Friday, February 21, 2014

When Calls the Heart Companion Novel

Where Calls the Heart

Janette Oke & Laurel Oke Logan

Her courage and her heart will be tested in ways she never expected...
Beth Thatcher has spent her entire life in the safe, comfortable world of her family, her friends, and the
Read Chapter 1
social outings her father's wealth provides. But Beth is about to leave it all behind to accept a teaching position in the rugged foothills of western Canada. Inspired by her aunt Elizabeth, who went west to teach school several years ago, and gently encouraged by her father, Beth resolves to put her trust in God and bravely face any challenge that comes her way. 

But the conditions in Coal Valley are even worse than she'd feared. A recent mining accident has left the town grieving and at the mercy of the mining company. The children have had very little prior education, and many of the locals don't even speak English. There isn't even a proper schoolhouse. In addition, Beth's heart is torn between two young men--both Mounties, one a lifelong friend and the other a kind, quiet man who comes to her aid more than once.

Despite the many challenges, Beth is determined to make a difference in the rustic frontier town. But when her sister visits from the East, reminding her of all the luxuries she's had to give up, will Beth decide to return to her privileged life as soon as the school year is over?

     I had seen a brief glimpse of a television commercial while passing by my sister watching it and it caught my eye. One of the television shows I watched as a little girl was Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman and this commercial reminded me of it. Eventually I will get around to actually watching the television series and then the movie, but only after I read the original book series. This book is about Ms. Elizabeth's (the protagonist of the television series) niece. It took me a while to connect how exactly they were connected, but when I figured it out it was extremely sweet. 

      I really enjoyed the stories and the uniqueness of having the setting be Canada. Most of the historical fiction I read set in that time period is in the Prairie or the West. The main character was a school teacher who I felt had very realistic and almost comforting revelations for that time period. I loved it! I like reading about teachers in interesting historical experiences. Beth had to teach in a former saloon, and deal with prejudices to Italian immigrants. 

     What I really enjoyed, and I thought was different from most Historical Fiction books, was that the romance was really a subplot. It did give her some problems, and she was confused, but it wasn't something that she was truly focused on. Plus, the romantic subplot wasn't really formed enough throughout the novel to be satisfying for the novel to be strictly romance. Not to say that the romance in it wasn't enjoyable, because it was extremely. 

    The ending was almost kind of vague-ish (and I don't think that counts as a spoiler) so I think that a sequel could be in the making. I read a Q & A with the author and the question was asked about a sequel and Ms. Janette answered: "The answer is, perhaps. Laurel and I are thinking of a second book. Where we go from there depends on the response from readers."

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for a honest review. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Lost State of Franklin

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn 

Lori Benton

Read Chapter 1

In an act of brave defiance, Tamsen Littlejohn escapes the life her harsh stepfather has forced upon her. Forsaking security and an arranged marriage, she enlists frontiersman Jesse Bird to guide her to the Watauga settlement in western North Carolina. But shedding her old life doesn’t come without cost. As the two cross a vast mountain wilderness, Tamsen faces hardships that test the limits of her faith and endurance.

Convinced that Tamsen has been kidnapped, wealthy suitor Ambrose Kincaid follows after her, in company with her equally determined stepfather. With trouble in pursuit, Tamsen and Jesse find themselves thrust into the conflict of a divided community of Overmountain settlers. The State of Franklin has been declared, but many remain loyal to North Carolina. With one life left behind and chaos on the horizon, Tamsen struggles to adapt to a life for which she was never prepared. But could this challenging frontier life be what her soul has longed for, what God has been leading her toward? As pursuit draws ever nearer, will her faith see her through the greatest danger of all—loving a man who has risked everything for her? 

