Monday, August 28, 2017

Allison Pittman: Loving Luther

By Kelly Bridgewater

Germany, 1505
In the dark of night, Katharina von Bora says the bravest good-bye a six-year-old can muster and walks away as the heavy convent gate closes behind her.

Though the cold walls offer no comfort, Katharina soon finds herself calling the convent her home. God, her father. This, her life. She takes her vows―a choice more practical than pious―but in time, a seed of discontent is planted by the smuggled writings of a rebellious excommunicated priest named Martin Luther. Their message? That Katharina is subject to God, and no one else. Could the Lord truly desire more for her than this life of servitude?

In her first true step of faith, Katharina leaves the only life she has ever known. But the freedom she has craved comes with a price, and she finds she has traded one life of isolation for another. Without the security of the convent walls or a family of her own, Katharina must trust in both the God who saved her and the man who paved a way for rescue. Luther’s friends are quick to offer shelter, but Katharina longs for all Luther has promised: a home, a husband, perhaps even the chance to fall in love.

From Amazon

My Thoughts:

Loving Luther by Allison Pittman was a joy to read. Historical fiction might not be my go-to genre, but once in a while, a topic captures my attention and makes me want to read the novel. With Pittman's book, I never knew that Luther was ever in love with someone. Being a monk, I didn't think they could marry, but as the story shows, he left the monk life when he decided to read the Bible for himself. When I read a historical novel, I want the characters to be real and intertwine with the research so well that I don't know I'm actually reading a fictionalized story of a real person's life.

The writing is clear and concise. We stayed in Katharina's perspective the entire time. Since the story is told from her point of view, I watched as she interacted with the world and saw her feelings and words about certain topics. As for the research, it flowed nicely. I never once thought that Pittman was giving me a history lesson on Luther and what he accomplished. It was hinted at, but most readers should be familiar with what he accomplished with his theses. The setting came to life. I could feel the cold and taste the thin broth the poor ladies had to endure.

The romance really wasn't the focus of the story like I thought it was going to be. With a title like Loving Luther, I thought the story would be more about Katharina and Luther's love story. Yes, it is there toward the end of the novel, but the story focused more on Katharina's upbringing and her failed love to another man. Plus, this love to another man, I still don't understand what happened. Katharina was in love with him, and he appeared to be in love with her. Then he went away, never to talk to her again. It wasn't said what happened or why. I kept waiting for Pittman to tell me what happened, but she never does.

The spiritual element is important in this novel, as it should be because Pittman is discussing Luther and the whole Catholic church. I enjoyed how she allowed Katharina to make the discussion that she doesn't have to live in solitude to talk with God. She can still be a wife and a mother and talk with God. This is important, and the Catholic church still needs to hear this today.

Overall, the research and the setting stand out in my mind. While the title suggests a love story, it is more about Katharina's journey to discovering her love in Luther while maintaining her love for God. Loving Luther is a good book and taught me a lot, so I recommend this book to fellow readers who enjoy being taught things while they read. It was nice to uncover a part of Luther's life that I didn't know existed.

I received a complimentary copy of Loving Luther by Allison Pittman from Tyndale Publishing, and the opinions stated are all my  own.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

What draws you to historical story that is based on a true person? Or do you stay away from this type of story all together?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Carrie Stuart Parks: Portrait of Vengeance

By Kelly Bridgewater

An unsolved case. A tempest of memories. The future’s at stake—and time is running out . . .

Gwen Marcey has done a good job of keeping the pain of her past boxed up. But as she investigates the case of a missing child in Lapwai, Idaho, details keep surfacing that are eerily similar to her childhood traumas. She doesn’t believe in coincidences. So what’s going on here?

No one knows more about the impact of the past than the Nez Perce people of Lapwai. Gwen finds herself an unwelcome visitor to some, making her investigation even more difficult. The questions keep piling up, but answers are slow in coming—and the clock is ticking for a missing little girl. 
Meanwhile, her ex-husband back home is threatening to take sole custody of their daughter.

