Book Review: Without Warning

by hollycombs

My “guilty pleasure” reading is probably romantic suspense. I love getting sucked into a story involving crime, mystery, relatable characters, intelligent law enforcement and a bad guy who will inevitably be found out — and if there’s a touch of romance in there it’s all the sweeter.
So when I saw Lynette Eason’s Without Warning, book two of the Elite Guardian series, I instantly wanted to give it a try, especially when it became apparent that the usual roles are flipped!

Daniel Matthews, retired special forces, lives a relatively sleepy life running his restaurants and raising his orphaned niece. But when he crosses paths with danger, not once, but twice in a single night with a dead body found hanging in one restaurant basement and an arson attack on another, he realizes that someone may be out for blood.

Katie Singleton, a former arson investigator, is working as a bodyguard with a handful of other exceptionally talented women know as Elite Guardians. When she gets pulled into Daniel’s life, she is forced to confront her own reasons for leaving arson investigating while also working to keep Daniel alive.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. The characters were friendly and likable, though not perfect. I especially loved watching the relationship between Daniel and his niece, Riley. It did feel as though perhaps the reader is expected to know some of the characters, specifically the other Elite Guardians, which I assume is a result of this being the second in a series. I found it odd that some characters were never really introduced, but referred to as though you knew them already, but this mostly pertains to secondary characters.

The plot is a bit unbelievable, but really, what suspense story isn’t these days? Go into the novel with a basic willing suspension of disbelief and you might just get sucked into the story. I will admit that the “whodunnit” wasn’t very difficult to guess.

Themes of overcoming fear, facing our pasts and moving forward with our futures are woven throughout the story and apparent in multiple characters in different ways.

A quick read, I would recommend this for a bit of suspenseful escapist pleasure this summer.

I received a complimentary copy of Without Warning from Baker Publishing Group, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are solely mine.

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Book Review: Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter and Me

by hollycombs

Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter and MeWhen I first read about this book, I got very excited. Some of my favorite subjects are right at the forefront: classic literature (Anne!), adoption, international adoption, memoir. It was like this book was meant for me.

“A charming and heartwarming true story for anyone who has ever longed for a place to belong. “Anne of Green Gables,” My Daughter, and Me is a witty romp through the classic novel; a visit to the magical shores of Prince Edward Island; and a poignant personal tale of love, faith, and loss.” (Tyndale)

It actually took me quite some time to track down a copy of it, but I was determined to read it. When my copy finally arrived, I dove in with eager anticipation.

Perhaps I had built up this book too much in my head. I don’t know. But I was disappointed. Far from impressed, I found myself reluctant to pick the book up time after time. It wasn’t that the subject matter wasn’t interesting, it was! But it just didn’t engage me.

The structure was pretty basic: An example from AoGG and how something similar happened to the author or her daughter, both of whom are adopted. But it merely scratched the surface. Perhaps it was for want of depth that I didn’t fall in love with this memoir, because it wasn’t for lack of subject matter.

Overall, I would say this was a good attempt and a wonderful idea, but fell a bit short of the mark for me.

I received a complimentary copy of Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter and Me from Tyndale House Publishers, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are solely mine.

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Book Review: The Inheritance

by hollycombs

The Inheritance by Michael PhillipsThe Inheritance by Michael Phillips promised to be an interesting tale about so many delightful things: a Scottish island, clan family history, an inheritance up for grabs, cross-cultural interpersonal relationships. It could have been a winner based on the blurb:

The death of clan patriarch Macgregor Tulloch has thrown the tiny Shetland Islands community of Whales Reef into turmoil. Everyone assumed Tulloch’s heir to be his much-loved grandnephew David. But when no will is discovered, David’s calculating cousin Hardy submits his own claim to the inheritance, an estate that controls most of the island’s land. And Hardy knows a North Sea oil investor who will pay dearly for that control.

While the competing claims are investigated, the courts have frozen the estate’s assets, leaving many of the locals in dire financial straits. The future of the island — and its traditional way of life–hangs in the balance.

Meanwhile, Loni Ford enjoys a rising career in a large investment firm in Washington, D.C. Yet, in spite of outward success, she is privately plagued by questions of identity. Orphaned as a young child, she was raised by her grandparents, and while she loves them dearly, she feels completely detached from her roots. That is, until a mysterious letter arrives from a Scottish solicitor. . . .

Past and present collide in master storyteller Michael Phillips’ dramatic new saga of loss and discovery, of grasping and grace.

But it was not to be. I have rarely not finished a book, I am such a “rule follower” that I have forced myself to finish books many a time just for the sake of finishing. But I’m a working mom now, and have very little time on my hands. And there are so many wonderful books out there that I just can’t force myself to spend my precious reading time on those I am simply not enjoying. I did give this a good try though, making it about 100 pages in before calling it quits.

The start is slow, but I’m okay with that. Phillips is “setting the scene” if you will. But I expected the plot to pick up at some point, I expected to start caring about at least one character somewhere along the line. But it switches POV (and even decades) so often that I struggled to get to know any single character.

In the end, I really wanted to like this book, but I simply didn’t.

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

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Four Months!

by hollycombs

Four Months: Fiona is still a super happy morning baby. Her feet might be her very favorite toy at the moment, and she loves her thumb. Alert and aware of everything around her, she loves being social and gives out smiles freely (except during this photo shoot, she was being very serious). And she went on her very first camping trip this month!

Fiona Rose Marie, 4 months

Fiona Rose Marie, 4 months

Fiona Rose Marie, 4 months

Fiona Rose Marie, 4 months

Fiona Rose Marie, 4 months

See the rest of Fiona’s monthly pics!

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Three Months!

by hollycombs

Three months: Fiona kicks and wiggles, coos and grins, especially first thing in the morning. She sleeps through the night most of the time at this point and bravely started child care this month. She has also discovered her hands and feet and just might be trading her pacifier for a few fingers…

Fiona Rose Marie, 3 months

Fiona Rose Marie, 3 months

Fiona Rose Marie, 3 months

Fiona Rose Marie, 3 months

Fiona Rose Marie, 3 months

Fiona Rose Marie, 3 months

See the rest of Fiona’s monthly pics!

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Two Months!

by hollycombs

Two months already! Fiona is definitely proving to be a morning baby. She is super smiley right now, loves her play mat and slept all the way through the night for the first time.

Fiona Rose Marie, 2 months

Fiona Rose Marie, 2 months

Fiona Rose Marie, 2 months

Fiona Rose Marie, 2 months

Fiona Rose Marie, 2 months

Fiona Rose Marie, 2 months

Fiona Rose Marie, 2 months

See the rest of Fiona’s monthly pics!

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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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