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The Library–love of reading
by Bella Osborne
Cross-generational stories hold a certain appeal that is present in Bella Osborne’s The Library. Built around characters who probably would never have met but for a library, this novel involves the reader in their lives. Tom, a lonely young man whose mother died when he was eight, intervenes when a hoodlum snatches Maggie’s purse. Maggie, a widow, lives alone on a small farm and longs for human contact. Both have issues that have isolated them from others: Tom’s father is an alcoholic, and Maggie has lost her son and husband.
There are so many interesting themes and threads woven into the bare bones scenario I have described. As the book progresses you learn to love Maggie, an intelligent, spunky lady with surprising talents and Tom, the object of her generosity of spirit, money, and time. Tom is trying to find his way through adolescence and is dealing simultaneously with poverty, a neglectful and grieving father who is edging toward abuse, a bully, a crush on a girl in his class, and studying for exams that will place him in A levels, the key to going to college. In the midst of all this drama, Tom has to convince his father that his future does not lie in a dog food factory. He and Maggie also have to keep their local library from closing.
I recommend this book for the style of narration, the gradual way the author reveals the inner workings of the characters, and the way she creates empathy in the reader. The events in the plot are well-crafted and the ending is satisfactory without being saccharine.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Category: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Notes: 1. There are a few uses of inappropriate language in American English and a lot of mild expletives in British English. Interestingly, Tom does try to catch himself and avoid swearing when talking to Maggie.
2. Contains lots of Britishisms.
Publication: September 2, 2021—Aria
She’d sought peace at the library, and it had given her exactly that along with multiple worlds to hide herself in. She could disappear into a book and be gone from the harsh reality of the real world for hours.
He was lost in the no man’s land between the child he was and the man he so longed to be.
Maybe nobody was who they seemed. Apart from the animals. Rusty was beautiful inside and out; she was caring and loyal. Colin was literally the devil in sheep’s clothing. But you knew where you were with animals—they weren’t suddenly going to surprise you and tip your world upside down. They didn’t pretend to be something they weren’t and because of that they didn’t let you down. Unlike people who did it all the time.
Mulberry Hollow–obstacles to love
by Denise Hunter
Denise Hunter continues her Riverbend Romance Series with the Robinson family at the center of the stories. Mulberry Hollow focuses on Avery, the youngest child of three and the only daughter in the merged family. Avery is high achieving and operates her own medical clinic in the little town of Riverbend Gap that is an oasis of relief and comfort for weary hikers from the Appalachian Trail. Avery’s family handles her with kid gloves because she has a 50% chance of having a fatal, degenerative disease. She has resigned herself to a love life with the clinic and the community and rejects the possibility of having children.
One evening she finds Wes Garrett, dehydrated, with a high fever, on the clinic’s doorstep. He was formerly a worker in Columbia for Emergency Shelter International, but is currently a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail in honor of a deceased friend. Wes’ background was tough growing up, and as an adult he is saddled with paying off his father’s debts. Wes is a man of his word and a man of honor. While the handsome guy’s qualities are admirable, they also cause obstacles in any romantic relationship that might develop.
I loved this story and its characters. These are people that fight hard to do the right things putting others above themselves. It’s hard not to keep turning the pages in hopes that good things will happen for Avery and Wes. There are a lot of twists in the plot that will have you groaning at the unfairness of life, but the characters continue to trust in God and pray for others. The religious element is not dominant; instead it reflects the way these characters live out their lives through good times and bad and when the right choices are not the easy ones.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Notes: 1. Discussion questions are included.
2. This is #2 in the Riverbend Romance Series, a trilogy. It could be read as a standalone, but the characters continue from the first book, Riverbend Gap, so you would probably enjoy it more if you read them in order.
3. Clean romance.
Publication: April 19, 2022—Thomas Nelson Fiction
“He was a hustler?” “He could’ve sold mosquitos to a backpacker—and he would’ve if he hadn’t been so lazy. Such as it was, he made do with home improvement scams.”
She took in the now-familiar angles and planes of his face. He was pretty to look at, no doubt, but he was even more attractive on the inside. A man who put aside his plans to help another was a man who could be counted on. A man who spent months on the trail to honor a friend was a man to be admired.
She considered all he’d been through. His difficult childhood, the loss of a dear friend. And yet he’d somehow flourished as a human being. Emerged from his trials a good and caring man. She was thankful God had brought him to Riverbend just when she’d needed him.
