Beneath the Surface by Lynn H. Blackburn Review

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Synopsis:

After a harrowing experience with an obsessed patient, oncology nurse practitioner Leigh Weston needed a change. She thought she’d left her troubles behind when she moved home to Carrington, North Carolina, and took a job in the emergency department of the local hospital. But when someone tampers with her brakes, she fears the past has chased her into the present. She reaches out to her high school friend turned homicide investigator, Ryan Parker, for help.

Ryan finds satisfaction in his career, but his favorite way to use his skills is as a volunteer underwater investigator with the Carrington County Sheriff’s Office dive team. When the body of a wealthy businessman is discovered in Lake Porter, the investigation uncovers a possible serial killer–one with a terrifying connection to Leigh Weston and deadly implications for them all.

Dive into the depths of fear with an exciting new voice in romantic suspense. Award-winning author Lynn H. Blackburn grabs readers by the throat and doesn’t let go until the final heart-pounding page.

My Thoughts:

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much that I enjoyed about this book. It started into the story rather abruptly, and almost felt as if it was a continuation of a series (at one point I even double checked to see if it was a continuation, but it’s book 1 of a series) because a lot of past events are referred to and the characters are introduced as if the reader already should know them.

A major plot of the book is the romance between the two main characters and to me it felt very immature, almost as if I was reading a YA book about Junior High or middle school aged characters who had crushes on each other. (At one point, the female character, Leigh is upset that Ryan hasn’t called her, when he was busy investigating a murder…) I am not a fan of romance unless it is done very well and this romance was definitely not my favorite and took up too much of the story for my liking.

I did find the serial killer plot point interesting and was surprised by who the culprit was but I wished the focus would have been more on the investigation and less on the romance.

I think some people would enjoy this story if they enjoy romance with mystery thrown in but it definitely wasn’t my cup of tea.

My Rating: 1.5 stars

I received this book from Baker Publishing Group to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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NIV Journal the Word Reference Bible by Zondervan Review

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Description:

The NIV Journal the Word™ Reference Bible allows you to capture your thoughts next to treasured verses while cross referencing Scripture in the accurate, readable, and clear New International Version (NIV) translation. This single-column, red-letter edition features thick paper with lightly ruled lines in the extra-wide margins, perfect to reflect on God’s Word and enhance your study.

Expertly designed for the New International Version (NIV) text, Comfort Print® delivers a smooth reading experience that complements the most widely read contemporary-English Bible translation.

Excellent for a gift or for personal use, it can also be a cherished heirloom to pass on to future generations with your personal writings inside!

Features of this treasured Bible include:

Side-column cross-reference system
Lined, wide margins for notes and reflections
Thick cream paper for enduring note-taking
Complete text of the accurate, readable, and clear New International Version (NIV)
Easy-to-read text
Words of Christ in red
Lays flat in your hand or on your desk
Ribbon marker
9.3-point print size
Exclusive NIV Comfort Print®

My Thoughts:

This Bible is great for almost anyone. The design is very gender neutral…the black cover is of very good quality, with a slightly textured spine. It feels very durable and seems like it will last the test of time. The end papers have an attractive gray diamond design. I really like the addition of an elastic band to keep the Bible closed. There is a red ribbon bookmark…I personally would have preferred a different color, either a hunter green, navy blue, or a deeper shade of red, but that is a matter of opinion.

The Bible is supposed to have thicker paper to assist with note taking…I compared it to my Life Application Study Bible and the pages do feel slightly thicker but the difference is very slight. My primary intention for this Bible is to use it for artistic Bible journaling so the thickness of pages are important.

The text is a 9.3 point size, which is a bit smaller than I prefer but it was probably necessary to allow for the wide margins. The margins are spacious and have faint lines for note taking. The titles and captions are in a pleasant burgundy color and the words of Jesus are in red. Overall the appearance of this Bible is very basic, but this is desirable for those who wish to add their own creative touch or to use it as a journaling Bible. I also could see many men enjoying this Bible as the style is very clean and simple.

There are cross-references on the side columns, in the middle of the book. The Bible also contains a dictionary-concordance, which is a feature I really like and will use often. The table of contents includes the books in the order of the Bible as well as in alphabetical order, which could be very helpful for finding the lesser known books.

