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If I’m Found, by Terri Blackstock 

You know that point when you get to almost the end of a book and you must keep turning pages at the speed of an airplane? That’s this book. Actually, it’s this series. (Please read If I Run before this one. While some things wrap up at the end of the individual books, you’ll miss out on the heart of the main story, because it goes way beyond these individual titles.)

If I’m Found follows Casey’s continuing flight for her life after being accused of murdering her friend. It finds her where the first book has left her… wondering where she can go that she’ll be safe for a little while. 

One of the discussion questions Terri Blackstock has included at the back of this book is, “What is the key thing about this book that will stay with you?” Discussion questions in books are kind of a hit or miss thing for me, but I really appreciated this one. The key thing that will stay with me from this book? Its emphasis on light. In the midst of so much darkness, it would be easy for Casey to focus on that, to only see the darkness of the evil surrounding her. But she sees a glimmer of light every now and then, a little reminder that she can still have hope. She is trying so desperately to embrace the fact that, though evil may put up a good facade and it may be spreading its lies, it will not win. Not in the end. 

I really contemplated what food could correlate with this book, and.. you know those energy cookie bites that are all over pinterest? Yeah.. that’s what I have to go with. This is such an energetic book. So fast-paced that sometimes you’re not sure you’re actually sitting still.

 

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The Illusionist’s Apprentice, by Kristy Cambron

This Jazz Age story sparkling with enchanting descriptions and believable characters makes my heart smile. 

The Illusionist’s Apprentice has many dark places… but at each turn and shadow, there lives the promise of light and the reminder that darkness and evil cannot win. In spite of brushes with death and hatred, main characters Wren and Elliott are determined to keep a hold on hope.

Rooted in history, well-researched truth mingles with fiction. Though the majority of the book takes place in the late 1920s, there are flashbacks of sorts throughout, giving us as readers bits of backstory. I at first thought I wanted more of that background early on… but as I really delved into the heart of the story, I changed my mind. Each look back gives a very timely peek into Wren’s locked-tight past, each glimpsing a little deeper than we’d seen before — until we really understand this complex young woman who is as adept an illusionist off the stage as she is on it. 

Kristy Cambron did an excellent job with this latest release, and I very much recommend it. 

I want to compare this one to vanilla bean scones. There is much assuredness of hand-in-hand in this book, of “I’ll be right here no matter what”, and of hope anchored in the midst of life’s storms… and there is such comfort in that. Vanilla bean scones just seem to speak of that kind of familiarity and constantness to me that I found in these pages, so they seem to fit well. 

 

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This Quiet Sky, by Joanne Bischof

I normally don’t cry in movies or books. I honestly don’t think I’ve *ever* cried in a book before.

Until now.

Now.. I’ve sobbed.

The incredible depth of this novella really surprised me; I typically think of novellas and short fiction as not having time to develop the characters enough to truly know and relate to them. This book has so much depth. I felt instantly that I had bonded with young Sarah Miller. And with Tucker O’Shay.

Joanne Bischof showed her talent with This Quiet Sky. Descriptions that encompassed my senses. Characters who leapt from the pages (or rather, from my ipod, since I listened via Audible). Scenery that transported me in a very realistic sense to the hills of Appalachia in the late 1800s, not all that far from where my own family has roots. All of these were present in this story.

This book captured me at a level I’m not sure I knew was possible. Down into the very depths of my soul.

My heart ached for Sarah, for Tucker. I connected with them, with Tucker’s need of a good friend, with Sarah’s compassion and desire to reach out to him. Although very different circumstances, I can relate to the fear that I know Tucker felt, because I’m a survivor of the disease that he had. I’m sure he had friends prior to this diagnosis, and I hurt for what he lost. Tucker’s thoughts and the way he pondered life, the way he set out to enjoy the moments that he had, dreaming as if he had all the time in the world, living with a grateful-to-God heart for his every breath.. these traits wove such a real character. I can relate to Sarah, as her heart breaks for Tucker, for his family, for herself… because I have been on this side too.

