Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock – Relatable & Heartwarming

Terri Blackstock is on my list of writers, that when they write a new book, I want to read it.  I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read her newest book Catching Christmas.

This story is a little different than most of Terri’s books.  The book centers around three people, Finn, Sydney and Callie, who don’t have a lot in common.  But circumstances have a way of creating some unusual bonds, especially around Christmas.

Take Finn for example, he’s a cab driver and for him, time is money.  His life is about to get more complicated when he picks up his next fare.  Callie, an older woman in a wheelchair, seems to be taking a little nap when Finn arrives and she needs transportation to a doctor’s appointment.  Who in the world sends their grandmother to the doctor via a cab?  Meet Sydney, Callie’s granddaughter, who is burning the candle at both ends and just trying to keep her new job, thus the cab for her grandmother.

Terri has way of making her characters very relatable and real.  My favorite character was Finn, a little gruff on the outside, but deep down he has a tender heart, a guilty conscience and wants to get it right this time.  Callie reminds me of my mom in her latter years.  Only with Callie…I could laugh at some of the embarrassing uncomfortable moments.  I related to Sydney too and felt like I had walked in her shoes.

The Christian faith is talked about some in this book.  Callie is a Christian and she loves Jesus and talks to Him and about Him to others.

Catching Christmas is a heartwarming book to read for the Christmas holiday season.  It’s a short book, so even if your schedule is busy, you’ll be able to find time to read Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock.

I would like to thank BookLook and Thomas Nelson Publishers for the opportunity to read Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

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Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson – Satisfying & Intriguing

It was the title, Hidden Among the Stars, that first caught my attention.  The storyline drew me in and made me want to read Melanie Dobson’s newest book, an author whose writing is new to me.

The story takes place in two periods of time and in two places that intersect as character Callie tries to find out who Luzia and Annika were and if perchance if one of them was related to her beloved friend Charlotte.

Luzia, Annika, Max and Hermann lived in Austria during the late 1930’s and their lives were forever changed as the were caught up in the war when the Nazi’s swept in to Austria.  Eighty years later and 5,000 miles away, Callie is drawn into trying to solve a mystery that was discovered in a children’s book.  Will Callie step outside her comfort zone to solve a mystery and discover the truth?  Will she let down her walls long enough to open herself the possibility of finding love once again?

Hidden Among the Stars was very different kind of book, but I really liked it.  I especially liked the characters from the 1930’s in Austria.  The characters came to life and the situations that they faced as their beloved country was overrun by evil was very compelling.  How would they respond when the anti-Jewish Nazi mentality grew and overwhelmed Austrians?  Fellow neighbors, were they now friend or foe?  Would they protect and try to help their Jewish neighbors?  It was both horrifying and captivating to see what they faced and how they responded to evil in their midst.

The modern-day part of the story took a little while for me to get used to because it was written in the first person, but the rest of the story was not.  After a while, I got used to it.  While I liked the characters, they didn’t seem as real or rich as the 1930’s characters.

The author includes faith in her story and the Gospel message was shared.  I appreciated that the author didn’t include profanity or sexual immorality in the story.  She delicately handled a scene where one of the characters was raped.

As the story unfolded, I figured out some of the mystery, but not all of it.  It kept me guessing until the end.

I would describe the book as satisfying and intriguing.  It unfolds and develops slowly, but that’s okay because you are learning about the characters and what they are going through.  There is some about this book that is almost poetic, probably most visible in the character of Callie.

I recommend Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson.  If you like mystery, intrigue or historical fiction you may enjoy this book.

I would like to thank Tyndale House Publishers for the opportunity to read Hidden Among the Stars in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Chosen People by Robert Whitlow – Intrigue, Suspense & Interesting Characters – A Story That Kept Me Guessing to the End

One of my favorite authors that I’ve discovered in recent years is Robert Whitlow.  If he writes a new book, I want read.  I’m so glad that I was able to read Robert’s newest release Chosen People.

This book is a little different than other novels I’ve read by Robert Whitlow.  Like his other books, it involves attorneys and law, but Chosen People is set against the backdrop Islamic terrorism.  It includes characters that are from the Middle East and shows the impact of terrorism at a personal level.

Hana Abboud, an attorney working at law firm in Atlanta, is from Israel and is of Arab descent and a Christian which adds some interesting dynamics and cultural views to the storyline.  Jakob Brodsky, a secular Jewish attorney has agreed to help Ben Neumann and his daughter Sadie bring a lawsuit against any organization or company that funded the terrorists that left his wife Gloria dead and their daughter Sadie seriously injured.

With her background and experience in Israel, Hana is the right attorney to handle this case, if she’s willing.  Jakob is going to batt for a family that may not have much of a case to stand on, much less the deep pockets necessary to handle the comprehensive research and to track down people who funded these morally reprehensible murderers.

