Saturday, October 31, 2020

Apprentice by Kristen Young Blog Tour and Giveaway

 


About the Book

Book: Apprentice

Author: Kristen Young

Genre: Christian Science Fiction

Release Date: October 20, 2020

 

The Love Collective is everywhere.
It sees everything.
Be not afraid.

Apprentice Flick remembers everything, except the first five years of her life. And for as long as she can remember, Flick has wanted to enter the Elite Academy—home to the best, brightest, and most loyal members of the Love Collective government.

Flick’s uncanny memory might get her there, too … even if it is the very thing that marks her as a freak. But frightening hallucinations start intruding into her days and threaten to bring down all she has worked so hard to accomplish. Why is she being hijacked by a stranger’s nightmare over and over again?

Moving to the Elite Academy could give Flick the future she’s always wanted. But her search for truth may lead to a danger she cannot escape.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review 

I thoroughly enjoyed this youth dystopian novel. The world building was excellent. Young children are systematically molded into obedient young people suitable to perpetuate the controlling society. Questioning any instructions would mean reprogramming. I like how the plot developed. We learn some surprising insights to this troubling world as Kerr does.

The characters were developed well. I found Kerr to be an engaging character. I felt her discomfort with her total memory recall. Her terror at the nightmares and vague memories of early childhood were portrayed well. I applauded her desire to be the best she could be, even if it meant her own destruction.

Young readers will like this novel. There is lots of advanced technical stuff like testing with virtual reality and augmented reality. There is a good heroine and good support characters and a couple of terribly mean ones too. And there is just a hint of Christianity in it. We are left with mysteries being revealed and the potential of a new future. I will be watching for the next in the series to see how the exciting story develops.

My rating: 5/5 stars.


About the Author

Kristen Young is an Aussie children’s and youth worker who always has a notebook on hand to catch ideas for her fiction and non-fiction. She loves hanging out with her family, watching movies with subtitles, and chocolate.

More from Kristen

An interview with Kristen Young

Q: How long have you been writing?

I was the kid who used to create little booklets and puzzle magazines for the family. So writing is something that I’ve been doing for a long time. It wasn’t quite publication-worthy back then, but it was fun. I had to practice a little more before people outside my family wanted to see it.

Q: Where do you write?

Anywhere I have access to a laptop or a pen. I have a desk at home where most of the writing happens, but I usually carry a notebook in my bag in case inspiration hits when I’m out. People think I’m a little eccentric when I’m madly scribbling in the middle of the supermarket. But I have to get that scene idea down before I forget!

Q: What is your writing Kryptonite?

Distractions. For me, writing preparation is a little like building a house of cards — that process of getting my thoughts in order and working out the story direction. Distractions are like the gust of wind that knocks the whole construction over. I usually wear noise-cancelling headphones to try and keep me focused on the process.

Q: Where’s your favourite story setting?

I’m still looking for that wardrobe with a door to Narnia.

Q: What’s the first book that made you cry?

I’m not sure if I can share that without giving spoilers! But I’d have to say Charlotte’s Web. When I read that as a child, it had me wrecked for ages.

Q: Have you read anything that totally changed your idea of the way fiction could be written?

There are a couple of books that totally changed my view of fiction. The first was Margaret Atwood’s novel The Blind Assassin. I was totally captivated by the way she mixed newspaper articles and other media with the narrative sections. It was mind-blowing at the time.

Jasper Fforde’s series that started with The Eyre Affair was also pretty amazing. It took a whole pile of literary references and completely messed with them. It was enormous fun.

Q: So why set something in a world called the “Love Collective”?

I like words, and I’m fascinated by the way people often play with them, or even weaponise them. I kind of wanted to explore this word ‘love’ and what it means. In English, we have this one word to refer to so many different kinds of concepts. I wanted to write an exciting story, so it seemed right to have this concept as a backdrop behind the action, where you’re asking, “What does this mean?”

Q: Your main character never forgets anything. Is she like you?

No way. I think Flick’s memory is a bit of wish fulfilment from me. It was so hard writing her, because I forget so many details! In some ways forgetting is protective. But in other ways I’d love to have her memory.

