Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Refuge Assured by Jocelyn Green book review

35069159 A Refuge Assured

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Vivienne Rivard fled revolutionary France and seeks a new life for herself and a boy in her care, who some say is the Dauphin. But America is far from safe, as militiaman Liam Delaney knows. He proudly served in the American Revolution but is less sure of his role in the Whiskey Rebellion. Drawn together, will Liam and Vivienne find the peace they long for?
 
 
 
My Review: 6.5/10


This book is definitely a page turner and it is so rich in detail- it really transports you. It takes place during the French Revolution and I never thought about the relationship between events taking place in France so soon after our American Revolution and how that affected things. The political representation was really well done, making historical figures come alive. Though it does take time for information to cross the ocean, it does make it eventually and I cannot imagine witnessing the horrors committed or feeling so trapped.

That being said I took issue with Vivienne's character. It just didn't seem realistic to me that someone who had been through what she had would be so naive and trusting. I would think it would make a person paranoid. **SPOILERS** Without giving too much away, let's just say that she ends up knowing something that could make her a serious political threat. Instead of being proactive and having explanations ready or being very guarded about revealing information, she carelessly has candid conversations in public areas (multiple times), confides in people left and right, and ignores red flags. If I had been her, I would have relocated pretty much immediately to some remote, unrelated place, perhaps multiple times. I would have given myself a new history and started over. From scratch. It just didn't make any sense that she would be so unaware of the constant serious threat to herself and others, which made it frustrating to read, when I kept thinking, "How did you not see this coming?!"  

Friday, March 9, 2018

Hearts Entwined: A Historical Romance Novella Collection (Hearts Entwined Collection) book review


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Hearts Entwined: A Historical Romance Novella Collection (Hearts Entwined Collection)

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The ways of love can be complex. Sometimes a relationship full of unexpected twists and unlikely turns leads to a bond that's strong and secure. Join Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy, Regina Jennings, and Melissa Jagears for novellas that follow the winding path of romance in stories that celebrate a love that lasts forever.

The Love Knot - When Claire Nevin's troubled younger sibling sends her an unexpected package by rail, the gift and the man who delivers it--an unexpected face from the past--threaten to upend Claire's life forever. Fighting to hold on to all she has built, will she lose what matters most?

The Tangled Ties that Bind - Connor Kincaid returns home determined to win the hand of the woman he was too young for when he left. But Maggie is training to be a doctor in a distant town, while Connor's about to settle on a ranch. Will either be willing to give up their dream? Or will they both have to give up the love of a lifetime?

Bound and Determined - As punishment for his recklessness, Private Bradley Willis is sent on an errand to help a retired cavalry officer move a herd across Indian Territory. No one told him the herd would be camels instead of cattle, nor that the officer's headstrong daughter, Ambrosia Herald, would seem to be trying to undermine the whole enterprise. He's definitely been saddled with more than he's bargained for.

Tied and True - Wealthy Marianne Lister is in love with business assistant Calvin Hochstetler, but he can't see past the difference in their social status. When Marianne takes a job to prove that she is prepared for a life of hard work alongside the man of her dreams, will it be enough to convince Calvin to risk it all for love?


 

My Review: 7.5/10
This was a collection of 4 sweet, short reads. I believe they are all picking up supporting characters from previous works, but I can't say for sure because I only follow two of the authors. A couple of times, I felt like I would have enjoyed the stories a lot more if I had read the connected novels. Unlike the first collection of novellas, these characters do not intertwine- the stories are actually set years apart.

#1 The Loveknot
After Claire's history was revealed, I felt frustrated with her for making such a huge decision so impulsively. On the whole, I didn't really connect with this story or their choices. But I did love the theme of knots in relationships.

#2 The Tangled Ties That Bind
This one felt like there was a lot of history between the characters. I think it probably reads better if you're familiar with the Kincaid novels- there are a lot of offhand references made to other characters and what they're doing that were lost on me. The opening scene is rather long, but once the story gets going, it really pulls you in. I really loved Maggie's character and the frankness between her and Conner. Things were dealt with openly and honestly, which was like a breath of fresh air as a reader. I liked Connor's determination and the way they worked through things.

