Book Review: Apply The Word Study Bible

Book Review:  Apply The Word Study Bible

I am thrilled to offer you a review of the Apply The Word Study Bible, (2016, Thomas Nelson, Inc) to which I am giving four stars.

This study bible with New King James scripture has many great features to aid in your daily devotions or as a tool in organized bible study.  You will periodically find “application notes” which apply scriptural principles to modern-day situations.  For example, in Nehemiah 4:7 there is a note about “when you’ve been left behind” referring to neglected communities and applies Nehemiah’s return to and repair plans for Jerusalem to urban renovation projects.  Similarly there is a box Romans chapter 12 entitled “Three Invitations to Serve” which summarizes the scriptures’ call to service.  I found these notes very encouraging.  Several of these boxes end with a “more” or “think about it” notes which are certainly helpful to direct meditation if you are just reading through a book or passage.

There are several great charts, such as prophecies of the Messiah from the Psalms and the names of God in Isaiah 41.  This is a very effective way to present information that’s spread throughout a long book, or even over several books of the bible.  Profiles of both cities and key people are included and are often interrelated.  Some of the profiles even refer to unnamed persons which I found especially fascinating.

Functionally, the binding seems strong and the review copy is in hardback (I did find this available at CBD and Amazon in imitation leather as well) so it certainly feels like it will last.  Binding has been an issue I’ve experienced with other Thomas Nelson study bibles so it’s something I want to check before buying or recommending one.  The dust cover shows a “Guaranteed for life” logo which I researched at www.nelsonbibles.com/guarantee and learned the company does offer lifetime replacement for manufacturers defects and surely the binding would fall under that category.  They have replaced a bible for me in the past.

There are a couple of improvements I would suggest.  First, there is no ribbon marker, which seems like a small thing, but it’s something we’re accustomed to in bibles and a very nice extra.  Also, the font in this study bible is a little on the small side.  Perhaps that’s not something I would have noticed a few years ago, but even with reading glasses today, I noticed the size.  Now, the book is a great size that fits well in your hand and a larger font would necessitate a larger book size so that would be a trade off if the publisher considered a change.

Overall, I would enthusiastically recommend this book for your next study bible.

Thomas Nelson, the publisher of Apply The Word Study Bible supplied a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and impartial review.

The Play-Along Bible

Play Along Bible.jpg

The Play-Along Bible written by Bob Hartman and illustrated by Susie Poole is a delightful series of Bible stories accompanied by instructions for gestures and activities.

There are about fifty stories all a dozen lines or less excluding the ‘activity’ lines so they don’t lose the little ones’ attention.  Now, I will mention that the first few times through while the adult reader learns the activity parts, it’s a little slower and you have to have an attentive child in order for it to work.  But like any song with hand motions, once you’ve gotten them down, the kids love them.

The illustrations in The Play-Along Bible are charming.  They are simple characters but some of the illustrations have a lot of detail.  Even the ‘bad guys’ are not depicted in a way that would trouble the very young.  The only exception I found was “A Good Neighbor” in which the injured man has a fairly gruesome appearance which I’m sure was supposed to be a grimace of pain.  One particular element of the pictures that I really appreciated is that Jesus is dressed in the same robe throughout so the “picture-reader” can pretty quickly figure out which stories Jesus appears in.

Overall, The Play-Along Bible is a great read and I would definitely recommend it.

Tyndale House, the publisher of The Play-Along Bible supplied a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and impartial review.

Just Like Jesus Storybook

Book Review:   Just like Jesus, Stephen Elkins, Tyndale House Publishers, 2015

Just like Jesus Storybook presents forty qualities of Jesus Christ, followed by a bible verse in The New Living Translation.  Next is an eight to ten line explanation of what that characteristic means.  On the following page is a “Jesus In Me” application specifically for children.  The final page for that section has a short prayer and a statement “To be like Jesus I will…”

This is an absolutely adorable children’s book.  The illustrations are reminiscent of Bob the Builder and are charming with bright colors throughout the book.  The final page of each section is a buble or polka-dot background in varying colors.  Every page has some picture, from a tiny animal to leaves blowing in the wind. 

This is not a traditional bible story book.  However, the content of the book seems to be as charming as the pictures.  While it doesn’t tell the bible stories per se, it teaches the lessons of those classic stories without telling all the details.  For example, while telling of Jesus healing a leper in Mark chapter 1, only five lines are used:

“Help me!” the man begged.  Jesus stopped what He was doing, reached out, and healed him!  Jesus didn’t want the man to be sick.  His big heart was full of compassion!

Perhaps that’s the beauty of writing to children.  They don’t require a thirty-minute sermon to understand one value-packed bible verse!

My children loved this book.  They are drawn to the pictures even though they can’t yet read the words.  And that makes them eager to sit with the book when I am available to read it to them.

I am certainly giving Just Like Jesus Storybook five stars as I believe it will be a favorite in many families.

Tyndale House Publishers supplied this book in exchange for a fair review.

Book Review: The Midwife’s Tale, Delia Parr, Bethany House Publishers, 2015

In a refreshing break from current trends,  A Midwife’s Tale  follows Martha Cade through community struggles, family upheavals and spiritual growth all while faithfully performing the work she believes God has called her to.  Set in 1830, Delia Parr has carefully researched the history of that era and delivers both an entertaining work of fiction as well as an educational picture of the early nineteenth century.

The Widow Cade, as Martha is fondly known in the small town of Trinity, Pennsylvania,  learned midwifery from her grandmother who had served the village for decades before handing the job to Martha.  She taught Martha not only the necessary skill to safely deliver babies and herbal medicine necessary to treat the women and children but she also passed a sense of duty and an understanding that his role of midwife was passed from mother to daughter.  Unfortunately, Martha has been unable to instill the same sense in her own daughter.

A Midwife’s Tale is interwoven with a bit of mystery as an unknown thief runs loose in the area, a neighbor is exiled by accusations of dishonesty and a new ministry brings strangers into their midst.  There is also the slightest hint of romance as Martha’s recently-widowed, childhood sweetheart moves in and out of her thoughts. 

What I most enjoyed about this book was the reality of it.  I learned things about history as she drove me to research some of the historical facts.  I appreciated that Martha is so like me and so many other women I know – she longs to walk closely with The Lord yet she struggles with her own doubts and fears.  Still, she continually goes back to God and confesses her sins and graciously accepts his redeeming grace. 

Not every character in this book is strictly good or bad, much like us.  And, both I as a reader, and the widow Cade are fooled by some which lends an air of authenticity to the characters.

If I had any complaint this book it would be in the ending.  Everything seems to wrap up in the last few pages and I’ve just never found life to work that way – of course one of the reasons we read fiction is to escape some of reality and it is nice to hear “happily ever after”.

Bethany House, the publisher of A Midwife’s Tale, supplied a copy of this book for the purpose of review.


My Sing-Along Bible

Book Review: My Sing-Along Bible, Stephen Elkins, Tyndale House Publishers, 2015

My Sing-Along Bible is an adorable little children’s book which teaches a bible verses and relates them to a short story-lesson.  For each story, lyrics for a song are also presented.  Each song is recorded on the included cd.

