Book Review: A Home in Drayton Valley

ahomeindraytonvalley“Fed up with the poor quality of life in 1880 New York, Tarsie Raines encourages her friends Joss and Mary Brubacher to move with their two children to Drayton Valley, Kansas, a booming town hailed in the guidebook as the land of opportunity. She offers to help with expenses and to care for Mary and the children as they travel west by wagon train. But when tragedy strikes on the trip across the prairie, Tarsie is thrown into an arrangement with Joss that leaves both of them questioning God and their dreams for the future. As their funds dwindle and nothing goes as planned, will Tarsie and Joss give up and go their separate ways, or will God use their time in Drayton Valley to turn their hearts toward him?” (from Goodreads)

I borrowed this from the library because it looked interesting.

I read the blurb and guessed at what would happen.

I started reading it and knew what was going to happen.

And I still loved it and need a copy because this book is not about the events but about the people. I think I’ll review the characters…

Mary
Mary was so sweet and hopeful and kind. I’ll hide this spoiler in case you didn’t guess it, but MAJOR SPOILER ALERT! Mary dies of breast cancer ¼ of the way through the book. *cries* END OF SPOILER She was truly an inspiring character, and I loved how she touched lives in small ways throughout the book. I want to be her when I grow up.

Tarsie
She was a feisty one! 😀 Very different from Mary, but loving and strong in the Lord. I really liked her character, especially how even though she was a strong Christian she still struggled with loving the unlovable. Her short prayer throughout the book was so real. 😉

Joss *cries*
I understood Joss so well, and he broke my heart. Struggling with addiction, incapable of loving or being loved (though he longs for both), and afraid of being close to his family for fear of hurting them. The author wrote him in such a way that I wasn’t repulsed by him but instead was rooting for him to turn to God for a heart change. One of my favorite parts was when he finally did the right thing with a huge lie he told Tarsie, even though the truth was painful and humiliating for both of them. Beginnings…

Simon and Ruth
The most darling couple to ever walk the pages of a book. I loved their healthy, friendly relationship and their courage to stand against the racism in their culture–both classic racism and reverse. Their joy and strength in the Lord were contagious. ❤ At first, I was uncomfortable with the portrayal of their dialect since some authors’ use of that has made their African American characters seem unintelligent (looking at you, Mark Twain), but I grew to see it as a celebration of their culture since Tarsie’s Irish accent was written out as well.

This book wasn’t just a pioneer story or a romance or even both. It showed how painful and strong and Christlike love can be. It showed how hard and how slow transformation can be. And it showed how Christ breaks through the mess of racism, addiction, and lies.

Since this book deals with some hard topics, I would not recommend it to younger readers. There was some rampant racism portrayed in one character’s point of few including use of the word “negro”, though the author did a good job showing this as wrong and balancing it out with Mr. Tollison’s respect for Simon. Some of Joss’ thoughts of what his father would say or do in his situation were inappropriate, and Joss thought so but they were still mentioned. Some passing mentions of leering men, “getting pleasure” from women, and “husbandly rights”. In the romance area, there were some more descriptive touches than I’m used to reading about, but everything was kept appropriate. Also, there was a one sentence allusion to a wedding night, but it was in the proper context and worded to cast it as the beautiful thing God means it to be.

Best quote: “He can, Joss! And He does! But…” She gathered her courage and placed her fingertips gently on his taut arm. “He loves you too much to leave you as you are, because He knows you can’t be happy wallowin’ in sinful behavior.” He stepped away from her touch. “And just how does He change a man, Tarsie?”

Altogether, I was happily surprised by this book, and it has helped cement Kim Vogel Sawyer as one of my new favorite authors. 😉

Short Story Review: Quest for Leviathan

Blog Tour banner

Today I am privileged to review a new short story by Amanda Tero. 😉

leviathancover“Leviathan took the life of Anath’s father. Anath has spent three years preparing for the voyage that will end the threat of Leviathan. Yet as the Valor launches into the depths of the Mediterranean, an inward quest also begins, taking Anath to depths he is not willing to face.

