Showing posts with label Book Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Reviews. Show all posts

Saturday, September 4, 2021

A Bittersweet Surprise by Cynthia Ellingsen Reviewed

 Reading a book set in a chocolate shop just sounds like a delicious way to spend a few hours, don't you think?

Reviewing A Bittersweet Surprise by Cynthia Ellingsen
Bittersweet Surprise by Cynthia Ellingsen - Buy Here!

Now as much as I love a good murder mystery or dark psychological thriller I also like to read some light-hearted, feel-good fiction on occasion and this book by Cynthia Ellingsen definitely falls into that category.

I have never read any of Cynthia Ellingsen's books before so I wasn't sure what to expect, but she wrote the characters really well and I found myself invested in Emma's life.   I was really happy when I finished this book to discover that there were two other books written that are based in Starlight Cove (where this novel is based) and you can be sure they are being queued in my Kindle!

The main heroine of this story is called Emma and always wants to see the best in people and help people.  Like many other people with this trait, she's not so great at accepting help!  She is running a chocolate shop in Starlight Cove that her late father opened.

Prominently displayed in the chocolate shop is a painting of Emma as a child that is titled The Girl with the Butterscotch Hair.  We are introduced to this painting right at the beginning of the story and it is part of a mystery that runs through the book.

I love the layers of different stories that run through the book bringing it together in a delicious read that would only be better on a lazy Sunday afternoon if enjoyed with a Chocolate Dream (something served in the Starlight Cove Sweetery that we also get introduced to on the first couple of pages).

Emma's need to help anyone that needs it extends to strangers as well and one of the storylines that weave through this novel centres around a woman and her child who start off as strangers before becoming friends.   

We also get to meet Emma's best friend, her grandmother, stepmother and many other Starlight Cove residents.  Each person we read and the stories they bring to the novel helps to enrich it and create a rich tapestry of Emma's life.   There is also a little love interest that is introduced although it doesn't dominate the story, it's just another thread in the book.

If you're looking for a light-hearted book to whisk yourself away to another world for a couple of hours then I recommend reading this one and transporting yourself to Starlight Cove.

I got to enjoy this book for $0 as part of my Kindle Unlimited membership - I highly recommend this membership if you enjoy reading, I liken it to a virtual library card.





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Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Boy From The Woods by Harlan Coben – Book Review

 


A man with a mysterious past must find a missing teenage girl in this shocking thriller by Harlan Coben


The Plot


A high school girl who was relentlessly bullied, disappears. No one seems to take it seriously, but a classmate is worried. When Matthew asks his grandmother (the well-known television criminal attorney, Hester Crimstein) for help in finding her, Hester asks Wilde to use his unique skills to help find Naomi.


Thirty years ago, Wilde was found as a boy living feral in the woods, with no memory of his past, not even that of his name. But his unique tracking abilities and knowledge of the woods give him an advantage in looking for Naomi.


To do this, Wilde must also go back into the community where he has never fit in and confront the powerful whose wealth and fame protect them even when they harbor secrets that could destroy the lives of millions.  Wilde must uncover these secrets before it is too late.


A Few of the Many Outstanding Reviews of The Boy From the Woods


"The Boy from the Woods  is as much an action as a psychological thriller, as much a riveting read as a superb character study in which Coben challenges himself by taking his story outside his suburban comfort zone. A must-read for any mystery or thriller fan."―Providence Journal


"The crafty Coben knows how to weave a compelling story with intriguing characters, and Wilde is one of his best . . . The narrative veers into such unexpected directions that even a true thriller aficionado will not see the multiple surprises the ending delivers."  ―Associated Press 


"There may be no other thriller writer alive today who has mastered that fundamental trick of the genre. When you start a new Coben novel, or just pick one up and read the jacket copy, you know that nothing will unfold as it seems. You can be assured that surprises will keep appearing until the final page."―BookTrib


My Opinion


Available on Amazon

The character study is one of the most fascinating Coben has ever come up with. And the ending was a complete surprise. I recommend The Boy From The Woods to all who love suspense, thrillers and mystery. 


More Book Reviews by Harlan Coben:


Read more Mystery book reviews on


*Book Review of The Boy From the Woods written by 

Wednesday Elf







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Saturday, August 21, 2021

Reviewing The Whitby Murders by J R Ellis

Have you ever been to an Escape Room?   After reading this murder mystery novel you may have second thoughts about participating in an Escape Room adventure.

Reviewing The Whitby Murders by J R Ellis
Image created via Canva



Apparently, this novel is the 6th in J R Ellis' Yorkshire Murder Mystery series.  I should probably have started with novel number 1.   Having said that this book stood on its own two feet and is fine to read as a standalone mystery (although I will definitely be looking at reading the rest of these).

Whitby, a Yorkshire coastal town in England's North is closely associated with Bram Stoker's Dracula and since the early 90s has hosted a music festival called the Whitby Goth Weekend twice a year.   The setting of this murder is in Whitby, during the Goth Weekend, and while taking part in an Escape Room.

I have read books that have used music festivals as a setting for murder and also some Gothic-themed novels, but I've never read a book that was actually set in an Escape Room.   I loved the idea and although I realized fairly early on about one thing, I totally missed a few other things so I loved finding out how everything tied together at the end.