Q: What can we expect in the rest of the Collective Underground Trilogy?

I can’t tell you the whole story, that would ruin the fun. But in the first book, Flick’s world has started really small, and she’s going to broaden her horizons. She’ll get to explore more of this Love Collective. There also might be some more danger, too. Or more love. We’ll see…

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, October 31

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, November 1

Blogging With Carol, November 1

Library Lady's Kid Lit, November 2

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, November 2

Texas Book-aholic, November 3

Inklings and notions, November 4

April Hayman, Author, November 4

For Him and My Family, November 5

Locks, Hooks and Books, November 6

deb's Book Review, November 6

Worthy2Read, November 7

Woven by Words, November 7

Because I said so -- and other adventures in Parenting, November 8

Emily Yager, November 9

Artistic Nobody, November 9 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Sara Jane Jacobs, November 10

Simple Harvest Reads, November 11 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Ashley’s Bookshelf, November 11

Adventures of A Travelers Wife, November 12

Through the Fire Blogs, November 12

Splashes of Joy, November 13

Inside the Wong Mind, November 13

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Kristen is giving away the grand prize of a $100 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/102f1/apprentice-celebration-tour-giveaway

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. 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, October 29, 2020

Devout Species by W J Sulder

This is an unusual novel in that it is an exploration of evolution and the biblical account of creation within the context of a fictional account of two excavations. The fictional account follows Chloe, her professor, and two friends on a dig in Indonesia and another ten years later. Interspersed throughout the plot are short chapters outlining the course of the development of the universe, the solar system, life on earth and then intelligent humans.

The plot, following Chloe and the two digs, was okay. It did not really grab me. There was a little suspense near the end but the plot generally moved along deliberately and slowly. The professor's motive for causing the suspense at the end did not seem reasonable to me.

Sulder's writing style in straight forward and easy to understand. I found the evolutionary sections to be good explanations of evolutionary development. Sulder included portions of Genesis at the end of these evolutionary chapters, relating the ancient history to the biblical account.

Sulder's book is a unique way of trying to coordinate evolutionary history with biblical truth. There are many issues untouched, such as how humanoids became sentient beings with religious beliefs. Because of the title, I thought for sure something like that would have been explored in the book.

I am not sure those who adhere to the biblical creation account will be happy with this book. I did find it somewhat entertaining but not really answering any of the pesky questions within the evolution creation dialogue.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Independently published, 205 pages.

A biography of W J Sulder was unavailable.

(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.)

Soul Anatomy by George Robertson

The Psalms have been a part of worship and human expression for centuries. They help us understand ourselves in the light of God's truth, Robertson says. He takes us through twenty-five psalms with a running commentary on their content. He includes questions for thought and a prayer at the end of each study. The text is more in the style of a commentary than a devotional reading.

This is a book where readers might look to chapter headings and read about a psalm addressing a particular concern. When one is feeling abandoned, turn to Psalm five. Robertson reminds us God delights in paying attention to us. That is something we might not naturally believe so need to be reminded often. When being accused, Psalm 26 will help us experience God's peace. When we are waiting for God to move while we are facing difficulties, go to Psalm 27. And in Psalm 37 we find encouragement to change our focus to delighting in the Lord when life gets us down.

This is a book for Christians who are dealing with emotions during troubled times, such as depression. Robertson shares his own struggles with it and how the Psalms helped him. Reading about these Psalms will help readers learn how to give voice to their deepest emotions.

One word of caution, however. The Psalms are poetic expressions. The writers used many literary techniques such as hyperbole. I think we can get into trouble when we take poetic expression as doctrine. An example is Robertson on Psalm 5:11,12. “These are truths we can live by: God's protection and provision of grace is certain.” (Loc 469/3899) What does that truth of protection mean practically? How does that certainty of protection work for Christians being martyred today? We must remember, I think, that the Psalms are poetry and are to be treated as such.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

George Robertson has a MDiv and MTh from Covenant Theological Seminary and a PhD in historical and theological studies from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He is the senior pastor at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tennessee, and is a council member of The Gospel Coalition. He and his wife have four children.

