Burden of Proof by Davis Bunn – Fascinating Storyline and Interesting Characters

While I’ve never read any books by Davis Bunn, I was intrigued by the blurb on the cover of Burden of Proof

Who can say that they don’t have things in their life that they regret?  If given the chance to do things differently, would you?  That’s the dilemma that’s facing Ethan Barrett.  He’s been given a death sentence by his doctor, and his time is short.  When he meets his sister-in-law Sonya, whom he hasn’t seen in thirty-five years, she is seeking his help to try and change the course of history.  Ethan wasn’t there with his brother Adrian was shot and killed on the courthouse steps.  If he had been there, would the circumstances have changed?  Ethan is about to find out.

This book is very different from what I typically read.  It’s got a bit of science fiction in the storyline.  Davis Bunn is a good writer because he draws the reader into the story from the get-go.  I don’t take much of an interest in surfing, so I was surprised to like the main character Ethan and enjoy reading about his experiences, what he saw and felt while surfing.  I found the characters very likable and appreciated seeing the characters grow and change.  Early in the book, I didn’t much care for Sonya, but as the story progressed, I really saw her in a new light and came to like the character.  The story was interesting to contemplate and had mystery and intrigue too.  I appreciated the details describing the settings where the story took place because it helped me to envision scenes as I read.

The book is published by Revell Publishing, which is a Christian publisher, so I had hoped that the Christian faith would have been woven into the storyline.  But it wasn’t.  Towards the end of the book, Ethan is talking with a friend who encouraged him to live life with an eternal perspective.  While that was thought-provoking, the story could have been much richer if the Gospel of Christ had been included and woven into the characters’ lives.

I found that the last section was a bit much with the courtroom scenes and Adrian questioning his wife Sonya about her scientific research.  I wish it had been clearer and more concise.  There were allegations hinted at about the company that wanted to buyout Sonya’s company.  Not sure why, but they seemed to dance around it instead of making a clear and straightforward assertion about their motives.

Though the Christian faith is not a part of the story, I appreciated that there was no profanity and the story was clean. 

All in all, I very much liked Burden of Proof by Davis Bunn.  The storyline was compelling and fascinating.  The characters were interesting and well developed.  I look forward to reading more of Davis Bunn’s books.

I would like to thank Revell Publishing for the opportunity to read Burden of Proof by Davis Bunn.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

The Escape by Lisa Harris – Interesting Story and Likeable Characters

I love reading books filled with mystery, suspense, and intrigue and that’s why I was excited to read The Escape by Lisa Harris, an author whose work is new to me.  This is the first book in the US Marshalls series. 

Could it really be five years since Madison James’ husband Luke had been murdered?  Her life had been changed forever, but she had thrown herself into her career as a US Marshall.  Though it was an important anniversary, she had a job to do, transporting two prisoners from Seattle to Denver.  She would be joined by US Marshall Jonas Quinn, with whom she had trained a few years ago.  Jonas had just moved back to Seattle, though he was planning for a couple days off, duty called.  Any hope for a smooth prisoner transport was quickly abandoned as their private plane crash-landed in the forests over Idaho.  Just because their plane crashed didn’t mean their job was over. 

I really enjoyed reading The Escape.  From the get-go, I found this book very engaging.  The characters were likable, and the storyline was interesting.  I liked the rapport between Madison and Jonas and that they had mutual respect for one another.  There was a little bit of romantic attraction and it was expressed appropriately for a Christian book.  I liked how the characters were revealed over time as they got to know one another.  I’ve never read anything about the US Marshalls and learned a little bit about this law enforcement agency.  The author was good at describing the scenic settings. 

I very much liked this book, yet there were times that the story seemed to drag.  The number of times the escaped prisoner got away and posed a threat to the general public seemed a bit much.  I wondered in real life that if a US Marshall had been foiled by the bad guy too many times, would they be fired? 

Something else that didn’t seem realistic was the plane crash where both Madison and Jonas sustained injuries.  But those injuries didn’t seem to stop them in their quest to get the prisoner.  The story wasn’t wrapped up entirely at the end, but it appears that there will be a book two where their story will carry on. 

I love finding a new author whose work I like and look forward to reading more books by Lisa Harris.  What I liked best about her writing is how she develops relationships. 

If you like suspense, mystery, intrigue, romance, or books on law enforcement, I recommend The Escape by Lisa Harris

I would like to thank Revell Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read The Escape by Lisa Harris.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

Point of Danger by Irene Hannon – Mixed Emotions

Irene Hannon is one of my favorite writers and that’s why I was excited to read her newest book Point of Danger

Conservative radio talk show host Eve Reilly is used to getting hate mail, but one evening she encounters something a whole lot scarier, a bomb package on her doorstep.  Eve calls 911 and while she waits for the police to arrive, she tries to make sure that her elderly neighbor Oliva gets to safety as well as her neighbor’s dog that she’s pet sitting.  Rookie detective Brent Lange will be the officer investigating the case and trying to find out who hates Eve enough to want her dead. 

This book has an interesting premise and some likable characters, but it also has some issues that take away or detract from the storyline.

What worked in this novel?  I liked detective Brent Lange and I cared about the character.  He seemed like a stand-up guy, loyal and dependable, who cared about people.  I liked Eve’s sisters Grace and Cate, they seemed to genuinely care about their sister and were there for her during this crisis.  I kind of, sort of liked Eve.  I appreciated that Eve saw qualities in Brent that were admirable and that she tried to communicate with him in an effective way to draw him out.  I rather liked the story told from different characters’ points of view, but with so many characters it got a bit much. 

