Book Review: Smoke Screen

Finished Reading: Smoke Screen
by Terri Blackstock

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Christian suspense, romance

Cilka's Journey: A Novel

Brenna and Nate were high school sweethearts, a relationship that ended in heartache when Nate’s father was convicted of killing Brenna’s father. Soon after, Nate left town amid accusations that he’d burned down the local church. Fast forward almost 15 years, and Nate returns to town an injured hero, and Brenna is fighting a bitter custody battle for her two children. Nate’s father has been released from prison, but most people still believe he is guilty, including Nate. While Nate tries to reconnect with his father and Brenna tries to fight her own demons while also fighting her ex-husband, Nate and Brenna realize that their flame is still burning.

This book gave me all the feels…I got angry, I smiled, and I shed some tears. Nate was incredible, Brenna was all too real, and their relationships with God were presented in a very real, positive way. I am very glad that I read this book.

The book is listed on Netgalley as a mystery/thriller, but it really isn’t either of those. It’s more drama & suspense, with a heavy romance. Yes, the mystery of who killed Brenna’s father, as well as who burned down the local church, are addressed in the book, but they are some of the smallest plot threads, at least until near the end. One of the biggest arcs is Brenna’s battle with her horrid ex-husband. That was the part that had me angry. I won’t pretend that things like this can’t happen in real life, but the way it all went down was just…so aggravating. And because of this situation, Brenna was struggling with alcoholism, which was a heavy element in the book as well. But it was difficult to blame her, considering how she was being steamrolled into not being able to take care of her children properly.

The relationship between Nate and Brenna was one of the sweetest romances I’ve read in a long time. It was not about the physical, but purely about the emotional & historical connection between them. That Nate was able to look past the effects of her currently terrible circumstances to see the real woman, and gave her a lifeline when she needed one the most, while allowing her to build her own strength, rather than relying purely on him, all makes him one of my favorite male romantic protagonists ever.

The book was told in first-person perspective, but switched back and forth between Nate’s and Brenna’s points of view, which I found a little disorienting. Each time we switch, or even just when there’s a new chapter, we are clearly told who’s perspective we’re in, but I still had a difficult time with it. And I’m not sure there was really a good enough reason to do it this way.

I think that one of my biggest issues was with the predictability and contrivances that I noticed. One of the things that happened near the end I basically assumed had to happen, though weirdly, even when it did happen, it turned out to not be for the reason I thought it was necessary. And a few events were a little too coincidental, happening purely to make sure the plot went where it was supposed to.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I was surprised by how quick and easy of a read it was, and would recommend it to all fans of Christian drama, suspense, and romance.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. 

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Publication date: November 5, 2019

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Book Review: Synapse

Finished Reading: Synapse
by Steven James

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Christian sci-fi

SynapseSet at a time in the future when robots (or Artificials) have been taught to not only think for themselves, but to have emotions, and even the option of pain, there is still a lot that is unknown about how similar robots are to humans. Do they have souls? Can they believe in and worship God? Kestrel Hathaway doesn’t know, and neither does her Artificial, Jordan. Amidst their discussions of these concepts, Kestrel is pulled into a plot to put an end to the advances in AI by people known as Purists. Working with federal agent Nick Vernon, Kestrel and Jordan do their part to help prevent a deadly attack.

This book was an interesting mash-up of theology exploration and sci-fi elements. For much of the book, Kestrel is simply trying to cope with a fresh tragedy, while being slowly dragged into a deadly cat-and-mouse game between federal agents and terrorists. Jordan was probably my favorite character, as he tried to figure out what hope there was for him, especially in eternity. And there were some twists near the end that I enjoyed. But overall, the book was mostly just okay.