New Growth Press, 240 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, October 27, 2020

Beautifully Broken by Paige and Josh Wetzel

This is a touching memoir of a couple facing the unthinkable. Josh was a team leader in Afghanistan, using a metal detector. He had found dozens of IEDs before this one. But this one was nonmetallic, a carbon based IED. It exploded beneath him, and he immediately lost both his legs.

Paige and Josh share their experiences. Paige begins with the phone call. They share the narrative as we follow his transportation to Walter Reed, having three surgeries a week, the therapy, counseling, the infection and setbacks, the prostheses, the fight for every inch of mobility. They are honest about the stress on their young marriage, the spiritual struggles and being told they might never be able to have children.

This is quite a detailed account. I learned a great deal about the hospital stay and the difficulty of fitting the prostheses. The pain involved is disheartening. The amount of patience and courage Josh and Paige had to produce is amazing. The descriptions of the wounds and medical procedures are not for the faint of heart. Paige's honest account of her postpartum depression may be difficult for some too. The marital problems were heart breaking.

This book is a good memoir of going through very difficult times and ultimately learning to trust God for the present and the future. It is an encouraging account of overcoming many obstacles to live a fulfilling life. It will give you hope for restoration and renewal and a road map for your mission in serving others.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Paige Wetzel is wife to double amputee Retired Army Sgt. Josh Wetzel. Paige served as the Director of Volleyball Operations for Auburn University for four years where Josh is the Assistant Director of Digital Media. Between getting injured and March of 2014, Josh Wetzel was promoted to Sergeant, received the Purple Heart Award, officially retired from the Army and began his civilian life with his family. The Wetzels remain active in the support of veterans, enjoy serving at their home church, and promoting Auburn Athletics. They have two daughters and live in Auburn, Alabama.

Worthy 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.)

Monday, October 26, 2020

On Borrow Crime by Kate Young

This cozy novel was a bit of a slow read for me. I had a little difficulty getting in to it and being engaged by it. Lyla is a good heroine in that she wants to be an actual private investigator. I like female amateur sleuths. She just did not seem to have to mind for it, however. She is not the strong kind of character I like. The members of her book club were interesting but not to the point of being engaging. I would have liked less entertaining and doing southern things and more serious sleuthing.

The plot was complex and I am not sure I understood all of it. There is the current mystery of the body of one of the book club members being dumped on Lyla's door step, in a suitcase no less. Lyla and the others find out this woman had been investigating a murder from some time ago. Lyla tries to figure them both out and really doesn't seem to do too good of a job at it. She bumbles into solving the mystery in the end and did show some quick thinking at the final suspense.

I liked the idea of a group of women reading murder mysteries and then becoming involved in solving real mysteries. They wade through a number of red herrings. It seems like so many could have done the murders. The actual murderer was not a surprise but the reason for the contemporary death was a bit convoluted.

I think Lyla has potential as an amateur sleuth. I'd like to see her toughen up a bit, be more independent, and develop her head for investigations. I'll check out the next in the series to see how Lyla and the others hone their skills.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Kate Young writes Southern mystery novels. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Guppy Chapter. She lives in a small town in Georgia with her husband and their three kids. You can find out more at www.kateyoungbooks.com.

Crooked Lane Books, 311 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.)

A Time to Seek by Susan Pohlman

I enjoyed reading this book, a combination memoir and travelogue. Pohlman was turning fifty and the midlife reality descended upon her. She would soon be dealing with an empty nest too. Her husband gave her a trip to Florence. Such a trip had been instrumental in healing their marriage. This trip would give her a time of renewal and the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of her life and God's purposes for her.

Pohlman has an engaging style of writing. I like the life lessons she gleaned from the places she visited. I liked her insights on art, making me think of taking an art history class. I liked her times of reminiscing and her pondering the upheaval in her carefully constructed life. She was able to understand her self and where her life was going, charting a new course.

