A Portrait of Loyalty {a fantastic end to a series}

People! YAY! I get to share another book review with y’all – but unlike the last few where I felt slightly lackadaisical, this book is a for-sure winner for me.

This is the third book in The Codebreaker Series, and if you feel inclined you can read the reviews for the first two books here and here. (I really like this series, just so you know.) If you’ve read any of these books – or the Shadows Over London series – you should let me know in the comments so we can chat!

And now, for the review:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 384
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: September 8, 2020
Title: A Portrait of Loyalty
Fiction

ABOUT THE BOOK

Zivon Marin was one of Russia’s top cryptographers until the October Revolution tore apart his world. Forced to flee to England after speaking out against Lenin, Zivon is driven by a growing anger and determined to offer his services to the Brits. But never far from his mind is his brother, whom Zivon fears died in the train crash that separated them.

Lily Blackwell sees the world best through the lens of a camera and possesses unsurpassed skill when it comes to retouching and re-creating photographs. With her father’s connections in propaganda, she’s recruited to the intelligence division, even though her mother would disapprove if she ever found out.

After Captain Blackwell invites Zivon to dinner one evening, a friendship blooms between him and Lily that soon takes over their hearts. But both have secrets they’re unwilling to share, and neither is entirely sure they can trust the other. When Zivon’s loyalties are called into question, proving him honest is about more than one couple’s future dreams–it becomes a matter of ending the war.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

This is the third and final book in the series, so I went into it with excitement as I’d been awaiting the story for a long time. I’m pretty picky with my series endings, and they quite often disappoint me, so I was a little bit nervous to pick up the book and dive in. Recently I’ve not been in a readerly mood, so most of the books I’ve read in the last few months have fallen short of my expectations, so I was also a little worried. 

Then I started reading. And, Roseanna M. White did it again – she wrote a book that was delightful, fully immersive, had complex characters, and a plot that kept me wanting to read. 

Due to life being really busy I had to read the book throughout a couple of weeks, but it’s the kind of story I could have easily swallowed in one sitting. Every time I picked the book up I was sucked back into the story, eagerly anticipating what would happen next. 

Although the storyline was very interesting, it wasn’t exceedingly fast, which means I was able to get to know the characters and really delve into the time period, instead of just wanting to flip pages as fast as possible. The plot covered the topic of propaganda and (essentially) photoshopping photographs which is something I didn’t realize was happening back during the first World War. That was interesting to read about, and the author did a great job explaining it in an easy-to-understand way that also just blended into the story. 

The characters were ones I enjoyed reading about. I especially enjoyed watching Lily (the main female character) and her sister, Ivy, interacting. I’m one of five sisters and reading a book that correctly portrays a good sister relationship makes me happy. Their bond was so deep and even amid war, they were able to find joy and laughter together. 

While we get to watch Lily and her sister’s relationship, we also get that with Zivon (the main male character) and his brother. (Which is funny because I didn’t realize until just now how the stories parallel each other.) Zivon spends a good portion of the book trying to find his brother – who he’s not even sure is still alive – and we get to see how much he loves his brother.  

Another side of this book was getting to read from the point-of-view of two not-so-great characters. We got to know them a lot better than we normally get to see this author’s “villains” and I enjoyed that and the character arc that they went through. 

CONCLUSION

I liked it a whole lot. I lent the book to a friend literally as soon as I finished it so that she can read it and I can have someone to discuss the story with. 

You’ll get more out of the story if you read the series in order, but I do think this book could be a standalone if you wanted to read it that way. 

RATING

I’m giving A Portrait of Loyalty 4.5 out of 5 stars. I received a complimentary copy A Portrait of Loyalty from the publishers. I was not required to provide a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone. Thank you to the author and publisher for sending me this book!

When a Book is So Good You Review It Twice

Before I called You Mine was one of those books that I went into without a lot of expectations. I read and reviewed it in February, and although I only gave the book 3.5 out of 5 stars, I’ve thought about the book on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis. And that means something has to change.

In this case, my rating is what’s changing, and it’s changing to 4.5 stars. Why not a solid 5? Well, there were still aspects of the story that annoyed me, but that’s totally a preference thing – not something the author did wrong. And therefore, for this review, we’ll be focusing on the parts that I did like.

And yes, you heard that correctly – I’m writing a second “review” for the book. The book meant so much to me and I enjoyed the e-copy so much that I requested the physical copy from the publisher so I could take pictures and share them with you and talk about the book again. To make the review unique, I’m going to go completely from memory, rather than going back and referring to the book as I often do while writing reviews. If you want to get my just-finished-reading-thoughts, check out my earlier review here.

