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.