Once Upon a Frog (Whatever After #8)

Once Upon a Frog (Whatever After #8)Once Upon a Frog by Sarah Mlynowski

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Abby and Jonah have promised their parents that they wouldn’t play in the basement at night, but they have burning questions to ask Maryrose, their home’s magic mirror. So one night, they sneak into the basement, knock on the mirror and find themselves once again sucked into fairy tale land.

They seem to have found them selves in the story of The Frog Prince, with a talking frog for a companion and a mean princess who refuses to help change the frog back into a prince. But, appearances aren’t what they seem, and soon they find themselves questioning their first impressions of the land.

My children are very fond of these Whatever After books, and they are the kind of books that they would usually read independently. However, we started reading the Whatever After books long before any of my children were independent readers, so we still continue to read them together for fun.

Abby and Jonah’s continued deception of their parents irks me as a parent, but when they tried to come clean with their parents a few books ago, Maryrose removed their parents’ memories of their knowledge of fairy tale lands. They continue to trust Maryrose and see her as a good guy, and I suppose from the evidence of the books that she is. However, because of the prevalence of “bad guys” in the world, I do not like the idea of someone (even a magic mirror) making sure that Abby and Jonah conceal their actions from their parents.

Beyond that, these stories are silly and harmless enough. Jonah and Abby always mess up the fairy tale, and they always have to figure out how to reach a happy ending before they can come home. They usually find that the happy ending that they reach is not the traditional storybook ending, but everyone ends up happy anyway.

Even better, Abby usually finds some sort of life lesson in the fairy tale to help her in real life. In this book, the message is one of the pain that is often behind the actions of a bully. It’s not a deep lesson, but I think it is one that many children can relate to.

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Take Four (Baxter #18)

Take Four (Above the Line, #4)Take Four by Karen Kingsbury

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Andi Ellison is nineteen and pregnant. She’s committed to giving up her baby for adoption, but the myriad of emotions that she experiences during pregnancy makes her begin to wonder if she’s doing the right thing. Will she continue with adoption or will she decide that it’s time for her to be a mother?

Everything seems to be going Bailey Flanagan’s way. She has a big audition and a promising beginning to a real relationship with Cody Coleman. Will she find all her dreams come true or will all her hopes be dashed?

This is a book that truly played on my emotions. There were so many good emotional payoffs in this book. This has been a difficult series to read because of all the things that happen that just left me feeling brokenhearted and disappointed. This book kept me in the broken hearted camp, but allowed me to get some closure and happiness from what has gone on in these stories. I truly loved many of the things that happened and how they were resolved, so this was an excellent book to me.

I will go through each point-of-view character briefly. Don’t forget that there will be spoilers ahead, so read at our own risk.

Bailey: Bailey actually starts this book off with a little disappointment. Her Broadway audition doesn’t go quite the way that she hopes, but at the same time, a door opens for her to get the lead part in a major Hollywood movie. That’s kind of a great second opportunity. She attempts to start a relationship with Cody Coleman, only to find that he distances himself from her, leading to her broken heart. She does have a life beyond Cody though and great things are happening for her in that part of her life. I can’t wait to see more of her in the next book series, so I’ve completely changed my view on this character over the past couple of books.

Keith: Keith is in a dual position. He is experiencing success as a producer and is very up from that, but his daughter’s pregnancy is devastating for him. He is especially devastated that Andi is giving the baby up for adoption because he longs to love his grandson. Yet, as always, he handles everything remarkably. He’s this series’ John Baxter. Even when he has emotional turmoil, he is centered and puts God first.

Cody: Cody Coleman is continuing to coach football with great success. He’s found his calling and it’s an excellent thing for him! He starts a relationship with Bailey Flanagan, only to find himself distancing himself from Bailey and breaking up with Bailey after his mother is put back in jail for dealing drugs. He still loves Bailey, but his life is so crazy that he feels that he can’t even ask her to be a part of it. After all, she has a lot going on and her life is really picking up. He breaks up with her because he loves her. I’m not positive that’s what he should do, but I really feel bad for him.

