Through the Autumn Air by Kelly Irvin – A Real Gem and Lovely Read

One of my favorite things is when I find a book that I love by an author whose work is new to me.  I found a gem in Through the Autumn Air by Kelly Irvin.  I absolutely loved this book, from the moment I first started reading it.  I haven’t read a lot of Amish themed novels, but there was something about storyline that caught my attention.

Mary Katherine Ropp is a sixty-year-old widow and her last daughter is getting married.  Most in the community would have her living with one of her married children and helping to raise her grandchildren.  But Mary Katherine isn’t like most Amish women.  She’s little bit spunky, independent, she likes to read, write stories and even dares to dream about opening a book store with her English friend Dottie.  Also, part of the community is Ezekiel Miller who has been widowed for many years.  In spite of grief, he kept family going through his business the Purpose Martin Café.  Both Mary Katherine and Ezekiel can’t imagine getting married again so late in life, especially since they had wonderful marriages.  But Ezekiel can imagine hiring another cook to help at the restaurant.  In to the storyline steps the not so skilled, but very hungry burglar, Burke McMillan, who has a late-night encounter with Mary Katherine.

What I loved best about this book were the characters.  They were very likable people that I would enjoy knowing.  Mary Katherine was my favorite and I loved her ongoing conversations with her husband Moses.  I loved Ezekiel’s tender caring heart, tender for Mary Katherine, open to help and give a new start to a stranger, loving to his grandchildren, especially Kenneth.  Burke is a man of mystery.  Is he just a down on his luck kind of guy, is he the thief that’s been plaguing the Amish community or is something more going on with him?

Kelly Irvin is a wonderful writer.  She knows how to make characters interesting and very likeable, even in plain every day ordinary life.  She gives insight into the characters and what they are going through at this stage in their lives.  The Amish community setting is interesting but doesn’t overwhelm the story, instead it’s the background and reveals how these characters live their lives.  I could identify with many of the feelings that Mary Katherine was expressing.

The one person, I wasn’t too keen on was her son Thomas because he was so disrespectful to his mother.  I would think as a Christian, he would have tried to honor his mother, but instead he treated her more like a child who has misbehaved.

I loved Through the Autumn Air by Kelly Irvin and I look forward to reading more of her books.  I highly recommend this story, it was lovely!  I read this book during a very difficult time in my life and I found it to be a very comforting place to escape to for a while.

I would like to thank BookLook and Zondervan Publishers for the opportunity to read Through the Autumn Air in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

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If I Live by Terri Blackstock – You Won’t Want to Put It Down

I love reading Christian mysteries and suspense novels and Terri Blackstock is one of my favorite writers.  That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to read her newest book, If I Live, which is being released March 6, 2018.

This is the third book, in the If I Run series, which tells the story of Casey Cox who has been on the lamb since her friend Brent Pace was found brutally murdered.  She is the chief suspect because her DNA was found all over the crime scene.  Dylan Roberts, who was hired by Pace family to bring Casey to justice, now believes she is innocent.  So much so that he has been working with Casey to compile evidence that will break open this case wide open and allow the guilty to be exposed.

From the opening chapters of If I Live, the reader had better be strapped in because it takes off and doesn’t let up until the very end.  Each chapter in the storyline is told from a different character’s perspective.  It’s a different technique and almost makes you feel like you are in the character’s head and seeing things from their point of view.

I really liked If I Live, it’s full of suspense and intrigue.  It’s fast paced.  I appreciate how the Christian faith has been woven in to several characters.  Casey become a Christian during the course of this book and it’s interesting to see all that happens to her from the point of view of a new believer.  I especially liked how Casey recognized that though it was tempting to be angry and unforgiving towards those who had done evil, the Holy Spirit was showing her that a Christian doesn’t respond the same way as the world does.  I liked the developing relationship between Casey and Dylan.

As a Christian, I appreciate how author Terri Blackstock tells a good story without including sexually explicit scenes, filthy language and shows the Christian faith in the lives of characters.

After everything that Casey has been through, will it all be for naught?  Will she make it out of this alive?  Will she be free or spend the rest of her life in jail?  Just how much evil can one person get away with?  How widespread is this corruption and how many lives have been affected?  Who is clean, who is dirty and most importantly who can be trusted?

Well to find out the answers to those questions and more, you’ll need to read Terri Blackstock’s newest book, If I Live, which I highly recommend.

