Return to Me (review)

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Return to Me (The Restoration Chronicles #1)Return to Me by Lynn Austin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Return to Me Lynn Austin returns to writing in the genre–biblical fiction–where I first met her. This story is set in the time of the exile and follows the priest Iddo and his son Zacharias as their family returns to a ravished Jersualem with the intention of rebuilding the temple.

The book is peopled by believable characters who go through the kinds of things you’d expect returning exiles to go through. Iddo’s wife, Dinah, pines for her children and grandchildren that never made the trek back and struggles to be content in her primitive Jerusalem home.

Zachariah’s best friend Yael feels the strong pull of astrology as she seeks to discover whether her sick mother will live. The star charts she gets from the Babylonian seer Parthia become a snare to her as she befriends a Samaritan family.

Main character Zacharias often misses his parents but believes that God has him in Jerusalem for a reason–if only He would make it clear.

It’s a story that takes place over a generation and gives life to an interesting and dramatic era of Israel’s history. However I found it slow-moving in parts, and a tad long. Perhaps this is because the author attempts to stay close to the Bible’s story line where there are years without too much happening.

Lovers of Bible fiction and students of Jewish history will want to add this book to their collections.

I received Return to Me as a gift from the publisher, Bethany House. As usual, my Kindle edition from NetGalley was full of weird spacing and missing ‘ff’s.

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Made to Last (review)

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Made to LastMade to Last by Melissa Tagg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Miranda (Randi) Woodruff is the star of the handy-girl show From the Ground Up in Melissa Tagg’s debut contemporary Christian romance Made to Last. Though Randi is a celebrity of the how-to world, she’s managed to keep her private life private—sort of. But she has made one exception, referring often to the husband who taught her everything she knows about building.

Trouble is, that husband isn’t. Her live-in boyfriend Robbie walked out on her three years ago. From then on she’s kept hoping he’d reappear with an explanation, ready to set the date. Now, with the network threatening to cancel the show’s fourth season, revealing and showing off her husband will be the perfect device, her handlers figure, to arouse public interest in this tomboy sweetheart-cum-black sheep missionary kid (MK).

Matthew Knox, whose career in journalism has had its ups and downs-—lately mostly downs—-gets the assignment to sleuth out the truth about Randi and write about his discoveries on a daily blog. Of course his editor has promised a plum Today cover story in the future, after this pulp assignment is done.

Things get complicated, though, when Matthew and Randi discover there is chemistry between them, ghosts from the past reappear, and the web of lies grows tighter and more constricting by the day.

Randi and Matthew are likeable and complex characters.

The intricate plot with its high stakes for all involved makes for a taut read throughout—no sagging middle!

Tagg’s clipped and culture-savvy style suits the genre perfectly:

Mission: Smile. Access her inner Colgate commercial and convince everybody she meant it” (Kindle Location [KL] 18).

“‘You’re the one who went all Jeopardy on me'” (KL 550).

Randi’s MK issues along with Matthew’s non-existent relationship with his dad add depth to the characters, make them more sympathetic, and provide a good arena to explore matters of faith, repentance, forgiveness, and redemption.

This was a fun and at times thought-provoking read. It may leave you pondering questions (nudged by the discussion guide at the book’s end) like: “Have you ever had to let go of a dream? Have you ever had to face something hard in your past?”

I received Made to Last as a gift from Publisher Bethany House for the purpose of writing a review. Again my NetGalley Kindle version had “ff” issues: they were all missing and I was left to puzzle out sentences like: “The words burst from her, impatient pus of white air erupting from her lips” (KL 3954). Even technology glitches have their amusing moments, it seems.

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