Andi: She’s pregnant and exhausted. She continues with school and leans on the support of her parents. She loves her unborn son, and briefly considers keeping him, but realizes that he is not meant for her to raise. It’s really upsetting for me, as a mother to read her son’s birth and all the emotions that go through her head as she prepares to say good-bye to him forever. I’m still upset as I sit and write about this book, and yet, they are some of the most beautiful scenes in the book. I’m glad to have gotten to hear her perspective.

Brandon: Brandon is the delightful surprise for me in this book. He’s determined not to be touched by Jesus and even parties and around in rebellion against the idea that he’s about to make a Christian film. He finds himself thinking about pulling out of making the movie Unlocked. However, he finds himself pulled into the movie by both his love for the book and by the allure of young Bailey Flanagan. His scenes in the book with Bailey and their developing friendship is undeniably charming. His eventual salvation is even better. I hope to see more of him in the next series of books.

Luke: Luke has very few point of view scenes in the book, but as luck would have it, Luke and Reagan are adopting Andi’s baby. We get to see, through Luke, their excitement over the new baby, their mourning when the birth mom changes her mind, their excitement when they realize that the baby really will be theirs, and their surprise to find out that the woman who picked him out was Keith Ellison’s daughter. Happy times for their family.

That’s about it for this book. Great story and a great payoff for reading through the series. I look forward to starting to tackle the Bailey Flanagan series now.

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Take Three (Baxter #17)

Take Three (Above the Line, #3)Take Three by Karen Kingsbury

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Keith and Chase are at the bubble, about to break through Hollywood and gain a reputation for making life-changing movies. So, why when they’re in such exciting times, does Chase suddenly feel as if he’s in the wrong place and that God wills for him to leave?

Andi is reaping the fruit of her previous actions, going through a crisis that leaves her future in jeopardy. Will she turn back to God or continue down a path of self-destruction?

Bailey and Cody are still doing a dance of whether or not they can be friends. They continue to edge around each others lives, but will someone make a move to push them closer or end their friendship?

This book takes many of the things that I was discontenting about in Take Two and resolve them in a way that was highly satisfactory for me. I needed to seem some of the things that never came to an ending in the second book come to a satisfying (and God-honoring) conclusion in this book, so I was thrilled with that aspect of the book. This was a much better book than the second one in the Above the Line series. Here’s what I thought about each of the major point-of-view characters:

**Spoiler Alert**

Andi: Andi finds out early in this book that she is pregnant from her relationship with Taz. Of course, by this point, Taz has moved on to his next conquest. She spends the entire book full of shame over her decisions and feeling unworthy to even tell her parents. She’s too worried about bringing shame to their movie company and to them. She doesn’t want them to know that she isn’t their innocent little girl anymore. She decides to have an abortion and to just start over again after her abortion, but God truly intervenes in her plans. When he does, she realizes it as a miracle and proof of God that her heart has been waiting for. It is my hope that that next book in the series brings her the healing that she needs because she has went through a really rough time in this book.

Bailey: Bailey continues to go through her life in the half-aware way that she has. She spends more time with her family, and I love that since I love the Flanigan family so much. She also spends a little more time with Cody, and finally realizes that she doesn’t love Tim. I’ve been waiting for her to realize that this whole series! I’m hoping good things for her in the next (few) books.

Keith: He is totally committed to Jeremiah Productions and to the life-changing movies that they’re committed to make. He suffers a professional blow early in the book as Kendall and Chase both depart from the company, but he doesn’t let that keep him down for long. God is able to work everything out to his good, and he is still on track professionally. He finally realizes that there is something really wrong with Andi, and that takes a toll on him, but he really is the type of person who is rolling with all that life is giving him.