Overall, I am extremely pleased with this Bible and plan on using it for many years to come.

My Rating: 5 stars

I received this book from Booklook Bloggers to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Keturah by Lisa T. Bergren Review

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Synopsis:

In 1772 England, Lady Keturah Banning Tomlinson and her sisters find themselves the heiresses of their father’s estates and know they have one option: Go to the West Indies to save what is left of their heritage.

Although it flies against all the conventions for women of the time, they’re determined to make their own way in the world. But once they arrive in the Caribbean, proper gender roles are the least of their concerns. On the infamous island of Nevis, the sisters discover the legacy of the legendary sugar barons has vastly declined–and that’s just the start of
what their eyes are opened to in this unfamiliar world.

Keturah never intends to put herself at the mercy of a man again, but every man on the island seems to be trying to win her hand and, with it, the ownership of her plantation. She could desperately use an ally, but even an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend leaves her questioning his motives.

Set on keeping her family together and saving her father’s once-great plantation, can Keturah ever surrender her stubbornness and guarded heart to God and find the healing and love awaiting her?

My Thoughts:

This story was very interesting. I had very little knowledge of the sugar plantations in the past and this story really allowed the reader to experience the culture and challenges of that time period and place.

The story does not gloss over the ugliness of slavery or the terrible way these people were treated…there were some very difficult scenes to read but I appreciated that they were historically accurate. I also found that the author portrayed how women were viewed by men very well…it was not an easy time for women.

The author describes everything very vividly…the scenes on the boat and the island were almost like watching a movie.

I loved the sisters in the story…Keturah, Verity, and Selah each had distinct personalities but supported each other through difficult times and had some great “sisterly” moments.

Overall, this was a great story that moved at a good pace and left me eager to read the next installment.

My Rating: 4 stars

 

I received this book from Baker Publishing Group to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Soul’s Prisoner by Cara Luecht Review and Giveaway

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About the Book

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Book Title: Soul’s Prisoner

Author: Cara Luecht

Genre: Historical fiction with some suspense and romance

Release Date: December 15, 2015

Chicago, Winter, 1891

Rachel is in danger. She’s seen too much.

She creeps along the cement walls through the dank underbelly of the asylum. She’d never planned to leave her quiet farm life, never thought she’d find a place in the city, never imagined she’d be in the kind of danger that would have her cowering in Dunning’s cold, labyrinthine basement.

Jenny has finally found her place. After a childhood of abuse, she has friends, a real job, and her only wish is to give her adopted son the kind of life she never had.

A life of stability, without the risk and uncertainty of a father.

But when Jeremy, Rachel’s brother, stumbles into their warehouse, asking for help to find his missing sister, Jenny’s carefully constructed life begins to crumble.

Click here to purchase your copy!

My Thoughts:

In this book, the reader experiences what life was like for a patient in an insane asylum in the 1800s. This book had many disturbing scenes, but were based on historical facts, which is heartbreaking. Nothing was too graphic but the author described everything in a way that made the setting and the experience feel extremely real. It also had a creepy, gothic feel that I enjoyed (it was a nice change from all the contemporaries I’ve been reading lately).

The subject of asylums is fascinating to me because of how they were permitted to abuse and treat people in such an inhumane way for such a long period of time. I’ve read several books that focus on asylums and this was by far, my favorite.

The writing is very clean and I appreciated the diversity that was found in the book. I also loved all the fashion descriptions found in the book, that was a fun addition.

I flew through the story and was sad to see it end. It is the second book in a series but works as a standalone (although I’m planning on buying the rest of the books in the series!) This is one of my favorite books of the year so far, I highly recommend it!

My Rating: 5 stars

I received this book from the author/ publisher. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

About the Author

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Award winning author, Cara Luecht, lives in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin with her husband, David, and their children. Cara graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Currently, Cara is studying for a Masters of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Guest Post from Cara Luecht

The Setting for Soul’s Prisoner: Dunning Asylum for the Insane

Dunning Asylum for the Insane was built in the 1850s and housed psychiatric patients until the early 1900s. It has since been demolished, and a small park currently stands as the only remaining testament to the people who lived and died on the grounds.

