We Hope for Better Things

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We Hope for Better Things

By Erin Bartels / Revell

Wow! Outstanding! A must read…. I am recommending this book with five stars. It’s a split-time novel with three (that’s right 3 !!!) different settings. It’s the goal oriented, determined women who tie all plot lines together. These ladies dare to trust and follow their heart. Each demonstrates courage and does not shy away from making tough choices. They make some decisions that are charged with emotion and bring on hard times. But they face their circumstances with bravery.

The first character we meet is present day Elizabeth Balsam, a journalist who calls Detroit home. A quest sends her to the country home of her great-aunt, who is now elderly and living alone in a Civil War era home. During the 1860’s, individuals seeking freedom on the Underground Railroad found their way to this house. As the story progresses, more and more details from this early tumultuous time period are revealed.

The plot stirs your heart and lays bare all the emotional hurts caused by racism. First during the Civil War Era, then in the streets of Detroit in 1960’s. As you read, you will call to mind the title and realize how well suited it is for the plot. Truly…. “We Hope for Better Things!” At the conclusion, it’s likely you will be thinking… “We hope people will demonstrate a greater capacity to love one another and show kindness. We hope people will speak out against bullying and racism. We hope people will seek out ways to build communities and encourage others. We hope not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

This is Erin Bartels’ debut novel. You’ll find yourself so engrossed in the storyline you keep reading “just one more chapter” long into the night.

I received a copy of this book from Revell – a division of Baker House Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

American Omens: The Coming Fight for Faith

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Author: Travis Thrasher / Multnomah

Travis Thrasher is a successful multi-genre writer with a new release expected for early 2019. American Omens: the Coming Fight for Faith is set in 2038. While it’s technically 19 years into the future, some of the plot seems underway already.

All the time I was reading it, I kept thinking of specific people I know who would delight in this book’s futuristic plot. These readers are my acquaintances who are tech savvy, love IoT (Internet of Things) and consider the possibilities of artificial intelligence with great enthusiasm. American Omens will be a must read for those who love to ponder the pros and cons of technology. The LC’s or robotic life companions are noteworthy details in the book, as wells as the SYNAPSYS form of communication and on demand interactive wall-screens.

The main theme throughout the book is the persecution and yes sometimes elimination of Christians. It’s a post-Christian world in 2038 and those in authority are determined to keep it this way. A remnant of Christian characters work to reverse this condition. A showdown is staged in Chicago where unrepentant residents ignore the warnings and suffer disastrous consequences.

A good measure of the dialogue and plot will resonate favorably with readers who are mature Christians. Words shared by key characters like Hutchence and Will are likely to stir the heart and cause heads to nod in agreement. At the conclusion, their journeys finish in a satisfying fashion while simultaneously sharing truths that are in alignment with Biblical truths. The end shows these characters more receptive to following God’s will and demonstrating trust, even when things aren’t going smooth.

There is much to think about in this book. The erosion of individual privacy and censorship run throughout the story. For me I had been on a steady diet of historical fiction, and was interested to read a selection from another genre. The characters are certainly very memorable. There are some fun references to art and music sprinkled throughout the story that keep you thinking. The Orwellian theme draws you in from beginning to end. American Omens: The Coming Fight for Faith will find its way into the hands of many readers and spark a lot of discussion.

I received an ARC of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for my honest review.

Sparkle of Silver

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729623: A Sparkle of Silver #1 A Sparkle of Silver #1

By Liz Johnson

A Sparkle of Silver delivers as expected. Author Liz Johnson gives us Book #1 in the Georgia Coast Romance series. You’ll be drawn into a dual timeline romance complete with mystery, laugh out loud fun, and characters that prove to be overcomers through clever reasoning and persistence. Added to all this is a fantastic setting for both plotlines. The Chateau Dawkins, a Gilded Age Mansion, boasts lavish interiors, rooms galore, manicured gardens, and secret passageways. You will follow the rich and famous through social engagements and clandestine rendezvous. At first, the present day characters seem very dissimilar. Ben Thornton is an adjunct history professor, on his own, with no memories of a stable family network. Then there’s Milly Sullivan, who is devoted to the grandparents who raised her on their Georgia farm. Her current goal in life is to provide for her aging Grandma Joy, who suffers from dementia. The Chateau and a treasure hunt bring them together. Ben and Milly push on, knowing the treasure’s discovery would reverse their dismal financial situations and solve a family mystery.  At one key point in the story, Ben’s internal dialogue reveals one truth Christians ought to ask themselves. He asks, “Why hadn’t he spent every day since he’d met Milly asking God for direction and clarity and wisdom?”  He regrets that he went headlong down the road on a unconventional endeavor without consulting God first. Instead, he did it his own way and hoped God would look favorably on his actions after the fact.

Liz Johnson’s prose is crisp and the dialogue has great momentum. Along the way you’ll meet a cast of endearing supporting characters, some helpful and others villainous.
I was supplied with a complimentary copy of this book from Baker House Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review. Readers of Liz Johnson are likely to also enjoy books by Melissa Tagg and Denise Hunter.