#3 Bound and Determined
As always, Ms. Jennings blends humor and sweetness well. The unique details made this story interesting and despite it being a shorter story, the character's are able to undergo realistic growth, which gives the story depth.

#4 Tied and True
I think this might have been my favorite story (though it was close)! My initial reaction was annoyance because Marianne Lister was internally bemoaning her wealth and lack of skills beyond social niceties; characters with low self esteem (especially when they are described as abundantly blessed with good looks, wealth, excessive kindness, generosity, intelligence, etc) are not my cup of tea. However, in this case, they both had an understandable reason. And Marianne had me unexpectedly laughing out loud just pages in. It's unusual in this genre for the woman to be pursuing the man and it made for a unique story full of heart and humor. I loved her tenacity and relentless hope and forthrightness.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Ashes on the Moor by Sarah M. Eden book review


Ashes on the Moor

Ashes on the Moor

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When Evangeline is sent to live in a small mill town in Northern England as a schoolteacher in 1871, she finds herself struggling to fit in with an unfamiliar culture. Raised with the high-class Victorian values and ideals of a sophisticated upbringing, she is unprepared for the poverty she finds in the gritty factory town of Smeatley, where the locals speak with a hard-to-understand Yorkshire accent and struggle to thrive with few resources or opportunities.

Though she has no training as a teacher, she must prove herself successful before her grandfather will release her substantial inheritance to her and allow her to be reunited with her younger sister, the last remaining member of her family after a fever claimed the lives of her parents and brothers.

Evangeline's sudden change in circumstances is complicated when her aunt—a woman who values class distinctions more than her family relationships—forbids her from acknowledging any connection to her or to her grandfather, Mr. Farr—the man who owns nearly the entire town. For the first time in her life, Evangeline is truly alone.

Heartbroken, she turns to the one person in town who has shown her kindness—an Irish brick mason, Dermot, and his son, Ronan. Despite the difference in their classes and backgrounds, Evangeline and Dermot become friends, due in part to her ability to connect with Ronan, whose behavior requires special attention. The boy is uncomfortable around strangers and rarely even speaks to the other children in town. He often fixates on details other people ignore, and he adheres to specific, self-made rules that give his life order and structure; for example, Dermot's coat must be hung on a specific peg next to the door.

Evangeline attempts to prove herself a worthy teacher and earn the respect of her hard-to-understand students. Determined to find a way to introduce them to "proper English" while still honoring their unique language and culture, she enlists the help of a local family to write down familiar stories in the Yorkshire vernacular. Because of her efforts, the students and their families warm to Evangeline and she continues to look for ways to give the children a chance to become more than factory workers in the local cotton mill.

When the town learns of her upper-class status, Evangeline must work twice as hard to win back their trust--especially Dermot's. In the end, Evangeline and Dermot discover that, even though they come from different social spheres, together they can overcome social prejudices, make a positive difference in the lives of even the humblest people, and enjoy the strength that comes when two hearts find each other.

Ashes on the Moor is the inspiring love story of one Victorian woman's courage to fight against all odds, and the man whose quiet strength gives her the confidence to keep trying.





My Review: 9/10
 
This was such an enjoyable read. Definitely one of Ms. Eden's best books.

The beginning started a little slow and I had trouble believing anyone could be so heartless in the immediate wake of so much devastation. And Evangeline's meek responses to her aunt's cruelty was hard for me to understand. Over time, Evangeline grows a backbone and becomes fierce, almost to a fault.

I didn't always agree with her convictions or choices (SPOILER* I agreed with the school inspector that her attitude was a bit of a problem at that point. She could have pled her case privately so that she wasn't directly challenging the way things were run. And I certainly thought there was value in teaching the children how to speak "properly." If they ever wanted to get a job outside of their mill in that small town, they would probably need to be able to communicate with others. She could have taught them primarily in Yorkshire dialect, especially as they were young but also taught language classes so that they would be respected and valuable outside of their little town. She could have compromised). But I did like her character development over the course of the novel.