If you enjoy murder mysteries then I really recommend this one.  As a book, it is not one that deals in gory as much as the mystery side of a murder mystery and is perfect for people who love putting puzzles together.

I enjoyed reading this book as part of my Kindle Unlimited membership which I always describe as a library membership with Amazon's Kindle store.

Other reviewers who have read some (or all) of the previous novels in J R Ellis's Yorkshire Murder Mystery series have said this is the weakest in the series which means I am even more keen to read the others.  I do have to agree with a few of the comments, however - the actual procedures that took place would not have been allowed to happen in real life, but it's a work of fiction so I didn't mind it!

DCI Oldroyd is the 'star' of these novels and one of the witnesses to the initial murder is his adult daughter who calls him and asks him to investigate.   As far as police procedures go it wasn't on his patch and he obviously had a personal bias.   I was able to put this aside and just enjoy the mystery, but if you like the procedures to be followed (like a number of the reviewers that I've read) then you might want to give it a miss.   I think you'll be missing out, but ...

So I have two questions to ask you - have you ever been to an Escape Room?  Also, have you ever read any of the books in this series by J R Ellis?   I must admit I have been thinking about trying an Escape Room for a while, but now I will be extremely careful as to who I participate in one with!



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Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Soul of an Octopus - Book Review

The Soul of an Octopus
Oh! From start to finish, The Soul of an Octopus had me utterly mesmerized. Such wonder. I continue to find myself in the awest state of awe (and if that isn't a word, I hereby declare it).

Who knew this creature was so magnificent in every way?  Well, Wilson knew.  And Bill, along with Scott and everyone who had the enormous privilege of intimate engagement with Athena, Octavia, Karma, and Kali.  And now, every single one of us who accepts the invitation to be wowed, and wooed, and wonderized will know.

There is plenty to give rise to a constant state of astonishment.  Three hearts for starters.  Eight arms that function like brains.  A kaleidoscopic flashing of stunning colors and patterns—dizzying in speed and intensity.  

Suction power beyond belief.  Just imagine a quarter ton of lifting and pulling capacity in one tiny body (all contained in small suckers that can untie delicate knots, unscrew lids, manipulate intricate puzzle parts, and discern your body chemistry).  

Then, there is the escapist element.  To be the Houdini of all Houdinis is something quite spectacular.  Give an octopus an inch of opportunity and that octo will, impossibly, ooze through the tiniest of gaps with a fluidity that should be impossible.  Should be.  But isn't.

This is much more than a read.  Truly, to enter into the Soul of an Octopus is to find oneself deep-diving into the lost paradise of Atlantis.  It is a portal into great mystery, majesty, and yes, I admit, there will be mortality.  Life demands it.

From the tanks of the New England Aquarium, to exhilarating open water octopus encounters, breathtaking moments will find you, move you, and capture your heart.  

Which brings us back to the three hearts...

More than anything, I was struck by how encounters with an octopus transformed all she held in thrall: a despairing autistic teen who had recently lost her best friend to suicide; an aquarist with a wife in hospice; a developmentally different twin who exulted in being liked by Karma.  

But wait—how can an invertebrate stir such emotions, such obsession, such desire to connect at the deepest of levels?  What is this?  Is this a soul connection?

Ah, now we are asking questions that have no neat and tidy answers.  Yet, these are questions that bring us beyond ourselves.  No matter the viewpoint, and there are plenty of perspectives regarding what constitutes soul, to embrace that there is more to this oceanic creature than meets the eye is to embrace a deeper sense of ourselves in relationship to that magnificent mystery.  

An expansion of consciousness can happen in that space between the knowing and the not knowing (if, like the octopus, we become fluid enough to flow through the impossibly possible).  

I encourage you to dive deep into this wonderland.  I consider The Soul of an Octopus to be one of the most exquisite books I have read this year.  Highly recommended.









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Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Taming the Paper Tiger – Book Review


Just about everyone has – currently or in the past – had clutter in their lives. Many books have been written (with several reviewed here on
ReviewThisReviews) about dealing with that dreaded CLUTTER, including closets stuffed with clothes no longer worn, drawers so full they won't open, and random stacks of 'stuff' that have been in place so long you no longer remember what is in the pile. 


Author Barbara Hemphill, a professional organizer, has written several books dealing with clutter. This one I am reviewing – Taming the Paper Tiger – deals with MY biggest bug-a-boo – PAPER. 


Source: Pixabay

I have managed to keep the majority of unneeded clutter out of my life, but when it comes to paperwork I tend to let days ~ yea, even weeks ~ go by without dealing with it. I can't explain it – I have all sorts of file organizers and notebooks and To-Do Lists, and even a scheduled 'day' each week to deal with it – and I'm always behind because I tend to look at a pile, turn around and walk away. Now I have 'piles' of unsorted papers stacked in several places and in more than one room. Sometimes I move a pile – sometimes I even deal with a few papers from a pile – but I never catch up! Thus, the procurement of this book Taming the Paper Tiger – Organizing the Paper in your Life!