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THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 368
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: March 31, 2020
Title: Before I Called You Mine
Fiction

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In a nutshell, this book is about a woman – Lauren – who’s dream in life has always been to be a mom – something I can very much relate to. The problem for Lauren is that although she wants to get married, it’s not happening, and therefore her dream of having kids isn’t happening either. So she decides to adopt.

Throughout the story, we follow Lauren as she walks through the journey of adoption. Lauren is well-written and I felt through her so intensely as she experienced her joys and heartaches. She works as a teacher and surrounds herself with children, pouring all of her love into them as she awaits having a child of her own.

Lauren has a chaotic relationship with her family and the way she did – and didn’t – interact with them made her feel so much more real, layered, flawed, and relatable. There’s also a fair portion of the book designated to a romance, but that’s not the part that stuck out to me in the story, so we won’t go into that today.

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I was completely unsurprised to find out that the author has adopted a child of her own, because I’m not sure how else the book could have been so well written. The story felt real, with highs and lows and a kaleidoscope of feelings. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to adopt, but it’s something I’ve been praying about, and a lot more since I read this book.

If you’re interested in adoption, then this is a book you should pick up and read. Well done, Nicole Deese! (And thank you, Bethany House Publishers, for sending me a copy to review.)

And Then She Began Reading Again

I rarely get my computer out any more. It sits in my cupboard alongside my clothes and languishes. Okay, maybe that’s being a bit dramatic, but you get my point.

I also barely read these days. That, I suppose, is a matter of perspective, but I went through June and July without finishing more than a handful of books. My grandpa died in June, and while it wasn’t unexpected, it was emotional and exhausting. I spent the ensuing couple of months not being overly dedicated to my goals or trying to accomplish much other than work, quality family time, and rest.

But now. Now I’m ready to get back into the saddle and begin getting back on track with life. One of my goals for this week is to read for an hour and fifteen minutes each day. This is because I got into the habit of watching Youtube when I got home from work instead of reading or learning. And while the stuff I watch on Youtube isn’t bad – and is even helpful in some instances, it isn’t the way I prefer to spend my time because while it can be good, it can also be a huge waste of time.

So, that huge introduction is to catch you up on my life and let you know that I finally finished a book to review for y’all. It’s a small book, but due to the above circumstances took me a long time to read. And now, my friends, the review…

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 187
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: June 16, 2020
Title: Healing Family Relationships
Nonfiction

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ABOUT THE BOOK

Every family is hurting, and the wounds that come from our relatives can be deeper than all others. Conflict within a family can range from daily frictions and annoyances to rage and hatred and eventually estrangement. We want things to be different but have no idea where to start.

After 25 years of ministering to families, Rob Rienow believes reconciliation is at the heart of the gospel–reconciliation with God and one another. You will come away with specific steps you can take in your relationships with your family members to pursue peace and healing in your homes. Each chapter includes key biblical examples as well as present-day stories of families who have experienced God’s help and healing–including the author’s own miraculous healing of his relationship with his father.

Our families can bring out the best, as well as the worst, in all of us. May this book guide you in making your home and family a blessing in a broken world.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

I’m actually exceedingly blessed to have super good relationships in my family – something for which I’m very thankful and don’t take lightly. Still, this book looked interesting and of course, I can always learn something new.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

Is it dramatic to say this book is small but mighty? Because that’s the way I felt about it. The first couple of chapters had me kinda nodding my head, but not sure what I thought about it. The author had some good points, but since he’s a new author to me, I had to develop some rapport with him before I felt like I could really get on board with what he was saying.

I’m not sure where that point in the book happened, but partway through the 187 pages, I found myself eager to pick up the book and learn more. The author does a great job of finding balance between using the Bible, examples from his own family, and examples from people who he’s known, in order to produce a solid book.

One of the big things I look for while reading nonfiction is how practical a book is – if a book makes good points, but has no practical application, then what’s the point? Also, as a relational person, I don’t like books that seem impersonal. The author covered both these facets really well. I felt like I was actually getting to know the author and learned a lot from his life as I read. He wove his story throughout the chapters, drawing me in and making me feel the pain he experienced, and ultimately the joy when things went well.

This book is one I consider to be simple. It’s not a hard read. It’s not got huge words and a vocabulary that will make you pull out your dictionary. And, while I do enjoy books that stretch my understanding with large words, for the purpose of this book having one that was easy to read and understand was important and a good choice.

CONCLUSION

There were a few small things that I didn’t agree with the emphasis that he put on it, but overall I really appreciated this book and the author’s point of view and stance. He brought up several things that I feel are really important and most people skip over in life. (Like praying through generational issues.)