What didn’t work?  There were a lot of characters in this book and too many potential suspects.  There was Eve’s boss Doug and Carolyn a competitor who wanted Eve’s job.  There was Eve’s assistant Meg Jackson and her husband Steve.  Eve’s former boyfriend was a suspect.  There’s a suspect that is not identified until later in the book and then there’s the brain behind the operation that is way out of left field.  That one kind of stretched the imagination and that aspect of the storyline could have been better developed.

While the word Christian wasn’t specifically used to describe Eve, there were references to Eve going to church and praying.  But there was not a lot in Eve’s behavior or words that would lead me to believe that she was a Christian.  Some of the early scenes between Eve and Brent focused on their physical attraction, which seems particularly odd considering that she just had a bomb scare.  I don’t think that Eve’s character was well developed, in part because the focus was on her words and actions.  The character was a local conservative talk show host, not national, and that’s why it seemed odd that this local gal would be the target of a hate group. The relationship between Meg and her husband Steve went into some details that I found not appropriate in a book by a Christian author and publisher, as was the relationship between Doug and Carolyn. 

There were some aspects of the Christian faith developed in Brent, but not so much with the other characters or storyline.  That’s something I would have like to have seen focused on with the characters.  One thing stood out towards the end of the novel, Eve’s sister Cate said, “Right or wrong, I’m not wasting any prayers for recovery on his behalf.”  Really?  This is not a Christian book, but it’s written by an author who is a Christian and published by Revell which publishes books by Christian authors.  Should books published under a Christian banner be held to a different or higher standard?  I think they should. 

I like politics so that aspect of the book was interesting to me.  But I thought adding the Antifa aspect in this story was probably not the best.  The group was cleaned up compared to what people have seen on the news for the last few months.  I found it was naive at best when they were described as using intimidation, carrying signs that said, “Down with Government Oppression”, and using smoke cartridges to emit smoke without causing harm. 

I would like to thank Revell Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Point of Danger by Irene Hannon.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

Before the Crown by Flora Harding -Interesting Read

The story begins in 1943, Elizabeth is 17 years old, and she and her sister Margaret are doing a play at Windsor Castle.  Elizabeth is peeking out from behind the curtains to see if Prince Philip is in the audience.  She has a crush on the Prince and is hoping to see him again.  The story covers the next four years of their relationship.  Was it love and romance?  Or was it a practical arranged marriage between royalty to form alliances?

I found the story interesting, especially contemplating what a young woman’s life would be like as a princess.  In many respects, as the heir apparent, her life and choices were not her own.  I’m curious to know if this fictional account captured what Elizabeth’s personality was like.  The character had a solemnity about her because of the responsibilities that she would take on in the future.  Philip was quite a contrast to Elizabeth.  Though older the character came off as somewhat immature and irresponsible.  He was pressured by family to think practically about his future and opportunities and he wavered between that and desire for freedom and to live his life how he wanted to live it.

The book started out a little slow but picked up midway.  With each scene, I got to know a little bit more about Elizabeth and Philip.  Her father, King George, was an imposing character but you don’t really get to know him apart from his interaction with Elizabeth and Philip.  It was interesting to see their lives against the backdrop of WWII and the years after the war. 

I liked Before the Crown and found this book very interesting.  I wish that the author had included information about what was true and taken from facts and information versus what was fictional.  There is some profanity in this novel.  This book makes me want to read a biography about Queen Elizabeth and get insight into this woman who has been an influential figure for 58 years. 

What I liked best about Before the Crown is that it made me think about what it must be like to come from royalty and have great responsibilities thrust upon you.  I came away with a new respect for Queen Elizabeth.  While reading Before the Crown, I found online pictures of Queen Elizabeth as a young girl from Town & Country Magazine.  It was fascinating to see pictures of Elizabeth in connection with this historical fiction account.

I found Before the Crown, by Flora Harding, very interesting and enjoyed reading it.  If you like historical fiction, romance, or have an interest in royalty you may want to read this book.

I would like to thank publisher One More Chapter and NetGalley for an opportunity to read Before the Crown by Flora Harding.  I was provided a complimentary copy of the E-book and was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

Acceptable Risk by Lynette Eason – Mixed Review – Action Packed, Intrigue, Suspense but had a Character Issue

Acceptable Risk, the second book in the Danger Never Sleeps series.  Author Lynette Eason is relatively new to me, but after reading Collateral Damage, I was excited to read her latest book.

Journalist Sarah Denning is stationed in Afghanistan, where she was kidnapped along with children from the school where she had been teaching.  Desperate, Sarah attempted to send an SOS message for help.  That help comes through former Army Ranger Gavin Black who has been hired by Sarah’s father, Lieutenant General Lewis Denning.  If she had known who had sent the help, she might have tried something different.  When Sarah is back stateside and recovering, Gavin remains by her side to protect her from unknown threats that keep on coming.

Acceptable Risk is a fast-paced book, packed with action from the get-go.  My favorite character was Gavin Black, a kind, decent, caring, brave man who will do whatever it takes to protect Sarah.  I liked Sarah’s brother Caden, who was introduced to readers in the first book.