I liked that there weren't always easy answers and that some characters were not so black and white (the vicar for example). I liked the restoration in some relationships and the lack in others; I found it realistic and relatable. No matter how much you try, some things are just out of our control.

I loved Dermot's character and Ronan as well. (*SPOILER* I assumed Ronan was Autistic. It was an interesting portrayal in that time period). Despite heavy subject matter, there was a lot of humor  shared between the characters throughout the story, which I appreciated.

Though I love stand alone novels and wish that not every story became a trilogy, I'm invested in these characters now and I can't help hoping for a follow up (maybe Susannah? Or Lucy? Or you know what would be really awesome- Berta. I would love to see her get some healing).  I'd highly recommend this book.

Friday, January 5, 2018

All That Makes Life Bright: The Life and Love of Harriet Beecher Stowe (Historical Proper Romance) by Josi S. Kilpack book review


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All That Makes Life Bright: The Life and Love of Harriet Beecher Stowe (Historical Proper Romance)

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When Harriet Beecher marries Calvin Stowe on January 6, 1836, she is sure her future will be filled romance, eventually a family, and continued opportunities to develop as a writer. Her husband Calvin is completely supportive and said she must be a literary woman. Harriet's sister, Catharine, worries she will lose her identity in marriage, but she is determined to preserve her independent spirit. Deeply religious, she strongly believes God has called her to fulfill the roles of wife and writer and will help her accomplish everything she was born to do.

Two months after her wedding Harriet discovers she is pregnant just as Calvin prepares to leave for a European business trip. Alone, Harriet is overwhelmed-being a wife has been harder than she thought and being an expectant mother feels like living another woman's life. Knowing that part of Calvin still cherishes the memory of his first wife, Harriet begins to question her place in her husband's heart and yearns for his return; his letters are no substitute for having him home. When Calvin returns, however, nothing seems to have turned out as planned.

Struggling to balance the demands of motherhood with her passion for writing and her desire to be a part of the social change in Ohio, Harriet works to build a life with her beloved Calvin despite differing temperaments and expectations.

Can their love endure, especially after "I do"? Can she recapture the first blush of new love and find the true beauty in her marriage?



My Review:  9/10

Like most Americans, I've grown up hearing Harriet Beecher Stowe's name in school. I never read Uncle Tom's Cabin and didn't really know much more than that she wrote it and was therefore a famous female author. So I came into this story with no preconceived notions.

That said, it took a little while for the story to really pull me in. Ms. Kilpack's characters are as relatable as ever. When Hattie and Calvin argued, I could understand the frustration on both sides. I loved that the relationships (marital and familial) were not perfect and had their challenges and sore spots. Loss is a thread sensitively woven throughout the novel.

I really felt like I got an interesting look at life back then, within the home as women's roles were beginning to change: the position of a woman in the family, her role a wife and mother, what was expected of her, etc. Hattie's situation was especially interesting as she had been brought up with money (and servants) and taught to pursue education, and struggled when her marriage was not a lateral move. Hattie was definitely ahead of her time. I found the way she tried to balance the expectations for a wife and her spirit absolutely fascinating.

I loved the role family played all throughout this novel. Remarriages, squabbles over money and promises, providing advice, direction and protection. I loved the way Calvin and Hattie both turned to their parents for support, but ultimately had to find their own way. And despite their imperfect history, in the end, Catharine fiercely protected Hattie.

The themes of prayer, hope and forgiveness were perfect and convicted me personally. My favorite part was a candid conversation between father and daughter, not because it was a perfect response or solution, but I loved that he redirected Hattie back to her husband. A loving parent is perhaps the one person we might expect to be in our corner no matter what. But being in our corner sometimes means speaking truth into our lives rather than platitudes. It ended up being a catalyst that eventually led to reunion and healing.

I should also say that I always appreciate when an author includes notes on fact vs. fiction when they base a novel off of a real person. Ms. Kilpack goes above and beyond here.

