Still Life (Chesapeake Valor #2)

Title:  Still Life (Chesapeake Valor #2)

Author:  Dani Pettrey

Pages:  348

Year:  2017

Publisher:  BethanyHouse

My rating is 4 stars.

Parker Mitchell misses Avery Tate more and more every day.  Six months ago she left his employment and his life because their relationship became more personal and he couldn’t wholeheartedly commit to her.  His first love, Jenna, was murdered several years ago and he hasn’t been able to move on in his personal life.  Her killer was never caught and Parker feels he failed to protect her.  He cares for Avery, but knows she needs someone who can give her 100%.  Out of the blue she calls him, needing his expertise as a crime scene processor.  Everyone in the business knows he is the best and as Avery used to work as his crime scene photographer, she knows it too.  Parker hopes Avery is back in his life for a lot longer than this case as he spends more and more time with her, trying to help her.

Avery Tate’s best friend, Skylar, is missing.  She posed for a bizarre photograph for a gallery showing, but evidence in the photograph leads Avery to think Skylar is dead.  She calls the best in the business to come look at the photograph and Skylar’s trailer to process them.  The best being the man she has given her heart to, Parker Mitchell.  She and Skylar grew up together and had a past riddled with alcohol, drugs and petty crime, but eight years ago Avery became a Christian and has never looked back.  She totally turned her life around.  Unfortunately, Skylar has not.  Avery desperately wants to find out where Skylar is and try again to get her out of her seedy lifestyle.  Parker and Avery embark on an investigation with the help of Charm City Investigations, which includes their friends Griffin, Finlay, Kate, Tanner and Declan.  Their search leads them after an obsessed man, his girlfriend, some college kids who were in Skylar’s trailer as well as some other people from Avery’s past.

While this story definitely had moments of tension and suspense, I felt that Declan and Tanner were too much in the story.  They took the focus sometimes off of Avery and Parker.  I know the third book in the series is to focus on Declan and Tanner, but having them appear so often in this story dimmed my enjoyment somewhat.  I was glad to see Griffin and Finlay make appearances in the story, and since their story was told in book one, I was okay with them being in the story.  I did really like how Avery and Parker both prayed and kept each other accountable in their relationship with God.  God was definitely a part in their relationship, drawing them together and strengthening them.  I look forward to book three being released in October 2017 titled, Blind Spot.  Also, check out Dani’s other great series set in Alaska called Alaskan Courage.

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The Shack

Title:  The Shack

Author:  Wm. Paul Young

Pages:  272

Year:  2007

Publisher:  Hachette-Windblown Media

 

The Shack, a novel by Wm. Paul Young, is a story about Mack, a man who is suffering over the loss of his youngest daughter and the guilt that haunts him. Apparently, God has invited Mack to the very place where his daughter died a tragic death. Mack wonders if the invitation is a cruel joke or if God really did send the invitation. Mack cautiously accepts, and heads into the woods where the shack is located, and he finds a world that is both familiar and, at the same time, strange.

Essentially, Mack has an encounter with God, who manifests as a theophany of three individuals. There have been some books and reviews written that question the theology portrayed in the novel; however, the focus of the story is not on theology. The focus is on relationship between God and one particular man who needs his soul to be healed from guilt and loss. Some might find it blasphemous that God the Father, known informally in the story as Papa, appears as a woman. The dialogue clearly states that God is neither male nor female, and Papa appears to Mack as a woman because that is more comforting to Mack and what he is going through. In addition, the story alludes to Mack having a very broken relationship with his earthly father, so it makes sense that God would appear as a women to help Mack feel more comfortable. Papa later appears as an elderly man because at the time, Mack needs a father figure. Jesus appears as authentically Jewish in appearance, and the Holy Spirit appears as a female who seems to flutter around just as the wind would do. This appearance is also consistent with the Spirit being compared to the wind. Although there is much speculation on how God might appear physically and communicate to a human being in this tale, I don’t see any contradiction to how he has revealed himself in Scripture, which must be the standard that we judge theological positions. Critics also need to remember that this is a work of fiction and not a theological dissertation.

Overall, The Shack is a wonderful story of God’s loving relationship within the three persons of the Trinity as well as love for individuals. The story’s focus on relationship, love, loss, grief, forgiveness, brokenness, and healing make this novel one of the best Christian novels that I have read in several months. I highly recommend the book, and I look forward to seeing the movie.

My rating is 5.

