Book Review: Unintended Target

by hollycombs

Unintended Target by D. L. WoodUnintended Target by D.L. Wood is an interesting tale of questions, mysteries and close encounters.

When Chloe’s brother dies suddenly, he leaves behind a mystery that follows her all the way to the Caribbean. There, she meets charming and resourceful Jack — a man who may be more than he seems. Unaware of who her enemy might be or what it is they want, Chloe ends up framed for murder and hunted down by dangerous men. She is left with no choice but to trust Jack with her very life. As she is faced with yet another tragedy, Chloe must decide if God exists and if He does, if she is willing to trust Him.

The tagline “What you don’t know CAN hurt you” sums up this novel quite well. Along with the main characters, the reader is left without all of the facts, trying to learn what is going on. As each chapter answers and asks even more questions, the reader is enticed to continue digging. Unfortunately, I found the novel a little too easy to put down, and not engaging enough to make me want to pick it up at the first opportunity.

While the plot was a bit slow, the characters were likable. Jack’s murky past intrigues the reader and Chloe’s genuine innocence makes her more than likable. That said, neither character is fully engaging and I would have loved more depth to both. They seemed like people I would like to get to know better.

Wood weaves relatable themes of hope, doubt and struggle into the story of an intriguing shadowy conspiracy.

I received a complimentary copy of Unintended Target from the author but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are solely mine.

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Book Review: Cold Shot

by hollycombs

Cold Shot by Dani PettreyDani Pettrey’s latest novel Cold Shot is the closest thing to Dee Henderson’s O’Malley series that I have read. That may not sound like high praise, but trust me — it is.

Henderson’s O’Malley series is one of those iconic, career defining, genre quintessential series that is beloved and held dear by readers. The O’Malleys are more like friends than characters. I’m starting off this review by mentioning this because Cold Shot sparked a similar type of interest and investment. Cold Shot is by no means a replication of Henderson’s work, but it echoes so many of the same elements that make the O’Malley series shine.

When park ranger and former-sniper Griffin McCray comes across a 21st century skeleton among the Civil War battlefields of Gettysburg, charming and frustrating forensic anthropologist Finley Scott finds evidence linking the murder to an expert sniper — sending Griffin on a quest to learn the truth behind the murder. When Griffin and two of his childhood friends — an FBI special agent and a crime scene analyst — are thrown together again, old grudges and two unsolved mysteries churn to the surface.

Cold Shot’s cast of characters are a complex group of friends who have known each other their entire lives along with some new acquaintances thrown in for variety. As the book evolves, the reader learns more and more about the friends, peeling back layers of history and complex relationships.

I liked the main characters Griffin and Finley, especially identifying with the intelligent and spunky Finley. As the plot unfolds, the other characters who will no doubt play prominent roles in subsequent Chesapeake Valor books are introduced and developed. They are varied and interesting and I look forward to getting to know each character better in future volumes.

The plot was interesting and well woven for the most part. However, the reader is rarely left in suspense and I have to say that I didn’t ever really feel that Finley or Griffin were in danger. This made the climax of the plot less than gripping. I hope that Pettrey succeeds in keeping me on the edge of my seat in book two of the Chesapeake Valor series, because I will definitely be reading it!

Pettrey weaves themes of past mistakes and forgiveness throughout the story, including a professional error in judgement that ended a career, a personal secret that hurt loved ones and long-held blame and bitterness over events outside of anyone’s control.

Overall, I think Cold Shot is one of my favorite books of Pettrey’s to date and I am looking forward to reading more of the Chesapeake Valor series in the future!

I received a complimentary copy of Cold Shot from Bethany House Publishers, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are solely mine.

View my other reviews of Dani Pettrey’s books.

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Getting nothing done

by hollycombs

It’s amazing how quickly a whole day can pass by without me feeling like I’ve gotten anything done. Especially at the beginning, when just breastfeeding took forever and Fi and I were both just trying to get the hang of it. Especially on these days when Fi is extra snuggly, a little fussy and has a stuffy nose. She just wants Mama. Especially when the nights are long and I’m dragging a bit all day. Especially when we have doctor appointments or some other commitment that takes half our morning or afternoon.

Little Fiona Rose Marie

I loved this article that my doula shared about just this very thing. This part, in particular, spoke to me:

There is no greater task than the nothing you did yesterday, the nothing you are doing today, and the nothing you will do tomorrow. Caring for a baby is all about the immediate experience, yet the first two years are all about investment. It’s give, give, give, and give some more. These are hard-fought, rough-and-tumble years that can cut us down to our core and take us soaring high above the clouds, all in the space of 5 minutes. And yes, as you do the hardest work of your life, it will seem like you’re not getting anything done at all. Crazy, huh?

