Present Danger – Rocky Mountain Courage Book 1

Present Danger #1
By Elizabeth Goddard / Revell
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A mystery with great action and a sophisticated plot. Elizabeth Goddard’s Present Danger was a joy to read. It’s book #1 in her Rocky Mountain Courage series. At the story’s close, you’ll hope the release of book #2 is near. The main characters are experienced investigators working a search and rescue mission in Montana’s Gallatin National Forest. The original search mission ends positively, but the discovery of a body at the foot of a steep cliff sets in motion a new murder investigation. The veteran detectives on the case, Jack Tanner and Terra Connors, have a history together. In their youth they were a romantic couple but Jack left Terra cold for a FBI career. Terra moved on, but always carried the hurt Jack caused and never came to terms with the reasons that prompted his abrupt departure. Now with a case to solve, and plot details that put Terra in mortal danger, the couple are embroiled in solving the case, and find their feelings for one another rekindled.

A major clue to the mystery is a remote mountain cabin stocked with Native American artifacts and a remnant of a Middle Eastern tablet buried in the ground. If Terra and Jack can unravel the mystery surrounding the illegal network of trafficking these historic artifacts, they will find the guilty suspects responsible for two murders in addition to theft.

The Rocky Mountain setting adds an intense backdrop to the action. The mountain hiking required to investigate clues is both arduous and dangerous for Jack and Terra. The roster of suspicious characters expands to eventually cast doubt on Terra’s grandfather and brother. The suspicion of doubt hanging over their lives makes the investigation more personal for Terra.

Dogs and horses have great roles to play in this story. No spoilers here, but you’ll like how the author wove them into the action. Overall, readers will appreciate the intricate plot and dramatic ending with more than one surprise reveal. I received and advanced reader’s copy of from the publisher, Revell, in exchange for my honest review.

Get Outside

This lovely journal is a keeper. The quotes are inspiring. I love the ample space for journaling. The durable cover will hold up well to outside expeditions. It will fit perfectly in a backpack.

It’s a good reminder that as we enjoy the creation, we must celebrate the Creator.

I’ve come full circle on writing a journal. I kept one religiously back in my college days. I included great quotes, favorite song lyrics, poetry and reflective musings. Then I got busy with life and practical and let those things fall away.

I’ve taken Get Outside with me on morning walks. I record thoughts and observations after enjoying time in nature. This year spring burst onto the scene earlier than usual. Every morning the chorus of bird calls has been riotous. The male kestrels seem to be back on their high perches at least a full two weeks ahead of when I usually look for them. This is one reason why a nature journal is smart. Birding records comparing year to year sightings tell a great story. But as I spend more time with my Get Outside Journal, I find my thoughts run to bigger philosophical questions. Here is one. I started tomato and flower seeds inside. Naturally the tiny plants get leggy reaching for the light. I turn the trays and they bend and reach the other way. I got to thinking, “What is it I reach for in such a determined fashion?” Hope – that’s it! I hope for a world where peace and kindness are guiding forces in our lives. I hope for all of us to show empathy. I reach for the hope that my actions in my local environment and community are part of the solution not the problem.

I intended to give this book as a gift to a family member. I’m so immersed in it now I will need to purchase a copy to give away. The photography tips in the back matter are great! The hiking Do’s and Don’ts are smart. In fact all the back matter is excellent.

I received an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review. @InkandWillowgifts