This is a book I would recommend to people who are struggling with family relationships.

RATING

I’m giving Healing Family Relationships 4 out of 5 stars. Thank you to Bethany House for providing me with a copy of the book so I could tell y’all about it.

Called Out

The sun-dappled leaves swaying in the breeze outside my room fairly shout that Spring is here. The early morning hour is my favorite as I sit in the stillness and soak in inspiration for the rest of the day. A day full of scurrying, laughter, life, baby hugs, and remembering my own childhood. Earlier while folding the laundry for the one-year-old I came across a pair of purple sleepers that I remember wearing. But surely I was bigger than that in those far-off memories, wasn’t I?

I’m still at my oldest sister’s house and don’t have plans to leave. Today marks the two-month mark since I’ve been to my little home. I miss my home and life, but I’m also thankful I can be here.

And now, book review time.

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 192
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: April 21, 2020
Title: Called Out
Nonfiction

Called Out

ABOUT THE BOOK

Too often we lean into the wrong things and burn out. We buy society’s lie that our worth is our work, our value is our vocation, our calling is our career. Confusing what we do with who we are wreaks havoc on our bodies, our souls, and our relationships.

Called Out is a deeply personal book from Paula Faris, the beloved on-air reporter for ABC News and former co-host of The View. She shares her journey through conquering fears that nearly kept her from the high-profile, high-stakes world of broadcast journalism, and then the dangers when that world threatened to consume her. She burned out and faced public humiliation, physical breakdowns, and family struggles. But along the way, she heard God gently calling her out of that dangerous place. As she struggled to find who she was outside of what she did, she discovered her true purpose and true calling. Today, she is the host of ABC’s popular podcast Journeys of Faith.

Written with passion and conviction, this book reflects on what it truly means to be called, how to move past the fear holding you back, and how to walk in God’s path for you.

Why I Choose This Book

Quite simply because the Afterward is by Max Lucado, and he’s an author whose work I really appreciate.

Several times as I was reading the book I saw what felt like influences of Mr. Lucado’s writing style, but still done in Miss Paula’s own voice, so that was a plus for me.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

I’ve watched the news, but I don’t watch the news. As in, it’s not an everyday activity for me. I’m familiar with the words ABC News, but don’t know much about them, and I’d never heard of The View. So, I really had no clue who the author was, or why it was such a big deal for her to change her job. Therefore, it took me a bit to get into the book, but once I did I really enjoyed it and learned a lot from its pages.

The Pros 

-The book is interesting and the author is a good communicator. She takes lessons she’s learned both from her life and the lives of people she’s interviewed at her job to produce a book full of wisdom. The stories she sprinkles throughout the book were intriguing and I was never bored as I read. She’s also honest in her approach – sharing openly where she’s messed up, which takes a lot of courage. The book is practical as well, which is always something I look for while reading nonfiction.

-There’s a difference between your vocational calling and your life calling. I grew up being taught that, but according to this author the distinction isn’t widely known, so she does a good job distinguishing the two. She then goes on to explain how they can work in tandem with each other, and why it’s so important to get this aspect of life right.

-I don’t think the book was written for a Christian audience. This can be a plus because it can reach far more people than if it had a nitch market, and I think that the message she shared was important and can help many people. She’s also open and shameless about the fact that she is a Christian – talking about how God slowly changed her heart over the years and citing Bible verses to back up what she’s saying. For the most part, I appreciated the balance, but this does lead me to my first con.

The Cons

-Although the author does a fantastic job of sharing her faith in Christ, there were times when I felt like it seemed as if she gave other religions just as much credence as Christianity. For the most part, the book felt balanced, but there were times when it seemed to lean towards the “of you’re sincere, then you’ll be fine” type of mindset. I don’t think that’s what she was actually meaning to imply, but it was a bit of a gray area.

-Mostly I liked her writing style, but there were a few times where she seemed redundant, or something that was supposed to be funny fell flat for me. That’s entirely a preference thing though, so it didn’t bother me too much.

-I wasn’t a big fan of the way she formatted some of the book – with interviews from various people over the years. The interviews were great, but how they were added to the book wasn’t my favorite. But, this was a very small con for me.

CONCLUSION

I don’t agree with everything the author said and did – when have I ever? But overall, this book was a win for me. It was well-written, the message was one I’ve worked on my whole life, and the author was very real and honest which seems like it would take a lot of courage since she’s a public figure who is already a household name to many Americans.