The original plot of land also included a poor farm and a cemetery. A railroad used to connect the grounds to Minneapolis, Chicago, and Milwaukee. It was nicknamed the “Crazy Train”—a phrase that still survives in our language today. Those buried in the cemetery include Civil War Veterans, victims of the Chicago fire of 1871, orphans, paupers, and the residents of the asylum for the insane. Most estimates agree that nearly forty thousand people were buried on the grounds.

There is no doubt that mental illness is hard on families, but in the 1800s, having a family member who struggled with mental illness was an embarrassment. With little understanding of mental health in general, and even less compassion for those who suffered, examples of this tragic response to the threat of mental illness can be seen in the numerous inmates who were there simply due to addiction or depression. There are even cases where women were committed because their families were humiliated by their giving birth outside the bonds of marriage. Often times, challenges with mental health were synonymous with the notion of moral failure or vice. Because of this, even many charities looked the other way when corruption or abuse was exposed. Reporters sometimes wrote about the horrors of the institutions, but once the sensational story was out, and the initial outrage worn away, few worried about the people who suffered on a daily basis. And because of the moral implication of mental illness, families commonly turned over their suffering members to the county, and later simply explained to friends that the person had died.

And that is exactly what the mentally ill would do in the institution. Live there until they died, forgotten.

And that’s how the story played out at Dunning, until late in the 1900s when developers began to dig the roads and foundations for a new neighborhood on the grounds of what was once the Asylum. At that time, Dunning, and the people who had resided there, were still within living memory, so when bones were unearthed, it was no mystery how they ended up on that patch of land. What had slipped from memory was the magnitude of the collective stories of suffering and hardship.

For this novel, the people and events are fictitious. However, when examining old news stories from an institution known for corruption, it is not hard to imagine situations like the ones in the novel. The details that are true are the nearly one thousand inmates, no hot water, little to no heat in the winter, bad food, and the general feeling of living ghosts, intentionally forgotten, and doomed to never leave the grounds.

Blog Stops

A Baker’s Perspective, March 8

D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, March 8

Multifarious, March 9

Remembrancy, March 9

Connie’s History Classroom, March 10

History, Mystery & Faith, March 11

Reading is My Superpower, March 11

amandainpa, March 12

Locks, Hooks and Books, March 12

Texas Book-aholic, March 13

Carpe Diem, March 14

Maureen’s Musings, March 15

Blogging With Carol, March 16

Two Points of Interest, March 16

proud to be an autism mom, March 17

A Greater Yes, March 17

Bibliophile Reviews, March 18

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, March 18

Janices book reviews, March 19

Jeanette’s Thoughts, March 19

Simple Harvest Reads, March 20 (Guest Post from Mindy)

Pursuing Stacie, March 20

For The Love of Books, March 21

Bigreadersite, March 21


Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Cara is giving away a grand prize of a signed copy of Soul’s Prisoner and sketching art supplies!!

Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries! https://promosimple.com/ps/cb74

 

God’s Call to a Deeper Life by Nancy Taylor Review

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Description:

God is calling to your heart from every page of His Word. Can you hear His voice? Or does it sometimes feel like you’ve read it all before, and the words enter your mind but fail to permeate your soul?

Get ready to experience Scripture in an entirely new way through these 366 devotions. Open your heart to God’s truth in a way that is clear, personal, and relevant to your life. Let these devotions bridge the gap between the eternal, unchanging words written in the Bible and your heart’s desire to connect with the One who cares most deeply for you.

My Thoughts:

First of all, this book is just my style…The cover has 2 beautiful shades of pink, with rose gold metallic lettering and a pretty floral design. The edges of the pages have 2 shades of pink in a striped design. There is a very nice dedication page if you want to gift this book to someone special. The end papers also have a pretty pink floral design. So…if you’re not a fan of pink, this may not be the book for you (but it’s my favorite color, so I love it!)