What I struggled with the character of Sarah Denning.  That character had a lot of anger and bitterness toward her father, which got old real quick.  It seemed like every decision she made was to spite and hurt her father for perceived wrongs.  So much so that she was willing to dismiss anyone who believed differently.  Ninety percent of the book Sarah was bullheaded, arrogant, a know it all and ready to put herself and anyone else at risk for what she deemed an acceptable risk.  There was nothing about this character that reflected her being a Christian.  This character’s personality flaws outweighed her good qualities like being diligent and persevering to uncover the truth.  One other thing I didn’t care for was that Sarah was always feeling like the victim.  But she never seemed to connect that some of what happened to her was because of choices she had made that put herself (and others) in danger.

Factoring out my dislike of Sarah, I did like this book because of the other characters and thought the storyline was interesting.  The ending was a bit over the top and not very realistic or logical.

If you are a Lynette Eason fan or like action-packed suspense with a little romance, you may want to read Acceptable Risk by Lynette Eason.

I would like to thank Revell Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Acceptable Risk by Lynette Eason.  I was provided with a complimentary copy of the book and was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

 

Minutes to Die by Susan Sleeman – Suspense and Intrigue that Grabs Your Attention

Minutes to Die was the first book I’ve read by author Susan Sleeman.  It’s the second book in the Homeland Heroes series.  The storyline is what drew me in.

FBI Agent Kiley Dawson was meeting with a confidential informant on a foggy night in Washington, D.C.  Her trusted source had information about a terrorist attack planned for the anniversary of 9/11.  As Kiley was arranging for witness protection a gunshot pierced the night and Firuzeh was dead.  Now what?  Soon Kiley and her team were headed to Tacoma, Washington, and looking into a different case.  A container was found at a shipyard that had been used to transport terrorists into the Country.  Kylie is reunited with ICE Agent Even Bowers as they join forces to stop a terrorist attack.  But the only thing they know for sure is the date of the attack, September 11th, and the clock is ticking.

Minutes to Die got my attention from the get-go and didn’t let up until the end.  It’s fast-paced as the characters worked to try and put together the pieces of the puzzle.  What kind of terror attack is planned?  Where will it occur?  Who are the bad guys planning to bring terror and destruction to untold millions and where are they now?  Is this case somehow tied to the murder of Firuzeh?

I liked the main characters, Kiley and Evan, and also the team members.  Each one has their area of expertise and they worked well together to try and stop the terrorist attack.  The team has been together for a while and they know, respect, and trust each other and have each other’s back.  They are an asset to Kiley as she takes the lead for the first time in an investigation.  The odd man out is Evan.  Kiley and Evan have a history and she’s not sure she can get past it.

The details of the investigation were fascinating and it was interesting to learn about different technologies available to help process evidence.

I struggled a bit with Kiley as she seemed to hang on to resentment toward Evan and her mother.  Towards the end of the book she does work through the issues she’s been holding on to.

I would have liked to have seen the Christian faith developed greater with Kiley and Evan, something more than just brief arrow prayers in times of danger.  There seemed to be an overemphasis on their physical attraction.  It seemed a bit much especially in light of the impending terrorist attack.

Despite the things I struggled with, I did like Minutes to Die by Susan Sleeman.  It was very suspenseful, interesting, and it held my attention to the end.  I came away from this wanting to read more of the author’s books.

If you like suspense and intrigue give Minutes to Die by Susan Sleeman a try.

I would like to thank Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Minutes to Die by Susan Sleeman.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Don’t Keep Silent by Elizabeth Goddard – Beautiful Setting, Filled with Intrigue and Suspense

Don’t Keep Silent by Elizabeth Goddard is the third book in her Uncommon Justice series.  I had read the second book, Always Look Twice, and was excited to read her new book.

When Rae Burke’s brother Alan asks her to search for his missing wife Zoey she agrees and uses her tenacious and keen investigative skills to try and find her sister-in-law and friend.  As she heads up to Jackson Hole, Wyoming she hopes to enlist help from former DEA agent Liam McKade, but since they part ways last time she’s not confident that he will be willing to join forces and help find Zoey.

Don’t Keep Silent grabbed my attention from the get-go.  It was filled with lots of suspense and twists and turns.  There were some likable characters, but my favorite was Liam.  He seemed like a faithful friend, brave and willing to put himself on the line to protect Rae, try and find Zoey and expose the bad guys and bring them to justice.

Author, Elizabeth Goddard did a good job of describing the scenic area of Jackson Hole, Wyoming during the wintertime.  Made me want to go there on vacation.  The reader is left guessing as to whether some of the characters are good guys or bad guys, and there were some surprises.  The faith aspect of the novel was minimal and confined to mostly one-sentence prayers for protection or help.  I wish the characters’ faith had been more developed, especially with Liam.  I think the book would have been richer if the author had done that.

What I struggled with is the main character, Rae.  Something that really bugs me is when characters do things that don’t make a lot of sense or aren’t logical.  Rae seemed to do that repeatedly, she was emotionally driven and had a high estimation of her own abilities.  Why Liam stuck by her I don’t know.  Rae seemed to have no issue with putting her life on the line, not only hers but Liam’s too.  Not just once but on multiple occasions.  That got old and I found Rae less likable.

I won’t give away the ending, but the ending and reason why Zoey was kidnapped kind of stretched the imagination.  Towards the end, the story kind of dragged and was very convoluted.

There were things I liked about the book, the character Liam, the setting, and the suspense and intrigue, but there were some things I wasn’t too keen on.  I would recommend Don’t Keep Silent if you are a fan of Elizabeth Goddard or you like suspense, mystery, and intrigue.

I would like to thank Revell Publishing for the opportunity to read Don’t Keep Silent by Elizabeth Goddard.  I was provided a complimentary copy of the book but was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

The Crushing Depths by Dani Pettrey – Romance, Mystery and Suspense

The Crushing Depths by author Dani Pettrey is the second book in her Coastal Guardians series.  The storyline is why I wanted to read this book.

