Book Reviews (Fiction)

The Measure of Katie Calloway by Serena B. Miller

NCLA Review - Katie Calloway is an abused wife who reaches the end of her rope. But Katie is a Yankee who married a once-alluring southern gentleman in the wake of the Civil War and divorce is unthinkable. So she flees, eventually taking a train north to the end of the tracks, then signing on as cook in a Michigan logging camp deep in the pines. Miller does a magnificent job of creating characters whose lives intertwine with Katie’s: her bitter husband, her orphaned brother, a brothel madam, a seemingly abandoned Indian woman with a newborn child, the displaced elderly former cook, her widowed boss, and the individual loggers themselves. God is present as well, sometimes surprisingly so. This book moves at a fast clip, despite descriptive details, including some that could derail a dieter. There’s romance of course, hold-your-breath suspense, and a look at Christians living their values amidst unbelievers.

Though Waters Road by Lynn Austin

I would highly recommend picking up this book for your summer reading pleasure!  It is a wonderful epic story of four women;  a great- grandmother, a grandmother, a mother and a granddaughter.  They share a family lineage and the story is retold by the granddaughter as she ponders the unfortunate twist of spending a night in jail.  After all, Harriet came from a strong heritage of women who chose to do the right thing in the face of social injustice.  It all started with Great- Grandma Hannah and her part in sheltering slaves on the Underground Railroad.   As the farming community of New Caanan, Pennsylvania came to grips with the Civil War, men were scarce, and women stepped forward to do what needed to be done.  But was it fair for those same women when the war ended?  A generation later found women facing the evils of alcohol abuse.  Being women of action, the groundwork for the Women's Christian Temperance Union and Women's Suffrage is laid in a time when a women's place was surely not on the political scene.   Getting its theme from Psalm 46, these women display a strong faith as they face their challenges knowing "God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give away and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar,... "  You'll just have to read the book to find out why Harriet ended up in jail in the first place

Jenna's Cowboy:

A Novel by Sharon Gillenwater
NCLA Review -After an ugly divorce, Jenna Callahan Colby and her son Zach have come home to live with her family. She socializes very little in this small town, but things begin to change when Nate Langley returns from Iraq. Their love, squashed by Jenna’s father years ago, is rekindled. Nate is not the same person as he was before; the war has left him with many issues to overcome. When a fire threatens the town and people he loves, Nate must overcome flashbacks and his fear of fire to help save them. This story of love, friendship, forgiveness and the power of prayer is also timely, enlightening readers about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which afflicts many veterans returning home from the war today.

Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon
Home to Holly Springs is the first in a series about the town’s much-loved pastor, Father Tim. Newly retired, Father Tim suddenly finds himself off on an unexpected adventure and for the first time in decades, he returns to his birthplace, Holly Springs, Mississippi. In response to a mysterious, unsigned note saying simply, “come home”, he takes his dog “Barnabas” and returns to the place of his upbringing. There he reconnects with some of the townspeople, hearing stories about his beloved mother and feared and indifferent father. Little does he know how much those two words would change his life. This is a story of long-buried secrets, forgiveness, and the wonder of discovering new people, places, and depth of feeling. You will enjoy Home to Holly Springs, whether you’ve read Jan Karon’s books “The Mitford Series” or if this is your first read from this author. 
Learning by Karen Kingsbury - Book Two
At the beginning of their careers, the main characters are learning through the changes in their lives. References to the internet, Yahoo, FaceBook and Skype put the reader into a modern-day setting. Bailey heads off to New York City to be a dancer and singer, where she learns how to share her faith in Christ with her more secular co-workers. Bailey also learns how to handle disappointment as a long-time boyfriend pulls away from her while her growing relationship with an actor adds another learning experience. Throughout the story they are very open about trusting God for guidance. Each of the first two books (Book one is titled Leaving) in this series would stand alone, but the continuity of the characters makes for a great story of Christians living in today’s world.
If you like Karen Kingsbury and you’ve started reading this series; Book 3 was released in December, is titled Longing and is also available in the Fireside Library.