The very beginning of the book shows Kestrel delivering a stillborn baby (that she didn’t know was stillborn). It’s told in 2nd-person perspective, so it’s describing the events as if they happened to you. I think this is important to know for those who have gone through this or something similar. She is a pastor, and spends most of the rest of the book idly questioning her faith in God. I say idly, because it’s as if she’d forget her questions now and then, and have to remind herself she was still uncertain about if God existed, or he was actually all-powerful, or if he cared about her. She also carries some PTSD from a tragedy 9 years old, and I was surprised by the way some of that played out as well. But I suppose PTSD is not a consistent syndrome (meaning it’s not the same from person to person, and probably difficult to pin down and define). I would say that maybe the way she does respond shows her strength, but I didn’t really get that characteristic from her otherwise.

I believe Jordan’s role in the book was to parallel humanity’s question of an afterlife. How can we ever know for sure if Heaven exists, if no one who has been there can return to tell us about it? Artificials are told that there is a manufactured afterlife where their consciousnesses will go when they “die.” Jordan’s mother “died,” and he is desperate to know if she’s in the afterlife. Where this parallel falls apart, though, is that Artificials are guaranteed this afterlife by a fallible man, while humans who follow Christ are guaranteed their afterlife by an infallible God. Some of the discussions that arise between Jordan and Kestrel about afterlife and the ability to believe in and worship God are interesting though. Except for the times that Kestrel is just mean to Jordan about his inhumanness.

As for the twists near the end, they did mostly catch me off guard. But there was a weird thing that happened that got my heart pumping about a possible twist coming, but instead, it turned out not to be true. It was a huge letdown, and I can think of a few ways that some dialog could have been written to avoid this letdown. I had some questions that were left unanswered–about Jordan’s mom, about some of the Purists’ involvements and questionable actions, and some other things that came out during the climax, but are never given any kind of explanation.

I think the sci-fi plot were simply a vehicle for the theology discussed in the book, which is why the plot was fairly weak. And for me, at least, some of the theology was weak too. Kestrel’s brother, an atheist, asks her some very good questions about God, and her replies are the type I often see from the token “religious character” in TV or movies. She does go deeper than the stereotype sometimes, but I still found myself wishing for more. And very likely, this can all be chalked up to the author and me having different views on some theological aspects, which will certainly happen. I just found myself very sad about Kestrel’s brother’s view of God, and wished her responses had been more fulfilling.

One more thing that adds to my lower rating, which I almost forgot, was the way the story was told. As I mentioned above, it starts out in 2nd person (“you”), then switches to 1st person out of the blue (“I”), but is only 1st person when the perspective is on Kestrel. When it’s on a plethora of other characters, it’s 3rd person. And to make it even more confusing, when the perspective is on Jordan, it’s 3rd person and present tense, when it’s past tense the rest of the time. There’s a reason jumping POVs, tenses, and even character perspectives is meant to be kept simple, and while it’s not completely impossible to try something different…it was just confusing in this case, and made the reading disjointed.

In the end, I would recommend this book for those who are interested in the exploration of how humans approach God and the afterlife, and what it means to have a “soul,” and understand that there is some sci-fi around that. I don’t think I’d recommend this for readers of sci-fi, unless they are willing to wade through the theology.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Find out more about Synapse
Publication date: October 8, 2019

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Book Review: Stealthy Steps

Finished Reading: Stealthy Steps
Nanostealth #1
by Vikki Kestell

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Christian sci-fi thriller

Stealthy Steps (Nanostealth #1)

I didn’t fully understand the premise of this book going into it, because the synopsis is more like a boiled-down excerpt from part of the book, with a little extra character introduction. Most of the information is there, but it’s cryptic. Here’s my synopsis though: Gemma Keyes is a young woman fresh out of college, and takes a job as a project manager at a top secret lab. She mostly organizes things and takes meeting notes, but this makes her privy to some classified information. When she hears the wrong information (not her fault), she is fired. Months later, after an accident in the same lab claimed the lives of the 2 top scientists she was working for, she’s contacted covertly by one of those scientists, Dr. Bickel (obviously not dead). She ends up being asked to help him continue his work, which he’s keeping secret from everyone at this point. This work is in nanotechnology. When the government, and in particular, a nasty military general who has no scruples about how she gets information & technology for her military, closes in on Gemma and the man she’s helping, an unexpected incident leaves her invisible. Literally. (Some people see the invisibility aspect as a spoiler, but it’s how the prologue ends, so I see it as part of the set up.)

