Red by Ted Dekker


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Thomas Hunter leads two lives. In one world, he is trying to stop a virus from wiping out civilization. In the other, he is the leader of warriors who protect their people from a fallen enemy.

The evidence of a link between these worlds grows, and Thomas must stay alive to change history, or both worlds could be destroyed.

Red is the second book in the Circle series. It picks up at the exact point that Black left off, and the rollercoaster continues. The Biblical parallels become richer in this installment as the over-arching story reaches a climax in the world of the Colored Forest.

This book does lag just a bit in places, compared to Black, but the story moves forward at a decent pace for the depth of the story being told here.

This book is also a bit more violent, but it’s poignant and essential to the story.

1) Overall Plot = 5
2) Characters = 5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 4.5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average of score 4.9 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

Black by Ted Dekker


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When Thomas Hunter falls asleep in this world, he awakes in another. It’s a world where what we know as the spiritual is physically present. He lives there until he falls asleep, then he reawakens in this world. As he goes back and forth, he loses sight of what’s real. Is it this world or that one? Are they somehow both real?

The only thing he knows for sure is that what happens to him in the other world affects him in this one. He learns of a virus that could wipe out the entire planet in three weeks. He’s the only one who can stop it, and no one believes him.

It’s up to Thomas to save both worlds as darkness engulfs them both.

This is my second reading of the Circle series. Black is book one.

When I first read this series, I fell in love with Dekker’s writing. When someone asks me what my favorite books are, this series is the first one I list.

Dekker has masterfully woven two plots into one. There is action, suspense, romance, and all-around entertainment. But my favorite thing about this series is the imagery. Symbolism and Biblical parallels are laced throughout.

Reading this again, I realize that I may have missed things that were fairly obvious in regards to Old Testament imagery in this first installment. Recognizing these parallels makes the story so much richer.

1) Overall Plot = 5
2) Characters = 5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average of score 5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

The Outlaw’s Second Chance by Angie Dicken


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For Cort Stanton and Aubrey Huxley, the Oklahoma Land Run is a chance for freedom. For Aubrey, it’s freedom from no-good father. For Cort, it’s freedom from a jail cell for a crime he didn’t commit. When they try to claim the same piece of land, Cort agrees to let Aubrey have it if she just agrees to let him work it. It’s a deal that gives Aubrey what she desperately wants, and allows Cort to keep a low profile.

As the two learn to work together, they grow closer. But Cort knows his past could catch up with him and force him to leave, and Aubrey refuses to end up depending on a man the way her mother did.

This is a sweet story that features strong Christian characters. It’s an entertaining read, but it felt a little drawn out. I found myself skimming through some of the internal thoughts of the characters, as it was usually them reminding themselves why they shouldn’t pursue each other. Other than that, it’s a good read.

1) Overall Plot = 4.5
2) Characters = 4.5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 4
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 4

Average of score 4.4 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

Bleak Landing by Terrie Todd


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Bridget O’Sullivan is a twelve-year-old Irish immigrant. In a poor Canadian town, she is often beaten by her father, and bullied by her schoolmate, Victor Harrison. But she dreams of a better life, and runs away just a few years later.

When her father dies, Bridget must return to Bleak Landing to claim what’s hers. The problem is that she has no identification to prove she is O’Sullivan’s daughter, and most don’t recognize the beautiful, accomplished woman she has become. Only Victor. Wounded by war, Victor has become the town pastor and a candidate for mayor. As he tries to help Bridget he seeks forgiveness, but can she ever open her heart after the hurt from her past?

This is a great story. The characters are well-developed and believable. Bridget can be a bit unlikable at times, but never to the point that you stop wanting her to succeed. My only complaint for this novel is the ending. It felt very rushed once she returned home after her father’s death.

Overall, it’s a good read. Especially in regards to Bridget’s journey to discovering who God really is.

1) Overall Plot = 4.5
2) Characters = 5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 4
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 4.5

Average of score 4.6 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

 

Deep Waters by Jessica R. Patch


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Members of the Flynn family tend to hold dangerous jobs. All except for Caley. She purposely avoids danger, living her life rescuing and studying turtles instead.

When she finds the body of one of her interns on the beach, she fears it’s foul play.

At the request of Caley’s brother, Shepherd Lightman detours from his vacation to check on Caley and make sure everything is all right. But Shepherd agrees with Caley that the intern’s death was no accident, and he seems to be the only one who agrees.

As they search for evidence, Caley’s life is put into more danger. Shepherd must protect her, while trying not to fall for her more than he already has.

This is a great short novel. An easy read that will keep the pages turning. Be it suspense or romance, there’s tension on every page with characters that will keep you engaged.

1) Overall Plot = 4.8
2) Characters = 5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 4.5

Average of score 4.86 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

A Plain Leaving by Leslie Gould


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Jessica Bachmann has been on her own for three years. She has a job that she loves, and a boyfriend she cares for. Her life is good enough that she doesn’t regret leaving her Amish community, despite the time it took to get over the pain of the separation.

Now, after the death of her father, she must return for the funeral. She struggles through her grief, as well as the painful reunion with her family, most of whom are anything but welcoming. She must also deal with the resurfacing emotions toward Silas, the love she left behind.

In the midst of it all, Jessica’s aunt tells her the story of Ruby Bachmann, an ancestor from the time of the Revolutionary War. Ruby was faced with hardships and hard decisions. Will Ruby’s story guide Jessica back to her family? Or will it reinforce her decision to leave?

