Book Review: Storm Rising by Ronie Kendig

storm rising Roniie Kendig book review

Synopsis:

Mentioned in the pages of the Septuagint but lost to history, the Book of the Wars has resurfaced, and its pages hold secrets--and dangers--never before seen on earth.

Tasked with capturing the ancient text, former Navy SEAL Leif Metcalfe is finally given command of his own team. But their best efforts are ruined when a notorious Bulgarian operative known as "Viorica" snatches the volume right out from under them.

Iskra "Viorica" Todorova is determined to use the book to secure the thing that matters most--freedom. But a series of strange storms erupts around the globe and the coming dangers foretold in the text threaten crops, lives--entire nations.

Though both are haunted by secrets of their past and neither trusts the other, Leif and Iskra must form an uneasy alliance to thwart impending disaster. However, the truth hidden in two-thousand-year-old words could unleash the storm of their own destruction.

  • Genre: Christian Suspense

  • Published: 4/2/2019

  • Publisher: Bethany House

  • Pages: 386

  • Goodreads Rating: 4.62 Stars


Heidi’s Rating:

4 Stars

Suggested Drink Pairings:

Tea: Moroccan Tea

Coffee: Turkish Coffee


We are more than the sum total of our actions.
— Ronie Kendig, Storm Rising

Why I Chose This Book

Storm Rising is the July pick for the Bethany House Blogger Program. I have never read Ronie’s books before so I was excited to read it.

First Initial Thoughts

The story immediately starts off with an action scene that reels you right in wanting you to know what happened before that led to that scene. I like it when books start like this. It gets the readers attention and keeps them reading.

Leif is a former Navy SEAL and is set on a mission to retrieve The Book of Wars before the enemy does. The Book of Wars, I am not sure if it’s real or not but it seemed intriguing for what it contained. I had a feeling that we were introduced to Leif before in previous Ronie’s books because I was slightly confused to certain references. In the book they referenced to a man named Tox, which is her previous series (the Tox Series). However, I didn’t feel that you need to read the previous series to read this one.

Viorica also known as Iskra is a young woman, who is owned by Hristoff, is a trained assassin to go out and do Hristoff’s “dirty work”. Even though she is the enemy in this book I grew to like her. I think underneath all the act she was a scared woman who did whatever Hristoff commanded because she had no where else to go and honestly, didn’t know any other way to live.

Setting

Ronie takes you from America to the Caribbean and all the way to the Middle East. This book visits so many interesting places and you are never bored with a particular setting. She also has such a talent for describing the storms that you almost feel like you are there along with the characters.

Nothing worth having is easy or free
— Leif

Final Thoughts

This book really reminded me of Indiana Jones mixed with Captain America/Marvel. Artifact hunting with action and conspiracy theories. Ronie also knows how to reel you in right away. And best of all - she doesn’t stop. The action is always right around the corner. This book kept me entertained from cover to end.

I also really like that Ronie used a diverse set of characters in terms of ethnicity, gender, etc. I liked that she had both women and men on Leif’s team. And the women weren’t just in the background, they were actually in the front lines doing hard work. I applaud authors when they do this because it empowers and inspires women.

My favorite characters had to be Leif and Iskra. They both had such strong characters and personalities. Both of their pasts were filled with hurt, regret, and sin. Even though they both had pasts that weren’t really “good”, specifically Iskra, I feel like it didn’t weaken their character. I think their past strengthened them and molded them into who they were. And I had a feeling deep down that they both wanted to change but were afraid. I am excited to continue reading the series to see how these two characters continue to develop.

I think the main theme of this book is forgiveness and starting over. Many characters in this book faced pasts filled with regret and sin. Christ forgives our sins and grants us new beginnings- always. I think this makes us relate to the characters, thus appreciating the story more.

Would I Recommend?

Yes and No. I think people will either really enjoy this one or kind of feel “eh” about it. I didn’t love it or hate it. I think people who really enjoy reading this genre will enjoy this book a lot.