Chase: Early in the book, he realizes the trouble that his attraction to Kendall could bring him. He also realizes how much he’s missing out on life with his family at home. He prays over how to best balance his Hollywood work with his family, and he ultimately realizes that he can’t. He receives an out of the blue job offer that allows him to be at home with his family, and even though this ends his story early in this book, I am so glad that he pulls himself back from the brink and allows himself to be molded into the person that God would have him to be. I thought he was a total jerk in the second book, but he redeemed himself in this one 🙂

Cody: He realizes that he wants to be a football coach, and he gets an opportunity to spend a little time working with the team at his old high school. It’s an awesome thing. He still struggles with his relationship with Bailey because he realizes that he can’t just be friends with her and that he has no place in her life as long as she has Tim in it. His mother is also back to abusing drugs. So, other than is professional realizations, he doesn’t have much going for him. Still it’s enough, and I really like his character.

Dayne: Just as Chase wants to get out of the movie business, Dayne finds himself wanting to get back into the movie business. That is serendipity. He’s excited to be on board with Jeremiah productions and he encourages Keith and Lisa to temporarily relocate to Bloomington so that they can work more closely and be closer to their daughter, Andi. It’s a win-win.

Ashley: Ashley has very few point-of-view scenes, and the purpose of much of her POV is to be a part of Andi’s story. The first place Andi goes for an ultrasound is Sarah’s Door because they offer free ultrasounds as part of their ministry. Ashley tries to get through to Andi and prays for Andi. She also, while she’s in POV pays a visit to Sunset Hills and to the cemetery to refresh us on the people at Sunset Hills and to remind us of the past.

Lisa: Lisa is worried about Andi. She spends most of the book not acting on the worry because she doesn’t want to worry her husband during such a delicate time in his ministry. She’s making the best decisions she can, and she suspects what’s going on, but finds that much of her relationship with Andi is out of her control. She prays and she hopes for the best.

Brandon: Brandon is on tap to play in the next Jeremiah Productions film. He is in two dual roles. He’s the man who fell in love with a story that is life changing and Christian in nature and who wants to bring it to life on the screen. However, he is also a partier and someone who is running from God and wants no part of God in his life. I imagine he will have POV chapters in the next book, and I look forward to them.

Luke: Luke only has one point of view section. He’s Dayne’s lawyer and the main attorney for Jeremiah Productions, so he is in the book several times. However, his POV is used to show his family life with Reagan and his children. It is also to show their desire to adopt again, and them praying for the birth mom that will one day choose them.

This is an excellent and fast-paced read. It’s a little too neat, the answers come a little too soon, and sometimes the pat answers are unrealistic. I can already see ahead to what some of the conflict will be the next book and it seems too pat and predictable. I like it, and I’m not ready to give up on the Baxters, but I find that I didn’t love this one.

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Sunday Sharing

Welcome to Sunday sharing! Here’s where I share my favorite articles, quotes and videos that I have encountered this week!

The perfect thing for me to read this Valentine’s week was the article Love & Irritability.  I struggle, not with anger, but with irritation, and this was a dose of conviction for me. My favorite line was: Whether small annoyance or large, to be easily provoked is that response of irritation which is fueled by a worship of oneself and lack of worship of God.  (I was at DisneyWorld with my children this week, and I really could have used this message fresh in my mind then.  I guess it’s more convicting after losing it with them a couple of times last week.)

I love this “tricky people” approach from this article. I am making sure that one of the next concepts I teach my children about adults is that “Adults don’t ask children for help. They ask other adults.” That distinction makes a world of difference.

I’ve also been reading more and more on my Kindle these days, so I was delighted to read Tim Challies article Going All-in With Ebooks.  My husband bought me my first Kindle several years ago to help with “book clutter,” and I’m finally beginning to take full advantage of them.  I have the Baxter books in paper, and for the first time, I’m realizing how much I am preferring to read on my Kindle. Speaking of reading and Tim Challies, some of my favorite of his articles address books and reading, and Reading out of Love for Others reminds me that reading does not have to be selfish.  Many books I’ve read have been because of my love for others.

Speaking of books, I’ve been reading Karen Kingsbury’s Summer. Ashley has just received a terrifying and terminal diagnosis on her unborn daughter. The doctor reminds her, “I can only tell you that God has a plan for every child. No matter how brief the life.” I’m so glad that he does have a plan for each of us!!