   Welcome to the proud state of Franklin. Franklin? There certainly is not Franklin State in the United States, but there could have been. Tamsen Littlejohn was wonderful. I personally love the cover, I think she is a perfect representation of the girl I met in the book: well dressed, darker complexion, and all mussed up. I am pretty sure that mussed up describes her state for at least a third of the book. 
   The author weaved in the facts and crises of the current era well into the book with things like Franklin, the Indians, slavery, and traveling away from the east. I enjoyed the way the author spun the idea of a run away trying to get married to protect herself, and I thought the way that it worked out was lovely. The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn had me guessing at every turn. I would be positive that I knew what was going to happen next, and i was wrong. I did enjoy the twists and turns, subtle as they were. I didn't really find any of the subject matter off putting except for a brief mention of rape, but other than that there was a good deal of violence. Thankfully there was nothing very graphic. 

   I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and I think it would be a good book for more mature historical fiction readers. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

How I've Missed These Illustrations

The Way of Things

     Clark Rich Burbidge 

We all have “Giants” in our lives—individuals that profoundly change and uplift us. They may
be parents, mentors, religious leaders, employers, coaches, teachers, etc. They inspire us to achieve impossible goals and to persevere during troubled times. One day we discover that each one of these "Giants" has passed on. How do we carry on? How do we deal with such sudden changes, especially when others may look to us for that same guidance and support? Is the real question just 'carrying on' or do we owe a greater duty to those who may see us as their "Giants"? These are timeless and ageless questions.

Giants in the Land provides the reader a pathway to overcoming devastating events and teaches that we can, in fact, become more than we otherwise might have been. This story is about a young man, Thomas, and his rite of passage. His search for the missing giants is exciting and dangerous. It will keep you turning the pages as you join him in his great discovery and see him overcome his own great loss. The reader will enjoy the danger and adventure, but they will also discover the "Giant" within and understand what it means 'Live with the Heart of a Giant'.

The Way of Things  is juvenile fiction and it checks all of the boxes that you would expect for juvenile fiction: a rather simplistic plot, illustrations, fairy tale like settings and these things make sense. When you’re reading about it, the book says that it is equally enjoyable by teenagers and adults alike. I don’t agree. The book is too simplistic in execution of plot, and sophisticated in language that any well read person reading it will find themselves being driven up the wall. The word choice, things like “sculpted muscles” and "the fruits of fear borne on the shoulders of..." don’t ring as a juvenile fiction book to me and I find them slightly awkward. It is far too old. However, this is the author’s first juvenile book, so that could go away as he continues writing.

The author tended to mix together metaphors and what was actually happening. In the novel the idea of a giant is both a metaphor and a species of beings that influence what is going on in the book. The back cover of the book says that it helps to identify the giants in your own life, and then we are looking at beings three times our size with metaphors and it gets so confusing. As a children’s book, it is simple enough that if you just glance at it it flows, but when you think about it all I can do at the very least is watch my head spin.

Aside from that (which are easily ignored if you don’t look to closely), I thought the book was charming. The giants had fairy tale-esque names like Forestmaster and Mountainbiter; which I thoroughly enjoyed. The journey scene had all of the typical problems in such creative ways. It was refreshing to read such simplicity. I was sad because the novel didn't go into as much detail as I would have liked, but then the book would've been a lot longer and no longer suitable for juvenile fiction.  

I received a copy of this book and its sequel in exchange for my review. Hardcover, these lovely people gave me a hardcover.

   I have to be honest, I read the sequel. The Prodigals  

I am not going to post a summary for you because spoilers, but I will tell you what I thought. It was okay, the same problems I experienced with the first book, I ran into with the second. These problems could merely be a matter of taste, but I would recommend reading the first one (without buying it) and see what you think. Or, you could read the excerpt I posted in the caption above, that should give you a good idea. If you liked the first one, the second is of the same caliber. There are some violent scenes with a battle, but they aren't gory enough to pose a real problem. I hope you enjoy reading!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Civil War Brides

The Quilted Heart

Dandelions on the Wind * Bending Toward the Sun * Ripples Along the Shore

     Mona Hodgson

Once a week, Elsa Brantenberg hosts the Saint Charles Quilting Circle at her farmhouse on the outskirts
of the riverside town of St. Charles, Missouri. The ladies who gather there have all experienced heartache related to the intense hardships of the Civil War, and together, they are facing their painful circumstances with friendship and prayer. Can the tattered pieces of their hearts be stitched together by God’s grace? 