The Wind in the Willows–endearing children’s classic for all ages
The Wind in the Willows
by Kenneth Grahame
My book club decided to read The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, a children’s classic written in the early 1900’s by a British author. As a retired educator, I felt like this is one of those books I should have read. I downloaded a free copy from Project Gutenberg. It has some illustrations, but I found I would have liked more. The other readers in my group had various ways of reading this classic tale. One had a particularly beautifully illustrated version that I adore. Another friend listened to an audio version recorded on YouTube. At least one group member expressed disappointment that her version was an adaptation. Regardless of the version, however, we all enjoyed reading it.
The Wind in the Willows is a charming tale of a water rat, mole, badger, otter, and toad. With its exquisite language and intricate descriptions, this book is perfect for reading as a family. It was a staple in A.A. Milne’s family which I consider high praise indeed. The pace moves back and forth between quiet reflection and raucous adventure. The tale has themes of home, friendship and satisfaction. The characters move through life together with commonalities and differences that serve to make the story even more interesting.
Toad is a favorite character with moods ranging from manic to subdued and intentions to reform that often seem genuine, but sometimes are quite insincere. He has a passion for the latest and greatest “toys” and is always on the lookout for a new adventure. Fortunately, he has supportive friends who will do anything for him. He is a source of humor for the reader.
If you have never read The Wind in the Willows, I strongly recommend it, especially if you enjoy beautiful word pictures. I like researching unfamiliar words, but those who don’t will have no problems as the general meaning of words of a botanic nature, Britishisms, and words no longer in common usage are certainly easily understood from context. The Wind in the Willows is a great read, and I am so glad to have added it as part my literary heritage.
Category: Children’s Fiction
Notes: Ages 7-14
Publication: 1908 & 1913—Charles Scribner’s Sons
Toad talked big about all he was going to do in the days to come, while stars grew fuller and larger all around them, and a yellow moon, appearing suddenly and silently from nowhere in particular, came to keep them company and listen to their talk.
He increased his pace, and as the car devoured the street and leapt forth on the high road through the open country, he was only conscious that he was Toad once more, Toad at his best and highest, Toad the terror, the traffic-queller, the Lord of the lone trail, before whom all must give way or be smitten into nothingness and everlasting night.
Toad sat up slowly and dried his eyes. Secrets had an immense attraction for him, because he never could keep one, and he enjoyed the sort of unhallowed thrill he experienced when he went and told another animal, after having faithfully promised not to.
Death Comes for the Archbishop–New Mexico frontier
Death Comes for the Archbishop
by Willa Cather
Every well-read person should have read at least one book by Willa Cather, an American Pulitzer Prize winning author famous for her novels set in the frontier. When my book club decided recently to read Death Comes for the Archbishop, I had not read any of Cather’s books. I was delighted that the choice was one that focused on the history of the Catholic church in New Mexico where I currently live. The novel provides as a backdrop a tour of cities, towns, pueblos, and open deserts inhabited by foreign priests, Mexicans, and Indians. Cather paints beautiful word pictures of the landscapes while depicting the difficulties of life, and especially travel, as two French priests attempt to revive the Catholic religion in the region. Churches had been planted over three hundred years earlier but did not receive much attention from Rome. With the annexation of new territories by the U.S., things begin to change in a land viewed as “wild” for many reasons. It is ruled over by the Bishop of Durango located in Mexico, fifteen hundred miles away from Santa Fe where the missionaries headquartered.
Jean Marie Latour, a parish priest based in the Lake Ontario region is elevated to bishop arriving in New Mexico in 1851 after a difficult and dangerous year long journey. He is accompanied by his childhood friend Father Joseph Valliant. Despite its title, Death Comes for the Archbishop is not a murder mystery nor does it focus on the death of the Archbishop. Instead, it is a triumphant tale of strong, wise, and intelligent men who against all odds form friendships with peoples of various tribes, cultures, and languages in a harsh but beautiful land. The descriptive language is exquisite and serves to enhance and further the plot. This book celebrates the usually successful struggles for survival and the somewhat successful attempts to share the Catholic religion. In the Archbishop’s passing, it becomes evident that he was much loved and respected by the peoples of the many cultures in his diocese.
Death Comes for the Archbishop is a tale I would enjoy rereading for the breadth of its descriptions and the depth of its topics. The two Fathers were men I would enjoy meeting. Quite unalike physically and in disposition, they were fast and loyal friends with different means of evangelism, but suitable to their characters. Although this book has a specific setting in terms of time period and location and has characters with a religious profession, its themes of devotion, strength, and friendship transcend the New Mexico frontier of the 1850’s and the Catholic priesthood. Although the specifics were interesting and an effective vessel for the themes, the novel proves Cather to be, above all, an able storyteller. I had no regrets in reading this work of historical fiction based on the lives of two missionaries, and I highly recommend it.