The Dauntless is an oil rig 38 miles off the coast of North Carolina.  Greg Barnes has had a very bad day and he’s looking forward to having a cigarette break.  When he steps outside, he can hear the environmental protesters chanting.  Do they ever take a break?  When he flicks his lighter, little does he know that his day is going to get a whole lot worse.  Was this a tragic accident or something more sinister?  Former friends are reunited when Rissi Dawson and Mason Rogers are called in to investigate the accident as part of the Coast Guard Investigation Services team.  Before investigators can even reach the Dauntless the action heats up.

What I really liked most about this book was the relationship between Rissi and Mason.  Especially learning of their friendship from when they were young.  I liked the support that the CGIS team gave one another and their friendships.  I appreciated that faith was included through prayer.  I would like to have seen the characters personal faith developed further.  It was interesting learning about what it’s like working on an oil rig out in the ocean.  Those are some of the elements that worked well.

I struggled with the book in a few areas.  There were so many characters that it was kind of hard to keep track.  While I liked the characters, Noah and Brooke, I thought that the storyline involving these characters didn’t advance the main story and was almost a distraction.  I think another book about Noah would be good.  There was a lot of action and at times the story dragged switching between the main story and the one involving Noah.

Something that seemed odd was the personal relationships and romance that developed between characters that worked together, especially in light of how that is viewed in today’s culture.  Since there was a deep bond between Rissi and Mason focusing on their physical attraction seemed unnecessary and perhaps not what I would expect in a book by a Christian author.

I thought that the transitions between storylines within chapters could have been handle better.  I would recommend some kind of a break, like a line, to show the story is now focusing on different characters or have shorter chapters.

If you are a fan of Dani Pettrey or like romantic mysteries, suspense or stories that involve the military you may want to read her newest book The Crushing Depths.

I would like to thank Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Dani Pettrey’s newest book The Crushing Depths.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Showdown with Iran by Mark Hitchcock – Sobering, Fascinating, Informative and Well Grounded in Bible Prophecy

When you read the headline news and there are developments in Israel and the Middle East do you wonder how that fits into end-times Bible prophecy?  If you do, then you may want to read Mark Hitchcock’s most recent book Showdown with Iran.  This year began with the news that Iranian General Soleimani was killed in the US ordered drone strike.  Just this week, Iran issued an arrest warrant for President Trump in connection with the drone strike.  So how does all this fit into Bible prophecies about Iran?  What about the nations that surround Israel that are hostile towards her?

In Showdown with Iran, Mark starts by reviewing the current state of Iran and recent hostile acts that seem to lead us ever closer to war.  One of the more sobering facts is that Iran is drawing closer to having a fully functional nuclear weapon in seven to eleven months.  Will Israel be forced to take a preemptive strike to stop that from happening?  If so, how will Iran respond?

I was interested to learn that there is a conflict between Islamic nations in the Middle East, like Saudi Arabia and Iran.  But there are many nations that are in league with Iran and Israel is surrounded by hostile nations.  Today, we are seeing ties between Syria and Iran and interestingly Russia is one of their allies.  How does that line up with Bible prophecy?

Also covered is the history of an important area, the Strait of Hormuz, where oil tankers from surrounding Persian Gulf nations must pass.  They do so under the watchful eyes of Iran.  An important element in the relationship between Israel and Iran is religion.  Bible prophesies about Iran and other Middle East nations are covered as well as the Islamic faith, prophecies, and the differences between Sunni and Shia faith and how those differences impact international relationships.

Something I found very helpful is information about the ancient Biblical names of nations and their current modern-day names.  When Mark disagrees with what other Bible prophecy teachers believe, he explains their conclusions, his conclusions, and why he differs.  Bible end-time prophecies are covered from the books of Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Revelation and what has already been fulfilled and what is to come.

This most interesting chapter to me was Will America Survive?  When you read Bible prophecy there’s no clear reference to the United States.  Mark does an excellent job of explaining why that is.  The scenarios he puts forth are very sobering and timely especially in light of Covid-19 and recent civil unrest in our Country.

While end-time Bible prophecies could be fulfilled at any time, Mark is cautious and reminds the reader that Scripture forbids date setting.  He brings the reader back putting our hope in the Lord God Almighty, truth found in the Bible and the assurance of salvation found in Jesus Christ alone.

I highly recommend Showdown with Iran by Mark Hitchcock and encourage you to get a copy and read now it before the next eruption of conflict with Iran.  Another great resource is the Marking the Times weekly videos on YouTube where Mark covers various Bible prophecies and current events and to date, he has 119 episodes.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Showdown with Iran by Mark Hitchcock.  I was provided a complimentary copy of this book and was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Closer Than She Knows by Kelly Irvin – Interesting storyline, characters and setting. Christian faith was portrayed rather worldly.

I became acquainted with author Kelly Irvin’s writing through her Amish themed books and was excited to read her newest book Closer Than She Knows.

Closer Than She Knows is about Teagan O’Rourke, a court reporter in San Antonio, Texas.  She comes from a family that works in law enforcement.  Teagan’s life is about to unravel as people around her are being targeted by some sicko and she finds herself at the center of an investigation.  Why are these innocent people being targeted?  How are they all connected?  What can she do to stop this before another innocent life is taken?