RATING

I’m giving Called Out 4 out of 5 stars. Thank you to Bethany House for providing me with a copy of the book so I could tell y’all about it.

Stay

When I opened this package from Bethany House I’d totally forgotten which books they were sending out for review, so it made me laugh. Being in the middle of quarantine and receiving a book that says Stay seemed very timely indeed. 😉

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 224
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: March 31, 2020
Title: Stay
Nonfiction

Stay

About the Book

As women, we are exhausted. Our hearts are being wrung out to dry–squeezed and yanked in every direction. We take care of everyone but ourselves. We’ve gotten lost in bedtime routines and our Costco lists. We have lost our voices in the storm of everyday life. We need to be reminded to reach inward and heed the quiet voice whispering, Stay.

This book is for anyone who longs for a connection with God and his people but can’t seem to escape the haunting feelings of guilt, shame, loneliness, and fear. Through raw, authentic stories, (in)courage writer Anjuli Paschall invites you to stop running from your pain and to recognize that the deep end of your story is the way to intimacy with Christ. Alongside Anjuli, you will encounter a loving God who invites you to stay with him at the table of your soul, where you are free to spill the milk, to fumble through your words, to embrace the awkwardness and the joy, and to taste and see that he is good.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOok: 3 Pros and 3 Cons

The Pros:

-The writing was beautiful, lyrical, peaceful. I didn’t read the book – I soaked it in, taking time to breathe deep, savor the words, and really think about what the author was saying. I felt rejuvenated each time I picked it up and paused my crazy world to read for a few moments.

-The author had a way of drawing the reader in, sharing her deepness, her faults, her triumphs. It was like sitting down and listening to a well of wisdom be spilled out along with enough craziness to remind you that the person in front of you was human, full of mistakes, and searching for the perfect way to live life, just like everyone else. I felt like I was with the author, feeling the dust from the trailer park by the river, standing in the corner watching the strangers spin in and out of her parent’s home, sitting in her small, newly-married apartment, as she realized yet again that she’d forgotten to take out the trash. Relating to an author is something that really helps me remember the message behind the words I read, and this author pegged that feeling.

-Emotions aren’t bad, but so often I think they are. I choose the ones I want to call my own and steadfastly refuse to acknowledge, accept, or dwell on the ones that I don’t like. And while there’s some merit to this way of living, mostly it creates a battle within me as I lie to myself over and over again, convincing myself that whatever I want to be true is, when that’s not the case. This book was all about accepting and owning your emotions. Which is so important, and something I need to get far better at. But, that’s also what leads me to my first con.

The Cons: 

-When it came to the message of the book, I felt like it was too one-sided. Yes, emotions are important and it isn’t healthy to simply push them away, but I felt like the author didn’t have enough balance in her message. While accepting the emotions and processing them, I think it’s important to also be careful with how much power you give them.

-The author talks multiple times about how her only purpose in life is to be loved by God. And while that is part of the equation, loving God is also very important (which highlights the above point about the book not being as balanced as I like).

-There were various small mentions of things that I don’t agree with.

CONCLUSION

Obviously, my cons list was way smaller than the pros because I really liked this book. I do plan on re-reading it in the future and hope to read other books by the same author.

At the same time, the things that did make it to the cons list were big enough that I’m (sadly) dropping the book to three and a half stars.

RATING

I’m giving Stay 3.5 out of 5 stars. Thank you to Bethany House for providing me with a copy of the book so I could tell y’all about it.

3 Words that Will Change Your Life

It’s Monday morning. Saturday was spent reading. Sunday was spent resting. And Monday? Monday will hopefully be spent working. It sounds like a blanced week, right?

I haven’t yet complied all the results from the 24 Hour Reading Challenge, but I do have a book review due, so that’s what today’s post is. This book was delightful, so the review was a breeze to write. Enjoy!

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 192
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Title: 3 Words That Will Change Your Life
Nonfiction

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ABOUT THE BOOK

One tiny little sentence can change your life. Ready for it?

“God is here.”

It may sound obvious at first, but truly understanding these three words is the key to more happiness, less boredom, more rest, less rush, more love, less drama, more peace, less fear.

A deeply satisfying life doesn’t require a sabbatical, a mission trip, or a New Year’s resolution. As long as God is glorious enough and near enough, you can enjoy the life that is truly life–not just the cheap substitutes we’ve settled for.

