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A Daughter for the Mountain Firefighter–past collides with future

A Daughter for the Mountain Firefighter

by Melinda Curtis

If you’ve been following the tales of the Silver Bend Hot Shot crew from Idaho, you know what a difficult and dangerous job mountain firefighters have. A Daughter for the Mountain Firefighter is the fourth book in this series written by Melinda Curtis. Itfocuses on Cole, also known as Chainsaw because his responsibility is to cut paths through the forest for fire barriers and roadways.

As this fire season draws to a close, Cole is preparing to attend medical  school in the Bahamas. To his surprise, his path crosses with an old friend, Rachel, whose sister Cole dated. Rachel has become a mechanic and pilot employed to fly her tanker in support of the firefighters.

Cole and Rachel have complications and issues that go back to their birth families. Cole carries guilt and sorrow. Rachel suffers from PTSD and feels responsible for the well-being of her dad, her niece, Jenna, who has had to grow up too quickly, and her nephew, Matt, who never really knew his mother.

The discovery of the identity of Jenna’s biological dad causes tremors in family relationships. A nearly fatal airplane crash sends Rachel to the hospital and jeopardizes the family’s financial stability. Meanwhile, romance is brewing as Cole begins to wonder if he ever really loved Rachel’s sister, Missy. Rachel, on the other hand, has only ever loved one man. As they stumble through their current, seemingly insurmountable problems, will Cole and Rachel manage to overcome their pasts to find happiness?

I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance

Notes: #4 in the Mountain Firefighter Series, but works well as a standalone.

Publication:  June 26, 2020—Purple Papaya

Memorable Lines:

She understood that the callouses on hearts were’t reliable, that they sometimes softened and let the ache of loss back in.

“Every pilot knows they’re defying the laws of nature by taking to the skies. We weren’t born with wings. But every pilot loves to fly more than they fear the risk of falling.”

Rachel had boarded the denial train.

The Cat Who Played Post Office–mystery in the mansion

The Cat Who Played Post Office

by Lilian Jackson Braun

In an effort to mix things up a bit, my book club chose to read a quick and easy mystery written by Lilian Jackson Braun, famous for her popular The Cat Who series. We rather randomly selected The Cat Who Played Post Office. The choice didn’t matter to me because I had read one in the series decades ago and had not not enjoyed it. After reading our selection, I can only say that clearly my tastes have changed, or I previously chose the one book in the series that was not a good match for me.

I found The Cat Who Played Post Office delightful. The main character Jim Qwilleran has just inherited a lot of money and a large estate. He formerly was a newspaper journalist with a talent for criminal investigations. Equally important to the story are Koko and Yum Yum, his Siamese cats. The book begins in the middle of the tale drawing the reader into who Qwill is and why he is in the hospital. Then the author takes us back and later forward in time—in this case a very effective technique.

As a journalist, Qwill has an extensive vocabulary which Braun puts on full display in a way that doesn’t seem pretentious at all. Qwill uses words like ailurophobe, postprandial, and sybaritic in his conversations and descriptions. Logophiles will enjoy his use of language.

Yum Yum is a typical Siamese, but Koko is extraordinary. He uses his sixth sense to lead Qwill to clues that warn of danger or alert him to important facts. Qwill is honest and good hearted. He has a love interest in this book in the practical Dr. Melinda Goodwinter, and he makes friends easily in his new town where he immediately becomes involved in civic and charitable interests. Koko brings the mysterious disappearance, five years prior, of the free spirited Daisy to Qwill’s attention. As he begins to ask questions about this young lady, dangerous things happen. When mail arrives through the door slot, the cats attack the fluttering envelopes, and Koko selects particular letters to bring to Qwill’s attention which might help him learn more about Daisy and her fate. The characters and setting in this book are interesting, but the mystery remains central.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #6 in The Cat Who series, but I had no problem reading it as a standalone.

Publication:  1987—Penguin (Jove Books)

Memorable Lines:

Koko, as he grew older, was developing a more expressive voice with a gamut of clarion yowling, guttural growling, tenor yodeling, and musical yikking.