So…now Gemma has to figure out how to live life completely invisible, which presents all sorts of problems, especially since she practically lives in a fish bowl. Half of the book is about this, as well as her concern about being discovered by the general who went after Dr. Bickel. This half of the book is entertaining and interesting. I liked the relationships Gemma developed both before and after her invisibility. My favorite thing was the ways she tried to communicate with the nanotechnology that is responsible for her uncontrollable invisibility.

The first half of the book had some interesting parts as well–especially the relationships that began and/or developed between Gemma and Dr. Bickel, Gemma and the associate pastor of her old church (more on that below), and an established relationship between Gemma and an older neighbor. However, the first half of the book was bogged down heavily by a lot of exposition and repetition.

First, there is a long and tedious description of how Gemma first got into the secret, abandoned military based where Dr. Bickel directed her to meet him. It might not have been so bad, had we not already given given those steps (most of them), but backward. Then there are the 37-8 pages of Dr. Bickel talking and explaining. Explaining how he avoided dying in the lab explosion, explaining how he got himself set up in this mountain base, and longest of all, explaining how the nanotechnology works. In detail. That most of us reading aren’t going to really follow. Some of it did prove to be important to the rest of the story, but honestly, much of it wasn’t. (At one point, after about 33 pages of explanation,  Bickel says, “‘Would you like to hear more about the nanomites before you go, Gemma?'” And I literally thought, “I wish could say no.”) Since the book is told in 1st person, and Gemma didn’t understand a lot of what he said, I have a very difficult time believing that when she wrote this account some weeks or months later, she could remember all of the science that he spouted. It could have definitely been boiled down for us, and even more so, would have then fit in with the style of narration that the rest of the book has.

Much of the information in the first half of the book would have been okay on its own, but since it was all told together in the first half, it made it difficult to keep reading. I totally understand why the prologue is a long description of the point when Dr. Bickel is discovered in his secret lab by the general, ending with Gemma finding herself invisible. It needed that action and intrigue to get people hooked. Still, if I hadn’t been recommended this book series by my mom who has recently been very anxious for me to read it so she could hear what I thought, I might have at least set it down and come back to it later. As such, once you’re past that half of the book, it does get more interesting. It’s the first book in a short series, so some of the expositiony first part can be explained as set-up to an entire series, and it does have an ending that left me wanting to know more. Still, I think setting up an entire series isn’t an excuse for so much info-dump all at once.

The associate pastor I mentioned above, named Zander, is where the Christian aspect of the book comes in, for the most part. He’s invited to visit Gemma by her older neighbor, and he is a good example of a Christian in fiction. He is generous, compassionate, flawed, and complicated. Gemma sees a lot of sides of him, some of which draw her to him, but others of which push her away. His very Christianity is the biggest obstacle to their developing relationship, though, because Gemma is quite against Christianity. He speaks the truth in love, and shows Christ’s love through his action, while still being a believable human being. I look forward to seeing how this develops in the rest of the series.

I was particularly bothered by some of Gemma’s actions in this book, and the way she excused them, but I think that was intentional. She also got angry, or at least upset, at weird things, which made her seem like sort of a petulant child to me sometimes. I don’t know if that part of her personality was intentional or not. There were a few inconsistencies that stuck out to me (like why Dr. Bickel let Gemma take pictures in his secret lab, after the intense precautions he’d asked her to take in getting there, and in their communications). Also, I feel the need to give some trigger warnings: domestic abuse, child neglect and endangerment, descriptions of or allusions to gang violence.

So to sum up, yes, the first half of the book was slow, but the rest was good enough, and I have faith that the following books will pick up the pace, that I felt the book was worthy of 4 stars. I would recommend the book to fans of Christian mysteries & thrillers and lovers of this type of sci-fi.