The book contains 366 dated devotions that are paraphrased by the author, written in second person, as if Jesus is speaking to the reader. I think it’s very  important for the reader to read the scripture first, then to go to the devotion as the word of God should always be our primary source. The author also states this in a “How to use this book” section in the beginning.

I found that the author did a great job at paraphrasing the verses to make them feel more personal to the reader. This would be a great devotional for when you are short on time. It only takes about 5 minutes to read both the chapter from the Bible and the devotion.

I like that the entries are dated but the reader can start at any time of the year. There is a pink ribbon bookmark to mark your place.

Overall, this is a great devotional that would make a nice gift.

My Rating:

4 stars

I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

NIV The Woman’s Study Bible

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Description: 

The Woman’s Study Bible poignantly reveals the Word of God to women, inviting them to receive God’s truth for balance, hope, and transformation. Special features designed to speak to a woman’s heart appear throughout the Bible text, revealing Scripture-based insights about how godly womanhood grows from a woman’s identity as a Christ-follower and a child of the Kingdom. Now with a beautiful full-color redesign, The Woman’s Study Bible reflects the contributions of over 80 women from a wide variety of ethnic, denominational, educational, and occupational backgrounds. Since the publication of the first edition of The Woman’s Study Bible under the editorial guidance of Dorothy Kelley Patterson and Rhonda Harrington Kelley, this landmark study Bible has sold over 1.5 million copies.

My Thoughts: 

This Bible is just amazing! I am amazed at the vast amount of information that is included in this book. I have never owned a study Bible geared towards women and I am very happy to own one now. It highlights many of the women of the Bible, describing them further. It also includes articles on many topics that many people struggle with and face…tears, distress, childbirth, employment, giving, death, weight control.

There are many maps, tables, and diagrams sprinkled throughout the Bible that will be very helpful. I was excited to find a diagram of the various Millenial Views in the book of Revelation. There are a lot of great visual aids like this that help the reader learn more about the text.

There is commentary at the bottom of each page but not for every verse. I would like a bit more of the commentary but there are so many other features that it seems that there wasn’t enough room. The text size is not too small and Jesus’ words are highlighted in red.

The Bible is full color, which is definitely a plus. There are some very pretty floral designs on the opening pages of the books.  I’m not a huge fan of the design on the  cover of the book. It’s just not my personal style but I think many women would find it appealing.

Although I own another study Bible, I think this will be my go-to study Bible. I highly recommend this to all women.

My Rating: 5 stars

I received this book from Booklook Bloggers to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Where the Fire Falls by Karen Barnett Review

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Synopsis: Stunning Yosemite National Park sets the stage for this late 1920s historical romance with mystery, adventure, heart, and a sense of the place John Muir described as “pervaded with divine light.”

Watercolorist Olivia Rutherford fashioned her image as an avant-garde artist to appeal to the region’s wealthy art-collectors. When she lands a lucrative contract painting illustrations of Yosemite National Park for a travel magazine including its nightly one-of-a-kind Firefall event, she hopes the money will lift Olivia and her sisters out of poverty.

After false accusations cost him everything, former minister Clark Johnson has found purpose as a backcountry guide in this natural cathedral of granite and trees. Now he’s faced with the choice of becoming a National Parks Ranger, but is it his true calling?

As Clark helps open Olivia’s eyes to the wonders of Yosemite, she discovers the people are as vital to the park’s story as its vistas– a revelation that may bring her charade to an end.

My Thoughts: I loved the first book in this series, The Road to Paradise, so I was eager to pick this one up! Set in Yosemite National Park, this story follows Olivia, an artist with a lot of secrets, commissioned to paint scenery from Yosemite and Clark, a trail guide who works at Yosemite and is dealing with issues from his past.

Karen Barnett is extremely gifted at setting the scene…I’ve never visited Yosemite but her descriptions make me feel like I almost have. In this book, the reader sees many different sights and locations in the park.

There is a lot of adventure and some mystery to the story, which was my favorite aspect. I wasn’t as fond of the romance as it seemed a bit forced and unrealistic at times (plus I’m usually not a romance reader).

I will say that I enjoyed the first book more but this one was still fun and worth picking up. I can’t wait for the next one!

My Rating: 3 stars

I received this book from Blogging for Books to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.