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.

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

Lake Season by Denise Hunter – Likeable characters, in a lovely town with a blend of mystery and romance. I didn’t want this story to end.

I love a good mystery and when it’s tied to a little romance that’s a book I’ll want to read.  That’s why I was excited to read Denise Hunter’s newest book Lake Season (A Bluebell Inn Romance).

Molly, Levi and Grace Bennett are siblings whose parents had died in a tragic accident a year ago.  Grace is 18 years old and set upon staying in Bluebell.  But it will take the commitment of all three of them to fulfill their parent’s dream and turn their home into a bed and breakfast inn.  Ten months later, their inn is about to open when their first unofficial guest Adam Bradford walks in.  Little do they know but under their roof is the famous author, who writes under the pen name Nathaniel Quinn, whose work Molly loves.  Adam is in town to do a little research to help him get inspired so he can write his next bestseller.  Adam is quite taken with Molly whom he considers his muse and he gets distracted when he tries to help Molly find the writer and recipient of a letter that’s been lost for 57 years.

That’s the background of Lake Season, which is set in the lovely lakeside town of Bluebell, North Carolina.  My favorite character was Adam, he was kind and caring.  He was rather shy and had some insecurities you wouldn’t expect for an accomplished writer.  Molly was sweet, unpretentious, passionate and caring.  She even cared about people she never knew.  But she knew the importance of the letter she had in her possession and wanted to get it into the hands of the people it belonged to.  I appreciated the caring and commitment that Levi, Molly, and Grace had for one another, a self-sacrificing love.  I especially liked the relationship between Adam and Molly.  They got to know each other and their attraction more than skin deep.  I enjoyed the unfolding mystery of who Lizzie and Ben were and what had happened to them all those years ago.

Lake Season was a story that I didn’t want to end, so I took my time reading and savoring this story.  When I finished, I felt a little sad leaving behind the characters I had come to care about.  The characters were very likable and the town seemed inviting and like a place I would like to visit.  I loved the blend of mystery and romance.  Denise Hunter is on the shortlist of writers whose work I want to read.  When I was reading Lake Season, I thought this would be a perfect Hallmark Channel movie.

I wish there had been more of the character’s faith included in the story, I think it would have been a richer story.  I appreciated that the novel was clean in content and language.

If you like a blend of romance and mystery be sure to read Lake Season by Denise Hunter.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Lake Season and the opinions expressed are entirely my own.

 

Glory Road by Lauren K. Denton – Wonderful, lovely, I didn’t want the story to end!

Can I say that an author is one of my favorites after reading only one of her books, Hurricane Season?  Maybe not, but I was excited at the opportunity to read Lauren K. Denton’s newest book Glory Road.

I absolutely loved this book!  Lauren has a way of writing and helping you to see the beauty in the everyday ordinary life.  From the people to the places and the beauty of creation.

Glory Road takes place in Alabama and tells the story of Jessie who is a single mom, her 14-year-old daughter Evan and her Mom Gus.  Following her divorce, Jessie moved back home to Perry where she grew up.  Her home is next door to her Mother’s house and right next door to her garden shop the Twig on an old dirt road.  It’s summertime and Evan will be starting in high school come September.  Gus seems to be having some episodes of confusion and forgetfulness and Jessie is worried that it may be something serious.  Jessie is content with her life the way it is and she’s not looking to make changes or room for romance.  But sometimes God brings people and changes into our lives when we don’t feel ready.

What did I love about Glory Road?  I loved the characters, especially Jessie and her relationship with her daughter Evan and Mom Gus and their love, kindness and caring for one another.  I loved the relationships between Jessie and Ben and Jessie and Sumner.  I loved the relationship between Evan and Nick who takes after his father Ben.  Lauren has a way of writing that is almost poetic or lyrical.  She captures the character’s thoughts and feelings in a thought-provoking way that caused me to reflect on my own life.  She also paints lovely word pictures of the places, indoors and outdoors, that helps the reader to imagine what it looks like.  She does that without being too wordy or letting words get in the way of the reader’s imagination.  I really enjoyed the quotes on gardening at the beginning of each chapter.

On a more serious note, as someone whose parent had Alzheimer’s I appreciated the way Gus’ life and experiences were handled.  It helped me to see how scary it must be for the person experiencing forgetfulness and for the family who sees it and are unsure on how to handle it.  That part of the story rang a little too close to home.

