Collateral Damage by Lynette Eason – Likable engaging characters in a suspenseful story

As someone who loves to read Christian mystery/fiction books, I was excited at the opportunity to read Lynette Eason’s newest book, Collateral Damage, the first book in the Danger Never Sleeps series.

Collateral Damage starts off at an army base in Afghanistan where the men are preparing to arrest a fellow soldier, Isaiah Michaels who is suspected of being a traitor and selling information to the jihadists.  Sergeant Asher James doesn’t believe the allegations because it doesn’t square with the man he knows.  But he has been charged with leading the operation as two MARP vehicles set out to Kabul to arrest Specialist Michaels who has been spotted at a bar.  Military psychologist, Brooke Adams is looking forward to heading home in three weeks.  She’s meeting some friends at The Bistro in Kabal.  When Specialist Michaels tries to catch her eye, Brooke does her best to tune him out and focus on her friends who have become like family so far away from home.

What happens next is just the beginning of an action-packed story filled with suspense and lots of twists and turns.  What information did Isaiah Michaels find?  Did he betray his country?  What accounts for the large increase of adoptions at Morning Star Orphanage over the last year?  How does it all fit together?

I found myself invested in this story because I liked the main characters and I wanted to get to the bottom of the mysteries.  I appreciate that the story did not have filthy language or sexual immorality.  The Christian faith was a part of the storyline and the two main character behavior and choices were influenced by their faith.

I did struggle with the first chapter because it was long and it introduced at least fourteen characters in a very fast-paced story.  After that chapter, the pace and number of characters slowed down.  I think it would have been better to break it up into two chapters.  I did figure out who the bad guy was but that didn’t take away from enjoying the book.  I was interested to find out his motivation.

Collateral Damage is the first novel I’ve read by Lynette Eason and I really liked it.  The best part of the book for me was the engaging likable characters.  I look forward to reading more of her books in the future.

If you like suspense and action with likable characters, read Lynette Eason’s newest book Collateral Damage.

I would like to thank Revell Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Collateral Damage by Lynette Eason.  I was provided a complimentary copy of this book to read but was not required to give a favorable review.

 

Smoke Screen by Terri Blackstock – Likable Characters in a Compelling Story

Terri Blackstock is on my shortlist of authors, who when they write a new book, I want to read it.  I was excited at the opportunity to read Terri’s newest book Smoke Screen.  She has a way of drawing the reader into the story with an honest portrayal of likable characters with broken lives.

What makes Smoke Screen a good book?  In this book, it was the main characters, Brenna and Nate and an interesting storyline.  Brenna is in a rough season of her life.  She’s had a divorce that she didn’t ask for or want and now she is battling a weak but powerful and strategic ex-husband for the custody of their children.  Nate, an admirable man with proven character, a hero who along with his teammates puts his life on the line to save lives and protect communities when wildfires are burning.

Both characters bring their history of brokenness to the table.  One whose father was murdered and the other whose father was convicted of that murder.  Imagine what losing a father does to a family with children.  It tears them apart and leaves scars that take a long time to heal.  Can the love between two teens possible survive?  What if the man who served 14 years for a crime that he didn’t commit is set free?  How will that impact the families involved as well as the community?  Will the truth ever be made known and will justice be served?

Nate was my favorite character.  A strong man of courage, who lives out his Christian faith with grace and forgiveness.  Yet, even he will have that faith tested.  Brenna, a woman who has been through a lot of tragedy in her life.  Her faith is wavering and her walk is stumbling along.  The secondary characters, especially Nate’s brother and mother were likable too.

There were a few things I struggled with.  One being Brenna’s alcohol problem.  I understand that she was overwhelmed and just trying to get through, but as a Christian how did she get there.  Nate was very solid in his faith walk, except for a couple of areas where his response didn’t seem fitting.  One, when testifying in court he waffled and played loose with the truth.  Two, when Brenna is out of control with her drinking one night, he just lets her drink, to her very public detriment.  I didn’t understand that response.  It didn’t seem fitting of his character, especially when Brenna had so much to lose.