The Book


Available on Amazon
Taming the Paper Tiger deals with ~ simply ~ the 'paper' in your life. This includes bills and tax information, but also keeping track of family records, the memorabilia of your family, your photographs, and your files. There is even a section on cleaning up the files in your computer. 




Key Points


I found several key points that 'spoke' to me when I first began to utilize the tips in this book to get control of my paperwork.


One tip I particularly liked was the reminder to 'forget' about the backlog.  Barbara states that to develop an effective paper management system starts with stop feeling guilty about yesterday's piles. Instead, do something with TODAY'S. In other words, start with today's mail and work backwards. 


Source: Pixabay

One of my favorite chapter headings is called “Master the 
Art of Wastebasketry”. I can relate to that! I find it quite tempting to throw ALL my piles of paper into the wastebasket right now. But, no – something important and/or valuable would be lost forever.  So – onward in an 'organized' way. 


We all know about sorting into related piles your bills, action papers, reference papers, to read pile and to write pile, family records and – that very difficult to control pile because we (and the kids) never want any of their work thrown away – the children's papers. The author gives us outlines of each of these in this book, which all makes sense as soon as we (I) admit that I am a “Paperholic”. 


Summary


Source: Pixabay

I have purposely kept this review lighthearted, and not gone into a lot of detail as each chapter deals with learning to control your paper and the chapter headings are self-explanatory. But paper management can be a real (and sometimes a really serious) problem for many people. Personally, I DO want (and need) to get the paper in my life under control and bring 'order' to the 'chaos', and am finding that “Taming the Paper Tiger” is helping.  


So, if stacks of papers are encroaching on your space or you frequently move piles of paper from one side of the desk (or room) to the other or you plan to 'sort' everything out as soon as you have some time, than you may find Barbara Hemphill's book Taming the Paper Tiger exactly what you need to read. Her paper management system and strategies are very helpful.


Additionally, Barbara Hemphill has also written other paper organizing books, including 'for the home' and 'for the office' and 'at work', whether you work in an office or from home.  If you need to know what to toss and how to find the rest, she also has a book about that.


Whatever your paper management needs are, Taming the Paper Tiger and Barbara Hemphill's other management system books will prove to be beneficial to anyone, like me, who finds 'dealing with paper' overwhelming.


*Reviewer's Note: The book I own is simply called 'Taming the Paper Tiger'. It is the fourth edition published in 1997. The current book available is called "Taming the Paper Tiger at Home" - Fifth Edition. Same book with expanded title and different cover.


Quick Links to Other Clutter Control Books and Organizing Suggestions Reviewed by our Contributors here on Review This Reviews



For more organizing tips and tricks reviewed here on Review This Reviews, just do a search for 'clutter'


*Taming the Paper Tiger by Barbara Hemphill – book review written by ~

Wednesday Elf






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Thursday, August 12, 2021

Book Review of The Beekeeper's Promise

 

The Beekeeper's Promise is a work of historical fiction that takes place in the World War II era.  It portrays two women of courage.  The first is Eliane, who lives in a small town in France during the the war and the second is Abi who visits that small town in 2017. The chapters in the book alternate between Eliane's story and Abi's story.

First Storyline

Eliane lives in rural France and we hear her story starting in the late 1930's near the beginning of World War II.  She lives on the Count Comte's Bellevue estate and she is employed as a kitchen assistant in the main chateau.  One of the duties she loves is taking care of the many beehives.  She does an excellent job and the Count arranges for some additional beehives to be moved from a nearby farm for Eliane to also mange.  When the beehives are moved Matthieu oversees the move and Eliane and Matthieu soon develop a close relationship.
The story then evolves as the chateau is taken over by the Nazi's and the Count moves out to a side cottage.   Eliane continues on with her duties with the bees and in the kitchen.  Without giving away more of the story I will say that Eliane and many of the others become involved in the war effort.  The French resistance is very much a part of this novel and the courage of those involved is evident.  I found it to be a very interesting and educating book.

Second Storyline

Abi, who lives near London, is recovering from an accident and severe depression.  Her friend talks her into attending a Yoga retreat in a small French town.  During the retreat Abi wanders off into the French countryside and gets herself lost.  A storm comes up and Abi is rescued by Sara who is driving by in the area.  Sara brings her to her home to wait out the storm.  It turns out that her home is the former estate of Count Comte.  Sara and her husband Thomas have turned the estate into a wedding venue.  It is the height of the wedding season and a key employee has taken ill.  Abi stays to help and during her stay Sara tells her the story of Eliane.  Through this story, which is told gradually over the weeks that Abi is working at the wedding venue, Abi realizes that she too can be strong and face the future.






My Recommendation

This was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed.  In fact I think I will recommend it for my book club to read.  I loved all of the characters and the author, Fiona Valpy, did an excellent job of making me feel that I was part of the story.  It was one of those books that carried the characters with me long after I had finished reading.



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Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Ocean Prey by John Sandford – A Book Review



Mystery Writer John Sandford has written 30 books in the Lucas Davenport 'Prey' Series and 12 books in the Virgil Flowers Series. With Prey Series Book #31, Sandford combines these two entertaining characters into one story and has them working together to solve a crime. 