As Pohlman writes, midlife is the time to raise your hand and stand, to take a chance at something. “...I must look with new eyes, listen with new ears, and follow the voice that calls to me from within.” (Loc 871/2105)

This is a good memoir for those facing the uncertainties of midlife. You'll find much to encourage you on your journey to understand your life and where God may be leading you.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Susan Pohlman is the founder and director of The Phoenix Writers Network. She is a freelance writer, editor, writing coach, and workshop facilitator based in Phoenix, Arizona. Her essays have been published in a variety of print and online outlets. She has served as a writer-in-residence for the Arizona Public Library and has taught creative writing at the Arizona State University Emeritus School. You can find out more at https://www.susanpohlman.com/

Riviera Communications Group, 232 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.)

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Sound of Falling Leaves by Lisa Carter

This is a very interesting novel about people living in an isolated Appalachian community. The plot structure is mostly about characters, their past and how it determines their present actions as well as present relationships. There is a bit of a mystery but even that is based on the past events of a belligerent family having political and law enforcement control of the area.

The main characters, Zeke and Tessa, both have huge back stories. These historical events are revealed with painstaking slowness. The fire that changed Tessa's life is referred to obliquely for so long I searched online to see if this novel was a sequel. Finally, about halfway through the book we learn all about the fire. I wish it had been given to us much earlier. I got so frustrated at Tessa's actions, not knowing the details of why she behaved as she did. I felt I could not really appreciate her struggles during the first half of the book. Zeke also has a back story. His is so complex that it took a great deal of explaining near the end of the novel.

I always like it when I learn something when I read a novel and this time it was about the forming of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Many families were uprooted and displaced. Whole communities were forced to move. It made me think about personal rights and the government action of eminent domain.

I think the strength of this novel is the setting. I was fascinated by the long standing culture of the people living in this Appalachian community. Carter did a good job of transporting me into a part of the country so different from my own. There is a hint there might be a sequel. I will be looking for it.

This is a novel for readers who like one revolving around character, character revelation, character interaction, and ultimately character transformation through the gospel. There is some suspense but it is not the focus of the plot. Potential readers should be aware that rape is a large part of past events in the community. While not described, the solving of that part of the mystery may trigger intense emotions. There is a good discussion guide at the end of the book to help readers think about the many issues the novel includes.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Lisa Carter is the bestselling author of seven romantic suspense novels, four historical novellas, and a contemporary Coast Guard series. Her book, Under a Turquoise Sky, won the 2015 Carol Award for Romantic Suspense. She is a native of North Carolina. You can find out more at https://www.lisacarterauthor.com/.

Kregel Publications, 320 pages.

I received a complimentary digital 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.)

What If? by Fran Lewis Blog Tour

What if?

by Fran Lewis

on Tour October 1-31, 2020


Synopsis:

With the pandemic that never seems to be leaving us anytime soon I’ve created worlds that might make you pause for thought. Dark stories told by the characters as they experienced their journeys into worlds that you might not want to live in a hopefully be happy in the one you’re in.

My Review:

This is an interesting collection of short stories and a poem. Each presented a possible version of life that made me pause and think about how I would exist in such a situation. A couple reflected the current virus condition. One story left me puzzled at the end, wondering what the point was I missed. Lewis' writing style is straight forward. The stories are not complicated but do introduce interesting explorations of culture, power and choices.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Time Travel/ Sci Fi
Published by: Fidelli
Publication Date: July 8, 2020
Number of Pages: 78
ISBN: B08CNKX3DT
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

One Race: One World: The Year 2050

It was now 2050 and the world had really changed. There were no more planes or trains. All you needed to do was think about being somewhere and you were there. The government, in order to save money on gas and fuel, had banned cars, buses, and any means of transportation, and implanted chips in everyone’s arms that helped transport them to wherever they wanted to go, including the past.

A huge explosion had occurred, and all that was left in the world were twenty countries, with only twelve hundred people in each country. Most people had not survived the explosion, which had caused most of the countries to just disappear into space forever. No one really knew if anyone was out there or if these people survived somewhere, and no one really cared enough to find out.

One man called The Ruler headed all the countries, and assigned one person as the Chief of Law and Enforcement in each country. Under this person, five people helped to enforce the rules and the laws.