This book will help you move from just enjoying the good moments in life to worshiping the God who is right here, right now. This movement will exponentially increase your happiness, peace, and contentment. It will allow you to shake off the guilt and shame of sin and see yourself as God sees you. Learn how to recognize God’s impact on your life and find the joy he’s been waiting to give you.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

In my never-ending quest to be more like Jesus, learning to rest in His presence is high on my list of things I’m learning to do. This book’s about The Secret to Experiencing the Joy of God’s Presence so it sounded perfect.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

On the second page, the author wrote something in caps and followed that up by saying “And your inner grammar nerd was very disappointed that I left the cap locks on?” and then went on to explain why he did. That had been exactly what I’d been thinking – rather than focusing on what he was saying. And what he was saying did need to have the caps lock on when I went back and re-read it. I knew at that moment that this book was going to be a winner for me, and it was.

This guy. He’s real, hilarious, challenging, and someone who I want to learn more from. He writes a truth-filled book in a way that makes it easy to read and hard to put down. I laughed more while reading this book than I have in a long time, and that’s saying a lot considering its nonfiction.

The book has funny little sketches and an abundance (but not overabundance) of footnotes that insert a level of humor into a message that people need to hear.

It’s easy to forget the purpose of life. To get so caught up in what is going on around you, that it suddenly feels like the stuff that’s happening is the reason for life. What the author points out is that everything in life should point us – as children of God – to God. That means that the good should remind us of Him because every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17) and everything bad should remind us of Him, because He works all things together for good to them that love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).

The book is chocked full of practical examples and laughable examples, and nod your head in happiness examples. God is here, with us. And because of that, we don’t have to be dependant on the things around us in order to dictate how we feel. That’s a huge lesson I’ve been working on learning, especially during this quarantine. I’m not doing as well as I’d like with putting that into practical usage, but I am getting better.

When it comes to negatives, the list for this book is short. The only things I remember sticking out to me were: 1) He says we can trash talk the devil, which I think is very unscriptural. And 2) He talks various times about drinking wine. I don’t think it’s wrong for some people to drink wine, but I think it needs to be talked about carefully because it can be a stumbling block to some people, and I felt like the way he was talking about it here could cause some people to stumble.

CONCLUSION

This is one of those books that I’ll be recommending, re-reading, and continuing to learn from. I realize his writing style might not be everyone’s, but it is mine and I can’t wait to read more of his books.

RATING

I’m giving 3 Words that Will Change Your Life out of 5 stars, it was delightful, helpful, and a shoo-ine-in for re-reading. Thank you to Bethany House for providing me with a copy of the book so I could tell y’all about it.

Veiled in Smoke

Hello, my friends. It suddenly occurred to me that although I’m fairly busy helping my family who recently moved, this is also a great time for me to work on catching up on my reading for review.

I’ve got about five more books on my to-be-read-asap-list, so get ready to be introduced to some pretty great books. 😉

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THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 416
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: February 4, 2020
Title: Veiled in Smoke
Fiction

ABOUT THE BOOK

Meg and Sylvie Townsend manage the family bookshop and care for their father, Stephen, a veteran still suffering in mind and spirit from his time as a POW during the Civil War. But when the Great Fire sweeps through Chicago’s business district, they lose much more than just their store.

The sisters become separated from their father and make a harrowing escape from the flames with the help of Chicago Tribune reporter Nate Pierce. Once the smoke clears away, they reunite with Stephen, only to learn soon after that their family friend was murdered on the night of the fire. Even more shocking, Stephen is charged with the crime and committed to the Cook County Insane Asylum.

Though homeless and suddenly unemployed, Meg must not only gather the pieces of her shattered life, but prove her father’s innocence before the asylum truly drives him mad.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

As soon as I saw Jocelyn Green had released another book I requested it from NetGalley. Miss Jocelyn has a way of making history come alive in the most dynamic ways, and I’ve learned so many cool facts from her books.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

Once I had downloaded the book and actually paid attention to the cover, I was struck by two thoughts 1) That the cover was one of my favorite of all time and 2) That the book must be about the Great Fire of Chicago. It turns out I was right (which I would have known if I would have read the back cover), so I put the book away for several months so I could get into the right mood to read it. I’m not sure why it is, but the Great Fire has long been in my top three least favorite periods/events in history to read about.

Eventually, I felt ready to delve into the book, so I began reading and was reminded once again why I like Miss Jocelyn’s writing so much. Much like when I read A Refuge Assuredthis book was able to take a time period that I intensely dislike, and turn it into an interesting story.

We have four points of view that we follow, and the story is written in third person. We follow passionate and loyal Meg, logical and then infatuated Sylvie, calm and inquisitive Nate, and high-strung and desperate Stephen. Meg’s story was the main focus, although she only gets a little more page time than the other three.