A short story.” (from Goodreads)

This story was short but very meaningful. It was a little slow to get into at first, but I ended up liking it. 😉 I loved the descriptions of the sea, and Joed bringing to Anath’s attention the miracle that it was was amazing. Kanah was, of course, my favorite character. He was so loyal… 😉  But, oh wow! The description of Leviathan was creepy! I’ve always been curious about this creature in Job, and the author brought it to life very well. In the end, the story had a strong message that no matter what happens in life, God cares for us, His creation.

Just a note, the scene with the Leviathan could get a little intense for very young readers.

Best quote: “I should have died with Father.” Anath looked up, his eyes penetrating the vastness of the sea in front of him. “The sea should have buried me too.” “It should have,” Joed agreed. Anath glanced his way. “But it did not. Have you ever questioned why?”

Altogether, I was blessed by this short story. (And the illustrations were beautiful!)

About the Author

Amanda Tero began her love for words at a young age reading anything she could get her hands on and penning short stories as young as age eight. Since graduation, she has honed her writing skills by dedicated practice and study of the writing craft. She began her journey of publication with a few short stories that she had written for her sisters and continued to add to her collection with other short stories, novellas, and novels. It is her utmost desire to write that which not only pleases her Lord and Savior, but also draws the reader into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

Connect with Amanda by email amandaterobooks@gmail.com, on her website http://amandatero.com/, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/amandateroauthor/, Instagram https://www.instagram.com/amandateroauthor/, Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/amandaruthtero/, her blog www.withajoyfulnoise.blogspot.com, Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/AmandaTero, and Amazon http://www.amazon.com/author/amandatero.

Enter here to win a free paperback copy of Quest for Leviathan

Follow the rest of the blog tour!

June 8 – With a Joyful Noise (Release Day Post)

              Resting Life (Spotlight, Review)

             The World of the Writer (Review)

             Authoring Arrowheads (Review)

             Purely by Faith Review (Review, Interview)

June 9 – Victoria’s Book Nook (Spotlight, Review, Giveaway)

             Bekah’s Books (Spotlight, Review, Interview)

June 11 – Clothed with Scarlet (Spotlight, Review, Giveaway)

             Reveries Reviews (Review)

June 12 – Chosen Vessels (Spotlight, Review)

             My Purple Pen (Review)

             Read Another Page (Review)

June 13 – Once Upon an Ordinary (Review)

             Maidens for Modesty (Review)

             Yahweh Sisters (Review)

June 14 – Honey Rock Hills (Review)

             Life of Heritage Corner (Spotlight, Review, Interview, Giveaway)

             Kaylee’s Kind of Writes (Review, Interview)

June 15 – The Red-Hooded Writer (Review)

             Blossoms and Blessings (Spotlight, Review, Interview, Giveaway)

             Lit Aflame (Review, Interview)

June 16 – The Left-Handed Typist (Review)

             Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen (Review, Interview, Giveaway)

June 18 – Great Books for God’s Girls (Review, Interview)

             Peculiar Miss Darcy (Character Interview)

June 19 – Done in Love (Spotlight, Review, Interview, Giveaway)

             Creating Romance (Spotlight, Review, Giveaway)

June 20 – Keturah’s Korner (Review, Interview)

             Rock and Minerals 4 Him (Spotlight, Review, Giveaway)

June 21 – A Baker’s Perspective (Review, Giveaway, Character Spotlight)

             Christian Author: A.M. Heath (Review, Interview)

June 22 – Writings, Ramblings, and Reflections (Review)

             Views from the Window Friend (Review)

             Hunting for Truth (Spotlight, Review, Giveaway)

June 23 – Reading on the Edge (Spotlight)

             Summer Snowflakes (Review, Giveaway)

June 25 – With a Joyful Noise (Giveaway Winner Announced)

 

Book Review: The Bicycle Spy

bicyclespy“Marcel loves riding his bicycle, whether he’s racing through the streets of his small town in France or making bread deliveries for his parents’ bakery. He dreams of someday competing in the Tour de France, the greatest bicycle race. But ever since Germany’s occupation of France began two years ago, in 1940, the race has been canceled. Now there are soldiers everywhere, interrupting Marcel’s rides with checkpoints and questioning.

