Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Bible Recap by Tara-Leigh Cobble

I will be reading through the Bible this year using The Bible Recap book. I have read several of Cobble's comments on the daily Bible readings and am impressed. I have listened to her podcasts too. I have confidence in the study material provided.

The Bible reading program is a chronological one but of a different arrangement than I am used to. Cobble says to not buy a chronological Bible as it will not go along with her plan. She suggests using a Bible you have, reading the daily designated chapters in it.

Cobble's daily notes really help readers see the overall story of the Bible and how God has worked through His people. The daily written commentary is very similar to the daily podcast material. The content is the same but the written form has been edited slightly for readability. The book has wide margins so there is plenty of space for readers to write notes and even journal insights.

Perhaps what impressed me the most with Cobble's material is that where there are different interpretations of Scripture, she presents the various views. I have found that she does so without showing any of her own bias. I like that.

You can read an excerpt here.

You can find out about the program, resources for study groups and churches, print out a reading guide, and much more at http://www.thebiblerecap.com/.

You can find The Bible Recap on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can find The Bible Recap Bible reading plan on the free YouVersion Bible app and you can listen to Cobble's podcasts on your favorite podcast platform.

I highly recommend this book. Reading the Bible is essential to our understanding of God and our spiritual growth. Cobble presents a program that will help any Christian read through the Bible and gain valuable spiritual insights.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Tara-Leigh Cobble is the creator and host of The Bible Recap podcast and the founder of D-Group, an international network of weekly discipleship and accountability groups. She also hosts a daily radio show called The God Shot. She lives in Dallas, Texas. You can find out more at www.taraleighcobble.com.

Bethany House, 752 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Monday, December 28, 2020

The Thief of Blackfriars Lane by Michelle Griep

I am not an avid reader of historical fiction. I took a chance on a new author to me and I am glad I did. Griep came through on many of my requirements for a good novel.

I liked how the characters were developed. Jackson is a flawed young man with a wonderful heart. Because of childhood mistakes, he wants to correct wrongs and desires to be a constable efficient in eradicating evil. He's a bit naïve, however, and gets into all kinds of trouble confronting those who live on and below the streets of London. He has to match wits with the other well crafted character, Kit. She is a smart gal, having learned how to survive and thrive on those very dangerous streets. Can the two work together to solve the mystery of a missing cab driver? We are taken through the underworld of historical London, meeting those who inhabit the darker side of the city.

Griep's writing style is one thing that makes this novel an engaging one. The interaction between Jackson and Kit is well done with snarky dialogue. I also appreciate the many issues Griep brings up in the course of the plot. What is failure? Jackson's father gave him this advice: “...it is far better to be a failure at what you love than a success at what you hate.” (2434/3768) And, “...the only true failure in life is refusing to do what God has asked of you.” (2463/3768) That is some good food for thought.

Griep provides another of my requirements for a good historical novel, a good author's note enlightening readers to historical facts and important cultural information. She has even included a bibliography in case readers want to know more.

I am impressed with this novel, the first I have read by Griep. She is a good story teller, adding humor and a budding romance to a good mystery. I get the impression Jackson and Kit have just begun their adventures so I will be looking for the next novel in this series.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Michelle Griep is a Christy Award-winning author of historical romances and a contemporary romantic mystery. You can find out more at www.michellegriep.com.

Barbour Publishing, 320 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Saturday, December 26, 2020

How to Forgive When It Feels Impossible by Peter Horrobin

God has given us guidelines for abundant living. Horrobin reminds us that one of those guidelines is forgiving others. We may have the impression that forgiving others is not so important but Horrobin sets us straight. Jesus said we are to forgive others if we are to expect forgiveness from God. Unforgiveness harms us, the bitterness a poison. Forgiveness sets us free.

Perhaps we know we should forgive others but face the obstacle of such forgiveness seeming to be impossible. Horrobin helps us work through the issues, like when we feel others do not deserve the forgiveness. He reminds us that forgiveness is an act of love, not justice. (34) He gives a practical strategy with eight steps to help us work through forgiveness. He also has good teaching on specific areas of forgiveness, such as for sexual abuse or forgiving our parents.

My favorite insight from Horrobin is about trust. He distinguishes forgiveness from trust. “A forgiven person may still be an untrustworthy person.” (71) Forgiving a person does not mean we automatically trust that person again. Trust must be earned.

This is a small book but it contains a powerful message. It is full of encouragement to forgive, contains good strategy to work through the process of forgiveness, and contains many inspiring stories of people set free through their forgiving others.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Peter Horrobin is the founder and international director of Ellel Ministries, established in 1986 as a ministry of healing in northwest England. Today the ministry has operational centers in over 35 countries. Horrobin was born in northern England. He has a degree is chemistry from Oxford University, lectured in colleges and universities and then transitioned to the business world. The story of Horrobin's life and how God built the ministry is told in his book Strands of Destiny (Sovereign World, 2018). He and his wife live in Lancashire, England. You can find out more at https://ellel.org/.

Chosen Books, 128 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Friday, December 25, 2020

Safecracker by Ryan Wick

Wick takes readers into the dark world of drug cartels through the exploits of a professional thief. This is an engaging novel as we follow Michael Maven. His life is in danger after he witnesses a murder by a cartel assassin.

I am impressed with this debut effort. Wick has done a good job creating Maven, a flawed hero, a professional thief with his own set of morals. The plot is a bit long and drawn out but kept my interest. I found it depressing to read about the drug lords and their disregard for human life. There is plenty of action in the novel along with many gruesome killings. This is not a book for the weak of stomach.

Wick adds a little post script that indicates a sequel is in the making. I liked this debut well enough I will be looking it.

