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. 

Saturday, April 03, 2021

Aftermath by Terri Blackstock – Fast-paced Suspenseful Story

Terri Blackstock's books are filled with intrigue and suspense and that’s why was excited to read her newest book Aftermath.  This book will hold your attention from the get-go.  

Taylor Reed and her friends Desiree and Mara are at a political rally, the draw isn’t Presidential candidate Ed Loran, but instead their favorite band Blue Fire is playing.  What happens next is the things nightmares are made of.  An explosion, smoke, people screaming.  The only thing Taylor can think of is getting out alive.  Later that night, Dustin Webb is driving home and suddenly the police are pulling him over.  Certain that he wasn’t speeding nor was there any cause to be pulled over, he consents to the police searching his car.  What they find will land him in jail and Dustin will be the suspect in the bombing that left dozens of people dead.  His one phone call will be to his friend Attorney Jamie Powell, whom he hasn’t seen in fifteen years.  If anyone will believe him, it will be Jamie.

Aftermath seems like it could have been ripped from today’s headline news.  It’s fast-paced and filled with twists and turns.  What I liked best were the characters Dustin and Jamie, their personalities and friendship that spanned many years.  Taylor was an interesting character, I found myself asking how I would handle the trauma that she endured.  I also found her irrationality and thought processes very disturbing.  Dustin’s friend and business partner Travis and his wife Crystal are going through their own battle as Crystal is fighting for her life.  Dustin understands why Travis can’t be there to help right now, but Dustin’s fighting for his own life, and the world’s about to turn against him unless he can prove his innocence.

I liked the storyline and it grabbed my attention from the beginning.  I liked the main characters Dustin and Jamie, but I was frustrated when Dustin seemed to be making illogical decisions and didn’t believe the evidence that showed who the bad guy was.  I figured out who the bad guy was and his motivation, but had to see how the story all fit together.  In many respects, Taylor seemed like a loose cannon and the most illogical.  I liked the fast clip of the story, it fit the narrative but the end of the book seemed to drag a bit and the story came to an abrupt ending.

The Christian faith wasn’t a big part of the story, I think that the characters’ development would have been richer if their faith had been included.  I appreciated that the story did not have sexual immorality and or profanity.  Aftermath was an interesting story with likable characters, but it could have been richer.  I would like to see the main characters in other books.

If you like mystery, intrigue, and suspense I recommend that you read Terri Blackstock’s newest book Aftermath.  This book is being released on May 11, 2021.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Aftermath by Terri Blackstock.  I was provided with a complimentary copy of the book but was not obligated to give a favorable review.

 

Friday, March 05, 2021

Obsession by Patricia Bradley – Mixed Feelings

Obsession by Patricia Bradley is the second book in the Natchez Trace Park Rangers series.  I’ve read a couple of books by Patricia and looked forward to this book because of the interesting setting.  

Emma Winters works as a Natchez Trace park ranger and historian.  She is overseeing a project to document and preserve the graves of the slaves who had been buried on this historical site.  As Emma is getting ready to head home, her day’s about to get a whole lot longer when someone takes a couple of shots at her.  Called in to help investigate is her former fiancĂ© Sam Ryker who also works as a park ranger.  While things didn’t end well between them, Sam wants to find the person who is targeting Emma and get out before any feelings between them are revived.

I struggled a bit with the novel.  I wasn’t too keen on the main character, Emma, she wasn’t a very likable character.  She was the independent woman who was also the helpless stubborn female who didn’t want help.  Parts of the story seemed rather contrived to keep Emma and Sam in regular contact.  There wasn’t a lot about faith in this book.  I think the story would have been richer if that aspect of the characters’ lives had been developed.  There were three people in the book that struggled with unforgiveness, Emma, Sam, and Sam’s sister Jenny.  I would like to have seen at least one of them have a biblical perspective and understanding of forgiveness.  Sam did work his way through the unforgiveness he had been harboring.

Something I can’t stand in books is when a character does something really stupid and illogical which puts them at risk and in harm’s way, which Emma did towards the end of the book.  When that happens, I stop caring about the character because I feel manipulated and it’s not logical. 