So the next time you find yourself wondering how another day is gone and nothing is done, stop. Hold your baby — feel the way that tiny body strains to contain this giant soul — complete, and full of potential all at the same time. Take a deep, slow breath. Close your eyes and measure your day not as tasks, but as feelings, as sounds, as colors.

Fiona and me

Every day, during my matetnity leave and after, I want to remember: There is no greater task than the nothing you did yesterday, the nothing you are doing today, and the nothing you will do tomorrow.

Fiona and Daddy

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My Daughter

by hollycombs

I always thought I would be a better boy mom. I’m not girly, I’m definitely NOT into princesses and sparkles and pink.

I’m more about climbing trees, mucking stalls, and hiking. Of course girls can do these things, I did these things as a girl. But it isn’t typical.

And the drama, oh the drama. When I went to college and lived with other girls for the first time (I have three brothers), I was in for an education in drama. And the drama starts early, appearing even in little girls.

For some time, having a girl almost terrified me. What would I do with her?

But then I had a niece, and then another (two actually — identical twins). I now have six nieces and I’ve learned a lot from them. It’s not so scary any more, this idea of raising girls.

The nieces and nephews

My nieces and nephews a few years ago…

In fact, I began to think that maybe I would like to have a girl — so I can raise her to be independent, brave, fierce and adventurous. The world needs more girls like that. Girls who can stand up for themselves, who know who they are, who don’t look to boys for validation.

For ten long months I wondered whether we would be raising a boy or a girl, picturing life with both. On January 28 I learned that the little one I loved so much already was indeed a girl. And rather than insecure, I found myself excited to have a daughter.

milk drunk baby

I can teach her to love history, to enjoy classic literature, to jump in mud puddles and go camping like a pro.

I can teach her to ride horses and Husband can teach her to surf.

I will encourage her to always be herself, to not need the approval of others. I will show her the world and help her find her place in it — as a brave, compassionate, creative person who can make her mark on the world.

Someday she will be grown and perhaps even have a daughter of her own, and I hope she will also strive to teach her girl to be exactly who God created her to be — no matter what the world says.

I have a daughter, and I am beyond excited to raise her to be one amazing person.

Baby's first stall cleaning

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Half Full

by hollycombs

I’m determined to remain an optimist today, even though it hasn’t exactly gone as planned. Half full or half empty. It’s a choice today and I’m going to say half full.

Fiona ate at 3:00am, 6:00am, 7:00am. I slept in between (glorious, glorious sleep!). We tried a morning bath and she loved it, all wide-eyed and beautiful. Before long, she was squeaky clean, dressed in a cozy fleece sleeper and cozily napping in her rock n play.

Clean baby

I was so confident, things were going well on our own.

Then I burned my breakfast. I ate what I could of it anyway. No biggie.

I put some chai tea on the stove to heat to make up for the loss of half of my breakfast.

Fiona woke, restless and hungry. Very well, time to nurse again. We were only a few minutes in when I heard the chai tea boil over onto the stove. There is nothing quite like the scent of scorched milk…

Leaving the mess on the stove, I focused on the babe in my arms. There was enough chai left in the pan to have half a cup.

A half full cup, not a half empty one.

Sleeping baby

Fi and I will get the hang of this eventually, probably right about when it’s time for me to return to work. For now, we’ll look at our half-successful morning with optimism. We’ve got this.

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One Month!

by hollycombs

Hard to believe one month of Fi’s life has already come and gone! She has already changed so much since she was born, I’m sorry to see that she has already outgrown some things, like her brand new baby cry and the tiny little squeaks and sounds she used to make in her sleep (she still makes sounds in her sleep, but they are so much louder and grunty now!).

Fiona is fascinated by the ceiling fan, hates being confined to her car seat, wakes up only once at night around 3am, hardly ever cries and is even beginning to smile at us. It’s been a wonderful month getting to know our little girl!

I never want to miss a moment of this girl’s life.

Fiona Rose Marie one month old

Fiona's smile

Baby hand

Fiona yawn

Baby booties

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A Cradle

by hollycombs


It’s just a cradle, crafted of dark wood, wobbling slightly as it rocks. The morning light filters in through the linen curtains and shines through the spindles onto the wood floors — shining on the simple cradle like an ethereal light.

But it isn’t just a cradle. It’s an heirloom, memories. It’s a promise, the future.

My brothers and I were all rocked to sleep in this very cradle. Then it help my nieces and nephews when they were tiny bundles. Now it holds my precious Fiona.