Will there be any justice for the Neumann family?  Will the big law firm be willing to take a risk on this case which may go no where or run into many costly obstacles along the way?  Will Hana be willing to take on a case that will bring up ugly savage images that will never leave her memory?  How will she be able to handle this case long distance from Atlanta?  Who will she be able to trust to be her boots on the ground in Israel to investigate the terrorists who perpetrated this savage attack?  Was Jakob’s attack related to the investigation, or was it just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Mixed into the storyline is faith, Christian, Jewish, Islamic and agnostic.

I enjoyed the likable characters, found the storyline intriguing and suspenseful as people put their lives on the line to investigate and bring terrorists and those that support them to justice.

I give Chosen People a big thumbs up and recommend it highly.  Robert Whitlow knows how to write great fiction, from interesting characters to a storyline that weaves together intrigue, suspense and faith.  This one kept me guessing to the end.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Robert Whitlow’s new book Chosen People in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Jacob – Being Transformed by Amazing Grace – The Bible Teacher’s Guide – by Gregory Brown – Comprehensive, Insightful & Interesting Bible Study About Jacob

One of my favorite books of the Bible, both to read and study, is the book of Genesis.  One of the characters I’ve struggled to understand is Jacob.  That’s why I was excited when Pastor, Teacher and Author Gregory Brown asked if I would like to read his newest Bible study, Jacob – Being Transformed by Amazing Grace.

This Bible study on Jacob is comprehensive.  Pastor Brown does not shy away from taking a closer look at some Jacob’s uglier character flaws, sin patterns and the sinful choices he made.  He also shows us areas of growth and faith in Jacob’s walk with God.  Additionally, he looks at the people in Jacob’s life, like his parents, brother, wives and children and we see how Jacob’s life impacted and influenced them.  Lest we think we are far superior to Jacob, there are some very convicting application questions and insightful commentary that will help us learn from Scripture and apply what we learn to our own lives.

Pastor Brown uses Scripture to interpret Scripture.  He studies the Scripture in context, line by line, verse by verse.

A few areas that Pastor Brown focuses on are:  Signs of Not Trusting God, Equipped in God’s Boot Camp, Protecting our Families from Sin and Dysfunctionality, Faithfully Following God, Living Out Our New Identity in Christ and the Consequences of Neglecting God.

Even though Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived over 4,000 years ago, their lives and what God did in their individual lives and families is very relevant to us today.  We can learn about who God is and who He has revealed Himself to be and how that should impact our lives.

This Bible study would be good for a small group study, an individual Bible study or to help someone prepare to teach from the book of Genesis about the life of Jacob.

I would like to thank Pastor Gregory Brown for the opportunity to read his latest Bible Teacher’s Guide on Jacob – Being Transformed by Amazing Grace.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

 

Through the Autumn Air by Kelly Irvin – A Real Gem and Lovely Read

One of my favorite things is when I find a book that I love by an author whose work is new to me.  I found a gem in Through the Autumn Air by Kelly Irvin.  I absolutely loved this book, from the moment I first started reading it.  I haven’t read a lot of Amish themed novels, but there was something about storyline that caught my attention.

Mary Katherine Ropp is a sixty-year-old widow and her last daughter is getting married.  Most in the community would have her living with one of her married children and helping to raise her grandchildren.  But Mary Katherine isn’t like most Amish women.  She’s little bit spunky, independent, she likes to read, write stories and even dares to dream about opening a book store with her English friend Dottie.  Also, part of the community is Ezekiel Miller who has been widowed for many years.  In spite of grief, he kept family going through his business the Purpose Martin Café.  Both Mary Katherine and Ezekiel can’t imagine getting married again so late in life, especially since they had wonderful marriages.  But Ezekiel can imagine hiring another cook to help at the restaurant.  In to the storyline steps the not so skilled, but very hungry burglar, Burke McMillan, who has a late-night encounter with Mary Katherine.

What I loved best about this book were the characters.  They were very likable people that I would enjoy knowing.  Mary Katherine was my favorite and I loved her ongoing conversations with her husband Moses.  I loved Ezekiel’s tender caring heart, tender for Mary Katherine, open to help and give a new start to a stranger, loving to his grandchildren, especially Kenneth.  Burke is a man of mystery.  Is he just a down on his luck kind of guy, is he the thief that’s been plaguing the Amish community or is something more going on with him?

Kelly Irvin is a wonderful writer.  She knows how to make characters interesting and very likeable, even in plain every day ordinary life.  She gives insight into the characters and what they are going through at this stage in their lives.  The Amish community setting is interesting but doesn’t overwhelm the story, instead it’s the background and reveals how these characters live their lives.  I could identify with many of the feelings that Mary Katherine was expressing.

The one person, I wasn’t too keen on was her son Thomas because he was so disrespectful to his mother.  I would think as a Christian, he would have tried to honor his mother, but instead he treated her more like a child who has misbehaved.

I loved Through the Autumn Air by Kelly Irvin and I look forward to reading more of her books.  I highly recommend this story, it was lovely!  I read this book during a very difficult time in my life and I found it to be a very comforting place to escape to for a while.

I would like to thank BookLook and Zondervan Publishers for the opportunity to read Through the Autumn Air in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

In All things by Melissa B Kruger – An Excellent Bible Study!

When breaking for summer, my Bible study teacher recommended Melissa Kruger’s Bible study, In All Things, a study in the book of Philippians.

Because of that recommendation I was interested in reading In All Things and I’m so glad that I did.  I love finding solid Bible teachers so that I can use their books to stay in God’s Word when my regular Bible study breaks for summer.

In All Things, is an excellent Bible study.  Melissa teaches readers to learn a book of the Bible.  Each chapter is broken down in to five days and it includes studying the text to determine: Observation – What does the text say, Interpretation – What does the text mean, and Application – How does the text transform me.  Each chapter concludes with a devotional based on the text that was studied.

Melissa goes through the book of Philippians verse by verse.  She encourages people to read through the complete text multiple times so that you get very familiar with it.  Each day you will be reading the specific text you are studying.  The questions that are asked help the reader to pull out the facts of what the Apostle Paul wrote and help you unpack the text.  What does it say, what does it mean and how should I apply it to my life?

To help better understand the passage, Melissa may have the reader look up other Scripture verses that may correspond to what’s studied.  She uses Scripture to help interpret Scripture.  You learn to study Scripture within context.

This study is mature, Christ centered and helps the student to develop godly wisdom and discernment.  Melissa asks some hard, but true and necessary questions.  She is open, transparent and has a godly humility.

I encourage anyone looking for a good solid Bible study to read and work through In All Things by Melissa Kruger.  You will come away with a good understanding of Philippians.  You will have developed some good Bible study techniques and know how to study the Bible, verse by verse and in context.

This Bible study would be good resource for a personal or group study or even a formal women’s Bible study at church.

I would like to thank Edelweiss and Multnomah Publishing for the opportunity to read In All Things by Melissa Kruger in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.  I am looking forward to going through this study in future.

 

 

The House at Saltwater Point by Colleen Coble – Implausible

The House at Saltwater Point by Colleen Coble is the second book I’ve read by this author.  What drew me to the book was the setting along the coastline of Washington, the mystery of what happened to the missing sister, a little romance with some home renovation mixed in.  I wanted to like this book more than I actually did.

The story is about two sisters Ellie and Mackenzie Blackmore, one of whom is missing and presumed dead.  She leaves behind a mystery of a life that wasn’t what it seemed.  Thrown into the mix is Grayson Bradshaw, an investigator for the US Coast Guard, who is looking into a missing shipment of illegal drugs that has ties to a terrorist.  One of the prime suspects is Mackenzie and that news doesn’t sit too well with Ellie who just wants to find her sister.

What I liked about The House at Saltwater Point:

  • Grayson was very honest, forthright, nice and likeable.
  • I kind of liked his relationship with Ellie, but they went from an adversarial relationship to romance and I wasn’t quite sure how they crossed that bridge.
  • I liked the subplot of Grayson finding out that he was adopted and had biological sister and family whom he knew nothing about.
  • I enjoyed the setting of Lavender Tides, the description of the town, the townspeople and friends, waterfront, beaches and scenery.
  • I liked the home renovation career of Ellie.

What I wasn’t too keen on:

  • The storyline was rather convoluted and had too many subplots going on.
  • The story and characters weren’t very realistic. Especially, the two small town sisters trying thwart a terrorist attack.  There were times that the sisters did a better job than the FBI and Coast Guard in trying to stop the terrorists.  There sure didn’t seem to much of a police presence considering the seriousness of what was going on.
  • Early on in the book Ellie takes in a helpless small kitten. Periodically, the kitten would be mentioned but for the most part it wasn’t part of the story.  I found it distracting.  That part of the story was unnecessary and didn’t contribute to the storyline.
  • At times the story seemed the drag.
  • The characters weren’t very realistic. My favorite was Grayson, a very nice man…but he was a little too perfect.

Colleen is really good at setting a scene and describing the place and helping the reader see it in their mind.  However, the storyline was not plausible and the characters weren’t deep or realistic…much of it was very surface level.  I think that’s where it lost me, I didn’t connect with the characters.

If you just want to read a mystery to escape for a while you may enjoy The House at Saltwater Point.

Colleen Coble is a Christian author, but there nothing much about faith included in this book.  It’s clean, no profanity and or sexual immorality, and I appreciate that.  But nothing much regarding faith and characters talking about God or praying or faith being lived out in their everyday lives.

I wanted to like The House at Saltwater Point by Colleen Coble.  There were parts I did enjoy, but I think the implausible storyline and lack of depth the characters were too much to overcome.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and BookLook for the opportunity to read The House at Saltwater Point for free in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.