Saturday, November 20, 2021

Waiting on Love by Tracie Peterson – Characters Refreshingly Honest with Integrity and Faith

I am grateful to have rediscovered Tracie Peterson’s writing and her recent book Waiting on Love which is part of the Ladies of the Lake series.  This book is very different from what I usually read, but it was the storyline and characters which drew me in.  

 

Elise Wright is very different than her sister Caroline.  Both girls grew up sailing the sea with their father Captain Bill Wright and mother Mary, on their ship the Mary Elise.  Caroline has chosen to marry a wealthy high society man she met through her aunt and uncle.  But Elise loves the life she has on the sea.  She will fulfill the promise she made to her dying mother, to continue to take care of her father and the ship’s crew.  The ship will be taking on two new sailors, Nick Clark, a man who is haunted by his past, and Booker Duran a man who is on the run.  Captain Wright sees something in both men and he wants to give them a second chance.

 

I absolutely loved this book!  I read a lot of books by Christian authors and publishers and most of them have very little about faith.  Not so with Waiting on Love by Tracie Peterson.  The Christian faith and the Gospel of Jesus Christ are front and center in the lives of the characters and how they live, what they say and do.  The Gospel and Bible verses are shared as part of the storyline and development of the characters.  I appreciated and enjoyed the honesty and integrity of the characters, their graciousness, mercy, and kindness. 

 

Of course, there is always an antagonist or two in stories.  I appreciated the integrity and upright character displayed by the main characters in how they dealt with deceitful people seeking to do harm to others.

 

Reading Waiting on Love by Tracie Peterson left me with good examples of Christians living out their faith in an interesting story that takes place in the 1800s.  I am so happy to have rediscovered Tracie Peterson.  Reading this book makes me want to go back and read her earlier novels.  I would like to commend Bethany House Publishers for allowing the Christian faith and the Gospel message to be shared in this fictional story. 

 

I highly recommend Waiting on Love by Tracie Peterson.  An interesting story, which takes place in a different era and a unique setting.  I appreciated the refreshing honesty and integrity of the characters and examples of godly living.  I liked that Elise embraced her femininity, and the men their masculinity.  That’s not something you see too much these days in fiction. 

 

I would like to thank Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Waiting on Love by Tracie Peterson.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

  


Saturday, October 30, 2021

Labyrinth of Lies by Irene Hannon – Filled with Suspense and Mystery

Labyrinth of Lies by Irene Hannon is the second book in the Triple Threat series.  In this newest book, readers are introduced to Cate Reilly, sister to Eve Reilly featured in the first book of the series Point of Danger

 

Cate is a detective in St. Louis County, and she’s the right person for an undercover assignment.  Teenagers Stephanie Laurent and Alex Johnson have been missing for two months.  New evidence indicates they are not runaways but victims of foul play.  Cate agrees to go undercover at Ivy Hill Academy to try and find out what happened to the missing teens.  It’s been eight years since she’d last seen Zeke Sloan, the man she loved who walked out on her for his career as a DEA agent.  As it turns out, Zeke is also working undercover at the school as a Spanish teacher.  Cate’s undercover assignment just got a lot more complicated. 

 

Irene did a great job in building the suspense and mystery.  It was at times unnerving, especially for the characters whose lives were being impacted by the subterfuge around them.  I really liked the characters, especially Kayla, Edwardo Garcia, and his wife Margarita.  As the story unfolds, readers learn how characters got caught up in the evils of drug trafficking.  Because some of the characters go by anonymous names, like Razor and Wolf, you don’t know who the bad guys are.  It was interesting reading about how people justify getting involved in evil.  I liked the friendship that developed between Cate and Kayla.  I didn’t know how Edwardo would be able to get out of the impossible situation he was in.  I also liked how Cate and Zeke worked through their relationship.

 

I wish the character’s Christian faith had been developed in this storyline.  I think the book would have been richer with that element.  I wasn't too keen on the feminist aspect of Cate and her sisters and the focus on the physical attraction between Cater and Zeke in a Christian fiction book.  