I place her in the cradle at night, pulling it close to my bedside where I can see her and reach her. I watch her through those wooden spindles. I watch her face and all the many expressions. I listen to her grunts and coos and cries. I reach over and gently rock the cradle. I place a hand on my babe, I replace her pacifier.

In the middle of the night, I pull her from the cradle and nurse her before placing her back in the safety of the cradle.

I wonder how many more children will sleep here. More of my own children perhaps, my youngest brother’s as well? What about further into the future? Will Fiona’s first child sleep in it? Will she rock her own daughter to sleep in this same wooden cradle?

It’s the beauty of heirlooms — this cradle isn’t just a cradle, it is memories, it is promises.

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Introducing… Fiona Rose Marie

by hollycombs

It’s a girl!

We were blessed with a beautiful baby girl on January 28, at 7:48 pm. She weighed in at 9 pounds even and 21.25″ long.

Fiona Rose Marie Combs

I will hopefully share her birth story soon, but for now I’ll just say that I couldn’t be happier with how her birth went. I was in labor for a total of about 15 hours, pushing for only 20 minutes or so.

Thanks to the hours of preparation and education, the support of Husband, and the help of a wonderful doula, I was able to have the unmedicated birth that I was striving for.

We named our tiny (or not so tiny!) babe Fiona Rose Marie. She was (is) absolutely perfect and healthy. She continues to be a wonderfully easy baby, sleeping well at night, nursing like a champ.

Fiona Rose Marie Combs

I know not everyone can claim such a good experience (both birth and the weeks following), we are praising God for our wonderful blessing and the gift of a smooth delivery and easy baby.

We’re settling in at home with little miss Fiona, taking hundreds of photos and relishing every moment.

Fiona Rose Marie Combs

Fiona Rose Marie Combs

Fiona Rose Marie Combs

Fiona Rose Marie Combs

Fiona Rose Marie Combs

Fiona Rose Marie Combs

Fiona Rose Marie Combs

Fiona Rose Marie Combs

Fiona Rose Marie Combs

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Book Review: The Jazz Files

by hollycombs

The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch SmithThe Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith is an engaging and delightful read. (Ironically, the first book I selected after my Fiona was born was authored by a Fiona.)

Shortly after arriving in London in 1920, Poppy Denby takes a position as an assistant at a newspaper — hoping to start her own career as a journalist. But when the political editor drops dead, Poppy begins a journey unlike anything she imagined to learn the truth about the article he had been working on, one with very personal ties to her own family. But her determination to dig up the past puts her and those she loves in danger…

I enjoyed reading this well-written mystery and getting to know the characters of this new series by a new-to-me author. The heroine, Poppy, is easy to like and relatable — she isn’t an expert at much of anything, but she has spunk and determination. Her friends are a smattering of personalities and generations, each unique and likeable in their own way.

The antagonists are, unfortunately, somewhat more one-dimensional. I wish Smith had put more effort into making them relatable in their own way, or at least more believable.

I appreciated that Smith didn’t put Poppy’s romantic life at the forefront of this story and instead focused on the mystery to be solved and Poppy’s growth as an independent young woman of the 1920s. However, the themes of romance and first love are woven quietly into the background and make you want to see how her relationships evolve.

The setting was perhaps my favorite part of the book — and the reason why I picked it up in the first place. England in the roaring 20s is a fascinating place. I loved the historical context, from jazz clubs and bobbed haircuts to suffragette history. Smith stuck closely to the accurate history of the time, taking liberty only with a few dates in the world she created for Poppy.

I look forward to following Poppy’s adventures in the roaring 20s as more Poppy Denby Investigates books are released!

I received a complimentary copy of The Jazz Files from Lion Fiction, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are solely mine.

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Winter Light

by hollycombs

I know that as a Northern girl living in southern Virginia, I feel out of place at times. Winter doesn’t really feel like winter here.

It’s gray and brown and dull. It rains and mud proliferates everywhere. It’s rather depressing. I was reminded just how much I miss my northern winters this morning.

I awoke with the sun shining in my windows, and as I opened my eyes to it I knew without a doubt that there was snow on the ground. I didn’t need to look out the window. I didn’t need to slip on my glasses.

I could tell simply by the quality of light this morning that the sun’s rays were bouncing off the white crystals in the yard and producing an almost magical bright light for the world.

So when I tell my southern friends that I miss the snow, it isn’t just the skiing or the crunch under my feet. It isn’t just the beauty of a wood covered with a fresh blanket of white — unsoiled by human touch. It is the very sun itself and the way it shines through my windows on a chilly winter’s morn.


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