I appreciate that the story included the Christian faith.  There were some good examples, but I would have like to have seen it portrayed deeper and stronger.

I liked this story and the characters, even with some of the messiness and brokenness of their lives.  I really like Nate’s commitment and faithfulness as a son, brother, friend, teammate, and firefighter.

If you like Terri Blackstock, or mysteries and suspense, give Smoke Screen a read.  I found myself thinking about the characters even when I wasn’t reading the book and I was challenged to ask how I would respond if I faced similar situations that the characters faced.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Smoke Screen by Terri Blackstock.  I was under no obligation to provide a positive review.

 

End Game by Rachel Dylan – Fast Paced and Filled with Suspense, Intrigue and Likable Characters

When I saw that author, Rachel Dylan had published a new book, End Game – Capital Intrigue Book 1, I was excited to read it.

When FBI Agent Bailey Ryan and NCIS Special Agent Marco Agostini were called in to investigate the murder of Navy Petty Officer Sean Battle little did they know that they would be drawn into a complicated, ever-widening case that would prove to be dangerous and deadly.  Where would it end?  Just who was involved?  How deep did the corruption go?  Who can they trust?  Where would their investigation lead?

I loved this book.  It was filled with suspense and intrigue from beginning to end.  What I liked most about this book were the characters.  They were nice, decent, honest people who sought the truth, no matter where their case led.  I liked the lead characters Bailey and Marco as well as the secondary characters Isabella (Izzy) Cole, Jay Graves, Lexi Todd, Tobias Kappen, and Derek Martinez.  They were people of integrity whom I liked and cared about.  They worked together in pursuit of the truth.  They considered the evidence and when things didn’t make sense or didn’t look right, they dug deeper.  Even when it meant risking their own lives.

In today’s culture where we’ve seen the compromise and dishonesty from prominent government officials, it was refreshing to see the integrity of these characters.

I appreciated how the Christian faith was woven into the storyline and supportive friendships.  I liked seeing the cooperation and teamwork between the various military branches and the legal system.  I enjoyed the friendship, trust, and romance that developed over time as Bailey and Marco got to know one another.

If you like intrigue and suspense, mixed with good characters, an interesting story and a little romance, be sure to read End Game by Rachel Dylan.  You won’t be disappointed.  End Game – Capital Intrigue Book 1 will be published on January 7, 2020.  When Rachel Dylan writes a book, I want to read it!

I would like to thank Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley for providing a complimentary copy of End Game and the opportunity to read it.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Always Look Twice – by author Elizabeth Goddard – Filled with Mystery, Intrigue and Action

As someone who loves to read mysteries, I really liked reading Elizabeth Goddard’s newest book Always Look Twice the second book in her Uncommon Justice series.  There was so much to like about this book, starting with the characters.  But what first drew me in to Always Looks Twice was the opening scene.

Crime scene photographer, Harper Reynolds, has taken a much need break because of the toll that her work has taken on her.  She and her sister Emily have been traveling to National Parks and are finishing up their travels in Jackson Hole, Wyoming where they lived as children.  Harper has been photographing the beauty found in nature only to have that beauty marred by witnessing a murder through her camera lens.  In her quest to escape she lost her camera, a memory card, her phone and was injured.  So, when Harper reports the crime she witnessed, there’s no corroborating evidence to be found.  Will the Sheriff believe Harper?  Will law enforcement diligently investigate the crime she witnessed?  What will happen when she is reunited with her childhood friend Heath McKade?

I really liked the main characters in this book.  They are interesting, kind and caring and people and because of that I was invested in their story.  Harper and Emily carried emotional scars from trauma in their childhood and they dealt with its lingering effects quite differently.  I especially like the friendship between Harper and Heath.  They were friends in a pivotal time in their lives and now they are reunited.