Dreams Rekindled

735360: Dreams Rekindled #2Dreams Rekindled #2
By Amanda Cabot / Revell
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Dreams Rekindled is Book #2 in the Mesquite Springs series. I had read Book #1 and enjoyed it. A reader can easily jump into book two and not miss a beat in the story’s flow. My dilemma with this book is that I found the beginning slow. I anticipate fast action beginnings in Amanda Cabot’s books but this description doesn’t fit Dreams Rekindled. I would say the author intended to introduce Laura to us, but all the swooning and talk of marriage was frustrating. The simmering warm up in Dreams Rekindled surprised me. By mid-stream, the plot quickened and was multi-layered with mystery. The protagonists, Dorothy Clark and Brandon Holloway, are well developed and their family histories and future goals are interesting. I found this aspect of the novel extremely satisfying. Dorothy dreams of becoming a writer and finds great success on her chosen career path. The close look at her mom’s mental health during a period of loss was full of empathy and good sense. Brandon clearly is one of the good guys; hard-working, personable, smart, and open-minded. His sense of duty to responsible journalism and supplying a respectable newspaper to members of Texas Hill Country communities of the 1850’s is admirable. The villains in the story are believable and the fast pace action at the end gives the story a strong finish. I appreciated the wisdom and grace Pastor Coleman and his wife displayed under pressure. Cabot has successfully woven into her story some essential tenets of the Christian faith such as forgiveness and transformation. I think on balance, the exceptional ingredients of the book outweigh the sluggish start. I received a print book from the publisher Revell in exchange for my honest review.

Make Kindness a Habit

Make Their Day: 101 Simple, Powerful Ways to Love Others Well
By Karen Ehman / Bethany House

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I think a pleasant “Hello” when you meet someone is a pre-requisite for living on Earth. In my book, cheeriness is a top-shelf virtue.  I know we can’t be upbeat and carefree all the time, but a kind word and a smile are a delightful duo. When I heard about the book “Make Their Day: 100 Simple Powerful Ways to Love Others Well” by Karen Ehman, I knew I had to read it right away.

If you want to do your part in encouraging others in your circle of friends, family, church community, or town, this book is for you. These practical ideas will work for you even if you think you’re too busy or being this outgoing doesn’t come naturally. Some suggestions you may already be doing like buying extra “Thinking of You” notecards to mail to those who need encouragement. Isn’t that just one reason why we shop at Dollar General? Another great idea is to give the gift of listening.  Share a list of podcast links and include a gift card for an eBook. The podcast links might range from serious links for personal growth or podcasts on fun topics like cooking and DIY projects. Podcasts are able to be played anywhere on your iPhone, and they are a good use of time. Being sensitive to certain anniversary dates in the lives of those around you, and reaching out to them on these dates is another idea that would be easy to put into place. Even if you follow through on just handful of ideas, the steps you take will help you develop habits of kindness. I like the recipes, ready-made Scripture gift tags, and presentation ideas. It’s a reader friendly book packed from cover to cover with smart ideas for spreading joy and pushing back on negativity. I received a complimentary copy from the publisher Bethany House in exchange for my honest review. #MakeTheirDay

Dick Eastman’s Talking with God

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Talking with God: A Practical Plan for Personal Prayer
By Dick Eastman / Chosen Books
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During this 12 month stretch of “Safer at Home” and social distancing, I have developed new routines. Once a week, I bake sourdough bread and typically bag up homemade granola just as frequently. With the granola, I’ve had a lot of fun trying new ingredients like coconut oil, pumpkin seeds, and switching between maple syrup or honey for the sweetener. One thing that hasn’t changed is starting my day with a time of morning devotions and Bible reading. Throughout the year, I have enjoyed the book New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp. I’m nearly through the year. So it was good timing when I received Dick Eastman’s Talking with God to read and review. In the last few months during this unprecedented time, I have also been working on my prayer life. I was concerned that I was spending only short periods of time sending up self-centered laundry lists of prayer requests to our Lord. The book Talking with God will equip you with strategies for avoiding these pitfalls and improve your prayer life. The quote on page 9 is what first captured my attention. Eastman writes, “Where there is an absence of prayer, there will be an absence of power. Where there is frequency of prayer, there will be a continuing display of God’s power.”

It’s a lovely book all around. Small in dimensions, so it’s easy to hold. The attractive page layout and the sweet ribbon bookmark boost the positive reading experience. At just 155 pages, it’s reader friendly. I have offered to share it with my church family, but in truth I’m having a hard time removing it from my personal library. The chapters on listening, waiting, and intercessory prayer are moving. I’m so glad I had the chance to review this book. I received an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Tom Threadgill’s Network of Deceit

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Network of Deceit
By Tom Threadgill / Revell

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A great suspense novel with a contemporary plot. Threadgill is a new author to me. The characters were original, well drawn out, and all woven together into a very satisfying reading experience. At mid-point, I said to my husband, “You would like this book. You can have it when I’m finished.” He didn’t wait. The next day he picked it up and jumped right in. From that point forward we managed two bookmarks until its conclusion; “His” and “Mine”. He finished before me but offered no spoilers. At the end he asked, “So this author has another book?” We both want to read Threadgill’s first book titled Collision of Lies. Isn’t that the best compliment an novelist can earn? Two satisfied readers looking for the author’s other published works.