They could talk freely. Their booth was an island of privacy in a maelstrom of ear-splitting noise. The animated conversation of happy diners and the excited shrieks of children bounced off the steel girders and concrete walls, and the din was augmented by the Tasty Eats custom of pounding the table with knife handles to express satisfaction with the food.

Qwilleran wondered whether she was listening. He had spent enough time at cocktail parties to know the rhythm of social drinking, and Penelope was exceeding the speed limit. She was also sliding farther down on the slippery sofa.

Why God Calls Us to Dangerous Places–taking the Good News around the world

Why God Calls Us to Dangerous Places

by Kate McCord

If you have ever wondered what it is like to be a missionary or why people would answer the call of God to go live in a hostile environment, then read Why God Calls Us to Dangerous Places. Author Kate McCord was a “business process consultant in global biopharmaceuticals.” She had a comfortable life and enjoyed her material blessings, friends, and church. In 2000, God started a process in her heart that led her four years later to Afghanistan to work for an NGO (nongovernmental organization). She became a project manager working to improve the lives of the people around her and share Jesus with her neighbors. She learned the language and the culture and relied on God through the Holy Spirit to help her negotiate the minefields of talking about Jesus in such a way that it would not result in her expulsion or execution. 

Chapter by chapter McCord helps us dive deeper and deeper into an understanding of God’s calling and how it affects the person feeling the pull to devote themselves and their talents solely to the work of God. She describes how these decisions also affect their friends, families, and churches. McCord explores the kinds of people who are called, the places where they minister, and the difficulties and stress of living in a different culture under uncomfortable living conditions along with spoken and implied threats of violence. She relates all of this through descriptions of her own experiences and testimonies of others living in various countries. She backs up her discussion with stories from the Bible and with Scriptural references to support her theological underpinnings.

It is one thing to write about the missionary life; it is another to live it. McCord has done both and is able to share the calling and journey in a way that draws the reader into her story. I recommend this book for Christians who want to explore the call of Jesus on them personally or those they care about. I also recommend it for non-Christians seeking to understand what it is about this Jesus that makes people want to follow Him through the good times and the bad, enjoying an abundant life on earth with the assurance of an eternal life with Him in heaven.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Christian, Nonfiction

Publication:   September 1, 2015—Moody Publishing

Memorable Lines:

We ask our question from the experiences of living in places of chronic stress, sporadic trauma, and brutal martyrdom. Both we who go, and those who love those who go, face the deep evil in the world and turn to God with all our human fragility. We ask the question: why does God call us to dangerous places?

Jesus calls us to dangerous places because He loves people who live in dangerous places. he loves the perpetrators of violence and the victims of violence. he loves the children and the old, the men and the women, the rich and the poor.

Yet they had heard those warnings, just as we, before we boarded airplanes to dangerous places, understood that we were walking into a darkness so deep it might someday overwhelm us. We counted the cost, at least as well as we could. We each said, “He’s worth it. Jesus is worth it.”

Under the Radar–extreme bullying

Under the Radar

by Annette Dashofy

Under the RadarWith a full-time job with the Monongahela County EMS and a “part-time gig as deputy coroner,” Zoe Chambers has reason to be on the scene when bad things happen. In Annette Dashofy’s Under the Radar, murders abound. Zoe’s friend from high school, the much bullied Horace, turns himself in for the murder of long-time tormentor Dennis Culp. Did Horace snap under the continued violent harassment?

Under the Radar contains lots of twisty paths in the criminal investigations with several major surprises along the way. In addition to murder and burglaries, there are personal issues as Zoe plans her wedding to Vance Township Police Chief Pete Adams. She somehow manages to become involved in a deadly scenario while trying to track down a half brother she has never met. There is a little comic relief via Zoe’s interactions with her mother Kimberly and a “girls’ road trip.” Local politics works its way into the story as Zoe’s boss has to compete for his job, and the election results could also affect Zoe’s employment. 