As Gwen’s past and present collide, she’s in a desperate race for the truth. Because only truth will ensure she still has a future.

Portrait of Vengeance
From Barnes and Nobles

My Thoughts:

I became a fan of Carrie Stuart Parks writing when I read her first book A Cry from the Dust.As a debut author, she did a fantastic job drawing me into the lives and mysteries of Gwen Marcy. With each book after that, The Bones Will Speak and When Death Draws Near, Parks still captures my attention. When I found out that there would be more Gwen Marcy books than the typical three books, I was excited. With her latest addition to this series, Portrait of Vengeance, I really enjoyed this novel.

Like in her previous books, Parks uses her knowledge of forensic art to solve the crime put forth in the first chapter in the story. Her research flies off the page, allowing me to lose sleep as I fly through the pages. The writing is clear and concise. I had no problem visualizing the setting and followed along Gwen as she interviewed people and took a tour through the wilderness.

As for the continuing characterization of Gwen, Parks allows me to empathize with Gwen as she still struggles with her job, her ex-husband, and her daughter. This time the mystery centers around Gwen's past and made Gwen wonder if she was imaging the connection to the current crime she is working on. While this time, her daughter isn't a prominent struggle in her life; Gwen does receive a phone call from her ex-husband declaring he was taking full custody of their daughter. More internal and external struggles for Gwen.

As for the mystery, it was non-stop thrill ride. A thriller that kept me guessing. I figured out who the bad guy was sixty percent in, but I wanted Parks to prove me wrong or right, which is how I enjoy my stories. This novel keeps moving at a rapid pace and doesn't let up. I enjoy the connection between Gwen's past and the present mystery. Made it easier to stay engrossed in the story. I finished this book in less than one day. I couldn't put it down.

Portrait of Vengeance is an original novel with a reoccurring character that I have come to enjoy. Fans of Parks other works or Steven James' (my favorite thriller writer) should pick up this book. Highly recommended.

I received a complimentary copy of Portrait of Vengeance by Carrie Stuart Parks from Thomas Nelson Publishing, but the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Since I really enjoy mysteries, I enjoy when the stories are more than the standard three book series. Steven James' Patrick Bowers series is currently ten books long. Love that! Do you like when a series is pretty long? Why or Why not?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Lunch with a Character

By Kelly Bridgewater

Two weeks ago, my blog post discussed having lunch with a deceased character.

This week, I want to share my thoughts on two different literary characters I would love to have lunch with.

Since I adore both of these characters, it was hard for me to pick one, so you get to read two.

First, I would love to hang out with Sherlock Holmes.

Yes, Holmes.  Not Benedict Cumberbatch. But Doyle's character Holmes.

 I would love to sit down with him while he is in the middle of a troubling case. It would be nice to see how his mind works and maybe offer some suggestions on how to solve the case. When reading novels, I have a pretty good idea of where the author is going and how they should solve the case. I usually can figure out the bad guy too. I might not be as good as Holmes, but I handle myself pretty well. Maybe even go on a case with him. Watch how he observes the scenes and can solve the cases using clues that most people don't notice.

Second, I would love to hang out with Harry Potter.

Harry Potter as a young kid. The one that has to fight Voldermort. I would love to see how he dealt with all that stress while growing up. Being a teenager is hard enough, but to have some ultimate evil wanting to kill you since before you were born. That is pretty hard to swallow. But he had the guts to stand up against him and not allow him to hurt him or his friends. I don't know if I would have the guts to do that. I love his ability to use magic. What a wonderful world to live in. I don't know how the conversation would go, but I would just allow the ideas to flow.

What literary characters would you love to have lunch with?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Christy Barritt: Clean Getaway

By Kelly Bridgewater

Gabby St. Claire Thomas has been given the opportunity of a lifetime: heading up a privately funded Cold Case Squad and handpicking the team members. Persnickety Evie Manson and nerdy Sherman Gilbert join forces with Gabby to bring justice and solace to families who still want answers. On their first case, the Squad discovers that the murders of Ron and Margie Simmons are more than cold—they’re frozen solid. The couple’s anniversary celebration ended as a double homicide, and ten years later their daughter still longs for answers. But who would kill the loving couple? What kind of secrets hid beneath their cheery, All-American exteriors? With every new lead, someone tries to sabotage their investigation . . . but the team might just end up being their own worst enemies. As a deadline presses in, can Gabby and her Squad bring the heat? Or will this cold-case killer make a clean getaway?