Ocean Prey is a Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers Novel.


Main Characters in John Sandford's two well-known suspense/mystery series.


The Virgil Flowers Series


The  main character of the series, Virgil Flowers, is described as tall, lean, late thirties, three times divorced, with long hair. He often wears t-shirts featuring rock bands. Virgil works at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). He is good friends with Lucas Davenport and is frequently mentioned in various 'Prey' novels.


The Lucas Davenport 'Prey' Series


Davenport has been a police officer, a Minneapolis detective and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator.  In later books, including Ocean Prey, he now works for the U.S. Marshall's Office.  Lucas is tall with black hair, gray at the temples, blue eyes, and dark complexion.


Although each character has been mentioned occasionally in each other's series (as they are friends), this is the first book where they are featured working together on the same case.


Synopsis of Ocean Prey



Fan-favorite heroes Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers join forces on a deadly maritime case   


An off-duty Coast Guardsman, fishing with his family, spots a snazzy craft with extra horsepower picking up a surfaced diver who was apparently alone without a boat in the middle of the ocean. This doesn't make sense. The Coast Guardsman calls in this suspicious behavior.  The three Guardsmen who come out to investigate are shot and killed.


Since they are federal officers killed on the job, the FBI investigates. When the case stalls out, the FBI calls in the U.S. Marshall's office in the form of Lucas Davenport and his team. 


When the case turns lethal, Davenport brings in a detective whose biggest asset is having a fundamentally criminal mind: Virgil Flowers. 

Working undercover posing as a deep sea diver, with Davenport and the FBI supporting him in the background, Virgil infiltrates the group of notorious drug runners operating off the coast of Miami. They want the men responsible for the deaths of the Coast Guardsmen, but also the head of the organization which has been bringing in tons of illegal drugs in an unusual way. The main goal is to shut down the entire operation once and for all. 


Summary


Ocean Prey brings us an outstanding and exciting story starring Sandford's two favorite characters, Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers. This may be a suspenseful mystery story, but it is also filled with humor of the type frequently used by police personnel to lesson the tension.  The jokes and wisecracks among the characters made me smile often, and actually laugh out loud in two places. A very enjoyable read. 


Quick Links:



Ocean Prey Book Review written by

Wednesday Elf





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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Book Review of WIN by Harlan Coben

Book Review of the Harlan Coben novel WIN

Best-selling author Harlan Coben has written 18 Non-series stand-alone suspense books, the latest of which is WIN. Coben is also well-known for his Myron Bolitar series. Throughout the Bolitar series, we follow the interaction between Myron and his best friend and 'side kick' in solving crimes, Windsor Horne Lockwood III - or Win. It wasn't until I began reading Coben's newest book WIN that I realized the story was about Myron's friend.


For the first time, we get the true inside story of Win. Myron Bolitar is not featured in this book, except for a few references about the two of them together.  Instead, for the first time, this book gives us the background on the Win we have known and loved throughout the Bolitar series.


Windsor Horne Lockwood III (Win) is an extremely wealthy man with impeccable taste and a personal approach to justice that too often lands him on the wrong side of the law.


Synopsis


When the FBI takes Win to a murder scene in the upper West Side apartment of a recluse, Win doesn't know why. Then he sees two objects there, a stolen Vermeer painting and a suitcase bearing the initials WHL3 - his initials


Win is baffled how his family heirlooms came to be in a dead man's apartment. All he knows is that they were stolen from Lockwood Manor over twenty years ago when his Uncle was murdered and his cousin Patricia was kidnapped. Even though Patricia escaped her captors, they were never apprehended, the murder of her father was never solved, and the stolen items were never recovered. 


Now the FBI reveals that the murder victim in the apartment was also the mastermind behind a notorious act of domestic terrorism. Win must figure out the connection between the two cases. 


Summary


WIN by Harlan Coben

A dead man's secrets lead our hero down a dangerous road in this thriller from the author of the Myron Bolitar series – where we first meet Win. Harlan Coben writes with wit and irony in each of his suspenseful outings . A master storyteller ~ always a delightful read.


Quick Links to more reviews of Harlan Coben:

  • Book Review of CAUGHT by Wednesday Elf
  • TV Series Review of THE STRANGER by Lou16 aka Louanne Cox
  • Book Review of WIN by Wednesday Elf


*Book Review of WIN by Harlan Coben written by 

~Wednesday Elf






Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Thursday, July 15, 2021

Catching Dawn - Book Review

To what lengths would you go to keep a promise to a stranger?  To whom would you turn when fulfilling that promise proved to be beyond the scope of what you alone could do?

Catching Dawn starts as a rescue story that becomes a story, within a story, within a story.  There is the story of what it means to rewrite your own story as you do everything within your power to help the ones barely surviving.

And then there is the story of how the strays of the world find their belonging, their purpose, their peace.

Nested within those stories are the circular beginnings and endings where the lines blur between having rescued and having been the one most in need of saving.

When Melissa Armstrong is approached by a stranger about helping a litter of newborn puppies born to a dog living on the streets, she is quick to take on the mission.  After all, how hard could it be to gather up a nursing dog and her babies?