Then Marcel learns two big secrets, and he realizes there are worse things about the war than a canceled race. When he later discovers that his friend’s entire family is in imminent danger, Marcel knows he can help — but it will involve taking a risky bicycle ride to pass along covert information. And when nothing ends up going according to plan, it’s up to him to keep pedaling and think quickly… because his friend, her family, and his own future hang in the balance.” (from Goodreads)

I’ve loved everything I’ve read by this author, so when my sisters brought this home from the library (and I suddenly remembered it was on my TBR XD), I was excited to read it. 😉

This book covers a time period in history I knew next to nothing about, so frankly–I was geeking out. 😀 1939 France in the “free zone”. Also, the Tour de France? Why have I not heard of this?? 😀 😀

Because this was packed with fascinating history, it was a little slow in spots, but the author did a good job keeping the historical facts mostly to some pretty cool appendices in the back.

Marcel was a nice, relatable character. I liked his ordinary bravery and his courage to push himself for the sake of others. Also, three cheers for a great relationship with his parents! And their delivery system they had worked out was amazing. (Sidenote: I want some of that spice cake.)

Best quote: “Dark came quickly, along with a cold and stinging rain. The bike he had traded for was not as good as his old bike, so he had trouble maneuvering over some of the rougher patches. Still, Tour de France riders didn’t stop for rain, and neither did he.”

Altogether, this was an interesting story of bravery, determination, and compassion. I hope this author writes more soon. 😉

(And that COVER!! <3)

Book Review: The Shield Ring

theshieldring“The story of a young Viking boy who wishes to prove himself a worthy warrior at the time of the Norman invasion.” (from Goodreads)

I can’t quite put a finger on what makes this book so timeless for me. Is it the idea of a last stronghold in the hearts of men? A hero who is brave in more ways than the battle kind? A young woman who loves him with the fierce love of deep loyalty? Or the sprinkling throughout of music to express loneliness and stir hearts?

Something. Bjorn and Frytha, Aikin the Beloved and Garm, Gille and Ari Knudson, and the mazelin have shaped me and my ideals and my writing much. I didn’t realize how much until this re-read.

There were so many key pieces of the story I had forgotten. A quote here, a line there. Even the onomatopeia-ic beauty of the word “holmganging”. This time it was not just an adventure, but I saw more clearly the struggle and the growth of Bjorn. I caught the lines I had missed at Bjornsthwaite and again at the end. I remembered what finally happened with Erland.

I love books that I can read more than once and enjoy just as much. There was a double-edged beauty of looking back on the ten years since I first read it and seeing how the book shaped me while discovering the story all over again.

My older self understood the negatives of the story more clearly as well. The feminism, sadly accurate to their pragmatic and desperate culture. The meshing of the “old gods” and a watered down version of Christianity. The justifiable but sorry idea of revenge.

I have an old copy of this book. The dust jacket is gone, showing the lovely gray-blue cover with three swords and shields. Inside, there is an old library checkout card. A “Michelle B” was the last to check it out in 1975. Such an old story, but a good one.

4 Books to END a Reading Slump

Last week, I shared four unforgettable books that have thrown me into a reading slump with their deep themes and complicated plots. I also explored how reading slumps are actually pretty cool. 😉

But, admit it, no one wants to stay in a reading slump forever… (After all, bookworms would starve without their regular diet of stories.)

It takes a special book to break a reading slump. Something easy to read. Something mentally engaging. Something truly wonderful.

book-2388213_1920

Here are four books (a couple are actually series) that fit the bill. 😀

10329469

In my review of Wings of a Dream by Anne Mateer, I wrote, “This book was like a scrumptiously perfect mini cheesecake–the right size, sweet but substantial, and utterly happy-creating.” And it’s true. A sweet friend of mine gave it to me for Christmas, and I read the entire thing in a day. ❤ It was light enough to combat holiday and textbook exhaustion; but the beautiful character, sweet plot, and Christian content engaged my heart and mind and re-convinced me that books are worth reading. 😉 (I’m reading it aloud to my sixteen-year-old sister now.) Read my review here.