Valley of Dreams by Lorraine Snelling.
NCLA Review: Cassie Lockwood was a sight to behold astride her beautiful horse, Wind Dancer. She kept crowds spellbound with her trick riding and amazing sharp shooting as part of a traveling Wild West Show in 1906 North Dakota. But it all ended when Jason Talbot, her late father’s partner, ran the show deeply in debt and suddenly left with all the money. She was left with a few dollars, her father’s show wagon, her horse and a few other animals. All her life her father had told her of his dream valley in the Black Hills where they would return one day and build a ranch. She decided to try to find this valley with the help of Chief, an old Indian, who was her father’s friend years ago. There are accurate and meaningful descriptions of how people lived in this era as they made their way through many hardships on their journey. This is Book 1 in the author’s Wild West Wind series. It does leave the reader with many unanswered questions.

A Heart for Home (Home to Blessing, series Book 3) by Snelling, Lauraine.
Blessing, North Dakota was a growing town in 1904. Astrid Bjorkland, her mother Ingeborg and sister-in-law Elizabeth were all doctors trying to get a teaching hospital built. Joshua Landsverk thought Astrid was the woman of his dreams until she told him her first priority was her work as a doctor. He couldn’t understand why she chose to go to help a tribe of Indians rather than stay with him. While Joshua hopes to repair their broken relationship when she returns, Astrid is intrigued with another man who doesn’t seem to be bothered by her being a doctor. At the same time, she worries about the hospital being done on time. A well-done book, but best understood after reading the first two books in the series.

Breach of Trust by Diann Mills
The story’s heroine, Paige Rogers, survived every CIA operative’s worst nightmare - a mission gone terribly wrong and the betrayal of the one man she thought she could trust. Forced to disappear to protect the lives of her loved ones, Paige has spent the last several years building a quiet life as a small-town librarian. One day when a stranger comes to town and starts asking questions, Paige knows her careful existence has been shattered. Her former boss, Daniel Keary, finds her and threatens her into making her cooperate with him. To make matters worse, he’s on track to become the next governor of Oklahoma.

There are the CIA operatives and counter-operatives, good guys and bad. Faith is lived out in the day to day. Yet just how does a Christian live and work as a spy? Where do you draw the line between not telling the whole truth and lying? Where would YOUR faith lie in the things a spy is asked to do? These are a few of the moral questions to ponder as the story twists and turns.

Like Dandelion Dust by Karen Kingsbury
A New Book Review by E. Schulz
Like Dandelion Dust tells the story of an adoptive couple who experience the amazing joys of becoming parents. When their son is 3-4 years old their joy turns to terror. They are notified they must return their precious son to his natural parents. The natural father was in prison and unaware of the birth of his son. His wife signed the father’s name on the release papers. In desperation, the adoptive couple makes plans to move their family to a foreign country. A must read to discover the outcome of this heart-wrenching story.

Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury
Karen Kingsbury is an awesome Christian author. I have read two of her books thus far and look forward to reading the many others that she has written. Her books are a quick read and difficult to put down. I found myself feeling the rejection and pain of her characters.

Unlocked chronicles the inspirational life of a young autistic man and his very special friend. It mirrors the struggles of a person who is different from the norm. As you begin to know and understand the person, you come to know a beautiful soul.

A Lady of Secret Devotion by Tracie Peterson
A dream comes true for Cassandra, a well-bred Christian girl living in the mid-1800’s who is hired to become a companion to a wealthy older lady. God’s timing is perfect as Cassie is truly fretting about how she will ever find gainful employment. The pair hit it off right from the start and all seems to be too good to be true. That’s when Mrs. Jameston’s son moves home and life takes a bitter turn. The spoiled son is determined to take possession of his inheritance now, even if it means removing Mom from the picture with his own hands.
Nothing good has come of this scoundrel of a son and Cassie is placed in the position of either revealing his evil ways and emotionally harming Mrs. Jameston or thwarting his efforts unbeknownst to Mrs. Jameston.