I highly recommend this book. There is so much to love here: interesting family dynamics, a realistic love story, relatable characters with strong personalities, humor, personal growth, and a dose of history. Can't wait for more from this author!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Artemis by Andy Weir book review


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Artemis

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Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you're not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you've got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she's stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.



My Review: 6/10

Andy weir does an amazing job of bringing these places to life with attention to detail- noting things like the way coffee would taste on the moon due to a lower boiling temperature. I love that about his writing.

And I liked the conversation flashbacks between young Jazz and her pen pal on Earth.

And maybe it’s not fair to compare this book to The Martian (which was phenomenal by the way). But I can’t help it. This book felt lackluster to me in general and even worse by comparison.

I never really connected with Jazz and spent the first half of the book being distracted by her characterization; she -sounded- like she was written by a man. I couldn’t help feeling frustrated that now that the narration was from a woman’s perspective (as opposed to Mark Watney in The Martian), there is regular mention of sex (like asking Jazz to test out a non-disposable condom as “payment.” Not kidding). The contrast of narratives was stark to put it mildly.


**SPOILER ALERT** Then the action picked up... but the plot didn’t sit solidly with me. A million slugs is only about $166,000. Which is still a lot of money but certainly not enough to make her set for life or risk getting sent back to Earth. There seemed like quite a few plot holes and the other characters/relationships felt one dimensional.
 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Holding the Fort (Fort Reno #1) by Regina Jennings book review


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Holding the Fort (Fort Reno #1)

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When dance hall singer Louisa Bell visits Fort Reno to see her brother, she is mistaken for the governess that the harried Major Daniel Adams is waiting for. Between his rowdy troops and his two daughters, he has more responsibility than he can handle alone. Eager for the opportunity, Louisa sets out to show the widower that she is a perfect fit.
  


My Review: 8/10
No one can make me laugh out loud like Regina Jennings. I particularly can't wait to read Bradley story because he's hilarious and charming and so real.

But I digress. This was a light, fun read with very unique characters, as always. I think I would've loved it even more if there were deeper character flaws. Maybe something like Hosea's story? I liked that Louisa had her standards and wasn't willing to sacrifice them. But I found myself thinking that I also would have liked to read a story about one who didn't. One who didn't make it out unscathed, made mistakes, had regrets and took the first lifeline that was tossed to her. How that would have changed the story. If anyone could blend humor with the sometimes painfully-honest it would be Ms. Jennings (years later, Love in the Balance is still having an effect on me).

This book is easy to love and I look forward to the others in the series.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage (Tales from Ivy Hill #2) by Julie Klassen book review


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The Ladies of Ivy Cottage (Tales from Ivy Hill #2)

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Return to Ivy Hill in The Ladies of Ivy Cottage as friendships deepen, romances blossom, and mysteries unfold.

Living with the two Miss Groves in Ivy Cottage, impoverished gentlewoman Rachel Ashford is determined to earn her own livelihood . . . somehow. When the village women encourage her to open a subscription library with the many books she has inherited or acquired through donations, Rachel discovers two mysteries hidden among them. A man who once broke her heart helps her search for clues, but will both find more than they bargained for?

Rachel's friend and hostess, Mercy Grove, has given up thoughts of suitors and fills her days managing her girls' school. So when several men take an interest in Ivy Cottage, she assumes pretty Miss Ashford is the cause. Exactly what--or who--has captured each man's attention? The truth may surprise them all.

Meanwhile, life has improved at the coaching inn and Jane Bell is ready to put grief behind her. Now if only the man she misses would return--but where is he?

As the women of Ivy Hill search for answers about the past and hope for the future, might they find love along the way?



 
My Review: 6.5/10
I didn't think this book was as strong as the previous one. Right off the bat, several love interests are struck out, which I had thought was a strong point of the first book- that no characters were obvious choices- life doesn't usually work that way; while hindsight may make things seem obvious, in the moment... not so much. Some of the "twists" were not surprising, but rather the character seemed to be blind and/or exceptionally unobservant.

Rachel's tale was the focus and I did like her story in general. The focus on friendship is still there and I liked the way that the women support each other. I thought her struggle with accepting help was well done.

