Review: Once Upon A Summer by Janet Oke

“…God loves you … He plans for your good, not your hurt. It’s true that things happen in life that seem wrong and are painful, but it isn’t because God likes to see us suffer. He wants to see us grow. He wants us to love Him, to trust Him.” – the preacher

Once upon a Summer (Seasons of the Heart, #1)Once upon a Summer by Janette Oke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Josh’s parents died when he was a small child. Ever since then, his Auntie Lou, who was only five years older than he was, took over the role of his mother in the best way she knew how. They lived with Grandpa (Lou’s dad) and Uncle Charlie. And then when Grandpa and Uncle Charlie started talking about marrying Auntie Lou off, Josh wondered what he’d do without her. And then he decided, maybe he won’t have to find out…

“Holes in socks are sorta like sin, Josh. If you don’t tend to them right away when they’re small and controllable, they grow with amazing speed.” – the preacher

(I had to stop reading the book when I came to that quote and ponder it. Just… wow.)

As if that wasn’t bad enough, his great grandma died, leaving his great grandpa a widower. Grandpa and Uncle Charlie invited him to live with them. Josh wasn’t sure what to think about this, but he felt like it would disrupt everything.

Between Grandpa and Uncle Charlie trying to marry off Auntie Lou and a great-grandpa that he had never met coming to stay with them, Josh had a lot on his mind. The big question was, what would he do about it?

“Whenever something comes into our life that hurts us, we do the decidin’—do I let this work for my good, as God intended, or do I let bitterness grow like a bothersome canker sore in my soul?” – Auntie Lou

This story is told from 12-year-old Josh’s point of view. The writing style is so different, which I enjoyed, though it took me a chapter or two to get into the rhythm of it.

Josh’s character was well developed. Without revealing any spoilers, it was a joy to follow his story from start to where he is at the end of the book. He grows a lot. And the ending almost brought tears to my eyes. It was great.

There were too many amazing quotes in this book to list them all, but I think this one was my favorite:

“He could let us go through all of our life, bundlin’ us and shelterin’ us from anything and everything that would hurt us. I could do that with my petunias, Josh. I could build a box around them and keep them from the wind and the rain, the crawlers and the bees. What would happen iffen I did that, Josh?”

I jest shrugged. The answer was too obvious.

“They’d never bear flowers,” said Auntie Lou.

Aaaand the fun doesn’t stop here, because Janet Oke wrote four books in this series – which I have and look forward to reading soon. 🙂 However, I think this book could be read as a stand-alone. Until recently, I didn’t know that this book was even part of a series. If I had, I would have gotten my hands on the other books long ago!

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Review: The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans

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The Evanses, along with their four year old daughter Jenna, are much too cramped in their tiny apartment. When an opportunity arises for them to be hired to help out an elderly lady in her large house, the family of three checks it out. They move into the East Wing within two weeks.

It’s not long until Mary becomes like a grandmother figure, and is well loved by all.

And then tragedy strikes…

I loved how from Mary, The Evanses learn the true meaning of Christmas. I usually don’t get emotional when reading a book, but this one made me tear up at the end. It was phenomenal. It was so short that I read the whole thing in one day; it was only 90 pages. It’s a good thing he wrote two more books and made this a series! (However, this book reads like a stand alone, so if you want to read this one, you won’t get a cliffhanger at the end. But if you are like me, you’ll like it so much that you’ll want to get your hands on the next two anyway!)

This story promises to be a Christmas Classic. 🙂

Reviews: Big Sky Dreams Series #1 & #2

Big Sky Dreams #1: Cassidy

written by Lori Wick

Cassidy Norton is a skilled seamstress who owns Token Creek Apparel in Token Creek. Here, she has everything she has dreamed of – friends, a church family, and a successful business.

Cassidy’s best friend Meg is married to Brad Holden, and is also pregnant. Cassidy goes over to the Holden ranch at least once per week to help her sew clothes for the baby. Trace Holden, Brad’s brother, always makes sure she gets back to her place safe. Cassidy is also good friends with the local banker. Jeanette Fulbright helps Cassidy out with her business at times. The people of Token Creek have a very caring pastor, Rylan Jarvik, and Cassidy finds it easy to talk about the Bible with him. Cassidy is certainly not in want of friends in this book. But what no one in the town knows is that there is a secret from her past that if revealed, could change the way everyone sees her and treats her…

I knew that she would have a love interest; and unfortunately, I read #2 in this series first (because Goodwill only had Sabrina XD) so when it comes to who she ends up with // if she ends up with someone, I already knew what would happen. X) However, since I read the other first, this felt like I was getting her backstory, and it was fantastic.

I did find one typo on page 40: “You’re brother is still upstairs.” Yup. The classic “Your” (meaning that you own something) versus ‘You’re” (contraction for “you are”) error. X)

Big Sky Dreams #2: Sabrina

written by Lori Wick

Danny and his wife, Callie, takes Sabrina in off the street to give her a chance to change and introduce her to Christ. They have a secret that was unexpected, but fit in perfectly with the story.