One of the things I like about Kelly’s writing is how she portrays relationships with family, friends, and co-workers.  I especially like the O’Rourke family, Teagan, her father Dillon and step-family Billy, Gracie, and Leyla.  My favorite character was her friend Max who seemed like a real gem, and her friends Julie and Evelyn.  They were a tight-knit group that cared for one another and were there for each other.

I found Teagan’s job as a court reporter fascinating and learned a few details about that job.  Kelly does a great job describing the setting in the San Antonio downtown area and neighborhood where historic homes were being rehabbed.  It seems inviting and picturesque.  The story is very suspenseful and will keep you guessing until the end.

This book is written by a Christian author and the Christian faith is part of the story.  The best example of that was Max, a man redeemed and dependent upon the Lord each day.  He was gracious and caring.  I found Teagan’s faith to be immature and nominal.  When talking about her reluctance to having children her explanation seemed very secular and lacking faith.  She seemed to care more about the environment than lost souls and sin.  At one-point, Teagan describes herself in very politically correct terms and does not mention that she is a Christian.  Her understanding of the death penalty was not in keeping with what God has declared in the Bible.  Teagan and Max’s physical attraction could have been portrayed a little less worldly.

If you are a fan of Kelly Irvin’s novels or like mystery, intrigue, and trying to solve a whodunit, you may like Kelly’s newest book Closer Thank She Knows.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Closer Thank She Knows by Kelly Irvin.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Standoff by Patricia Bradley – Mixed – interesting setting, likeable characters, but too many characters and dragged a bit.

I love mysteries so I was excited to read Patricia Bradley’s newest book Standoff, the first book in the Natchez Trace Park Rangers series.

Standoff is about the rather brutal and ugly business of moving illegal drugs through Natchez Trace National Parkway a corridor that runs from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN.

Brooke Danvers was looking forward to riding along with her dad District Law Enforcement Ranger, John Danvers.  She has followed in her father’s footsteps and will soon be sworn in as a LE Ranger despite her parent’s concerns.  When John gets a call, plans change and Brooke will have to wait another day.  Only that won’t be happening when John is found dead at Emerald Mound later that night.  His death is ruled a suicide, but Brooke does not believe it and will stop at nothing to find out who brutally murdered her dad.  Old ex-friend and neighbor Luke Fereday is back in Natchez working as an undercover park ranger trying to infiltrate the drug ring.  Not only is he working to stop the flow of illegal drugs, but he too wants to find John’s murderer.

Standoff has a whole of stuff going on.  There are a lot of characters introduced early on in the story, law enforcement, drug dealers, potential bad guys, family, friends. and neighbors.  It was kind of hard to keep all the characters straight.  It would have been helpful to have a key at the front of the book with a list of characters and a brief description.  The first part of the book seemed to dragged, but about midway through the story picked up moved at a faster clip.  The number of characters could have been trimmed down some.

There were a number of things that seemed off or not quite believable.  It seemed odd that Brooke’s mother would leave town so quickly after the death of her husband.  It didn’t seem plausible that Luke could pass off being in town to visit his grandmother because his behavior and weird hours would raise suspicion.  He just happened to show up wherever Brooke was at way too many times.  The scene where Brooke makes a discovery seemed contrived.

I liked the main characters, Brooke and Luke.  My favorite character was Luke’s grandmother Daisy.  The action scenes, especially toward the end were well written and easy to visualize.  I like the setting of the Natchez Trace law enforcement.  I think the series has some good potential.  I will read future books in this series.  I appreciated that the book was clean, not filled with vulgar language or sexual immorality.

I would like to thank Revell Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Standoff by Patricia Bradley.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

On a Coastal Breeze by Suzanne Woods Fisher – Unique setting and interesting characters and relationships

I was excited to read On a Coastal Breeze by author Suzanne Woods Fisher.  This is the second book in her Three Sisters Island series.  The first book, On a Summer Tide, introduced readers to the Grayson family.  That’s where I found myself drawn into their story when Paul buys a summer camp on Three Sisters Island with the hope that his three daughters Camden, Madison, and Blaine will help him get the camp fixed up, and back up and running.

A year has passed since the family undertook this adventure and they are gearing up for another summer season of campers.  They’ve settled into living on the island.  Cam is engaged to Seth and she is throwing herself into a project to help the island be energy independent.  Maddie has finally set up shop as a marriage and family counselor on this small island with just over a hundred year-round residents.  She’s about to get a big surprise when the town’s new pastor makes a memorable entrance.  Blaine is home for summer following a year at culinary school and she has a big announcement.

While the setting at Three Sister’s Island is beautiful, the most intriguing part of this story are the relationships.  Not only within the family but with friends and the town’s people.  The Grayson family is interesting, quirky, maddening, wise, unwise, honest, veiled, committed to one another, loving, and supportive.  The characters grow and change.

Something I especially liked about On a Coastal Breeze is how the character’s backstory was filled in.  Just when a character was making a goofy decision or acting illogical, there would be a scene from earlier in their life that helps the reader to better understand the character and why they were acting that way.

Faith and prayer were part of the storyline, especially with the character Maddie.  But there were some thoughts, attitudes, and actions that were ungodly and unkind.  Something in Maddie’s background was revealed during the story.  I would like to have seen the character recognize sin as sin and repent.  Repentance seemed to be lacking.  Instead there was regret and she seemed to rely on or fall back on psychology.  Yet Maddie had some good insight into people and situations.  Cam and Blaine seem to be distant from God and it was reflected in how they responded to life.  Rick, the new pastor was rather unconventional.  His sermons were not quite theologically accurate.  Instead, they were simplistic and there to make a point and relate to a character.  Overall, while faith was included in the story it was not deep.

