Book Review: Until the Mountains Fall By Connilyn Cossette

Blurb:

Recently widowed, Rivkah refuses to submit to the Torah law compelling her to marry her husband’s brother and instead flees Kedesh, hoping to use her talents as a scribe to support herself. Without the protection of her father, Kedesh’s head priest, and the safety of the city of refuge, Rivkah soon discovers that the cost of recklessness is her own freedom.

Malakhi has secretly loved Rivkah for years, but he never imagined his older brother’s death would mean wedding her. After her disappearance, he throws himself into the ongoing fight against the Canaanites instead of dwelling on all he has lost. But with war looming over Israel, Rivkah’s father comes to Malakhi with an impossible request.

As the enemies that Rivkah and Malakhi face from within and without Israel grow more threatening each day, is it too late for the restoration their wounded souls seek?

General Thoughts:

I’ve read most of Connilyn’s books but one, which is the very first book she wrote (and is currently in my e-book library), and I can now say that I won’t be disappointed with any new book she writes (or maybe the correct words are I have confidence that I won’t be disappointed). Her strength as a writer is in her characters, her ability to draw out vivid and deeply felt personalities in each one of them, even the tertiary extras. With each word spoken from a character, I can almost see them on the page and envision their tone, personality, and expression.

Okay, so on with the story.

This story is the third installment of the Cities of Refuge series. You don’t have to read the other books to understand what takes place in this story, but it is a progression of what happened in the first and second books. In other words, characters from the first stories show up, but their roles are secondary and don’t affect the overall plot.

What I liked about this story, other than the authenticity of characters, was the underlying message, which is a theme in Connilyn’s books. It follows Rivkah, a young widow forced to marry Malakhi, the “annoying” little brother of her late husband. Of course Rivkah’s not interested, due to the childhood follies that occurred between her and Malakhi, and decides to run away when the opportunity arises.

As the story progresses, there is a transformation in Rivkah and Malakhi, one of overcoming rebellion, dealing with its consequences, and finding forgiveness, not only to others who were affected by one’s choices, but in one’s self. If you love transformation and redemption stories, this is a perfect example of that.

What I didn’t like? I gave this some thought and still struggled to find any real issues. I thought the pacing was well—each chapter served a purpose, either that of internal growth or evolution in Rivkah or Malakhi, or a progression of the plot. I didn’t find myself confused over anything, and there were several moments where something “shocking” or alarming happened that prevented me from putting the book down (even when I needed to). The only thing I would say is if you haven’t read the first two books, you might be curious to know why certain relationships between characters are the way they are, but even with that, I think Connilyn does a good job hinting at what led to such relationships.

In closing, I loved how the story wrapped up and I felt content as a reader. I also loved seeing a bit of the character who will be the heroine for the last book in the series that comes out next year.

Recommendation:

I would recommend this book to those who like biblical historical fiction or fiction that takes place during the biblical times, and those who love character driven stories that have messages of transformation and redemption.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. I did my best to find parts that were issues in the story, and honestly, there was none that kept me from turning the pages or asking questions that should be answered. I enjoyed the subtle suspense at times and the deep internal insight Rivkah and Malakhi had about themselves.

***This book was given to me by NetGallery for an honest review.***

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Book Review: The Number of Love By Roseanna M. White

The Number of Love Cover

Blurb:

The Toughest Puzzle She’ll Have to Solve
Might Be the Wishes of Her Own Heart

Three years into the Great War, England’s greatest asset is their intelligence network–field agents risking their lives to gather information, and codebreakers able to crack German telegrams for hints of the enemy’s plans. Margot De Wilde thrives in the environment of the secretive Room 40, where she spends her days deciphering intercepted messages. But when her world is turned upside down by an unexpected loss, she discovers for the first time in her life that numbers aren’t enough.

Drake Elton returns wounded from the field, followed by an enemy who just won’t give up. He’s smitten quickly by the quick and brainy Margot, but soon the dangers of the war draw ever closer. Margot and Drake will have to team up to save themselves from the very secrets that brought them together.

General Thoughts:

The strength of this story was in the characters. The author is good at creating complex and unconventional characters who are likeable and relatable. The story follows Margot, who’s a numbers girl decoding secret messages in the Great War of 1917. I have to be honest, I found it challenging to follow her communication in numbers, but overall, I understood her ambitions and view of the world.