As I was reading this book, I came across another great message that I want to remember always. “God’s still God even if things don’t go your way.” I think that one of the biggest things I battle with myself and with the kids is the feel and hope that God is like some magic genie in the sky that gives us every thing we ask for.  I want to do better and I want to teach my kids better!

I’ve had this article called The Five Craziest Hours in the White House on my list of articles to read since the presidential inauguration.  It’s totally cool to see the transformation the they make so quickly.

Here’s a beautiful Call to Faithfulness. It reminds me of how I struggle and fall much more easily than I should when I want to be faithful.

I’m not really sure why, but I have been reading some articles about Y2K recently, and I’ve been remembering things about that time.  I was in college, and my future mother-in-law had completely stocked a closet that she called her “Y2K Room” in case there was an apocalypse. We didn’t do many preparations at the grocery store that I worked at, but we did have some flashlights and some manual cash registers just in case our technology stopped working.  My family didn’t prep at all.  However, one of the most interesting things that I did was to take a class on apocalyptic religion and learn all about the different religious groups that were focused on the end of the world, doomsday and destruction.  Discovering and reading this New York Times opinion piece It’s Always the End of the World as We Know It reminded me of many of the groups that I learned about in my classes. It’s our nature to look for the end and signs of Christ’s return, but let us never get so caught up in that that we see destruction around every corner of our lives.

So, those are some of my favorite articles from this week. Can you recommend some good ones for me to read next week?

Take Two (Baxter #16)

Take Two (Above the Line, #2)Take Two by Karen Kingsbury

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Keith and Chase have finished filming their movie, and now it’s time for the editing and the promotion of the movie. It’s good for them that they have a big time movie investor and his production assistant daughter on their side as they work on getting this movie put into theaters. Success beckons and they are on a constant loop between their homes in San Jose and their time in Hollywood.

Meanwhile, Chase’s wife Kelly is struggling at home. Taking care of two small girls, dealing with a beyond tight budget and sinking deeper into depression by the day, she resents Chase’s absence from their lives. Will their marriage survive the making of this life changing movie?

Keith’s daughter Andi is also struggling. She is struggling because she longs for rebellion and adventure. She longs to be edgy and adventurous. She longs for danger and for love. She does not long for God and is pretty sure that she doesn’t believe in him. She’s on the verge of some dangerous choices. Will she return to Jesus? Will she slip deeper into sin?

This book is the second book in the Above the Line series of Baxter books. Kingsbury is sending out the plot that she’s established in Take One, but nothing gets resolved as we go through the book. Instead, everyone is in stasis and very little gets solved. Here’s a sampling of thoughts about each of the point-of-view characters. Don’t forget that there will be spoilers ahead:

Kendall: Kendall is a new point of view character in this book. She is the daughter of the principal investor in Keith and Chase’s movie, and she is a production assistant who is attempting to help get everything set up for their next movie. She’s a young divorcee, and even though she’s a Christian, she struggles with an attraction to Chase that she works hard to keep under wraps. I love her backstory and how it affects her life in this book, and I am glad that she works to keep her attraction from blossoming into sin. I hope to see more of her as we head into the next book of the series.

Bailey: I nearly forgot Bailey was in this book, even though she gets a good many point-of-view scenes. Most of her scenes are either focused on her lack of true feelings for Tim or her constant push and pull with Cody. I’m already exhausted by the Bailey/Cody thing, and if I’m counting right, I still have six more books to go before it’s completely resolved. Enough all ready. Just put them together, or at least give them a chance and see if things really work out between them. Her other role in this book is to disapprove of everything Andi does. For a relationship that started out so promising, Bailey and Andi have really pulled apart over the course of this book.

Keith: He’s still the solid rock of this project. He works. He interacts with his wife. Everything is on the up with him, even when things are down. He has a good head on his shoulders and realizes what is important in life. Because of his distance and his busyness, he does miss seeing what’s truly going on with Andi, but I don’t think he can be blamed for that. After all, Andi is a young adult in college, and she is pretty determined to keep him clueless.

