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by Karen Barnett
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
The middle of the Great Depression
Ever Faithful is the tale of young people from various walks of life joined by employment at Yellowstone. Some are pack rats (porters), some pillow punchers (maids), and others pearl divers (dishwashers). Additional college students working the summer are tour bus drivers and laundry workers. Throw into the mix a contingent of down and out, unemployed and often uneducated young men from the cities, part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) founded by President Roosevelt to combat unemployment and the problems that can arise from idleness and defeated attitudes. All of these young people have pasts that affect their presents.
Elsie, the daughter of a park ranger, loves Yellowstone and has spent many summers working hard at the inns at the park to achieve her dream—to go to college to become a teacher. She and her friends have romantic entanglements typical of summer romances. Some, however, seem more serious than others. Vaughn, a park ranger, sets his eyes on Elsie as does Nate Webber who has taken a CCC job to get out of trouble and provide money for his family in New York. Secrets abound and some are potentially deadly as they are linked to wildfires that could destroy the dry, pine beetle infested forests of Yellowstone.
After an interesting story with a historically accurate setting, author Karen Barnett moves the story ahead four years with a quite satisfactory epilogue. Then she provides information on the main aspects of this work of historical fiction and notes a few minor discrepancies as well as how the park has changed.
Yellowstone with its bears, bison, geysers, and vistas is on many a bucket list. Some of the original inns remain while others have been replaced. There are probably too many tourists, but it is still a park that belongs to the people, and it is a wonderful setting for this tale.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to WaterBrook (Penguin Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Christian, Historical Fiction
Notes: 1. Thematically a part of the Vintage National Parks Novels but remains a standalone in terms of characters, setting, and plot.
2. Gentle reminders of God’s presence and plan.
Publication: June 18, 2019—WaterBrook (Penguin Random House)
“It’s hard for men to be out of work. It wears at their souls, tears them down piece by piece like a crumbling brick wall.”
It was odd how teaching both energized her and sapped her at the same time. During class, she flitted from one student to another, each one’s progress sending a wave of satisfaction through her chest. But when the room emptied, her strength seemed to go with them.
Nate reached into his pocket and pulled out the pine cone he’d picked up at Roosevelt and squeezed it in his fist. The scales were closed, glued shut by sap. According to Ranger Brookes, without fire it wouldn’t open to disperse the seeds hidden within. God could bring good out of disaster.
by Karen Kingsbury
Elise is a budding artist, and Cole has a promising future as a doctor when they meet and their lives become intertwined during their last semester of high school. In Karen Kingsbury’s Two Weeks, these young people have to deal with their own pasts with single moms, their love for each other, and their relationship with God. An unplanned pregnancy, the loss of a child, and trust in God take center stage as Elise and Cole wrestle with major decisions that have wide ranging consequences.
Two Weeks is a romance but it also deals with the emotional and personal impacts of abortion outside of any political concerns. It also addresses the agony of miscarriages and infertility while holding up adoption as a difficult and complicated but positive possibility. This work of Christian fiction shines a light on a subject that is painful for many. It also examines parenthood from several viewpoints. Both topics may be sensitive for some readers, but I do recommend this work written by a prolific Christian author whose books have been made into movies.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Howard Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Romance, Christian
Notes: 1. This book is the latest in an extensive series of books about the Baxter family. I read it as a standalone and had no problem following the plot.
2. There is a discussion guide at the end.
Publication: April 2, 2019—Howard Books
Ashley would do the most powerful thing she could. The best gift a mother could give her child. Grown or not. Now and forevermore like her life depended on it. She would pray.
Their lives were a trail of broken moments and closed doors when it came to having a baby.
“I never think of them as dead.” Her eyes grew softer. “They’re alive. They just have a new address in heaven.”
Mother’s Day Mayhem
by Lynn Cahoon
You don’t have to have a good relationship with your mother or your child to enjoy Lynn Cahoon’s Mother’s Day Mayhem. This novella provides a quick, enjoyable, themed read. Lynn Cahoon is a big proponent of “sometimes, the family you make is just as strong or stronger than blood.” Another nice feature of this book is that although there are mysteries (where ARE those missing garden gnomes?), there are no murders.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: a novella in the Tourist Trap series
Publication: April 2, 2019—Kensington
Life was good. Or it would have been if Greg hadn’t thrown a stone in the pond. Now, I had to deal with the ripples his request had caused.
“You’re never making a mistake by making yourself vulnerable. You’d regret it more if you didn’t take a chance.”
“Bite me,” the kid called back, speeding up even more. Greg sighed. “Not my circus, not my monkey. But if it was, that kid would be sitting in my office waiting for his folks to come and get him. Sometimes people need to know that respect is an important part of building a community.”
The Library of the Lost and Found
by Phaedra Patrick
The Library of Lost and Found is Martha’s story woven by author Phaedra Patrick into a tapestry of several generations of women trying to survive, to see their way through. The background is emotional abuse and family secrets. Martha devotes her life to caring for her aging parents, Betty and Thomas, and later trying to please her contacts at the library where she volunteers. Because Martha does not value her own contributions, no one else appreciates her. As a child, Martha is imaginative and creative and her flamboyant nana, Zelda, encourages her to be a storyteller. Unfortunately Martha’s inventiveness is in direct conflict with the wishes of her overbearing father.
The basic plot line-up to this point in the story appears fairly straight forward, but much more conflict brews beneath the surface. There are past romantic entanglements that affect Martha and her sister Lilian. Zelda disappears from Martha’s life and is proclaimed dead. The past and its secrets affect the present and the future.