 

This series = <3. Not as in “these are romance”. Nope, the heart means I love them. 😉 Just had to make that clear. I love Kate’s Case Files by Sarah Holman because they 1) are definitely Christian, 2) have well-written characters, and 3) are really smart mysteries without murder. Yay! Add in some fun banter from the team, and these are perfectly refreshing books. (Read reviews of book one and book two. And squeal happily because book three is coming out this year.)

princess academy

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale is such a lovely book. I think of it like a modern fairytale–one of those stories that is written to live on. The main character is one of my all-time favorites because she was just a regular, interesting girl I could relate to. Also, the worldbuilding is sooo rich! It’s a book that never fails to please. 😉 Read my review here.

 

I can’t believe how long it took me to finally read Sarah Holman’s The Destiny Trilogy.  Once I started, though, I couldn’t stop. 😀 Exciting, sci-fi without weird science or aliens, and mysterious… Definitely the type of book I go looking for when nothing else will do. 😉 Also, hooray for a really normal heroine. XD (Read my reviews here.)

Which books never fail to please you no matter how terrible the reading slump?

4 Books to Induce a Reading Slump

What exactly is a “reading slump”? A reading slump is the scariest, most terrible thing that can ever happen to a bookworm. Scarier than running out of books. A reading slump is being unable to read because of exhaustion (probably caused by dry textbooks) or disinterest.

I have a theory about the cause of disinterest in reading. For me, this happens when the last book I read was sooo mind-blowingly good that I need to take a break to reflect on it, send it into long-term/life-changing memory, and get my emotions in order. 😉

coffee-3043424_1920

Here are four unforgettable books that sent me into a reading slump. And I’m so happy they did. 😉

7069751

I was taking a big chance when I picked up Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. The front cover says “very dark, high fantasy” and the back blurb implies “shallow, irritating romance”. Neither of those is really my genre. 😉 It was well-beloved by some Goodreads friends and fiercely hated by others. It was a dark book, one of the darkest I’ve ever read but only because it’s an allegory (surprise!) of sin, misplaced love, and redemption. There is no other way to portray how helpless our state is. It was exhausting and heartbreaking and eye-opening and beautiful. (Read my review to find out why it’s a book I’ll never forget.)

19063

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is not without its problems (grateful for whiteout!), but it’s a very unique, rich book. It focuses on the ordinary people of World War II and the power of art while being a literary delight itself. There are metaphors and word pictures in this book like none I’ve ever seen before. There are complicated characters. And the plot doesn’t follow the regular rules. 😉 I think I probably mention this one too much. 😀 (Read my review for more explanation and excited babbling.)

35283135

Maybe I’m a little biased, but I love this book. Crossroads by Paul Willis is a heart-pounding, dystopian novel. At the end of my review, I literally wrote: “How can I ever read again?” 😉 Because of the themes, it was emotionally exhausting (in a good way) and very thought-provoking. I grew to love the characters, as well, and I’m holding out for a sequel. XD (Read my review here.)

28250850

I discovered Beautiful Blue Word by Suzanne LaFleur at the library recently. From the cover, it could look like a very little kid’s book, but it has a depth of story and meaning that translates well to older readers. It’s a lot like The Book Thief in its theme, but much cleaner and shorter. It also had a neat twist on the classic Ye Old World War II Book by making it set in a realistic fantasy world so the themes shine without worries of historical accuracy. Pretty fun. 😉 (Read my review here.)

Reading slumps aren’t all that bad when the books that cause them are sooo good. 😉 Have you ever had this happen to you? (And if you’ve read any of these books, let’s fangirl. 😉 )

 

Book Review: Beautiful Blue World

28250850“Sofarende is at war. For twelve-year-old Mathilde, it means food shortages, feuding neighbors, and bombings. Even so, as long as she and her best friend, Megs, are together, they’ll be all right.