The character Sam was likable, but I didn’t understand why he continued to be drawn to Emma.  Emma’s continued to blame Sam, and herself, for her brother’s disappearance ten years earlier.  That got old really quick!  She blamed others instead of recognizing her brother’s own personal responsibility for his life choices and the risks he took. 

I liked the character Sheriff Nate Rawling and hope to see him in future books in this series.  He seemed to respect and trust the team that he was working with and was there to work alongside them.  The Natchez Trace park setting was interesting. 

There were a few elements and characters I liked in Obsession, but they were overshadowed by a character and parts of the storyline I didn’t care for. 

I would like to thank Revell Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Obsession by Patricia Bradley.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

  



Sunday, February 28, 2021

Network of Deceit by Tom Threadgill – Filled with Mystery, Intrigue, Suspense – You Won’t Want to Put It Down

It was the storyline, filled with mystery, suspense, and intrigue that drew me into reading Network of Deceit by Tom Threadgill.   

On the heels of a highly publicized successful case, Detective Amara Alvarez has been transferred to the homicide division and she’s been assigned her first case.  A young teen, Zachary Coleman, has died at a local waterpark.  The cause of death is not clear and the tox screen won’t be back for weeks.  While there are no clear indications of murder, there’s some suspicious details that Amara wants to investigate.  She’s not one to wait patiently on the sidelines but will take a closer look and delve into the evidence until she has an answer, one way or the other.

The storyline was intriguing, and the evidence was peeled back one layer at a time.  The suspects, Zach’s friends Matias, Haley, and Liam were interesting and obviously trying to cover something up.  But was it related to Zach’s death or was there something illegal that the teens were caught up in?  I enjoyed reading how Amara would reexamine the facts and suspects over and over again until a crack appeared.

My favorite part of the book was the characters, Amara, her coworker Detective Jeremiah Peckham (otherwise known as Starsky).  The relationship between Amara and Starsky was special, they obviously cared about each other and respected one another.  But was there something more going on between them?  I enjoyed Amara’s large and close family especially her mom Maria and Maria’s boyfriend Wylie.  Amara’s family were the kind of people you would want to get to know.  Once you’ve met them, you’ll be welcomed back.  Though work was a big part of Amara’s life, her family was more important and she made time to be with them. 

I very much enjoyed reading Network of Deceit by Tom Threadgill.  It held my attention from the first page to the last.  The plot was interesting and the characters were likable, relatable people that I cared about.  Even the “bad guys” were interesting.  They weren’t vilified to the point that you hated them, but you got to know what made them tick and what made them go down the wrong path.  I didn’t want the story to end.  I hope that these characters come back in future novels. 

You know a book is really good when you are thinking about the story or characters when you aren’t reading the book.  Though faith was not a big part of the storyline, I appreciated that this was a clean book, with no foul language or sexual immorality.  Tom Threadgill knows how to tell a good story, he’s a good writer.  Tom skillfully develops the characters and moves the plotline along as he unveils the mystery and builds suspense.  I look forward to reading more of Tom Threadgill’s books.

I highly recommend Network of Deceit by Tom Threadgill.  I would like to thank Revell, a division of Baker’s Publishing Group for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of the book.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin – Mixed Feelings

I love reading Sarah Sundin’s historical fiction novels and that’s why I was excited to read her newest book When Twilight Breaks.  This story starts before the beginning of World War II.  Unlike her earlier WWII novels, this story is not focused on characters in the military. 

Evelyn Brand is an American correspondent for American News Service based in Munich, Germany in 1938.  She has a few strikes against her, she’s a woman, young, and will do whatever it takes to get a story.  Evelyn wants to expose the truth of what’s she’s seeing no matter whose toes she’s stepping on.  Denied the opportunity to go where the action is at, Evelyn was sent to do a softball story about American students and their experiences at the University of Munich.  It’s there that Evelyn meets Peter Lang who is working on his Ph.D. in German.  Evelyn and Peter couldn’t be much different.  He appreciates what he sees in Germany, the changes that have happened since 1932 with prosperity, no unemployment, seemingly secure and very orderly.  Peter takes a fancy to Evelyn, though it’s not mutual, he is not easily deterred.