The stories are brightly colored and beautifully illustrated.  The bible verses are from the New Living Translation, which is offered by the same publisher so it’s a logical choice for the author.  However, I believe it’s important for children learning verses to consistently use the same version.  Therefore, you should consider what translation you prefer and what translation will be offered to your children most of the time.

There is a “little lesson” with each story and they are a great addition.   They include things like “God will take care of you” (page 57), “God is in control” (page 4), and “Jesus loves little children” (page 69).  If you used this book at night, those would be great thoughts to leave in your children’s thoughts at bedtime. 

The cd has fifty songs plus two which present the Old and New Testament books.  However, the stories in the book are not numbered to correlate to the tracks on the cd.  Therefore, you either have to listen to all fifty-two at once, or do some searching.  I will probably write in song numbers in the book, but that would have been an easy thing to have included in the printing.

I’m afraid I didn’t really enjoy the music, simply because it isn’t “my beat”.  However, if you are a fan of modern, praise music, I believe you would enjoy it.  Lines are often repeated – and that is indicated in the written lyrics as “2x” or “3x”.  There are a few classic children’s songs included like “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho”, and “Dem Bones”.

Overall, this is definitely a book I believe my children will enjoy and they will certainly key bible lessons from it. 

Tyndale House Publishers supplied this book in exchange for a fair review.

Maggie Bright

Book Review:  Maggie Bright

Maggie Bright, Tracie Groot, Tyndale, 2015

Maggie Bright is a World War II era novel which revolves around a ship by the name Maggie Bright.  The ship is inherited by Clare Childs, an orphan who seems to find an identity in the yacht.  Through the course of the book, Maggie Bright brings her to  a number of close relationships.  Concurrently, a small group of soldiers are making their way across France to Dunkirk, which will be the sight of an historic military evacuation.

While I’m a big fan of 1940’s fiction, I had very limited knowledge of the operation at Dunkirk prior to reading Maggie Bright.  It prompted me to read historical accounts of the operation and I am certainly happy to have learned about this event which brought together English people from all walks of life to rescue the British Expeditionary Force.  The novel also focuses on the British push to get America involved in the war effort and the atrocities that the world needed to fight to stop.

I found Maggie Bright extremely hard to read.  In fact, had I not committed to reviewing the book, I would have put it down numerous times.  I often felt like I had jumped into the middle of a conversation and could never quite catch up.  I never got a good “picture” of the characters and frankly often had trouble following who was who.  At one point regarding an injured man she says, “Captain Jacobs checks him now and again…” – I had to page back several pages to remind myself that the injured man is in fact Captain Jacobs.  One of the early characters, Mrs. Shrewsbury, is initially referred to, in thought only, as “The Shrew” but later in the book, everyone is calling her that aloud as though that is actually her name.

The two groups in the novel, those on the boat and the soldiers, never actually converge and have only a single connection who is himself not a main character.  That surprised me; it seemed like it was really two stories sharing a book jacket. 

Most troubling of all was the language Mrs. Groot chose to use in this Christian Fiction Novel.  There are a number of four-letter words dispersed throughout the book.  While this is all too common in all forms of modern media, one of the main reasons I read from the CBA aisle is because I do not want to put those things in my head.  I am disappointed in the choice of both the author and publisher. 

Tyndale House supplied a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

 

Target Israel

Book Review:  Target Israel, Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Harvest House, 2015


Have you ever ordered chocolate pie only to be served coconut cream?  Now, I love both flavors, but if you're prepared to eat chocolate, sometimes it's hard to really appreciate the coconut cream.  That was my experience reading Target Israel.


Perhaps I misread the synopsis, but I expected to learn about the struggles the nation of Israel has faced since the 1948 establishment of the modern nation.  I thought I would see the rise of anti-Semitism as viewed through the lens of Biblical prophecy.  And I hoped to learn what that prophecy predicts for the future of the Jewish people until the return of Christ. 


While the first half of the book walked the reader through the early days of the church as Jews believed in Christ and began to populate the early church while evangelizing the Gentiles of the day.  I also learned a great deal about The Holy Land through the centuries and the peoples who conquered and populated the land.  Mr. LaHaye also carefully laid out the formation of the modern nation of Israel. 


Then, in about the last half, the book turns to end-time prophecy and steps through the rapture, glorious returning and millennial reign of Jesus Christ with His bride.  While this last half was very informative, well-researched and well-written, I confess I found myself skimming a lot of the details as I searched for the Israeli target in these chapters.  However, I didn't find any more information about modern-day Israel until the two appendices at the end. 


Those appendices were great - they list a year - by - year account of Israeli history since 1948.  Then there is an appendix of frequently asked questions - now these are questions are focused more on end times but it contains great information.


I would like to say one word about formatting. I read the ebook but the book was never properly formatted for the digital format. There are several charts that are presented as simple text; I didn't figure out these were charts until I’d passed a couple of them.  One in particular that I was really disappointed to miss was a comparison of The Rapture to The Glorious Appearing.  There was also a map referenced with a blank page number and no sign of the map in the ebook format.  The chapter name and page numbers, which should appear at the bottom of the page, are found all over the page and since the chapter name is bold I had trouble distinguishing when a new chapter or section was starting; I tried reading in both landscape and portrait orientations but the problem existed in both.  These formatting issues really distracted me from the actual content of the book.


Harvest House, the publisher of Target Israel, supplied a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for a fair and impartial review.

Deception on Sable Hill

Book Review:  Deception on Sable Hill, Shelley Gray, Zondervan, 2015

Deception on Sable Hill is a delightful romantic mystery set in Chicago in 1893.  Eloisa Carstairs carries a heavy burden that she has been unwilling to share with anyone; when she meets police detective Sean Ryan he immediately understands that she is burdened and quickly guesses the nature of it.  Despite vast social difference, they quickly form an attraction.

The Carstairs are at the peak of Chicago society.  They are one of the wealthiest families in the city, and they come from old money that commands social respect. Mrs. Gray gives us beautiful descriptions of their mansion in the chicest neighbor as we walk from the butler-held door through the drawing room and into the solarium.  Eloisa’s dresses are described in details that deliver a stunning mental picture.  Yet we are also treated to a glimpse of the more common side of town when the Irish policeman goes to visit his mother’s and sister’s homes. 

The timeless work of Jane Austen and the current hit television show Downton Abbey have schooled us on the social restrictions of European society in the nineteenth century.  However, it’s easy for me to forget that American society also had similar restrictions and I was really drawn into this story as I see a very privileged young woman facing a prejudice as people saw only her family name and fortune but could not see who she was as a person.  That’s a side of human judgement that we rarely inspect.