You can purchase the book —-> HERE

the caffeinated bibliophile

Please Note: I was sent a copy of this book to review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Stars of Alabama by Sean Dietrich

stars of alabama sean dietrich book review

Synopsis:

From Sean Dietrich—also known as Sean of the South—comes a poignant tale of the stars that shine all around us . . . if only we’re willing to look.

When she becomes pregnant at fifteen, Marigold is rejected by her family and forced to fend for herself. And when she loses her baby in the forest, her whole world turns upside down. She’s even more distraught upon discovering she has an inexplicable power that makes her both beautiful and terrifying—and something of a local legend.

Meanwhile, migrant workers Vern and Paul discover a violet-eyed baby and take it upon themselves to care for her. The men soon pair up with a widow and her two children, and the untraditional family finds their way in fits and starts toward taking care of each other.

As survival brings one family together, a young boy finds himself with nary a friend to his name amid the dust storms still raging across Kansas. Fourteen-year-old Coot, a child preacher with a prodigy’s memory, is on the run with thousands of stolen dollars—and the only thing he’s sure of is that Mobile, Alabama, is his destination.

As the years pass and a world war looms, their stories intertwine in surprising ways. With a voice both humorous and heartfelt, Sean Dietrich weaves together a tale about the dignity of humanity and the value of enduring hope—reminding us that when the dust clears, we can still see the stars.

  • Genre: Historical Fiction

  • Published: 7/9/2019

  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson

  • Pages: 352

  • Goodreads Rating: 4.16


Heidi’s Rating:

4 Stars

Recommended Drink Pairings:

Tea: Southern Sweet Iced Tea

Coffee: Iced Coffee


As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
— 1 Peter 4:10

Why I Chose This Book

I am part of the TLC Book Tour for this new release by Sean Dietrich. I haven’t read too many books set in Alabama during the Great Depression so I thought it would be interesting.

First Initial Thoughts

There are three separate stories in the beginning of the novel and at first it was kind of confusing because by the middle of the book you start to wonder if these stories are going to intertwine in anyway. I won’t say if they do or not - no spoilers!

Marigold is a 15 year old girl who just gave birth to a baby girl and is essentially homeless living in the woods with her baby because her family kicked her out for getting pregnant. I really felt sorry for her because the way she got pregnant was not her fault. You have to read the story to find out. She one day goes to town to get some food but through certain circumstances is stuck in town overnight. Her baby, Maggie is left in the woods and their Vern and Paul shows up.

Vern and Paul are out in the woods with their dog when they find Maggie in the woods. Vern is captivated by the baby and wants to keep her. Paul ultimately caves in and lets Vern keep her. Marigold is devastated when she comes back and her baby is gone. The next few months she is walking around the woods with little food and water. By the end of those few months she is emaciated and dehydrated. A group of woman at a “saloon” house take her in and help her get better.

Coot and his friend are in Kansas barely surviving the dust bowl. They suddenly come upon some huge amounts of money and run out of town. However, Coot’s friend boards him on a bus to Alabama and leaves him there to build a better life with the money they stole.

Setting

This book is not only set in Alabama but also Kansas and other southern states. Sean captured the Great Depression perfectly. We often hear about how Europe struggled during the late 30’s and during the war but not so much America. It was inspiring to learn how people coped and survived during this difficult era.

It’s almost worth the Great Depression to learn how little our big men know.
— Will Rogers

Final Thoughts

Midway through the story the story jumps 6 years ahead. Vern and Paul is with another family and taking care of Verna (the little baby Maggie). Marigold is still with the group of girls as a housemaid. Coot is in Alabama as a works-man upset that he can not go to war due to a murmur in his heart.

Marigold soon finds out she has a gift of healing and the whole town starts seeing her for this “gift”. I was surprised how well she adapted to helping those in need. Healing is a spiritual gift given by God, and quite rare.

I think this story is about getting through the hard times and leaning on the Lord to get you through those difficult times. I found it interesting that Sean wrote about the Great Depression and the WWII in the south and what it was like for the families. Families often went hungry and without basic needs for years due to job shortages and rampant dust bowls. We often don’t hear about these historical stories in our own country.