Sabrina soon moves from Denver to Token Creek in Montana Territory to escape her past, which keeps haunting her. I really like Sabrina. She’s slightly naïve. There are times when she makes me laugh. “Do you ever think about the person who owns the legs that might wear these pants?” XD She has quite an imagination.

Once Sabrina makes the move, Jeanette Fulbright, the owner of a tailor shop, gives Sabrina a job. She also allows Sabrina to stay with her for a while. Jessie Wheeler, the owner of Wheeler’s Mercantile (a general store), also gives Sabrina a part time job when Sabrina asks for one. Jessie has two daughters, Hannah and Clancy who appear in the story from time to time. (Clancy is sooooooo cute. XD) Rylan, who is the same pastor from Cassidy, also works at the livery stable. Sabrina spends so much time thinking about this that she misses the first sermon of his that she was present for. X) She also meets Meg, Brad, Trace and Cassidy from the first book in this series. Sabrina finds many friends in Token Creek. But will they see her the same way if they know about her past?

In chapter two, there are a couple of time jumps that I almost missed at first and had to reread to catch. The novel starts in November, then jumps to December, and then jumps all the way to May. I realize this is because not a lot was happening during that time in between her believing and her leaving for Montana Territory. This didn’t bother me a great deal though; I really liked the first couple of chapters, and from there, the book settles into a nice pace. Sabrina is the main character of course, but the author still tells us what is happening with the other characters as well, especially when it relates to Sabrina. (But you also get some scenes with Cassidy and Meg, from the first book, which was nice.)

There are three characters with names that start with “J”. I get confused sometimes when a novel has two names that start with the same letter, unless the names are super different, so having a Jeanette, a Jeb and a Jessie was slightly confusing at first. XD In addition, there is Sabrina (the main character) and Savannah (Meg’s baby) and I got them confused at times, which was a hilarious mix-up on my part. XD

Overall:

I usually read mysteries and young adult novels, so reading these Christian romance historical fiction novels were a pleasant change. 🙂 I look forward to reading more like these, and perhaps someday Jessie, the third in the series.

The characters, especially the main characters of both novels, undergo extensive character development, and that was really great. There are a lot of characters though. It took a while for me to really catch on to who was who. XD But it was great.

When the characters pray, they are so sincere. I really appreciated that.

There are many deep thoughts about the Bible and Jesus throughout both novels. Many made me stop and ponder them for a while. One inspired my first blog post! (Haha, yes, I wrote the first draft of the book reviews out that far in advance. XD) I love it. So much. These have to be the best books I’ve read in a long time.

You can read Sabrina before Cassidy, as I did; however, as I stated, it will ruin Cassidy’s story in terms of plot // love interest, so I don’t recommend doing that.

Review: Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning

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Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning

By Danette Haworth

As the title suggests, Violet is the main character. When the new girl in town, Melissa, moves in a few houses down, Violet feels that her world is turning up-side down. Violet is annoyed that her best friend, Lottie, seems to be best friends with Melissa now.

And with Melissa’s arrival comes change. Violet doesn’t want to hear about wearing makeup or liking cute boys, as Melissa and now Lottie are doing. Violet wants to stay the same. But can she stop herself from growing up?

Even though I’ve already grown up, I liked this book. I was almost shouting at Violet sometimes. Like if she spoke very bluntly when handling a bad situation, which she did often. X) But that’s because Violet is much more headstrong than me.  XD Or when she used grammar improperly: “don’t hardly”?  o_O Baha, I get that this is the main character’s speaking voice (the novel is in first person), so I can look past that.

I loved that Violet likes to put the Today’s Word section from her newspaper into a shoe box for later. I do that with new words I like as well, but in a Word doc, so I can relate to this.  XD Also, it was a clever way to weave in new vocabulary words for the younger audience this book was probably intended for.

There was one main thing that I didn’t like: The author felt the need for Violet to use the Lord’s name in vain, repeatedly, which drove me crazy. On a few occasions, it may not have been intended to be taken that way, but that was the way my mind took it. X)

Review: A Season For Grace

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A Season For Grace – A ‘Heartsong Presents…’ title

By Tracey Bateman

This was my first Christian historical romance novel, and I must say, I was very impressed. The story revolves around Grace Porter, who is going west via wagon train to Oregon territory. The wagon master, Paul Spencer, is leading them there in mid-October, meaning that they will have to stop at a fort to wait out the winter before continuing.

When Paul’s niece, Bobbin, tries to play a prank and gets in an accident, Miss Porter feels responsible, because the girl was in her charge at the time. Grace is tormented by guilt and fear; not only from this incident, but from memories of the past that haunt her… and feelings for a man she knows that she can’t be with because of those things in her past.