The female protagonist, Amara Alvarez, is smart and competent. The story opens on her first days at her new assignment in the San Antonio’s Homicide Division. Her desk is a card table. It’s not like they rolled out the red carpet to welcome the newbie. Mostly she wins negative attention from one veteran detective who mocks her earlier work, harangues her with belittling language, and talks about the office pool he initiated to see just how long she will last. From this point forward, she’s the underdog you’ll root for hoping the snarky veteran will have to eat crow. One detective, Starsky Peckham befriends her and eventually assists on a case. Their story line is superb with funny banter studded with nuggets of wisdom.

The crime is quite a mystery that is a tough puzzle to solve. You’ll be glad to follow the cast through to the end. In exchange for my honest review, I received a print copy from the publisher, Revell.

The Women’s March By Jennifer Chiaverini

A Novel of the 1913 Woman’s Procession

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On Sale July 27, 2021. Pre-order now at your favorite Independent Bookstore. A great new release from Jennifer Chiaverini

A must read! Such a wise choice to focus mostly on The Women’s March with important investigations into the point of view of Black Women, Western Women Voters, Southern Women, and a look at events in England. A watershed time in US History and the focus on the events leading up to and after The Women’s March kept the focus tight. The research is excellent. The intro lays the ground work and moves at a slower pace. You will finish the book with a great appreciation for the historical achievements of these pioneering women. Excellent! I read an advance readers’ copy from NetGalley.

All That We Carried

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All That We Carried
By Erin Bartels / Revell

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 I love it when a novel’s setting is a main character. Erin Bartels’ newest release titled All That We Carried is based in the Porcupines Mountains Wilderness State Park located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She does a beautiful job capturing the majesty of the waterfalls, the vastness of Lake Superior, and the park’s rugged wilderness. I could even sense the trail dirt and grime that hung on our sibling hikers during their journey. Melanie and Olivia agree to the late fall hike even though they have remained estranged for at least ten years. Their separation began when they lost their parents in a fatal car accident. The oldest sister, Olivia dealt with the tragedy by disappearing from her hometown and immersing herself in college, then law school, and then her career as a prosecutor. Melanie, left with the duty of being executor of her parent’s estate, struggled through it all and battled depression. She felt quite alone through the whole process. The story begins on the day of their hike. One Melanie suggested as a way to reunite. Melanie hoped hearts would be shared over campfires, but the warm fuzzy feelings were in short supply for most of the expedition. Practical Olivia was sure she had thought of everything to ensure hiking success. Their plans and reality rarely intersected. They were derailed by missed sign markers, bad weather, physical hurts, lost maps, and forest fires.

Looming throughout the whole story was, “What to do about Justin?” Olivia’s close teenage friend, until Justin drove recklessly and caused their parents’ tragic death. Olivia cut ties with Justin and harbored bitterness toward him. A feeling that festered unabated for a decade. Melanie ended up forming a relationship with Justin. The pair were drawn together by their grief. As they expressed their sorrows and hurts, a relationship blossomed. Olivia grew even more angry with Melanie when she discovered Melanie had forgiven Justin.

Circling around the question of to forgive or not, is a bigger question connected to their perspective on life. Should everyone be like Olivia and plan everything out to the last detail in an effort to control the outcomes and avoid risk? Is Melanie’s view more acceptable? She has adopted bits and pieces of all religions hoping her efforts to do all the right things will bring her safety and enduring happiness. The author lays out a well reasoned case that nudges both girls to a Christian faith, pointing to the One who is in control despite what often seems to us as chaotic.