The biggest issue for me was all of the references to Jane Austen. I'm a huge fan as well but it was just too much. There were many lines taken directly out of her novels. Several scenes bore a very strong resemblance to those in her works and some of the characters (Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins,  Elizabeth, and Mr. Darcy etc) seem to make an appearance via some established characters. It was  jarring and took me out of the flow of the story every. single. time. And it wasn't necessary. The best parts of the story were those that felt 100% original (read: not influenced or inspired by Jane Austen's work) and I think the novel would have been a lot stronger on its own.

The storyline that I found most intriguing was Mercy's and that one was not resolved, so I will have to read the last installment and hope that this book was touched by middle book syndrome.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

An Inconvenient Beauty (Hawthorne House #4) by Kristi Ann Hunter book review

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An Inconvenient Beauty (Hawthorne House #4)

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The Duke of Riverton has chosen his future wife with the same logic he uses to make every decision. However, his perfect bride eludes his suit, while the beautiful Isabella Berkeley seems to be everywhere. When the time comes, will Griffith and Isabella be able to set aside their pride and initial notions to embrace their very own happily-ever-after?
 
 
 
 

My Review: 8/10

I enjoyed this book. It was not my favorite in the series, but I still found myself frequently chuckling or smiling stupidly as I read. I don't think fans of of this series will be disappointed with the conclusion.

*SPOILERS*

For me, the most important aspect is characters. And there was a lot to love. I liked that the Uncle was not a one dimensional character. He had real problems that caused him to harden and obsess. I liked that Isabella owned up to her responsibility for the mess. I liked the sister-like relationship that she and Freddie shared. I liked the frequent return of characters from the other novels. I loved the way the family worked, like a small, protective army. The idea of those sisters (and sisters-in-law) meeting weekly with their mother for tea and quality time together... it's a small thing, but it points to something larger and something that has always been noticably missing from my life and desperately wanted. Those scenes touched me in a bittersweet way. And I loved the way the family converged in a crisis.

The only thing I didn't really like was the drunken scene between Isabella and Griffith. For some reason, I just didn't buy him being on the roof thatching to begin with (wouldn't he just hire someone?) nor Isabella leaving her cousin unchaperoned in the woods (uh what? People have let their feelings run away with them for a whole lot less. And the last thing her cousin needed was to find herself pregnant with the father killed in battle. She could have chaperoned them discreetly from a significant distant. Poor judgment here). But the drunkenness I just couldn't relate to. I have been drunk before and while I know my experience is not universal, it just seemed overdone. A lack of inhibition, yes. Loose lips, yes. But it just seemed immediate and way too much.

Though I thought the way Griffith kept speaking his thoughts was very funny and well done.

On a similar vein, alcohol has never made me do something I didn't already want to do, nor made me not be able to recognize someone, so I just had a little trouble really buying the opening scene with the boys and the bat guano.


I'm sad that a series whose characters I was so invested in has come to an end. But with each ending comes a new beginning and I am excited for whatever comes next from this author.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer book review

The Chemist

The Chemist

 
In this gripping page-turner, an ex-agent on the run from her former employers must take one more case to clear her name and save her life.

She used to work for the U.S. government, but very few people ever knew that. An expert in her field, she was one of the darkest secrets of an agency so clandestine it doesn't even have a name. And when they decided she was a liability, they came for her without warning.

Now she rarely stays in the same place or uses the same name for long. They've killed the only other person she trusted, but something she knows still poses a threat. They want her dead, and soon.

When her former handler offers her a way out, she realizes it's her only chance to erase the giant target on her back. But it means taking one last job for her ex-employers. To her horror, the information she acquires only makes her situation more dangerous.

Resolving to meet the threat head-on, she prepares for the toughest fight of her life but finds herself falling for a man who can only complicate her likelihood of survival. As she sees her choices being rapidly whittled down, she must apply her unique talents in ways she never dreamed of.



 My Review: 6/10

This was a page turner from beginning to end. Sometimes because the story was SO good. And other times because the romance was so nauseating you just wanted to get past it as soon as possible.