There’s only one mention of God in the book, other than two phrases that use the name of God.  Even though God, Christianity, and faith were not specifically mentioned I had the feeling that faith undergirded the character’s lives.  I would like to have seen elements of faith as part of the storyline but greatly appreciated a clean novel.

I absolutely loved Glory Road by Lauren K. Denton.  It’s a wonderful, lovely book that leaves you wanting the story to continue on.  Lauren is on my short list of writers that when they write a new book, I want to be sure to read it.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and BookLook for the opportunity the read Glory Road by Lauren K. Denton in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

Over the Line by Kelly Irvin – Mixed Reaction

Over the Line is Kelly Irvin’s newest book in the romantic suspense genre.  I recently discovered Kelly’s writing when I read two of her recent Amish themed books and fell in love with her writing.  That’s why I was excited to read her newest book.

Over the Line is an action-packed novel that seems like it could have been taken from today’s headline news.  Chef and restaurateur, Gabriella Benoit is locking up her restaurant late at night and is met by a stranger who was carrying a gun and calling her name.  As he clutches his chest and falls to the ground he says “Jake” but dies before he can say anything more about Gabby’s brother.  She’d never imagined she’d need help from her former fiancé Eli Cavazos to find her missing brother or find herself in the middle of an illegal gun smuggling ring at the border.  How is she going to protect her sister and family from some very desperate and dangerous men?  Just who are the good guys and who are the bad ones?

I had a mixed reaction to Over the Line.  I appreciate that it’s clean and not filled with sexual immorality or filthy language.  There is some Christian faith included in the book and I thought it was better and more genuine towards the end of the book.  I liked Eli’s mother and her openness and transparency and how different characters dealt with the issue of forgiveness.  I especially liked the character Deacon, he was a nice surprise.  As you get to know him you can see he’s a decent sincere person and Natalie was very likeable too.

But over-all, I feel like the action was center stage and eclipsed the characters.  Some of the prayers or mentions of God and faith seemed like they were out of place or just thrown in, instead of a natural overflow of the character’s thinking or feelings.  Some of the character’s actions didn’t make a lot of sense, like Deacon trespassing or Gabby confronting a police officer she suspected was corrupt because she was overcome with emotion instead of using reason and logic.  That didn’t make sense coming from a person who was a former district attorney.  The scene where Gabriella and Natalie crashed the van doesn’t seem realistic because the dialogue goes on and on when the bad guys are coming their way with big guns.  I wasn’t overly fond of the main character Gabriella.

As I was reading this book, I kept thinking this must be the second book in a series because there was a lot of back-story between Gabriella and Eli and what had happened in Natalie’s life previously.  I was surprised to find out that this wasn’t the second book.  Some of the background information and questions I had were answered later in the book.

I would recommend Over the Line to someone who likes Kelly Irvin’s writing, with a note that it’s much different than her Amish themed books.  Also, for those who enjoy Christian suspense novels.  Over the Line will be available June 11, 2019.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Over the Line by Kelly Irvin in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

The Memory House by Rachel Hauck – Makes characters and their world come to life

I love finding authors whose work is new to me and when they are good it’s like finding a treasure trove.  The Memory House is the first book I’ve read by Rachel Hauck and I very much enjoyed it.

What does NYPD Sergeant, Beck Holiday, have in common with the lovely bride, Everleigh Applegate, from Waco Texas in the 1950’s?  How will their lives intersect?  Can wounds that were suffered and emotional scars be healed?  Or is life as they know it over?  Will hope one day return?  Will there be another chance for happiness?  Can you rebuild a friendship with a friend who doesn’t remember the past?  Will the men in their lives, Bruno Endicott and Don Callahan, persevere in winning their hearts?  Will they find what it takes to overcome their career challenges?

What I liked best about this book were the characters, and though their lives were very different from one another, their lives shared some common themes.  I found the characters and their struggles very relatable.  It was interesting learning about the career of a sports agent.  I also enjoyed learning a little bit of Texas history.

I confess at first, I found Beck Holiday kind of hard to understand and like.  She rubbed me the wrong way with her crummy attitude and lack of communication.  But over time, as more about her character’s background was revealed I came to understand and even like her.  I found myself frustrated with Everleigh and her inability or unwillingness to make changes and get her life back.  I almost felt suffocated by the grief she wallowed in, but then I realized that perhaps the character felt suffocated too.