One of the things I liked best about Elizabeth Goddard’s writing is her ability to write a scene so the reader can imagine it in their head.  She does it without being too wordy.  Reading the story was almost like watching a movie.  I appreciated that the story was clean, there was no profanity or sexual immorality.  There was some mention of the character’s faith.  I would like to have seen even more the faith aspect of the character’s lives.

If you like mystery, intrigue, and action I would encourage you to read Elizabeth Goddard’s new book Always Look Twice.  This one kept me guessing until the end.  This is the first book I’ve read by Elizabeth and I look forward to reading more of her books.

I would like to thank Revell Publishing for the opportunity to read Always Look Twice by Elizabeth Goddard.  I was provided a complimentary copy of the eBook through NetGalley.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

#AlwaysLookTwice #UncommonJustice

 

Dark Ambitions by Irene Hannon – Character Development Is Missing

Irene Hannon is one of my favorite writers.  I’ve loved her books that I’ve read, the characters and the Christian faith that’s been a part of the storylines.  That’s why I was excited to read her newest book Dark Ambitions.

Unfortunately, I thought Dark Ambitions was not as good as her other books.  I’ve read the two other books in the Code of Honor series and liked them.  What was different about Dark Ambitions?  I found the character development was not too deep in this novel, the characters were rather flat and one dimensional.

From the beginning of this book, the focus was on the physical attraction between Rick Jordan and Heather Shields dominated this book.  So much so that it took away from the character development of the main characters.  Rick, who has a heroic background as a former Army Night Stalker and runs a camp for foster children, seemed like a superficial jerk with his unkind judgmental opinion of the receptionist Nikki.  If you took away one thing from this book, you knew that Rick and Heather were physically attracted to one another because of the numerous references to looks and their physical attraction.

In most of Irene’s books, I find some likable relatable characters.  In Dark Ambitions, not so much.  Maybe Heather’s dad.  As a reader, I want to have characters I like and care about, but that was missing in this book.

A great deal of research went into getting the technical details right.  The storyline of Dark Ambitions has some possibilities of making a good story.  Where it fell short for me was the character development.  Also, I missed having faith and God being a part of the character’s personal lives.  While there was action in the story, there wasn’t a lot of suspense, nor twists and turns.

While this book seemed to be a one-off, I do look forward to reading more of Irene Hannon’s books in the future.

I would like to thank Revell Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Irene Hannon’s newest book Dark Ambitions.  I was provided with a complimentary copy of the book and was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

My Dearest Dietrich by Amanda Barratt – A beautiful and sorrowful love story during a pivotal time in history

When I first saw that there was an opportunity to read My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love by author Amanda Barratt, I wasn’t interested.  Mostly because this novel would be hard to read emotionally and learn more about the evils that happened during World War II.  But I’m so glad I took a second look and decided to read it.

Before I read My Dearest Dietrich, I had basic knowledge of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that he was a Christian pastor and had participated in a plot to have Adolph Hitler assassinated and that he was executed for his part in that conspiracy.  But other than that, I didn’t know the details.

This book is wonderful.  I learned about Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life, family and his beloved fiancée Maria von Wedemeyer.  How decent, God-fearing Germans citizens were impacted by what Hitler was doing.  While not everyone was able to personally fight the evil things they saw happening, so many citizens were gravely impacted by the maniacal and brutal dictator and were just trying to survive.  It was heartening to learn of the Bonhoeffer family, their friends and many others who sought, albeit unsuccessfully, to put an end to Hitler’s reign of evil.

In Dietrich and Maria’s story, I saw that love must be brave.  It was inspiring and touching to see how Maria sought to be there for Dietrich, breathe life and hope into their future, even if it meant risking her own life.  They managed to deepen and grow their relationship through letters and monthly one-hour visits at Tegel prison under the watchful eye of the guards.  Dietrich, in turn, sought to protect Maria and his family and accepted the severe consequences of his actions.