Then, one miserable day, someone decided there were too many wars, too many hate crimes, too many people being killed on the streets, and too much traffic and congestion on the highways. The government hired several scientists to find a solution to the problem, and that was how everyone in the entire world wound up multicolored.

Because of all the wars and fighting and hate that took place in the past, the government created a way to eliminate the many different races in the world and opted for only one. Everyone looked the same. Our faces might have looked a little different, but our skin colors were the same—multicolored. They did this so that no one would insult, mock, or hurt anyone because of their skin color. They eliminated houses of worship so that everyone was nonsectarian, and no one would be discriminated against. However, what they could not eliminate were our thoughts and desires to make changes in our lives, even though they tried.

Everyone that lived here had a job that paid the same amount. No one, no matter what they did or what career they chose, was paid more than anyone else. We never had to worry about being laid off. Unless we decided to move somewhere else our job stayed the same, and there was no room for advancement—ever. Everyone did the same thing every day. Nothing changed. Life was supposed to be anger free, insult free, and most of all, calm and tranquil. HOW DULL AND BORING! (OH! I am not supposed to say that. Opinions are not allowed here.)

One morning I got up and got dressed to go to my boring job as an accountant with the only accounting firm in this city. I went over the books daily, entered my accounts in their daily ledgers, and did taxes for some of the companies in this city. It was grunt work, and nothing exciting ever happened at work or anywhere else.

Walking to work as usual, I began remembering how it was only twenty years ago when there were cars, trains, and people running and yelling for cabs and trains to wait for them at the station. I missed the newspaper people on the street and the vendors selling hot coffee and bagels from their pushcarts. Those were the days. I loved the way people had looked and the different races and nationalities that lived here. Learning from other people was what made life exciting.

Then the unexpected happened. A new family with two children moved in down the street from me. These two kids were not going to conform to our way of thinking, and decided it was time to shake things up—and they did. One morning when going to school they each wore something other than the school’s drab gray uniform. The girl wore a pink and green dress with flowers, and the boy wore something blue, and a shirt that said, “I hate being the same. Different Rules.”

This did not go over well, and they were taken into custody by the guards in their school and promptly suspended. This did not stop them. They started screaming and yelling all sorts of words we had not heard before. “One race is not what we are supposed to be. I hate this planet. I hate all of you.”

I could not believe my ears. This was grounds for banishment into the Devoid Zone. These two children had painted stars all over their faces. Their younger sister decided to paint her face one color. Who in today’s world had a face that was one color? Everyone here looked and dressed the same. It prevented jealousy, arguments, and fashion wars. How dare they go against the laws of this state?

***

Excerpt from What if? by Fran Lewis. Copyright 2020 by Fran Lewis. Reproduced with permission from Fran Lewis. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Fran Lewis is a reviewer, talk show host, mj network, reading and writing staff developer. She was the administrative assistant to the Principal and created original programs for students after school. She was the music director and created musical festivals along with other staff members. She’s a member of Marquis Who’s Who, Continental Who’s who and who’s who of America’s professionals and educators.

Catch Up With Fran Lewis On:
Website, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!


Click here to view What If? by Fran Lewis Participants

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours


I received a complimentary digital copy of this book throug 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, October 24, 2020

Spiritual Intelligence by Kris Vallotton

We're familiar with IQ (intelligence quotient) and the newer EQ (emotional quotient) but SQ? Vallotton introduces us to the spiritual (intelligence) quotient. It deals with the divine connection, that part of us that has access to the mind and wisdom of Christ. We can learn to live from that source rather than just what we know in our minds.

I like Vallotton's example of a smart phone. Such a phone contains lots of information within itself, in its memory. Connect that phone to wi-fi and it has the ability to access almost unlimited information. We Christians experience something similar when we access the mind of Christ.

I like Vallotton's insight into actually hearing from God through the Spirit and understanding what is being said. It is hard, he says. Learning to be sensitive to the Spirit takes time. He experimented and became more confident, partly by missing it so many times. (53) He does give us some practical keys, suggestions for learning to understand the Spirit.

Here is another insight I think very clever. People would come up to him, saying they had a word from the Lord for him. The Lord had given him a special number years ago. If the person mentioned the number, Vallotton would know the message was truly from the Lord. (55)

Vallotton went a bit into a couple of areas I don't like, namely the give to get ten times back idea and the idea we can create reality with our faith. Other than that, I really appreciate this book. It is good for understanding Scripture such as 1 Cor. 2:16, indicating we have the mind of Christ. Vallotton helps us learn how to allow the Spirit to guide our lives. He has included a number of personal experiences to illustrate his teaching. The book has a charismatic, or spirit-filled basis and encourages tapping into spiritual gifts. This book is a good challenge to live Spirit led.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Kris Vallotton is the senior associate leader of Bethel Church in Redding, California, and co-founder of Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry and Bethel Media. He is also the founder of Moral Revolution and Bethel School of Technology, as well as chairman of Advance Redding. He is a bestselling author, having written more than a dozen books and manuals. He is also an international conference speaker and leadership consultant. He and his wife live in Redding, have four children and nine grandchildren. You can find out more at https://www.krisvallotton.com/. Photo Credit: © Lucas Sankey

Chosen, 224 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, October 23, 2020

The Refrain Within Blog Tour


About the Book


Book: The Refrain Within

Author: Liz Tolsma

Genre: WWII Fiction

Release Date: September 29, 2020

To save a life, would you betray everyone you love?

Hungary in 1944 is a dark place. The Nazis have invaded and turned the country upside down, their evil making its way into every life.

Clarinetist Eva Bognar is engaged to conductor and composer Patrik Kedves, happily planning her wedding. At first she doesn’t think the war will affect her directly; everyone around her can be trusted to do the right thing. Then her Jewish best friend and sister-in-law Zofia goes missing–and instead of the Gestapo being to blame, a friend says it was Patrik who led Zofia away. Has he betrayed Eva and everything the family stands for?

When the rest of the family’s lives are directly threatened, Patrik’s secrets must come to light. The Bognars flee for the border in hopes of getting out of the country to the safety of Palestine. Eva must put her life and the lives of everyone she loves in the hands of the very man who betrayed her–and they may not all make it out of the war alive . . .

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

Tolsma gives us a touching look at Hungary in 1944, after Germany had invaded the country. We see how people existed during the oppression. People still fell in love and got engaged. Some worked to undermine the Germans with resistance activities. Several of the characters are musicians so a prominent theme in the book is how music is essential to well being.

A major issue in the plot is truth. At one point Patrick says, “Sometimes we have to lie to protect those we love.” (Loc 3722/4819) He had lied to his fiance and her family as to his secret resistance activities. Zofia had kept her activities a secret from her husband. I can see that issue leading to a good discussion on a reading group.

One thing I don't like in novels is suspense as the result of poor choices by characters. In the early part of the novel, the characters knew the danger of Nazi rule yet still did unthinking acts. I read statements like, "How could they have done that? They knew better?" (Loc 786/4819) “Maybe we should have taken more precautions.” (Loc 2108/4819) Near the end of the novel, when Eva realizes she had not checked to see if they had been followed says, “How stupid of us.” (Loc 4269/4819) I really felt the characters acted too naively for the situation they were in.

Readers who like WW II fiction will appreciate this one. It will give you insight into the conditions and life of those in Hungary during that time.

My rating: 4/5 stars. 


About the Author

Passionate might best describe Liz Tolsma. She loves writing, research, and editing. Her passion shone through in her first novel which was a double award finalist. On any given day, you might find her pulling weeds in her perennial garden, walking her hyperactive dog, or curled up with a good book. Nothing means more to her than her family. She’s married her high-school sweetheart twenty-eight years ago. Get her talking about international adoption, and you might never get her to stop. She and her husband adopted three children, including a son who is a U.S. Marine, and two daughters.

More from Liz

This is the third book in a series all set around music. The first heroine, Anna in The Melody of the Soul, was a violinist. The second heroine, Natia in When the Heart Sings, sang beautifully. So what did I choose for this heroine?