And all of this drama is woven around a series of attacks on beautiful debutantes.  The police force is working hard to solve the mystery and catch the criminal and Lieutenant Ryan is at the head of the investigative team.  Ryan’s partner, Owen Howard is a gentleman turned copper.  There is one point where Detective Howard had a brush with the assailant and he seemed to sense something about him however that point is dropped as the story shifts back to the romantic perspective.  It would have been very interesting to explore the investigative side of that scene.  I’m sure the lieutenant would have debriefed his partner at some point, trying to find any neglected clue the hoodlum might have dropped.

Overall, this is a most entertaining novel.  The romance is reasonably believable and the suspense is real enough to keep you turning the page until the attacker is captured.

I am happy to give Deception on Sable Hill four stars.

Zondervan, the publisher, provided a copy of this book for review purposes.

Really Woolly Nighttime Lullabies

Book Review:  Really Woolly Nighttime Lullabies, Bonnie Rickner Jensen, Thomas Nelson, 2015

This is an absolutely charming little children’s story book.  It is a board book which I am always thrilled to find because it allows the children to have the book in their hands and enjoy it. 

There are colorful pictures on every page illustrating this little lamb in all kinds of situations from sunsets to picnics, snuggled in a comfy chair or playing by a pond.  He is a great little character for children to see just before bedtime. 

The book is really setup to read one story or poem at a time, rather than trying to read the whole book to a child in one sitting.  The poems are fairly long for a child’s attention, but they have great rhythm and are fun to read and easy to hold the child’s attention.

I am happy to give Really Woolly Nighttime Lullabies five stars and to strongly recommend it to you.

Thomas Nelson, the publisher for this book, supplied a copy for this review.

 

Book Review:  Finding Me, Kathryn Cushman, Bethany House, 2015

I am so thrilled to share with you my thoughts about Kathryn Cushman’s Finding Me, a novel of Christian Fiction which skillfully combines mystery, romance and women’s issues in a contemporary setting.

Finding Me opens with Kelli Huddleston tragically losing her father and step-mother in a car accident.  However, as she cleans out their house, particularly the study which she was always forbidden to enter, she finds the father she adored and who doted on her was keeping secrets not just about himself but about Kelli as well.  This sends Kelli to a small, Tennessee town to meet people she thought were long dead.

Kelli’s father has taught her that she doesn’t need God or church, she only needs to be the best person she can.  As his secrets unfold, she begins to question just how good he was and that opens her heart to hearing the gospel as shared by her new friends.  That is perhaps the point I most enjoyed about the book - the plan of salvation is clearly presented both in the life and worship-styles of the people she meets in Tennessee, as well as being clearly spoken to Kelli.  We don’t see Kelli accepting Christ as her savior within the text of the novel, but that didn’t trouble me for isn’t that so often the case that we see someone open to the Word of God and hearing it but we don’t always see the fruit often simply because life moves us all along.  I loved that Allison and Beth seem to understand their only requirement is to witness to her – then they’ve done their part.

Mrs. Cushman presents us with characters along a wide spectrum of humanity from Kelli who has grown up with a wild step-mother and loving father on the West coast to Allison, the sweet and loving Southern mother-type.  She also presents Kenmore who is gruff on the outside but kind and loving once you get to know him; he’s been quietly taking care of his best friend’s widow for the past twenty years.  Then there is Beth who is so full of energy that my reading pace accelerated anytime she was talking; she is the person whom I expected to be the most pushy evangelizing but even she left the Holy Spirit to do his work in her new friend.

This is a bit of a mystery and there are questions left unanswered.  Again, I felt that was such a realistic approach for we never really get all of the answers in life, do we?  Had the author tried to wrap up every detail, she would have risked the book running much longer and tiring the reader.  As it is, I was enthralled until the very end and left wishing there were a few more pages. 

I am am giving Finding Me five stars and want to encourage you to read it.

Bethany House, publisher of Finding Me supplied this ebook for the purpose of a fair review.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: A Faith of Her Own, Kathleen Fuller, Thomas Nelson, 2015


A Faith of Her Own is an Amish Romance novel presenting four different couples who are in very different phases of both life and relationships.  Initially, Jeremiah and Anna Mae are presented both as the best of friends in childhood and then leading separate lives and adults.  Jeremiah left the Amish community to pursue higher education and a professional career.  He left everything behind, including Anna Mae.  She neither admits nor even realizes is, but Anna Mae has been waiting for him for six years.

Caleb and Bekah are adversaries in every situation; everything about each one annoys the other.  Yet his brother is married to her sister so they see each other quite often and everyone around them sees clearly that they are meant for each other. 

Caleb is living with his brother Johnny and sister-in-law Katie who have been trying to start a family for years without success.  We see them very much in love and glimpse that relationship.

Abandoned by his wife years ago, David has developed a hardened demeanor that shuts out the whole world.  When a widow, Judith, moves in next door and begins to care for him and his disabled son she grows to care about them and she feels strongly God has work for her to do in that family.  Now she is challenged to remain focused on that work and not allow her feelings for David to get out of hand.

A Faith of Her Own presents a very different Amish community than we normally see in Amish novels.  They are clearly more progressive since they have coolers and bathrooms in every house.  We never meet the bishop nor do we know how strictly he rules this congregation.  Jeremiah and Anna Mae are the two characters who walk the closest to the English world, but neither has been baptized into the Amish church and therefore do not risk the shunning that is often described in these stories.  While there is conflict when this couple does not make the traditional choices, we never hear any ruling from the bishop or any chastisement on the families for maintaining relations with them.

The Amish doctrine isn’t addressed, but all of the characters are very focused on doing God’s will – on following his particular plan for their individual lives.  Again, this is a different perspective than we usually get in Amish fiction where we are led to believe that The Ordnung guides individuals’ lives and plans.  This concept of God knowing the plans he has for me is widely accepted in our evangelical circles, but I found it a fresh concept in this sort of writing.

The large cast of characters made the beginning of the book slow for me, but once I got into the swing of each of their stories, I enjoyed this novel.  Mrs. Fuller wraps up each story very nicely and a happy ending for all is always welcome.


Book Review:
The Bracelet, Dorothy Love, Thomas Nelson 2014

A Faith of Her Own is an Amish Romance novel presenting four different couples who are in very different phases of both life and relationships.  Initially, Jeremiah and Anna Mae are presented both as the best of friends in childhood and then leading separate lives and adults.  Jeremiah left the Amish community to pursue higher education and a professional career.  He left everything behind, including Anna Mae.  She neither admits nor even realizes is, but Anna Mae has been waiting for him for six years.

Caleb and Bekah are adversaries in every situation; everything about each one annoys the other.  Yet his brother is married to her sister so they see each other quite often and everyone around them sees clearly that they are meant for each other. 

Caleb is living with his brother Johnny and sister-in-law Katie who have been trying to start a family for years without success.  We see them very much in love and glimpse that relationship.

Abandoned by his wife years ago, David has developed a hardened demeanor that shuts out the whole world.  When a widow, Judith, moves in next door and begins to care for him and his disabled son she grows to care about them and she feels strongly God has work for her to do in that family.  Now she is challenged to remain focused on that work and not allow her feelings for David to get out of hand.