Guest review by Cleve Johnson

Note:  I received a complimentary copy for an honest review of this book.  The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility.  Other reviews can be read at http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspot.com/ .  Also follow me on Twitter@lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/lisa.johnson.75457

 

Legacy of Deer Run

Title:  Legacy of Deer Run

Author:  Elaine Marie Cooper

Pages:  277

Year:  2012, 2016

Publisher:  CrossRiver

My rating is 4 stars.

This is the third and final book in the Deer Run Series.  This story centers on Daniel Lowe, Sr., his son Daniel Lowe, Jr. and his daughter Polly Lowe.  There are some other minor storylines as well, but these three are the main ones.  The year is 1800, and there is still fear that England will retaliate for their loss in 1776, so the armory in Springfield, Massachusetts is operating at full capacity.  There is also a shaky relationship with France to take into consideration as well.

Dan Jr. or Danny has left Deer Run to work in the armory in Springfield.  He overhears two men talking in what he thinks is French, so he reports this to his supervisor.  Unfortunately, it is dark outside when he makes this discovery and that conceals the identity of the two men.  Soon after accidents begin happening, putting Dan Jr. in the line of fire.  He also has made the acquaintance of the lovely Susannah Dobbins, who is the daughter of a local merchant newly moved to the area.  Dan Jr. doesn’t think she will take a second look at him due to their differences in social status.

Polly Lowe has fallen in love.  Unfortunately, the man is the son of her father’s bitter enemy and her father forbids her from continuing the relationship.  She rebels, but soon the man leaves the area, taking Polly’s heart along with him and leaving Polly in dire straits.  Dan Sr. is convicted of his bitterness and begs forgiveness from his enemy and his daughter.  However, Polly’s situation causes a rift in the community and her heart still longs for her love.  Dan Jr. has an idea to solve the situation, so his plan is put into action.  But has his plan, if successful, been implemented too late?

There were a couple of instances that were a little too “earthy”, as the author calls some of the more physical aspects of the story, for me, but otherwise I enjoyed the story.  I liked reading about this time in history and how the people dressed, talked, worked and survived in a sometimes very harsh environment with not many, if any, conveniences.  They had to work very hard every day.  I know I would not have made a good colonial woman!  I treasured the respect and protectiveness the men had for the women in their lives.  I also liked the big families in the story and how they managed and interacted with one another.  I hope Ms. Cooper continues to write books set in this time period as I will be sure to read them!

Her Secret (The Amish of Hart County #1)

Title:  Her Secret (The Amish of Hart County #1)

Author:  Shelley Shepard Gray

Pages:  272

Year:  2017

Publisher:  Avon Inspire

My rating is 4 stars.

Hannah Hilty is a 20-year-old Amish woman who is the victim of a stalker.  She and her family are forced to quit their jobs, leave their friends and move to a different state and different Amish community to flee this stalker.  The local police were not too responsive to the Hilty family’s reporting of the stalker, so no legal action was taken.  Hannah is now afraid to leave her new home.  Her two younger, teenage siblings blame Hannah for making them move and leave all their friends.  Hannah’s mother is forced to take a job outside the home and they are now living in a much smaller house.  The whole family is in upheaval.  This family secret is kept from the new Amish community, and there are other secrets the Hilty family is keeping as well.

Isaac Troyer is unsure what to think of his new neighbors, the Hiltys.  Their oldest daughter never leaves home alone and then very rarely.  He jokingly calls her The Recluse.  He is a 22-year-old Amish man who works in the family woodshop.  He runs into Hannah one day while she has bravely decided to take a walk alone.  The impression he makes on her he knows is unfavorable.  A couple of days later he apologizes as well as lets her know that he knows her stalker history.  The begin to form a tentative friendship.  Isaac feels protective of Hannah and senses her fear of trusting others.  Hannah feels safe with Isaac and begins to live again.  However, her newfound freedom is threatened by her sister who unknowingly tells Hannah’s secret to the wrong person.

I thought this was a good story to introduce the series and it kept me flipping pages quickly.  The story is easy to read and I read it in one sitting.  The romance between these two young Amish people is gentle, slow and tender.  The mystery/thriller aspect of the story set in Amish country is a new twist for me and I liked that aspect especially.  Readers can see the multiple secrets the Hilty family keeps from each other that create much dissension and disunity within the family, which added realism to the story.  I’m looking forward to book two in the series and to what mystery the author will weave into the tale!