There are so many little details in the story that makes the time period come alive – like how dead birds, overcome with smoke, fall from the sky during the fire. Reading that description transported me from a cold spring day in Ohio to a dark night surrounded by chaos and flames in Chicago. I highlighted a couple other descriptions as I read them, delighted by Miss Jocelyn’s word choices.

Clouds of dust turned her skirt a sepia tone below the waist, as if she were climbing out of a daguerreotype. 

and

The moment of his need and her meeting it was embroidered on her memory in shining thread. 

In addition to her lovely writing, Miss Jocelyn’s books always stand out to me because of how well researched they are. Plus, her plots are never dull, filled with enough momentum to keep the reader intrigued but never enough to overshadow the character’s growth and development. There’s a whole mystery to delve into, plot to uncover, and truth to find. The plot twists didn’t shock me, but they were well-written.

Based solely upon personal preferences, this book was not one of my favorites. I’m very aware that each element I disliked is probably a reason someone else would like it, and that’s the beauty of reading a wide range of books and authors.

The things I disliked in Veiled in Smoke include:
-Stephen’s narrative. He has great character growth, and I see the importance of his story, but it wasn’t for me.
-One of the characters is hurt in the fire, and although I think it added a very important element to the story, was tastefully written, and assuredly did not add too many details… Well, I’m very squimish about little things like the words scar tissue (yes, that’s silly of me, I know), and so that part of the story made me grimace.
-As mentioned before, the time period isn’t one of my favorites, so that sadly took the book down in rating for me. That doesn’t mean that I think the book isn’t well-written, researched, or executed, it just lowered my enjoyment of the story.

CONCLUSION

Although this story wasn’t a personal favorite, it was clean, free from too many details regarding violence and destruction, and tackles some pretty serious things with grace.

It takes place during a huge fire, there’s chaos, people die (and are killed), there are injuries, homelessness, pain, suffering, one of the characters has some pretty serious PTSD from the Civil War. Plus, the book features an insane asylum. Despite all that, the book isn’t overly dark – although obviously, it isn’t light and fluffy.

RATING

I’m giving Veiled in Smoke out of 5 stars, although if I didn’t dislike the time period so much it probably would have gotten a higher rating. I’m thankful for NetGalley for sharing a copy of the book with me.

Like Flames in the Night {the ending of a beautiful series}

If the question was “Who has something exciting and uplifting to share today?” I’d be raising my hand, bouncing in my seat pleading Pick me! Pick me! And then this is what I’d share with you:

Renowned and award-winning author does it again! 

Then, after the cheering dies down, I’d tell you about how Connilyn Cossette – who I affectionately refer to as The Queen of Biblical Fiction – has published yet another fantastic book.

If you’ve been around Noveltea long, you’d know that I’ve talked about her books a lot. I started out by reviewing her Out from Egypt series, (Counted with the Stars, Shadow of the Stormand Wings of the Wind). Those books blew me away and left me wanting to read more, and like, right away, please!

Then the Cities of Refuge series began. I requested the first book and went into it completely blind, was shocked, amazed, and couldn’t wait to read more. During the last two years I’ve excitedly reviewed A Light on the Hill, Shelter of the Most High, Until the Mountians Falland now I’m exceedingly happy to get to share my thoughts on Like Flames in the Night – the final book in the series.

Also, you should all take a moment to look at the books together. They are so beautiful that I keep taking them off my color-coded bookshelves so I can just gaze at how seamlessly they go together.

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THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 380
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: March 3, 2020
Title: Like Flames in the Night
Fiction

ABOUT THE BOOK

Strong-willed Tirzah wants to join her people in driving the enemy from the land of Israel and undergoes training for a secret mission inside the stronghold of Shechem. But soon after she has infiltrated the ruthless Aramean commander’s kitchen, she makes a reckless decision that puts her and her allies in grave danger.

Fresh off the battlefield, Liyam returns home to discover his beloved daughter is dead. After his vow to hunt down her killer leads to months of fruitless pursuit, his last hope is in a family connection that comes with strings attached. Strings that force him to pose as a mercenary and rescue an infuriating woman who refuses to leave her mission uncompleted.

When an opportunity to pave a path to a Hebrew victory arises, can Tirzah convince Liyam to fight alongside her in the refuge city of her birth? Or will Liyam’s thirst for vengeance outweigh his duty to his people, his God, and the woman he’s come to love?

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

Um, yeah. I don’t think this needs further explanation. 😉

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WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

Books with espionage in them are my favorite. Stories with strong-willed girls who get themselves and others into danger aren’t really my cup of tea, but if said girl is fighting to keep up with a slew of older and successful brothers? Well, I can read those books all day long.