A Faith of Her Own presents a very different Amish community than we normally see in Amish novels.  They are clearly more progressive since they have coolers and bathrooms in every house.  We never meet the bishop nor do we know how strictly he rules this congregation.  Jeremiah and Anna Mae are the two characters who walk the closest to the English world, but neither has been baptized into the Amish church and therefore do not risk the shunning that is often described in these stories.  While there is conflict when this couple does not make the traditional choices, we never hear any ruling from the bishop or any chastisement on the families for maintaining relations with them.

The Amish doctrine isn’t addressed, but all of the characters are very focused on doing God’s will – on following his particular plan for their individual lives.  Again, this is a different perspective than we usually get in Amish fiction where we are led to believe that The Ordnung guides individuals’ lives and plans.  This concept of God knowing the plans he has for me is widely accepted in our evangelical circles, but I found it a fresh concept in this sort of writing.

The large cast of characters made the beginning of the book slow for me, but once I got into the swing of each of their stories, I enjoyed this novel.  Mrs. Fuller wraps up each story very nicely and a happy ending for all is always welcome.


Book Review:
The Bracelet, Dorothy Love, Thomas Nelson 2014

The Bracelet is an historical fiction novel set in Savannah, Georgia in 1858.  Dorothy Love beautifully combines family drama and romance with mystery in a book that compels the reader to reach the end and learn the secrets of the Browning family.

Many years ago, the Brownings suffered two tragedies in their home, followed by weeks of gossip.  Now an opportunistic newspaper reporter dredges up the scandal in hopes of selling newspapers and books.  Hurt by the judgment of her society friends, and hoping to protect her father and cousin, Celia Browning begins her own search for answers.

Our lives are rarely occupied by a single issue and The Bracelet certainly reflects that.  The tensions that were building in southern Georgia just three years before the outbreak of The Civil War must have overshadowed every relationship and every decision in 1858.  In that cauldron of stress, Celia welcomes home the man she’s loved for years and hopes to marry.  She continues charity work and social engagements while alternately ignoring the coming storm and resolving to live normally despite it. 

According to the author’s note at the end of the book, each character was based on a real historical person and I believe that authenticity resounds in each one.  However, there are no slave characters in the book and Love explains that not all Southerners owned slaves or made their living on cotton plantations.  The big Browning town home is kept by a single, Irish housekeeper while a freeman serves as their driver.  Since the Brownings are listed as one of the wealthiest families in Savannah, it seems unlikely that their home would be so scarcely furnished with servants and that they would not have owned even one slave.  I couldn’t help but feel the treatment of the slave issue was more twenty-first century political correctness than it was historical accuracy.  While Mr. Browning may have held a personal conviction against the institution of slavery, he seems to have made a fortune shipping cotton from slave-holding plantations and that discrepancy is never addressed.

The novel wraps up very nicely.  It is a happy ending, especially since is ends still two years before the war.  Just as we rarely experience in the real world, not every question from the Browning family mystery is answered, still every storyline is very nicely resolved. I would have enjoyed more details about the future of Cousin Ivy, but perhaps that would be addressed in a future novel. 

I would certainly recommend The Bracelet to you and am happy to give it a four-star review.

Thomas Nelson, publisher of The Bracelet, supplied a copy of this book for the purpose of this review.



Book Review:  Where Trust Lies


Janette Oke has sold millions of copies of dozens of book titles and I have enjoyed many of those titles.  Most of her work that I’ve read in the past has been set in nineteenth century western North America.  She writes Where Trust Lies along with her daughter, Laurel Oke Logan, and sets it in 1920’s Eastern Canada.  The change of setting was a pleasant surprise when I began the book because sometimes when an author that writes exclusively in the same era and area their work can begin to feel formulaic.  Oke and Logan did a good job portraying the time period, affectively capturing the cultural change of the era and the cross-generational conflict it sometimes caused. 

The book opens with Beth Thatcher’s train ride home after teaching in a small, western town for a school year; she’s returning to her wealthy Toronto family having left a new love behind.  Her family has planned a coastal cruise for vacation.  Beth is conflicted about leaving with them because her beau has promised to telephone her and she also wants to wait for correspondence that will invite her to return and teach the school again in the fall.  Ultimately, she does travel with her family where she becomes re-acquainted with her sisters comes to truly know her mother for the first time.  They share the cruise with a trio of opportunistic criminals who ultimately prey on the Thatcher family.

While Beth Thatcher is the protagonist, a fair amount of the drama ultimately involves another sister so that the focus of the book is not the dramatic criminal activity, but rather Beth’s reaction to it and her growing relationships as the drama unfolds.  Again this was an unexpected approach, but pleasantly so. 

As we’ve come to expect in Mrs. Oke’s books, her characters are well developed and captivating.  You can see the story building and sense that a twist to the plot is approaching long before she unveils the details of it. She and Mrs. Logan present the criminal element so thoroughly that I had an uneasy feeling in every scene where they were present. 

The only distraction to this well written novel is the complex setting.   The Thatcher family cruises along the St. Lawrence and the eastern coast of Canada and the United States.  It was fascinating to imagine making such a journey and Oke and Logan give rather detailed descriptions of many of the landmarks and ports.  I really enjoy books that give me details of the setting, I enjoy building that mental image of the characters interacting there.  However, in this case I found it a bit overwhelming to envision each new port of call, hotels they stayed in and attractions they visited. It was unlike a journey by train or stagecoach in which the changing landscape is viewed and perhaps described as the characters pass through it while the story unfolds within the confines of the car or coach.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed Where Trust Lies and am happy to recommend it to you.

The publisher supplied this book in return for a fair review.

Where Trust Lies, Oke & Logan, Bethany House Publishers, 2015


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Finding Me

Book Review:  Finding Me, Kathryn Cushman, Bethany House, 2015

I am so thrilled to share with you my thoughts about Kathryn Cushman’s Finding Me, a novel of Christian Fiction which skillfully combines mystery, romance and women’s issues in a contemporary setting.

Finding Me opens with Kelli Huddleston tragically losing her father and step-mother in a car accident.  However, as she cleans out their house, particularly the study which she was always forbidden to enter, she finds the father she adored and who doted on her was keeping secrets not just about himself but about Kelli as well.  This sends Kelli to a small, Tennessee town to meet people she thought were long dead.

Kelli’s father has taught her that she doesn’t need God or church, she only needs to be the best person she can.  As his secrets unfold, she begins to question just how good he was and that opens her heart to hearing the gospel as shared by her new friends.  That is perhaps the point I most enjoyed about the book - the plan of salvation is clearly presented both in the life and worship-styles of the people she meets in Tennessee, as well as being clearly spoken to Kelli.  We don’t see Kelli accepting Christ as her savior within the text of the novel, but that didn’t trouble me for isn’t that so often the case that we see someone open to the Word of God and hearing it but we don’t always see the fruit often simply because life moves us all along.  I loved that Allison and Beth seem to understand their only requirement is to witness to her – then they’ve done their part.