From Amazon

My Thoughts:

The Squeaky Clean Mysteries were my first introduction to Christy Barritt's writing, and the series has a special place in my heart. I enjoy and get excited when I hear that Barritt is writing another book in this series. Currently, there are thirteen plus books in this series with a couple of spin-off series or books. So there are plenty of stories out there to wet anyone's appetite for more. With her newest release of the Squeaky Clean Mysteries, Clean Getaway, I really enjoyed the hunt for justice. Gabby is once again on the hunt to solve a mystery, but this time, Barritt places Gabby in a hunt for  a Cold Case that happened ten years. With her many chances at someone trying to kill her and her team, Gabby learns to keep trusting in God and trying to accept Evie as a friend. The mystery keeps getting deeper and deeper as I traveled through the story with Gabby. I really enjoyed this addition to the series, and as always, look forward to what Barritt comes up with next.

I received a complimentary copy of Clean Getaway by Christy Barritt from Christy Barritt, but the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Monday, August 14, 2017

Lynette Eason: Chasing Secrets

By Kelly Bridgewater

Elite Guardians bodyguard Haley Callaghan may be in South Carolina, but when a photo leads investigators in West Ireland to open a twenty-five-year-old cold case, her life is suddenly in danger. Haley knows how to take care of herself; after all, she's made a career out of taking care of others. But after an uncomfortably close call, Detective Steven Rothwell takes it upon himself to stay with her--and the young client she has taken under her wing. A protector at heart, he's not about to let Haley fight this battle alone.

In a sweeping plot that takes them into long-buried memories--and the depths of the heart--Haley and Steven will have to solve the mystery of Haley's past while dodging bullets, bombs, and bad guys who just won't quit.

From Amazon

My Thoughts:

Lynette Eason knows exactly what the readers of romantic suspense want. If they are anything like me, then they want non-stop action with someone's life in danger. I have devoured Always Watching, Without Warning, and Moving Target, so I can't wait to see what Eason had in store for me in Chasing Secrets. I recommend Eason's books all the time to fellow readers who claim to want tons of suspense with a hint of romance. Eason has not disappointed me yet.

As an accomplished writer, I'm sure that Eason will know how to write into deep point of view without distracting me from the story. The setting comes to life and keeps me anchored in the story without any question or pulling out to watch Eason explain things for me. I empathized with the characters as they struggled with their identity and moving on from the past. The character of Haley is a dynamic character who places children first in her life. She loves them and wants to help improve their lives, which is shown in the center she runs and how much time she invests in their individual lives. I enjoyed watching Haley's transformation story as she went through the story. As for Steven, he is a wonderful parallel to Haley and compliments her and her need to overcome the mysteries of her past. Steven also changes by learning to forgive and letting go of some of his past anger issues.

The plot is original and unpredictable. Eason is a master at allowing me to not to figure out who the villain is before the end of the novel. When she introduced the bad guy, I was shocked. It was not who I thought it was. Good job, Eason! I loved being proven wrong  . . . or right when reading a suspense.

The spiritual element of forgiveness and letting go off the past affected by main characters, and I'm glad that Eason allowed this change to happen naturally, not force it on the characters. I don't believe some readers will be turned off by the spiritually of the story; it was not the driving force of the plot, just there to deepened the characters.

Overall, Lynette Eason's Chasing Secrets is a fabulous conclusion to her Elite Guardians' series, and I enjoyed spending time with all four heroines and loved watching them change and mature as the series deepened. I highly recommend Chasing Secrets for fans of Lynette Eason's other books or romantic suspense in general. A great read!

I received a complimentary copy of Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason from Revell Publishing, but the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars