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.

 

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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.

 

Hurricane Season by Lauren K Denton – A Simple Treasure

One of my favorite things is finding new authors whose books I love.  I found a wonderful book and author when I read Hurricane Season by Lauren K Denton.  Wow…loved this book!

The storyline is what first caught my eye.  A couple, Betsy and Ty, own a dairy farm in Alabama and they are always busy with the day to day operations of the farm.  In recent years they’ve struggled with infertility and it’s taken it’s toll on Betsy and Ty’s relationship.  Entering into the equation is Jenna when she suddenly springs a surprise on her sister, watching her two young children, while she heads off to Florida to work on photography as part of a mentorship program.  It’s something she’s longed to get back into for years.  The threat of a hurricane may not be the only storm brewing on the horizon.

Hurricane Season was simple, yet deep.  It was beautiful but dealt with the difficult and hard things of life.  It showed the beautiful and extraordinary things about ordinary lives.  I loved the characters, their relationships and looking back at what’s shaped them.  I loved the beauty of the farm and the retreat in Florida, captured so beautifully by the author.  The characters were decent good people who I would want to know.  There were some profound thoughts and observations shared throughout the book that made me think about my own life.

I loved reading Hurricane Season by Lauren K Denton and I look forward to reading her future books.  I want to go back and read her first book, The Hideaway.  I would describe Lauren as a safe writer.  What I mean by that is that she takes the time to develop a story and lets the readers get to know the characters.  She doesn’t manipulate the storyline and characters don’t make stupid thoughtless decisions, just to advance the story or grab the reader’s attention.  Lauren knows how to make the ordinary both interesting and beautiful.

It’s with pleasure I highly recommend Hurricane Season by Lauren K Denton.  I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and BookLook for the opportunity to read Hurricane Season in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

A Spectacle of Glory by Joni Eareckson Tada – Truth to Strengthen our heart, mind, soul and spirit

It’s been my privilege to read Joni Eareckson Tada’s books and devotionals over the years.  That’s why I was grateful for the opportunity to read her latest devotional, A Spectacle of Glory – God’s Light Shining Through Me Every Day, which she co-authored with Larry Libby.

Joni is a mature Christian and her continued growth and love for the Lord and Scripture comes shining through this devotional, A Spectacle of Glory.  This year, will be 50 years since Joni’s tragic accident that left her as a quadriplegic.  Joni’s life has not been easy and her witness and testimony have a weight of credibility other’s may not have.

In A Spectacle of Glory, Joni focuses on a Scripture verse or two each day.  She includes stories from her own life where she’s seen God at work.  With openness and transparency, she relates to the reader as she confesses her struggles, which may be similar to our own.  She closes each day with a prayer and aligns her heart and mind on the truth from Scripture.

Joni always come back to the Bible which is the believer’s plumb line.  She takes the Scriptures and uses them as a mirror to reflect what’s going on in our heart.  Shining the light of God’s Word has a way of driving out the darkness.

I highly recommend Joni Eareckson Tada new devotional, A Spectacle of Glory, written with Larry Libby.  It’s a great way to start or end your day.

I would like to thank BookLook and Zondervan for the opportunity to read A Spectacle of Glory.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

The Candidate by Lis Wiehl – A Mixed Bag

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Since I like books with mystery and intrigue, I decided to read author Lis Wiehl’s new book The Candidate – A Newsmakers Novel written with Sebastian Stuart. I’ve watched Lis on Fox News and like her keen legal analysis and hoped that would translate into a good book. Unfortunately, I found The Candidate to be a mixed bag.

What’s good? I found the plotline intriguing. Is top Presidential candidate, Mike Ortiz, as good as he seems at first glance? Or will Erica discover there is something nefarious going on behind the scenes when she takes a closer look? Coming on the heels of a very contentious election cycle this should be a very interesting book.

The story is action packed and the main character, Erica Sparks, is somewhat interesting. Her background is revealed during the course of the story but there was not a lot of depth to this character. I liked her fiancé Greg, while not perfect, he showed himself to be there for Erica in the end. But overall I found the characters were not well developed. What the reader learns about the characters is very surface level details, some action of course, but there seemed to be an obsession with physical appearance. In fact, it was almost to the point of distraction.

What’s not so good? The story was predictable. After the first big event in the book, I found myself guessing what the next plot development would be throughout the book.

While somewhat veiled, there were some rather sick sexual relationships in this book that cross the line in a book released by a Christian publisher. While not described in detail, enough is said that makes it clear what’s happening. Also, Lis took a swipe at Donald Trump by including a nasty comment from one of the characters about him. It was unnecessary to the story and not value added. My overall impression was Lis tried to be edgy.

If this book had been published by a secular publisher, I would only put a cautionary note about some of the content which may be offensive to people of faith.

I have higher expectations from Thomas Nelson Publishers. On their website, this publisher is self-described as, “Thomas Nelson is a world leading publisher and provider of Christian content and has been providing readers with quality inspirational product for more than 200 years.”

There was nothing whatsoever Christian about this book. There was nothing about faith. There was one curse word as I recall and I appreciate that there was very little profanity. But some of the content of this book was not fit material from a Christian publisher.

I would like to thank BookLook for the opportunity to read The Candidate by Lis Wiehl. I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

The Witnesses by Robert Whitlow – A Gifted Storyteller

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I’ve read some of Robert Whitlow’s previous books and was thrilled at the opportunity to read his newest release, The Witnesses. While reading this book, I was reminded why Robert Whitlow is one of my favorite authors. This man is a gifted storyteller and he knows how to weave a story together with intrigue, mystery and characters you want to get to know better.

The Witnesses tells the story of two generations of the House family. Frank is from Germany, a former Nazi and grandfather to Parker who is an attorney in a small town in North Carolina. Both men have a unique gift that they can use for good or evil. How will Frank reconcile his past participation in unimaginable horrors? Will he ever find rest and peace for his soul? Parker’s career is just beginning, he’s the new man on the totem and working long hours. How long will he have to wait to sink his teeth into some weighty cases and prove himself as an attorney?

As the storyline develops, Robert slowly unveils the characters, layer by layer. He has keen, thought provoking and honest insights into people and their circumstances. His characters are very relatable. I especially liked the relationships: between Frank and Parker and their love and respect for one another, the friendship between Frank and his longtime friend Lenny and the instantaneous bond between Layla and Frank. As a Christian, I appreciate how Robert weaves the Christian faith into his character’s lives. He did a great job in presenting the Gospel message and showing the Christian faith lived out in everyday life. I would never have guessed that I would like a story that involves a former Nazi, much less like the character; but I did.

This book is well written, with interesting characters that will draw you in. I found myself thinking about the characters when I wasn’t reading, they kind of come alive. One thing I love about a book is when a character perfectly expresses what you’ve been feeling, but didn’t quite know how to put into words.

I highly recommend The Witnesses by Robert Whitlow, a tale of two men who have a unique gift of seeing what will happen in the future. One man is looking back on a life with some very ugly sins he can’t seem to get away from and the other just starting his career. Will he put his career over and above love? To find out what happens in the lives of these men you will want to read The Witnesses by Robert Whitlow.

I would like to thank BookLook and Thomas Nelson Publishers for providing me a free copy The Witnesses by Robert Whitlow. I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz – Context, Context, Context

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Desiring to learn what the Bible teaches us about prayer, I selected Anne Graham Lotz’ newest book The Daniel Prayer.  Unfortunately, after reading this book, I cannot recommend it because it’s off base theologically.

One of the first things Anne should have noted was the importance of not taking Scripture out of context.  But it wasn’t until page 181 that she notes the “danger of taking God’s Word out of context and manipulating it so that it seems to speak personally and specifically.”  But at this point in the book, she has already taken Scripture out of context and read into it and misapplied it many times, rather than reading what it says in context.