Flashback moments are sprinkled throughout this novel. Different page designs alert you to the plot changes. At first, I found them abrupt, questioning if they were necessary plot diversions. They did help the reader learn more about the siblings during their early years and Justin’s back story. So I can see how each earned its place in the book.

All That We Carried was very enjoyable. I would recommend it with enthusiasm. It’s the second Erin Bartels book I’ve read and I would be happy to pass it on to one of my reading buddies. I received a complimentary book from the publisher, Revell, in exchange for my honest review.

Power Outage = Power Reading

We were all impressed this week when the power stayed constant despite a storm that delivered record snowfall amounts in a short space of time. The snow was deep, but dry. Unlike the storm a few weeks back that was thick and wet. During this previous weather event, snow snapped branches and power lines failed when trees toppled. While it’s an inconvenience, power outages have their own rewards. Just curl up with a few blankets, a battery powered booklight, and revel in reading time. This 18 hour power outage helped me successfully meet my 2020 reading challenge. Thirty books in 52 weeks. I probably read a few more, but those are the ones I recorded. This last power outage revealed one problem with our trusty generator. It’s not big enough to power everything simultaneously. So we rotate through a cycle of powering the furnace and water pump, then the refrigerator and some kitchen outlets. This is how I know I can brew a morning cup of coffee. But this year, no coffee. There wasn’t enough voltage for some reason to bring the coffee maker to life. I was ready to hike out to the neighbors because days just don’t start without “a cup of Joe”. As I grew more irritable and impatient, I finally realized hot chocolate made with boiling water on my gas stove would suffice. Since that day, I decided on an inexpensive solution. My husband doesn’t know it yet, but during our Christmas gift exchange, he’s giving me a stove top percolator. I am truly comforted to know, I can enjoy a cup of coffee with or without power. Here’s to many happy hours of reading in 2021!

photo credit: Amazon and the Colletti Bozeman Percolator Coffee Pot

The Windsor Knot by S J Bennett

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While listening to a recent podcast, a publishing rep gushed enthusiastically over this book. In the blink of an eye, I clicked over to NetGalley and submitted my ARC request. I was pleased to receive The Windsor Knot by SJ Bennett to review. Now that I’ve finished it, I understand his enthusiasm. Queen Elizabeth II and her assistant private secretary Rozie Oshodi are detectives. The Queen skillfully directs Rozie to track down clues while her majesty simultaneously carries out her royal duties. Each time Rozie reports her findings, new clues are unveiled and her task list grows. All of this is done in the background. It turns out, the Queen has been solving crimes since her coronation decades ago. At times she asks Rozie to enlist the help of Billy MacLachlan, a trusted former law enforcement officer. As she moves closer to the truth the Queen skillfully gets just enough info to the MI5 investigators to get them to see her point of view. The MI5 detectives have some of her staff high on their suspect list. They also consider a wild theory involving an unknown sleeper agent planted by Russia as valid. The Queen’s desire to prove them wrong launches her into this crime solving inquiry.

You may think the Queen is hoping to capture an art thief or a high level robber making off with the palace jewels. But it’s a murderer that must be caught. A young Russian pianist died after an evening of royal feasting and dancing at Windsor Castle. The guest list for the evening reads like a gathering of Who’s Who from Britain and Russia. Among them are a few individuals who look guilty. Due to the sordid circumstances of the young Russian’s death, a cloak of secrecy covers the investigation. Queen Elizabeth and her staff hope the solution will arrive before news of the event leaks to the tabloids.

It’s a contemporary novel with former US president Barack Obama and his wife visiting the castle. References are made to Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkle. The agendas of World Powers are called into question and the plot involves a good dose of international intrigue. You’ll have fun reading the uniquely British terms like bespoke and brio and deciphering the acronyms HRM and MBE. (Her Royal Majesty and Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen’s husband adds a touch of humor to the story. Their dialogue and his remarks are upbeat and quirky.

This book is due out on March 9, 2021. It’s available now as a pre-order. As stated at the opening, I read an advanced reader’s copy of this book supplied by NetGalley. I was under no obligation to publish a positive review. #TheWindsorKnot, #NetGalley