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Deception–things are not as they seem
by Patricia Bradley
Action and tension are abundant in Patricia Bradley’s Deception, the fourth book in the Natchez Trace Park Rangers Series. Madison, the protagonist, is a special agent with the Investigative Services Branch. After the bust of a human trafficking ring in Big Bend in which Madison’s partner is killed, she decides to switch gears and work in a white collar crimes division. She is good at both jobs.
In Mississippi she goes to visit her beloved grandfather, a retired judge, and things turn ugly and violent. A woman who could be Madison’s doppelgänger is attacked. Who is she and which one of the two was actually targeted? There is also a missing girl who was being rescued from her pimp. Could she have been the target? Madison is convinced that a suicide being investigated is in fact a homicide. This novel borders on being a police procedural as there are so many agencies involved.
The book has some romance as Madison is helped by Clayton, a former childhood friend, who is now a ranger in charge of a district in the Natchez Trace. Another interesting character is Nadine, the judge’s longtime housekeeper. She is in her eighties. She doesn’t say a lot, but she is a very careful observer and has great hearing.
Deception has lots of twists to the plot, and the characters not only have secrets, but many really do actively deceive. Madison turns to Clayton to try to understand forgiveness. He explains how he has forgiven others who have hurt him: “Because God forgave me for all the ways I’ve hurt others.” “I didn’t [do the forgiving]. God did it in me. But I had to give up my right to be angry and resentful.”
A huge part of the plot involves adoptions and family history, but all of these seemingly disparate threads tie together quite dramatically when the mysteries are resolved. Deception is my first exposure to this author. I definitely plan on reading more by her. It was an exciting book, and I like the way she gently wove Christian beliefs into a suspenseful tale.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Category: Suspense, Christian, Romance
Notes: #4 in the Natchez Trace Park Rangers Series. It is enjoyable as a standalone, but I wish I had read the first ones. The first chapter dives into a previous time frame that sets up Madison’s reason for turning to white collar crime investigation and is easily understood. Then as the plot turns to current events, a lot of characters are introduced (or maybe reintroduced?). I pushed through that and because the plot is the focus, it all sorted itself out. I’m glad I persevered for a few chapters.
Publication: August 2, 2022—Revell
“He was this important businessman, and Mom always told me not to bother him. When he was at home it was like tiptoeing on eggshells, but at least he wasn’t home much.”
Sister. She loved the way the word wrapped around her heart. It sounded as though neither of their lives had been rosy, but perhaps this could be a new start for both of them.
He got the impression Madison didn’t trust many men. And after meeting her father, he could understand why. And then there was a the FBI agent who tried to ill her.
Montana Wedding–great finale
by Cari Lynn Webb
Georgie Harrison has always been singularly focused. She has a plan to honor her mother’s memory by discovering a cure so that other families would not have to experience premature loss of a parent as she and her sisters had. As a medical doctor she has turned her talents to research and has landed the job of her dreams in London. Now she just has to convince her dad and four sisters that this is a positive move. She convinces a friend and work colleague, Colin, to be her pretend date for her sister’s wedding at the Blackwell Ranch. Unfortunately, Colin doesn’t make the flight. Seated next to her on the plane, however, is handsome rodeo star Zach. He would fit right in with the Blackwells, the cousins she is about to meet, but what could possibly motivate Zach to assume the role of boyfriend?
Zach has his own family issues and dreams, but he loyally supports Georgie as promised. Since this is a Harlequin Heartwarming romance, you can be sure the couple will fall in love. The journey down the path to love is what is interesting, and the plot has several surprising twists, as in “I didn’t see that coming!” Author Cari Lynn Webb gives the viewpoint of both Zach and Georgie as they battle their growing attraction, giving the reader empathy for them in a situation neither sought out. The Blackwells are wonderful people who stand by each other with integrity, love, and quite a bit of teasing. They are the family Zach always dreamed of. Montana Wedding’sbackdrop of a Christmas wedding at a Montana working guest ranch will put you in a holiday mood regardless of the season. It is the perfect finish to The Blackwell Sisters series as it includes all the major characters from that series and from The Return of the Blackwell Brothers. It will leave you with that pleasing feeling of closure for the series and a satisfied smile on your face.
I would like to extend my thanks to Cari Lynn Webb and to Harlequin Heartwarming for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #5 in The Blackwell Sisters series. It could be read as a standalone, but I recommend reading the whole series.
Publication: December 6, 2020—Harlequin Heartwarming
His mother had offered disregard and indifference as naturally as other mothers offered their children support and reassurance….His mother’s accusations had always been followed by those same two words, given in the same dull, detached tone: Go. Away.
He’d learned the truth during Cody’s final battle. Time refused to slow. There was no freeze button. And minutes were wasted wishing for impossible things. Life had to be enjoyed in the now.
