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.

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My Dearest Dietrich by Amanda Barratt – A beautiful and sorrowful love story during a pivotal time in history

When I first saw that there was an opportunity to read My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love by author Amanda Barratt, I wasn’t interested.  Mostly because this novel would be hard to read emotionally and learn more about the evils that happened during World War II.  But I’m so glad I took a second look and decided to read it.

Before I read My Dearest Dietrich, I had basic knowledge of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that he was a Christian pastor and had participated in a plot to have Adolph Hitler assassinated and that he was executed for his part in that conspiracy.  But other than that, I didn’t know the details.

This book is wonderful.  I learned about Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life, family and his beloved fiancée Maria von Wedemeyer.  How decent, God-fearing Germans citizens were impacted by what Hitler was doing.  While not everyone was able to personally fight the evil things they saw happening, so many citizens were gravely impacted by the maniacal and brutal dictator and were just trying to survive.  It was heartening to learn of the Bonhoeffer family, their friends and many others who sought, albeit unsuccessfully, to put an end to Hitler’s reign of evil.

In Dietrich and Maria’s story, I saw that love must be brave.  It was inspiring and touching to see how Maria sought to be there for Dietrich, breathe life and hope into their future, even if it meant risking her own life.  They managed to deepen and grow their relationship through letters and monthly one-hour visits at Tegel prison under the watchful eye of the guards.  Dietrich, in turn, sought to protect Maria and his family and accepted the severe consequences of his actions.

I took my time reading My Dearest Dietrich because I didn’t want to rush by and miss some of the treasures contained therein.  This is a beautiful love story between two very different, but uniquely suited, people during a pivotal time in history.  Amanda Barratt did a wonderful job in writing this true and fictionalized, account of Dietrich and Maria’s love story.

I would like to thank Kregel Publications and NetGalley for a complimentary of the book and the opportunity to read My Dearest Dietrich by Amanda Barratt.  It’s a love story to remember.  I was no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Mountains of Grace by Kelly Irvin – Mixed feeling but worth hanging in for the themes of grace and forgiveness

I had never read Kelly Irvin’s books until about a year ago.  After reading one of her Amish themed books I loved how she developed the characters and how they grew and changed through the story.  That’s why I was eager to read Kelly’s newest book Mountains of Grace.

Mountains of Grace is different from the other Amish themed books that Kelly Irvin has written.  This novel is set in NW Montana in a community called West Kootenai.  I never knew that there were Amish communities in Montana.  From Mountains of Grace I got the impression that this Amish community, though they lived separate and different lives than the English people, the community seemed to be more closely allied with their English neighbors.

I have some mixed feelings about this book.  It wasn’t until about halfway through that something changed and captured my interest.

I struggled with the two main characters, Mercy, a 22-year-old single Amish school teacher, and Juliette Knowles, her English friend and neighbor.  The two young women couldn’t be any different from one another.  Mercy seemed quite immature especially in the scene when they were fleeing their homes because of a fast-approaching wildfire.  Mercy’s response and that of her younger siblings seemed childish and didn’t demonstrate that they comprehended the seriousness of the situation.  Juliette, on the other hand, seemed to be a vapid, shallow, mouthy gal who wanted attention and would flirt with any male who came nearby.  I didn’t like either Mercy or Juliette.

It wasn’t until about halfway through this book I found someone I liked, Spencer, who was a smoke jumper that was injured at the beginning of the book.  It was his interaction with Mercy that made me pause.  Something about Spencer was honest and he took a liking to Mercy.  It was interesting how their very different characters interacted with one another.

There were a lot of characters to keep track of in this book, family, friends, and neighbors of Mercy and Juliette.  I liked Tim, the man who was in love with Juliette.  Why he like her I didn’t understand because Juliette was such a pill.  I appreciated his integrity and his willingness to obey God’s command that he should not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever.  There some good examples of strong Christian faith.  I loved some of the prayers offered by different characters.

I had a hard time imagining Mercy as a school teacher because of her immaturity and poor decisions that resulted in her being disciplined by the Amish elders.  While it wasn’t made known, I wondered who it was that told on Mercy.  What I did like about Mercy was her boldness and desire to befriend Spencer who was so different the Amish men she knew.

I liked the themes of forgiveness that were lived out by several characters, like Angie, Spencer, Tim.  While it may not be easy, God does command us as believers to forgive those who have hurt and wronged us.

I never fully came to appreciate Juliette.  Her character was very off-putting.  I was glad that she finally disclosed what had happened to her and what caused her to turn from being a nice young lady to someone who was not so nice.  I appreciated that she was a good friend to Mercy and even tried to protect her.

I’m glad I read this book to the end.  It contains some good examples of forgiveness and mercy and God’s abundant mercy towards us as sinners.  It also showed the importance of communicating with one another, even when it’s hard.  It was almost like there were two lines of stories with the Amish and the English characters and a lot going on with multiple characters.

Would I recommend this Mountains of Grace, yes, especially if you are a Kelly Irvin fan or like Amish-themed novels.  It was interesting to learn about the men that put their lives on the line to help protect life and property and put out wildfires in treacherous terrain.