Tirzah is the youngest daughter of Moriyah, and little sister to a bevy of successful Hebrew spies – the lives of whom we’ve followed in the first three books in the Cities of Refuge series.

To begin with, Tirzah wasn’t a character I liked or related to – she seemed too set on proving herself to care about the safety of others. Then, partway through the book I began to see her character growth and maturity kicking in and I started cheering her on. Her character was so well-written, and her character-arch was played out beautifully. She felt real, flawed, strong, and yet weak at the same time.

Liyam drove me nuts. He, too, was written in a skillful way that made me want to yell at him to pull out of his pity-party and really see the world around him. When he took on the role of a mercenary I had no clue what to think. That part was written exceedingly well and left me cringing and horrified, while simultaneously amazed by how well the plot was climbing and dipping and twisting and turning.

The middle of the book was by far my favorite, although the plot continues to grow until the end where we have a beautifully wrapped-up series.

CONCLUSION {with slight spoilers}

Yeah. There’s a lot of content in this book that I wouldn’t deem to be exceedingly suitable for young teens. There’s a lot of talk of death, torture (although it doesn’t go into detail), and how the soldiers misuse the girls in the lands that they take captive.

I felt like it was written with care and is fine for anyone sixteen and older, but it does have sensitive content.

Overall, this is a beautiful story of following God’s leading even when it’s scary and having the courage to stand up even if it might cost you your life. It’s a delightful wrap to one of my favorite series.

Spoiler: While acting as a spy, Tirzah is scared for her safety multiple times, and as part of her cover ends up spending multiple nights in the same room as a guy – who everyone thinks is using her, although nothing actually happens. 

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RATING

I’m giving Like Flames in the Night 4 out of 5 stars. I’m incredibly thankful for the author sending me a book so I could share my thoughts with y’all. And now, you should really buy the book, or at least request it for your library.

Before I Called You Mine

Three Random Facts for Today:

-I’m keeping a mental countdown until I’ll be able to turn the water back on in my camper. After 105 days of hauling all my water in buckets and making sure nothing goes down the drain, I’m looking forward to using a faucet again.

-Budgeting is one of my current favorite things. Tracking each penny I spend and planning out what I can buy instead of being impulsive is some serious fun.

-Even living on my own in a camper I still lose my silverware and food storage containers. The only reasonable explanation I can think of is that I must by mistake forget it at work. (I sometimes leave it in the breakroom to dry after washing it, and yesterday I did see someone else using my spoon which is perfectly okay, and also made me feel better about it because I couldn’t figure out how in the world I could misplace it in my tiny home.)

And now, review time…

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 368
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: March 31, 2020
Title: Before I Called You Mine
Fiction

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ABOUT THE BOOK

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.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

In an act of unprecedented first-glance-book-cover-judging, I took one look at this book when it showed up in my inbox and decided it wasn’t for me. For some crazy reason, my brain instantly slotted it on the Nonfiction-Prepare-For-Marriage-Advice shelf and I didn’t give it a second thought. Therefore, I missed out on the chance of requesting a physical copy for my bookshelves. (Which I’m now sad about.)

Fast forward a few days and I was browsing NetGalley (an e-book review site) and this book popped up again. I took the time to actually look at it this time and not only is the cover simple and beautiful, but the premise is intriguing. A book about a single lady wanting to adopt? I instantly downloaded the book and started reading.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

It was in the evening when I began reading the book and I seriously didn’t want to put it down. The rollercoaster of emotions that I went through as I read the first two-thirds of the book makes me want to read more by this author.

As a single person myself – just a few years younger than Lauren, the main character, – I found that sometimes half of my brain was engaged with what I was reading, while the other half zoomed around trying to figure out if I ever could do what Lauren was doing. What would it look like if I, too, adopted? Although I’ve never felt strongly that I will adopt, it’s always been something I’ve considered a possibility, and this book felt like a scarily realistic view of what the process would look like. The details and emotions were so clear and well-written that I wasn’t at all surprised in the author’s note to discover that the author has an adopted child.

There are so many things I want to discuss about this book and I was going to include a spoiler section until I remembered that the book isn’t even published yet (it releases next month). So, I’ll just keep my spoilers to myself since I can’t discuss them with people who have already read the book. (If you buy the book, you should message me so we can talk together.)

Lauren was frustratingly unlike me. Except for her emotions surrounding adoption I couldn’t relate to her at all. Partway through the book she makes some choices that really annoyed me – keep in mind, she was totally staying in character and I think the author did a fantastic job writing her. Just, she made me want to clap my hands in front of her face and be like “No!” It was also about this time that I had to put the book down (after hours of reading) so I could go to sleep.