What I liked best about On a Coastal Breeze where the relationships and how the characters grew and changed.  I wish faith had been more deeply developed in the characters.  It looks like there will be a third book in this series focused on the youngest sister Blaine and I will likely read it.

I would like to thank Revell Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of On a Coastal Breeze by Suzanne Woods Fisher.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Remembering Rudy

Oh, how my heart hurts
For my sweet boy Rudy
Has passed away
So sudden and unexpected

I’m surrounded by so many memories
Everywhere I turn
I remember where you were
Because everything has a story

You came into my life during some difficult years
I remember adopting you, this cute little orange kitten
Rather scrappy but oh so full of personality
That boy could purr

When we open the door
You were always there to greet us
You never knew a stranger
Always eager to meet someone new

Perched on your cat stand
You looked out the window
Watched the birds
Then napped in the sun

With patience you waited for your brother Junior
Until he came out of hiding three weeks later
Then you became fast friends for life
Sure, you had your little tussles but they didn’t last

When Sissy came along
You watched and waited for her
Soon she was with you 24/7
How her heart must be hurting right now

I will always remember our drive from California to Texas, 3 ½ days
3 kitties in their carries, 2 birds in a cage, winding our way in 2 cars
Junior and Sissy slept in their litter box and piddled in their beds
Only Rudy got it right

Oh, how my sweet boy loved sunshine
Catching a patch of morning sunshine in the office
Sitting on the tub for early afternoon
Catching the last rays of sun as you lay on our bed

Boy oh boy, did Rudy love to eat
The big boy with the tiny meow
Persistently and loudly let us know it was breakfast time
Getting close to dinner, Rudy was there to keep me on track

Rudy knew the real deal
A piece of chicken or tuna, uh no thank you
Cat treats, No! Wouldn’t touch it!
He stuck with the real stuff, canned food and dry

Towards the end of his days
When his sight was failing
He would tap his water so he could know it was there
Then we would find a little trail of Rudy prints on the floor

Rudy loved to be loved
He loved to meet new people
He made friends where ever he went, even the vets
We often heard, “He is so sweet!”

But he had a special friendship
With our friend Julie
My social butterfly needed companionship
So, Julie came and spent time with him while we were away

When we had guests
The other kitties were scarce
But Rudy safely guarded Ron and Carol
Keeping watch just outside their door

Rudy loved water, at bath time
He would sit on the side and drape his tail in the water
After a shower, he could be found sitting in the stall
Not the least disturbed by the water

Clipping his nails was a breeze
I could easily snip them off and be done
Not so with Junior who has to be tackled
Taking three times longer

Rudy wasn’t fearful or afraid
I never heard him growl or hiss
Towards the end, he was leery of our new dryer
He could see the clothes through the glass door and rushed on by

My favorite time with Ru was nap time
He would never sit on my lap
But he loved to curl up and lay by my side
Tucked safely under the blanket

He slept better than anyone I’ve ever known
And he snored…loudly!
When we let him sleep in our room
He slept the whole night through

It was fun to watch Rudy, even in his old age
Have moments when he was frisky and playful
Batting a catnip mouse on the floor
Or watching the ball go around the cat scratcher

The end came sudden and so unexpected
What seemed like a simple vet visit
Soon escalated into something serious
We had a hard decision to make

You sought to be alone, curled up in a corner
Suddenly, Sissy hissed, was afraid and stayed away
Junior who had been with you for years
Wouldn’t come near and ran away

As you laid in your bed in the sun
Sissy fearfully peered around the corner
With big eyes she watched
Then ran away

As we drove to the vet
I sat beside you
Petting you for the last time
My poor boy, you were suffering and in pain

In tears we held you
Heard you purr your last purr
And then you were gone
Rudy, you took a piece of my heart with you

It’s hard walking in our home and remember you are no longer there
Each room I enter there are memories of you
I miss you my sweet boy, you were my ray of sunshine
Ever so grateful that you were ours for 13 ½ years

Rudy, mama’s sweet boy
Adopted October 28, 2006
Died May 7, 2020

 

The Land Beneath Us by Sarah Sundin – Loved this book and Didn’t Want It to End.

Sarah Sundin has quickly become one of the writers whose work I love to read.  Her newest book, The Land Beneath Us was wonderful.  This is the third book in Sundin’s Sunrise at Normandy series and this book focuses on the youngest of the Paxton brothers, Clay.  Readers of the first two books, The Sea Before Us and The Sky Above Us, will already be familiar with the Paxton’s story.  But it doesn’t take away from this book because you’ll get to see things through Clay’s eyes.

I loved the characters in this book, especially Clay, Leah, and the Paxton family as well as their close friends.  The characters are decent, honest, and caring people whom I’d like to know.  They are kind, but not perfect and have areas they need to grow in.  Forgiveness is a big theme in this book.  It’s was thought-provoking to see Clay and Leah wrestle with forgiveness and see them come to the realization that though they have been wronged they too have sins they need to deal with.

I loved learning about the training and preparation the Rangers and Army went through as they prepared for D-Day.  While this is a small picture of what the men endured in WWII, it gave me a renewed appreciation for what they did as we come up to the 75th Anniversary V-E Day, May 8, 1945.  D-Day was a critical part of winning that battle.