I struggled a bit with this book.  Evelyn’s character was rather off-putting.  She came across as judgmental and a know-it-all.  I felt like I was reading a story with a modern-day woman being put in the middle of a story in the 1930’s.  Something that’s common in today’s movies and TV shows is to portray men as being inferior to women.  I almost felt like that was what I was seeing and it surprised me in a book from an author who is Christian.  Evelyn was shown to have the moral high ground in recognizing the wrong road Germany was headed down.  Peter was depicted as someone who was somewhat blind to the changing atmosphere in Germany. 

My favorite character was Peter.  Though he was slow to start seeing the growing threat to Jewish people in Germany, once he recognized it, he didn’t hesitate to try to help people who were being victimized.  He was kind, caring, patient, and ready to put his life on the line and risk everything he had worked for to help a friend in need.

I did like the secondary characters, Evelyn’s friend Elizabeth White, Herr Gold and Peter’s friends the Schreiber family, and Paul and Simone Aubrey.  There were some heartwarming and good surprises about friends as well as vile words and behavior from so-called friends. 

Regarding the Christian faith, there wasn’t a lot about faith included in When Twilight Breaks.  It was “Christian lite” on the substance of faith and the Gospel was not shared.  I think the book would have been richer if that element of the story had been developed. 

The views of men and women in this book seem to reflect a more secular view from today’s culture.  I was pleasantly surprised by the change in Evelyn.  At first, she seemed selfish and ready to put people at risk for her cause, but later she learned the importance of being interdependent and putting others first. 

It was somewhat eerie reading about the growing intolerance for people who were deemed inferior since we are beginning to see that in our own Country.  A good warning to not go down that path. 

I had mixed feelings about this book.  I liked the character Peter and grew to appreciate Evelyn’s passion to get the truth out about what was happening in Germany.  It made me think about what it must have been like for the people living in Germany, both the Jewish people who were being persecuted and the German citizens who saw what was going on.  I found it both sobering and terrifying. 

I wasn’t keen on the feminist aspects of this book, especially in light of it being written by a Christian author and published by a company that publishes Christian books and authors. 

Would I recommend When Twilight Breaks?  I like Sarah Sundin’s writing, she’s a good storyteller.  However, I think this book was not as good as some of her other books because of what felt like a feminist agenda as opposed to telling a story.  It was informative, disturbing, and interesting to see the progression of Germany going down the wrong road. 

I would like to thank Revell Publishing Group and NetGalley for the opportunity to read When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Divine Abandonment - Marking the Times Episode 144 The Downfall of America


One of the YouTube channels that we regularly follow is Mark Hitchcock's channel Marking the Times. We really enjoy the talks he has about Bible prophesy and what's happening in our world currently.

The most recent episode is very sobering. I would encourage you to watch and pay close attention.

When I read the last half of Romans 1, I can't help but see the downward spiral and progression of sin. As the chapter continues it says, "God gave them over..." That giving people over to their sin and depravity is called Divine Abandonment.

When you see our Country and around the world, you can't help but see what's listed in Romans 1:16-32 being played out.

The only hope we have is a merciful God who sent His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ to come and be born of a women, live His life perfectly without sin. As the Son of God and Son of Man, He alone was worthy and able to bear our sin debt. He bore the wrath of God that we deserve, He paid the price for our redemption from sin, so that we could be forgiven.

What is required of us? To repent of our sin (agree with God that we have sinned and turn to God and ask for His forgiveness) and believe in Jesus Christ, that He is who He said He is and that His death on our behalf paid the penalty for our sin.

I'm sure many of you have felt the heaviness of what we see going on in our Country. It's much bigger than loosing an election. It's seeing our Nation in a downward spiral. But we also have a confident hope and assurance of our salvation. Whether we die or are raptured one day, we know eternal life has been bought and paid for on our behalf by Jesus Christ. He holds us secure in His hand.

If you don't yet know the Lord, I would ask you pray for God to reveal Himself to you. Watch this video, read the Scriptures, Romans 1 and read Revelation where we learn about the end days and what will happened when God's wrath is unleashed upon a sinful world. Read the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and see who Jesus Christ was, who He said He was and what He came to do.

Don't take my word for it, read the Bible for yourself. If you feel like you have led a horrible life of sin and can't be forgiven, that is a lie straight from the pit of hell. A broken and repentant sinner, God will not cast away. If you choose to reject Jesus Christ and continue in sin, then you will bear the wrath of God for eternity.