 

If you like mystery and suspense, give Labyrinth of Lies by Irene Hannon a read.  I liked this second book better than the first one in the series because of some of the characters. 

 

I would like to thank Revell Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Labyrinth of Lies by Irene Hannon.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

 

Saturday, October 02, 2021

Paradise by Lizzie Johnson – Excellent and Compelling Story About a Town’s Tragedy and its People

When I saw the book Paradise - One Town’s Struggle to Survive an American Wildfire by Lizzie Johnson, I wanted to read it.  As someone who lived over 40 years in California, wildfires were an unfortunate part of life.  When the strong winds start blowing in the fall, every Californian knows that there’s a chance of a wildfire starting.  I knew that this would be a hard book to read, but I am so glad I did. 

 

Lizzie Johnson did an excellent job in telling the story of the town of Paradise which is situated in northern California in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Butte County.  She captured the feel of the town and its citizens.  Anyone can write about facts and numbers, but Lizzie did a marvelous job making this grievous history personal. 

 

Through all the research that she did, the town’s people she got to know, and how she shared their stories you will better understand the Camp Fire, how it started and why, its devastation and toll, not just to buildings, but to people’s lives and homes.  The story is very gripping as she shares the stories of individuals whom she follows through this dreadful day.  Eighty-five people lost their lives in the most horrific circumstances.  The people that survived, and how they bear the scars from this devastating fire and are working to rebuild their lives. 

 

I appreciated how Lizzie Johnson told the stories of the people of Paradise.  She documented what happened, how the fire started, events and circumstances that made evacuating the town’s people safely problematic.  So glad the fire wasn’t the end of the story.  She tells about the people of Paradise in the months and years afterward. 

 

The ugly truth about PG&E’s criminal negligence and irresponsibility that started the fire is told, as well as decisions by the mayor and town’s council and how it impacted the evacuation of citizens.  There was one cause of the fire, but many factors that made the situation worse. 

 

Lizzie Johnson did an excellent job in telling this difficult and painful story in a way that made it personal, showing care and honor to the people impacted.  After reading Paradise, when I hear about the Camp Fire, I’m thinking about the people whose lives were impacted by this devastation.  I highly recommend this book.  It will give you a better understanding of the wildfires in the west that are increasingly common and their dreadful impact on people’s lives. 

 

I would like to thank Crown Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Paradise by Lizzie Johnson.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

 

Monday, September 06, 2021

Hostile Intent by Lynette Eason – Filled with Suspense, But Too Much Violence

 

Hostile Intent by Lynette Eason is the fourth book in the Danger Never Sleeps series.  

Cold, calculating with a hardened heart set on vengeance, Nicolai will stop at nothing to make these people pay for what was done to his family.  FBI Agent Caden Denning is working on this case and is trying to find out why three families have been killed and how they are connected.  When evidence turns up at the crime scene, a photograph of his friend Ava Jackson, as a small child with her father, Caden is concerned that Ava may be the next target.  He will stop at nothing to bring a killer to justice and protect his friend.

I’ve read the other books in the Danger Never Sleeps series and liked them.  I especially liked the friendships between the main characters who are highlighted in each of the books.  While I like some of the characters in this book, the violence was over the top.  In the first chapter, readers are introduced to the villain who goes on to murder two families, and we learn about two other families whose murders are connected to this case.  Later, Ava is attacked and is on a hit list.  The villain not only wants to murder Ava but torture her and make her suffer.  I like mystery and suspense novels, but I was surprised that this was in a book from a Christian writer and publisher.  I would expect to see this in a book from a secular publisher.

This book has lots of twists and turns, some not so believable, like what happened to Ava’s dad.  The story kind of drags a bit when the story should be advancing.  I liked the Caden Denning character, but the budding romance between Caden and Ava was a bit of a stretch. 