I would like to thank NetGalley and Zondervan Publishers for the opportunity to read If I Live in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz – Context, Context, Context

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Desiring to learn what the Bible teaches us about prayer, I selected Anne Graham Lotz’ newest book The Daniel Prayer.  Unfortunately, after reading this book, I cannot recommend it because it’s off base theologically.

One of the first things Anne should have noted was the importance of not taking Scripture out of context.  But it wasn’t until page 181 that she notes the “danger of taking God’s Word out of context and manipulating it so that it seems to speak personally and specifically.”  But at this point in the book, she has already taken Scripture out of context and read into it and misapplied it many times, rather than reading what it says in context.

One of the phrases Anne uses throughout this is “prayer which moves Heaven.”  She uses it a lot.  It seemed like she was substituting Heaven for God the Father.  Heaven isn’t moved, but God may be moved by our prayers.

Many times in this book Anne does eisegesis; she reads into the Scripture based on her own thoughts and ideas as opposed to exegesis interpreting the Scripture based on what it says in context.

Page 49 – “God reassured me from 1 John 2:27 that I had received an anointing from Him, so I was not to worry.”

Page 54 – “Noah claimed God’s promise of salvation by doing everything exactly as God said.”  Noah believed and obeyed God.

Page 58 – Anne tells about her daughter Rachel-Ruth calling her about the 276 Nigerian girls who had been kidnapped by Boko Haram.  She found it significant that in Acts 27:37, the number of people on board Paul’s ship was 276.  “And we will pray until all 276 are safely home, either with their parents in Nigeria, or with their Heavenly Father.”  Feeling prompted to pray by a Scripture verse is fine, but taking that verse out of context is not good.

Page 61 – Talking about 2 Chronicle 7:13-15, “If a promise could be worn out from use, this one might be tattered beyond recognition.  But promises cannot be worn out.  They are just as valid today as when they were first issued.”  This verse pertains to the nation of Israel, not the United States of America.  It is good when a believer humbles themselves and repents and but it’s not good to take a verse context and misapply it.

Page 70 – Anne speculates about the time when Jesus took three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, and was transfigured in their presence.  “The lesson God drove home to me was this:  Had Jesus invited all twelve of His disciples to draw aside with Him for a time of private prayer?  Did only three of them accept His invitation?  Did the other nine give excuses…?”  Anne is reading into to Scripture.  None of the Gospels indicate that Jesus invited all twelve of the disciples.

Page 88 – Anne talks about the time she was speaking to the United Nations General Assembly and presented the Gospel as the only way to have genuine, permanent world peace.”  The Gospel message is not a way to achieve world peace.  The Gospel message is for individuals, calling for sinners to repent of their sins, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning death on the cross which paid the penalty in full for their sins so that they could be forgiven.  The Gospel message is for sinners to have peace with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son.

Page 110 – “Ask Him (God) to give you experiences, as He did Daniel, that will help to build your confidence in Him.”  Is that scriptural?  Or should we instead read God’s Word and believe it and take God as His Word?

Page 125 – Anne references a book by Charles Finney and talks about preparing your heart for revival.  She encourages believers to examine themselves for sin and shares a list of areas to look at from Finney’s book.  Isn’t looking at our sin and repenting a good thing?  Yes it can be, yet Charles Finney was not the most sound theologically.  He denied our moral depravity and sin nature.  He also denied God’s sovereignty in salvation.  His influence is seen today in the seeker-sensitive movement.

There were a couple (page 155 and 160) of times that Anne used Scripture verses and called them prayer, when in fact they were people talking to a Person who was there with them (the Lord Jesus Christ or an Old Testament appearance of the Lord).

Extra-biblical reference – On page 170, Ann shares from Jewish history about Honi who prayed for rain during a severe drought in Jerusalem.  This prayer is not scriptural and it certainly does not seem humble, but instead is commanding the Lord.

On page 253, Anne is encouraging readers to pray The Daniel Payer.  “Could it be that God wants to reassure you…and this book is God’s message to you.  God has heard your prayer.  Heaven has been move and nations are being changed, one person at a time.”  Wow…that is a pretty bold for Anne to speak for God.

There are other examples I could list, but I think you get the picture.  Don’t take Scripture of out context.  Don’t take a promise that God made to an individual or nation and try to make it your own.  You may be encouraged or strengthened in your faith and trust in God based on Scripture, but don’t twist it or take it out of context.

