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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Where Hope Prevails

Waiting on Wednesday is  a weekly event hosted by The Breaking Spine to highlight the upcoming books we're dying to read.

This week, I'd like to point you in the direction of the Return to the Canadian West trilogy by Janette Oke and her daughter Laurel Oke Logan. The story is meant to be a companion (though it's really a totally different story, just similar characters/setting) to the Hallmark television series When Calls the Heart which was actually loosely based on Oke's book by the same name.

I love Janette Oke and I love this series! I think this will be the first one of her book that I will have been waiting on for publication. Many of the ones I read as a kid came out in the 80's--before I was born.

So this is very exciting.

The next book, Where Hope Prevails, will be released on August 2, 2016. Unless you get it on Kindle, which will be about a month sooner. I MAY JUST BE TEMPTED.

Inspiring Conclusion to a Popular Series with a TV tie-in

When Beth Thatcher returns to Coal Valley, she has much to be excited about. She anticipates Jarrick's proposal of marriage and perhaps a spring wedding. The mine is expanding, and there are more schoolchildren than ever.

But the town's rapid growth brings many challenges. A second teacher is assigned, and Beth finds herself going head-to-head with a very different philosophy of education--one that dismisses religion and rejects God. Fearful for the children who sit under the influence of Robert Harris Hughes, Beth struggles to know how to respond.

At the same time, Beth wonders if Jarrick is considering a position at her father's company simply for her sake. Should she admit her feelings on the matter? Or keep silent and allow Jarrick to make up his own mind?

  *To pre-order Where Hope Prevails by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan, please click here.
*Contains an Amazon Affiliates Link

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Most Inconvenient Marriage by Regina Jennings

A Most Inconvenient Marriage by Regina Jennings 5 of 5 stars.


With few options of her own, nurse Abigail Stuart agrees to marry her patient, a gravely wounded soldier calling himself Jeremiah Calhoun. They arrange a quick ceremony before he dies, giving Abigail the rights to his Ozark farm and giving Jeremiah the peace of knowing someone will care for his ailing sister after he's gone--a practical solution for both of them.

After the war, Abigail fulfills her side of the bargain--until the real Jeremiah Calhoun shows up, injured but definitely alive, and wastes no time in challenging Abigail's story. Abigail is flummoxed. After months of claiming to be his widow, how can she explain that she's never seen this Jeremiah Calhoun before? How can she convince him that she isn't trying to steal his farm? And will she find a way to stay, even though this practical arrangement has turned into a most inconvenient marriage? (Book blurb)

Newlywed Abigail Calhoun heads South into the wild Ozark mountains following the death of the jovial Confederate soldier, Jeremiah Calhoun, she married in a Union hospital. The young man generously offered Abigail a home and a family--something he couldn't possibly have known she needed so badly--in exchange for her nursing his sickly sister. Everything seems to be working out fine, until the real Captain Jeremiah Calhoun shows up and challenges her. 

The real captain is serious, controlling and steadfastly goal-oriented, and the temptingly beautiful woman claiming to be his widow is dead-set on getting in the way of the very goals that have carried him through the war, the most important being his determination to marry his sweetheart. Only Abigail isn't the only obstacle. His Laurel has become engaged to another man. What's more, his sister, Rachel, is angry and bitter, having let her resentment toward Jeremiah fester over the four years that he's been gone.

Abigail and Jeremiah must search for their own peace and happiness whilst protecting "their" farm from the bushwackers and thieves that seem to be the Ozarks' only remuneration from the war. Will Abigail be able to overcome the painful secrets of her past and find a home with this frustratingly hard-headed man and his family? Will Rachel be able to find forgiveness? Will Jeremiah win back his love? 

A Most Inconvenient Marriage is a brave, fast-paced story told from the perspectives of two strong, enigmatic characters that compliment each other beautifully. The romance is tension rich and uncertain, leaving the reader gasping and unsure what outcome to wish for the characters. The writing is full of depth and description that propels the tale along at a pleasant pace while keeping the reader immersed in the setting and time period from beginning to end.