Category: Historical Fiction
Publication: June 15, 1927—Reading Essentials
Everything showed him to be a man of gentle birth—brave, sensitive, courteous. His manners, even when he was alone in the desert, were distinguished. He had a kind of courtesy toward himself, toward his beasts, toward the juniper tree, before which he knelt, and the God whom he was addressing.
There was a reassuring solidity and depth about those walls, rounded at doorsills and windowsills, rounded in wide wings about the corner fireplace. The interior had been newly whitewashed in the Bishop’s absence, and the flicker of the fire threw a rosy glow over the wavy surfaces, never quite evenly flat, never a dead white, for the ruddy colour of the clay underneath gave a warm tone to the lime-wash.
This mesa plain had an appearance of great antiquity, of incompleteness; as if, with all the materials for world-making assembled, the Creator had desisted, gone away and left everything on the point of being brought together, on the eve of being arranged into mountain, plain, plateau.
Montana Wishes–romance in Montana
by Amy Vastine
Along comes another romance as the Harrison girls get slowly pulled back to their biological Blackwell roots and their Montana cowboy origins. In the first of the Blackwell Sisters series, Lily Harrison is a runaway bride who finds herself, a new vocational passion, and a handsome cowboy fiancée in Falcon Creek, Montana.
In Montana Wishes, the second book in the series, Lilly sends for her identical twin sister Amanda to help her plan a second wedding as well as move all her belongings to Montana. Amanda enlists her best friend Blake to help her make the drive. The timing could not be worse as Blake has just proposed to Nadia whom he has dated for only two months. Amanda is grieving the loss of her best friend, reeling from the impact of a medical decision, and angry about the intrusion into her life of a grandfather and a set of cousins she didn’t know she had. But, being Amanda, she steps up to the plate and tries to make everything right for everyone else.
I like this book and its characters. Just as I thought the romantic situation was going to get stagnant, the author of Montana Wishes, Amy Vastine, would throw in a twist or surprise that moved the plot forward and kept me turning pages. As we watch the interactions of Blake, Amanda, and Nadia, theoretical questions about love and friendship take on a personal meaning.
Can men and women be best friends?
Should you marry your best friend?
Should your spouse be your best friend?
There is also a question of the importance of fertility in a relationship. Although it is handled well, that issue may be an unintentional trigger for some readers. All in all, it is a fun read that segues into the third book in the series, Montana Dreams.
I would like to extend my thanks to Amy Vastine and to Harlequin Heartwarming for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: 1. #2 in the Blackwell Sisters series, but could be read as a standalone as the author provides plenty of background information to bring the reader up to speed.
2. Clean and heartwarming romance
Publication: September 8, 2020—Harlequin Heartwarming
(Song lyrics): In the distance he sees what he never saw. Laughter ringing like wind chimes in a summer storm. Across rocky tipped horizons and cloudless skies. And just like that he knows…the sounds of home.
The worst thing in the world was disappointing Amanda. She was just so good. To the core. She did everything she could to do no harm, put others’ needs above her own and brighten the world around her. People like her were rare. When you were someone she loved, you wanted to be good, too.
“Just because we have a tiny bit of the same blood in our veins does not make us family. Family is the people you’ve created memories with, the people who have cared for you and let you care for them. It’s the people who are there for you when you need them…”
The One Saving Grace–love or lust?
The One Saving Grace
by Julie Houston
As I went through each one of three books I chose to read as an introduction to author Julie Houston, I watched her develop as a writer. Her plots have become more complex, her characters have more depth, and she has found a balance that uses less vulgar language.
The One Saving Grace is the second book about Harriet and her long-time friend Grace. They did everything together as children, adored and hated “Little Miss Goodness” Amanda in unison as teenagers, and now they find themselves torqued around as adults by Amanda again. But Amanda is the least of their worries as the past becomes enmeshed in the future with unpredictable romances popping up and Harriet’s husband’s ex-girlfriend lurking the the background with revenge on her mind.
In the first book about Harriet and Grace, Harriet is confronted with an unplanned pregnancy she can not cope with on many levels. In this book, her moral dilemma is an affair. As I read the book, the author led me to somewhat understand Harriet’s temptation. As I stand back, book finished, and look at her predicament, however, I have a hard time reconciling the Harriet who was devastated by the suspicion of her husband having an affair with the the Harriet who is willing to lose her family to temporarily satisfy her carnal desires. Sex is a major theme in the book, but is never described in detail.