I wish that some of the main characters had a strong Christian faith and that it had been woven into the storyline.  Some of the background characters were Christians and I especially appreciated Gaynor and her display of grace and forgiveness.

Overall, I liked The Memory House and recommend it.  Author Rachel Hauck has a way of drawing a reader into the lives of her characters and making their world come alive.  I think it must be challenging for an author to write about two timelines and two sets of characters.  But Rachel did a wonderful job and it was easy to switch back and forth between the timelines.  The Memory House is a place I would like to visit.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and Audra Jennings for the opportunity to read The Memory House in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Here’s some information about author Rachel Hauck:

Rachel Hauck is an award winning, New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author.

Her book The Wedding Dress was named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times Book Reviews. She is a double RITA finalist, and a Christy and Carol Award Winner.

Her book, Once Upon A Prince, first in the Royal Wedding Series, was filmed for an Original Hallmark movie.

Rachel has been awarded the prestigious Career Achievement Award for her body of original work by Romantic Times Book Reviews.

A member of the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers, she teaches workshops and leads worship at the annual conference. She is a past Mentor of The Year.

At home, she’s a wife, writer, worship leader and works out at the gym semi-enthusiastically.

A graduate of Ohio State University (Go Bucks!) with a degree in Journalism, she’s a former sorority girl and a devoted Ohio State football fan. Her bucket list is to stand on the sidelines with Ryan Day.

She lives in sunny central Florida with her husband and ornery cat.

For more information, visit www.rachelhauck.com, Facebook (@rachelhauck), Twitter (@RachelHauck) and Instagram (@rachelhauck)

 

If you would like to read The Memory House by Rachel Hauck enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway:

 

 

On Magnolia Lane by Denise Hunter – If you like a good love story, time to step away for little while and read.

On Magnolia Lane is the first book that I’ve read by author by Denise Hunter and I really enjoyed it.  This is the third book in the Blue Ridge Romance Series.  Though it’s part of a series, it’s good as a standalone book.

The story is about Jack McReady who happens to be the local Pastor.  One of his congregants is Daisy Pendleton and she’s been meeting with Jack for counseling over a couple of years now.  He’s pretty much head over heals in love with Daisy and she is oblivious.  Will she ever be able to see Jack as something more than her Pastor?  Will Jack ever be bold enough to ask Daisy out on a date?  Or will this romance need a little help from their friends?

I really liked the characters in this book.  They weren’t perfect, but they were kind, descent and caring people that I’d like to spend time with.  The story takes place in the small town of Copper Creak, Georgia and after reading this book I wish it really existed because I’d like to visit.

One of my favorite characters was the mystery woman Julia.  I found myself drawn into her quest and appreciated how understanding and gracious she was.  I liked the friendship that developed between Daisy and Julia.

Denise’s style of writing is very inviting.  She has a way of helping the reader to visualize the places and people, but without being too wordy.  She leaves room for imagination.  I thought Denise was insightful in bringing out what was going on within the characters, their insecurities and wounds from the past that haven’t quite healed, that still impacted relationships.

I really enjoyed On Magnolia Lane.  I appreciated that the Christian faith was included in the character’s lives and that it was a clean novel and free from filthy language and sexual immorality.  There are some details about a character’s past that comes out, but the sinful choices were not glorified or made light of.

In today’s world, where every where you turn there’s more bad news, it’s really nice to be able to step away for a little while, into small town with a little romance.  If you like a good love story, be sure to read On Magnolia Lane by Denise Hunter.  I look forward to reading more of Denise’s novels.

I would like to thank BookLook and Thomas Nelson Publishers for the opportunity to ready On Magnolia Lane in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Delayed Justice by Cara Putman – Law, Justice, Intrigue – A Delicate Topic Handled with Care

When I first read the description of Delayed Justice by Cara Putman there was a part of me that wanted to read it.  I love books about the law and justice that are filled with intrigue.  But the subject matter, sexual abuse of children, almost made me shy way.  I’m glad that I didn’t let that stop me, because this was a really good book.

Delayed Justice is about a public defender, Jamie Nichols, who has finally come to a place of healing in her own life.  She has found her voice to speak up and bring to justice the man who took away her childhood.  But she will be up against political forces who will stop at nothing to shut her up.  Chandler Bolton, a former Vet, has scars of his own but now works to help former Vets integrate into life back home in the United States.  Together they will have the opportunity to help a young girl get justice and begin to heal, in part through the use of a therapy dog Aslan.