I like the progressive spirit Margot had and how her newfound friendship with Dot and Drake—siblings, challenged that. She was the woman not interested in marriage and family, but mathematics, yet Dot and Drake forced her to consider one over the other, and if she could have both.

The story is full of subtle suspense and intrigue, starting with the questionable death of Margot’s mother. During the war, fear loomed that the enemy was threatening their territory with things like anthrax, so this lead Margot to go on her own investigation on the real cause of her mother’s death.

In addition, there’s another man (the antagonist) after Dot and Drake, avenging his brother’s death—the result of Drake’s actions (unintentional). This forced the three’s relationship to develop, and in the end, Margot was left to decide where she wanted her future to go.

Strengths, weaknesses?

As mention before, the characters’ personalities and beliefs were clear strengths. Each of the main characters, even secondary characters, was unique, distinguishable, and surprisingly likeable, in the case of the protagonist. With the protagonist, I understood his reasons for vengeance and even sympathize with him (though I did not agree with it).

For weaknesses, Margot’s use of numbers to communicate and understand things was confusing and threw me off at times. From a bird’s eye view, I knew what her mission and motivations were, it just took me longer to reach that.

Recommendation:

Yes, I would recommend this story. I believe it will appeal to those who like historical fiction, especially during the wartime era in Europe. Also readers who like character driven stories of people who are unconventional and bold, will enjoy this as well.

Rating:

4 out of 5 stars. The story was evenly paced. I didn’t feel any lulls, and each chapter served a purpose. The characters were well developed and it looked like the author spent a good amount of time making them unique.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

Book Review: Between Two Shores By Jocelyn Green

Between Two Shores Cover

Blurb:

The daughter of a Mohawk mother and French father in 1759 Montreal, Catherine Duval would rather remain neutral in a world tearing itself apart. Content to trade with both the French and the British, Catherine is pulled into the Seven Years’ War against her wishes when her British ex-fiancé, Samuel Crane, is taken prisoner by her father. Samuel claims he has information that could help end the war, and he asks Catherine to help him escape.

Peace appeals to Catherine, even if helping the man who broke her heart does not. But New France is starving, and she and her loved ones may not survive another winter of conflict-induced famine. When the dangers of war arrive on her doorstep, Catherine and Samuel flee by river toward the epicenter of the battle between England and France. She and Samuel may impact history, but she fears the ultimate cost will be higher than she can bear.

General Thoughts:

This author is all about the details, and that’s a good thing. From the very first chapter, I was thrown into a vivid world in mid 18th century America. I could feel the tension a high turmoil environment brought for Catherine, her family, and Samuel.

Catherine, a French-Mohawk woman, was caught between her French side and Mohawk side of the family. With the death of her mother, she made the decision to go to her French father, leaving her siblings behind. This isolated Catherine for a while, especially as she struggled to gain acceptance from her father, who showed very little of it. But when Englishman Samuel came into the picture as her father’s servant, they forged a friendship, which later turned into love.

Eventually Samuel escaped with the promise of reuniting and marrying Catherine, but that never happened. However as war ravaged on, he returned as his father’s servant, which led to greater challenges for Catherine, such as learning to forgive him for his failed promise and helping him flee once again from her father to deliver information that could end the war, in the British’s favor.

I like how the author created complicated characters. They weren’t predictable, knowing everything and having everything under control. This led to many surprises, especially on Samuel’s end. Catherine was the most compelling character to me, because she had the hardest battle to overcome: accepting reality and learning to forgive. This led to some self-reflection on my part. I considered my own reality, realizing that no matter how brave, strong-willed, or determined one is, there are some things one can’t control or change, especially in regards to people. However, one can always overcome and grow.

I will say the ending was bittersweet to me. I believe things ended as best as they could, giving what was revealed about the characters and plot. However, there were some things I wished wouldn’t have happened between Catherine, her family, and Samuel, which if you read the story, you will understand what I’m referring to. But then again, the story depicted the reality of a war-torn, high conflict world, so to me, it’s representation was believable.