Hostile Intent is the novel I liked least in the Danger Never Sleeps series.  I liked that the characters and friendships from the earlier books carried over to this one.  For me, the issues were the over-the-top violence, convoluted storyline, and the romance wasn’t believable.

Would I recommend Hostile Intent?  Perhaps for someone who is a fan of Lynette Eason’s writing.  But for others, I would pass on this book.

I would like to thank Revell Publishing and NetGalley for a complimentary copy of Hostile Intent by Lynette Eason.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Walnut Creek Wish by Wanda E. Brunstetter – An Enjoyable Inviting Read with Likable Characters

The Walnut Creek Wish is the first book I’ve read by Wanda E. Brunstetter. 


Jeff and Rhonda Davis have been married for nearly thirteen years.  But their marriage has been strained and they’ve grown apart.  Both are hardworking and care about one another, but disappointment over not having children has impacted their marriage.  In a last-ditch effort to try and help their marriage, against better judgment, the Davis’ decide to purchase a new home in Walnut Creek, OH.  The additional strain of financial issues, when their old house doesn’t sell, adds more pressure.  Jeff has a love for antiques and befriends an Amish couple, Orley and Lois Troyer, who own a local antique store.  A rather unconventional friendship develops between the couples.  Will their friendship and faith-filled influence be enough to help Jeff and Rhonda?

 

I loved this book.  I appreciated the development of the characters and they really came alive.  I liked that the author wasn’t in a hurry to rush from one action scene to the next.  Instead, the reader gets to know the characters and what made them the way they are.  It was interesting to learn why Jeff and Rhonda had rejected the Christian faith and to see God at work in their breaking down those walls. 

 

I read a lot of books by Christian writers and publishers, and it’s a rare occurrence these days when the Gospel message is shared as part of the storyline.  That is why I loved this book.  The Troyer’s built a relationship with the Davis’, cared about them, and prayed for them.  They shared their faith and eventually shared the Gospel of Christ with Jeff and Rhonda.  I liked and cared about these characters.

 

Because I enjoyed the characters and the setting, I didn’t want to rush through reading this book.  This book was very enjoyable.  I appreciated that the storyline was clean, without immorality or profanity. 

 

I highly recommend The Walnut Creek Wish by Wanda E. Brunstetter.  I love finding an author whose work is new to me, and I look forward to reading more of her work. 

 

I would like to thank Barbour Publishing, Inc and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of The Walnut Creek Wish by Wanda E. Brunstetter.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

 

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Power Play by Rachel Dylan – Filled with Suspense and Intrigue, But Story Dragged

Power Play by Rachel Dylan is the third and final book in her Capital Intrigue series.  I enjoyed the first two books and was excited to read her newest novel.

 

Vivian Steel is an attorney with the State Department and attending a diplomatic dinner in Washington DC.  As dinner starts, chaos ensues when the Egyptian ambassador drops dead.  Jacob Cruz, with diplomatic security, instructs guests to return to their seats as they handle the situation.  A couple of hours later, Vivian heads over to see the US ambassador Penelope King only to see her collapse to the ground.  Two diplomats on the same night, one dead and the other near death.  What is going on, and who is behind this?

 

That’s how Power Play starts, and the suspense and intrigue continue to build throughout the novel.  This story is a more behind-the-scenes investigation with less action than the other books in the series.  Vivian is paired with Jacob Cruz as one part of the investigation team to determine what happened to the Egyptian ambassador.  Was it murder, or was it natural causes, and does it related to what happened to the US ambassador?  When Vivian is attacked on the streets of DC, it adds another layer to the investigation.  Was this random or part of a coordinated attack?

 

I appreciated that Vivian’s friends, Layla and Bailey, featured in earlier books make an appearance in this story.  That’s one of the elements that I appreciated, their ongoing friendships and support of one another.  I liked the relationships between the FBI investigative team with Delaney and Weston.  The character’s Christian faith was a small part of the book.  I would have like to have seen it more developed.