I appreciated that the Christian faith was included in the storyline and that the book was clean and not filled with sexual immorality and vulgarity.  I found it interesting to learn what it may have been like to be an orphan growing up in the 1930s and 40s and the prejudice orphans may have faced.  I loved the courage that Clay demonstrated in battle, in relationships, and looking in the mirror at his own flaws.  Leah also demonstrated and lived out courage and chose to look at the good instead of focusing on the bad.

Though The Land Beneath Us is the 3rd book in the Sunrise at Normandy series, it would make a good stand-alone book.  The author does a good job of filling in the background of what happened with the characters in the first two books.

The Land Beneath Us by Sarah Sundin was wonderful and I was sorry to see it end.  This is a book and series I would want to read again.  I loved this book and highly recommend it.  If you haven’t read the first two books, you may want to read them as well, but it’s not necessary to enjoy this book.

I would like to thank Revell Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read The Land Beneath Us.  I was supplied with a complimentary e-book and was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

My Heart, Ever His by Barbara Rainey – Positively Lovely, A Keeper and Makes a Wonderful Gift to Give

As someone who loves poetry and likes to write writing out prayers, I wanted to read Barbara Rainey’s new book My Heart, Ever His.  This book is positively lovely!

Barbara’s prayers are heartfelt, God-honoring and glorifying.  They are honest, open and transparent.  Kind of like the Psalms, Barbara honestly shares with the Lord what she is feeling, but she comes back to who God is, what He has done in her life and others and who He has revealed Himself to be in the Bible.

I love that Scripture is included in the prayers and in the E-book the Scripture verses are highlighted in a different color and at the end of each prayer is a link to the end of the book where each prayer’s Scripture verses are documented so you can look them up for yourself.

Many of the prayers seemed especially relevant and timely considering all that we are going through as a Nation.  My heart was convicted, encouraged, strengthened.  It is comforting to know other women share similar struggles but also know where our Hope truly lies.  I felt like I was sitting across from a friend who was sharing from her heart about her life.

Even in the Christian community, there are times where we put on a good face and may not always share what we are struggling with.  After reading these prayers, you may desire to be honest and open, but also challenged to not just present only your hurts to the Lord, but go back to God’s Word and be encouraged to remember who He is and what He has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ.

The prayers range from who we are as Christians, God as our Security, physical needs and health, emotional needs, relationships, faith, lives which have turned out different than what we hoped, God’s Word and prophesy, Jesus Christ our Savior, Redeemer, salvation, security, suffering, seasons, and surrender.

I love this book!  My Heart, Ever His by Barbara Rainey is a keeper.  It’s also one that I want to share with others.  I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading it again and again.

I would like to thank Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read My Heart, Ever His by Barbara Rainey which was provided to me for free.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson – Riveting, Interesting, Insightful, Heartbreaking, Thrilling. – If you read only one book this year, The Splendid and the Vile is the one to read.

When I learned that Erik Larson had released a new book, I could hardly wait to read it and was riveted as I read The Splendid and the Vile, A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz.

The book starts out in May 1940, when Winston Churchill was appointed Prime Minister of Great Britain.  It covers the first year of his leadership, but it was a pivotal year and devastating for the entire nation.  It’s almost incomprehensible to imagine what it was like for Great Britain to endure the relentless and vile bombings they suffered from Nazi Germany.  But Erik Larson has taken what is hard to imagine and helps the reader to learn about this unique and brave leader who inspired a nation and helped Great Britain to endure while suffering great losses and come out victoriously as the great evil of Nazi Germany was defeated.

When reading this book, God’s providential hand in raising up the right leader for a nation at the right time is evident.  One can only speculate how England would have fared and how WWII would have ended with a different man as Prime Minister.

Not only do you get to know PM Winston Churchill and his view of the war, but this book really comes to life as you learn about and from the people who surrounded Churchill, what they saw, felt and experienced.  Clementine, Churchill’s wife was every bit his equal and we learn quite a bit about their children, especially their son Randolph and youngest daughter Mary

Those who surrounded the Prime Minister provide insight into Churchill and how Great Britain prepared and fought the war, including from John Colville, Churchill’s private secretary whose diaries documented behind the scenes happenings, to Frederick Lindermann (The Prof) Churchill’s scientific advisor, to Max Aitken-Lord Beaverbrook the man who Churchill believe would help their country ramp-up aircraft production so they could wage an effective air campaign against the Nazi’s.

The book also looks at the war through the lens of Nazi leaders including, Hitler, Goring, Goebbels, Hess and flying ace Adolf Galland.  It was both interesting and horrifying to see how they viewed what they were doing and their ultimate goal to defeat Great Britain.

The Splendid and the Vile is a full-bodied look at Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the people who surrounded him and the people of Great Britain and the suffering they endured.  This is a tremendous book, it’s an interesting, insightful, heartbreaking and thrilling look at history, a strong unique leader and a people who did not crumble when facing great evil unleashed against them.

I highly recommend The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson.  If you read one book this year, other than the Bible, this is the one to read.  Especially during this time in our Nation and the world, this book will put into perspective what we are going through compared to what Great Britain and the world endured during WWII.

I would like to thank Crown Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read The Splendid and the Vile by author Erik Larson.  Mr. Larson is a gifted writer and I look forward to reading more of his work.  I was provided with a free copy of the book but under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

A Long Bridge Home by Kelly Irvin – Interesting Likable Characters and Storyline, But Has Some Wrong Theology

Kelly Irvin has quickly become one of my favorite Christian fiction writers.  Until I started reading her novels, I hadn’t read too many Amish theme books.  I was excited at the opportunity to read Kelly’s newest book A Long Bridge Home, the second book in the Amish of Big Sky Country, which takes place during the same timeframe as the first book, Mountains of Grace.  Wildfires are burning in the mountains near the community of West Kootenai, Montana.

