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Saturday, January 2, 2010

More Bethany House publishing

If you follow my blog, you know that I've been participating in a program through Bethany House Publishing where they send me free books and I read them and post reviews. This last batch was all historical fiction.

The first book is Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin.
Harriet opens the book lying on a cot in a jail cell, reflecting on the irony of her arrest. Through reflection (flashbacks) she tells the stories of the women in her life. Her grandmother, Grandma Bebe, her mother and through them, her own story. The stories begin in 1848 and cover such important issues of slavery, war, prohibition, and women's suffrage. Each character plays a vital role in Harriet's life and how she has developed into the young woman she is today. Harriet is struggling with her life. She looks at the lives of her mother and grandmother and feels she has nothing important to offer the world. Her grandmother defies every traditional woman's role for the time, and her mother spent the majority of her life conforming to those roles. Harriet struggles with understanding how to grow into the woman she is meant to be based on the strong influences of her grandmother and mother.

The stories are very engaging and as a woman, daughter and mother, I related to the individual stories of each woman and their relationships with each other.  I highly recommend this book.

The second book to review is The Silent Gift by Michael Landon and Cindy Kelley.  I enjoyed this book but I felt the plot had too many twists and turns, too much drama and not enough story development between Mary Sinclair and her son, Jack.  Some of the events just seemed too unrealistic and far fetched to make the story believable.  It is overall a sweet story and will keep you entertained and interested.

Mary's son Jack is labeled a "deaf mute" in the book, but it was my impression that today, he would be considered autistic.  The year is 1938 - the end of the Great Depression and Mary's husband, Jerry, has been struggling to make ends meet for many months.  Mary does her best to keep things together, but Jerry is not content making meager wages and continues to search for "something better." Mary soon discovers that Jerry has found "something better" in the arms of another woman, and the business trip he has told Mary about, is actually a trip to get a quickie divorce.  He has emptied his bank accounts and Mary realizes she is going to be left penniless and helpless.  She manages to take the money Jerry has liquidated and she and Jack make their get away.

Just as soon as Mary thinks she has gotten away and gets set up in a new city, she loses the money she stole from her husband and is left penniless.  At the Salvation Army, Mary learns that Jack has a gift.  He is able to meet with a person and give them a "prediction" so to speak.  These predictions come in the form of numbers that are associated to the book, chapter, and verse in the Bible.  Jack becomes notorious for his "predictions" and through a series of coincidences, he and Mary are recognized by con artist who both befriends them and exploits them.  Unexpectedly, Jerry shows up and claims custody of Jack, devastating Mary.  She is prisoned and Jack manages to escape from Jerry and is placed in a mental health institution.  Mary eventually is released from prison and she continues her desperate search for her son.  Just when she gives up hope, an unexpected ally comes to her aide and by chance, they eventually find Jack and the Mother and Son are reunited.

The third book to review is A Measure of Mercy by Lauraine Snelling.  This book is the first in the series Home to Blessing.  It is apparent very early on in the book that the characters and location are written about in another series.  Snelling does a good job of making you feel familiar with the characters, but you do get the sense that you are missing something from not reading the previous books.

A Measure of Mercy focuses on the life of Astrid Bjorklund as she completes her medical training under the instruction of her sister in law, Elizabeth.  She is faced with the choice of remaining in her home town of Blessing, North Dakota, or traveling to Chicago to formalize her training at the Alfred Morganstein Hospital for Women and Children.  She eventually decides to make the trip to Chicago, much to the dismay of Joshua Landsverk, who has returned to Blessing in the hopes of being remembered by Astrid and perhaps courting her.

The story of a young woman training to be a doctor is interesting and Astrid's struggle to make a choice based on God's calling is dynamic.  She is relatable in that she struggles greatly with knowing and understanding what God is telling her.  She tries to turn to her mother, a faithful example, but feels that she must be lacking something because of her mother's unfailing faith.  On top of her struggles with medical school, Astrid struggles with the thought that she is being called to become a medical missionary in Africa.  In the meantime, Joshua struggles with attempting to have a long distance relationship with Astrid, made even harder by the fact that Astrid is not aware of his intentions towards her.

Overall, this is a very interesting story and left me anticipating the next installment.  In the meantime, I will definitely be reading the previous series about Blessing.

The fourth and final book to review is part of another series (Diamond of the Rockies).  The Rose Legacy follows Carina Maria DiGratia as she leaves her home in Sonoma and travels to the legendary Crystal Colorado.  She leaves behind a doting Italian family, her culture, and betrayal by her sister in an attempt to show them all that she is just fine and will make a new life for herself in beautiful Crystal.  A series of unfortunate events leave Carina, a victim of false advertising, with no money, no assets, abandoned in a corrupt mining town.  An unscrupulous lawyer, Berkley Beck, befriends Carina, telling her that he is her only hope.  As Carina works for him as his secretary, she uncovers the web of lies he has told.  She struggles with trusting anyone, but finds that for some reason, she instinctively trusts Quillan Shepard, the freighter that sends her wagon full of her most precious belongings to their destruction over the mountainside.  Carina wants to hate Quillan, but finds that he is the only person she can truly rely on.  In the midst of a town full of corruption, greed, and lacking God, Carina struggles with her faith and uncovers the beautiful love story of Quillan's parents.  The end of the book is left with a bit of a cliff hangar leaving you anticipating the next book in the series.  While I struggled sometimes with what seemed like inconsequential details, the story was engaging and was a great combination of romance, faith and historical drama.

Happy reading everyone!

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