Recommendation:

I would recommend this story to readers who enjoy historical fiction, especially American history. The author definitely did her homework, not holding back on the reality of the time period (mid-1700s). I also think readers who are looking for realism, characters who don’t always get a happily ever after, but who still reach a light at the end of the tunnel will like this book as well.

Rating:

4 out of 5 stars. This was a well-written story. The author was vivid in her world building and character behaviors. As I read each page, I could easily visualize the scenes and feel the tension. As a story that includes war, it can be a little graphic so for readers who are sensitive to this, they should be aware. Nevertheless, reading the story is worthwhile as it delivers a strong message of acceptance and forgiveness.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

Book Review: In Places Hidden By Tracie Peterson

In Places Hidden Cover

Blurb:

The search for her missing brother leads to the most dangerous part of the city . . .

Camrianne Coulter’s brother Caleb is a successful San Francisco attorney. But when three months go by without a word from the usually communicative Caleb, Camri boards a train to the booming West Coast city to find out for herself why he hasn’t written. When she arrives at his home, nobody seems to know where he is, or what has become of him.

Camri’s search for her brother leads her deep into the political corruption of the city–and into the acquaintance of Patrick Murdock, who Caleb successfully defended from a false murder charge. Getting to know this handsome Irish contractor challenges all of Camri’s privileged beliefs, but Patrick is unshakably loyal to her brother, and he seems to know more about what happened to Caleb than anyone else. As the two edge closer to the truth behind Caleb’s disappearance, they risk angering the powerful forces that control the city. Can Camri trust Patrick to protect her from the dangers that lie hidden in San Francisco’s backstreets?

General Thoughts:

I’ll start by saying that Tracie knows how to create authentic characters, characters who are believable in terms of what they say and do, and even how they speak. If nothing else, I enjoyed getting to know Camri and Patrick, even secondary characters such as her friends, Judith and Kenzie, and their caretakers, the Wongs.

In short, the plot centered on Camri traveling to San Francisco to find her lost brother Caleb. Upon her arrival, she met and quickly befriended Judith and Kenzie, who were embarking on their own mission to find lost relatives. They decided to stick together and support each other’s endeavors, first starting with Camri.

The women lived together in Caleb’s abandoned house, getting jobs and using their funds to survive and support the search for Caleb. Camri pretty much ended up doing the searching, looking into Caleb’s life and relationships, which eventually led her to Patrick.

To me, the strength of the story wasn’t in Camri looking for Caleb, but in how she developed as a person. Camri was quite progressive for her time, which was the early 1900s. She was all about women’s rights, fighting for them to get a proper education, advance their careers, and especially vote. In her dialogue with Judith and Kenzie, she was quick to challenge their ideas of wanting to get married and be homemakers. She believed every woman should want more.

This caused her to clash with them, including Patrick, but through some self searching and understanding their life stories, she came to realize that as smart and progressive as she was, she still had a lot to learn that could only be done through listening to people and taking the time to walk in their shoes.

With this, and the goal of finding Caleb, this made for an enjoyable read. I got through it fairly quickly and was happily surprised how things turned out with the Caleb situation. I think the author succeeded in keeping things unpredictable.

Recommendation:

Yes, I would recommend this story for those who not only love historical fiction, but who are interested in character development, seeing an internal transformation that can enlighten one to think about their own self and the world around them.

Rating:

4 out of 5 stars. I found this story to be a fairly good read. The plot was well developed without a predictable ending, and I like how believable the characters were. Especially where Camri and Patrick’s relationship was concerned, I like how the author made them acknowledge that though they loved each other, they still needed to get to know each other before rushing into things.

Book Review: Mind Games By Nancy Mehl

mind games cover

Blurb:

FBI Behavioral Analyst Kaely Quinn’s methods may be highly unorthodox, but her talent is undeniable. She’s done her best to establish a new life for herself after being demoted and transferred to St. Louis when a reporter revealed she’s the daughter of an infamous serial killer. But when that same reporter claims to have received an anonymous poem predicting a string of murders, ending with Kaely’s, it seems her old life has followed her.

When a body is found that fits the poem’s morbid predictions, Kaely and her new partner, Special Agent Noah Hunter, are forced to move past his skepticism of her approach and work together to unravel the deadly riddle.