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog.  Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255. “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Mercy at Midnight

Title:  Mercy at Midnight

Author:  Sylvia Bambola

Pages:  408

Year:  2016

Publisher:  Heritage Publishing House

My rating is 5+ out of 5 stars.

My introduction into the author’s writing style was when I read her novel, The Daughters of Jim Farrell a year ago or so.  When Mercy at Midnight came out, I knew I had to read the book.  Why?  I found Sylvia’s stories well-crafted.  She deals with issues head on and tells a heart-gripping story right from the start!  There are other books by this author I have yet to read, but they are in my reading pile or list to enjoy very soon!

Mercy at Midnight weaves together threads of homelessness and redemption right alongside action, danger and mystery.  The main character is a pastor named Jonathan who is a prayer warrior, tries very earnestly to obey the Spirit’s leading even when he doesn’t understand the why of it and yet his struggles are transparent to Jonathan.  The female lead is a news reporter named Cynthia who has a nose for a story, and this one she is on right now might cost her more than she thinks if she isn’t careful.

Jonathan’s past plays a role in who he is today in the story and opening a homeless shelter was the last thing he wanted to do.  Some of his actions in the book reminded me of the ways God used Old Testament prophets to bring his message in a very real in your face kind of way.  Cynthia’s past influenced her decisions to erect walls around her heart, but with her latest undercover experience she just might find her walls slowly coming down.

Throughout the book I read and loved some of the background characters whose personalities were unique.  I loved the possible budding romance between the pastor and reporter and the way the book ended was great as it leaves to the imagination of readers in a way.  I cannot wait to see what Sylva brings to her readers in 2017 because her books are engrossing, entertaining and enrapture the heart of readers.  Please read Mercy at Midnight and see if she doesn’t soon become one of your favorite authors and you find yourself reading her other fantastic novels!

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog.  Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255. “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Our Man in Charleston (Britain’s Secret Agent in the Civil War South)

Title:  Our Man in Charleston (Britain’s Secret Agent in the Civil War South)

Author:  Charles Dickey

Pages:  400

Year:  2015

Publisher:  Crown

My rating is 4 out of 5 stars.

The Civil War is just one historical event that continues to fascinate me as a reader.  The author does a magnificent job of detailing the ins and outs of what occurred in our nation at a time when chaos reigned.  I am continuously learning so much about what was going on at a time when many people even knew where their next meal was coming from.

The author packs so much information into his book that it really causes the reader to become engrossed with the intrigue that happened off the battlefield.  As I read I was humbled as I learned of events that never entered my thinking before.  Of course, today many people are even on a higher alert for those who are observing them or interested in what their activities may be.

What the author shares never before entered my mind as a possibility at a time we look back on as perhaps being centered on the battlefield.  Some of the nefarious transactions weren’t easy to read such as the way some viewed lives as of little to no value, no caring what happened to them even when separating loved ones.

There are some real historical figures readers will learn about who were brave and worked diligently behind the scenes to improve life for all.  The nonfictional book is one that lovers of history will want on their shelves to share with others for generations.  Here is a great book that will make a great gift for the lover of history, the Civil War or secret agents!

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog.  Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255. “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Grace & The Preacher

Title:  Grace & The Preacher

Author:  Kim Vogel Sawyer

Pages:  352

Year:  2017

Publisher:  WaterBrook

My rating 4 out of 5 stars.

Romance, history, fiction and in a sense a couple of unusual characters…what a story!  The female character is Grace who is postmistress and being pressured to settle for less than what her heart desires.  Theo, with a past he regrets and can’t seem to get far enough away from, feels as though it’s right on his heels!  Well, in one sense, it is as those who went to jail are bent on making him pay as they brand him a coward for failing to do one thing.

I have read a variety of Kim’s books and for the most part enjoyed them a lot; this one seemed to move a little slow at the beginning.  The dragging out of the meeting between Grace and Theo caused me to lose interest at first.  I knew they were the focus of the novel, but there was no suspense to keep me in the pages like her other novels.

I love historical fiction with a little romance but also with some action, adventure, mystery and/or just something to make the story pop off the page.  Unfortunately, for me, this one just didn’t pop.  I will still read other Kim Vogel Sawyer books because her novels always have a strong theme of faith throughout the story.  I hope that the next novel the author presents has more action, adventure or mystery that helps me stay up to finish the book long into the night!

So, read the book as it does progress after some chapters.  It might not seem slow at first to you like it did for me.  While we wait to see what she presents next, read her other stories as they were very enjoyable!

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog.  Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255. “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”