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.

 

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.