I took my time reading My Dearest Dietrich because I didn’t want to rush by and miss some of the treasures contained therein.  This is a beautiful love story between two very different, but uniquely suited, people during a pivotal time in history.  Amanda Barratt did a wonderful job in writing this true and fictionalized, account of Dietrich and Maria’s love story.

I would like to thank Kregel Publications and NetGalley for a complimentary of the book and the opportunity to read My Dearest Dietrich by Amanda Barratt.  It’s a love story to remember.  I was no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Mountains of Grace by Kelly Irvin – Mixed feeling but worth hanging in for the themes of grace and forgiveness

I had never read Kelly Irvin’s books until about a year ago.  After reading one of her Amish themed books I loved how she developed the characters and how they grew and changed through the story.  That’s why I was eager to read Kelly’s newest book Mountains of Grace.

Mountains of Grace is different from the other Amish themed books that Kelly Irvin has written.  This novel is set in NW Montana in a community called West Kootenai.  I never knew that there were Amish communities in Montana.  From Mountains of Grace I got the impression that this Amish community, though they lived separate and different lives than the English people, the community seemed to be more closely allied with their English neighbors.

I have some mixed feelings about this book.  It wasn’t until about halfway through that something changed and captured my interest.

I struggled with the two main characters, Mercy, a 22-year-old single Amish school teacher, and Juliette Knowles, her English friend and neighbor.  The two young women couldn’t be any different from one another.  Mercy seemed quite immature especially in the scene when they were fleeing their homes because of a fast-approaching wildfire.  Mercy’s response and that of her younger siblings seemed childish and didn’t demonstrate that they comprehended the seriousness of the situation.  Juliette, on the other hand, seemed to be a vapid, shallow, mouthy gal who wanted attention and would flirt with any male who came nearby.  I didn’t like either Mercy or Juliette.

It wasn’t until about halfway through this book I found someone I liked, Spencer, who was a smoke jumper that was injured at the beginning of the book.  It was his interaction with Mercy that made me pause.  Something about Spencer was honest and he took a liking to Mercy.  It was interesting how their very different characters interacted with one another.

There were a lot of characters to keep track of in this book, family, friends, and neighbors of Mercy and Juliette.  I liked Tim, the man who was in love with Juliette.  Why he like her I didn’t understand because Juliette was such a pill.  I appreciated his integrity and his willingness to obey God’s command that he should not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever.  There some good examples of strong Christian faith.  I loved some of the prayers offered by different characters.

I had a hard time imagining Mercy as a school teacher because of her immaturity and poor decisions that resulted in her being disciplined by the Amish elders.  While it wasn’t made known, I wondered who it was that told on Mercy.  What I did like about Mercy was her boldness and desire to befriend Spencer who was so different the Amish men she knew.

I liked the themes of forgiveness that were lived out by several characters, like Angie, Spencer, Tim.  While it may not be easy, God does command us as believers to forgive those who have hurt and wronged us.

I never fully came to appreciate Juliette.  Her character was very off-putting.  I was glad that she finally disclosed what had happened to her and what caused her to turn from being a nice young lady to someone who was not so nice.  I appreciated that she was a good friend to Mercy and even tried to protect her.

I’m glad I read this book to the end.  It contains some good examples of forgiveness and mercy and God’s abundant mercy towards us as sinners.  It also showed the importance of communicating with one another, even when it’s hard.  It was almost like there were two lines of stories with the Amish and the English characters and a lot going on with multiple characters.

Would I recommend this Mountains of Grace, yes, especially if you are a Kelly Irvin fan or like Amish-themed novels.  It was interesting to learn about the men that put their lives on the line to help protect life and property and put out wildfires in treacherous terrain.

I would like to thank Zondervan Publishers and NetGalley for providing a complimentary copy of Mountains of Grace by Kelly Irvin.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.