My annoyance at Lauren and a time-hop the book took (one of my least favorite things in fiction) made me kinda dreading finishing the book, so I didn’t pick it back up for a couple of weeks. And that, in turn, lowered my rating from 4 stars to 3.5, but this is purely subjective and something that probably won’t bother most readers.

All in all the story is packed full of emotions, has a worthy storyline, and has interesting and unique characters.

CONCLUSION

The first two-thirds of the book was magic. I just wanted to read for forever and was completely immersed in the story. The last third wasn’t my favorite, but I don’t think that’s any reflection on the story or the writing, it’s just a preference thing.

All in all the book is clean (it has a few kisses, but nothing inappropriate that I remember), void of violence, and doesn’t use bad language.

RATING

I’m giving Before I Called You Mine 3.5 out of 5 stars. I’m thankful for the generosity of the publishers for giving me an e-copy of this book so I could review it for y’all. This is a fantastic read for anyone who is considering (or knows anyone considering) adoption, or if you’re looking for a heart-tugging and beautiful read.

The Art of Friendship

This morning I woke up on my couch – where I’d moved in the middle of the night after getting annoyed at the rain dripping on me from the little skylight over my bed. The adventures of camper living continue and I’m thankful for a warm and dry place to sleep.

Last night I set my alarm for 6:00 so I could make sure I’d get in blogging time before leaving for work at 8:30. My routine has been a bit off recently and yesterday was the first time in several weeks where I felt like I was back in the swing of things.

Do any of you thrive on routine? And if so, do you have recommendations of how to thrive even when there isn’t routine? Because I seriously need help sometimes. 😉

And now, a review:

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 192
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Title: The Art of Friendship
Nonfiction

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ABOUT THE BOOK

In this age of limitless digital connections, we are somehow lonelier than ever. This isn’t just bad news–it’s dangerous news. Loneliness puts us at greater health risk than smoking or obesity, but we would sooner label ourselves overweight than admit we are lonely. It is a secret that is killing us.

Contrary to all our efforts, the answer is not found in more connections, but deeper ones that mirror God himself as the originator of friendship and the original Friend. The Art of Friendship walks with you into a greater understanding of how God has equipped you to be a friend and to have meaningful friendships. With step-by-step guidance, you will begin to strategize how to fulfill your divine calling as a friend. And through God’s Word, as you come to understand the depth and width and breadth of God as Friend, you will discover that the spiritual discipline of friendship is both life-changing and life-giving.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

Friendship – I’m learning more about it. The ins, the outs, and what place it has in my life.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

The first half of the book was solid for me – I would have happily given it four stars and was looking forward to continuing to read. Then the second half of the book ended up not really hitting the right chords for me and I had a harder time getting through it.

Three Pros:

-The author writes in a real, amusing, identifiable way. She has hard-hitting truths, funny anecdotes, practical advice, and biblical examples. She seems like she’s lived an interesting life, and I felt like I got to know her through the pages of her book.

-The first half of the book talks about what friendship is, the importance of friendship (including looking at what the Bible has to say about it), how to be a friend, and things we can work on in our own lives. I flew through this part and appreciated it a lot.

-The overall message of the book was an uplifting look at friendship and how we can build deep and enduring friendships in an age when “friends” are sometimes considered to be a number on social media. She also talks a lot about what it means to love in the way that the Bible tells us to, and that was encouraging.

Three Cons:

-The second half of the book is when I stopped nodding my head and agreeing with most of what I was reading. She talked about friendship like a menu where you choose your various friends like you’d choose a meal in a restaurant. Her example probably has merit and holds up when you dig deeper, but it just felt really weird to me and I didn’t like the idea behind it.

– Most of the time I felt like she had a balanced view on friendship, but sometimes in the second half of the book it seemed like she was saying “Be a good friend so people will be a good friend to you”. And while there isn’t anything wrong with wanting people to be a good friend to you, I felt like the attitude behind why we should be a good friend felt off.

-She talks about “Covenant Friendship” like what David and Jonathan had. And, while I agree with some of what she said, she went to an extreme that I don’t agree with.

CONCLUSION

I appreciate the first half of the book, but I don’t agree with everything in the second half. I wouldn’t discourage people from reading it, but it’s not a book that I’m giving a huge recommendation. Still, it’s a neat look at friendships.

RATING

I’m giving The Art of Friendship out of 5 stars. I’m so thankful for the generosity of Bethany House Publishers for sending me a copy of this book so I could review it and share it with y’all.