Dandelions on the Wind
When Maren Jensen took a job on Elsa Brantenberg’s St. Charles, Missouri farm, she never expected to call the place her home. As she grows to love Mrs. Brantenberg and her granddaughter, Gabi, Maren is transformed from a lonely mail-order bride-without-a-groom to a beloved member of the Brantenberg household. But when Gabi’s father, Rutherford “Wooly” Wainwright, returns to the farm unexpectedly, everything changes for Maren, and she feels compelled to find another job. Are her choices in obedience to God, or is she running from His plan? 

Bending Toward the Sun
Dedicated to her education and to helping her father in his general store, Emilie Heinrich is convinced she doesn't have time for love. But when a childhood friend returns to St. Charles, Missouri, after serving in the Civil War, his smile and charm captures Emilie’s eye and her heart. Will she be forced to choose between honoring her father and a future with a husband and family of her own? 

Ripples Along the Shore
Change is brewing in St. Charles. A group of brave souls are preparing to head west on the Boone's Lick Wagon Train, led by the mysterious and handsome Garrett Cowlishaw, who served as a Confederate soldier in the war that killed Caroline’s husband. Despite her dislike for him, Caroline is tempted to join the wagon train and start fresh somewhere new, but when Mr. Cowlishaw forbids her—a single woman—to travel with them, will one man’s prejudice destroy Caroline’s hope for a new future? Or will the ripples of God’s love bring the answer she needs?


      When I read these novellas, I have to admit I was really sad that they were so short. I really wanted more to happen. Each novella is a continuation of the one before it with a shift in the main female character. Sometimes it felt like so many characters were being developed during the novellas when I wasn't looking. I was so disappointed. Although, I hear that the novellas are the prequel for a book called Prairie Song. Prairie Song is about one of those female characters I wish I could have watched her throughout the novellas. Anna made a big decision, and I had to hear about it second hand! How amazingly rude!

     I did enjoy the novellas, and the idea that the characters all knew each other and interacted in this Quilting Circle. It was refreshing to find that not every novella was centered around romance, some were just focused on the advancing of the character of well the character. Haha! The characters were very realistic and the number of maladies that they had to face, like facing blindness and the implications that accompany that in the nineteenth century. These novellas are set right after the Civil War ended, and so there are war widows, looks at PTSD and other problems that returning soldiers had to face before these things were diagnosed,  and prejudice because of the whole north versus south thing. Amazingly  I cannot wait to read Prairie Song

I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for my review. 
The Summary for Prairie Song: 

Though it means saying goodbye to the beloved friends and spiritual mentors of her St. Charles, Missouri quilting circle, Anna Goben is certain that she needs to enlist her family in the Boones Lick Company wagon train. The loss of her beloved brother in the Civil War has paralyzed her mother and grandfather in a malaise of grief and depression and Anna is convinced that only a fresh start in the Promised Land of California can bring her family back to her. Although the unknown perils of the trail west loom, Anna’s commitment to caring for her loved ones leaves no room for fear—or even loving someone new.
During the five-month journey, trail hand Caleb Reger plans to keep a low profile as he watches over the band of travelers. Guarding secrets about his past and avoiding God’s calling on his life, Caleb wants to steer as far from Anna as she does him, but she proves to be just as he assessed her from the beginning— independent, beautiful trouble.
Led by a pillar of hope, the group faces rough terrain that begins to take a toll on their spirits. Will the wilderness of suffering lead them astray, or will the gentle song of love that echoes across the prairie turn their hearts toward God’s grace and the promise of a new home?