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I met the If I Run series when we ordered the first two books for our church library. Knowing the quality of Terri Blackstock’s writing, we were confident the books would be well-written, but I had no idea how drawn I’d be to the characters and the story.

The first book is named after the series: If I Run. In a nutshell, Casey Cox is a young woman whose father supposedly committed suicide while on the local police force. This happened when Casey was twelve. But she has never believed her father would take his own life, or make sure it was she who found him. Ever since, Casey has been trying to find the truth about what happened to her father.

Now, Casey stumbles onto the horrific murder of a close friend, and realizes she will be accused of his murder if she sticks around. She’s convinced someone is setting her up to get her off the trail of the truth, and she has a pretty good idea who’s behind the scheme. But no one will believe her. Until she knows more, she cannot fight, so she flees.

While in disguise, trying to hide from those out to arrest her for murder, she comes across a case of kidnapping. She can’t let it go when she sees evidence near where she’s been living. Dylan Roberts, a former military man, now a private investigator, sets out to help the police find Casey, and in the process, he also starts to wonder whether everything is as it seems. Casey just doesn’t seem like a killer.

This book is an easy read, but so intense I could hardly put it down. This quality continues in the next installment, If I’m Found, where Casey finds herself involved in another side-case while still trying to stay out of the crosshairs of those who seek her. News is spreading so that more careful disguises are necessary to keep her from being recognized by the general public. Technology helps her to contact her family and Dylan, but where there is technology, there are those who can hack into it. Again, Casey’s capture seems imminent.

I had to wait until the library ordered the third and final book in the series to find out what happened to Casey. If I Live was even more exciting than the two preceding books. Casey continues to hide, with help from someone who believes her story, and while in hiding, she continues to work with this person to find enough information to catch the dirty cops in their own game. Her life is on the line. If they find her, they’ll kill her before she has a chance to stand trial. Lots of twists and tension in this book, and an ending both surprising and satisfying.

Besides the cat and mouse tension, someone else is looking for Casey. As she dodges capture, which seems more inevitable every day, she starts to think about God, and what faith in Christ could mean to her life…if she believes it. Her spiritual journey is woven beautifully into this fast-moving story, giving the reader more to think about, a more rounded story that offers hope no matter the physical outcome.

I recommend this series to anyone who loves suspense and well-crafted characters. A very influential story from a favourite author. To learn more about Terri Blackstock, click on her photo below and you will be sent to her website.

P.S. Here’s a cool thing I discovered on Terri’s website: if you look at the page, you’ll see that when the covers or this series are lined up, they form a picture.

Terri Blackstock

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This historical Christian fiction by one of my favorite authors, Michelle Griep, was published by Shiloh Run Press, an imprint of Barbour Publishing Inc., in March of this year (2018). Although a stand alone, this book has a slight connection to a previous novel, Brentwood’s Ward, as its main characters are associates. This is a nice addition for those of us who have read the former book.

Johanna Langley is fighting a losing battle to preserve the Blue Hedge Inn; it’s all that stands between her family—Johanna, her mother and her young brother—and the workhouse. The realities of 1808 England are harsh: no social welfare, no government handouts, no adequate health care, no prisoners’ rights, etc. All things we take for granted.

When Alexander Morton shows up to stay at the decrepit Blue Hedge Inn, he wonders why his “handler” has sent him there, but he soon becomes interested in the feisty Johanna.

A series of unfortunate incidents and accidents prevents Johanna from coming up with the money needed to pay off the debt against the inn. Alex assists when he can, but he is unaware of the details, and is otherwise engaged in his own assignment. He risks his life to find the person or persons involved in suspected treason, to the point of jeopardizing his growing relationship with Johanna. Who is the real traitor, who can be trusted, how much risk is too much?

I enjoyed The Innkeeper’s Daughter for many reasons, not the least of which is Griep’s skill in creating fascinating characters. No one is as they seem, not even Johanna’s old “mam.” She is the source of my favorite quote: “God is not sitting about, watching impassive. Our tears are His. You never—ever—cry alone.” (Location 3489)

Two of the quirkiest characters, Mr. Nutbrown and his puppet, Nixie, are a great pacing agent for the intense plot, as Mr. Nutbrown can apparently only speak to others through Nixie. This obviously causes mixed responses from his various associates.

The author is a pro at using figures of speech to engage the reader. Her description of a terrible in-house band at the inn reads thus: “an off-key violin, a bodhran that could use a good tightening, and two mandolins dueling to the death…a voice jagged enough to weather the whitewash on the plaster” (Location 365)

She personifies the weather as: “Bird chatter was as loud as a gathering of washerwomen. The only thing amiss was the pewter sky, clouds bullying down with grey fists.” (Location 1557)

Similes and metaphors apropos of the times abound: “Her mind was as dodgy as a pickpocket’s fingers.” (Location 402) “The two were close as scabs on a pox victim.” (Location 516) And another of my favorite quotes: “Without so much as a flinch, Alex stared down the barrel of the loaded question.” (Location 1704)

The intriguing plot of this book is well-researched and fits the time and setting perfectly.