I adore the way this novel is set up. It is told in third person with the point of view switching easily between Abigail and Jeremiah. The more dominant perspective in the beginning is Abigail's which maintains the mystery surrounding Jeremiah. When he steps onto the scene, we get more from his point of view which is hilariously different than Abigail's. There is a definite masculine feel to his parts that contrasts Abigail's more feminine perspective. Still, they compliment each other, making the ensuing romance delicious in a crossed wires sort of way. They're both willful and fully developed characters. I loved them both so much by the end!

The other character are just as interesting. They all have their own unique internal conflicts and goals. It adds to the beauty and richness of the novel as a whole. Jennings is obviously a masterful author when it comes to creating realistic characters and authentic settings. 

I would suggest this book for anyone who loves a good strong heroine or a nice historical romance. The elements of faith that are woven throughout the book are subtle but still meaningful for Christian readers.

*To order A Most Inconvenient Marriage by Regina Jenning from Amazon.com, please click here.

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*This post contains an Amazon Affiliates link.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Searching Heart by Janette Oke

A Searching Heart by Janette Oke 5 of 5 stars.
Book 2 of Prairie Legacy

The Yearning Deep Inside Her—to Go Somewhere, Discover Something, Be a Part of the World About Her in a New Way—Would Not Go Away. But What Would Satisfy It?

In The Tender Years, Virginia Simpson managed to struggle through adolescence and was looking forward to stepping into adulthood. When her graduation day arrives, she walks to the podium as the class valedictorian to the proud grins of her grandparents, Marty and Clark Davis. College beckoned, and life seemed to be well in hand.

She thought she would feel different. Like an adult, with an inner knowledge that she was on the edge of the nest, ready to try her own wings. And then circumstances began swirling around her, making her rethink her plans and reevaluate her priorities. (Book blurb)

Virginia Simpson is ready to graduate high school and join her boyfriend in the exciting world of college. The mature, capable young woman having just graduated as valedictorian, is ready to take her place in the world of adulthood. However, that very maturity keeps her at home—first one semester then another. 

While Virginia works to help her family during their time of need, she must also help her wayward friend Jenny when her carefree, life’s-a-party ways get her in trouble. Not only that, she must try to keep her boyfriend Jamison tethered when she fears he is straying from his faith and losing his way. 

Before Virginia is able to become her own woman, she must learn what is within her control and what is only within God’s. 

A Searching Heart is a gentle, thoughtful novel that perfectly captures the feelings of a young woman stuck between the situation of childhood and the wide-open world of adulthood—when she’s already crossed the threshold of womanhood in both mind and body. As usual, Janette Oke masterfully portrays the feminine heart in all of it’s depth and nuance. I was sucked in by Virginia’s story because I understood it. I recognized her longing for action and independence while being tied down to self-imposed responsibilities. I laughed and cried for her throughout her journey, and I rejoiced when the novel ended on an incredibly hopeful, sweet note. 

I would suggest this novel especially for any woman between the ages of 17-25, though I believe it would touch the hearts of both younger and older women as well. Janette Oke astounds me with how well she manages to capture what it means to be a woman (especially a Christian woman) in so many different chapters of life and situations. She certainly did not disappoint in A Searching Heart

*To order A Searching Heart from amazon.com, please click here.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Where Trust Lies by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

Where Trust Lies by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan 5 of 5 stars.

She loves her friends and students in the West, but family obligations have called her home. Where does she truly belong?

After a year of teaching in the Canadian West, Beth Thatcher returns home to her family. She barely has time to settle in before her mother announces plans for a family holiday--a luxurious steamship tour along the eastern coast of Canada and the United States. Hoping to reconnect with her mother and her sisters, Beth agrees to join them, but she quickly realizes that things have changed since she went away, and renewing their close bond is going to be more challenging than she expected.