One of the phrases Anne uses throughout this is “prayer which moves Heaven.”  She uses it a lot.  It seemed like she was substituting Heaven for God the Father.  Heaven isn’t moved, but God may be moved by our prayers.

Many times in this book Anne does eisegesis; she reads into the Scripture based on her own thoughts and ideas as opposed to exegesis interpreting the Scripture based on what it says in context.

Page 49 – “God reassured me from 1 John 2:27 that I had received an anointing from Him, so I was not to worry.”

Page 54 – “Noah claimed God’s promise of salvation by doing everything exactly as God said.”  Noah believed and obeyed God.

Page 58 – Anne tells about her daughter Rachel-Ruth calling her about the 276 Nigerian girls who had been kidnapped by Boko Haram.  She found it significant that in Acts 27:37, the number of people on board Paul’s ship was 276.  “And we will pray until all 276 are safely home, either with their parents in Nigeria, or with their Heavenly Father.”  Feeling prompted to pray by a Scripture verse is fine, but taking that verse out of context is not good.

Page 61 – Talking about 2 Chronicle 7:13-15, “If a promise could be worn out from use, this one might be tattered beyond recognition.  But promises cannot be worn out.  They are just as valid today as when they were first issued.”  This verse pertains to the nation of Israel, not the United States of America.  It is good when a believer humbles themselves and repents and but it’s not good to take a verse context and misapply it.

Page 70 – Anne speculates about the time when Jesus took three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, and was transfigured in their presence.  “The lesson God drove home to me was this:  Had Jesus invited all twelve of His disciples to draw aside with Him for a time of private prayer?  Did only three of them accept His invitation?  Did the other nine give excuses…?”  Anne is reading into to Scripture.  None of the Gospels indicate that Jesus invited all twelve of the disciples.

Page 88 – Anne talks about the time she was speaking to the United Nations General Assembly and presented the Gospel as the only way to have genuine, permanent world peace.”  The Gospel message is not a way to achieve world peace.  The Gospel message is for individuals, calling for sinners to repent of their sins, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning death on the cross which paid the penalty in full for their sins so that they could be forgiven.  The Gospel message is for sinners to have peace with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son.

Page 110 – “Ask Him (God) to give you experiences, as He did Daniel, that will help to build your confidence in Him.”  Is that scriptural?  Or should we instead read God’s Word and believe it and take God as His Word?

Page 125 – Anne references a book by Charles Finney and talks about preparing your heart for revival.  She encourages believers to examine themselves for sin and shares a list of areas to look at from Finney’s book.  Isn’t looking at our sin and repenting a good thing?  Yes it can be, yet Charles Finney was not the most sound theologically.  He denied our moral depravity and sin nature.  He also denied God’s sovereignty in salvation.  His influence is seen today in the seeker-sensitive movement.

There were a couple (page 155 and 160) of times that Anne used Scripture verses and called them prayer, when in fact they were people talking to a Person who was there with them (the Lord Jesus Christ or an Old Testament appearance of the Lord).

Extra-biblical reference – On page 170, Ann shares from Jewish history about Honi who prayed for rain during a severe drought in Jerusalem.  This prayer is not scriptural and it certainly does not seem humble, but instead is commanding the Lord.

On page 253, Anne is encouraging readers to pray The Daniel Payer.  “Could it be that God wants to reassure you…and this book is God’s message to you.  God has heard your prayer.  Heaven has been move and nations are being changed, one person at a time.”  Wow…that is a pretty bold for Anne to speak for God.

There are other examples I could list, but I think you get the picture.  Don’t take Scripture of out context.  Don’t take a promise that God made to an individual or nation and try to make it your own.  You may be encouraged or strengthened in your faith and trust in God based on Scripture, but don’t twist it or take it out of context.

Based on the above examples, and many more that I left out, I do not recommend The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz. 

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