I love a good love story. And I find it trite and unbelievable when the attraction is constantly denied in order to move the story along until the end when they ultimately come together. So you'd think I'd appreciate that the romance was there right away and as consistently present as the rest of the plot. However, this was unbelieveable in different ways: love at first sight, despite every natural human survival instinct that would urge a person to run, if not be filled with a healthy dose of fear, suspicion, and mistrust.

Nope.

The story itself was good. It seemed solid, well-researched and intelligent. But Stephenie Meyer clearly has a "type." An intelligent, apologetically dangerous person who is really good (Edward, Ian, "Alex") paired with a pure, innocent person who is in mortal peril by direct association, frequently at the hands of the former themselves (Bella, Wanderer, Daniel). The characters are always perched precariously on the precipice of an extreme life/death scenerio. And there is usually a cobbled-together, makeshift family of unique talents (did anyone else see a strong similarity between Emmett vs. Kevin and Valentine vs. Rosalie? How could you not). This book even had a "pack," some of whose members were featured prominently as main characters.

This story would have been outstanding if a few things were different. If the romantic depth wasn't limited to a gradeschool interaction of making out and giggling. Actually, if there was just less romance in general. And if there was any story where it would have made sense for the characters to have to overcome some serious issues that would, understandably, take the entire length of the novel and not be resolved until the end, this would be the one. The insta-love never made less sense; at least Edward was supernatural and gifted with an ability to literally draw prey in. And if the characters/relationships didn't seem to similar to those in her previous novels. Still good, interesting, but felt recycled.

Oh and the opposite twin thing. It was a dead giveaway to what was going to happen as soon as it was mentioned.

I wonder what it would be like if Ms. Meyer wrote a novel with zero romance. I think she has great potential.



View all my reviews

Friday, June 23, 2017

Wings of the Wind (Out from Egypt #3) by Connilyn Cossette book review

Wings of the Wind (Out from Egypt #3)

 Wings of the Wind (Out from Egypt #3)

by
 
Alanah, a Canaanite, is no stranger to fighting and survival. When her family is killed in battle with the Hebrews, she disguises herself and sneaks onto the battlefield to avenge her family. The one thing she never counted on was surviving.
Tobiah, a Hebrew warrior, is shocked to find an unconscious, wounded woman among the Canaanite casualties. Compelled to bring her to a Hebrew healer back at their camp, he is soon confronted with a truth he can’t ignore: the only way to protect this enemy is to marry her.
Unused to being weak and vulnerable, Alanah submits to the marriage—for now. As she comes to know and respect Tobiah and his people, however, she begins to second-guess her plans of escape. But when her past has painfully unanticipated consequences, the tentative peace she’s found with Tobiah, the Hebrews, and Yahweh is shaken to the core. Can Alanah’s fierce heart and strength withstand the ensuing threats to her life and all she’s come to love?





My Review: 7.5/10

 I really enjoyed this book.

The character's and their unfamiliar names were a little difficult to keep track of, and their seemed to be some existing stories that, being new to this series, I couldn't fully appreciate. But this novel stood alone well enough.

Exodus really came to life for me in the pages of this novel. I appreciated how difficult subjects were dealt with (like God's seemingly harsh rebukes, and why the Canaanites were marked for destruction, etc).

The only thing I didn't really like was the connection to Rahab. While the connection was not impossible, I love that piece of the Bible as it is. I love the way Rahab seemed like one grain of sand lost in an ocean of people, who did not know God, whose life would not recommend her as worthy or set apart. But God always knew her and loved her and sent a rescue mission in to save her. It also always gave me a tiny bit of hope in a situation that's hard to understand: the concept that an entire city full of people would be so far gone that they were condemned to destruction, that there would be nothing worth saving in them. That's hard to swallow. But plucking Rahab out in the midst of complete devastation sent a message to me that if anything, if anyone, was salvagable, they would not be overlooked or forgotten. God would deliver them no matter what. I liked that there was no other reason or connection that we know of, that Rahab had no other motivation than faith.

And I think that this story would have been stronger without that tie.

I look forward to reading the previous books in this series, as well as future books by this author.