I especially liked the friendships that Jamie had with Caroline, Hayden, Emilie and Savannah.  They were the kind of friends you want in your corner.  They were there for Jamie when she needed them and even when she didn’t know it.  I appreciated how Jamie’s parents responded when hearing for the first time what their daughter endured as a child and how they came alongside her to be there for her as she sought justice.  I loved Chandler and his patient and tender approach as he sought to get to know this intriguing and heroic young woman.

Cara did a great job in handling a sensitive and delicate topic which has affected far too many people and left indelible scars.  She was able to tell the stories of Jamie and Tiffany and what happened to them without going into graphic details.  She kept the focus on the people and used the story to help make known some of the ways child sexual abuse may impact survivors long after childhood.  Seeking justice and healing the emotional and cognitive scars can happen.  It takes time and support.  I appreciated how Cara included the Christian faith and wove it into the characters and storyline.

I highly recommended Delayed Justice by Cara Putman.  Her legal background and research came through to help make a really good novel.  Cara’s writing is new to me and I look forward to discovering her earlier work.

I would like to thank BookLook and Thomas Nelson Publishers for the opportunity to read Delayed Justice in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock – Relatable & Heartwarming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

 

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.

Sister Eve and the Blue Nun by Lynne Hinton – Steer Clear, Don’t Waste Your Time or Money

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I hardly know where to begin my review about Sister Eve and the Blue Nun by author Lynne Hinton.  An alternate title for this book might be Sister Eve the Lying Nun.

This is the second book I’ve ready by Lynne Hinton.  I like mystery and suspense novels, especially by Christian authors that weave their Christian faith into the storyline and characters.  This book does not even come close to that.

My objections?  The first thing that caught my attention was that the main character Sister Eve lied; repeatedly lied throughout the story.  Purposeful and intentionally lying by a nun seemed rather incongruent with a character who is supposed to be a person of faith.  The character doesn’t express any grief or sorrow over her sin.  She doesn’t seem to acknowledge or be aware that lying is bad or that it’s a sin that Christ died for.  Not only does this character lie, she steals, compromises a crime scene and hopes that Father Oliver, the head of the monastery, will remain silent about her senseless and wrong actions.  Secondly, throughout this book Eve makes the stupidest decisions and she lacks common sense.  She needlessly puts herself in danger and refuses to accept help or seek help when she needs it.

For brevity’s sake I’ll wrap up my objections.  Eve, for no explained reason seems to have a serious mistrust of police.  She is prideful and arrogant in thinking she is the be all and end all in solving crimes.  So much so that she not only compromises the crime scene but she steals a key piece of evidence.  What didn’t make a lick of sense is that once she established that someone had been murdered she didn’t have a sense of urgency on calling the police or concern that there may be a murderer lurking about and she may not be safe.  That’s just the beginning for Eve’s stupid decisions.  This book was painful to read.  More than anything Eve was irritating and not someone I want to read about.

Obviously, when I read a book about a nun I know that there may be things from the Catholic faith brought up.  I found the differences between Protestant Christianity and Catholic faith disconcerting.  For example, when Eve was praying to the saints, but not to God.

It seemed as if the author was agenda driven about women and the church.  In this story Eve expresses thoughts that women are oppressed by the church.  Late in the story, another character concurs with her feelings.

There was nothing much of Christian faith shared in this book.  There was a scene that seemed reminiscent of new age philosophy when Eve is injured.  It doesn’t square with Biblical Christianity.

Was there anything likable in this book?  I did like Eve’s dad Captain Jack.  He seemed to care about his daughter and had some common sense.

All in all, I thought this book was bad, really bad.  Theologically, it’s out to lunch.  The main character does things that don’t make any sense.  I was sorely disappointed by this book.

Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this book.  Steer clear, don’t waste your time or money on Sister Eve and the Blue Nun by Lynne Hinton.

I would like to thank BookLook and Thomas Nelson Publishers for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

Parables by John MacArthur – An Excellent Read and Resource

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Pastor John MacArthur’s latest book is Parables – The Mysteries of God’s Kingdom Revealed Through The Stories Jesus Told. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to read this book because of the solid Bible teaching it contains.

Before diving into the parables, Pastor MacArthur explains, from Matthew 13, why Jesus started teaching in parables.  He had specific truths He was trying to convey to those who had the ears to hear. It wasn’t to make it easy for the common people to understand what He was teaching. Instead, the symbolism used in the parables was to hide the truth from those who had no desire to know what Christ was saying.