Kelly: She’s depressed. She’s resentful. She feels like the weight of their whole family is on her shoulders, and she’s not wrong. She turns to compulsive overeating as a way of escaping her problems. Although it’s portrayed as exceptionally harmful, I found myself rolling my eyes because there are so many worse things to do when times are hard. So what if she’s eating a little extra chocolate? I really felt a connection with Kelly because of my time as a homeschooling Mom and the way that I am often left to hold our home together while my husband is working or serving at church. (I’m not resentful, but the fact is that 24/7 parenting is exhausting.) I can totally get that except the overeating part is overplayed and cartoonish. I often found myself thinking that if she’s worried over whether she’s eating McDonald’s or planning to eat Salmon and fresh veggies, her finances aren’t nearly as tight as she imagines and her priorities are totally out of line. She’s got so much more to focus on than her eating habits. It’s just a ridiculous issue to be so magnified.

Chase: I don’t like him. He’s a jerk. He can’t relate to his family. He doesn’t even see them because he’s so into his work. He finds himself flattered and attracted to Kendall. He finds himself not able to come home on his daughter’s birthday or even rush home when his daughter breaks her arm. He just comes off as someone whose priorities are completely out of line. He doesn’t even really seem sympathetic with his wife’s depression because he’s so into himself and his goals. How can he make life changing movies and leave his family to be a casualty along the way? How can the good of others come before the good of the very people that God gave him to care for and protect most of all?

Andi: Wow. . . She is making bad decisions in the spades. She pulls away from God and from godly friends like Bailey who can be a good influence in her life. She lies and tries to keep things from her parents. She’s completely taken in by a young film student named Taz. She falls into sin of her own free will. . . And not to mention, the scenes with her that describe her feelings and what is going on are sensual. They’re blushworthy, and as someone who has a past of struggling with romance novels, they led my imagination into sin. I lowered my appraisal of this book by a whole star because of the way that the sensuality in this book took me by surprise. . . I do occasionally read books with sex scenes in them, ones that aren’t necessarily sexy, and books that don’t make me feel sensual. Although this book is not as descriptive of a sex scene as many romance novels, it is very sensual and sexy, and this sinful sexuality is portrayed in a positive light by Andi’s perspective narration. I try to prepare for temptation so that I am not taken in, so let the reader beware.

Cody: In this book Cody befriends Andi until he realizes that he’s guilty of leading her own. Then, he cuts himself off from her. He is in a continual dance of “should he” or “shouldn’t he” in being friends with Bailey. It’s exhausting, and I hope that it ends soon. Painfully annoying storyline.

Lisa: If I remember correctly, Lisa only gets on point-of-view scene in the book. She is awakened in the middle of the night to pray for Andi because she can sense that Andi is getting into trouble. She is a great support system for Keith throughout the book, and I am so glad Keith has her. If she were as emotionally unstable as Chase, I can’t imagine what these books would be like.

So, that’s my assessment of the book. If it weren’t for the couple of sexy scenes with Andi, it would definitely be a 3 star book, but when I read Christian fiction, I don’t appreciate having sexy scenes in it. I also thought that Kingsbury does not have a good grasp on the financial situations and desperation that Kelly would go through. If she did, she would not have made such a big deal over M&Ms or McDonald’s. So, I guess this book goes down as too sexy and out of touch with poor people. I plan to continue reading book three because I want to see how Andi ends up and if Chase and Kelly are able to reconcile their marriage. So, Take Three is next on my list.

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Take one (Baxter #15)

Take One (Above the Line, #1)Take One by Karen Kingsbury

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chase and Keith are moviemakers. They were once missionaries together in Indonesia, but God has called them to make life-changing movies for the world today. Now, they are getting the opportunity to make the very first one, but where there is great opportunity for God’s work there is also great opposition. Will they get the movie made or will the the crew strike, the cast fall apart or Chase or Keith give into various Hollywood temptations?