My takeaway from this story, beyond the obvious enjoyment of reading it, was that people are not always (or often) what they seem, and that even when the going is tough, God is ultimately in control. Thanks, Michelle, for another great read.

 

Michelle Griep

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Website: http://www.michellegriep.com

Twitter: michellegriep

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

Influences: Bronte, Peretti, Sandburg

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/michellegriep

Short Bio:  I hear voices. Loud. Incessant. And very real. Which basically gives me two options: choke back massive amounts of Prozac or write fiction. I chose the latter. Way cheaper. I’ve been writing since I discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. I seek to glorify God in all that I write…except for that graffiti phase I went through as a teenager. Oops. Did I say that out loud?

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Many years ago, about 1994, in fact, I read Linda Hall’s first novel, The Josiah Files. I loved it, but although I’ve forgotten the story by now, I will never forget the strange and unlikely—so I thought then—technology of characters carrying small handheld devices on which they could communicate and read. I wished with all my heart that I could have a device that carried books and could be accessed anywhere, anytime.

Well, what do you know? Last night I was unable to sleep, so I grabbed my iPhone, and with a few clicks, accessed a novel I couldn’t wait to finish. How the world, even my little world, has changed over the past twenty-four years.

 

 

There are varied responses to these innovations in our world:

  1. Some people conceive the ideas that become new technology
  2. Some people embrace these changes
  3. Some people struggle to keep up with the latest tools/programs
  4. Some people choose to ignore the changes
  5. And some refuse to accept or be involved in using technology

I’m definitely not the first type, nor the second. Nor the fifth. You’ll catch me on #4 and then grudgingly moving up to #3 most of the time. Because I really don’t want to be left behind.

In my writing life, I’ve had to accept some changes. One publisher I worked for expected his authors to learn and use social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Scribble, Scrabble, Bing Bong, etc. (Please don’t look up those last three.) Whatever was available, we were expected to go with it. I did my best, eventually settling on Facebook and Twitter, with LinkedIn as a more silent partner. I have to say it was good for me. Stretching is a good thing, and although I have always disliked the phrase “getting out of my comfort zone,” it was a necessary and beneficial exercise.

A couple of years ago, I decided to embrace the independent publishing scenario. It took a lot of research, observation, questioning and faith, but I jumped in and still have my head above water. I think. Just this week, I heard more about a company I’d been interested in but didn’t understand: Ingram Spark. After emailing with friends, I decided to give it a whirl for the sake of one of my oft-neglected goals: book distribution. I now have an account and we’ll see where that leads.

There will always be technological obstacles in our lives, personal and professional, and it’s our choice how we respond. But maybe, just maybe, we will be able to benefit from some new technologies or programs. My personal line: “If technology is a car, I’m hanging onto the back bumper by my fingernails. I can’t let go, because I’ll never catch up again.”

Whatever the next obstacle, I’ll deal with it…or ask for help to understand. Because times will continue to change. I hope you will also keep on learning and experimenting.

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This book caught me off-guard. I was expecting a historical tale about a family that lived on the Mississippi River. What I discovered was the devastating story of Georgia Tann’s Tennessee Children’s Home Society and the baby/child trafficking that was so long hidden from the public.

The part about Georgia Tann and her baby business is true. The story itself is a riveting revelation of the terror and helplessness these children could have gone through as they were betrayed into Georgia Tann’s clutches.

The story of the family at the center of the book moves from freedom and happiness to fear, horror and separation. It’s a page-turner in a dark world, and to me, the realization that similar horrors happened to hundreds of children, made it even darker.

I followed up this audio book with an internet search of Georgia Tann and her infamous life, and was stunned by the facts. Some evils take a long time to be uncovered and stopped.

Kudos to Lisa Wingate for finding this story, digging up the facts, and passing them along to fiction readers. A chilling but fascinating read.

Lisa Wingate

 

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Yet again, I find myself conforming. Adapting as a reader.

from pixabay.com

  1. The Problem

I’ve always considered myself a patient reader. In the old days, before digital books came out, I almost always finished reading a book once I started. Now there are so many digital books out there, if one doesn’t suit my expectation or mood at the moment, I move on to another story. There are dozens more waiting in the files.

  1. The Reason

When I began blogging, I found the unique challenge of concentrating my exposition to roughly 300 words at a time, just so it wouldn’t get too long and boring. (My interviews are always longer, though.) Now I see a blog and scan it for numbers or bullet points. The easy way of grabbing the highlights instead of in-depth reading. The shorter, the more succinct, the better.

I know the main reason: way too much content for my brain to consume. And from that comes the practice of “reading triage.” Can’t read it all. Pick the best, the simplest to take in.

  1. The Response

So, I’ve started to do the same in my missives. Make it short, make it worthwhile, make it memorable. It’s just the way of today. Happy reading!

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