Review of Direct Hit by Mike Hollow

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Direct Hit is a mystery/crime novel written in the style of a traditional English detective novel. Although this isn't usually my favorite genre, I really enjoyed the book. It's the beginning of a new series by Mike Hollow, and I'll be looking for further books to follow.

From the book's description:


A review of the English detective novel, Direct Hit, by Mike Hollow
The jagged blast of high explosives rips through the evening air. In the sky over East London the searchlights criss-cross in search of the enemy. 

On the first night of the Blitz, a corpse is discovered in a van in the back streets of West Ham. Detective Inspector John Jago recognizes the dead man as local Justice of the Peace Charles Villers. But then a German bomb obliterates all evidence.

Villers, not a popular man, was both powerful and feared. As the sirens wail, the detective must start matching motive to opportunity--and it doesn’t help when his boss foists an intrusive American journalist on him.

Jago soon discovers the dead man held many secrets, some reaching back to World War I. A lot of people wished Villers dead--and an air raid is a good time to conceal a murder.

The book's setting- World War 2, London- makes for a rich backdrop for the crime solving story in Direct Hit. I like reading books set in that historical time period. And it was even more interesting to come to the end of the story and find out that the author based the happenings in the book on actual happenings and places in that time period in London. I think that's historical fiction at its best- taking the actual events and places of the time and weaving the fictional story around them.

There is not extremely deep character development. We get to know our hero- Jago, the detective- from some of his thoughts and feelings. But there is more story development than character development going on as Jago and his young detective, Cradock have to follow the leads as they seek to solve the murder mystery that is the theme of the novel.

The story moves at a good pace as leads unfold. Occasionally there is a bit of action or dialogue that seems a little forced or incongruous, but all in all, the story flows well. And I certainly stayed interested and involved throughout the story.

I give Direct Hit four stars and a PG-13 for content. (There is a murder mystery, but there aren't any unnecessarily grisly descriptions.) You can find the book on the Kregel website here or on Amazon.





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Review of Dead Dog Like Me by Max Davis

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Max Davis is a new to me author. Dead Dog Like Me is a new fiction read, but most of the books Max Davis has written or collaborated on are nonfiction.
Review of Dead Dog Like Me by Max Davis


Although the book's description sounded intriguing, I wasn't sure if I would like the story. It seemed a little unusual from the description. As it happened my oldest daughter- who is a voracious reader like me- snatched up the book before I could read it. She thoroughly enjoyed it and kept telling me how good it was. So, by the time I actually began to read, I had pretty high expectations.

I wasn't disappointed by Dead Dog Like Me. The story is an interesting one. Readers can relate to Nick Gregory's downward spiral. Haven't most of us made bad decisions that seemed to lead to other bad decisions? He's a fairly well developed character, so readers get to know him. And most of the book is told from his first person perspective.

The "flashback" scenes were fairly well done. They were straight forward and not confusing, which I think is the danger in those scenes for the reader. There were a few places where the perspective changed from Nick's first person to a third person perspective focusing on his wife. This confused me a little.

Despite that shift being a little awkward, I really enjoyed the book. The story was interesting as well as thought provoking and inspiring. It contains a message of grace and hope without being at all "preachy."

I give Dead Dog Like Me 4 stars and a PG rating for content. You can find it on Amazon here.






This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Dead Dog Like Me
Worthy Publishing (June 23, 2015)
by
Max Davis


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Max Davis is the author of over twenty books, has been featured in USA Today and Publisher’s Weekly, and has appeared on The Today Show and The 700 Club. He holds degrees in journalism and biblical studies. In addition to his own works, he’s done a variety of ghostwriting and collaboration projects. Max and Alanna have three grown children and a grand baby.



ABOUT THE BOOK

Nick Gregory regains consciousness after a horrific car accident to find he’s been transported back in time and that he has become Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son and King Saul’s grandson. Aware that he’s experiencing another man’s life, he has to learn fast. When mega-church pastor, Nick Gregory, regains consciousness after a horrific car accident, he’s on the ground in agonizing pain. Nick realizes he is in a bizarre place – a foreign, parched, ancient land, having been transported back in time to 800 B.C. Unbelievably, he is in the body of a prince named Mephibosheth, a son of Jonathan and King Saul’s grandson. Nick is fully aware of who he is and that he’s now living in Mephibosheth’s body, strangely able to speak and understand Hebrew. This experience helps him see that he, like Mephibosheth, is a broken man desperate for God’s outrageous grace and healing (2 Samuel 9:8). Returning to present day, Nick’s experience motivates a changed life.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Dead Dog Like Me, go HERE.


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No Safe Harbor by Elizabeth Ludwig

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This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
No Safe Harbor
Bethany House Publishers (October 1, 2012)
by
Elizabeth Ludwig


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Elizabeth Ludwig is an award-winning author whose work has been featured on Novel Rocket, the Christian Authors Network, and The Christian Pulse. Her first novel, Where the Truth Lies (co-authored with Janelle Mowery), earned her the 2008 IWA Writer of the Year Award. This book was followed in 2009 by I'll be Home for Christmas, part of the Christmas anthology collection, Christmas Homecoming.

