When Hope Calls by David Lui

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

When Hope Calls: Based on a True Human Trafficking Story by David Lui

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Morris, a humanitarian worker, and the staff of a human rights organization receive a desperate phone call from a girl named Mya, saying she’s been kidnapped. She doesn’t know where she is, but Morris and his team are determined to find and rescue Mya as part of their fight against human trafficking in When Hope Calls by author David Lui.

Although I found this novella (based on a true story) categorized as a kidnapping thriller, the subject didn’t have me expecting thrills, and all things considered, I indeed wouldn’t call this a thrilling read.

It’s suspenseful, but for much of the time, the characters are waiting in dismal silence. Fiction-wise, the plot development suffers from emotional lows that are overwritten and redundant, with the characters sitting in abject despair for hours and spending a good amount of time feeling sorry for themselves and this place in their careers or lives. On a more technical note, there are some missing words and recurring errors in punctuation.

However, sometimes a story’s message and purpose are bigger than the story, and that’s okay. This quick and relevant read serves to raise awareness of a widespread, urgent real-life issue, without sugarcoating it but also without resorting to unnecessary vulgarity. It’s a call to remind humanity that we have to fight against modern-day slavery.

 

All is Bright: A Hope Beach Christmas Novella by Colleen Coble

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

All Is Bright by Colleen Coble

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Delilah Carter, manager of the Tidewater Inn, has been busy planning a Christmas wedding for her friends, but someone runs her off the road and into the ocean one night. She tries to downplay it as a mere accident afterwards, but she isn’t really buying it, and neither is Sheriff Tom Bourne, the man who’s been harboring feelings for Delilah in All is Bright: A Hope Beach Christmas Novella by author Colleen Coble.

I’ve not read any of the Hope Beach novels, and this book includes a lot of characters whose stories I’m sure have already been told. While I figured the brief mentions and appearances of those characters would have been meaningful to me if I’d read the other books, I was only interested in Delilah and Tom’s story here.

Even with the darker thread of suspense running through this, much of the story was an easy read for me. Because it’s clear that Delilah and Tom have got some background together, the development of their relationship doesn’t come off as rushed or as if their strengthening emotions are popping out of nowhere.

Now, the critical point of danger in the story is a rather obvious setup, more convenient than believable. But the best part of the story for me concerns an awesome Christmas gift that warmed my heart along with the characters.

And, yes, the Christmas lights and the homey feel captured on a softly bright evening on the book cover got me to read this novella.

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The Hope Beach Series

All is Calm: A Lonestar Christmas Novella by Colleen Coble

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

All Is Calm: A Lonestar Christmas Novella by Colleen Coble

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

After witnessing a murder, Lauren Everman seeks sanctuary at the Bluebird Ranch during the Christmas season. Brendan Waddell is also staying at the ranch to recover from a gunshot wound he sustained during his Special Ops work. And he’s got reason to suspect Lauren in connection with the murder she witnessed in All is Calm: A Lonestar Christmas Novella by author Colleen Coble.

I haven’t read any of the novels in the Lonestar series, but I didn’t have to before reading this standalone book. In keeping with its lovely cover of twinkling nighttime stars and Christmas lights, the story includes holiday warmth, affection, faith, and peace.

The unfolding suspense was what I liked most about this story, as the plot turned out to be a little more involved than I was expecting. However, I tend to prefer a sharper style in suspense reads. Some parts here didn’t feel the most natural or original, especially concerning the romance, and I’m not convinced when a dangerous scene seems contrived—when a character walks into or remains in an obviously hazardous situation instead of getting out of there or calling for help.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed this fairly quick read overall. It was my first time trying this author, and I plan to do so again.

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The Lonestar Series

 

Blessing on the Run by Alana Terry

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Blessing on the Run by Alana Terry

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

After years of desperate and dangerous living, Blessing has been working to get her life together for herself and her young son. But her ex-boyfriend, who’s done so much in the past to destroy her, shows up with a threat that could cause her even more pain and worse in Blessing on the Run by author Alana Terry.

The colorful but serious tone of the controlled but bold book cover design drew me to this suspense novella. I’ve an appreciation for ChristFic authors who address critical real-world problems without sugarcoating or downplaying them. Without realistic depictions of how bad things can get, there are a lot of people who won’t get the picture of how far redemption can reach.

This story tackles a lot in a relatively short amount of time, from rape and drug addiction to fear, manipulation, guilt, and more. And yes, there’s a thread of redemption that runs through it, even if the thread involves other characters more than it does Blessing.

Still, I had a hard time getting through this book because of the heroine. I understand she has plenty of reason to be angry and jaded, but her constantly negative attitude becomes predictable. The majority of what she says to the reader and the other characters is downbeat, cynical, or sarcastic. Not only is she down on herself, but she often points out how the actions of her loved ones bother her. The brief, positive spark at the end of the book isn’t enough to convince me that Blessing, her son, and her relationships are going to be all right.

Even so, I went on and finished the book because its manipulation theme is relevant. Sure, it can be easy to see how someone else—especially a fictional character—is being taken in and used by an abusive, chronic liar. And yet manipulation is a widespread societal problem now, with untold numbers of people (Christians included) whose fears are being played upon so much that they tolerate, ignore, or find reasons to justify or even praise the terrible behavior of their manipulators.

It’s rare that I don’t necessarily enjoy a book but would still recommend it. What brings enjoyment varies from person to person, and I ultimately found this book to be worth the read.