It turns out that a highly traumatized dog is one of the hardest things anyone could ever attempt to catch.  Six months of failures could have been the end of that story (and the end of those frail puppies).  Instead, this book reveals how both humans and animals in desperate need helped one another rise above those initial failures.

As a young girl, Armstrong grew up feeling there was something wrong with her that made her unlovable.  She felt out of place and knew great loneliness.  Her inner stray could relate to the fear and lack of trust displayed by dogs that felt a need to hide and avoid the kind of pain associated with people.

While going to great lengths to catch a dog that did not want to be caught, Armstrong simultaneously found herself catching the things that had proven so elusive during her earlier years: feeling loved, being needed, and discovering the embrace of a real family.

Having been immersed in challenging dog rescue scenarios, there was much that resonated for me in these embedded stories of transformation, friendship, and healing.  The writing revealed the beauty and wonder of the truest of relationships.  This book reminded me to never take for granted the many gifts offered up by my animals every single day.  It deepened my gratitude for how my rescue dogs have helped me rewrite my story.  

There are no small promises when lives are hanging in the balance.  There are no lengths too great when it comes to living out our promises.  Catching Dawn inspires us to be the promise needed in this world.





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Friday, July 9, 2021

A Better Country Book Series by Kristina Hall Reviewed

A Better Country Book Series
When I received a request to review "To the Uttermost", which is book 2 of A Better Country series by Kristina Hall, I quickly agreed to read it.  However, I wanted to start with book 1, "Strangers and Pilgrims" and I'm really glad I did.  

Reading Strangers and Pilgrims first allowed me the opportunity to get to know the main characters in the series.  Understanding their background and the struggles this created family survived, helped me appreciate and understand them.  I doubt I would have grasped the depth and reason for their close relationships without the revelations of book one.

Both books caused me to really stop and think about several things. When reading books, hearing stories, or visiting battleground sites of the American Civil War, I often consider how families were forever changed.  Reading a book, even a fiction book, about a soldier who returned home to find his parents dead and his home town overrun by the enemy, is not a scenario I previously considered. However, I have no doubt it is a plausible plot and was, most likely, a reality for far too many at that time in history.

As long as the reader keeps in mind that there are evil people in every region of every country and doesn't get locked up on Civil War sides, I believe "Strangers and Pilgrims" offers an excellent message for all.

It is unlikely anyone would struggle with the content in "To the Uttermost", but you will want the background provided in "Strangers and Pilgrims". 

 

Strangers and Pilgrims Synopsis

In book 1 of A Better Country series, Harry Reiner has just returned to his home town in Texas and to a very unwelcome reception.  He is easily identifiable as a Confederate soldier in this town overrun by Yankees, and they are intolerant of his presence.  He is shot and left for dead in the middle of the street. Only one woman has the courage to come to his aid.  

Rose Kendrick previously stood up against the self-appointed leader of the town, Edwin Burton, and is almost an outcast herself. She survives by taking in laundry, but once she takes in Harry, her business completely dries up. She finds herself, her home, and her loved ones under physical attack. 

Sally Guilford is an orphan who was previously taken in by Rose.  She is Rose's helper, adopted daughter, and biggest defender. Sally is also Rose's greatest area of weakness and evil people are not beyond threatening or even harming a child.

Doyle is an adult man who is Rose's only friend in town. Every time Rose is under attack, Doyle comes to her defense, which puts him in great danger.  Because he has previously taken a bullet while defending Rose, his physical strength is limited.

These four individuals don't stand much of a chance against a lawless town full of enemies lead by a vengeful and spiteful leader.

------

Throughout this book, Christians are reminded that they are "strangers and pilgrims on the earth".  (Hebrews 11:13)

 

To The Uttermost Synopsis

Book 2 of the series picks up a few years later where Harry Reiner and his family are living on his parents horse farm, but the book begins in the wilderness of Colorado with Owen Lockart and his 3 brothers escorting a captured outlaw to jail. 

The outlaw is a member of Vic Guilford's gang. When the 4 brothers are ambushed by the gang, only Owen survives.  He vows revenge for his brother's murders. 

Owen heads to a farm in Texas (Harry Reiner's farm) where Guilford's sister lives. He believes the brother will visit his sister there and give him opportunity to exact revenge.  Since Harry is familiar with the Lockart farm and their excellent horses, he doesn't hesitate to hire Owen.  Of course, Harry has no knowledge of Owen's true intentions.

When the area farms are hit by rustlers, Harry and his workers establish around the clock watches. When the rustlers attack his farm, they kill one of his men and shoot Harry.  All of the remaining workers, except Owen, quit. They don't believe defending Reiner and his farm are worth their lives. 

Once again, Harry finds himself wounded and fighting a battle with little help.  Unfortunately, his one remaining healthy worker has ulterior motives and Vic Guilford is back in town.  Owen will go to great extremes to take down Guilford, but when another's life is threatened, will he go to the uttermost?

------

The message of this book is clear as we watch how a desire for revenge will eat away at someone's character and overshadow all else.  

 

My Recommendation

Both of these books deal with the insidious nature of anger, hate, & revenge.  Conversely, they also include kindness, love, & forgiveness.  