In 2011, her second mystery, Died in the Wool (co-authored with Janelle Mowery) was nominated for a Carol Award. In 2012, the popular EDGE OF FREEDOM series released from Bethany House Publishers. Books one and two, No Safe Harbor and Dark Road Home, respectively, earned 4 Stars from the RT Book Reviews. Book three, Tide and Tempest, received top honors with 4 1/2 Stars.

Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and teacher, often attending conferences and seminars where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Along with her husband and children, she makes her home in the great state of Texas.

ABOUT THE BOOK

The Thrill of Romantic Suspense Meets the Romance of 1800s America

Lured by a handful of scribbled words across a faded letter, Cara Hamilton sets off from 1896 Ireland on a quest to find the brother she'd thought dead. Her search lands her in America, amidst a houseful of strangers and one man who claims to be a friend--Rourke Walsh.

Despite her brother's warning, Cara decides to trust Rourke and reveals the truth about her purpose in America. But he is not who he claims to be, and as rumors begin to circulate about an underground group of dangerous revolutionaries, Cara's desperation grows. Her questions lead her ever closer to her brother, but they also bring her closer to destruction as Rourke's true intentions come to light.

If you would like to read the first chapter of No Safe Harbor, go HERE.



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Review of The Lost Garden by Katharine Swartz

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Last year I read and reviewed The Vicar's Wife by Katharine Swartz. I was excited to find that there are other books forthcoming in the series. And I was able to get for review the second- The Lost Garden.

As with The Vicar's Wife, Katharine Swartz goes back and forth between modern times and the past in the telling of the story. As a result, we get to know the characters in both time periods. And the character development is really good, leading the reader to real feel a connection with the characters.

From the book's description:


A review of The Lost Garden by Katharine Swartz

Present and past residents of a countryside English vicarage search for love

Marin Ellis is in search of a new start after her father and his second wife die in a car accident leaving her the guardian of her fifteen-year-old half-sister, Rebecca. They choose the picturesque village of Goswell on the Cumbrian coast and settle into Bower House, the former vicarage, on the edge of the church property. When a door to a walled garden captures Rebecca's interest, Marin becomes determined to open it and discover what is hidden beneath the bramble inside. She enlists the help of local gardener Joss Fowler, and together the three of them begin to uncover the garden's secrets.

In 1919, nineteen-year-old Eleanor Sanderson, daughter of Goswell's vicar, is grieving the loss of her beloved brother Walter, who was killed just days before the Armistice was signed. Eleanor retreats into herself and her father starts to notice how unhappy she is. As spring arrives, he decides to hire someone to make a garden for Eleanor, and draw her out of--or at least distract her from--her grief and sorrow. Jack Taylor is in his early twenties, a Yorkshire man who has been doing odd jobs in the village, and when Eleanor's father hires him to work on the vicarage gardens, a surprising--and unsuitable--friendship unfolds.


I found myself really enjoying the flashback style of telling the story. This isn't always a favorite of mine because when done poorly, this can be confusing. In this story, however, it's done very well and gives the reader a glimpse into the same physical setting almost a century prior.

I enjoyed the World War 1 setting in Eleanor's story. England in the days of the Great War isn't a time period I was very familiar with. But it was interesting setting with the conventions propriety. And the mood of the country at the end of and immediately following the war provided a great backdrop to Eleanor's story.

In modern times, Marin's story was also engaging. The story flows- even going back and forth between the time periods. And I found myself caught up from the start.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one as much as the first. I give it 5 stars and a PG rating for content. You can find The Lost Garden on Kregel here or on Amazon here.




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Review of Day of Atonement by David A. deSilva

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Day of Atonement appealed to me as soon as I read the book's description. Historical fiction set in the time of the Israelites between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the new. Fiction set in Biblical times is always interesting to me. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy the book as much as I had anticipated.

From the book's description:


Review of Day of Atonement by David A.deSilva

In the blank pages between Malachi and Matthew, the course of an entire nation was changed . . . 

His brother, the high priest Honiah, enjoyed the authority of the high priesthood, and all important decisions needed his approval. But it was Jason who was shaping the future of Jerusalem and, with it, all Judea. He breathed in again, imagining that he could feel the wave of destiny impelling him forward toward his vision as he exhaled . . .

The Greeks have taken over the world, but Jerusalem is still the same backwater city Jason has always known. He wants to help his hometown rise to a new age of prosperity and influence. If that means stretching the terms of the city's divine covenant, so be it. But how far is he willing to go to achieve Greek greatness for this Jewish city? It will take the willingness of a handful of Jews to die rather than violate the covenant in order to turn the tide back to God.