But the army is recruiting children, and paying families well for their service. If Megs takes the test, Mathilde knows she will pass. Megs hopes the army is the way to save her family. Mathilde fears it might separate them forever.

A reimagining of war, where even kindness can be a weapon, and children have the power to see what adults cannot.” (from Goodreads)

I have been looking for this book for forever. Like seriously, I always check the teen section at my library and it is never there. Well, it’s never in the teen section, that is. I just found it in the children’s section this time and probably squealed out loud. 😀

First off, that cover. Each time I look at it I discover more, and all of the elements meant more to me as I read the book. ❤

This book has aptly been likened to The Book Thief, but since it’s for a middle-grade audience, it was a lot cleaner which was nice. 😉 I’d almost classify this as historical fantasy, except there were no creatures or magic. One look at the map of that world and the events going on in it, and you’ll almost think that this is supposed to be a retelling of World War II. Except, the author made things just different enough to pique my interest and keep me guessing. I loved it. 😉

Mathilde and Megs had a sweet friendship, and I sometimes forgot they weren’t sisters. 😉 Father was darling with his “Bigs, Medium, and Little”, and I liked Mother as well. I enjoyed all the other kids at “school”, especially Gunnar and Annevi. It was interesting seeing all the different characters’ talents and musing (although I was pretty sure I knew) about what Mathilde’s could be. It was pretty special how she impacted the other characters.

But the colors. The blue and the green, the colors of the world and the flag, Mathilde’s and Rainer’s colors. That was the best. ❤ When someone learns to be compassionate and care for other people, there’s no telling what they’ll do. 😉

Just a note, there was a slight humanistic worldview and a mention of SPOILER ALERT! a school being set on fire and not everyone got out. Also, someone does let out a breath they didn’t know they were holding, so if that irritates you… 😛

Best quote: And then on the day after that, when I got up to leave, I heard behind me, “I like blue.”

Altogether, I very much enjoyed this book, and I am eagerly looking forward to reading the sequel. ❤ I wish I could make everyone read it. XD

Book Review: Grace and the Preacher

30659096“The Kansas community of Fairland anticipates the arrival of their new minister and in recent months, late in 1882, postmistress Grace Cristler has communicated with Reverend Dille via letters, answering his questions about the little town, and developing affection for the man who pens thoughtful missives.
 
Theophil Garrison grew up under the loving influence of his saintly grandmother but was roped into his cousins’ train-robbing plan. When they fail and are apprehended, Theo fled the scene, evading jail time. Now an angry cousin is out to avenge Theo’s duplicity, and he’s on the run. He encounters a fatally ill traveler–a minister. Seeing a way to keep hidden, Theo trades identities with the man, dons his fine black suit, carries a Bible, and prays that he’ll be accepted as Rufus Dille.
 
Once in Fairland, if Theo’s true identity is uncovered, what will be left of the world he has built for himself, Grace, and those in the town who have come to love and accept him?” (from Goodreads)

I picked this book up at the used bookstore because I had credit there and wanted to try a book by this author. It ended up being one of the best books I’ve ever taken a chance on. ❤

The book is FULL of great characters. It’s a slow story, slow as in rich, not boring. It has a total of two sweet, God-honoring romances in it. But those aren’t the main reasons why I love it.

God brought this book to me on the heels of two others that dealt with the idea of romance not being the end-all-be-all. I sometimes found her silly, but I identified with Grace’s hopes and fears and illusions so much! My dear Theo was wrong, but I still felt compassion for him. (And I loved who he became.) They both had to learn to put God first. To let Him fill them up and to let go of what they wanted and do the right thing. I needed that message. 😉 Eventually, the book’s title took on a double meaning that just blew me away. 😀

All the side characters were super. (Except, of course, the essential grumpy church member.) I want to be Aunt Bess when I grow up, and I ended up loving her Sam just from her memories of him. Seriously sweet man. Grace’s uncle was great too. I loved how much he strove to help Theo along, and his zeal for the Lord even at his age was inspiring. It was dearly darling when my sweet people talked through the door during the quarantine. I also fell even harder in love (if possible) when SPOILER ALERT! Theo returned Uncle’s Bible to Grace. END OF SPOILER! And don’t get me started on the ending. ❤

Just a note, there were a few hints at the “impropriety” of a single woman staying at a sick man’s house to take care of him, but someone else was there too and nothing happened.