This is one of those books – at least for me – that I had a hard time putting down. I loved the writing style, the setting, the characters, and pretty much everything else. XD The backstories were so touching. I usually read mysteries, adventure, or young adult books so a Christian historical romance novel was a nice change. 🙂

I’m so glad that I decided to read a book that was in a genre that I wouldn’t typically choose. I loved this book so much that I bought other titles in the HeartSong presents... franchise (my copy is a HeartSong Presents title, but it looks like other printings of this book are out there…), along with other Christian historical romance novels I saw when I was at Goodwill. I suppose that this proves that you never know what will happen when you try something new! 🙂

The Mysteries of Silver Peak #1: Mountain of Mystery

51puztl0jpl-_sx326_bo1204203200_Plot: Sadie Speers, the main character whose love for antiques and history makes her shine, discovers that her family history, as she knows it, may have to be rewritten. She follows the leads of a dress that has red stains – which may  be old bloodstains, antique gun, and a mysterious brass key, all to find out the truth of her great aunt’s story over 100 years before. It has all the workings of a good mystery novel.

And on top of all that, Sadie is chosen to host the Founder’s Day picnic, her car was vandalized, and she lost her wedding ring from her late husband, whom we get little flashes of backstory about throughout the novel, which I thought was a nice touch. She has a lot on her plate, but she knows that Jesus will get her through. I love how she has such faith in Christ. 🙂

Sadie’s friends are really great too. Hank, Sadie’s dog, is adorable, protective, playful, cuddly… I want him. XD Edwin Marshal, her old flame, is back in town, and that makes Sadie get butterflies, which was amusing to read about. Marge was fun. Especially when preparing for the founder’s day picnic… XD Rosalind (Roz) Putnam, Sadie’s best friend, whom it is joked about in the book as standing ”five foot twelve inches”, has interesting fashion choices that were always adequately described. And then there’s Laura Finch, who is in town for the genealogy conference…

I found a couple of typos // plot issues; which took me out of the story (when I read, I like to really get into the book XD), by thinking, “What…?” On page 146, the order in which the events are written makes it sounds like Sadie is shaking hands with someone’s bag instead of his outreaching hand. The mental image made me laugh though. XD The second was on page 193, when Sadie told Alice, her daughter, the results of a DNA test on the phone. Only 7 pages later, Sadie tells Alice the results of the DNA test again, and Alice acts as if she hadn’t heard them before.

Overall: Looking past the typos, I really enjoyed it. Some parts felt like it dragged a bit, but the backstory of the characters gave it some “fluff”. And I really liked that it had a Christian element to it. I look forward to reading the next one. 🙂

I loved that there were some red herrings, so you think you know what is happening, but then you find out you weren’t even close. XD The ending shocked me; never saw it coming. It was really great.

Reviews: The Jennie McGrady Mysteries #1 & #2

Hope you all had a great 4th of July yesterday! 🙂

Jennie McGrady Mysteries #1: Too Many Secrets

By Patricia H. Rushford

Nate, Jennie’s little 5-year-old brother, is having a birthday party, and Gram is late. Everyone is slightly concerned, except Jennie, who is beyond worried. She’s convinced something bad has happened.

On the radio, she hears the news about a stolen jewels. Could there be a connection?

On top of that, Jennie finds out that her mom is dating a new guy. She is convinced that her dad is still alive – they never found his body after the plane crash – but to her mom, five years missing meant that he was gone, and she is ready to move on. Jennie is floored. She has a plan in place that involves Gram to find her missing father.

But with Gram missing, her plan can’t come to fruition. She is determined to find Gram, not just for the sake of her plan, but because she is scared for her grandma’s life.

This is slightly off-topic, but the author mentions the Nancy Drew books and the Twilight Zone TV series, both of which I’m a fan of. I really appreciated that. XD

I found one small error on page 38: “Mom told us to smile while she focused the camera and took another dozen pictures.” The book is told in third person, so “us” should have been “we”. It didn’t really take away from the book at all, but it did make me curious if the author had written a draft of the book in first person at some point…

 

Jennie McGrady Mysteries #2: Silent Witness

By Patricia H. Rushford

Jennie’s mom is now engaged, but at least Jennie is glad to spend her summer away from home to get away from the drama for a while. Or so the thinks…

What started out as a vacation to Florida at a dolphin research lab turns into a mystery involving vandalism – and a murder from years past that Jennie feels she must solve. The solution to the mystery could be easy: There was a witness. Except that she no longer speaks – and is a Silent Witness.

And even though it is #2 in the series, I don’t think it is crucial to read the book one first. I didn’t, but I wished I had, because it felt like I was missing out on some of Jennie’s backstory at times. X)

 

Overall:

I have fallen in love this series. The mysteries are thrilling. These are two books that are really hard to put down once you start reading them. There are many twists and turns in the plots. It felt almost like a virtual roller coaster. They are great! I can’t wait to read more of these.