The books in this series are page turners and Under the Radar is no exception.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #9 in the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series, but can be read as a standalone because the mystery is the strong part of the plot and much background information is supplied at the beginning of the book.

Publication:   February 25, 2020—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

Pete didn’t need to tell Horace to stay close. If he’d been any closer, he’d have been in Pete’s back pocket.

He hated to wish ill on anyone, but he hoped someone requested assistance or needed an officer for something—anything—minor. Paperwork sucked.

Kimberly had two large suitcases, a massive carry-on, and what Zoe guessed was a makeup bag big enough to stock the Dior counter at a department store.

A Baby for the Mountain Firefighter–tick-tock for babies and fires

A Baby for the Mountain Firefighter

by Melinda Curtis

A Baby for the Mountain FirefighterWhen Aiden, known as “Spider” in his Hot Shot crew, has a little R & R in Las Vegas, he follows his usual pattern of “love ’em and leave ’em” with a beautiful woman. When Becca, whose biological clock is ticking, searches out the casinos and bars in the same city for a baby daddy, she thinks she has found the perfect voluntary and unwitting sperm donor in Aiden, a handsome and charming younger man. He need never know the consequences of his one night stand.

When Aiden and a very pregnant Becca meet up again, he doesn’t recognize her, and she absolutely does not want him to discover she is carrying a child he helped to create. Obviously their relationship is at the center of Melinda Curtis’ A Baby for the Mountain Firefighter, but there are other major threads woven into the plot. Aiden’s family life as a child was less than stellar and Becca, a Fire Behavior Analyst, has personal reasons for her emotional involvement in each fire. This romance includes a lot of insight into the movement of mountain forest fires, the dangers involved, and the expertise of the various crews and their responsibilities. The struggles of women in that male dominated field are also highlighted.

This was a quick read with a predictable and hoped for ending. The fun of the book was watching the characters work through their issues both personally and professionally and discovering their motivations. There are some exciting adventures as fires are fought in Idaho, but the dangers are experienced from the safety of the reader’s armchair.

I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:  5/5

Category: Romance

Notes: #3 in The Mountain Firefighter Series but works well as a standalone.

Publication:   April 20, 2020—Purple Papaya

Memorable Lines:

The new fire toyed with the Hot Shots for only a moment before bending across their six-foot-wide break and igniting a fresh blaze on the opposite side with a heated kiss.

There was a difference on the fire line between being brave and being stupid. Jack hadn’t learned that difference, had probably never scrambled up a steep slope praying that he could outrun the fiery dragon at his heels. To him, being cautious was a sign of weakness.

“It was an accident. Patience is a virtue of good leaders and good parents.” She berated him as if she were his second-grade teacher, appalled that he’d eaten paste.

Snowflakes over Holly Cove–reconciliation

Snowflakes over Holly Cove

by Lucy Coleman

Snowflakes over Holly CoveTia is facing her first Christmas without her mother. She also has a painful distancing from her brother Will and his family. She is returning to her job as a journalist after a breakdown, but as we see her take on a feature assignment in isolated Holly Cove, she is depicted as a strong and resilient woman.

As Lucy Coleman’s Snowflakes over Holly Cove unfolds, Tia finds herself in the middle of other familial dysfunctional relationships that include Clarissa, her successful but manipulative boss, and Nic, the owner of the house she is renting. She also meets Max, a reticent retired Navy officer who is her temporary neighbor. Everyone has secrets, and some of those secrets might tie the characters together.

There are many interesting, vying, plot threads as Tia interviews couples for her feature articles and tries to sort through what makes a relationship sustainable. The story ends with some surprising action scenes and lots of genuine moments of compassion and reconciliation. This is a novel that rises above the typical Christmas feel-good story; readers will appreciate its depth.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Aria for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Publication:   September 18, 2018—Aria

Memorable Lines:

Strangely, I find myself repeatedly drawn to the window to marvel at the hostility of the sea. It’s a top to bottom, wall-to-wall steely greyness, that is like a blanket and it’s hard to see where the water ends and the sky begins.