Eternal life is not just for Christians. Those who reject God and the forgiveness He offers through His Son Jesus Christ, will also have eternal life. Instead of heaven, it will be hell and eternal punishment.

Please know that in no way do I look down on anyone and think I'm better. I'm not. The only reason I will have eternal life is because God had mercy and compassion on this sinner. He opened my spiritually blind eyes to see. He opened my ears which were deaf to Him. He took this heart of stone and made it a heart of flesh. He helped me to see my sin, repent and turn to Christ Jesus the Lord. And He can do the same for you.

None of us knows the day and hour when we will die. When we will have that last chance to repent of our sin and believe in Jesus Christ. Don't delay...this literally the most important decision you will ever make.

Friday, January 22, 2021

The Crown in Crisis by Alexander Larman – The Man Who Should Have Never Been King

I wanted to read The Crown in Crisis – Countdown to the Abdication by author Alexander Larman because I had heard about the King Edward VIII’s abdicating the throne for divorcee Mrs. Wallis Simpson.  I didn’t know any of the details other than the fact that Mrs. Simpson was an American who was twice divorced.  It all seemed very romantic and like true love that would bring a man to give up the throne of England to be with his beloved.

Well, I was in for an awakening.  As I write my thoughts about King Edward VIII, I need to divorce my feels about him from what I think about this book.

As the man was portrayed in this book, I found King Edward VIII to be an arrogant, rude, immature, vapid, insufferable, selfish, boring jerk who focused on himself instead of others.  He put himself over and above the Country he had been entrusted with.  Mrs. Wallis Simpson wasn’t much better.  She seemed to be on a quest for power and money and used sex or whatever she had to entrap men, including King Edward VIII.  Wallis was not twice divorced, but once when she started committing adultery with King Edward.  As part of their weird relationship, a plan was implemented for Wallis to divorce her current husband so the two could marry.  But they made it look like Wallis’ husband was the one who was committing adultery and she was the innocent one.  Their adultery was blatant and it fractured Edward’s relationship with his father, King George V. 

Not sure if the book accurately portrayed Kind Edward VIII and Wallace Simpson?  It may have been accurate.  Obviously, when a man is ready to toss the crown away for a woman who uses people, they will make a few enemies along the way.  It was hard to tell if the author had a negative viewpoint of the King and Mrs. Simpson, or if the preponderance of information about them was negative from the people who surrounded them during this timeframe. 

Regarding the book, apart from two very dislikable people, it had some negatives.  The book came across as very gossipy, and you know gossips are not always the most reliable source.  At times, I found the story and scenes confusing in how they were written.  It has long sentences that made the point hard to follow.  There were volumes of people in this book, too many to really tell the story in a straight, interesting understandable manner.  Some of the accounts were very confusing and skipped from one person to another.  There didn’t seem to be a logical order, especially about to the attempted assassination of King Edward VIII.  At times, the author went into too much detail and pursued rabbit trails that took away from the story instead of making it richer.  It seemed like the author had so much information about King Edward VIII and Mrs. Simpson from the many, many people that surrounded them that he included it all in the book.  I’m sure he left a lot out, but I found this book was not written in a fashion that made drew the reader in and unveiled what happened during this crisis in an interesting, logical, and organized way. 

I hated the first chapter, it was gross and vile in what was said and seemed to be rumors, innuendo, and speculation as opposed to facts.  Throughout this book, I noted many times that it seemed gossipy.  If I hadn’t agreed to read the book and give a review, I would have closed the book and not finished it.

I did find that the last third of the book interesting.  You would think if someone wanted to walk away from the throne, they could hand over the reins to the next one in line.  Not so.  It was a huge crisis for England and there were a lot of politics and power plays that were happening and of course, family relationships that were impacted.  This was the part of the book that was most interesting. 

King Edward VIII was a man who should have never been king.  From the beginning, I thought it was God’s providence that spared England from a weak self-absorbed king, as the nation would soon be in a war for the survival of their nation and the free world. 

Would I recommend this book?  Probably not.  Take into account the good and bad information and make a decision if you would like to read it.

I would like to thank St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to read the The Crown in Crisis by Alexander Larman.  I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book and not under any obligation to give a favorable review. 

 

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 enjoy...