This is the first Amish novel I’ve ever read, and I’m glad I gave it a chance. It’s very well written, and Gould does a good job of weaving the two stories together. There were a couple of times where I lost track of whose story I was reading. I don’t really fault the author for this. I think it was only in part due to the fact that the Amish community didn’t change much between the times of Ruby and Jessica. But it wasn’t a major confusion. It was more along the lines of “oh, wait… that’s right, Jessica has a car.”

Other than that (which I blame mostly on my lack of concentration as of late), the book is wonderful. If you’re looking for a clean, faith-inspiring read, this is it.

1) Overall Plot = 5
2) Characters = 5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 4.8
5) Overall Enjoyability = 4.8

Average of score 4.92 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

The Bullet Journal: To Plan or to Track?


I’ve tried a lot of ways to get myself organized with my writing. Not just in terms of keeping track of ideas and notes, but in terms of making myself sit down and get things done. I was using a Monthly/Daily planner for a while, but I eventually fell away from keeping it up. I was planning out my entire day by the hour, and I felt like it was too rigid for what I was trying to do.

Enter the Bullet Journal. I am brand new to this. I discovered it while looking for planner tips, and put off trying it for a long time because it seemed too involved. But the more I researched, the more I was drawn to how flexible and customizable it is. So, I finally gave in and purchased this lovely little journal.

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After looking at tips on what to put inside, I decided to keep mine very simple. I have lots of collections right in front, because I love lists, and it’s honestly how I best organize my thoughts.

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The logs, however, are where I cut back. I almost cut the monthly log, but the more I thought about it, it’s the daily log that is unnecessary for me. This journal will be purely for writing and reading. I work a full-time job, so I don’t do a lot of planning during the week as my schedule can vary if I suddenly need to stay an hour or so later at work. A weekly spread seemed to be more beneficial, so I came up with a layout I think will work for me, including a habit tracker.

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Unlike most weekly planners, I gave myself more space on the weekend, since this is when most of my writing will be done.

Once I had this in place, I sat to jot down a few tasks to get me started in the coming week, and I blanked. Doubt crept in that I’ll ever find something to truly work for me. Scheduling my writing tasks, at least in detail of what I need to do, just seems so burdensome. I think it’s partially due to the fact that this is my first novel, and I’m trying to take my blog in a new, broader direction. It’s unfamiliar territory. How can I plan the unknown?

As I stared at the blank Monday, I realized I shouldn’t try to plan. What I’ve decided to do instead is use this weekly spread to track what I’ve done. My monthly log with tell me specific items that must be accomplished. My habit tracker tells me what my priorities are. It’s my job to focus and do them, and I’ll keep track of my success with my weekly spread. Did I discover character details? Did I research a post for my blog? I’ll list everything I worked on when I finish for the day.

I’ll be doing this for a while, trying to get the hang of it. I don’t want to judge the progress too soon.

Do you use a bullet journal? How have you customized it to fit your needs?

You can learn about bullet journaling here.

 

Fatal Mistake by Susan Sleeman


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When Tara Parrish barely survives an attack from the Lone Wolf bomber, she decides the only person she can count on to keep her safe is herself. She runs, knowing that if the bomber finds her, he’ll finish what he started.

Agent Cal Riggins has spent months trying to catch the Lone Wolf to stop him from taking any more lives. He knows Tara can help him, and he finally tracks her down. Now he has three problems: convincing Tara to come back and help, keeping her safe, and fighting off the growing attraction and admiration he feels for her so he can successfully do both of those things.

This novel had me glued from page one. Tension on every page. It’s a romantic suspense that holds solid on both fronts.

I think my favorite thing about his story is that, being a terrorist bomber, it could have been very generalized. Sleeman avoided that by making the stakes super-personal and adding a psychological twist, as well as a running theme of not trusting God when it seems like He’s not there.

All-in-all, this is a great read.

1) Overall Plot = 5
2) Characters = 5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average of score 5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

Tethered by Brenda H. Cox


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Henrietta Hall Shuck married at seventeen, then sailed to the other side of the world with her new husband as a missionary in China. Through disease, heartbreak, poverty, and war, the Shucks remain determined to follow God’s leading and remain in the country, sometimes against the wishes of the mission board, until Henrietta becomes the first female American missionary to set foot on China’s mainland.

There is no denying that Henrietta Shuck’s life is fascinating. She is an example of what it is like to follow God’s will, even when it would be easier (even life-saving) to turn back.

But as a novel, Tethered misses the mark. Very little of the book feels like a novel. The parts that do are quickly interrupted by time-jumps, tidbits of future information, or information dumps. The book was obviously well-researched. I think it would have been much better as a non-fiction piece with a narrative feel, but still non-fiction.

1) Overall Plot = 4
2) Characters = 3
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 3
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 2.5

Average of score 3.5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

Rescued Hearts by Hope Toler Dougherty


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When Mary Wade Kimball stops to help an entangled kitten, she’s pulled into the nearby abandoned house. Bound and gagged, she worries she will never escape when the leader of her two assailants returns from the store.

When Brett Davis discovers the kidnapped woman, he has a decision to make. He can allow this woman to be hurt, or he can throw three months of undercover work out of the window and get her out of there. But what will happen when the other two men give chase? And what do they do with the growing attraction between them?

I was very pleasantly surprised by this novel. The story pulled me in so that I couldn’t wait to pick up the book again. It’s mostly clean, with a few heated kisses and a couple of close calls with Mary at the hands of one of her assailants, but not vulgar by any stretch.

There’s also a great focus on leaning on God’s strength.

I definitely suggest this novel.

1) Overall Plot = 4.5
2) Characters = 5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average of score 4.9 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N