There's one special thing to look forward to--letters and telephone calls from Jarrick, the Mountie who has stolen her heart. The distance between them is almost too much to bear. But can she give her heart to Jarrick when it will mean saying goodbye to her family once again--and possibly forever? And will she still want to live in the western wilds after the steamship tour opens up a world of people and places she never imagined?

Then comes a great test of Beth's faith. Someone in her family has trusted the wrong person, and suddenly everything Beth knows and loves is toppled. Torn between her family and her dreams, will Beth finally discover where her heart truly belongs? (Book blurb)

In Where Trust Lies the strength and courage of our Beth Thatcher is put to the test on a family vacation that turns out to be anything but relaxing.

Beth must wrestle with her mother's sometimes pushy opinions about all of her life choices--including Jarrick, who stays in contact with Beth throughout her time back home and on the trip. Not only that, but Beth must also try and be responsible of Julie when her sister begins running wild with unknown people of a lower-class on the cruise ship.

By the time Beth has finally gotten a grip on her emotions where her mother is concerned and possibly learned a great deal about her, the trip takes a tragic turn.  Beth must keep faith when all of her hopes and dreams come crashing down around her.

Where Trust Lies is a beautiful, heartfelt story of life, family, and expectations when those things are in total disaccord. This story is every bit as exciting, romantic, and well-paced as Where Courage Calls. The characters are lush and vivid, reminiscent of the tv presences they are based on, but still with their own uniqueness and more emphasis on their God-centered lives.

Beth's difficult relationship with her mother is one of the focal points of the book, and it is fleshed out very well, creating most of the tension. The maturing of Beth's attitude towards her mother is heartwarming-even when her mother's strong opinions begin to cause Beth to question her faith in Jarrick and the good work she's been doing in the West.

Overall, a fantastic read! Exciting, funny, and as un-put-down-able as anything Janette Oke has ever written. It should be satisfying for fans of the author as well as the Hallmark television show.

To read my review of Book 1 in the Return to the Canadian West series, click here.
*To order Where Trust Lies by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan from Amazon.com, click here.

Season 3 of When Calls the Heart premiers February 21 on Hallmark Channel!

This post contains an affiliate link for Amazon.com.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Where Courage Calls by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

Where Courage Calls by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan 5 of 5 stars.

A special companion story to Hallmark Channel's When Calls the Heart TV series.

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 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? 

Elizabeth Thatcher has been small and prone to sickness all her life. In a day where women are seen as being weak already, Beth's constitution could prove an insurmountable challenge to her independence. Especially if her mother has anything to say about it. But like her Aunt Elizabeth before her, Beth feels called by God to teach in the wild Canadian west amongst poor immigrants.

With her father's blessing and a verse of Gospel, Beth goes out in faith knowing that the journey as well as the life she will be leading in the poor mining town of Coal Valley will prove physically difficult.

Leaning on Christ's strength, Beth learns who she is and makes an amazing impact on the tragedy-stricken town.

Where Courage Calls by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan is a beautiful story of faith from the beginning to the end. Beth Thatcher has enough faith to leave her comfortable city home and travel west to do God's work of educating the children of a poor mining town, but more than that, she has the courage to continue knowing that she will have to depend on Christ's strength to carry her through more so than her own.

I have loved Janette Oke for as long as I can remember. She was the first author I came to love as a child following my Laura Ingalls Wilder obsession. I devoured the Love Comes Softly series back then and in recent years I've come to adore the Canadian West books. So, you can imagine how excited I was when Hallmark released their When Calls the Heart television series. While I love the show, it is an entirely different story than what is in the books, so I was thrilled to hear that Oke would be writing a companion with her daughter.

As a companion to the show, the book is fantastic. You'll recognize many of the characters, but they will still surprise you. The story line has the same feel as that of the show, but is, never-the-less, much different. I have to say, I prefer the way the romance is presented in Where Courage Calls better than the way it is in the television show. It's more of a slow build and there is a lot more emphasis in this book on the aspects of faith in Beth's story.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed this book for it's own sake aside from that of the show. It is richly written in that way Oke has always had of making characters jump off of the page. I could scarcely put it down, cheering for our heroine the entire time. The mystery and intrigue that surrounds the mining town is sure to be pleasant surprise to all, as is Beth's courageous journey.