This story also reminds us that there will always be good and bad people. Even though someone may be experiencing difficult times, there are always people there that will support you and be you there when times are tough. Also, family is not just blood. Family can be friends, neighbors, etc. Family can be those closest to you and it’s important to hold them close.

Would I Recommend?

Though I thought it read slowly, I think some may really enjoy the story and find it worth while to read.

Connect With Sean

Sean Dietrich

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble


Have you ever been to Alabama? I have only driven through Alabama and honestly wasn’t’ that impressed. But it was neat to see the true south.

the caffeinated bibliophile

Please Note: I was sent a copy of this book from the publisher to review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The King's Mercy by Lori Benton

the kings mercy lori benton book review

Synopsis:

For readers of Sara Donati and Diana Gabaldon, this epic historical romance tells of fateful love between an indentured Scotsman and a daughter of the 18th century colonial south.

When captured rebel Scotsman Alex MacKinnon is granted the king's mercy--exile to the Colony of North Carolina--he's indentured to Englishman Edmund Carey as a blacksmith. Against his will Alex is drawn into the struggles of Carey's slaves--and those of his stepdaughter, Joanna Carey. A mistress with a servant's heart, Joanna is expected to wed her father's overseer, Phineas Reeves, but finds herself drawn instead to the new blacksmith. As their unlikely relationship deepens, successive tragedies strike the Careys.

When blame falls unfairly upon Alex he flees to the distant mountains where he encounters Reverend Pauling, itinerate preacher and friend of the Careys, now a prisoner of the Cherokees. Haunted by his abandoning of Joanna, Alex tries to settle into life with the Cherokees, until circumstances thwart yet another attempt to forge his freedom and he's faced with the choice that's long hounded him: continue down his rebellious path or embrace the faith of a man like Pauling, whose freedom in Christ no man can steal. But the price of such mercy is total surrender, and perhaps Alex's very life.

  • Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

  • Publisher: WaterBrook

  • Pages: 400

  • Published: 6/4/2019

  • Goodreads Rating: 4.59 Stars


Heidi’s Rating:

4.5 Stars

Suggested Drink Parings:

Tea: Scottish Breakfast Black Tea

Coffee: Scottish Coffee (whisky and coffee)


The greater the material comfort you accrue, the greater the burden of it will weigh.
— Mr. Carey

Why I Chose This Book

I was sent a copy of this book from the publisher. When I read the synopsis I knew I was going to enjoy this book! I love any story that involves Scotland. ^_^

First Initial Thoughts

Joanna is the step daughter of a plantation owner in North Carolina. She is expected to wed the overseer of Severn, the plantation, Phineas Reeves. He is well into his 50s and she does not want to marry him despite the need to marry him to save her families plantation. Soon as Alex moves into the plantation as the blacksmith, Joanna is intrigued by his character and personality. Joanna is definitely born out of the wrong century. She has visions to own a plantation without owning slaves. Which is absolutely unheard of at this time. She was definitely a modern thinker!

Alex is a young Scotsman that survived the battle of Culloden. Because he is marked as a traitor to the crown he is sentenced to 7 years as an indentured servant in North Carolina as a Blacksmith. I knew that after the Battle of Culloden the survivors were sent to the America’s to serve out their sentence. But I didn’t know what exactly they did. I liked Alex from the beginning. Although he was kind of a mystery in the beginning. He was quiet and reserved at first. But his character and personality won people over, especially a young girl named Jemma.

Speaking of Jemma. She is a 12 year old girl when Alex arrives and she is an African American and Native American mix. She wants to go home to her people, the Cherokee but is a slave to Severn. I absolutely adored her and she was such a sweet but stubborn child.

Setting

Lori really knows how to capture the essence of the south. The unbearable heat in the summer (I couldn’t imagine living without AC in the south!), the Appalachian mountains, and beautiful forests.