This was an excellent book. It’s considered part of the Baxter series, but it focuses on a whole new cast of characters. The Baxters that appear in this novel all are non point-of-view characters, and the only remaining POV characters from the past books are Bailey and Cody. This makes the novels feel like something fresh and new, and not just a continuation of the same old storylines that Kingsbury has been rehashing over the past 14 books. It’s a beautiful transition.

Even better, the story is interesting on its own merits. Chase and Keith’s families are interesting, their quest to make their film is interesting, Keith’s daughter Andi is interesting, and even Bailey’s character is much more interesting than in the Sunrise series. I really liked this book.

As always with the Baxter books, I will take a quick look at all the point of view characters. There are a million storylines going on in these books at once, so it’s just easier this way. There will probably be spoilers in this look, so read ahead at your own risk.

Chase: He’s a young man, someone who was a missionary, and now finds himself directing a film. The long separations from his wife take a toll on him in the book, but he does an admirable job in resisting on-set temptation. He’s not the optimist of the book. He’s the realist who worries about God’s provision, but finds that God always comes through and that his steps of faith are rewarded.

Keith: He’s the more experienced man with a mature and vibrant marriage. He and his wife have one college aged daughter who gives them fits with her sudden rebellion, but he’s always hopeful. He’s patient and calm and helps balance out Chase’s rougher edges. They make good partners, and it’s excellent to see how committed he is to having everything about the production go above the line.

Bailey: Bailey’s in college now and has decided to live in the dorm, even though the dorm is only a few minutes from her home. It helps her to have some independence and to make new friends in school. She is still dating Tim Reed but she’s very confused about her feelings, especially as Cody keeps hanging out just at the fringes of her life. She’s roommates with Keith Ellison’s daughter, and Bailey is a nice character who has a solid faith and sense of self. It’s interesting to also see her handling the jealousy of having a roommate who is prettier and more talented than her, but who also is her friend.

Andi: Andi is a freshman in college, and the daughter of a missionary. She spent most of her growing up years in the jungle of Indonesia. When the Ellison’s relocated to the US, she went to a Christian high school and made a best friend who she dreamed of going through life with. Only that friend died senselessly in a car accident. Andi, still devastated by the loss of her best friend, is beginning to question God’s existence and plan for her life. She just doesn’t know what the truth is anymore, and she’s ready to find out how non-Christians live. It just seems so much more interesting to live with a little danger in her life. She puts herself in some ill-advised situations. She gets drunk at a frat party. She nearly gets raped twice because of the stupid situations she puts herself into with men. She manages to come out okay because of either dumb luck or God’s protection. I’m not even sure which! LOL She is sorry for what has happened, but I don’t think she is truly repentant in a way that will bring her back to God . . . at least not yet.

Lisa: Lisa is Keith’s life and Andi’s mother. She makes friends with Ashley Baxter and Ashley helps them have a prayer vigil during some of the worst trouble in the shoot. Lisa is supportive, prayerful and an excellent wife to Keith. She helps on the set, tries to connect with her daughter and does all the things that a virtuous wife should do.

Cody: He wants to be involved in Bailey’s life. He wants to be friends, but with his attraction to her, he finds himself pulling in and out of her life in a way that is completely frustrating to them both. He struggles with how to be a part of her life but not to date her because of his feelings of unworthiness. I hope he gets over that before too long because he’s cheating himself out of what could be a great relationship.

Kelly: Chase’s wife spends most of the book back home caring for their preschool age daughters. She tries to be supportive but she finds herself resentful of the time that he spends away from their family and she finds herself fearful of the outcome to their family if things go wrong. I can relate. She does have some shining moments, and her visit to the set to be with Chase for the weekend was also quite nice.

All in all, this book was an excellent way to start a new series, and I look forward to continuing to read 🙂

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Sunset (Baxter #14)

Sunset (Sunrise, #4)Sunset by Karen Kingsbury

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dayne and Katy are starting a new chapter, re-opening CKT in their hometown and getting ready to welcome a new baby into their life. Life without Hollywood is pretty sweet 🙂

The Flanigans are excited to be back in CKT, and they have lead roles in the first play. Jim has taken a job with an NFL team nearby, and all seems to be going well. Bailey really misses Cody though, and she’s confused by another growing friendship.