If you have the opportunity, I highly encourage you to listen to Gail Shalan read this book. She added a uniquely beautiful dimension to an already heartwarming, soul-gripping, tear-provoking book. I will be adding the paperback to my permanent book collection, but I will absolutely be listening to this audio book again and again as well. Very rarely do I feel like I could finish a book, turn back to page one, and begin again immediately. This book compels me to do so.

I would liken this story to dark chocolate. Very dark chocolate. Something like Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Soiree. The blend of flavors is delicate and perfect. But so very intense, daring you to take the next bite. Go ahead. Do it. Listen. Read. I can’t promise you won’t cry — in fact, I’d encourage you to be free to let this story affect you deeply and permanently. Let God use it in your heart. You will not regret it. And as you let God speak to you through this little book, be reminded of the truth that His eye is on the sparrow… and we can know that He’s watching us too.

 
 

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The Pawn, by Steven James 

This one was a reread for me, and I have to say that it was just as good my second time through.

Steven James is one of the most talented storytellers I’ve ever encountered within the pages of a book. In-depth characters, twisty plots, complex storytelling.. all of these are major qualities in Steven James’ writing. It’s so so good. He knows how to truly captivate his readers and relate to them. Even as he writes about an FBI detective tracking serial killers.

I love that he doesn’t shy away from asking hard questions. Rather, he tackles them head-on. Many topics addressed are far from being black and white.. I really appreciate that he has the courage and takes the initiative to write these subjects and questions into his books.

The Pawn is the fast-paced story of Patrick Bowers as he sets out to catch a bad guy.. a really bad guy who thinks of the graphic murders he’s so intricately linked together as a game. Between all the dead ends Patrick faces with the case and the brick walls he finds himself up against with his teenage stepdaughter, he begins to realize that maybe he doesn’t quite have life figured out as well as he’d once thought.

This book is like a bag of barbecue potato chips. Quite addictive. Much like you find yourself reaching for another chip again and again, this tale and its intensity keep you turning page after page.

* Although the first published Patrick Bowers novel, I highly recommend reading the prequels prior to this so you get the big picture and the full effect of the mystery. I didn’t have that luxury since I read this one way before the prequels existed, but this time around I’m enjoying the opportunity to read them chronologically.

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2017 in Fiction, Murder, Steven James, Suspense

 

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A Royal Christmas Wedding, by Rachel Hauck

This book is #4 in The Royal Wedding Series. While I believe it’s not crucial that you read the previous three books before reading this one, it would definitely give you more of the big picture. And really, why not read the whole series?! 🙂 

Cheery, bright, and Christmasy… A Royal Christmas Wedding is a story of love and trust… and forgiveness.

Southern girl Avery Truitt tells herself that she’s over Prince Colin of Brighton. She tells herself that, but in her most honest moments, she knows it’s not true. When she and Mama decide to spend the Christmas season in Brighton with Avery’s sister, she knows she must put a mask on, because she can’t risk letting Colin see how much she still hurts.

The old Pembroke bell rings mysteriously at the end of the Harvest Celebration, causing all of Brighton begins to buzz with questions and anticipation — will the historic tradition be brought back to life.. will whoever rang the bell for his true love marry her on Christmas morning? Who rang it.. and for whom?

Rachel Hauck has a very fun storytelling style, and the way she combines the south with royalty to create modern day fairy tales.. there’s just nobody quite like her.

I think I’d liken this book to a red velvet truffle. Small but heartwarming and sweet, it’s like a party treat – between all the softly falling snow and the dream-like beauty of Cathedral City, I almost felt like I was in a snowglobe.. except we haven’t really had snow here lately.. If you’re accustomed to judging books by their titles, you might hear this one and think it’s fluff. But it’s really not. It’s a sweet story about trusting God and others. So much depth inside this little book… while still feeling pretty light.