Too often, books can make forgiveness look easy and don't really explore the depths of emotions.  I don't believe that is the case with either of these books.  I think the author did an excellent job of walking us through the events, as well as the hearts and thoughts of those involved.  She didn't try to make it all look simple or effortless, and everything isn't tied up neatly with the bow of Christianity.  

We all struggle with being humans.  I highly recommend this series to believers who recognize we are strangers on this earth seeking Him to the uttermost.





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Monday, July 5, 2021

Blink of an Eye – Book Review

 

by Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen



Readers of the mystery genre may be familiar with best-selling author Iris Johansen, who is well-known for her Eve Duncan forensic sculptor series. To date, she has written 25 books in this series. She is also the author of 22 non-series books and 4 books with Catherine Ling as the main series character, who is a shadowy CIA operative raised on the streets of Hong Kong 


In 2012, she began a new series with a new character, Kendra Michaels, who has keen senses from being blind for 20 years. Kendra now uses those exceptional senses as a consultant to the FBI and local authorities to solve difficult cases. What makes this series different from her other novels is it is written in conjunction with Iris Johansen's son Roy.


Roy Johansen is an author in his own right, having published three mystery novels prior to collaborating with his mother on, to date, eight Kendra Michaels books. 


This is a book review of Iris and Roy Johansen's latest Kendra Michaels book, Blink of an Eye.


Blink of an Eye Synopsis:


Blink of an Eye
The story features investigator Kendra Michaels, whose observational skills are worthy of a modern-day Sherlock Holmes.


Kendra was blind for her first 20 years of life, until a revolutionary surgical procedure allowed her to regain her sight.  Her powers of observation became honed during her years in the dark, allowing her to detect what other investigators don't. 


When Delilah (Dee) Winter, one of the hottest pop stars in today's music world, is kidnapped in the middle of a show at the Hollywood Bowl, authorities cannot figure out how it is done. Dr. Kendra Michaels agrees to lead the race to rescue the young singer before time runs out. 


Kendra is joined by Jessie Mercado, her long-time friend and the singer's former bodyguard who knows Delilah well. As they close in on the hideout location of the kidnappers, casualties mount up.  Desperate for leads to where Dee is being held, Kendra also joins forces with Department of Justice Special Agent Adam Lynch with whom she has had a personal relationship.  His special skills aid in the search for Dee Winter. 


But, as the true purpose of the kidnappers become clear, the trio uncover a plot they never could have imagined – leading to a showdown they won't soon forget.


Summary


Even though Blink of an Eye is Book #8 in the Kendra Michaels series, it reads easily as a stand-alone story, so it doesn't really matter in which order you read any of the books in the series. Starting with Book #8 works just fine as an introduction to this fast-paced thriller series.




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Sunday, July 4, 2021

The Apron Book: Making, Wearing and Sharing a Bit of Cloth and Comfort Book Review

The Apron Book: Making, Wearing, and Sharing a Bit of Cloth and Comfort by EllynAnne Geisel Book Review

When I was a child, I had the privilege of knowing and spending time with my great grandmother, who raised her family during the Great Depression. In those years, she was forced to be very frugal and learned some interesting tricks to stretch the family income that she later attempted to pass on to my sister and I. The time that I remember best is when she showed us how to turn an old dress into an apron. I could not do so today but I guess having participated in that activity with my great grandmother when I was a child created a fond spot in my heart for aprons.

It is very interesting to me then that aprons, both vintage and modern, are turning up everywhere from movies and television shows to magazines and shops the later of which cannot keep trendy aprons on the shelves. Many people collect them including celebrities like Julia Roberts and ordinary folk like you and I though my collection is small and well used. 

This book, The Apron Book: Making, Wearing, and Sharing a Bit of Cloth and Comfort by EllynAnne Geisel, is a guide to old and new aprons. It features photographs of both new and vintage aprons, patterns for four basic styles and still more information including tips for collectors, instructions for preservation and even some apron stories.

Amazon calls this book a celebration of the apron and says that it reminds us of why we love this humble item. Homemaker's Magazine says, "this book provides easy-to-follow instructions, interesting facts and vintage illustrations which make it charming" and the Denver Post says "this book restores dignity to a domestic symbol and is part how-to and part history, which is comforting."  Finally, NPR says, "it unfolds like a bolt of fabric, the pattern of a life remembered through a homey object."

The Apron Book: Making, Wearing, and Sharing a Bit of Cloth and Comfort is a top ranking apron book. Originally published in 2006, it is still widely available in your choice of format be that hardback, paperback or Kindle. 

 If you are interested in making or even just reading about aprons, you can buy your new or pre-owned copy on Amazon by clicking right here though I was delighted to see that it is available for less than five dollars including shipping on eBay. See for yourself what is available on eBay today by clicking right here.

Are you an apron collector?

See you in the kitchen!
Hopefully, with an apron on.
Brenda

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Thursday, July 1, 2021

The Emptiness of Our Hands - Book Review

Who would you become if you were to suddenly find yourself without a home?  Some of you here know the answer to that question because you have lived it.  For the authors of The Emptiness of Our Hands, the answer was far beyond what they could ever have imagined.  Living the question forever changed who they were and who they continue to become to this day.