John Baxter’s getting ready for a wedding as he marries his dear friend Elaine. He deals with lingering emotions of guilt and begins attempting a real chance at a new beginning.

This book is one that ties up many of the ongoing storylines in the Baxter series. It allows us to get a sense of closure and to move on from their stories into new stories. I like many of the closures of the storylines, and I truly enjoyed this book. I’m going to quickly go through the major characters to give you a picture of them, and don’t forget there will probably be spoilers, so if you don’t want spoilers, now is the time to stop reading.

John: He sells the Baxter house, weds Elaine and truly starts a new chapter in his life in this book. He does it with some sadness and reflection. He still feels a little survivors guilt, but his love for Elaine and his joy in life shine through. It’s a beautiful mix, and he is one of my favorite Baxter characters.

Ashley: She finds out that she’s pregnant again. She really struggles with fear for her baby and the feeling that she could not have another baby die. Not to worry though. She gets a very happy ending, and a sense that her family is full of love.

Luke: His marriage to Reagan struggles most of the book. In fact, the word divorce is thrown around as a real possibility. It takes most of the book for him to realize that the root of their problems as a couple is the fact that they have never dealt with their feelings about the night of September 10, 2001. Dealing with their lingering guilt and feelings there will be the only way they can both truly move on without just putting a band-aid over the problem.

Katy: Things are blissful for her. She’s directing CKT again. This is exactly where she wants to be. She’s pregnant. Things are right with Dayne again. This whole book is her and Dayne’s finally happily ever after.

Bailey: She misses Cody. She’s excited about CKT, but everywhere she turns, she misses Cody. She begins a friendship with Tim Reed, and that helps some, but right now there is only one person for her in life, and that’s Cody.

Landon: As always, he supports Ashley’s crazy. He’s loving, kind and unfailingly giving to his bride and to his boys. He deals with the pain of losing his grandfather, and with concerns over whether or not his newest addition will be healthy, but he’s a rock. He reminds me of my own husband 🙂

Reagan: She spends much of this book angry at Luke, guilty still over events that happened years before and not truly willing to fix the problems. It takes some time for her to turn around, but when she does face her guilt and her pain, she finds that it gives her the strength to finally be the girl that Luke fell in love with so many years ago. I love seeing the shedding of her guilt and her forgiveness of both Luke and herself in this book. It feels like she took off a 100 pound weight.

Jenny: She is always there to support her husband, her sons and her daughter. We see reflected through Jenny’s character her concerns about Bailey, and also her realization of how perfect Bailey and Cody are together. We see her love for Cody as well, and her concern over him as if he were her son too.

Kari: Kari spends much of her point-of-view time in this book with a really old loose end in the series. She finds herself being a counselor to Angela Manning after Angela has attempted suicide. Because of God, she is able to truly know that she has forgiven Angela and she is able to show Jesus to Angela. Although I find this plot line to be kind of indulgent and unnecessary by the author, it is a beautiful way to illustrate how the love of Jesus leads us to forgiving others.

Dayne: He finally finds some peace and stability in his life. He is taking a break from Hollywood, is expecting his first child and is helping Katy with much of the running of CKT. It’s nice to see his life so peaceful because his drama has dominated so many of the Baxter books.

Cody: He serves in Iraq. He’s taken POW. We get to see this through his eyes. He is recovered, but he loses part of one of his legs, making him a disabled veteran. He struggles with loving Bailey, but with the feelings that he’s not good enough for her. His storyline and Bailey’s storyline are still unresolved, and will continue in future books, but their hug at the front door when he comes home after being injured is a rich payoff in that storyline.

So, after reading fourteen books in this series, these characters have become very real to me. This is not my favorite of the Baxter books, but it is a good, solid entry. I imagine that I will be starting the Above the Line series of the Baxter drama continuation soon enough, but I’m going to take a little break and read a non-fiction book or two before I continue through these novels since I’m at a good stopping place.

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