With a brazen serial killer who breaks all the normal patterns on the loose, Noah and Kaely must race to catch the murderer before anyone else, including Kaely, is killed.

General Thoughts:

From the moment I opened up this book, I knew it was going to be interesting. Immediately I was given glimpses of the Kaely’s past, the tragedy that fell on her family, and what led her to pursuing a career in the FBI. This story doesn’t leave room for dull moments, and I can honestly say that was a major strength of it.

Kaely, though tough on her own, was a sympathetic character. She was immediately villainized by many in her community and members in the field due to her family background, which was out of her control. This led to an unknown killer who wanted her to pay for the sins of her family’s past, and I like how the author made it somewhat like a riddle to figure out who that killer was.

I kept wanting to turn the pages to see who that killer was. I like how the killer was connected to Kaely and not some random killer they’ve never seen before. This made the story more interesting, especially knowing that the killer could be someone she talks to every day.

Another strength of the story was the relationship between her and Noah, her FBI partner. After facing his own tragedy in losing his wife to an illness, he struggled to accept that God was real. I like how the author used Kaely, who is a believer, to explain how God was working in her life in a way that considered Noah’s lack of understanding. I think she made her points easy to comprehend.

In the end, I was a little surprised to find out who the killer was and it made sense. Sometimes it can be challenging to weave a thriller/mystery story together, but I have to say that this author succeeded. Though this story came to an end, I see that another book is coming out in 2019 with Kaely and Noah, so I can’t wait to see how their relationship unfolds and what other problems they face as FBI agents.

Recommendation:

I would recommend this to anyone who likes crime scene stories that weave thriller and mystery into them. Also who like stories that focus on characters with internal struggles and growth.

Rating:

4.5 out of 5 stars. The story kept me interested from start to finish. I think the pacing was good, there was always something going on, whether with the characters internally or the plot. I would have loved to see Noah’s personal transformation with the internal struggles he had, but I realized there’s another book coming out, so we may see it there. Great overall, and I would definitely recommend it. It won’t disappoint.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

Book Review: Shelter of the Most High By Connilyn Cossette

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Blurb:

The daughter of a pagan high priest, Sofea finds solace from her troubles in the freedom of the ocean. But when marauders attack her village on the island of Sicily, she and her cousin are taken across the sea to the shores of Canaan.

Eitan has lived in Kedesh, a city of refuge, for the last eleven years, haunted by a tragedy in his childhood, yet chafing at the boundaries placed on him. He is immediately captivated by Sofea, but revealing his most guarded secret could mean drawing her into the danger of his past.

As threats from outside the walls loom and traitors are uncovered within, Sofea and Eitan are plunged into the midst of a murder plot. Can they uncover the betrayal in time to save their lives and the lives of those they love?

General Thoughts:

I’ve read most of Connilyn’s books at this point and they continue to deliver deeply carved characters and intriguing plots. Though this is a standalone book, if you’ve read the first book in the series, A Light on the Hill, it continues with the story of Moriah’s (the main character in the first book) adopted son, Eitan. They now live under the protection of a city of refuge, Kedesh, however Eitan struggles to let go of the accidental tragedy that was placed on Moriah.

When Sofea and her cousin are brought into their lives, Eitan immediately is drawn to Sofea. Sofea is unsure about Eitan and his people. As she slowly learns his language, she begins to ask questions, which leads to Eitan revealing what Kedesh is and who his people are.

Sofea initially struggles to accept that Kedesh is a refuge for accused criminals, and that only strengthens Eitan’s struggle to accept what he did when he was a child. Even when he realizes he wants to spend the rest of his life with Sofea, his past becomes a barrier in making that possible.

Overall, this story is about redemption and forgiveness, not necessarily that which comes from others, but one’s self. Even as those around him, including Sofea later on, accept and understand him for who he is and what he’s done, he can’t seem to accept himself. It’s relatable to me and I believe it is for many. Often our unwillingness to forgive ourselves and offer ourselves redemption, prevents us from receiving the blessings and having the life that God wants us to have. In other words, living our life to the fullest.

It takes a near tragedy and Eitan potentially losing what he wants the most before he considers life as a forgiven man. As I read the story, Eitan’s internal journey resonated with me. As the plot unfolded, my interest increased and I felt I wasn’t reading the story anymore, but was a part of it. Connilyn is good with world and character building. I doubt they’ll be a story of hers that will disappoint me.