This book will be released in late 2021.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Ryan Wick is an author, award-winning director, screenwriter and Filipino martial arts instructor. He has worked on over a thousand productions and directed countless award-winning commercials, documentaries, music videos and films. He has also taught cinematography classes at the New York Film Academy and Princeton University. Safecracker is his debut novel. You can find out more at https://ryanwickbooks.com/.

St. Martin's Press, 320 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Living from Eternity by Kurt daSilva

daSilva's book is certainly thought provoking. It seems to be a combination of insights from Scripture, his own revelation, and personal experiences with God. He aims to clear up our misunderstandings of spiritual truth. (139) His main message seems to be that we have a clean conscience before God, we are free from any demands of performance before God and we are to be spiritually led. (41)

I question many of his concepts based on my understanding of what the Bible teaches.

He has ideas about sin, for example, that I do not believe are in line with Scripture. There is no more sin, he writes. Jesus took away the sin of the entire world. “Nothing is counted against anyone anymore.” (22) “Sin itself has been taken away by Jesus.” (22) “All sin has been done away with.” (29) “No matter what a person does, he is not in sin, because Jesus died for all his wrongdoing.” (30) He argues this by understanding sin came through the law and Jesus did away with the law. (29) My understanding: Jesus clearly says in Matt. 5:17,18 that He did not come to destroy the Law but fulfill it and that the Law will not disappear until it is all fulfilled. Also, Jesus said the Spirit would convict the world of sin in John 16:8,9. (daSilva argues from his own experience with the Holy Spirit that He would never condemn. “God does not bring guilt and condemnation for not believing in Jesus.” (32) “Our unbelief does not negate the righteous state of existence we're in.” (53)) Yet John reminds us in 1 John 1:8-10 that if we claim we do not sin we are deceiving ourselves and are making Jesus a liar.

It would seem from the above statements that daSilva believes in universal salvation. That is borne out later. “”Jesus is not going to allow ANYONE to be lost! All men – those who live or those who die – will eventually come into the light, and into the Kingdom.” (34) Again, “Everybody has been forgiven of All sin.” (38) “He came to save everyone, not just those who would believe in Him.” (43) Those who die, not knowing Jesus, go to Hades and there await the gospel to bring them into the Kingdom of light. (146)

daSilva says that any suffering, decay and death, anything of the consequences from the fall, was taken in the body of Jesus and we are free from it. (37) “Man … has been completely restored...” (22) “The enemy does not have the power to affect man directly in any way.” (26) Yet we see demon possession in the New Testament. There is no more sickness, daSilva says. (53) I guess Paul did not know that as he acknowledged Timothy's stomach problems. We have limitless capabilities, daSilva says. (78) Really.

His teaching is sometimes very confusing, as well. daSilva convinces readers that Jesus did away with sin (see above referencing pages 29,30). “A person doing nasty stuff, is simply a righteous person engaging in works that are not his true identity.” (51) But daSilva does say it is not “okay for people to live in sin, or in violation of another person's free will.” (52) But wait. How can people “live in sin” if Jesus did away with sin? “Sin has been destroyed once and for all.” (54)

Sometimes I don't understand where daSilva gets his teaching. “Contrary to popular belief, Jesus is not standing beside the Father and praying to Him for us.” (65) Yet Paul says Jesus is at the right hand of God interceding for us in Rom. 8:34. “No host of Heaven has any authority to influence or impact the physical realm...” (80) But Daniel said angels shut the mouths of lions when he was in the lion's den (Dan. 6:22) and two angels pulled Lot in, shut his door and blinded his attackers (Gen. 19:1,10,11) and an angel stopped Balaam's donkey. (Numb. 22:22-35) There are also the many people in the New Testament time who did and said things because they were controlled by demons, such as the son thrown into the fire. (Mark 9:17,18) “Nothing in creation can happen outside the 'will of man' – it never has, or ever will.” (90) Yet it certainly wasn't Balaam's will that the donkey would not go on. (Numb. 22) It was not Paul's will that he continue to have his thorn in the flesh. (2 Cor. 12:8) It wasn't the son's will the demon toss him in the fire. (Mark 9:17,18) “[Jesus] never acknowledged the things of the Earth to be real.” (179) I am not even sure what that statement can mean. Jesus didn't eat, wear clothes, ride a donkey?

Whenever I review a book containing Christian theology I debate how much space I should take to critique the theology. While I did read the entire book, I chose to focus on just some of the teachings because, after all, this is a book review, not a rebuttal of the theology contained within.

I appreciate daSilva's teaching that we are not accepted by God because of our performance and his encouragement that we live and relate to God with a clean conscience, being led by the Spirit. I would encourage readers to be like the Bereans, however, and read this book with their Bible in hand.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Kurt daSilva is an author, speaker, and design professional. He is the founder of Life Deeper Still. You can learn more at https://lifedeeperstill.com/.

Independently published, 322 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the author. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Monday, December 21, 2020

Deception Bay by Chris Patchell

I enjoyed this mystery taking place on Whidbey Island because I am a native and long time resident of it. The plot was well crafted with current deadly deeds originating in a murder years ago. The characters were pretty well crafted too. I always find it interesting when an author has a main character of the opposite gender. I trust male readers will think Patchell did a sufficient job.

Patchell did capture the atmosphere of living on an island in the Salish Sea. She portrays well the small community attitude where everyone seems to know what everyone else is doing.

I really like Patchell's writing style. She is clever at writing and has some good snarky dialogue too.

I can forgive Patchell for a few errors in geography, like putting the Star Store in Coupeville when it is in Langley. Fictional freedom is certainly allowed. I was bothered by Austin seeing Puget Sound from the Coupeville Wharf. You can't. But you can see Mount Baker and the Cascade Mountains from it. That would have been a descriptive view to better show the beauty the Pacific Northwest offers.