Christine and the Mast family evacuate but do not intend to return to West Kootenai.  Her mother and father have decided it’s time for their family to return to Kansas where her father’s parents live and need help in their older years.  Christine is desperate to stay because of her special friend Andy Lambright.  While they are not engaged, they’ve talked about marriage and seem to be heading in that direction.  Andy is evacuating too, but he’s returning to his family’s home so he can deal with some unfinished business.  Andy and Christine persuade her parents to let her stay a little bit closer in St. Ignatius, Montana.

Christine will be staying with family, but she will be experiencing a whole new world than what she’s used to.  Andy returns home and finds old wounds still haven’t healed and the best remedy is forgiveness, even though he was one who was wronged.  Will his lack of honesty drive Christine away?  Will Christine remain faithful to her special friend?  Or will she be lured away by the excitement of her new friend Raymond Old Fox and a culture that is foreign to her?

I really liked the characters in A Long Bridge Home.  My favorite was Andy, he was an honest and vulnerable and was growing and maturing.  I liked Christine but found her secrecy about her relationship with Raymond betrayed her conscience.  Raymond Old Fox was an interesting character and I liked him.  I wondered what attracted him to pursue a friendship with Christine.  I found it interesting to learn about the Native Indian history and culture and to see some of the similarities to the Amish culture and the contrasts.

Where I ran into some discomfort with this book was how Christine wrestled with the differences in her Christian faith and spirituality from Raymond’s Native Indian culture.  It is interesting to learn of other cultures and what they believe but, as a Christian, we cannot forget that the Bible is the plumbline of truth and of right and wrong, heaven and hell, sin, rebellion, truth, righteousness, forgiveness, repentance, and salvation through Jesus Christ alone.

Christine hesitated to share her faith, in part, because of the mistreatment of Raymond’s Native Indian ancestors at the hands of people who said they were Christians.

I tried to let Christine wrestle through what she was learning and how that differed from what she knew of the Bible.  I struggled with her trying to see her Christian faith and Raymond’s spirituality as equivalent.  Christine seemed to think that Raymond’s belief in a Creator was the same as her belief in the God of the Bible.  At one point she said, “He’s your God too.”  I wanted to tell Christine, “No He’s not…not at this point.”  But I did appreciate that Christine wanted to pray for Raymond and she felt the need to tell him about Jesus Christ even though that was not done in her Amish culture.  I appreciated Andy’s trust in Christine and his more mature understanding of the differences between the Amish and Indian religious beliefs.

Christine had some wrong theology and I highlighted a number of statements and made many notes.  I tried to let the character wrestle with her thoughts and theological understanding.  Ideally, I would like to have wrong theology corrected in the novel, perhaps by another character or by a character’s growing understanding.

Is the right theology important in a fiction novel by a Christian author?  Yes, because that book may influence a reader for right or wrong.

There was much that I liked about A Long Bridge Home, the characters and storyline.  But I struggled with some of the wrong theology the main character expressed.

I would like to thank Zondervan Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read A Long Bridge Home by Kelly Irvin.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Promised Land by Robert Whitlow – Intrigue, Suspense, Interesting Characters Mixed with Fascinating Cultures

When author Robert Whitlow writes a book, I want to read it.  That’s why I was excited at the opportunity to read his newest book Promised Land and I loved it.

Readers are reintroduced to characters from his last novel Chosen People.  Hana Abboud, a Christian Arab attorney from Israel who is living in the United States, her husband Daud Hasan a Christian Arab from Israel, friend and colleague Jakob Brodsky, and dear friends Ben and Sadie Neumann.  While reading this book, I felt like I was being reunited and catching up with old friends.

The story begins with Rahal Abaza in Qatar, five years earlier he had a jarring experience that set his life on a new course that will intersect with Daud and Hana.  Hana is at home and awakens for her night watch, a time of prayer, reading Scripture and worship.  While she does not know the specifics of all that’s going on with her husband Daud, she is praying for him while he is in Egypt on a mission for the CIA.  He will need those prayers for what he’s about to encounter.

From the get-go, Promised Land is off and running.  There’s a lot of suspense, intrigue, and action, but it doesn’t interfere with the development of characters or take the place of an interesting storyline.  It’s well balanced.

My favorite thing about Robert Whitlow’s writing is how he develops characters.  Hana is one of the most interesting characters.  It’s fascinating to see and consider what it’s like to be an Arab Christian who is from Israel.  You would think that there might be conflict, but Hana is a very gracious woman who takes her faith seriously.  She loves her family and is a faithful friend.  I found Daud intriguing and felt on edge with all the situations and people he encounters.  Jakob is an interesting fellow.  He always seems to take on cases that look impossible and that will require a lot of work and research to see if they will pan out.  Ben and his daughter Sadie…absolutely love them.

I don’t want to spoil the story about what happens, so I’ll leave it with a brief intro into the storyline and characters.  But I hope that you will pick up a copy of Promised Land by Robert Whitlow.  It’s the second book in this series but is a good stand-alone book.  You may want to go back and read Chosen People so you can have a richer connection with the characters.

Robert Whitlow is a gifted writer.  He tells a good story and develops rich likable characters.  I highly recommend Promised Land by Robert Whitlow.  If you like action, suspense, intrigue, and interesting likable characters you will like Promised Land.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Promised Land by Robert Whitlow.  I was provided with a free copy of this book and was under no obligation to give a favorable review.