Mrs. Cushman presents us with characters along a wide spectrum of humanity from Kelli who has grown up with a wild step-mother and loving father on the West coast to Allison, the sweet and loving Southern mother-type.  She also presents Kenmore who is gruff on the outside but kind and loving once you get to know him; he’s been quietly taking care of his best friend’s widow for the past twenty years.  Then there is Beth who is so full of energy that my reading pace accelerated anytime she was talking; she is the person whom I expected to be the most pushy evangelizing but even she left the Holy Spirit to do his work in her new friend.

This is a bit of a mystery and there are questions left unanswered.  Again, I felt that was such a realistic approach for we never really get all of the answers in life, do we?  Had the author tried to wrap up every detail, she would have risked the book running much longer and tiring the reader.  As it is, I was enthralled until the very end and left wishing there were a few more pages. 

I am am giving Finding Me five stars and want to encourage you to read it.

Bethany House, publisher of Finding Me supplied this ebook for the purpose of a fair review.






Book Review: A Faith of Her Own, Kathleen Fuller, Thomas Nelson, 2015


A Faith of Her Own is an Amish Romance novel presenting four different couples who are in very different phases of both life and relationships.  Initially, Jeremiah and Anna Mae are presented both as the best of friends in childhood and then leading separate lives and adults.  Jeremiah left the Amish community to pursue higher education and a professional career.  He left everything behind, including Anna Mae.  She neither admits nor even realizes is, but Anna Mae has been waiting for him for six years.

Caleb and Bekah are adversaries in every situation; everything about each one annoys the other.  Yet his brother is married to her sister so they see each other quite often and everyone around them sees clearly that they are meant for each other. 

Caleb is living with his brother Johnny and sister-in-law Katie who have been trying to start a family for years without success.  We see them very much in love and glimpse that relationship.

Abandoned by his wife years ago, David has developed a hardened demeanor that shuts out the whole world.  When a widow, Judith, moves in next door and begins to care for him and his disabled son she grows to care about them and she feels strongly God has work for her to do in that family.  Now she is challenged to remain focused on that work and not allow her feelings for David to get out of hand.

A Faith of Her Own presents a very different Amish community than we normally see in Amish novels.  They are clearly more progressive since they have coolers and bathrooms in every house.  We never meet the bishop nor do we know how strictly he rules this congregation.  Jeremiah and Anna Mae are the two characters who walk the closest to the English world, but neither has been baptized into the Amish church and therefore do not risk the shunning that is often described in these stories.  While there is conflict when this couple does not make the traditional choices, we never hear any ruling from the bishop or any chastisement on the families for maintaining relations with them.

The Amish doctrine isn’t addressed, but all of the characters are very focused on doing God’s will – on following his particular plan for their individual lives.  Again, this is a different perspective than we usually get in Amish fiction where we are led to believe that The Ordnung guides individuals’ lives and plans.  This concept of God knowing the plans he has for me is widely accepted in our evangelical circles, but I found it a fresh concept in this sort of writing.

The large cast of characters made the beginning of the book slow for me, but once I got into the swing of each of their stories, I enjoyed this novel.  Mrs. Fuller wraps up each story very nicely and a happy ending for all is always welcome.


Book Review:
The Bracelet, Dorothy Love, Thomas Nelson 2014

A Faith of Her Own is an Amish Romance novel presenting four different couples who are in very different phases of both life and relationships.  Initially, Jeremiah and Anna Mae are presented both as the best of friends in childhood and then leading separate lives and adults.  Jeremiah left the Amish community to pursue higher education and a professional career.  He left everything behind, including Anna Mae.  She neither admits nor even realizes is, but Anna Mae has been waiting for him for six years.

Caleb and Bekah are adversaries in every situation; everything about each one annoys the other.  Yet his brother is married to her sister so they see each other quite often and everyone around them sees clearly that they are meant for each other. 

Caleb is living with his brother Johnny and sister-in-law Katie who have been trying to start a family for years without success.  We see them very much in love and glimpse that relationship.

Abandoned by his wife years ago, David has developed a hardened demeanor that shuts out the whole world.  When a widow, Judith, moves in next door and begins to care for him and his disabled son she grows to care about them and she feels strongly God has work for her to do in that family.  Now she is challenged to remain focused on that work and not allow her feelings for David to get out of hand.

A Faith of Her Own presents a very different Amish community than we normally see in Amish novels.  They are clearly more progressive since they have coolers and bathrooms in every house.  We never meet the bishop nor do we know how strictly he rules this congregation.  Jeremiah and Anna Mae are the two characters who walk the closest to the English world, but neither has been baptized into the Amish church and therefore do not risk the shunning that is often described in these stories.  While there is conflict when this couple does not make the traditional choices, we never hear any ruling from the bishop or any chastisement on the families for maintaining relations with them.

The Amish doctrine isn’t addressed, but all of the characters are very focused on doing God’s will – on following his particular plan for their individual lives.  Again, this is a different perspective than we usually get in Amish fiction where we are led to believe that The Ordnung guides individuals’ lives and plans.  This concept of God knowing the plans he has for me is widely accepted in our evangelical circles, but I found it a fresh concept in this sort of writing.

The large cast of characters made the beginning of the book slow for me, but once I got into the swing of each of their stories, I enjoyed this novel.  Mrs. Fuller wraps up each story very nicely and a happy ending for all is always welcome.


Book Review:
The Bracelet, Dorothy Love, Thomas Nelson 2014

The Bracelet is an historical fiction novel set in Savannah, Georgia in 1858.  Dorothy Love beautifully combines family drama and romance with mystery in a book that compels the reader to reach the end and learn the secrets of the Browning family.

Many years ago, the Brownings suffered two tragedies in their home, followed by weeks of gossip.  Now an opportunistic newspaper reporter dredges up the scandal in hopes of selling newspapers and books.  Hurt by the judgment of her society friends, and hoping to protect her father and cousin, Celia Browning begins her own search for answers.

Our lives are rarely occupied by a single issue and The Bracelet certainly reflects that.  The tensions that were building in southern Georgia just three years before the outbreak of The Civil War must have overshadowed every relationship and every decision in 1858.  In that cauldron of stress, Celia welcomes home the man she’s loved for years and hopes to marry.  She continues charity work and social engagements while alternately ignoring the coming storm and resolving to live normally despite it. 

According to the author’s note at the end of the book, each character was based on a real historical person and I believe that authenticity resounds in each one.  However, there are no slave characters in the book and Love explains that not all Southerners owned slaves or made their living on cotton plantations.  The big Browning town home is kept by a single, Irish housekeeper while a freeman serves as their driver.  Since the Brownings are listed as one of the wealthiest families in Savannah, it seems unlikely that their home would be so scarcely furnished with servants and that they would not have owned even one slave.  I couldn’t help but feel the treatment of the slave issue was more twenty-first century political correctness than it was historical accuracy.  While Mr. Browning may have held a personal conviction against the institution of slavery, he seems to have made a fortune shipping cotton from slave-holding plantations and that discrepancy is never addressed.