There is some foul language I didn't appreciate but seemed appropriate to the characters. I really do like Patchell's writing style and will be reading more from her. I do recommend this book to readers who would like to get a bit of the flavor of Whidbey Island.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Chris Patchell is a USA Today bestselling author. She has written five novels including the award winning Jill Shannon Murder Series, the bestselling Holt Foundation Series, and the stand alone Deception Bay. A former tech worker, her suspense novels are set in the Pacific Northwest. You can find out more at https://www.chrispatchell.com/.

Chris Patchell Ink, 222 pages.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Magdalene Reliquary by Gary McAvoy

McAvoy gives readers another informative and entertaining novel. It is the second in a series but contains enough back story that it can be read and understood well on its own. You can read my review of the first in the series, The Magdalene Deception, here.

McAvoy does a great job of weaving a fictional narrative around a combination of actual historical events and speculative legends. This novel explores the Cathars and a possible treasure hidden for centuries. A young Jesuit priest discovers a possible clue to the location of the hidden treasure and the adventure is on.

There is much attention to detail in this series as we are taken to many locations in the Vatican and elsewhere. There are many characters too, such as shady antiquities dealers and Catholic priests vying for power. The description of the Secret Archives in the Vatican made me aware of the vast number of documents contained there. Some have never been reviewed and I wonder what secrets they hold.

One of my pet peeves is a character acting stupidly as a way to bring on suspense. Dominic, the Jesuit priest, does so. First he openly shows off, in a public place, the clue he found. Then he freely carries it around in his backpack while he walks the streets of Rome by himself. Is it any wonder he is attacked, precipitating much of the ensuing suspense?

Other than that one complaint of mine, I found the novel to be very engaging. The characters are well crafted. The plot retained my interest. Unfortunately, the egalley I read did not contain an author's note on which parts of the novel are based on actual historical events and which are McAvoy's imagination. We are given a teasing bit of history at the end of the book so I'll be looking for the next novel in this series.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Gary McAvoy is a veteran technology executive, entrepreneur, and author of And Every Word is True, a sequel to Truman Capote's book In Cold Blood. The Magdalene Reliquary in his second novel in the series called The Magdalene Chronicles. You can find out more at https://www.garymcavoy.com/.

Literati Editions, 396 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Book Sirens. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Saturday, December 19, 2020

The Dress Shop on King Street by Ashley Clark

About the Book:

In 1946, Millie Middleton left home to keep her heritage hidden, carrying the dream of owning a dress store. Decades later, when Harper Dupree's future in fashion falls apart, she visits her mentor Millie. As the revelation of a family secret leads them to Charleston and a rare opportunity, can they overcome doubts and failures for a chance at their dreams?

My Review:

I appreciate the social issues explored in this dual time novel. The earlier time in the U.S., 1946, was a time when mixed marriages were not accepted. The children of such a marriage would have difficulty fitting into society, white or Black. Clark has done a good job of giving us a sense of the difficulties of the time without any gruesome scenes.

The narrative alternates between 1946 and the years after and the current day. I felt the prologue a bit unnecessary and would have preferred that information included in backstory presented early in the book. I was also a little unclear about the missing generation, between Peter and Millie. And Millie's mother seemed absent so I was a bit surprised when she appeared later on in the book as if she had been there all along.

There is good historical detail. I loved the descriptions of architecture and fashions of the day. I was a bit surprised with the Charleston historical buildings as I thought much of the city was destroyed in the Civil War and the 1865 earthquake. I would have liked to know a bit more about that aspect of Peter's work, such as which parts of the city survived. I really appreciate the historical note Clark adds at the end of the book, identifying the factual details of the human side of the story.

This is a good novel about women who have had their dreams dashed. It is also good for readers who like to express themselves through creative endeavors, in this case sewing. There is a good budding romance included and a good spiritual message of hope in God.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Ashley Clark writes romantic women's fiction set in the South. This is her debut novel. She has a master's degree in creative writing and teaches literature and writing at the University of West Florida. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives with her husband and son off Florida's Gulf Coast. You can find out more at www.ashleyclarkbooks.com.

Bethany House, 368 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Grounds for Murder by Tara Lush

I enjoyed this fun cozy mystery for coffee lovers. I liked the setting of an island on the Florida coast. I liked the characters. I liked how Lana was portrayed as a slightly insecure barista with an investigative bent do to her previous journalism career. She did some dangerous probing but nothing really dumb and I appreciate that. Noah was kind of a missing in action police chief. I think the budding romance would have been better if he had actually helped Lana investigate.

The murder plot was pretty good. Many signs pointed to a suicide but we know because of the title that it must be murder. Lush provided a good number of suspects and I appreciate how Lana ruled them out, one by one. The actual murderer did not have much foreshadowing so I did not have to feel bad at not identifying the person ahead of time.

This is a fun cozy mystery set in an interesting location and with sufficiently developed characters. There was nothing amazing about the writing style. The novel was a good and fun read overall.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Tara Lush is a RITA Award finalist, an Amtrak writing fellow and the winner of the George C Polk award for environmental journalism. She lives in Florida and is a reporter with The Associated Press in Florida. She also writes as Tamara Lush. You can find out more at https://taralush.com/ and https://tamaralush.com/.

Crooked Lane Books, 320 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Start Where You Are by Rashawn Copeland

Copeland was anticipating a career in the NFL when getting shot by a gang member shattered his dreams. Falling into despair and contemplating suicide, he was brought to salvation by the social media post of a friend, a Christian. He encourages us to know that God loves us in our messiness. God invites us up to new life, in to commune with Him, and out to share His love.

Copeland shares wisdom he has learned from his experiences. Don't follow your heart, he writes. Follow God's desire for your heart, reminding us of Prov. 19:21, that man plans what's in his heart but it is God's purposes that prevail. Another good lesson from his experiences is that in our faith walk we will always have questions. Every biblical character who knew, loved and obeyed God, Copeland writes, had questions. Some received answers but some did not. We must trust God because we will never have all the answers.