“Hope is a powerful thing.” Every patient, every family member of a sick loved one relied on hope. Hope the medicine would work. Hope the doctors found the right treatment. Hope the surgeons removed every last cancer cell. Hope the damage wouldn’t be permanent. Hope that tomorrow would be brighter, better, pain free.
Montana Dreams–secrets within the family
by Anna J. Stewart
The five Harrison sisters were abandoned by their father, Thomas Blackwell, when the oldest, Peyton, was eight years old leaving a hole in her heart that could not be filled. For reasons to be discovered in Montana Dreams by Anna J. Stewart, Peyton, ostensibly close to her sisters, has kept the girls’ biological roots a secret. She is the only one aware that Rudy Harrison, their devoted father and a retired Navy admiral, is actually their step-father.
Their world is turned upside down by Big E, the girls’ grandfather they never knew existed; the discovery impacted none of the girls as much as it did Peyton who has tried to fill the hole in her heart with work. Because Peyton, a Vice President in the company she works for, has a stalker, her boss has hired Matteo as her bodyguard. Big E convinces the boss that his ranch in Montana is the safest place for Peyton to be.
In many romances that include childhood family issues as part of the conflict, the background of the main character figures predominantly into the plot. In Montana Dreams, however, both Peyton and Matteo have issues, past and current, that need to be brought to the forefront and dealt with. Their secrets are unwrapped with care, and their romance is depicted with ups and downs and highs and lows that keep the reader in anticipation of possible resolutions.
The devotion Matteo has for his understandably confused six year old son is heartwarming. Well integrated into the plot are characters you might have met in the Return of the Blackwell Brothers series. Although I would love to have had the characters from that first series have more interaction in this book, I realize that would not be possible within the scope of this novel. As it is, the plot is full of twists and turns. Each one of the books in The Blackwell Sisters focuses on a different sister as each meets her welcoming Blackwell cousins and their spouses and learns about the positive sides of Montana ranch living. They also acclimate to the idea that their mother and step-father had presented a false narrative of their family to them as children. Meanwhile, the subplot of their manipulating grandfather Big E plotting to reunite his Blackwell family while searching for Thomas Blackwell, his son and the girls’ father, with Rudy Harrison, the girl’s step-father, continues on with a little progress and more clues in each book.
I would like to extend my thanks to Anna J. Stewart and to Harlequin Heartwarming for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #3 in The Blackwell Sisters series, but the author provides the necessary support if you want to read this clean, heartwarming romance as a standalone.
Publication: October 1, 2020—Harlequin Heartwarming
She scrunched her toes in her shoes, trying to keep a hold of whatever traction she had on her life.
The very idea of stepping foot on a ranch—any ranch, let alone an isolated one in the middle of Nowhere, Montana—shot Matteo straight back to a childhood that held zero appeal.
Somehow holding his son made the pain and loneliness from his own childhood fade to where it couldn’t hurt him anymore.
Rudy’s face split into a grin so wide Big E swore he saw his back molars.
The Snow Bear–the old ways are disappearing
The Snow Bear
by Holly Webb
Illustrated by Artful Doodlers
Do you want to share information about the Arctic with the children in your life in an engaging way? The Snow Bear by Holly Webb is a great way to do it. Sara goes to visit her grandfather who lives on a cliffside in Canada. As it snows, he talks with Sara about going to the Arctic when he was a boy with his father to record the life and customs of the Inuits living in the Arctic as Sara’s great-grandfather could already see the old ways disappearing.
When Sara goes to bed that night, she dreams herself into the stories Grandpa told her and has her own experiences which bring the Arctic to life for her. She rescues a cub, falls into a crevasse, and shares a warming Inuit soup.
The Snow Bear is a chapter book. I think children would benefit from reading this with an adult as they look at a map of the Arctic and discuss the terms used. An Internet search of corresponding images for items such as “Arctic tern” and “quilliq” would be helpful too. Although the story is fictional, there is much information included.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Myrick Books/Tiger Tales for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Children’s Fiction
Notes: 1. The illustrations did not show up well in my Advanced Reader Copy, but the sample line drawings shown on Amazon were perfect for this story.
2. This is the first book I have read by Holly Webb, but I discovered she is a prolific children’s author with books suitable for all the various ages.
3. I also learned that Artful Doodlers is responsible for many of the illustrations that children’s book lovers cherish.
4. This book is part of a Wintry Tales Series.
Publication: October 1, 2019— Myrick Books/Tiger Tales
“That’s why we went. We wanted to record it all, before it changed forever.”
…the nearest dog, who was curled up in the snow, with his tail wrapped tightly around his nose and his paws. Sara had never seen a dog curl up so small—he looked almost like a cat. “They can sleep through a blizzard like that. And they have to stay out—they’re our guard dogs, too. They let us know if there’s a polar bear around.”