Choosing to live on the streets of Columbus, Ohio for 47 days may not seem earth-shattering, but for Phyllis Cole-Dai, and her photographer friend, James Murray, the experience was, in many ways, soul-shattering.  They found themselves immersed in an alternate universe offering up the kind of devastation that stripped bare their psyches and spirits.  After just two nights, Murray was already broken to pieces. 

The decision to go to the streets had not been made lightly or done as a stunt.  Cole-Dai felt a deep call she could not ignore.  Her intent was to offer up the gift of presence to everyone she met.  

So then what transpires when you suddenly find yourself in deep survival mode?  How are you transformed while living in a world ill at ease with the homeless... with you?  How do you cope with feeling invisible, despised, and less than human?  When constantly wrestling with intense fear, uncertainty, and struggle, what gives?  What sustains?  

How is it that something as simple as being seen can be such a consolation?  Nothing is inconsequential to the one in need of the kind of attention that shelters, or the haven to be found in the eyes of compassion.  To be seen like that is to receive an act of love.

As one with an outreach to those without a home, immersing myself within The Emptiness of Our Hands has reaffirmed for me the power of "thereness" (really being there for, and with, someone).  It has stirred a deep desire to be a very present haven to the one who might need to rest for a moment in my embracing presence.  

This book is for anyone who seeks to express the kind of humanity that feeds and shelters souls.  Just as there are many ways to experience homelessness, there are also many ways to be the kind of home presence needed by the displaced, the lost, or the lonely souls we encounter all around us.  

I also highly recommend the companion volume entitled Practicing Presence.  This compilation of 47 reflections (one from each of the author's 47 days on the streets) enables each of us to more fully develop and engage our mindfulness intentions.  I consider these two books the most important reading I have done all year.  






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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Discover Chirp: Awesome Affordable Audiobook Deals

Audiobooks are a wonderful complement to print, Kindle and other reading formats. Listening to a novel or non-fiction book while driving, walking, riding or waiting for public transit, traveling, sitting in waiting rooms, crafting, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning or doing laundry or yard work can make these activities much more enjoyable. A talented narrator can significantly enhance the experience of consuming a good book. Jim Dale’s Grammy award-winning narration of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a perfect example. Unfortunately, production costs are higher than for print and digital books, which makes audiobooks more expensive to purchase.

This review will introduce my fellow bibliophiles to Chirp, a wonderful service that offers a changing selection of awesome, affordable, limited-time audiobook deals without the financial commitment of a monthly or annual membership fee that Audible requires.

Best-Selling Audiobooks for Less Than $5 - chirpbooks.com screenshot

Audiobooks Continue to Grow in Popularity

2020 was the ninth straight year of double-digit revenue growth for audiobook publishers, jumping 12% vs. 2019 revenues to reach $1.3 billion, according to this year’s sales survey conducted by research firm InterQ for the Audio Publishers Association (APA). More than 71,000 audiobooks were published in 2020, a 39% increase versus 2019, per the APA’s consumer survey of American adult audiobook listeners conducted by Edison Research. [Source: Audio Publishers Association press release, June 1, 2021]

This rapidly growing trend toward publishing titles in audiobook editions as well as print and e-book formats is wonderful news to the many avid readers (including myself) who love listening to books as well as reading them. 

The quality of the narrators and their performances has improved dramatically in recent years. More and more books are being narrated by award-winning stage and film actors. Depending on their contracts, narrators may be paid at an hourly rate per “finished hour” of audio, and/or may earn royalties based on sales. A sound engineer, producer, or other people may be required, and production and editing costs are much higher than for other publishing formats. Consequently, audiobooks are priced higher than their print or e-book counterparts.

Buying vs. Borrowing Audio Books

Because of their higher price tag, many of us download at least some of the recorded books we want to read the public library. Unfortunately, most libraries can’t afford to make a wide selection of audiobooks available to their borrowers, and the very long waiting lists for popular titles can be quite frustrating. As a result, many of us who love listening to them purchase at least some audio books rather than borrowing them from the library. In fact, 38% of audiobook listeners who responded to the above-mentioned APA consumer survey of American adult audiobook listeners indicated that they subscribe to at least one audio book service, such as Audible or Chirp.

Audible dominates the audiobook services market to the point where the Audible name is synonymous with this book format. As an Amazon company, no would-be rival can hope to compete with its enormous library, financial backing, in-house production studio, author and publisher relationships, and marketing and technology resources.

I have been an Audible member since 2006 and remain a huge fan and loyal customer. I appreciate the many major improvements, such as Whispersync for Voice technology (which allows you to switch seamlessly between listening to a book on Audible and reading it on a Kindle or Kindle app) and the excellent, exclusive content produced by Audible Studios. However, the steep increases in the cost of membership and the changes to their membership plan model in recent years has made it less affordable.

Over the years, I looked into several less expensive sources for audio books that others had recommended, but the limited selection and desirability of the titles on offer, the number of abridged versus unabridged books and, in some cases, the quality of the narrations (some of which were machine-generated) was always disappointing. After being an Audible member for so many years, the bar for a good audiobook acquisition and listening experience was set high, and nothing else I found came close to measuring up. I gave up on finding a less expensive Audible alternative for my own needs. 