Recommendation:

Yes, I recommend this book to those who like biblical historical fiction and especially to those who are looking for themes of forgiveness and redemption. This author does a good job at getting to the heart of matter with her character arcs, really diving deep into their minds and creatively sorting out their problems. I also like how she uses their current circumstances to force them to come to terms with their demons inside.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. The story was evenly paced and the plot had enough high points and intrigue to keep my interest. There was a perfect balance between the character’s internal struggles and external struggles. I quickly identified with Eitan, which made me want to root for him and see how things end.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

Book Review: Together Forever By Jody Hedlund

togetherforvercover

Blurb:

Will the Mistakes of Their Past Cost Them a Chance at Love?

Determined to find her lost younger sister, Marianne Neumann takes a job as a placing agent with the Children’s Aid Society in 1858 New York. She not only hopes to offer children a better life, but prays she’ll be able to discover whether Sophie ended up leaving the city on an orphan train so they can finally be reunited.

Andrew Brady, her fellow agent on her first placing-out trip, is a former schoolteacher who has an easy way with the children, firm but tender and friendly. Underneath his charm and handsome looks, though, seems to linger a grief that won’t go away–and a secret from his past that he keeps hidden.

As the two team up, placing orphans in the small railroad towns of Illinois, they find themselves growing ever closer . . . until a shocking tragedy threatens to upend all their work and change one of their lives forever.

General Thoughts:

I’ve long enjoyed Jody’s stories and if you view my other reviews of her lighthouse series, you’ll notice that I gave them high ratings. The primary reason is due to her ability to create characters that are resonating, that I see a bit of myself in, thus feeling the weight of their fall, and the rise of their victory.

This story follows Marianne, one of the main characters. As I was reading, I realized that this story was the second book in the Orphan Train series, so this story was sort of a continuation of a character that was introduced in the first book. However, this did not make it difficult for me to understand and connect with her. The author did a seamless job in weaving in elements from Marianne’s past that influenced her goals and actions pursued in the story.

What carried the story for me and kept my interest was the interaction between Andrew and Marianne. I thought it was clever how the author brought them together as they were initially working partners set out to find families for the orphans in their care. The struggle with guilt that Andrew harbored inside related to his past negligence, as well as feelings of rejection and disappointing his family, was the strength of this story.

As things started to unfold, and Andrew’s reasons behind his hesitation to pursue a relationship with Marianne became clear, he was forced to confront the people that he was trying to get away from. He thought pushing Marianne to marry another man would solve his problems but I like how Marianne refused to give up on him and how through her, and the orphans who saw the genuine person inside him, he was able to forgive himself, accept God’s redemption, and have the life he truly wanted.

As far as weaknesses this story had, there were really none for me. The colorful dialogue that occurred between the orphans, Andrew, and Marianne as they traveled across the United States was humorous, lighthearted, and charming. There were no slow parts and every chapter had a purpose to the plot. I was sort of sad when I got to the end of the book because I still wanted to see what else unfolded in their lives.

If I have to nitpick, I was a little disappointed that Marianne’s personal goal was not fulfilled. From the beginning of the story, the reader is made aware that Marianne is searching her sister Sophie who was separated from her some time ago. While Marianne’s goal is to place the orphans with families as they travel from New York to Illinois, she also hopes to find Sophie, or at least get some leads to where she could be.

Long story short, she never finds Sophie or gets any leads. It seems the drama with Drew and her clouds her pursuit, which is realistic. Finding Sophie wasn’t necessary the goal of the plot, but I couldn’t help having thoughts of where she could be lingering in my head.

Perhaps in the next book we’ll find out what became of Sophie.

Recommendation:

Yes, I would recommend this book to everyone, unless you’re really not a fan of historical fiction. I think the character of Andrew Brady was the strength of this story, due to his personal battles of guilt and struggle to accept forgiveness and redemption. I think those are universal issues that will resonate with a lot of people.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. I really loved the characters and the orphans were very endearing. The book moved at a balanced speed and every chapter had a purpose, not getting carried away. Even with the disappointment of not finding out what happened to Sophie, I still ended the book feeling that the story came full circle.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***