 

The story was very convoluted and had too many twists and turns, and the story started dragging.  After Vivian is attacked, especially in light of what happened to the ambassadors, one would think that security would be on high alert and take no risks.  I found Vivian’s actions not logical or believable.  The romance between Jacob and Vivian, in the middle of an intense investigation, seemed contrived.  I think the priority would be the protection of Vivian and the ongoing investigation.  Let the relationship develop afterward.

 

I like Rachel Dylan’s writing and look forward to reading more of her books.  The story in Power Play was good, but not the strongest of the Capital Intrigue series.  If you like Rachel’s writing and have read the first two books in this series, you may want to read Power Play.

 

I would like to thank Bethany House and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Power Play by Rachel Dylan.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

 

  

Monday, July 19, 2021

With You I Am by Cleopatra Margot – Charming and Romantic

 


It was the beautiful cover of With You I Am by Cleopatra Margot that got my attention.  After reading the storyline, I wanted to read this book.  Cleopatra Margot is a writer whose work is new to me. 

 

Noelle Carter is the CEO and events coordinator of Carter, Inc., a business started by her grandparents.  Her curiosity is peaked when the Mayor of Balsam Falls, Nebraska, contacts her about planning the town’s spring event.  Perhaps some time away will help reignite her creativity and allow her to connect to the place where her grandmother had come from.  She will be working with Wynn and Marshall from Bryant Brother’s Construction to make the venue ready for the Spring Fling.  Noelle’s life will be impacted by the town and its people, the Bryant family, and one special man. 

 

With You I Am is a charming and romantic story.  The reader will fall in love with the small town of Balsam Falls and the Bryant family.  It’s the kind of place you wish really existed and filled with people you would like to know.  Not perfect people, but people who are kind, caring, and giving.  People who have had hard times, but by God’s grace and through faith they have persevered.  As much as this book is about a love story, more than that, it is about relationships.  The Christian faith is an important element in the story. 

 

I really loved this book.  With You I Am is long and goes at a slower pace, which is kind of nice.  You get to know people as the characters are developed.  I loved the Bryant family, their friends, and would love to visit a town like Balsam Falls.  You won’t want to hurry through this book, but instead, enjoy the journey. 

 

Faith was an integral part of the characters’ lives.  Some of the theology was sound, and some of it was more motivational rather than doctrinal. 

 

I really loved this book, and then I got towards the end, and there was a turn of events I wasn’t expecting.  Honestly, that change in the story made me mad.  The character was irrational, wasn’t thinking, was selfish, and overly dramatic.  At no time did this character pray about the circumstances or seek wisdom from the Lord.  I hated this part of the book, and thankfully that wasn’t the end of the story.  But I felt manipulated by the writer for dramatic purposes.  The emotions that the character was working through could have been handled in a much different scenario which would have better fit the story.

 

Also, the physical attraction between the two main characters was focused on too much, with the repeated references throughout the book.

 

Would I recommend this book?  Yes…I loved the relationships in With You I Am, the family interaction, and their friendships.  Even though the romance was a huge part of the story, the other relationships were the meat and backbone of the story.

 

I would like to thank Faith to Love Publishing and JustRead Tours for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of With You I Am by Cleopatra Margot.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

 

Friday, July 09, 2021

Present Danger by Elizabeth Goddard - Lots of Intrigue, But Too Many Characters and Details Took Away from the Storyline

 

Since I had enjoyed Elizabeth Goddard’s earlier mysteries, I was excited to read her newest book, Present Danger the first book in the Rocky Mountain Courage series. 

 

Present Danger is filled with suspense, mystery, and intrigue from the get-go.  Private pilot Chance Carter is taking off with a package containing something illegal and headed to a small airstrip in Montana.  He should have listened to that nagging uneasy feeling.  But when his airplane is about to crash, he’s just trying to survive.  The next two chapters seem disjointed from the first chapter.  We are introduced to Sheriff’s Detective Jack Tanner and US Forest Service Special Agent Terra Connors.  They will be joining forces to investigate the questionable death of a local citizen, Jim Raymond, found in the forest.  Jack and Terra’s relationship goes way back, but they haven’t seen each other in years.  Their relationship didn’t end on a good note however they will strive to put their personal feelings aside and solve this case.