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Book Review: Fatal Strike

Finished Reading: Fatal Strike
by DiAnn Mills

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Christian suspense, romance

Fatal StrikeA pair of FBI agents partner up to investigate a string of murders involving law enforcement officials. They have never worked together before, and but fall into a professional rhythm to work the case. What ensues is a police-procedural-type story involving a gang that kills with rattlesnake venom, a mother desperately trying to protect her son, missing persons, faith, trust, and a few interesting turns thrown in.

I read this book in 2 days, and really enjoyed it. The main characters, Leah & Jon, were smart, compassionate, and professional. They both had back stories that provided depth without being overly emo and cliched. And both had phobias that they were determined to overcome, and that they had the chance to face in the book.

I liked the way the case unfolded, with some developments that kept me guessing. I did figure out who the kingpin was, but wasn’t bothered by figuring it out in advance. In fact, I remember thinking that if didn’t go that way, I was going to question some of the author’s choices. There were a couple of smaller elements that were presented that seemed to be left hanging, but they didn’t bother me too much. I also had a very difficult time following the action in the climax, and didn’t understand why some of the things happened.

Some of the dialog seemed kind of stilted, especially between the main characters. Most of the time I couldn’t really tell who was talking, because they were so similar to each other. I’m not sure that’s a fault in the characterization, because it was clear from the beginning that they WERE similar, so maybe it was an issue with dialog tags and narration as much as anything. I also did not care for the kingpin’s dialog near the end of the book. It made him seem a lot less intelligent and dastardly than I think he was supposed to be.

The romance is a slow-burn, which is my favorite type. The characters are completely respectful of each other and of their situation (partners working a case), and the romance that develops between them is understated, almost to a point of coming from out of left field, but I prefer a little bit of a leap to the in-your-face type of romances.

And finally, the Christian aspect is well-presented. Most of the faith that is presented in the book comes from a priest who is involved in the investigation. He is wise and insightful, and even clearly shown to be a human with some flaws, but kind and devoted. Through this influence, as well as some others, both of the main characters individually begin to examine their belief in God and what it might mean for them. I even appreciated the way that the too-familiar question of why a loving God would allow bad things to happen to good people is addressed.

Overall, I enjoyed this fast-paced read and would recommend it to all fans of suspense or crime dramas, with a little faith thrown in.

Thank you to Netgalley and Tyndale House Publishers for providing me a copy of this book to review.


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Book Review: Swipe

Finished Reading: Swipe
Book #1
by Evan Angler

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: YA dystopian

Swipe (Swipe, #1)

Everyone who knows end-times Christian fiction understands the setting of this book. The world is setting up for a global government, already has a global religion, and an implanted Mark is required for buying, selling, basically for living. With this backdrop, we are introduced to Logan Langly, who has been terrified of receiving his Mark (which happens when a child turns 13) ever since his sister died when receiving hers. Around this time, a new girl, Erin, moves to town. Her father works for the government, specifically the branch that deals with trouble related to the Mark. When Erin learns that her father is basically a spy, she gets caught up in the case he came to town to work on. And that case happens to involve Logan as well.

This book was not bad, though also could have been better. From the very beginning (the prologue, even), there was a mystery set up that drove me through the story. It was a short, easy read, so that helped too.  The plots set up for both of the main characters were interesting as well, but it all kind of fell apart at the end. It took far too long to really get the answers I was looking for, and in the meantime, I was reading characters that just fell flat for me.

The two main characters are annoying and bland. There is little to no character development. My favorite was a boy who is part of a rebel group. He’s not the leader, but he’s the leader’s right-hand man. But the rest of that rebel group is so crazy that the whole rebel group aspect is just bizarre. (Two of them play a card game like War, but whoever has the highest card gets to punch the other player in the face. And it’s written like it’s completely normal. It was really weird.)

The world building is hit-or-miss. The background of how the country (and really the world) gets to where it is was well thought-out, pretty logical. The explanation of some of the current world is also interesting (though I don’t know how realistic it would be). But some of it almost comes across lazy. Many things have a prefix of “nano-“, which apparently just means it’s enhanced in some way?