Pastor MacArthur brings clarity and helps the reader understand the truths contained in these stories. Unlike allegories, not everything in a parable has significance, but there is a profound truth to be understood. In this book a parable is defined as, “an ingenious simple word picture illuminating a profound spiritual lesson.”

This book covers select parables in ten chapters, including the parables of the soils/seed, the good Samaritan, and the rich man and Lazarus. Some of the parables are only a sentence or two long, but there’s a meaning that Christ wanted His followers to understand.

In this day and age, it is important for Christians to be wise and discerning and know when a pastor or teacher is accurately teaching God’s Word. This book will help you to be equipped as you study God’s Word for yourself. One of the benefits to the reader is that you will be able to take what you’ve learned and apply it as you study the Bible and read Jesus’ parables and teachings for yourself.

I greatly appreciate Pastor John MacArthur’s high view of God and Scripture. He is thorough in his study and exposition of the Bible. He is insightful and courageous as he speaks the truth about what’s happening in our culture and in today’s churches.

I highly recommend Parables by Pastor John MacArthur. This book is a great resource for anyone who loves to read and study God’s Word and for those who are new to studying the Bible. Whether you are a new Christian or mature, you’ll want to read this book.

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

Seven Women And The Secret Of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas – An Interesting and Challenging Read

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After hearing author Eric Metaxas interviewed on several radio shows talking about his latest book, Seven Women And The Secret Of Their Greatness, I wanted to read about these influential women who impacted their generation, nation and beyond.  This is the first book I’ve read by this author.

The book focuses on the lives of Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Saint Maria of Paris, Corrie ten Boom, Rosa Parks and Mother Teresa.  Eric did a lot of research and went into great detail about their lives and the culture in which they lived and the impact they made.  Other than Corrie ten Boom, I knew precious little or nothing about their lives and how they influenced the world of their day.

Eric Metaxas is a Christian who is intelligent and well-informed.  As such, I wish he had included a brief chapter telling why he selected these women.  Based on his choice of women, I don’t believe this book is apologetic in nature.

I really enjoyed the chapters on Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Corrie ten Boom and Rosa Parks.  I found my faith was encouraged, challenged and strengthened by these women of great faith and strong conviction who endured much.  I struggling reading about Joan of Arc and Saint Maria of Paris, two very unconventional women, I think in part, because I was distracted by their theology and wondered how Biblical Christianity would respond them.  I knew of Mother Teresa, but didn’t know much about her life until I read this book.

This book is not a quick read, nor a light read.  But if you like to learn history through biographies, you will like this book.  This book gives the reader an appreciation for what women in the past had to endure, without the freedoms we have in this country that people fought for and the modern conveniences we can easily take for granted.

I would like to thank BookLook and Thomas Nelson Publishers for the opportunity to read Seven Women by Eric Metaxas in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

A House Divided by Robert Whitlow – A Compelling and Excellent Read

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I was privileged to read Robert Whitlow’s book A House Divided.  He is an excellent writer and knows how to write good fiction.  He skillfully and realistically weaves his Christian faith in to the storyline through the lives of the characters.  But he doesn’t beat you over the head with it.  Instead you see the Christian faith lived out in the lives of imperfect, hurting and broken people.

I’ll be honest with you there were times A House Divided was hard to read.  If you know an alcoholic or have seen how destructive alcoholism is you may also find this book painful to read.  Read it anyway.  There were times I found myself angry at the main character Corbin and wanted to yell at him so he would wake up and see that he was destroying his life, relationships and was endangering others.

Robert Whitlow has the ability to draw the reader in to the story from the beginning.  I found the characters very engaging and cared about them from the first page to the last, even when they weren’t so loveable.  It was interesting and challenging to see how each character, Ray, Roxy, Cindy, Billy and others, responded to Corbin and the situations and people they were involved with.  I loved seeing grace given when it was least deserved and unexpected.  I couldn’t help but wonder how I would have responded.

A House Divided is a book with characters that will stay with me.  If Robert Whitlow writes a sequel to this one I want to read it.

There are some authors whose work I want to read, whatever they write, because they are that good.  Robert Whitlow is one of those writers.  I highly recommend A House Divided by Robert Whitlow.  You will be challenged and grow as you read it.

I would like to thank the people at BookLook and Thomas Nelson Publishers for providing me a free copy of Robert Whitlow’s book, A House Divided, to read in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.