When I was in fifth grade, the band teacher from the middle school came to our class and encouraged us to join. She brought instruments with her for us to try. I really wanted to play the flute. I thought it was very feminine. But all the girls wanted to play that, and I would have to be really good to get a good chair. So I decided on the clarinet. I played all through middle school and high school, making first chair a couple of times. I participated in marching band and in solo and ensemble contests, earning a couple of first places in state competitions. Even after my “career” ended, I continued to play from time to time. I still play in church. I love the rich, full sound of the instrument. When played well, the clarinet is beautiful. It can be playful and happy or dark and sad. It can skip and it can cry. I’m very glad now that I chose the clarinet instead of the flute.

That’s why the heroine of The Refrain Within plays the clarinet. In fact, she comes from a family of clarinet makers, and her family stamp on the barrel of a clarinet means a great deal to her. As God would have it, my editor, Janyre Tromp, is also a clarinet player. Between the two of us, we worked hard bring out the unique aspects of playing clarinet, like the callous that forms on the inside of your bottom lip.

Eva is a special character to me because we share this passion for the clarinet. There have been many times throughout my life that my clarinet has skipped with me and plenty of times when it has cried with me. Music is God’s beautiful gift to us, and I thank Him for the opportunity to share some of that with you in The Refrain Within.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, October 23

Among the Reads, October 23

Maureen's Musings, October 23

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, October 24

Texas Book-aholic, October 24

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, October 25

deb's Book Review, October 25

21st Century Keeper at Home, October 25

By The Book, October 26

lakesidelivingsite, October 26

A Baker's Perspective, October 26

Inklings and notions, October 27

CarpeDiem, October 27

Mary Hake, October 27

For Him and My Family, October 28

Reflections From My Bookshelves, October 28

Emily Yager, October 28

Locks, Hooks and Books, October 29

Older & Smarter?, October 29

Genesis 5020, October 29

Betti Mace, October 30

Christian Bookaholic, October 30

Sara Jane Jacobs, October 30

Artistic Nobody, October 31 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Simple Harvest Reads, October 31 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)

Rebecca Tews, November 1

Ashley’s Bookshelf, November 1

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, November 1

Connie's History Classroom, November 2

Where Crisis & Christ Collide, November 2

Splashes of Joy, November 2

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, November 3

As He Leads is Joy, November 3

Bigreadersite, November 3

Pause for Tales, November 4

Hallie Reads, November 4

Southern Gal Loves to Read, November 4

Amanda Tero, author, November 5

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, November 5

A Good Book and Cup of Tea, November 5


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.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Return by Nicholas Sparks

Sparks is a great story teller and this is another good novel about the power of love, both romantic love and the selfless, giving kind of love. The character development is mediocre. Each of the main characters has huge secrets that are very slowly revealed. I wondered if I would ever know what happened to Trevor in the Middle East and why he experienced PTSD. I wondered if I would ever know why Natalie was so hesitant to allow herself to love Trevor. At times I was frustrated with unexplained actions by characters and got a little impatient.

Two aspects of the book I really liked. One was the setting. I felt Sparks did an excellent job of anchoring the story in the location. I felt like I was there. I also liked learning about bees.

But I was also troubled by one aspect of the plot. Trevor and Natalie fall madly in love and after two weeks of various times together, without much of really getting to know each other, they walk hand in hand to the bedroom. I almost quit reading right there. That such a beautifully crafted love would turn almost immediately to physical desire just turned me off. By the end of the book I was satisfied with the total story but as a reader, I felt I had been deceived. I didn't like it. That scene could have certainly been rewritten so as not to be deceptive without changing the ultimate story at all.

The plot revolves around misunderstanding, past hurts, forgiveness and restoration. I felt the whole story was a bit predictable but then, that's probably why we read Sparks. We love it when everybody gets to live happily ever after. While not his best novel, it was entertaining.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Nicholas Sparks is a popular author with over 100 million copies of his books sold. His novels include fifteen #1 New York Times bestsellers. Eleven of his books have been made into motion pictures. You can find out more at https://nicholassparks.com/

Grand Central Publishing, 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.)