He also provides some wise suggestions for life, such as, “Yield to the Holy Spirit before you yell at a person.” (75) Yes, there is righteous anger but there is also the command to turn the other cheek. Direction from the Spirit is needed before one acts. And my favorite, “Self control is not about managing ourselves but allowing God to manage us.” (115) Wow. That made me stop and think for quite a while.

Copeland includes a good section at the end of each chapter to help incorporate that chapter's truth. He includes a statement to think about, a suggestion for prayer, and a practical suggestion to live out the truth. Copeland's writing style is great. He uses good stories to illustrate his teaching.

I really appreciate the teaching in this encouraging book. It's a good one for Christians who think they are so messed up God does not love them and will not use them. “God doesn't look for perfection,” Copeland writes, “only a willingness to follow Him.” (102) I highly recommend this book.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Rashawn Copeland is the founder of I'm So Blessed Daily and Without Walls Ministries. He is a writer for several ministries and the host of the Scripture and Stories podcast on the Converge Podcast Network. He also serves on the Life Church (YouVersion) Bible app team with Pastor Craig Groeschel, assisting with global digital outreach. He is a graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma and is currently earning his MDiv at Liberty University. He lives in Oklahoma City with his wife and their three children. Photo Credit: Kailee Delcour Photography

Baker Books, 208 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the author. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Monday, December 14, 2020

A Murder is Forever Blog Tour and Giveaway

A Murder is Forever

by Rob Bates

December 1, 2020 - January 31, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Max Rosen always said the diamond business isn't about sorting the gems, it's about sorting the people. His daughter Mimi is about to learn that some people, like some diamonds, can be seriously flawed.

After Mimi's diamond-dealer cousin Yosef is murdered–seemingly for his $4 million pink diamond–Mimi finds herself in the middle of a massive conspiracy, where she doesn't know who to trust, or what to believe. Now she must find out the truth about both the diamond and her cousin, before whoever killed Yosef, gets her.

"[A] sprightly debut …. Bates, who has more than 25 years as a journalist covering the diamond business, easily slips in loads of fascinating information on diamonds and Jewish culture without losing sight of the mystery plot. Readers will look forward to Mimi’s further adventures." - Publishers Weekly  

My Review:


This is a very interesting mystery set in the diamond district in New York City. The diamond dealers highlighted in this novel are Jewish. I happily learned quite a bit about diamonds, how they are graded and marketed. I also learned quite a bit about Jewish traditions and culture too. (So that's why the women wear wigs.)

The mystery itself is well done. It revolved nicely around the idea of how diamonds are valued. Mimi, the heroine is a out of work journalist bent on solving the murder. I always find it interesting when a male author writes a female lead character. Mimi's character is relatively well done but a bit too impulsive for my taste. I didn't like that she alienated so many people and told so many lies. I think a woman who suspected she might be the next one killed would have made better choices. And in New York City in early evening, are there really no people on the sidewalks or subway entrances to see an attack?

This is a good debut novel from an author who really knows the setting in which he placed the mystery. The writing style is straight forward, making for a pleasant read. I look forward to reading another novel featuring a wiser Mimi.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Camel Press
Publication Date: October 13th 2020
Number of Pages: 281
ISBN: 1603812229 (ISBN13: 9781603812221)
Series: The Diamond District Mystery Series
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

A MURDER IS FOREVER

By Rob Bates

CHAPTER ONE

As Mimi Rosen exited the subway and looked out on the Diamond District, she remembered the words of her therapist: “This won’t last forever.”

She sure hoped so. She had been working on Forty-Seventh Street for two months and was already pretty tired of it.

To outsiders, “The Diamond District” sounded glamorous, like a street awash in glitter. To Mimi, who had spent her life around New York, Forty-Seventh Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues was a crowded, dirty eyesore of a block. The sidewalk was covered not with glitz, but with newspaper boxes, cigarettes, stacks of garbage bags, and, of course, lots of people.

Dozens of jewelry stores lined the street, all vying for attention, with red neon signs proclaiming “we buy gold” or “50 percent off.” Their windows boasted the requisite rows of glittery rings, and Mimi would sometimes see tourists ogling them, their eyes wide. She hated how the stores crammed so many gems in each display, until they all ran together like a mess of kids’ toys. For all its feints toward elegance, Forty-Seventh Street came off as the world’s sparkliest flea market.

Mimi knew the real action in the Diamond District was hidden from pedestrians, because it took place upstairs. There, in the nondescript grey and brown buildings that stood over the stores, billions in gems were bought, sold, traded, stored, cut, appraised, lost, found, and argued over. The upstairs wholesalers comprised the heart of the U.S. gem business; if someone bought a diamond anywhere in America, it had likely passed through Forty-Seventh Street.

Mimi’s father Max had spent his entire life as part of the small tight-knit diamond dealer community. It was a business based on who you knew—and even more, who you trusted. “This business isn’t about sorting the diamonds,” Max always said. “It’s about sorting the people.” Mimi would marvel how traders would seal million-dollar deals on handshakes, without a contract or lawyer in sight.

It helped that Forty-Seventh Street was comprised mostly of family businesses, owned by people from a narrow range of ethnic groups. Most—like Mimi’s father—were Orthodox, or religious, Jews. (“We’re the only people crazy enough to be in this industry,” as Max put it.) The Street was also home to a considerable contingent of Hasidic Jews, who were even more religious and identifiable by their black top hats and long flowing overcoats. Mimi once joked that Forty-Seventh Street was so diverse, it ran the gamut from Orthodox to ultra-Orthodox.

Now Mimi, while decidedly secular, was part of it all. Working for her father’s diamond company was not something she wanted to do, not something she ever dreamed she would do. Yet, here she was.