“We always share what we have,” Alignak said, sounding almost surprised. “Food belongs to everyone who needs it.”
The Dog Who Lost His Bark–pet therapy works both ways
The Dog Who Lost His Bark
by Eoin Colder
illustrated by P.J. Lynch
Oz is a sweet puppy traumatized by a bad experience with a mean family. He ends up in a dog shelter where Patrick discovers and adopts him. Patrick comes from a musical family, and music emerges as the key to socializing Oz who has remarkable pitch when he whines. He starts with “Ode to Joy,” but expands his repertoire quickly. After Patrick’s breakthrough with Oz, he decides he needs to teach him to bark.
In the background of the puppy drama, we can tell, as can Patrick, that something is wrong with his father who is supposedly in Australia playing with his band. Patrick decides that if he gets rid of Oz, his father, who is allergic to dogs, will return to be a part of the family again. Oz goes back to the pound, but Patrick is no happier and Oz is very sad. Patrick learns that his mother and father are separating, but that his dog loves him and will always be his best friend.
The Dog Who Lost His Bark is a sweet story, especially for dog lovers. It could be helpful for children whose family structure is in transition, providing opportunities for discussions of the feelings the various characters have. I would encourage parents to read this book to their child or for a child to read it independently. Sharing with a group is probably not the best choice. The issues could be a trigger for sensitive children and problematic depending on the family situations of the children in a group.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Candlewick Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Children’s Fiction
Notes: This chapter book is intended for children:
Publication: September 10, 2019—Candlewick Press
This boy seemed kind right now, but that was people’s CLEVER TRICK, to be happy until it was time to be ANGRY. Dog was not going to fall for that one again.
“…teach your dog to bark. Because when a dog barks at something, that dog isn’t so afraid of that thing anymore.”
“You have a friend, Patrick. You have the best friend a boy could ever have. And he loves you even when it looks like you don’t love him anymore.”
The Bagel King–don’t fall on your tuckes!
The Bagel King
written by Andrew Larsen
Illustrated by Sandy Nichols
The Bagel King is a sweet story about a grandfather who goes to the bakery every Sunday morning, rain or shine, and buys bagels to share with his grandson Eli. Then Zaida’s (grandpa’s) three friends arrive at his apartment with their assisted walking devices for a Sunday morning bagel feast. All of that changes one Sunday when Zaida slips at at the bakery and has to rest for several weeks. All are discouraged but Eli saves the day by making the bagel run himself.
The story is simple and uncomplicated. It is a short picture book so there is no opportunity for character development. There is a mini glossary of sorts defining the five Yiddish words in the book and explaining two food words. The illustrations are my favorite part of the book. They have a little bit of a comic book style to them, are gentle, humorous, and reflect the mood of the characters very well. For me, it is a good read aloud, but not a book I would treasure and pass through the generations.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kids Can Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Children’s Fiction
Notes: Age Range: 5-6 years
Grade Level: P-2
Publication: May 1, 2018—Kids Can Press
If My Moon Was Your Sun–the Great Forgetting
If My Moon Was Your Sun
by Andreas Steinhöfel
Illustrated by Nele Palmate
Translation by Matthew O. Anderson
If My Moon Was Your Sun is the poignant tale of ten year old Max who kidnaps his grandfather from an assisted living facility where he lives because he is gradually losing his memory. Max takes his grandpa to Grandpa’s favorite place where he first kissed his future wife and asked her to marry him. They are accompanied on their adventure by Miss Schneider who relives her younger days by dancing through the meadow.
I was provided with a digital version of this book for reviewing purposes, but the actual book has a CD audiobook with classical music by Georges Bizet and Sergei Prokofiev. The original story was created as part of the Ohrenspitzer project for children’s concerts. There are annotations throughout the book indicating the musical work and composer that accompanies each segment of the book. Most of the compositions are by Prokofiev, so I listened to some of his works and can only imagine how wonderful the union of the story, artwork, and music must be.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Plough Publishing House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Children’s Fiction, Parenting and Families
Notes: accompanied by CD audiobook
Publication: November 1, 2017—Plough Publishing House
The special thing happened when you let yourself sink slowly into the tall grass and pressed your hands into earth, which was firm and yet soft too, as though it could breathe. You closed your eyes, you breathed deeply in and out, and in no time at all you felt rooted and alive. Your thoughts became clear and orderly: the right thoughts flowed through your mind like cool, wet silver, and the wrong thoughts burned up like rust in a very hot fire.
To keep the Great Forgetting away from Grandfather when it tried to grab hold of him, it was sometimes enough to hug him tightly, offering nearness and security.
Watching Miss Schneider dance was like watching the sun spill itself over the earth. Stiff arms and legs, now in motion, suddenly seemed touched by eternal youth, and from their graceful movements a lightness flowed throughout the valley.