It is revealed part way through the book that the rebel group has a mole at the school that the main characters go to. It comes off like it’s supposed to be a secret to the reader, but it was pretty obvious. Around the time the mole is identified, we’re also finally given some answers to why the rebel group does what it does, but the answers are unimpressive. Noble, but not nearly as interesting as I’d hoped for. And in my opinion, not presented with nearly enough evidence for at least one character to fall in line with them as easily as he does.

The ending felt a bit rushed to me, and I didn’t fully buy the way the characters acted at the end. I was also left with the question about whether or not there were meant to be romantic feelings between the main characters, and even more than that, if we were supposed to care if there were. The characters are 12 & 13, so…not really a romance I’m looking to read.

Final thoughts: the book is a set up to a 4-book series, and given the ending of this one, I’m hoping book #2 will take off quite a bit, comparatively. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, the series is said to be Christian end-times fiction, but you really wouldn’t guess it to read the first book. The only thing that hints at it is the Mark, and to a lesser degree, the possible antichrist set-up, but it’s so lightly touched on, if I couldn’t see from Goodreads that it was Christian, I would never classify it as that. Again, presumably that will come into play in the rest of the series (my son says it does–we bought these for him when they were newer, and he’s read them all). For now, it’s difficult to come up with someone to recommend this book/series to.

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Book Review: The Yellow Lantern

Finished Reading: The Yellow Lantern
by Angie Dicken

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Historical Christian romance, crime

The Yellow Lantern: True Colors: Historical Stories of American CrimeIn this book of historical fiction, set in New England just before the beginning of the Victorian Era, a young woman named Josephine Clayton works for a doctor to pay her father’s way out of debtor’s prison. But when Josephine becomes sick and is presumed dead, her buried body is stolen by a man working for the same doctor. The story starts with her waking up, about to be dissected, and when the doctor sees she’s still alive, he plans to dissect her anyway. To save her own life, and to keep her father out of trouble, Josephine ends up embroiled in the doctor’s schemes of body-snatching. She is planted at a cotton mill in the next town over, to spy for the body snatchers and help with the actual snatching. But when the next victim is a loved one of the cotton mill’s manager (named Braham Taylor), a man to whom Josephine has become close, the gruesome business becomes a nightmare.

This book was a decent read overall. The setting was interesting. The bigger side characters had personality. I liked the back-and-forth POV between Josephine (or as we know her through most of the book, Josie) and Braham.

I was usually really happy when it switched back to Braham for a while, which tells me I connected with his character more than with Josie. I think that’s because his troubles seemed a lot more real and understandable to me. But it’s not that Josie doesn’t have serious issues. I just think her storyline was convoluted enough that I was only vaguely aware of the danger or of her reasons for going along with the body snatching plot. Her father was in trouble with…the doctor and some creditors, but I don’t know who they were, or if I’m even right about that. Alvin (Josie’s “handler”) was bad but sort of good (which isn’t bad in itself), but was owed money, yet still chose to hold back the first body he snatched in the story? It wasn’t until near the end that enough of this network of body snatchers was sorted out enough that I was at least able to appreciate the conclusion. This was probably my biggest problem throughout the book.

For the first quarter of the book, at least, I was reminded strongly of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. It’s set in a cotton mill, the male lead runs the cotton mill, and the female lead is not terribly happy about coming to the town. It’s also set in a similar time period. I love North and South, so that may have helped draw me into the book at first, but it did veer off to become a vastly different story, and a good one in its own right.

The other big downside, in my opinion, is that the body snatching was really not as big a part of the plot as it seemed like it should be. I mean, it haunted Josie throughout the book, and at the end, we can see an inter-connectedness that we didn’t necessarily know was there sooner, but it was supposed to be a twist, I think, that these things were connected. So they didn’t seem to play into the body snatching plot, except that it was predictable enough that I didn’t really see much shock factor in the reveal. Or maybe it wasn’t supposed to be a surprise, and in that case, it was just kind of bland.