She had little choice. She had not worked full-time since being laid off from her editing job a year ago. She was already in debt from her divorce, which had cost more than her wedding, and netted little alimony. “That’s what happens when you divorce a lawyer,” said her shrink.

Six months after she lost her job, Mimi first asked her father for money. He happily leant it to her, though he added he wasn’t exactly Rockefeller. It was after her third request—accompanied, like the others, by heartfelt vows to pay him back—that he asked her to be the bookkeeper at his company. “I know you hate borrowing from me,” he told her. “This way, it isn’t charity. Besides, it’ll be nice having you around.”

Mimi protested she could barely keep track of her own finances. Her father reminded her that she got an A in accounting in high school. Which apparently qualified her to do the books at Max Rosen Diamond Company.

“We have new software, it makes it easy,” Max said. “Your mother, may she rest in peace, did it for years.”

Mimi put him off. She had a profession, and it wasn’t her mother’s.

Mimi was a journalist. She had worked at a newspaper for nine years, and a website for five. She was addicted to the thrill of the chase, the pump of adrenaline when she uncovered a hot story or piece of previously hidden info. There is no better sound to a reporter’s ears than someone sputtering, “How did you find that out?”

“It’s the perfect job for you,” her father once said. “You’re a professional nosy person.”

She loved journalism for a deeper reason, which she rarely admitted to her cynical reporter friends: She wanted to make a difference. As a girl, she was haunted by the stories they told in religious school, how Jews were killed in concentration camps while the world turned its head. Growing up, she devoured All the President’s Men and idolized pioneering female muckrakers like Nellie Bly.

Being a journalist was the only thing Mimi ever wanted to do, the only thing she knew how to do. She longed to do it again.

Which is why, she told her therapist, she would tell her father no.

Dr. Asner said she understood, in that soft melancholy coo common to all therapists. Then she crept forward on her chair.

“Maybe you should take your father up on this. He’s really throwing you a lifeline. You keep telling me how bad the editorial job market is.” She squinted and her glasses inched up her nose. “Sometimes people adjust their dreams. Put them on hold.”

Mimi felt the blood drain from her face. In her darker moments—and she had quite a few after her layoff—she had considered leaving journalism and doing something else, though she had no idea what that would be. Mimi always believed that giving up her lifelong passion would be tantamount to surrender.

Dr. Asner must have sensed her reaction, because she quickly backtracked.

“You can continue to look for a journalism job,” she said. “Who knows? Maybe working in the Diamond District will give you something to write about. Besides,”— here, her voice gained an edge—“you need the money.” That was driven home at the end of the forty-five minutes, when Dr. Asner announced that she couldn’t see Mimi for any more sessions, since Mimi hadn’t paid her for the last three.

By that point, Mimi didn’t know whether to argue, burst into tears, or wave a white flag and admit the world had won.

It was a cold February morning as Mimi walked down Forty-Seventh Street to her father’s office, following an hour-plus commute from New Jersey that included a car, a bus, and a subway. With her piercing hazel eyes, glossy brown hair, and closely set features, Mimi was frequently told she was pretty, though she never quite believed it. She had just gotten her hair cut short to commemorate her thirty-eighth birthday, hoping for a more “mature” look. She had always been self-conscious about her height; she was five foot four and tried to walk taller. She was wearing a navy dress that she’d snagged for a good price on eBay; it was professional enough to please her father, who wanted everyone to look nice in the office, without being so nice that she was wasting one of her few good outfits. She was bundled up with multiple layers and a heavy coat—to protect against the winter chill, as well as the madness around her.

Even though it was before 9 AM, Forty-Seventh Street was, as usual, packed, and Mimi gritted her teeth as she bobbed and weaved through the endless crowd. She sidestepped the store workers grabbing a smoke, covering her mouth so she wouldn’t get cancer. She swerved around the stern-looking guard unloading the armored car, with the gun conspicuously dangling from his belt. And she dodged the “hawker” trying to lure her into a jewelry store, who every day asked if she had gold to sell, even though every day she told him no.

Finally, Mimi reached her father’s building, 460 Fifth, the most popular address on “The Street.” After a few minutes standing and tapping her foot on the security line, she handed her driver’s license to the security guard and called out, “Rosen Diamonds.”

“Miss,” growled the guard with the oversized forehead who’d seen her three days a week for the past two months, “you should get a building ID. It’ll save you time in the morning.”

“It’s okay. I won’t be working here for long,” she chirped, though she wasn’t quite sure of that.

Next stop, the elevator bank. Mimi had an irrational fear of elevators; she was always worried she would die in one. She particularly hated these elevators, which were extremely narrow and perpetually packed. She envied those for whom a subway was their sole exposure to a cramped unpleasant space.

As the car rose, one occupant asked a Hasidic dealer how he was finding things.

“All you can do is put on your shoes. The rest is up to the man upstairs.”

Only in the diamond business. Mimi’s last job was thirty blocks away, yet in a different universe.

At each floor, dealers pushed and rushed like they were escaping a fire. When the elevator reached her floor, Mimi too elbowed her way to freedom.

As she walked to her father’s office, she marveled how the building, so fancy and impressive when she was a kid, had sunk into disrepair. The carpets were frayed, the paint was peeling, and the bathroom rarely contained more than one functioning toilet. If management properly maintained the building, they’d charge Midtown Manhattan rents, which small dealers like her father couldn’t afford. The neglect suited everyone.

She spied a new handwritten sign, “No large minyans, by order of the fire department.” Mimi produced a deep sigh. She had long ago left her religious background behind. Somehow, she was now working in a building where they warn against praying in the halls. She was going backward.

Perhaps the dealer in the elevator was right. You could only put on your shoes and do your best. She grabbed her pocketbook strap, threw her head back, and was just about at her father’s office when she heard the yelling.

“I’m so tired of waiting, Yosef! It’s not fair!”

Max’s receptionist, Channah, was arguing with her boyfriend, Yosef, a small-time, perpetually unsuccessfully diamond dealer. Making it more awkward: Yosef was Mimi’s cousin.

Channah and Yosef had dated for nearly eighteen months without getting married—an eternity in Channah’s community. Still, whenever Channah complained, Mimi remembered how her ex-husband only popped the question after three years and two ultimatums.

“Give me more time,” Yosef stuttered, as he tended to do when nervous. “I want to be successful in the business.”

“When’s that going to happen? The year three thousand?”

The argument shifted to Yiddish, which Mimi didn’t understand, though they were yelling so fiercely she didn’t need to. Finally, tall, skinny Yosef stormed out of the office, his black hat and suit set off by his red face. He was walking so fast he didn’t notice his cousin Mimi standing against the wall. Given the circumstances, she didn’t stop him to say hello. She watched his back grow smaller as he stomped and grunted down the hall.

Mimi gave Channah time to cool down. After a minute checking in vain for responses to her latest freelance pitch—editors weren’t even bothering to reject her anymore—she rang the doorbell. She flashed a half-smile at the security camera stationed over the door, and Channah buzzed her in. Mimi hopped into the “man trap,” the small square space between security doors that was a standard feature of diamond offices. She let the first door slam behind her, heard the second buzz, pulled the metal handle on the inner door, and said hello to Channah, perched at her standard spot at the reception desk.

Channah had long dark curly hair, which she constantly twirled; a round, expressive face, dotted with black freckles; and a voluptuous figure that even her modest religious clothing couldn’t hide.

“Did you hear us argue?” she asked Mimi.

“No,” she sputtered. “I mean—”

Channah smiled and pointed to the video monitor on her desk. “I could see you on the camera.” Her shoulders slouched. “It was the same stupid argument we always have. Even I’m bored by it.”

“Hang in there. We’ll talk at lunch.” Mimi and Channah shared a quick hug, and Mimi walked back to the office.

She was greeted by her father’s smile and a peck on the cheek. If anything made this job worthwhile, it was that grin. Plus the money.

“How are things this morning?”

“Baruch Hashem,” Max replied. Max said “thank God” all the time, even during his wife’s sickness, when he really didn’t seem all that thankful.

Sure enough, he added, “We’re having a crisis.”

Mimi almost rolled her eyes. It was always a crisis in the office. When Mimi was young, the family joke was that business was either “terrible” or “worse than terrible.”

Lately, her dad seemed more agitated than normal. As he spoke, he puttered in a circle and his hands clutched a pack of Tums. That usually didn’t come out until noon.

“I can’t find the two-carat pear shape.” He threw his arms up and his forehead exploded into a sea of worry lines. “It’s not here, it’s not there. It’s nowhere.”

Max Rosen was dressed, as usual, in a white button-down shirt and brown wool slacks, with a jeweler’s loupe dangling on a rope from his neck. His glasses sat off-kilter on his nose, and two shocks of white hair jutted from his skull like wings. When he was excited about something, like this missing diamond, the veins in his neck popped and the bobby-pinned yarmulke seemed to flap on his head.

Mimi stifled a laugh. That was the crisis? Diamonds always got lost in the office. As kids, Mimi and her two sisters used to come in on weekends and be paid one dollar for every stone they found on the floor. “They travel,” Max would say.

It was no surprise that things went missing in that vortex of an office. Every desk was submerged under a huge stack of books, magazines, and papers. The most pressing were placed on the seat near her father’s desk, what he called his “in-chair.”

When Mimi’s mother worked there, she kept a lid on the chaos. After her death, Max hired a few bookkeepers, none of whom lasted; two years later, the job had somehow fallen to Mimi.

Eventually, Channah found the two-carat pear shape, snug in its parcel papers, right next to the bathroom keys. The only logical explanation was that Max was examining it while on the toilet.

Max sheepishly returned to his desk. Mimi loved watching her father at work. She was fascinated by how he joked with friends, took grief from clients, and kept track of five things at once. It felt exotic and forbidden, like observing an animal in its natural habitat.

For the most part, they got along, which was no small thing. Over the years, there had been tense moments as he struggled to accept that she was no longer religious. Lately, he rarely brought the topic up, and she didn’t want him to. Her split from her non-Jewish ex probably helped.

On occasion, the old strains resurfaced, in subtle ways. Max’s desk was covered with photos—mostly of Mimi’s mom and her religious sisters and their religious broods. One time when Max was at lunch, Mimi tiptoed over to glance at them, and—not incidentally—check how many were of her. It made her feel silly, yet she couldn’t help herself. She was a professional nosy person.

She got her answer: out of about twenty photos, Mimi was in three, an old family photo and two pics from her sisters’ weddings. That was less than expected. She tried not to take it personally. She had no kids and her marriage was a bust. What was there to show off?

Mimi spent most of the morning deciphering her father’s books—a task made more difficult by his aging computer system, which regularly stalled and crashed. Her father’s “new” software was actually fifteen years old.

Sometimes she wished he gave her more substantial tasks to do. While her father would never say it, he didn’t consider the diamond industry a place for women, as it had always been male-dominated—even though, ironically, it catered mostly to females. That was fine with Mimi. She didn’t want to devote her life to a rock.

At 1 PM, Channah and Mimi headed for Kosher Gourmet, their usual lunch spot. Mimi always joked, “I don’t know if it’s kosher, but it’s not gourmet.”

In the two months Mimi had worked for her father, she and Channah had become fast friends, bonding over their shared love of mystery novels, crossword puzzles, and sarcastic senses of humor.

Channah was not Mimi’s typical friend. She was twenty-three and her parents were strictly religious, even more than Mimi’s. She commuted to Forty-Seventh Street every day on a charter bus from Borough Park, a frum enclave in Brooklyn. The Diamond District was her main exposure to the wider world. She reminded Mimi of her younger, more religious self, under her parents’ thrall yet curious what else was out there.