The novel wraps up very nicely.  It is a happy ending, especially since is ends still two years before the war.  Just as we rarely experience in the real world, not every question from the Browning family mystery is answered, still every storyline is very nicely resolved. I would have enjoyed more details about the future of Cousin Ivy, but perhaps that would be addressed in a future novel. 

I would certainly recommend The Bracelet to you and am happy to give it a four-star review.

Thomas Nelson, publisher of The Bracelet, supplied a copy of this book for the purpose of this review.



Book Review:  Where Trust Lies


Janette Oke has sold millions of copies of dozens of book titles and I have enjoyed many of those titles.  Most of her work that I’ve read in the past has been set in nineteenth century western North America.  She writes Where Trust Lies along with her daughter, Laurel Oke Logan, and sets it in 1920’s Eastern Canada.  The change of setting was a pleasant surprise when I began the book because sometimes when an author that writes exclusively in the same era and area their work can begin to feel formulaic.  Oke and Logan did a good job portraying the time period, affectively capturing the cultural change of the era and the cross-generational conflict it sometimes caused. 

The book opens with Beth Thatcher’s train ride home after teaching in a small, western town for a school year; she’s returning to her wealthy Toronto family having left a new love behind.  Her family has planned a coastal cruise for vacation.  Beth is conflicted about leaving with them because her beau has promised to telephone her and she also wants to wait for correspondence that will invite her to return and teach the school again in the fall.  Ultimately, she does travel with her family where she becomes re-acquainted with her sisters comes to truly know her mother for the first time.  They share the cruise with a trio of opportunistic criminals who ultimately prey on the Thatcher family.

While Beth Thatcher is the protagonist, a fair amount of the drama ultimately involves another sister so that the focus of the book is not the dramatic criminal activity, but rather Beth’s reaction to it and her growing relationships as the drama unfolds.  Again this was an unexpected approach, but pleasantly so. 

As we’ve come to expect in Mrs. Oke’s books, her characters are well developed and captivating.  You can see the story building and sense that a twist to the plot is approaching long before she unveils the details of it. She and Mrs. Logan present the criminal element so thoroughly that I had an uneasy feeling in every scene where they were present. 

The only distraction to this well written novel is the complex setting.   The Thatcher family cruises along the St. Lawrence and the eastern coast of Canada and the United States.  It was fascinating to imagine making such a journey and Oke and Logan give rather detailed descriptions of many of the landmarks and ports.  I really enjoy books that give me details of the setting, I enjoy building that mental image of the characters interacting there.  However, in this case I found it a bit overwhelming to envision each new port of call, hotels they stayed in and attractions they visited. It was unlike a journey by train or stagecoach in which the changing landscape is viewed and perhaps described as the characters pass through it while the story unfolds within the confines of the car or coach.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed Where Trust Lies and am happy to recommend it to you.

The publisher supplied this book in return for a fair review.

Where Trust Lies, Oke & Logan, Bethany House Publishers, 2015


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A Faith of Her Own

Book Review: A Faith of Her Own, Kathleen Fuller, Thomas Nelson, 2015


A Faith of Her Own is an Amish Romance novel presenting four different couples who are in very different phases of both life and relationships.  Initially, Jeremiah and Anna Mae are presented both as the best of friends in childhood and then leading separate lives and adults.  Jeremiah left the Amish community to pursue higher education and a professional career.  He left everything behind, including Anna Mae.  She neither admits nor even realizes is, but Anna Mae has been waiting for him for six years.

Caleb and Bekah are adversaries in every situation; everything about each one annoys the other.  Yet his brother is married to her sister so they see each other quite often and everyone around them sees clearly that they are meant for each other. 

Caleb is living with his brother Johnny and sister-in-law Katie who have been trying to start a family for years without success.  We see them very much in love and glimpse that relationship.

Abandoned by his wife years ago, David has developed a hardened demeanor that shuts out the whole world.  When a widow, Judith, moves in next door and begins to care for him and his disabled son she grows to care about them and she feels strongly God has work for her to do in that family.  Now she is challenged to remain focused on that work and not allow her feelings for David to get out of hand.

A Faith of Her Own presents a very different Amish community than we normally see in Amish novels.  They are clearly more progressive since they have coolers and bathrooms in every house.  We never meet the bishop nor do we know how strictly he rules this congregation.  Jeremiah and Anna Mae are the two characters who walk the closest to the English world, but neither has been baptized into the Amish church and therefore do not risk the shunning that is often described in these stories.  While there is conflict when this couple does not make the traditional choices, we never hear any ruling from the bishop or any chastisement on the families for maintaining relations with them.

The Amish doctrine isn’t addressed, but all of the characters are very focused on doing God’s will – on following his particular plan for their individual lives.  Again, this is a different perspective than we usually get in Amish fiction where we are led to believe that The Ordnung guides individuals’ lives and plans.  This concept of God knowing the plans he has for me is widely accepted in our evangelical circles, but I found it a fresh concept in this sort of writing.

The large cast of characters made the beginning of the book slow for me, but once I got into the swing of each of their stories, I enjoyed this novel.  Mrs. Fuller wraps up each story very nicely and a happy ending for all is always welcome.


Book Review:
The Bracelet, Dorothy Love, Thomas Nelson 2014

A Faith of Her Own is an Amish Romance novel presenting four different couples who are in very different phases of both life and relationships.  Initially, Jeremiah and Anna Mae are presented both as the best of friends in childhood and then leading separate lives and adults.  Jeremiah left the Amish community to pursue higher education and a professional career.  He left everything behind, including Anna Mae.  She neither admits nor even realizes is, but Anna Mae has been waiting for him for six years.

Caleb and Bekah are adversaries in every situation; everything about each one annoys the other.  Yet his brother is married to her sister so they see each other quite often and everyone around them sees clearly that they are meant for each other. 

Caleb is living with his brother Johnny and sister-in-law Katie who have been trying to start a family for years without success.  We see them very much in love and glimpse that relationship.

Abandoned by his wife years ago, David has developed a hardened demeanor that shuts out the whole world.  When a widow, Judith, moves in next door and begins to care for him and his disabled son she grows to care about them and she feels strongly God has work for her to do in that family.  Now she is challenged to remain focused on that work and not allow her feelings for David to get out of hand.

A Faith of Her Own presents a very different Amish community than we normally see in Amish novels.  They are clearly more progressive since they have coolers and bathrooms in every house.  We never meet the bishop nor do we know how strictly he rules this congregation.  Jeremiah and Anna Mae are the two characters who walk the closest to the English world, but neither has been baptized into the Amish church and therefore do not risk the shunning that is often described in these stories.  While there is conflict when this couple does not make the traditional choices, we never hear any ruling from the bishop or any chastisement on the families for maintaining relations with them.

The Amish doctrine isn’t addressed, but all of the characters are very focused on doing God’s will – on following his particular plan for their individual lives.  Again, this is a different perspective than we usually get in Amish fiction where we are led to believe that The Ordnung guides individuals’ lives and plans.  This concept of God knowing the plans he has for me is widely accepted in our evangelical circles, but I found it a fresh concept in this sort of writing.