However, Chirp, a competing service that offers amazing limited-time deals on popular audiobook titles at incredibly low prices, has turned out to be a fantastic complement to my Audible membership. And for less hardcore audiobook listeners who haven't built up a library of audiobooks in Audible's proprietary format over the past 15 years, Chirp might be a viable and much less expensive alternative. 

Chirp Audiobook Deals Make Listening to Books Affordable

Last year, as I bemoaned how much money I was spending on my growing Audible library, a close friend and fellow avid reader told me about Chirp, where he frequently found titles that interested him at a fraction of list price. Given my previous experience with lower-cost audiobook sources, I was somewhat skeptical about how good this Audible alternative could be. But, based on my friend’s enthusiastic recommendation, I went online to learn more about it.

I found several articles about Chirp that concurred with my friend’s opinion about this new-to-me site and book listening app. The more I read about the company and its audiobook deals, the more interested I became.

I went to the Chirp website and browsed their limited-time audiobook deals. If the selection of steeply discounted books didn’t interest me or had lots of negative reviews, they wouldn’t be a bargain at any price. To my surprise, that day’s featured deals included a few bestselling fiction and non-fiction titles priced at less than $5 each! I returned to check out the update crop of deals several times over the following week or two and was impressed by quality of the books across a wide range of genres being offered for just a few dollars apiece.

I signed up for the Chirp featured audiobook deals emails in October 2020 and have added quite a few new titles to my recorded books library since then. I still maintain my Audible membership for its enormous catalog, and because I own so many audiobooks in Audible’s proprietary format that I don’t want to lose access to. But, thanks to Chirp’s limited-time deals and notification emails, I’ve also discovered several new authors and series without paying a small fortune.

Here are the things I love most about using Chirp.

Find Fabulous Deals on Popular Audiobooks

Every day, you’ll find a good selection of limited-time Chirp Featured Deals that sell for a fraction of their list prices, with discounts up to 95% off!

At the time of publication, for example, there were 381 featured deals from $0.99 to $6.99, with the vast majority priced between $1.99 and $4.99, from popular authors as diverse as Janet Evanovich, Jane Austen, David Baldacci, Lisa Scottoline, Robert Heinlein, James Patterson, Agatha Christie, M.C. Beaton, David Sedaris, Jeffrey Archer, John Steinbeck, Stephanie Laurens and Robert Frost.

Chirp screenshot - audiobook Featured Deals

No Membership Fees, No Minimum Purchase

With Chirp, there is no ongoing financial commitment. Unlike Audible, whose listening plans are based on monthly or annual subscription fees, Chirp lets you buy as few or as many books as you want, as seldom or as often as you want. Never Miss a Great Audiobook Bargain You can sign up for Chirp’s daily or weekly featured deals notification emails to make sure you don’t miss a great deal. Or, if you prefer, you can opt out of the emails and visit the site whenever you wish to check out the bargains on offer that day.

A Low Cost Way to Try Audiobooks

If you're curious about audiobooks and want to give them a try, Chirp is a great way to start building a listening library without spending a lot of money.

Listen When You Want, the Way You Want

You can use the Chirp app on your iOS or Android phone or tablet, stream audiobooks from your Chirp library in a web browser on a laptop or other device, and even listen to your Chirp audiobooks on your Alexa-enabled devices after you enable the Chirp skill on the device and link your Chirp account.

Buy Once, Listen Again and Again

All books you purchase are yours to keep, so you can revisit your favorites even years later.

A Perfect Complement to Other Audiobook Sources

Whether you’re borrowing audiobooks from the library or buying them on Amazon or Audible, Chirp’s limited-time deals can help you listen to more of the books you want while saving you money.

A More Flexible Alternative to Audible, With A Smaller Catalog

In addition to the deeply discounted, limited-time deals, Chirp also sells many other audiobook titles at what they call "everyday value" pricing. Although you won’t find the vast selection of titles that Audible offers, there are still plenty of books to choose from. So, if you’re new to audiobooks or listen to them less frequently, Chirp can be a viable and far less expensive alternative to an Audible subscription plan.

Discover Great Reads With Book List Recommendations

The Chirp website has a well organized Book Lists section with smart, well written recommendations to help you discover titles you might not have known about otherwise.

Chirp website screenshot - top of Book Lists page

Books for Adults, Books for Kids

While the majority of titles on Chirp are for an adult audience, you'll also find plenty of books for kids, as well as some excellent recommendations in the "For the Kids" section of Chirp's Book Lists.

Screenshot of Chirp's recommended book lists for kids

Get 20% Off Your First Audiobook Purchase on Chirp

If you use my Chirp referral link, you'll get 20% off your first audiobook purchase (and I’ll also get 20% off my next purchase). It’s a win-win!

Explore today's limited-time audiobook deals on Chirp and save 20% on your first order!

Do you have other favorite sources for buying or borrowing audiobooks? If so, please share them below in the comments. 



Discover Chirp: Awesome Affordable Audiobook Deals product review by Margaret Schindel

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