The best part of The One Saving Grace is the surprises that reveal motivation and the resolution of conflicts. The theme of postnatal depression is also important in this book and one not to be overlooked as it affects not only Grace, who desperately wanted a baby, but also her family and friends.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Aria for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Romance
Notes: This is the second book about Harriet and Grace, but works great as a standalone as Houston inserts background information as needed.
Publication: February 19, 2019—Aria
I actually felt a bit miffed that someone else was after Mrs. Doubtfire…like when you were a teenager, you might not fancy that spotty, tongue tied guy with the bum fluff on his top lip who’s been drooling over you for months, but you certainly don’t want him going off with anyone else.
I’d make my way up to the gym machines to face Tina Trainer, who had obviously taken her instructions at the same place Dante got his inspiration for the Inferno.
Envy I’d always reckoned to be the most corrosive of all emotions, eating into one’s soul like a particularly pernicious acid….Envy is a mere novice, a total non-starter compared to her grown-up sister, Guilt.
God, a Motorcycle, and the Open Road: A Biker’s Devotional
God, a Motorcycle, and the Open Road
by Tim Riter
I couldn’t imagine what a devotional with a motorcycle focus would be like. If you are a motorcycle rider or aficionado, then the answer found in Tim Riter’s God, a Motorcycle, and the Open Road is fascinating, inspiring, and FUN. It could be read over the course of a year with one chapter per week, allowing the reader to absorb and apply the Biblical truths. One day I may do that, but for this reading I devoured, it not wanting to put it aside.
Having logged more than 240,000 miles on two wheels in 46 states, Tim Riter loves short rides, long rides (including Iron Butt), hot and cold rides, solo and group trips. He loves God and sees a strong connection between motorcycling and his faith. The chapters in God, a Motorcycle, and the Open Road are formatted to begin with personal anecdotes from Riter’s many motorcycle trips. Then he finds lessons in the stories and connects them to spiritual truths. He finishes each section with “Kick-Starting the Application,” encouraging readers to challenge themselves.
Come along with God and Tim on motorcycle adventures, some painfully hilarious stories by a master storyteller, and some life changing lessons. You will be glad you did.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Harvest House Publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Christian, Religion and Spirituality
Publication: April 2, 2019—Harvest House Publishers
Why does God sometimes rescue some of his people and not rescue others? I have no clue….But I do trust his love even more than I trust his power. I suspect that’s the key. God’s omniscience trumps our finite knowledge. I’ve seen enough of his love to have faith in it.
Honda’s engineers want to provide the best riding experience. The closer we follow their design, the better we ride. God wants to provide our best life experience. The closer we follow his design, the better we live.
Frankly, leaning on God sometimes makes no more sense to our finite minds than does leaning a bike into a curve at speed. But that lean allows us to get through the curve. And reminding ourselves that God loves us in all of our trials and failures, that he always works for good, allows us to survive the curves of life.
The Year of Starting Over: A Feel-Good Novel about Second Chances and Finding Yourself.
The Year of Starting Over
by Karen King
I don’t know any honest person who won’t admit, at least to themselves, that there is something that they wish they had done differently. Since there are no “do-overs” in life, I am grateful for second chances and that is what The Year of Starting Over is all about. Its subtitle is A Feel-Good Novel about Second Chances and Finding Yourself.
In Karen King’s novel, Holly is confronted with both the need and opportunity to hit the reset button on her life when it becomes apparent her relationship with boyfriend Scott will never lead to the type of loving marriage her Nanna and Pops enjoyed. Her job as a care assistant for the elderly is not the path to fulfillment for Holly as an artist. Holly is left money by her Pops giving her a chance to change those circumstances and begin living for herself.
Holly has to sort through relationships as she reinvents herself in this gentle romance. She travels from England to Spain to help her friends, Fiona and Pedro, establish an artists’ retreat. With an adventure in another country, the interesting characters, and a female lead who steps out of her comfort zone, you may well be pleasantly reminded of Under the Tuscan Sun. The plots play out differently, but the feel-good aura is present in both.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Bookouture for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Publication: February 7, 2019—Bookouture
Although her family had always praised her designs, Scott had dismissed it as her “hobby” and had never taken much interest.
Holly felt frustrated as she listened to them, wishing she knew the language better. She’d improved since she’d started taking lessons with Felipe, but not enough to understand conversations, especially when they spoke so quickly.
Her family had been pretty poor, he knew that from what she’d told him, but they’d been happy. His family were rich by comparison, but there was no closeness between them.