Cities of Refuge: Shelter of the Most High

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By Connilyn Cossette

This sequel to A Light on the Hill delivers intrigue and is entirely satisfying. I especially want to comment on how remarkable the characters are in this series. The main characters are faithful and mending from brokenness and the consequences of bad choices. But throughout the story, each of the main characters seem to exemplify Philippians 2:3-7. Darek, Moriyah, and Eitan are not guided by selfish ambition, but instead put others first. Over and over, they act in a manner that shows their high regard for the welfare of others.

The plot twists were a delightful surprise. The intrigue was multilayered and crafted in such a way that it made total sense to readers. I have to admit, in many cases, I never saw story threads resolving as they did. I also met some characters and plot lines that I hope to read more about in future books in the series.

The transformation at work in the lives of Prezi and Sofea allowed readers to walk along with them and see through their non-believing eyes, the wonder of God’s promise of protection and unconditional love. Their journey is inspirational and would draw others to a greater understanding of Christianity.

The time period of the book is also fascinating. Shelter of the Most High takes place after the Battle of Jericho and the Conquest of Canaan. The characters are expanding their claim to the Promised Land, while simultaneously fortifying and pushing back on the Canaanites and other populations inhabiting the land. I am looking forward to Book 3 in the Cities of Refuge series that is anticipated in July.

I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

New Author to Me; New Favorite

light on a hillI was captivated by Connilyn Cossette’s book titled A Light on the Hill. For some reason, I just had not read any previous books by this author. This is book one in the Cities of Refuge series. I thought the concept of the Cities of Refuge was so fascinating. I was not sure I would care for it, but the characters and plot are very engaging. I’m looking forward to Book #2 in this series. The Cities of Refuge are described in detail in the Old Testament Book of Joshua 20:1-9. The symbolism wrapped up in the Cities of Refuge left an impression. The idea is that all who come seeking are accepted at this place of refuge. The author describes the road to the City of Refuge as straight and smooth, and free of obstacles for the sojourner.

It is always a pleasure to discover a new author. In addition, to the novel crafted by Connilyn Cossette, I have also finished a book by Melanie Dobson titled Catching the Wind. Both of these books, I have recommended to friends and family with enthusiasm.

 

As the Tide Comes In

as-the-tide-comes-in-cindy-woodsmall-and-erin-woodsmallThis book was delightful. The author duo used the phrase “mischief magnets” to describe a group of women friends and immediately you’re endeared to these spirited ladies. This quartet of ladies are the supporting cast to a pair of male and female main characters who are multifaceted and mature. I liked the multi generational aspect of the plot, the emphasis on how important family ties are, and the words of wisdom about showing love and kindness.

The main character, Tara, makes some outlandish decisions in the beginning. You want to call out to her, “What are you thinking?” Of course the irrational behavior is explained when you consider her physical and emotional challenges. There are tragic events that set this state of mind in motion.

This is a contemporary fiction book complete with a family mystery and romance. The mystery is resolved in a surprise ending that is foreshadowed by just a few breadcrumbs of clues. Family roots are untangled and revealed for a positive and satisfying ending. The author duo, Cindy Woodsmall and Erin Woodsmall, show great skill in presenting the characters’ full slate of emotions through triumph and tragedy.

If you are a fan of Cindy Woodsmall’s Amish Fiction, you will be pleased to venture into this book with a new setting. Most of the story takes place on Saint Simons Island, off the coast of Georgia. Woodsmall has some fun with Southern dialogue and customs. You’ll be moved emotionally. I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Good News for a Change

51KmY9him4L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The title caught my eye, “Good News for a Change – How to talk to Anyone about Jesus”. The author delivers on your expectations. This non-fiction book appeals to Christians who have a heart for witnessing and hope to encourage non-believers to welcome Jesus into their hearts.

It’s clear from the outset, that author, Matt Mikalatos, has experience in this area. He offers many first hand accounts of various ways he has invited people to join him in spiritual conversations.

I heard a Pastor say once, “In the Christian faith, some people are planters, some waterers, and others are harvesters, and all are important.” This book lays out some sensible steps for waterers to stretch a little and be a ‘planter”, or a “harvester.” Yet the author points out this work is a team effort, between the individual and the Holy Spirit to tell people about God. Where individuals may fail, God will pick up the slack.

This book will nudge readers out of their comfort zone. In addition to practical witnessing advice, the pages are packed with solid Biblical truths. Jesus seeks to have a relationship with all people. There’s no need to fix yourself up first and then accept your adoption into the Christian faith. Just come as you are, and your faith will help you with the rest. Scripture indeed points to sharing the message with both words and deeds.

The author is realistic and devotes some time to obstinate people who harbor negative attitudes toward spiritual conversations and Christians. He offers some suggestions for staying on track and finding a way to share the good news message despite any roadblocks. As an evangelist, Mikalatos has introduced many people to God who is able to heal the brokenness that individuals and communities experience today. Mikalatos takes the fear out of witnessing and encourages Christians to just listen, show a caring heart, and above all be sincere. I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from NAVPRESS in exchange for my honest review.