Based on the above examples, and many more that I left out, I do not recommend The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz. 

I would like to thank BookLook and Zondervan Publishers for the opportunity to read The Daniel Prayer in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

 

If I Run by Terri Blackstock – Will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end

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I’m a fan of Terri Blackstock’s writing so I was excited at the opportunity to read her newest mystery If I Run.

This book is much different from her other stories. If I Run is written in the first person narrative from two character’s perspectives, Casey and Dylan.

The story jumps right in to a mystery from the first sentence with Casey leaving the scene of a murder. Over time the reader learns more about who was murdered and why and why in the world Casey is on the run.

Shortly thereafter readers are introduced to Dylan, a friend of the murder victim, who was hired by family to help bring into custody the chief murder suspect Casey.

Why is Casey fleeing the scene? If she’s really innocent why doesn’t she hang around to defend herself? After all, won’t the evidence exonerate her if indeed she is innocent? Does Dylan really want to find the person who murdered his friend? Or is he hunting Casey down just for the money? Will truth prevail or will evil triumph?

To get answers to those questions, you’ll have to read If I Run by Terri Blackstock. This book will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.

One of the things I appreciate about reading Christian writers is when they incorporate the Christian faith into the characters. Unlike some of her other books the main characters aren’t believers. They’ve had some exposure to Christianity, but they aren’t believers yet.

Both characters, Casey and Dylan were very likable. I’ve got to confess, Casey had me pulling my hair out at times. But I realized that the character reminded me of real life. We can’t control what other people do and the decisions they make and they have their reasons for making them.

I recommend Terri Blackstock’s newest book If I Run. Readers will enjoy Terri’s unveiling the characters and storyline one layer at a time. I forewarn you, you may need to stay up late to finish this book.

I would like to thank BookLook and Zondervan Publishers for the opportunity to read Terri Blackstock’s newest book If I Run in exchange for an honest review. I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

Murder Freshly Baked by Vannetta Chapman – Mixed Emotions

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I really enjoy reading mystery novels and like to discover good authors that are new to me.  Now that’s a win-win recipe that I like to try and why I selected Murder Freshly Baked by author Vannetta Chapman.

Murder Freshly Baked is the third book in the Amish Village Mystery series and the first book I’ve read by Vannetta Chapman.  Overall I liked this book, but there were some things I struggled with especially early on.

I was lost at the beginning of the book because there were so many characters introduced right off the bat.  On the first page alone there were six characters carried over from the prior novels and four more were introduced before chapter one ended.  I would imagine that for people who have read the first two books it was like encountering old friends.  But for someone new to the series I had a hard time keeping everyone straight and understanding who’s who.  The first scenes had a lot going and with a character being murdered the story was off and running.  But I felt like I was back at the starting line just trying to figure out what was going on and who was involved.

Something else I struggled with is that the author is very wordy.  She goes into a lot of detail and uses many adjectives to describe the scenes and what people are doing.  For me the wordiness was almost to the point of distraction.  I don’t know if I just got used to the writer’s style or if the excessive descriptions lessened as the novel progressed.

But there was a point that I started to connect with the characters and was able to figure out who’s who and wasn’t as distracted.  I liked the characters and how they really seemed to care about one another.  This is not a fast-paced novel, but one in which you get to know the characters and I like finding out what makes people tick.

From a Christian perspective there were some things I appreciated about characters and how they interacted with one another.  However, I was surprised when the perfect opportunity for one of the characters to share the gospel message was missed.  Instead, practical advice was given on how to get out of a difficult situation.  Christian writers have a unique platform to share the Gospel message and Biblical truth.  When that opportunity is missed I don’t understand why.

The author could have done a better job introducing the characters to the reader and not assume that people had read the earlier books in the series.  The first flashback scene came out of nowhere and was a bit confusing until I learned that the former military character suffered PTSD.

At the end of the day, I liked Murder Freshly Baked, mostly because of the characters and I would recommend it with the caveat that people start with the first two books in this series.  It’s not a deep book, nor fast-paced, it wasn’t hard to figure out who committed the murder, but there was something appealing about the story, the people.

I would like to thank the people at BookLook and Zondervan Publishers for the opportunity to read Murder Freshly Baked by Vannetta Chapman in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.