One of the fun characters is Suki, a young, single, pregnant co-worker with a tendency to misuse words. For example, speaking of her baby’s father she says “He says he can’t make up his mind between us. I’ll have to give him a culmination.” “Do you mean an ultimatum?” She may not always use words correctly, but she believes in Martha and ends up being an encourager for her as Martha takes steps to find her independence.
There are lots of surprises along the way as figurative skeletons in the closet are revealed and as Martha finds herself again. The Library of Lost and Found is appealing to book lovers as books, libraries, bookstores, writing and reading all play important roles. Its appeal spreads wider though as it addresses universal issues of power and control, love, whimsy, family, and self-worth, and their emotional impact.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Harlequin (Park Row) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult)
Publication: March 26, 2019—Harlequin (Park Row)
She often felt like there was an electrical storm around him, and she could sense it crackling now, between him and Zelda.
She didn’t usually feel jealous, but as she watched her mother and daughter, it crept over her now like winter frost across a window.
“Why does something have to last forever to be classed as successful? Surely it’s okay to give things a try.”
Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog
written and illustrated by Lisa Papp
If you like kids and reading and you have a heart for shelter dogs, then you will enjoy sharing Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog by Lisa Papp with a child in your life. The storyline is simple. A little girl, Madeline, begs her mother for a puppy. Mrs. Dimple, who volunteers at a shelter, has a rescue dog, Bonnie, with some pups. Madeline is allowed to choose one, and in the process she learns about shelters where animals wait for their forever homes as well as how to care for her new puppy. Madeline is a girl of action. She not only helps at the shelter, she also rallies her community to bring blankets and books to read to the shelter animals. Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog is a sweet read with gentle and engaging illustrations.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Peachtree Publishers (Myrick Marketing) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Children’s Fiction
Publication: March 1, 2019—Peachtree Publishers (Myrick Marketing)
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
The Poetry of Mister Rogers
Lyrics by Fred Rogers and Josie Carey
Music by Fred Rogers
Illustrations by Luke Flowers
Mr. Rogers (Fred McFeeley Rogers) influenced several generations of children with his kind and gentle ways in his television neighborhood. He understood that children need routines to feel safe so he started and ended his show the same way each day. Now we have a compilation of his poetry which, as a trained composer, he put to music as well.
I enjoyed reading his poems. They have a wide range of topics, but contain reassuring verses to help children understand their feelings, and the world around them. He is not shy about sharing his love and encouraging children to do the same. Other topics he addresses include positivity, doing your best, feeling good about yourself just the way you are, and parents. One poem that I think particularly demonstrates his understanding of childhood fears is “You Can Never Go Down the Drain.”
I think this would be a fun book to share with children, choosing poems at random or when a child has a particular need. The illustrations are colorful and reflect the magic of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. This book ends with a brief biography for adults of a fascinating man who has influenced so many in a positive way.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Quirk Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Children’s Nonfiction, Poetry
Publication: March 19, 2019—Quirk Books
You’ve made this day a special day by just your being here.
It isn’t by size that you win or you fail. Be the best of whatever you are.
It is the people you like the most
Who can make you feel the maddest.
It’s you I like.
It’s not the things you wear.
It’s not the way you do your hair.
But it’s you I like.
Thunder of Heaven
by Ted Dekker
In reading Ted Dekker’s Thunder of Heaven, I deviated somewhat from the types of books I usually read. My thirteen year old granddaughter recommended this Christian thriller, and I wanted to gain insight into her reading preferences. Having said that, I should clarify that Thunder of Heaven is not written for the younger reader; it is an adult novel without the inclusion of sex or vulgar language. I do not normally read thrillers; but, although suspenseful, this is not the kind of psychological thriller which will keep me up for nights to come.
Shannon and Tanya have grown up in the jungles of Venezuela where Shannon’s parents are coffee farmers and Tanya’s parents are missionaries. Their blooming romance and happy lives are interrupted by horrific events in this action packed story that focuses on good versus evil, the sacrifices of love, and God’s bigger plan.
I had some confusion with the identity of the characters, but it eventually surfaces that the confusion is intentional and is resolved in the end. The plot is strong and intricate. The Venezuela jungle setting is interesting, well depicted, and perfect for the tale Dekker weaves.
Thunder of Heaven deals with some of the bigger spiritual questions. Can God use evil for good? Can a person become possessed by satanic powers? Can a Christian have a vision from God? What is the ultimate sacrifice? The exploration of these topics is not simplistic and is woven throughout the book coming to a head in the resolution of the conflict.
I am new to Dekker’s work, but Dekker is not new to suspense aficionados. A best-selling author, he has written over thirty books which have been translated into multiple languages. Two of his works have been made into films. His chosen genres for his storytelling are thriller and suspense, fantasy and speculative, and historical fiction. I’m looking forward to reading more novels by this author.
Category: Thriller, Christian Fiction
Notes: Thunder of Heaven is book 3 of the Heaven Trilogy, but as the publisher says, “Each is a stand alone story that in no way depends on the other.”
Publication: August 28, 2005—Thomas Nelson
“If your life made too much sense to you, you might forget about God altogether. It is man’s most prolific sin—to be full of himself. But your tormenting has left you soft, like a sponge for his words. It’s your greatest blessing.”
“We see only the terrible tragedy; he sees more. He sees the ultimate glory.”
Abdullah was no one to play with. His heart was the color of his eyes, Yuri thought. Black.
Father…dear God, I’m lost down here. Forgive me. I’m lost and lonely and confused. I hate this man and I hate that I hate him. And I don’t even know if that’s possible! What are you doing? What is your purpose here?