I would like to thank Zondervan Publishers and NetGalley for providing a complimentary copy of Mountains of Grace by Kelly Irvin.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Yours Truly, Thomas by Rachel Fordham – A Pleasant and Enjoyable Read

After reading the description of Yours Truly, Thomas I found myself intrigued at the storyline and setting of Rachel Fordham’s newest book.

Following the death of her father, Penny had taken a job to support herself and her mother.  For three years she has been working as a clerk at the Dead Letters Office in Washington DC.  It’s at work that she comes across romantic letters written by a man named Thomas to a woman named Clara Finley in Alexandria.  Penny takes it upon herself to try and get the letters to Clara, only to find out that she had died in a tragic accident.  That’s just the beginning and soon Penny finds herself on a train going to a place she’s never been, Azure Spring Iowa, to try and find the man who has touched her heart through his letters to another.

I found the idea of a Dead Letters Office intriguing and how, over 135 years ago, they would have researched to try and find a recipient of an undeliverable letter.  I liked the character Penny, she was kind, thoughtful, caring and romantic.  She was also very brave, adventuresome and a bit naïve.

In the story about Thomas, there was a bit of a forgiveness and redemption theme going on.  Thomas was a better man and he changed and grew through difficult circumstances and wrong choices he had made in the past.  In this story, you can see how friendships can impact others and make a difference for good, people like Dinah, Margaret and Abraham.

The Christian faith is not an overt part of the story, but God, prayer, and providence are mentioned.  I think it would have been a richer story if faith had played a more prominent role.  The story is clean and free of sexual immorality and profanity.

Yours Truly, Thomas was a pleasant and enjoyable read.  This is the first book I’ve read by Rachel Fordham and I look forward to reading more of her books in the future.

I was provided with a complimentary copy of Yours Truly, Thomas by Revell Publishing and NetGalley.  I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

 

Final Word – by John MacArthur – A Timely and Sobering Reminder on why we need the Bible

I respect John MacArthur as a pastor, teacher and authority on the Bible and that’s why I was excited at the opportunity to read his newest book Final Word – Why We Need the Bible.

We are living in turbulent times, in our nation and in this world.  We are seeing the effects of postmodernism and the denial of absolute truth and right and wrong.  As a Christian, I would hope and pray that it wouldn’t impact the Christian church, but it has.  In recent weeks and months, there have been controversies over women preaching and the Southern Baptist Convention was dealing with issues of gender identity, sexuality, racism, and intersectionality.  These issues can be very divisive and difficult to respond to, especially if you don’t have the knowledge and confidence in the absolute authority of God’s Word the Bible.

John MacArthur’s book Final Word is very timely in helping Christians to understand the bedrock of our faith, the Bible.  John is very measured and precise in the issues he raises, the examples he gives as evidence and what the Bible says and how we, as believing Christians, should respond.

John lays out the evidence to show how The Bible Is Under Attack both from the secular culture and even from within the church.  He reminds the reader that the ultimate attack is from Satan.  Not only does he show current examples but looks back over history.  As I was reading this book, I felt like I was reading headline news.

From there, John goes on to show with unapologetic authority that, The Bible is True, The Bible is Authoritative, The Bible is the Catalyst of Spiritual Growth, The Bible is Central to Faithful Ministry, and The Bible is Food for the Soul.

If you read Final Word, you will come away with a clear understanding of what’s happening in the world and within the church today and have a historical perspective as to how we got to where we are.  You will come away better equipped to understand and stand in defense of the Bible.  This book is refreshingly truthful and stands strong on the Word of God.

I highly recommend Final Word by John MacArthur.  This book is a keeper, you’ll want to read it again and will likely want to share it with other believers, those in the ministry.

I would like to thank Reformation Trust Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Final Word in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Ever Faithful by Karen Barnett – A Real Gem

I love finding books by authors whose work is new to me.  I found a real gem in Karen Barnett’s new book Ever Faithful, which is the third book in the Vintage National Parks Novel series.

Reading Ever Faithful was like a breath of fresh air.  Obviously, the setting of the novel in Yellowstone National Park in the 1930s brings a whole different feel to the book.  The pace of the story is relaxed and enjoyable and I feel like the characters were unveiled slowly and over time the reader gets to know them.  I enjoyed the characters, even though there was a mystery and someone made bad choices, characters weren’t vilified.  Faith was a part of the storyline, especially forgiveness.

Karen does a great job in her descriptions of nature and the surroundings.  She does so without being too wordy and lets the readers imagine the beauty of the Yellowstone National Park.  It was interesting learning what the park was like 90 years ago and what it would have been like to work at the park.  I had never heard of the Civilian Conservation Corps, but it sounded like an excellent program to help young men during a very hard time in our Nation.  It was also a great way to introduce people from different walks of life and bring them together for the storyline and watch them grow and learn.  You can’t help but know all the research and time Karen must have put in to write this book and make the characters and setting come alive.

I loved reading Ever Faithful by Karen Barnett.  I took my time reading the book because every time I opened the book, I felt like I was taking a break and going somewhere beautiful with people I enjoyed.  I could set aside the demands of the moment and get away to a different place and time.  After reading Ever Faithful, I want to go back and Karen’s other books and look forward to her future novels.

I would like to thank NetGalley and WaterBrook Publishers for the opportunity to read Ever Faithful by Karen Barnett in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

Ever Faithful will be available on June 18, 2019.

 

 

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.