*To order Where Courage Calls by Jannette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan, click here.

Don't miss out on the holiday special of When Calls the Heart December 26!

Contains an Amazon.com affiliate link.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth 5 of 5 stars.


At the age of twenty-two, Jennifer Worth leaves her comfortable home to move to a convent and become a midwife in postwar London's East End slums. The colorful characters she meets while delivering babies--from the plucky, warmhearted nuns with whom she lives, to the woman with twenty-four children, to the prostitutes and  dockers of the city's seedier side--illuminate a fascinating time in history.

Jennifer Worth is a remarkable woman with a beautiful story to tell, one painted by the all the colors of real life in 1950's London. She shows us what it's like to be a young woman, dedicated to the care of other women on a bicycle with a simple bag headed to home deliveries, something almost inconceivable today. We get to see what life is like for the feisty nuns at the convent where she lives.

Worth not only illustrates a world full of big and beautiful characters living their day-to-day lives but seamlessly incorporates information on the history of women's healthcare that not only gives us an insight into the past but into the present politics surrounding the issue. She did this so well that it didn't burden the story in the least, and I felt like I learned a great deal over the course of the book.

Some of the characters she depicts made me laugh out loud while other made me cry. One of the most important topics she touches on is the red-light district in London at that time. She does a marvelous job showing the reality of the situation by letting us see it through the eyes of a poor, young girl who was coerced into stepping into that world and then found herself trapped within it. Parts of it are very hard to read, but I feel it is something important to show when we have the reality of it all around us today as part of the human trafficking situation.

Overall, I adored this book and I think anyone who is a fan of the BBC series will as well. Jennifer Worth is a natural storyteller with a good sense of pace and suspense. It is as far from 'a boring memoir' as one can get.

*To order Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth, click here.

Contains an Amazon Affiliates link.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Why I Didn't Love The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green 4 of 5 stars

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten. (Book blurb)

. . .

Okay, honestly, this review is far over-due. It has taken me some time to get my thoughts and feelings toward this book straight, and I'm still not certain that I have entirely figured them out. That said, I can find very little wrong with the The Fault in Our Stars. John Green, though I may not feel him to be the writing-god hero-of-romance talent that some claim him to be, is a good writer. He is, however, a good writer of contemporary commercial fiction rather than a literary genius. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

I enjoyed the book, but I realized near the end that something had been keeping me somewhat emotionally distant from the characters. I didn't cry at the end like I had expected too. Being one to bawl loud and long over any little thing in a novel, this was very strange.  Given some time to think about it, I believe the main reason is because of Hazel's Nihilistic attitudes--any form of Nihilism being nothing less than repulsive to me--which seem to stem from a strange mix of acceptance toward her prognosis, hopelessness, and an elevated sense of her own intelligence.

And there is nothing wrong in any of this. It's just off-putting to me. I like spiritualism in any and every sense. Without a feeling of hope, there is--for me--never any true, traumatic loss. I wasn't able to attachment myself to Hazel the way others were for the above reasons, and I, unfortunately, didn't find Augustus all that romantic.

Did anyone else feel the book fell a little short of the hype?

The Movie

No doubt, the movie was cute. I love the actors who played in it, and they did a marvelous job. Again, I just didn't connect with the story that well. I felt that the vibe between Hazel and Gus was more sappy than it was romantic, and the fact that I went on opening night and had to listen to all the girls whispering "Okay" back and forth to each other and sobbing like they had just lost their best friend probably didn't help matters. The experience was funny though, and I always love seeing reactions to movie adaptations.

As far as the translation from book-to-movie went, I think it was superb. I especially like how they showed the text messages. It was a beautiful, well-produced movie.

And that's all I have to say. I may read another John Green novel in the future, but I'm afraid that this isn't my genre and I don't expect to have the same fervent love for his work as so many my age appear to have.

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