Mimi was not Channah’s typical friend either. During their lunches, Channah quizzed her on the taste of non-Kosher food (it didn’t taste any different, Mimi told her); sex (“When the time comes,” Mimi said, “you’ll figure it out”); and popular culture (“Can you explain,” Channah once asked, “why Kim Kardashian is famous?” Mimi just said no.) Today, as usual, they talked about Yosef.

“I don’t get it.” Channah wrapped sesame noodles around her white plastic fork. “I love him. He loves me. Why not get married?”

Mimi took a sip from her Styrofoam cup filled with warm tap water. She preferred bottled water but couldn’t afford it. “Have you thought of giving Yosef an ultimatum? Tell him if he doesn’t marry you by a certain date, that’s it.”

“Yosef wouldn’t take that seriously.” Channah turned her eyes to her tray.

“Why not?”

“Cause I’ve done that already. Three times! I backed down every time.” Her fork toyed with her food. “I believe it is beshert that Yosef and I will end up together. I’ve thought so since I first met him at your father’s office, and he smiled at me. What choice do I have?” Her elbow nudged her tray across the table.

“I understand why he’s waiting. He wants to be a steady provider. That’s a good thing, right?”

Actually, Mimi found it sexist. She didn’t say that, because she found many things in Channah’s world sexist.

“He just needs to sell that pink,” Channah said, spearing a dark brown cube of chicken.

Mimi took a quick sip of water. “That pink” was an awkward subject.

One month ago, Yosef had bought a three-point-two carat pink diamond. It was the biggest purchase of his career, the kind of high-risk move that could make or break his business. Max was overjoyed. “Do you know how rare pink diamonds are?” he exclaimed. “And it’s a three-carater! Sounds like a great buy!”

That was, until Yosef proudly presented it to his uncle Max, who inspected it under his favorite lamp, muttered “very nice,” and quickly handed it back.

It was only after Yosef left that Max dismissed his nephew’s score as a strop, a dog of a diamond, the kind of unsellable item that gathered dust in a safe.

“It has so many pepper spots,” Max lamented. “The color’s not strong at all. No one will buy that thing.”

“Maybe he got it for a good price,” Mimi said.

“I’m sure whoever sold it to him said it was the bargain of the century. Anytime someone offers me a metziah, that’s a sign they can’t sell the stone. There’s a saying, ‘your metziah is my strop.’” His face sagged. “I wish he talked to me first. That stone is worthless. I don’t have the heart to tell him.”

When Channah brought up the big pink at lunch, Mimi didn’t want to dwell on the subject. “What’s happening with that?” she asked, as casually as possible.

“Didn’t you hear?” Channah jerked forward. “It got the highest grade possible on its USGR cert.”

“You’ll have to translate.” Mimi tuned out most diamond talk.

“Cert is short for certificate, meaning grading report. The USGR is the U.S. Academy for Gemological Research, the best lab in the industry.”

Mimi just stared.

“That stone’s worth four million dollars.”

That Mimi understood. “Wow.” A lot of money for a dog of a diamond.

“Four point one million, to be exact.” Channah laughed. “Don’t want to leave that point one out!”

“I thought that stone was—”

“Ugly?” Channah chuckled. “Me too! I don’t understand how it got that grade. I guess it doesn’t matter. As your father says, ‘today the paper is worth more than the diamond.’” She slurped some diet soda.

“Is Yosef going to get four million dollars?”

“Who knows? He isn’t exactly an expert in selling such a stone. Your father convinced him to post it on one of the online trading networks. Someone called him about it yesterday.”

“That’s great!”

“Hopefully. If anyone could screw this up, Yosef could.” Channah’s mouth curled downward. “I keep checking my phone to see if there’s any news.” She flipped over her iPhone, saw nothing, and flipped it back. “The way I figure, if he sells that stone, he’ll have to marry me. Unless he comes up with some new excuse. He wouldn’t do that, right? Not after all this time. Would he?”

Mimi struggled to keep herself in check. She was dying to shake Channah and scream that if Yosef wasn’t giving her what she wanted, it was time to move on. She didn’t. Yosef was her cousin. Mimi was in no position to critique someone else’s love life. She always told people hers was “on hold.” It was basically non-existent.

Plus, she remembered how, weeks before her wedding, her friends warned her that her fiancé had a wandering eye. That just strengthened her resolve to marry him, even though in retrospect, they were right. “With situations like that,” her therapist said later, “I always recommend not to say anything. Just be a supportive friend.”

Mimi waited until Channah stopped speaking. She touched her hand. “I’m sure it will work out,” she said.

***

Excerpt from A Murder is Forever by Rob Bates. Copyright 2020 by Rob Bates. Reproduced with permission from Rob Bates. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Rob Bates has written about the diamond industry for over 25 years. He is currently the news director of JCK, the leading publication in the jewelry industry, which just celebrated its 150th anniversary. He has won 12 editorial awards, and been quoted as an industry authority in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and on National Public Radio. He is also a comedy writer and performer, whose work has appeared on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update segment, comedycentral.com, and McSweeneys He has also written for Time Out New York, New York Newsday, and Fastcompany.com. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and son.

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I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.
(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Dawn of Vengeance Blog Tour


About the Book

Book: Dawn of Vengeance

Author: Ronie Kendig

Genre: FICTION / Science Fiction / Space Opera

Release Date: December 8, 2020

A haunting prophecy upended his identity. Now it demands his life.

Once a formidable bounty hunter, Marco Dusan is plagued by insecurity as he tours the realm he now rules. This quiet, backwater planet is not as untouched as he’d once thought. Evidence of collusion between Droseran factions and the powerful Symmachians with their forbidden technology litters his encounters. Worse, all signs indicate Xisya, the alien who tortured him, is still snatching Kynigos Brethren—but to what end?