Overall, I did enjoy the book. The book is listed as Christian, and it holds up well in that department. The romance was sweet and clean (just how I like it), and I would recommend this book for fans of Christian romance, though probably not for fans of crime novels.

Thank you to Netgalley and Barbour Publishing, Inc. for providing me a copy of this book to review.


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Book Review: Illusion

Finished Reading: Illusion
by Frank Peretti

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Christian suspense

When half of a famous, married magical duo dies, the other half (Dane) is left to carry on in whatever way he can. When the wife that died (Mandy) wakes up alive and well, but thinking she’s only 19 and year is 1970, she has to figure out what’s real and what’s imaginary. Then these two meet, and Mandy doesn’t know Dane, while Dane thinks he’s going crazy. What follows is a tale of intrigue, as Dane helps Mandy with a solo magic act, and Mandy tries to understand a mysterious power she seems to have, which makes her magic much more real.

Frank Peretti has long been my favorite author, but there are still several of his books I haven’t read. This is his latest novel, published in 2012, well after I stopped reading regularly. I read the synopsis and immediately put it near the top of my TBR list. And it did not disappoint. I enjoyed the book from the beginning to the end.

I enjoyed watching Mandy’s abilities develop and the mystery surrounding them unfold. The shows she puts on get more and more spectacular, and I’ll admit, I wish I could see the illusions, rather than read about them, but Peretti does a good job of explaining what’s going on, both from the audience’s perspective and from Mandy’s.

The cause of Mandy’s abilities is not left unexplained, and while it gets a bit convoluted for my mind, I still thought it all played together nicely. There are some sci-fi elements that came together in such a way that I really liked (but can’t say more to avoid spoilers).

My main complaint about the book was that the first third, or so, was filled with so many minor characters that came and went, or that were called by one name, then another later (ex. Mr. Jones at first, then Tom later), that I was really confused more than once. I can’t say they weren’t all necessary, or that the change in name use didn’t make sense, but now and then, I would have like a subtle reminder of who someone was when they showed up again after being absent for a few chapters.

The ending was exactly what I wanted it to be and then some! I was just so happy when I finished this book. I would definitely recommend it for anyone who enjoys Christian mystery, suspense, or general fiction. Also, the book definitely has a Christian bent, but it’s more in the main characters clearly being Christian and looking to God for help and comfort, then anything preachy.

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Up nextThe Yellow Lantern by Angie Dicken

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Book Review: Strands of Truth

Finished Reading: Strands of Truth
by Colleen Coble

My rating: 2 / 5
Genre: Christian mystery, romance

Strands of TruthHarper’s mother died just before Harper was born, and she never knew her father. At the age of 15, a man named Oliver took her under his wing and became like a father to her in many ways. His own children detested Harper, though, because of how much attention their father paid to her, and assuming that Harper was only after their father’s money. As an adult, Harper looks up to Oliver as a mentor, and now works with him as a business partner. At the start of the story, a DNA registry site has found a likely half-sister for Harper, and upon meeting, Harper realizes that both sisters have a similar story, with their mothers dying when they were infants, and neither knowing their father. At the same time, both women become the target of attempted kidnappings. Oliver is also attacked, and his son Ridge is determined to find out why, while also attempting to expose Harper for the fraud he believes her to be.

 
This book was a jumbled mess, and my mind feels a bit jumbled when trying to organize a review. I will start with what I did like. The premise was intriguing, and the mystery did hold my attention for the first half of the book. The descriptions of the Florida setting were good, and it was easy to imagine a warm, humid environment. The book brought some subjects to my attention that I otherwise might never have known about (for example, sea silk and other things related to pen shells).
 
However, this also leads me to my first issue. Many things came up in the book that were completely foreign to me, and I was left to figure out on my own what on earth it even was. Or the explanation would come so late that I was confused for a while. At one point early in the book, it says a character was in the “Weeki Wachee parking lot,” but really never actually says what Weeki Wachee is. My first guess was that it was a common supermarket chain in the region. Or maybe restaurant. But after Googling it, it’s apparently a state park and spring in Florida. It would have been really easy to explain this in the book, along with many other things, but instead, I had to Google more than I would prefer while reading a book.
 