Ye’ve always had that about ye, a need for a purpose beyond yourself. ’Tis the Almighty knit ye so.
— Alex

Final Thoughts

Fans of Outlander will throughly enjoy reading this book before the next season starts. This book is also set in North Carolina (like the last season) and also involves a love between a Scotsman and English Woman. I could see similar story lines played out in The King’s Mercy but I think it was done in a unique way so it didn’t feel like Lori was copying Outlander in any way.

I also want to note that this book reads slow. That is why I gave it a 4.5 stars. I think Lori could have shortened it a little bit. It took me a little while to get into the book but once the storyline picked up I found that I couldn’t put it down!

I really liked Joanna and Alex together. They fit together so well. They had the same visions in life and wanted the same out of life. I also liked that their love was not something easily achievable. I liked that they both had to fight for each other and it wasn’t “easy”. Alex in the beginning lost faith in Christ because of his misfortunes in life. He thinks the LORD has abandoned in him. I think Joanna saved him in that sense. Showed him that Christ still loved him despite all that he has done in the past. I also think Alex inspired Joanna to lead her own life and not to succumb to what is expected of her.

I also want to note that this book didn’t really read like a Christian book. It had Christian elements in it but it wasn’t bluntly obvious. It also had some real life issues included in this book that many settlers faced such as disease, heartache, and violence. There were some dark themes in this book but I think Lori wanted to paint a realistic picture of North Carolina during the 18th century. It wasn’t sunshine and rainbows all the time I am sure. I liked that it didn’t read as a Christian book because I could see a wide variety of people liking this book for what it is.

Would I Recommend?

Yes. I think that because the way it was written, this book can be read by Christians and non Christians alike. However, I would advise that it does get graphic and violent at times. So be wary of that if you are sensitive to that type of material.

Q&A With Lori Benton

What do you enjoy about capturing early American history in your novels? Why did you decide to include Scottish characters in this particular story?

The forced exile and indenture of Scottish prisoners after the failed 1745 Jacobite Uprising lent itself to the needs of this story, but I’d include Scottish characters in all my stories if I could. I’m drawn to Scotland’s Highland and clan history, particularly during the 18th century decades of immigration across the Atlantic. 

The notion of migrating cultures fascinates me, particularly the push into what Europeans considered the Appalachian frontier, during the 18th and early 19th centuries. Of course it wasn’t truly a frontier. There were Native Nations living there as they had done for centuries. It’s the collision of these cultures—as the result of trade, friendship, war, settlement, or evangelism—that intrigues me, and that I keep returning to with new stories to tell. 

Clearly from The King’s Mercy’s main setting, the mountain frontier wasn’t the only place this collision was happening. Particularly in the southern colonies (later states) it took place in countless homes, back yards, and fields where people of African and Native heritage were denied their freedom and forced to labor under harsh and unrelentingly deprivation for the betterment of a few. What inspires me are the accounts of men and women on either side of that cultural divide who had the compassion and conviction to see the “other” as a human being created in the image of God, deserving of dignity (or forgiveness) and the freedom any man or woman inherently craves—and the courage to do something about it, however small.

The book spans several different settings, including a Scottish battlefield, an English prison ship, a North Carolina plantation and the high blue mountains of the unconquered Cherokee Nation. Which setting did you most enjoy writing about?

I’d have liked to linger in Scotland and enjoyed writing the battle scene set at Culloden Moor, mainly for the novelty of it, but I think I’ll always love writing the Appalachian mountain settings best. I’m drawn to mountains, their grandeur and mystery, how they can inspire and daunt in the same breath. They demand your full engagement when you’re among them. They are beautiful but not always safe. 

As you did the research for this book, what was one of the strangest historical facts you learned?

Without a doubt the lotting of prisoners taken at Culloden and transferred to various English prisons. I’ve of necessity simplified its depiction in the pages of The King’s Mercy. It was in fact a complicated, chaotic, and random process, depending on your bloodline and who happened to be in charge of you, and whether he had some personal vendetta to pursue. The common man fared the worst, but in general one in twenty were chosen at random (slips of paper drawn from a hat, in many cases) to stand trial. The rest applied for and received the king’s mercy—exile and transportation. 