The large cast of characters made the beginning of the book slow for me, but once I got into the swing of each of their stories, I enjoyed this novel.  Mrs. Fuller wraps up each story very nicely and a happy ending for all is always welcome.


Book Review:
The Bracelet, Dorothy Love, Thomas Nelson 2014

The Bracelet is an historical fiction novel set in Savannah, Georgia in 1858.  Dorothy Love beautifully combines family drama and romance with mystery in a book that compels the reader to reach the end and learn the secrets of the Browning family.

Many years ago, the Brownings suffered two tragedies in their home, followed by weeks of gossip.  Now an opportunistic newspaper reporter dredges up the scandal in hopes of selling newspapers and books.  Hurt by the judgment of her society friends, and hoping to protect her father and cousin, Celia Browning begins her own search for answers.

Our lives are rarely occupied by a single issue and The Bracelet certainly reflects that.  The tensions that were building in southern Georgia just three years before the outbreak of The Civil War must have overshadowed every relationship and every decision in 1858.  In that cauldron of stress, Celia welcomes home the man she’s loved for years and hopes to marry.  She continues charity work and social engagements while alternately ignoring the coming storm and resolving to live normally despite it. 

According to the author’s note at the end of the book, each character was based on a real historical person and I believe that authenticity resounds in each one.  However, there are no slave characters in the book and Love explains that not all Southerners owned slaves or made their living on cotton plantations.  The big Browning town home is kept by a single, Irish housekeeper while a freeman serves as their driver.  Since the Brownings are listed as one of the wealthiest families in Savannah, it seems unlikely that their home would be so scarcely furnished with servants and that they would not have owned even one slave.  I couldn’t help but feel the treatment of the slave issue was more twenty-first century political correctness than it was historical accuracy.  While Mr. Browning may have held a personal conviction against the institution of slavery, he seems to have made a fortune shipping cotton from slave-holding plantations and that discrepancy is never addressed.

The novel wraps up very nicely.  It is a happy ending, especially since is ends still two years before the war.  Just as we rarely experience in the real world, not every question from the Browning family mystery is answered, still every storyline is very nicely resolved. I would have enjoyed more details about the future of Cousin Ivy, but perhaps that would be addressed in a future novel. 

I would certainly recommend The Bracelet to you and am happy to give it a four-star review.

Thomas Nelson, publisher of The Bracelet, supplied a copy of this book for the purpose of this review.



Book Review:  Where Trust Lies


Janette Oke has sold millions of copies of dozens of book titles and I have enjoyed many of those titles.  Most of her work that I’ve read in the past has been set in nineteenth century western North America.  She writes Where Trust Lies along with her daughter, Laurel Oke Logan, and sets it in 1920’s Eastern Canada.  The change of setting was a pleasant surprise when I began the book because sometimes when an author that writes exclusively in the same era and area their work can begin to feel formulaic.  Oke and Logan did a good job portraying the time period, affectively capturing the cultural change of the era and the cross-generational conflict it sometimes caused. 

The book opens with Beth Thatcher’s train ride home after teaching in a small, western town for a school year; she’s returning to her wealthy Toronto family having left a new love behind.  Her family has planned a coastal cruise for vacation.  Beth is conflicted about leaving with them because her beau has promised to telephone her and she also wants to wait for correspondence that will invite her to return and teach the school again in the fall.  Ultimately, she does travel with her family where she becomes re-acquainted with her sisters comes to truly know her mother for the first time.  They share the cruise with a trio of opportunistic criminals who ultimately prey on the Thatcher family.

While Beth Thatcher is the protagonist, a fair amount of the drama ultimately involves another sister so that the focus of the book is not the dramatic criminal activity, but rather Beth’s reaction to it and her growing relationships as the drama unfolds.  Again this was an unexpected approach, but pleasantly so. 

As we’ve come to expect in Mrs. Oke’s books, her characters are well developed and captivating.  You can see the story building and sense that a twist to the plot is approaching long before she unveils the details of it. She and Mrs. Logan present the criminal element so thoroughly that I had an uneasy feeling in every scene where they were present. 

The only distraction to this well written novel is the complex setting.   The Thatcher family cruises along the St. Lawrence and the eastern coast of Canada and the United States.  It was fascinating to imagine making such a journey and Oke and Logan give rather detailed descriptions of many of the landmarks and ports.  I really enjoy books that give me details of the setting, I enjoy building that mental image of the characters interacting there.  However, in this case I found it a bit overwhelming to envision each new port of call, hotels they stayed in and attractions they visited. It was unlike a journey by train or stagecoach in which the changing landscape is viewed and perhaps described as the characters pass through it while the story unfolds within the confines of the car or coach.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed Where Trust Lies and am happy to recommend it to you.

The publisher supplied this book in return for a fair review.

Where Trust Lies, Oke & Logan, Bethany House Publishers, 2015


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The Bracelet

Book Review:
The Bracelet, Dorothy Love, Thomas Nelson 2014

The Bracelet is an historical fiction novel set in Savannah, Georgia in 1858.  Dorothy Love beautifully combines family drama and romance with mystery in a book that compels the reader to reach the end and learn the secrets of the Browning family.

Many years ago, the Brownings suffered two tragedies in their home, followed by weeks of gossip.  Now an opportunistic newspaper reporter dredges up the scandal in hopes of selling newspapers and books.  Hurt by the judgment of her society friends, and hoping to protect her father and cousin, Celia Browning begins her own search for answers.

Our lives are rarely occupied by a single issue and The Bracelet certainly reflects that.  The tensions that were building in southern Georgia just three years before the outbreak of The Civil War must have overshadowed every relationship and every decision in 1858.  In that cauldron of stress, Celia welcomes home the man she’s loved for years and hopes to marry.  She continues charity work and social engagements while alternately ignoring the coming storm and resolving to live normally despite it. 

According to the author’s note at the end of the book, each character was based on a real historical person and I believe that authenticity resounds in each one.  However, there are no slave characters in the book and Love explains that not all Southerners owned slaves or made their living on cotton plantations.  The big Browning town home is kept by a single, Irish housekeeper while a freeman serves as their driver.  Since the Brownings are listed as one of the wealthiest families in Savannah, it seems unlikely that their home would be so scarcely furnished with servants and that they would not have owned even one slave.  I couldn’t help but feel the treatment of the slave issue was more twenty-first century political correctness than it was historical accuracy.  While Mr. Browning may have held a personal conviction against the institution of slavery, he seems to have made a fortune shipping cotton from slave-holding plantations and that discrepancy is never addressed.

The novel wraps up very nicely.  It is a happy ending, especially since is ends still two years before the war.  Just as we rarely experience in the real world, not every question from the Browning family mystery is answered, still every storyline is very nicely resolved. I would have enjoyed more details about the future of Cousin Ivy, but perhaps that would be addressed in a future novel. 

I would certainly recommend The Bracelet to you and am happy to give it a four-star review.

Thomas Nelson, publisher of The Bracelet, supplied a copy of this book for the purpose of this review.