The Penny by Joyce Meyer and Deborah Bradford.
Audio Book-CD available in the Fireside Library
This co-authored book, The Penny is celebrated author and speaker Joyce Meyer’s first published fiction novel. Set in the segregated south of the 1950’s, themes of racism and oppression are strong, yet it is a touching story that closely resembles her own upbringing. Simply put, The Penny is about overlooked greatness found in insignificant places.

Jenny Blake has a theory about life: big decisions sometimes don’t amount to much, but little decisions sometimes transform everything. Her theory proves to be true during the summer of 1955 when she picks up a penny and consequently ends up stopping a robbery, getting a job and making a friend who changes her life forever. Her unexpected friendship with mysterious jewelry shop owner, Miss Shaw, changes both characters in ways neither could have imagined. The ripple effect that begins in the summer of the penny goes on to bring new life to those around them, showing how God works in the smallest of details, even as small as a penny. If you’re looking for a good story to listen to in the car, maybe back and forth from the lake, check it out!

Redeeming Love by Francis Rivers
This book is a retelling of the book of Hosea, set in the 1800’s. Sarah, an8 year-old daughter of a prostitute, is sold into prostitution after her mother dies. She becomes Angel, whose heart is hardened by her profession and by the judgmental church that wouldn’t have anything to do with her or her mother. Michael Hosea asked God for a wife, never expecting he would be sent to a brothel!
Without question, he marries Angel, takes her broken and beautiful body to his farm and loves her unconditionally. Guarded and wary, Angel doesn't understand how God works and doesn’t believe in Him. Angel begins to soften and comes to love Michael, but leaves because she cannot have children and knows he wants them. She also realizes that she has to forgive and love herself, before she can love someone else. She finds meaningful work and finds God, who loves her and redeems her.
This book can be checked out from the Fireside Library

“The Secret”, by Beverly Lewis
NCLA Review: Beverly Lewis has published more than eighty books, many Amish-based such as this first book in this new series. Grace Byler is the oldest daughter of Judah and Lettie Byler, living a wonderful Amish life. She begins to notice her mother’s strange behavior of weeping and wandering during the night. Neither parent will discuss the problem with Grace or even admit that something is wrong. Then one day, her quiet Amish home is shattered by an action of her mother’s. Grace is left confused and questions everything she has been taught. All her relationships are damaged and she sets out to solve the secret. The reader discovers Lettie’s secret, but Grace still is searching when the book ends. More about Grace’s life and how the secret affects the entire family can be read about in the sequels.

Double Minds by Terri Blackstock
Parker James, a Christian songwriter, is working at a recording studio trying to earn recording time to help launch her career. One evening a part-time girl is shot and killed while sitting at Parker’s desk. This begins a series of senseless murders. Parker is believed to be on the murderer’s list. She is shocked when she hears one of her songs sung on the radio by the dead girl’s mother. She finds herself in the middle of a lawsuit while she is being hunted by an unknown killer. Parker’s faith is shaken but she knows God will somehow get her out of this mess. She only wishes he would hurry! An enjoyable read.

A Measure of Mercy by Lorraine Snelling
Book #1 in the Home to Blessing series
In this thoroughly enjoyable novel, Snelling returns to the setting of Blessing, North Dakota, this time focusing on the budding medical career of Astrid Bjorklund. Astrid is an apprentice to a female doctor in a rural area, and the story starts off with a gripping scene in the operating room. True to the genre, a tall, dark handsome man arrives in town before too long, and Astrid must choose between staying in Blessing with him or going to Chicago for further medical training. Snelling weaves feminist themes into her story, and her characters thoughtfully explore the topics of God’s presence in healing and the role of prayer in healing. Snelling is a master of the historical romance formula, and her fans are sure to be pleased with this strong start to her new series. It will likely win her some new fans as well.