What do you hope readers take away from The King’s Mercy?

Honestly, whatever the Lord wants to impart. One thing about celebrating the grace and redemptive power of Jesus Christ in the form of story that I’ve discovered over the course of five (now six) published novels is that while I’ve had my conversation with the Lord about these characters and themes, heard from Him and changed and grown in the writing, after the book is published it becomes the reader’s turn, and God will speak to each heart something unique. Whatever that is for each reader, my hope is that they’re drawn closer to the Lord through Joanna and Alex’s story, and that they turn that last page of The King’s Mercy more in love with our merciful Jesus than when they began. 

You can purchase the book —> HERE

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Please Note: I was sent a copy of this book from the publisher to review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Ever Faithful by Karen Barnett

Ever faithful karen barnett book review

Synopsis:

Vibrant historic Yellowstone National Park comes to life in this romantic mystery about a man hiding the truth, braving the west to become something more--and the woman who must confront his deception.

A man who can't read will never amount to anything--or so Nate Webber believes. But he takes a chance to help his family by signing up for the new Civilian Conservation Corps, skirting the truth about certain "requirements." Nate exchanges the harsh Brooklyn streets for the wilds of Yellowstone National Park, curious if the Eden-like wonderland can transform him as well.
Elsie Brookes was proud to grow up as a ranger's daughter, but she longs for a future of her own. After four years serving as a maid in the park's hotels, she still hasn't saved enough money for her college tuition. A second job, teaching a crowd of rowdy men in the CCC camp, might be the answer, but when Elsie discovers Nate's secret, it puts his job as camp foreman in jeopardy. Tutoring leads to friendship and romance, until a string of suspicious fires casts a dark shadow over their relationship. Can they find answers before all of their dreams go up in smoke?

  • Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

  • Publisher: Waterbrook

  • Published: 6/18/2019

  • Pages: 352

  • Goodreads Rating: 4.38 Stars


Heidi’s Rating:

4 Stars

Recommend Drink Parings:

Tea: Herbal Tea

Coffee: Black Coffee w/Cream & Sugar


Forgiveness isn’t earned....It’s bestowed.
— Elsie's Mom

Why I Chose This Book:

I was sent a copy of this book from the publisher. I grew up in Wyoming and have been to Yellowstone many times so I was excited to read a book set in this particular area of the world.

First Initial Thoughts:

Elsie is a young 20 something girl working in Mammoth, Yellowstone as a maid. Over the summer she obtains a teaching job to a group of men for the CCC program. She is ecstatic that she can teach a group of people, even if it’s adults, as teaching is her passion and goal in life. She wants to go to College for education in the fall.

Nate is a young man that is a part of the CCC program. This program was started by President Roosevelt during the time. This was to help young men obtain jobs in National Parks because there weren’t too many other jobs in the country available. This was also the start of what we know as the 40 hour work week. Many of these men in this group had jobs they lost but worked 80+ hours previously. They were beyond grateful for having weekends and holidays off.

Their Elsie meets a young man named Teddy Vaughn. Teddy is absolutely smitten over her and thinks she is the ideal wife for him. However, Elsie has her doubts. Overtime Nate catches her eyes after meeting him one day in front of one of the geysers. I liked that Elsie had a mind of her own and didn’t wield to traditional standards.

I also liked Elsie’s friends, Mary and Rose. Mary reminded me of a more modest Samantha from Sex and the City. She loved getting attention from all the men in the camp. Rose is a long time friend of Elsie and develops a huge crush on Elsie’s cousin Graham.

Setting

I can tell Karen has been to Yellowstone before because it was accurately portrayed and I could imagine all the places in my mind as I read the book. This book made me miss this beautiful park!