Lance Corporal Eija Zacdari works hard to win a coveted place on the Symmachian hyperjump program, but instinct tells her their intel is flawed. Despite nearly failing the tests, she is assigned to the team-and lands in the middle of a bewildering conspiracy.

Haunted by a prophecy that promises pain and war, Marco forges alliances to protect the primitive world against Symmachia’s devastating influence. But one truth becomes painfully clear: the biggest threat to their world may be much, much closer to home.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

This is the second in a series and the first one, Brand of Light, must be read first to appreciate the characters and their interactions in this one. You can read my review of Brand of Light here.

The first novel in the series had many more space flight adventures and battles. This novel deals much more with brothers bickering and discussions and posing between characters and people groups. There is some action but it is interspersed with long scenes of relationship interaction. There is much more internal thinking and struggles in this novel than in the first one. Some of it seemed repetitive, such as the interactions between Kersei and Darius and definitely the conflict between Marco and Darius.

Kendig breaks one of Jerry Jenkins' rules for a good novel by naming several characters with the same first letter. There are Kersei, Kita, Kaveh, Kareh, Keril, Kyria, Kederac, Kakuzo, Krissos, Kynigos (people), kyria (wife/queen), Kedalion (place), Kardia (place), Kalonica (place), Kuru (place), and Khatriza (people). There are Iereas, Ixion, Isaura, Ikku, Irukandji (people), Iereania (place), Ironesse (place), and iereas (position). There are Darius, Dusan, Diggins, Deken, Domitas, Damocles (space ship), Dragoumis (people), Draegis (race), and Drosero (place), and Milek, Malika, Mnason, Myles, Maritza, Marco, Mavridis, Maur, Macedon (place/space ship), Moidia (place), Medora (position), Machitis (training), and Edrian, Eija, Elek, Echion, Edvian, Errant (position/title) and Eidolon (people). Some characters are referred to by two or more names, such as Achilus/Dusan/Marco, Kersie/Athina, and Mavridis/Ixion. It just made the narrative much harder to follow and appreciate. I have to admit, I was lost way too often. I felt bad for other letters in the alphabet too.

Kendig also uses a mix of English words and made up words. Warriors are aerios and regia, I think. Marriage is binding. An aetos is a bird, I think. A sergius is a servant, plural, sergii, I think. Adunatos in this novel is something revealed through a person's eyes and touch. The word is actually a Greek adjective used in the Bible. And uncommon words are used, like fetor for a strong foul smell. Yes, it is a regular English word but not a well known one. I found the use of a few made up words distracting.

Kendig's writing style is such that “light exploded” when a door opened and the light was “eclipsed” when a person walked through the door. (Loc 4739/8019) And then, “confused” irises. (Loc 6243/8019) Irises could reflect the person's confusion but are not themselves capable of being confused. Writing like that made me stop and read it over a couple of times.

The novel is experienced from the universal or narrative point of view. The character focus changes frequently as we experience the action and thoughts of Marcos and then, with a division mark, the thoughts and experiences of Isaura, then Kersei. The spiritual aspect of the novel is limited. An Ancient is mentioned as a divine being but that is not so much different from the Ladies, the deity honored on several planets. (Loc 6666/8019)

I grew up on science fiction and was looking forward to this series. While some really appreciate the plot and writing style of this novel, they are not my favorite.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

 

About the Author

Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author of over twenty titles. An Army brat, Ronie lives a short train ride from New York City with her husband, twin sons, and two fur-sons, VVolt N629, a retired military working dog, and Benning the Stealth Golden. Described as an empath by her literary agent, Ronie has used her degree in psychology to write books that have won the coveted Christy Award, RomanticTimes Reviewers’ Choice Award, The Realm Award, HOLT Medallion Award, and more. Her books have also hit the CBA Bestseller List multiple times.

More from Ronie

Throughout the Droseran Saga, Marco Dusan—our much-loved hero—enjoys his favorite drink, warmed Cordi. The inspiration for his citrusy-spiced drink came from a favorite family holiday tradition—“Christmas punch.” My mother-in-law received this recipe while they were stationed in Germany from a colonel’s wife. We make this every Christmas (okay, I make it a lot starting in about late October because it’s so delish). The piquant scent of cranberry, cloves, and orange fills our home every fall and holiday.

The scent of this is apropos for Marco, who tracks by scent. And, interestingly, our noses and smells are connected to memories, which just seemed to demand I come up with some way to create “Marco’s Cordi” for readers. So, this year, I used Adagio Tea’s custom-blend feature to craft a more citrusy blend of Marco’s drink. Now, that’s tea—something Marco doesn’t really enjoy—but add a quarter cup of warmed orange juice, and you’re starting to hit the sweet spot. Marco would be proud!

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, December 12

April Hayman, Author, December 12

Texas Book-aholic, December 13

Book Love, December 13 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Worthy2Read, December 14

Locks, Hooks and Books, December 14

Sara Jane Jacobs, December 15

All-of-a-kind Mom, December 15

Where Faith and Books Meet, December 16

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, December 16

Wishful Endings, December 17

Mypreciousbitsandmusings, December 17

deb's Book Review, December 18

Simple Harvest Reads, December 18 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)

Artistic Nobody, December 19 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Ashley’s Bookshelf, December 19

For Him and My Family, December 20

Mia Reads, December 20

Because I said so -- and other adventures in Parenting, December 21

Adventures of a Travelers Wife, December 21

Through the Fire Blogs, December 22

Rachael's Inkwell, December 22

Tell Tale Book Reviews, December 23

Inklings and notions, December 23

Inside the Wong Mind, December 24

Blogging With Carol, December 24

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, December 25

Mary Hake, December 25


I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)