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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

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.