Written by a historian and expert on the time period, the novel does have interesting insight into the political and religious influence of the day. And I was interested in knowing more about how the Israelite nation continued after the remnant had returned to their homeland and rebuilt the temple and the city of Jerusalem in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

The book, however, was dry. The characters weren't very developed, and I had a hard time relating to them or to the story. Because of that, and because this period of history is not one I know much about, I had a difficult time following the plot. If you enjoy history or have some knowledge of the setting of Day of Atonement, it may be a more enjoyable read.

I give Day of Atonement 3 stars and a PG rating. You can find the book on Kregel here and on Amazon here.



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Review of Jack Staples and the Ring of Time by Mark Batterson and Joel N. Clark

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Review of Jack Staples and the Ring of Time, a young adult readI'm always on the lookout for good young adult and kid reads for my crew. I was interested in Jack Staples and the Ring of Time when I first saw the synopsis. It sounded like an exciting and appealing read.

The story is interesting. It's fast moving. The plot is similar to that of other young adult "hero" style books. The characters are interesting and are all young teens- to make them appealing to young readers.

There is a back and forth time element that makes reading a little confusing. As well, there are three main characters, and it was a little hard to keep up with each player's part in the story. The story is only the first in a series, and readers are left hanging to want to see what happens next.

I'm not sure that Jack Staples will become a read that my crew enjoys, but it's a read that will appeal to many kids and young adults. I give it 3 stars and a PG for content for some violence and suspense. You can find Jack Staples and the Ring of Time on Amazon here.



This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Jack Staples and the Ring of Time
David C. Cook (September 1, 2014)
by
Mark Batterson and Joel Clark


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church (www.theaterchurch.com) in Washington, DC. One church with seven locations. NCC is focused on reaching emerging generations and meets in theaters throughout the DC metro area. NCC also owns and operates the largest coffeehouse on Capitol Hill. Mark holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Regent University and is the New York Times bestselling author of 11 books, including The Circle Maker, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, Wild Goose Chase and the two most recent, The Grave Robber and Jack Staples and the Ring of Time. Mark is married to Lora and they live on Capitol Hill with their three children: Parker, Summer, and Josiah.



ABOUT THE BOOK

Eleven-year-old Jack's ordinary life is upended when mysterious creatures attack his hometown and he is whisked into a fantastical adventure filled with danger at every turn.

Jack learns that most live in a shadow of the world, their vision blinded by invisible scales that have covered human eyes since the beginning of time. But the Awakened experience the world as it truly is, where war rages between good and evil—and Jack is at the heart of it. The Awakened are searching for The Child of Prophesy who will both save the world and destroy it. When Jack joins in their epic battle he must learn to trust his friends and face his fears if he is to make his life count.

If you'd like to read the first chapter of Jack Staples and the Ring of Time, go HERE.






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Review of Midnight on the Mississippi by Mary Ellis

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As a born and bred Southerner, I often enjoy reads set in the deep South. So I was interested in the plot of Midnight on the Mississippi when I read the book's synopsis. Unfortunately I wasn't impressed as I read, and this is one I don't highly recommend.

From the book's description:

Midnight on the Mississippi begins the new Secrets of the South Mysteries from bestselling author Mary Ellis. These complex crime dramas follow an investigator's quest to make the world a better place...solving one case at a time. New Orleans--Hunter Galen, a stock and securities broker, suspects his business partner, James Nowak, may be involved in embezzling their clients' money, but he's reluctant to jeopardize their friendship based on suspicion alone. After James turns up dead, Hunter realizes his unwillingness to confront a problem may have cost James his life. Nicki Price, a newly minted PI, intends to solve the stockbroker's murder, recover the missing millions from the client accounts, and establish herself in the career she adores. As she ferrets out fraud and deception at Galen Investments, Hunter's fiancee, Ashley Menard, rubs Nicki the wrong way. Nicki doesn't trust the ostentatious woman with an agenda longer than the Mississippi River. Ashley seems to be hiding something, but is Nicki's growing attraction to Hunter--a suspected murderer--her true reason for disliking Ashley? As they encounter sophisticated shell games, blackmail, and murder, Nicki and Hunter's only option is to turn to God as they search for answers, elude lethal danger, and perhaps discover love along the way.


The story isn't particularly bad. There is definite potential in the story line. But the characters aren't well developed at all. The story turns into more of a narrative of events. And some of the conversation is pretty stilted and forced sounding. As a result the book has a choppy tone, and I just couldn't get into it.

On the positive side, it is a simple, quick read and could make for an easy read to pick up if you enjoy crime and suspense story lines and if you overlook the lack of depth and character development. The book is the first in a crime drama series, I believe. There is room for continued character development if the same characters are in subsequent books.

I give this one 3 stars and a PG-13 rating for content. (It is a crime drama with murder and description of violence.) You can find Midnight on the Mississippi on Amazon here.



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