A Long Bridge Home by Kelly Irvin – Interesting Likable Characters and Storyline, But Has Some Wrong Theology

Kelly Irvin has quickly become one of my favorite Christian fiction writers.  Until I started reading her novels, I hadn’t read too many Amish theme books.  I was excited at the opportunity to read Kelly’s newest book A Long Bridge Home, the second book in the Amish of Big Sky Country, which takes place during the same timeframe as the first book, Mountains of Grace.  Wildfires are burning in the mountains near the community of West Kootenai, Montana.

Christine and the Mast family evacuate but do not intend to return to West Kootenai.  Her mother and father have decided it’s time for their family to return to Kansas where her father’s parents live and need help in their older years.  Christine is desperate to stay because of her special friend Andy Lambright.  While they are not engaged, they’ve talked about marriage and seem to be heading in that direction.  Andy is evacuating too, but he’s returning to his family’s home so he can deal with some unfinished business.  Andy and Christine persuade her parents to let her stay a little bit closer in St. Ignatius, Montana.

Christine will be staying with family, but she will be experiencing a whole new world than what she’s used to.  Andy returns home and finds old wounds still haven’t healed and the best remedy is forgiveness, even though he was one who was wronged.  Will his lack of honesty drive Christine away?  Will Christine remain faithful to her special friend?  Or will she be lured away by the excitement of her new friend Raymond Old Fox and a culture that is foreign to her?

I really liked the characters in A Long Bridge Home.  My favorite was Andy, he was an honest and vulnerable and was growing and maturing.  I liked Christine but found her secrecy about her relationship with Raymond betrayed her conscience.  Raymond Old Fox was an interesting character and I liked him.  I wondered what attracted him to pursue a friendship with Christine.  I found it interesting to learn about the Native Indian history and culture and to see some of the similarities to the Amish culture and the contrasts.

Where I ran into some discomfort with this book was how Christine wrestled with the differences in her Christian faith and spirituality from Raymond’s Native Indian culture.  It is interesting to learn of other cultures and what they believe but, as a Christian, we cannot forget that the Bible is the plumbline of truth and of right and wrong, heaven and hell, sin, rebellion, truth, righteousness, forgiveness, repentance, and salvation through Jesus Christ alone.

Christine hesitated to share her faith, in part, because of the mistreatment of Raymond’s Native Indian ancestors at the hands of people who said they were Christians.

I tried to let Christine wrestle through what she was learning and how that differed from what she knew of the Bible.  I struggled with her trying to see her Christian faith and Raymond’s spirituality as equivalent.  Christine seemed to think that Raymond’s belief in a Creator was the same as her belief in the God of the Bible.  At one point she said, “He’s your God too.”  I wanted to tell Christine, “No He’s not…not at this point.”  But I did appreciate that Christine wanted to pray for Raymond and she felt the need to tell him about Jesus Christ even though that was not done in her Amish culture.  I appreciated Andy’s trust in Christine and his more mature understanding of the differences between the Amish and Indian religious beliefs.

Christine had some wrong theology and I highlighted a number of statements and made many notes.  I tried to let the character wrestle with her thoughts and theological understanding.  Ideally, I would like to have wrong theology corrected in the novel, perhaps by another character or by a character’s growing understanding.

Is the right theology important in a fiction novel by a Christian author?  Yes, because that book may influence a reader for right or wrong.

There was much that I liked about A Long Bridge Home, the characters and storyline.  But I struggled with some of the wrong theology the main character expressed.

I would like to thank Zondervan Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read A Long Bridge Home by Kelly Irvin.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Promised Land by Robert Whitlow – Intrigue, Suspense, Interesting Characters Mixed with Fascinating Cultures

When author Robert Whitlow writes a book, I want to read it.  That’s why I was excited at the opportunity to read his newest book Promised Land and I loved it.

Readers are reintroduced to characters from his last novel Chosen People.  Hana Abboud, a Christian Arab attorney from Israel who is living in the United States, her husband Daud Hasan a Christian Arab from Israel, friend and colleague Jakob Brodsky, and dear friends Ben and Sadie Neumann.  While reading this book, I felt like I was being reunited and catching up with old friends.

The story begins with Rahal Abaza in Qatar, five years earlier he had a jarring experience that set his life on a new course that will intersect with Daud and Hana.  Hana is at home and awakens for her night watch, a time of prayer, reading Scripture and worship.  While she does not know the specifics of all that’s going on with her husband Daud, she is praying for him while he is in Egypt on a mission for the CIA.  He will need those prayers for what he’s about to encounter.

From the get-go, Promised Land is off and running.  There’s a lot of suspense, intrigue, and action, but it doesn’t interfere with the development of characters or take the place of an interesting storyline.  It’s well balanced.

My favorite thing about Robert Whitlow’s writing is how he develops characters.  Hana is one of the most interesting characters.  It’s fascinating to see and consider what it’s like to be an Arab Christian who is from Israel.  You would think that there might be conflict, but Hana is a very gracious woman who takes her faith seriously.  She loves her family and is a faithful friend.  I found Daud intriguing and felt on edge with all the situations and people he encounters.  Jakob is an interesting fellow.  He always seems to take on cases that look impossible and that will require a lot of work and research to see if they will pan out.  Ben and his daughter Sadie…absolutely love them.

I don’t want to spoil the story about what happens, so I’ll leave it with a brief intro into the storyline and characters.  But I hope that you will pick up a copy of Promised Land by Robert Whitlow.  It’s the second book in this series but is a good stand-alone book.  You may want to go back and read Chosen People so you can have a richer connection with the characters.

Robert Whitlow is a gifted writer.  He tells a good story and develops rich likable characters.  I highly recommend Promised Land by Robert Whitlow.  If you like action, suspense, intrigue, and interesting likable characters you will like Promised Land.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Promised Land by Robert Whitlow.  I was provided with a free copy of this book and was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

 

Dark Ambitions by Irene Hannon – Character Development Is Missing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.