Book Review:  Where Trust Lies


Janette Oke has sold millions of copies of dozens of book titles and I have enjoyed many of those titles.  Most of her work that I’ve read in the past has been set in nineteenth century western North America.  She writes Where Trust Lies along with her daughter, Laurel Oke Logan, and sets it in 1920’s Eastern Canada.  The change of setting was a pleasant surprise when I began the book because sometimes when an author that writes exclusively in the same era and area their work can begin to feel formulaic.  Oke and Logan did a good job portraying the time period, affectively capturing the cultural change of the era and the cross-generational conflict it sometimes caused. 

The book opens with Beth Thatcher’s train ride home after teaching in a small, western town for a school year; she’s returning to her wealthy Toronto family having left a new love behind.  Her family has planned a coastal cruise for vacation.  Beth is conflicted about leaving with them because her beau has promised to telephone her and she also wants to wait for correspondence that will invite her to return and teach the school again in the fall.  Ultimately, she does travel with her family where she becomes re-acquainted with her sisters comes to truly know her mother for the first time.  They share the cruise with a trio of opportunistic criminals who ultimately prey on the Thatcher family.

While Beth Thatcher is the protagonist, a fair amount of the drama ultimately involves another sister so that the focus of the book is not the dramatic criminal activity, but rather Beth’s reaction to it and her growing relationships as the drama unfolds.  Again this was an unexpected approach, but pleasantly so. 

As we’ve come to expect in Mrs. Oke’s books, her characters are well developed and captivating.  You can see the story building and sense that a twist to the plot is approaching long before she unveils the details of it. She and Mrs. Logan present the criminal element so thoroughly that I had an uneasy feeling in every scene where they were present. 

The only distraction to this well written novel is the complex setting.   The Thatcher family cruises along the St. Lawrence and the eastern coast of Canada and the United States.  It was fascinating to imagine making such a journey and Oke and Logan give rather detailed descriptions of many of the landmarks and ports.  I really enjoy books that give me details of the setting, I enjoy building that mental image of the characters interacting there.  However, in this case I found it a bit overwhelming to envision each new port of call, hotels they stayed in and attractions they visited. It was unlike a journey by train or stagecoach in which the changing landscape is viewed and perhaps described as the characters pass through it while the story unfolds within the confines of the car or coach.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed Where Trust Lies and am happy to recommend it to you.

The publisher supplied this book in return for a fair review.

Where Trust Lies, Oke & Logan, Bethany House Publishers, 2015


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Where Trust Lies

Book Review:  Where Trust Lies


Janette Oke has sold millions of copies of dozens of book titles and I have enjoyed many of those titles.  Most of her work that I’ve read in the past has been set in nineteenth century western North America.  She writes Where Trust Lies along with her daughter, Laurel Oke Logan, and sets it in 1920’s Eastern Canada.  The change of setting was a pleasant surprise when I began the book because sometimes when an author that writes exclusively in the same era and area their work can begin to feel formulaic.  Oke and Logan did a good job portraying the time period, affectively capturing the cultural change of the era and the cross-generational conflict it sometimes caused. 

The book opens with Beth Thatcher’s train ride home after teaching in a small, western town for a school year; she’s returning to her wealthy Toronto family having left a new love behind.  Her family has planned a coastal cruise for vacation.  Beth is conflicted about leaving with them because her beau has promised to telephone her and she also wants to wait for correspondence that will invite her to return and teach the school again in the fall.  Ultimately, she does travel with her family where she becomes re-acquainted with her sisters comes to truly know her mother for the first time.  They share the cruise with a trio of opportunistic criminals who ultimately prey on the Thatcher family.

While Beth Thatcher is the protagonist, a fair amount of the drama ultimately involves another sister so that the focus of the book is not the dramatic criminal activity, but rather Beth’s reaction to it and her growing relationships as the drama unfolds.  Again this was an unexpected approach, but pleasantly so. 

As we’ve come to expect in Mrs. Oke’s books, her characters are well developed and captivating.  You can see the story building and sense that a twist to the plot is approaching long before she unveils the details of it. She and Mrs. Logan present the criminal element so thoroughly that I had an uneasy feeling in every scene where they were present. 

The only distraction to this well written novel is the complex setting.   The Thatcher family cruises along the St. Lawrence and the eastern coast of Canada and the United States.  It was fascinating to imagine making such a journey and Oke and Logan give rather detailed descriptions of many of the landmarks and ports.  I really enjoy books that give me details of the setting, I enjoy building that mental image of the characters interacting there.  However, in this case I found it a bit overwhelming to envision each new port of call, hotels they stayed in and attractions they visited. It was unlike a journey by train or stagecoach in which the changing landscape is viewed and perhaps described as the characters pass through it while the story unfolds within the confines of the car or coach.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed Where Trust Lies and am happy to recommend it to you.

The publisher supplied this book in return for a fair review.

Where Trust Lies, Oke & Logan, Bethany House Publishers, 2015


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The Inn at Ocean's Edge

Book Review:  The Inn at Ocean’s Edge, Colleen Coble, Thomas Nelson, 2015





The Inn at Ocean’s Edge opens with Claire Dellamare driving into the Hotel Tourmaline to surprise her father who is there for an important business meeting.  She has no idea how successful the surprise is.  From the moment she enters the hotel she begins to unravel a decades-old mystery which offers plt twists few readers could ever guess.  There is also a romantic element as Claire meets local-boy Luke Rocco and the two are inexplicably drawn to each other.  The mystery in this quiet little town envelopes both the Rocco and Dellamare families.

Although I found the first few chapters gave a slow start, once I was drawn into the mystery, I could hardly put the book down.  As the layers of the mystery are peeled back, we learn about the hidden pasts of three families. 

There were a number of discrepancies that while they didn’t necessarily affect the overall plot, they kept distracting me.  Luke’s sister is first described with her hair up in a ponytail, then just a few pages later (and in the same scene) she rakes her hand through her “short hair, as thick straight and dark” as her brother’s.  In another instance, Kate explains that her grandparents live on the west coast and she’s only seen them twice in her life but later when she’s asked if she can pilot a boat she declares she’s been driving her grandpa’s since she was ten.  Again, the deputy discloses the identity of a body to Luke but warns him that the sheriff wants to tell him officially; when the sheriff arrives, Luke’s response – even the internal response that the reader is privy to – is of someone hearing news for the first time.

Colleen Coble is an accomplished writer and she skillfully develops her characters allowing her reader to feel like they know these people.  Yet in this book everything is described as pink granite.  By the time I’d finished this book, I felt like I never wanted to see a slab of that Pepto-Bismol-like rock.  The very character of Luke Rocco is questioned by Harry Dellamare; however, we never learn the reason for his dilike or perhaps distrust of Claire’s new friend.

The weaknesses of this writing surprised me both because of Mrs. Coble’s expertise and her publishing history as well as Thomas Nelson’s endorsement.  Balancing the discrepancies with the intriguing plot, I give The Inn at Ocean’s Edge three stars.

Thomas Nelson, publisher of The Inn at Ocean’s Edge, provided a copy for the purpose of review.