 

Parts of the book I found interesting, like learning about different aspects of law enforcement in remote forested areas and the illegal sale of Native American artifacts.  However, I thought the book had issues that took away from the storyline and characters.

 

Present Danger very convoluted and packed with details that did not contribute to the story.  There were too many characters, it was hard to keep track of all of them.  While Jack and Terra had a history, there didn’t seem to be much romance between them.  I kind of liked Jack, but his insecurities that he had carried with him all these years (not based on his own failings or history) got kind of old.  It seemed like an unnecessary element and focus of the story.  I can’t recall if Jack ever told Terra why years before he left town without saying goodbye.  He didn’t come clean and explain what he had overheard her grandfather say.  It bothers me when things in the storyline don’t make sense, like when a character does something illogical that puts themself in danger.  Also, there came a point when Terra should have been removed from the case but she wasn’t.  One of the biggest surprises at the end came out of nowhere and didn’t seem believable.

 

Elizabeth Goddard describes scenery really well so that the reader can imagine what the place looks like or the characters are experiencing.  She’s done her research and knows jobs and locations well.  But I don’t recommend this book because of the negatives in the story: too many characters; too many unnecessary details that distract instead of moving the story forward; and not making the characters compelling enough to care about them.

 

While this book has been published by a Christian publisher there wasn’t much concerning the Christian faith in the book. 

 

I would like to thank Revell Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Present Danger by Elizabeth Goddard.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 


Friday, June 11, 2021

The Real JRR Tolkien by Jesse Xander – Biased Eisegeses of JRR Tolkien’s Work

Since I loved JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy books and movie adaptations I was excited to read a new biography The Real JRR Tolkien – The Man Who Created Middle Earth by Jesse Xander.  This author’s work is new to me but I was eager to learn more about the life of JRR Tolkien.  

 

At first, I found the details of Tolkien’s life interesting.  He lived in a different day and age and in many respects, he and his brother Hilary had a hard life, in part, because they were orphaned when they were quite young.  Because of family dynamics and strong beliefs, the boys were not raised by family but were handed over to others to raise.  The author details a lot about their youth and JRR’s adulthood and how his experiences and the people he knew were reflected in Tolkien’s writings.

 

Sounds good and much of the reading was fascinating.  Then I started seeing things in the book that were off.  Something I’ve never seen in a biography before is an author essentially apologizing for things in the subject’s life or religion or work that they felt might cause an offense to today’s readers.  Xander saw fit to read into Tolkien’s writing and assume bigotry, oppression, and criticism about his Catholic faith. 

 

Instead of exegeting Tolkien’s work, Jesse Xander eisegeses or reads into his work and assigns motives based on today’s political and moral environment.  He attributes to Tolkien prejudice, racism, misogyny, xenophobia, antisemitism, homophobia, neglect of his wife, and an imbalance of power in their marriage.

 

It seems as though Xander failed to understand and appreciate JRR Tolkien in the time and era that he grew up and he lived in.  He is judging him by today’s standard of “moral superiority”.  In a way, Xander seems to have an appreciation for Tolkien and has a lot of knowledge about his work.  In other respects, it’s like he has a love-hate relationship with Tolkien.  He spends most of the book talking about Tolkien’s life and at other times tearing him down and attributing ugly motives to him. 

 

Because of Xander’s eisegeses of Tolkien’s life and apologies for it (instead of simply telling about his life) I find suspect his interpretation because it was biased or influenced by his imposing today’s standards on this man who lived in a different day and age. 

 

Because of the flawed way Jesse Xander wrote this biography, The Real JRR Tolkien, I would not recommend it.  If he had been upfront and said he was writing a criticism of JRR Tolkien’s life and writing that would have been more honest and upfront and given readers a more accurate way to decide if they want to read his book. 