“Money and possessions, I came to appreciate, create mistrust and envy. They bring out the worst in people.”

I truly believe that the spirit of Christmas is embodied in this room, today. It’s not about the gifts, or the amount of money you have to lavish on the occasion. It’s about the desire to make it special for other people and in doing so, it makes it special for you, too.

Treacherous is the Night–once a spy, always a spy?

Treacherous is the Night

by Anna Lee Huber

Treacherous is the NightAlthough the Great War is over, no one is over the Great War in Anna Lee Huber’s Treacherous is the Night. Every family has been affected by the huge number of fatalities and the return of badly wounded soldiers. Civilians carry the memories of deprivation and on the continent all live daily in the midst of destruction and rebuilding.  For Verity Kent, the end of the war means reunion with a husband long thought dead and the end of her dangerous stint as a spy. Verity is dragged back into the aftermath of the war when she is an unwilling participant in a séance that is an obvious hoax. 

Verity and her husband are trying to sort out their difficult relationship, but manage to put their struggle aside to solve the mystery, decipher codes, and discover who is lying. Huber does an excellent job of putting the reader in the timeframe right after the end of the war, and she reveals the horrors of war without being graphic. She portrays Verity as a woman restricted by the times she lives in, but capable and competent to achieve so much more than is expected from a woman in that period.

I enjoyed Treacherous is the Night and would like to read the first book in the series for more background and to experience Verity’s previous adventures.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Verity Kent Series, but acceptable as a standalone.

Publication:   September 25, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

We might be incapable as of late at discussing anything of importance, but as well-educated upperclass Brits, we could always rely upon our proficiency at inane small talk. After all, we’d been drilled in it since the cradle.

But in my estimation, he was naught but an officious pig, no offense to the swine.

“…the truth is war is hell on everyone who falls near its angry maw. The actions you take thinking to spare the innocent or inexperienced can just as easily cause their destruction, simply because the world is turned so bloody upside down.”

The Road to Paradise–climbing new heights

The Road to Paradise

The Road to Paradise

Karen Barnett’s The Road to Paradise is a delightful visit through time to Mount Rainier National Park in Washington. Set in 1927, the story tells of young Margie Lane, the socialite daughter of Senator Thomas Lane. A naturalist at heart, Margie is hired for the summer, as a political favor, into the male dominated environment with the expectation that she will only last a few days. Margie, lacking practical experience, brings with her determination, enthusiasm, a sense of wonder at God’s creation, and an academic background in botany and zoology.

This book has a villain, Phillip Carmichael, who has been manipulating Margie since childhood, and it has a hero, Chief Ranger Ford Brayden, Margie’s new boss. By the end of the story the reader has learned the motivations of each character and how their backgrounds and experiences set the stage for their actions.

Maggie is attracted to Ford, but realizes they have no future together because he does not share her faith in God. Calling God “the greatest Artist ever known,” Margie sees Him all around her in His amazing creation in Mount Rainier National Park and asks God to use her to share His love with others.

As Margie struggles in her new job and relationships with co-workers at the Park,  Phillip is always a force as he tries to convert the Park from wilderness to super tourist entertainment center—by any means necessary. Margie’s parents also play a role with their expectations for their daughter’s social and media status.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Waterbrook (Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Fiction, Christian, Historical Fiction

Notes: a Vintage National Parks novel

Publication:   June 6, 2017—Waterbrook (Random House)

Memorable Lines:

Ridgeline after ridgeline of deep green rose to meet the jagged edges of the enormous peak, tucked into its rumpled blanket of white.

Her smile added to the graceful beauty of her face. “I love seeing God’s creation laid out in front of us. ‘The earth is full of thy riches.’ How anyone can look at this natural order and not see the Maker’s hand, I’ll never comprehend.”

“God wants me broken and miserable?” She shook her head. “I don’t think I’d go that far, Ford, but when we’re weak He is strong. It’s in His strength that we find victory.”

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