Capitol K-9, various authors

3) Military K-9 Unit, various authors

4) Texas K-9 Unit, various authors

And one more single novel I overlooked that was just plain awesome. Instead of trying to replace one in my list of top 20, I am putting it here in the honorable mentions, but it was truly awesome.

5) Lonestar Witness (Lonestar Justice #5)  by Margaret Daily