We Hope for Better Things

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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.

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.

 

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.

Storey’s Guide to Keeping Honey Bees, 2nd edition

Glad to see this guide updated. Overall a solid book that would be at home on the shelves of public libraries, farm and garden stores, or to give as a gift to beginning beekeepers. This guide equips beekeeper0bbed8aa2bb37827b74af19bffb5bae5799745fds with practical advice. Some of the strong points include the overview of new research out of the University of Minnesota Bee Lab, overwintering techniques, and the value of bees as pollinators. Hives are now home to four types of inhabitants; the queen, workers, drones, and Varroa destructor. The authors emphasize the importance of staying current with strategies for managing the parasitic mites as well as other threats to bee health and the hive habitat. Candy boards were mentioned as winter feed, but only the hard candy processed at high temperatures. Fondant is more pliable and beekeepers report success with this winter feed as well. When beekeepers choose a mentor and join a bee club they will expand their skills and gain more confidence. The authors recommend this road map for future growth. The resources offered at the back are current and point readers to great resources for further information. The sidebar stories from experienced beekeepers boost reader appeal. The full color photos are well matched to the text.

Road to Magnolia Glen

978-1-4964-1594-3The Road to Magnolia Glen

Historical fiction fans will agree this is a five star series. I read The Road to Magnolia Glen, Book #2 in the Natchez Trace series . After just a few pages, I was digging into additional resources to find out more about Mississippi’s Natchez Trace. Its historical value is so vital that it is has been designated a National Parkway, managed by the National Park Service. A historical fiction book is always a winner when it prompts readers to go looking for more.

The immigrant experience is featured in this book. Natchez located on the Mississippi River is a crossroads of commerce. Immigrants with little means arrive as indentured servants and agree to work off the costs of their ocean passage. This story follows some indentured servants and others who arrived free of service obligations. A main character, Quinn O’Shea is a freeman ready to embark on a bright future. His intention is to unload his two younger siblings on his older brother and then strike out on his own. But Kiera Young, an indentured immigrant, wins his heart and his plans follow a different path.

Pam Hillman’s female characters are stars. Both Kiera and Isabella are problem solvers and resourceful. Readers will develop empathy for the colonial women’s plight, when they read about the obstacles these females must overcome. Kiera boards at Isabella’s plantation home and launches a stand where travelers along the Trace can secure food and modest lodgings. Stands along the Trace historically sprung up at intervals of a day’s travel. Kiera establishes a popular stand frequented by Trace travelers, as well as the loggers and field hands employed by Isabella and Connor at Breeze Hill Plantation.

Isabella and Connor are a couple that will capture your heart. They plan together, work together for common goals, and balance each other out in a charming way.

The cast of secondary characters drive the threats that have the potential to derail everything. A distraught father seems determined to harm Kiera’s sister because he holds her responsible for his son’s middle of the night elopement. The young couple’s disappearance sets in motion a search and rescue mission. The outcomes are likely to be vastly different based on who finds the couple first. The lecherous tavern keeper, Pierre Le Bonne, and his henchmen persist as ominous threats from beginning to end. Fans of inspirational historical romance will eagerly await the next installment in this series. I received a complimentary advanced reader’s copy from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. in exchange for my honest review.

Blind Betrayal

downloadThe plot draws you in immediately. When an environmentalist discovers collusion between a US Senator and a foreigner suspected of terrorism, he turns to a reporter to expose the corruption. The main emphasis of the story is focused on how US Marshals, Casey and E.J., will transport the reporter to testify before a grand jury. The plot thickens when life-threatening obstacles arise to prevent the reporter’s DC appearance. FBI imposters blow their cover and trigger a violent showdown. Casey and E.J. must now safeguard the reporter and themselves. One error in judgement or misplaced trust will cost them everything. They draw on their long careers in law enforcement to persevere through dire circumstances.

This is Book 3 in the Defenders of Justice series. The author writes with a brisk pace. She avoids side trips to restate events from previous novels. The title captures your curiosity and keeps you guessing until the end. You’re always wondering who will ultimately pull off a blind betrayal. The villains are sufficiently bad. Their web of deceit, illegal wrong-doings, and threatening behaviors keep the suspense taut. The good guys will not disappoint. One undercover agent proves trustworthy and is an essential ally.

Previously, Casey and E.J. had been partners in D.C. She left D.C. abruptly and moved to St. Louis, where the story reunites them. In D.C. Casey was in a relationship with E.J.’s best friend Jared. When Casey describes her relationship with Jared it’s clear why she leaves, but in my opinion one of her conclusions about this relationship is the only blemish in this story.

The surprise ending is full of tension. All subplots are resolved, and you can identify the characters who choose to betray their co-conspirators for personal gain. I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.