P.S. The epilogue is adorable. While I loved this book, the epilogue just might be my favorite part.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2017 in Christmas, Fiction, Rachel Hauck, Romance, Royalty, Wedding

 

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Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful, by Susan May Warren 

Light and romantic, this story takes place in mountainous Montana. I’ve never been there, but I find myself fascinated with stories (and pictures!) of Montana, so the setting of this novella was a bonus for me.

Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful is the fun, cute, quick-moving story of Hannah and CJ and their personal struggles to find the courage inside themselves that everyone else already sees — including each other. They survive a horrific plane crash together, but in spite of their mutual attraction, they each manage to block the other from seeing how much their hearts need that connection… so they spend the following months both denying it. They surely both read more into it than was there, right? Yet they cling to their shared time online, talking as they team up to fight off zombies and save orphans in a game that gives them both false pictures of bravery.

This was my first-ever story by Susan May Warren, and I have to say, I liked it! I should probably have read the others in her Montana Fire series prior to this, but that didn’t scare me away. It was the equivalent of a cream puff. Very light, even with the struggles both main characters deal with.

Also, I listened to this via Audible, and Jackson Nickolay did a great job. I’m kind of picky about narrators, and while some of his voices for the characters (read: CJ’s little sister, for one..) weren’t exactly on my top favorites list, overall I really enjoyed his reading and voices.

(This is a novella. Mine says it’s the extended edition… I don’t really know what is extended, but I’m guessing that maybe the non-extended version doesn’t have the epilogue. And if that’s the case, make sure you read the extended one. Because you’ll be missing out if you don’t!) 

 
 

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The Piano Girl: Counterfeit Princess, by Sherri Schoenborn Murray

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but whatever it was, this book wasn’t it — it was so much more.

The Piano Girl: Counterfeit Princess was such a fun book. Even though I wanted to know what happened, I was truly very sad knowing I was coming up on the end of this story. I can always read it again, and I will, but there’s just something about reading a book for the first time that grabs my heart in a way that can never be with a reread. You just can never read a book for the first time twice. Profound, I know.

A well-written, imaginative story, this book by Sherri Schoenborn Murray has believable characters that I feel like I now know intimately. I really can’t rave enough. As I listened via Audible, as opposed to reading a paper copy, I would be negligent to not also tell you about the narrator. As much as I loved the story itself, Sarah Zimmerman made it even better. Her voices and expression added depth to each character and really brought out the humor. She did a beautiful job.

Princess Alia of Blue Sky is a fairly spoiled girl who suddenly finds herself on a journey she could never have dreamt of, a journey that’s quite difficult and long, to meet the betrothed she doesn’t even know she has. Over the course of the trek, under the guise of chicken farmer’s daughter (it’s a dangerous, war-torn world, and the princess whose marriage will unite two kingdoms would be a perfect hostage), Alia learns much about herself, her privileged life, and the people of both her kingdom and those surrounding. She meets murderously mean citizens but also genuinely kindhearted, gentle souls, who would give away the little they have if they think it will benefit someone else. She’s deprived of many comforts and often frustrated by Felix, her “chicken farmer father”.

Many obstacles arise in Alia’s path… gypsies, learning to peel potatoes, not knowing who is to be trusted, giants, swamp pox, and an enchanted forest maze… just to name a few. Once she arrives at her destination, Yonder, Alia’s adventures continue. With so many girls impersonating her, though, Alia must be careful, lest she be deemed a counterfeit princess as well.

This book kept me guessing, kept me wanting “just one more chapter”. 🙂 I so enjoyed following along through Alia’s story of growth and true love.

I’d liken this story to a lava cake… on the surface it strikes you as a chocolate cake with the potential of being fabulous, but the inside holds surprises greater than you might have imagined.

(I apologize for any misspellings… Since mine is the Audible version, I never saw the text of this book, only heard it.)

 

 

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