Holding on to anger will only weaken you, like a tree rotting from the inside.
— Elsie's Mom

Final Thoughts

What I found interesting was that there was nicknames for all the people working in the park. I kind of found that odd in the beginning but got use to it by the end. This was actually based on real life back in the 30s so I found that interesting about the park.

I really liked Elsie and Nate together. I thought they encouraged and inspired each other in different ways. Nate taught her to forgive and learn to love herself for who she is. Elsie inspired Nate to be not ashamed of where he came from him and that he was truly an intelligent man.

I also liked that the fire mystery wasn’t the main part of the story- even though that was the main mystery. There was so much more going on in the story that I didn’t feel like the story dragged on at any point. I also really appreciated that mental illness and depression was a highlight in this story. Even though it wasn’t actually discussed, it was there in between the lines. During the 30’s it was hush hush when it came to mental illness and not many talked about it.

Even though this book was set in the early 30’s I had the assumption that it was set in the 50’s throughout the entire story. The way the people acted, the activities they partaken in, etc. reminded me more of the 50’s than the 30’s for some reason. So that was the only gripe I had with the story.

Would I Recommend?

Yes. Fans of Yellowstone and nature in general will absolutely enjoy this novel!

Q&A with Karen Barnett

Karen Barnett Author Pic

With this new story taking place in a few different locations throughout Yellowstone National Park, we’re curious—what’s your favorite thing about Yellowstone?

I feel like my answer should be something about all the incredible geothermal features like Old Faithful and the Mammoth Hot Springs. But to be honest, what impressed me most about Yellowstone National Park was the wildlife. On my last trip, I saw just about every type of creature Yellowstone has to offer, including bison, bears, and wolves. And when you think about how close the bison came to extinction, seeing such large herds grazing contentedly in the park is a bit like viewing living, breathing fossils.

The park’s staff used a variety of nicknames such as pillow punchers, gear jammers and pack rats. How did you discover and keep track of the long list of lingo the staff used during this era?

This was such a fun aspect of Yellowstone life to include. While I was poring over historical documents at the park, the archivist told me about these fun nicknames. She showed me songbooks that had been used by the campgrounds and hotels in this era, and they included a detailed glossary of the park lingo. Many of the silly terms are still used by the concessions staff today, and it sounds more whimsical than “maids,” “bus drivers,” and “porters.”

Through one of the character’s stories, you explore the topic of mental health, specifically depression. What was society’s understanding of depression during this time, and why did you include this in the storyline?

In the 30s, it wouldn’t be unusual to tell a depressed friend to just “cheer up already.” And the fact is, we still hear that sort of thing! With this storyline, I wanted to encourage people to keep a close eye on their friends and loved ones, and don’t just assume that the mood will pass. Sometimes it takes a caring person to intervene and encourage someone to get the help they need.

In Ever Faithful, I didn’t really get an opportunity to address the treatments for depression available in the 1930s, but it was really pretty nightmarish by today’s standards and the research left me reeling. I know we still have much to learn, but I’m thankful we’ve come as far as we have.

Which scene in the book did you most enjoy writing?

There was so much to love about writing this book, but the scene that I enjoyed most happens early in the story. During Nate’s first night in the park, he steps outside and experiences the incredible star-filled Wyoming night sky. It’s quickly followed by his first encounter with the Yellowstone night life—complete with ringed tails and furry black masks. This Brooklyn man had a lot to learn, but I couldn’t resist throwing him right into the joys of wilderness life.

What do you hope readers take away from Ever Faithful?

My hope for all three of the Vintage National Parks novels is that readers would get a sense of how God puts his great love on display in our creation. That’s hard to miss in awe-inspiring landscapes like our national parks, but it’s true even down to the tiniest bugs and leaves in our own areas—and even the human body itself. Sometimes we just forget to look. There’s a quote from naturalist John Muir at the beginning the book, “A thousand Yellowstone wonders are calling. ‘Look up and down and round about you!’”

Follow Karen:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

You can purchase the book —-> HERE

Have you ever been to Yellowstone?

the caffeinated bibliophile

Note: I was sent an ARC of this book to review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.