Speaking of Google, there was a lot of mention of food and restaurants in the book that weirdly came across like name-dropping. As if, to make the book feel more authentic to the location, the author had done an internet search for popular restaurants in the real-life town in which the book is set, and even went to the online menus so that the characters could mention specific dishes that really do exist in those restaurants (I looked one up; it’s real!). Maybe this shouldn’t seem like a big deal, but it got to a point where it was just a bit too much, and took me out of the narrative enough to bother me.
 
And then there was the really weird part where the narration compared the main male character (Ridge) to “Chris McNally from Supernatural a bit, right down to the thick black hair.” I had to stop right there and look him up. I’ve seen Supernatural quite a bit, but I didn’t recognize the name, so I looked him up. He was in two episodes, 6 years apart, as basically bit roles! I have my theory about why Coble included this bit of obscure trivia, but no matter the reason, it was completely out of left field and made no sense. This reference is not going to help anyone envision the character, and to top it off, this still of McNally in Supernatural does not show him with “thick black hair.” This is indicative of what I felt was a greater issue in this book–it really could have done with another round of intensive editing.
 
This book was half-mystery, half-romance. The mystery half was the only thing that kept me going, because the romance was half-baked at best. For one thing, I really didn’t care about either of the two main characters. I did not connect with them at all. Also, the main characters strongly disliked each other for a while, then started to warm to each other. Then Ridge tells Harper that he misjudged her and wants to start fresh, making it clear that he has some sort of feelings for her. But two days later, she’s panicking over an idea that maybe he just thinks of her as a sister. And since the turn in their relationship came halfway through the story, it was very predictable what the bump in the romance was going to be, and even that turned out to be weakly done.
 
As for the mystery half of the story, it really fell apart in the 2nd half as well. For one thing, there are flashbacks throughout the book showing the life of a woman who was murdered around 1970 in the year leading up to that event, but by the end of the book, I realized that the flashbacks added basically nothing to the story. Spoiler: And to make things worse, Ridge was able to watch some video taken by the murdered woman, that ended right before the murder. After the video is described, the same moment is shown in a flashback, and it didn’t even match up with the video!
 
This review is getting very long, so I’ll try to be more brief in the rest of my notes. Clues to the mystery were given in an order that did not maximize suspense for the reader. The main characters investigated more than the authorities (who didn’t really seem all that concerned about the abductions), and yet the main characters are constantly questioning if these obviously related events are even related. Most of the mystery was fairly obvious (to me) early enough in the book to make any twists near the end fall flat. Several things happen that make no sense and are never explained. Spoiler: There’s a bomb that never goes off and is never mentioned again, that I forgot about until right now!


All in all, this half-mystery, half-romance didn’t deliver in either department. And this time, I don’t think I can chalk my biggest issues up to personal preference. The book has many flaws that clearly others were able to overlook, but I couldn’t. I would not be able to recommend this book to anyone, and again I’d state that with further revision, it could have been a much more enjoyable read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Find out more about Strands of Truth
Publication date: September 10, 2019

Up next: Illusion by Frank E. Peretti

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

 

Book vs. Movie: Thr3e

3 movie vs book

This movie originally came out in 2006. I watched it in the theater, but I don’t actually remember much about it. I’ve had the DVD for years, and only re-watched it recently after re-reading the book for the first time in over 10 years. It was…not great, unfortunately. Part of that is the curse of most faith-based movies, where the production quality isn’t what we normally look for. For example, even though several of the actors I’ve seen in other things (like Marc Blucas), and they were perfectly fine in those other things, most of the acting seemed stiff.

Past that, I had some notes about things that were different from the book that I felt detracted from the story, one that I liked in the movie, and one that was mostly neutral. Fair warning, the rest of this post will be full of spoilers!

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