Best quote: He could tell she didn’t want him to leave. He didn’t want to, either, but a distant clap of thunder told he’d be wise to get inside before the next rainstorm swept in. “I’ll come back tomorrow, an’ the day after that, an’ the next day, too, if you’re all still closed up in there. I’ll come to the back door an’ knock, an’ we’ll talk as long as you want.” “As long as it isn’t raining?” He grinned. This time he knew she was teasing. That was good. “I’ll wear a slicker.”

Altogether, this was a very cute book that blessed me with its deep message.

Book Review: Together

33371246“Spring has come once again to the Triple Creek Ranch, but things aren’t all peaceful and sunny. Orlena’s attitude has even Jenelle wondering what to do, while Stephen struggles along in school and Norman faces the possibility of losing one of his ranch hands. Join the Mavrich family for a season of strangers, storms, and struggles.” (from Goodreads)

I received this book for my birthday earlier this year, which was a special surprise. 😀 Several things delayed my reading of it, but I finally got to crack it open and enjoy another season on the Triple Creek Ranch.

Jenelle and Norman were great as always, and Lloyd is my favorite of the regular ranchhands. I always enjoy the side characters in these books so it was neat to see some new developments in their lives. A new schoolteacher, maybe? *huge grin* And I am entirely delighted by the Mavrichs’ new neighbors. ❤

Throughout the series, Orlena has undergone some major heart changes. It’s been neat to see her SPOILER ALERT! struggle, surrender, and mature. I enjoyed her journey even more in this book since it hit very close to home. Following Christ is a day to day choice and relational setbacks occur when our relationship with Him isn’t right.

Stephen was such a sweetheart in this one. Probably my favorite character. (Although Marian is darling.) It hurt to see Orlena being so mean to him, especially since he’s still so afraid of consequences for getting in trouble. And, oh my, that ending!! It made the book a five star one for sure. SPOILER ALERT! I loved God’s proof to him that he couldn’t do everything on his own.

Best quote: “Do you want him to look at you and decide that if Christians are like you, than he doesn’t want to be one?” “No.” It was the faintest of whispers.

Altogether, this was a sweet and satisfying read! 😉

 

Book Review: First Christmas in America

Christmas Comes Early

As promised, here’s a review of another sweet Christmas story by Rebekah Morris!

About the Book

First Christmas in America

Klara Ivanski arrives from the Old Country with her Papa, Mama and ten brothers and sisters. “All vill be vell,” Papa assures them, but Mama and several of her brothers and sisters must remain at their aunt and uncle’s because of sickness. With barely enough money for food, Klara is quick to assure her papa that they only need Mama and the other to make Christmas special. But will the family be together for their first Christmas in America?

Buy on Amazon HERE.

Review

What a sweet, little story! The ending made me tear up. 😉 I enjoyed the close-knit big family, especially how sweet Papa was portrayed. Cleaning their big, new house actually sounded like a lot of fun! I did really connect with the lonely feelings of moving into a new house, though. (And having to leave part of the family behind? That’s just terrible!) There were so many children, it got a little hard to keep track of them sometimes, but there was no forgetting sweet Klara and impatient Polina. (And Anastasiya did a great job filling in for Mama!) I also appreciated how grateful they were for everything. 

Best quote: Klara came last, for she wanted to see in every direction at once.

Altogether, I enjoyed this snapshot of a close-knit family similar to my own. 😉

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

(Don’t miss my review of Christmas Eve at the Back Door and links to the rest of the tour in this post!)