 

I would like to thank Pen & Sword Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of The Real JRR Tolkien.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Unknown Threat by Lynn H. Blackburn – Interesting plot and characters, but had a convoluted ending

When I saw that Lynn H. Blackburn had a new book out, Unknown Threat (Defend and Protect, Book 1), I wanted to read it because I had enjoyed her earlier novel Beneath the Surface. 

 

Unknown Threat’s plotline sounded intriguing.  US Secret Service Special Agents Luke Powell and Zack Thacker went out for an early morning run and when they return to their vehicles suddenly, they are under fire.  As they are lying on the ground looking at their vehicles, they realize that their cars are wired with bombs.  Will they survive until help comes?  Who in the world is trying to kill them and for what reason?  FBI Special Agent Faith Malone has been assigned to investigate these attacks and try and protect the remaining US Secret Service team in Raleigh.

 

This fast-paced story drew me in from the beginning.  Interesting to think about how people who risk their lives to protect others might respond when they are targeted?  I liked the character Luke Powell and the US Secret Service team, their friendships, and their commitment to one another. 

 

I didn’t quite connect with Faith Malone, she seemed more like a caricature of a tough single woman who sacrificed her personal life for career advancement.  The repeated Cherry Coke references kind of got old.  It was understandable why Faith might be attracted to Luke who was a decent nice guy, but I didn’t understand what he saw in her. 

 

Faith’s sister Hope was a very likable and refreshing character.  I would like to see her in future books of the Defend and Protect series.  It was hard to understand how the character Special Agent Janice Estes kept her job.  Was she incompetent or just plain corrupt?  She wasn’t very believable. 

 

While I liked many of the characters, I struggled a bit with the plotline.  It was very convoluted and I don’t see how a reader would have been able to figure out the mystery.  The story ended rather abruptly and if it hadn’t been for the last chapter summarizing whodunnit and why I don’t think I would have put the pieces together.  Not sure that the motives of the bad guys were believable.   

 

There wasn’t much about the Christian faith included in the storyline.  But I did appreciate that there was no profanity or sexual immorality.   

 

The good: likable characters and an interesting scenario.  Not so good: the convoluted plot and ending and one of the main characters wasn’t very likable. 

 

Would I recommend Unknown Threat by Lynn H. Blackburn?  If you like Lynn’s books give this book a read.  This is the first book in the Defend and Protect series and some of the characters will be carried over to future books.

 

I would like to thank Revell Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Unknown Threat by Lynn H. Blackburn.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

 

Friday, April 30, 2021

J. I. Packer His Life and Thought by Alister McGrath – Learn about this influential Christian Thinker

Following the death of J. I. Packer in 2020, I was interested in reading J. I. Packer His Life and Thought by Alister McGrath.  I wanted to know more about this well-respected man who had impacted Christians through his writing, most notably through Knowing God.

This book is not your typical biography, instead, the author focused on J. I. Packer’s Christian faith, theology, writing, and influence within the Christian community.  I appreciated learning about what was happening within Christianity during Packer’s life and career and his commitment to the authority of Scripture and defense of the faith. 

My favorite part of this book was learning how J. I. Packer came to faith in Jesus Christ and seeing God’s hand direct this young man and use him as a strong defender of the Christian faith.  I would have liked to hear more about the personal aspects of Packer’s life and have a fuller picture of this man of God.

If your faith walk has been influenced by J. I. Packer’s writing, or you would like to learn more about this man who influenced Christian thinking during his lifetime and beyond, I encourage you to read J. I. Packer His Life and Through by Alister McGrath. 

I would like to thank InterVarsity Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of J. I. Packer His Life and Thought by Alister McGrath.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

Waiting on Love by Tracie Peterson – Characters Refreshingly Honest with Integrity and Faith

I am grateful to have rediscovered Tracie Peterson’s writing and her recent book Waiting on Love which is part of the Ladies of the Lake s...