Monday, October 16, 2017

Many Sparrows by Lori Benton

Travel back in time to the Ohio-Kentucky frontier in 1774 as it pulses with rising tension and brutal conflicts and meet Clare, who is determined to emerge from the wilderness with her children, in Lori Benton’s new book, Many Sparrows. Clare will face the greatest fight of her life, as she struggles to reclaim her son from the Shawnee Indians now holding him captive. But with the battle lines sharply drawn, her son’s life might not be the only one at stake. Can a stranger convince Clare that recovering her son will require the very thing her anguished heart is unwilling to do—be still, wait and let God fight this battle for them?

{More about Many Sparrows}

Many Sparrows (WaterBrook, August 2017)
Either she and her children would emerge from that wilderness together, or none of them would. . . .
In 1774, the Ohio-Kentucky frontier pulses with rising tension and brutal conflicts as Colonists push westward and encroach upon Native American territories. The young Inglesby family is making the perilous journey west when an accident sends Philip back to Redstone Fort for help, forcing him to leave his pregnant wife Clare and their four-year old son Jacob on a remote mountain trail.
When Philip does not return and Jacob disappears from the wagon under the cover of darkness, Clare awakens the next morning to find herself utterly alone, in labor and wondering how she can to recover her son . . . especially when her second child is moments away from being born.
Clare will face the greatest fight of her life, as she struggles to reclaim her son from the Shawnee Indians now holding him captive. But with the battle lines sharply drawn, Jacob’s life might not be the only one at stake. When frontiersman Jeremiah Ring comes to her aid, can the stranger convince Clare that recovering her son will require the very thing her anguished heart is unwilling to do—be still, wait and let God fight this battle for them?
Learn more and purchase a copy.
Lori Benton

{More About Lori Benton}

Lori Benton was raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American history going back three hundred years. Her novels transport readers to the eighteenth century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history. When she isn’t writing, reading, or researching, Lori enjoys exploring and photographing the Oregon wilderness with her husband. She is the author of “Burning Sky,” recipient of three Christy Awards, “The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn,” Christy-nominee “The Wood’s Edge,” and “A Flight of Arrows.”
Find out more about Lori at
Lori Benton explains in an afterward to her new book that she feels a kinship to those fantasy/dystopian authors who create whole worlds for their characters.  In a similar fashion, Lori
has created whole worlds for her colonial and Native American characters, except she must hold
true to what actually happened when these distinct cultures intersected.  I've learned so much about various native nations and the spread of the colonials in the 1600's and 1700's through her books.  I confess that sometimes I balk at the slow reading pace needed to keep all the characters, complicated plots and historical details straight, but by the end of the book I am so pleased that I persevered.  MANY SPARROWS, her newest title, is my favorite Benton book yet, and I look forward to her next endeavor.  Just two years before the Revolutionary War, a young colonial family is pushing westward along the Ohio-Kentucky border, hoping to join up with a group seeking new lands a bit further west.  Husband Philip leaves his pregnant wife and four year old son alone after their wagon breaks an axle, hoping to find help if he backtracks.  Only Philip does not return and wife Clare discovers that their son has disappeared in the night.  As the labor pains begin, Clare fears all hope is lost.  When Jeremiah Ring, a frontiersman who moves freely between the Shawnee and the whites discoveres their disabled wagon, she must trust him or perish.  Soon you will see how strong a grieving, determined mother can be.

Benton has taken the factual details of the massacre of Mingo native Logan's whole family and his
violent, swift revengeful retaliation known as Logan's massacre and used it as the basis for this novel. Once on amiable terms with whites and even professing belief in Christ, Logan's actions lead to unrest and warring along the whole Ohio-Kentucky border, causing the Shawnees to decide to fight the whites.  There is so much to absorb in this novel - fragile peace talks, democratic meetings held at the Shawnee towns where even women can vote, complicated family relationships with multiple adoptions across nations and races, and Native American Christians trying to reconcile the faith that the whites profess to follow to what they see happening all around them.  I highly recommend this book, but I am going to withhold any explanation of the title MANY SPARROWS and let you discover its importance on your own.  You will not be disappointed.   I received a copy of this book from Litfuse.  All opinions are mine.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Gathering Threads by Cindy Woodsmall

 Product Details

GATHERING THREADS is the third book in Cindy Woodsmall's THE AMISH OF SUMMER GROVE series and also the first book I've ever read by Woodsmall, although I recognize her name as one of the top Amish fiction authors.  When given an opportunity to read and review GATHERING THREADS I wondered if not having read the first two books would present a problem.  For the first time ever, I found a multi-page summary, called "the story so far," at the beginning of the book.  Although not filling in the full story of each characters' emotions, this summary told me enough to be off and running as I began the first page.  I wish all publishers of series books would offer this simple plot summary.  Avid readers know that months and even years intercede between titles within a series, and by the time we've had our hands on the latest addition, many other books and stories have crossed our paths.  Just a few pages looking back could refresh readers' minds.  We've all read those novels that try to fill the reader in by constantly adding little thought bubbles or flashback topics and those extras don't blend in that well.  A simple summary like I found in GATHERING THREADS would be a pleasant addition.

  Now for my reactions to this third novel. Ariana Brenneman, who in the previous novels found out that she and Skylar, had been placed with the wrong families after a horrendous fire at the birthing center, returns to the Amish community where she grew up after spending several months with her "real Englisch" family.  Despite wanting to come back to life with the Brennemans and the cafe she had been planning when her life changed forever, Ariana can't seem to get her footing.  No longer can she accept her daed's demands without questioning them, especially when he chooses the rulings of the bishop over listening to her concerns.  Her fiance Rudy seems to be a bit more understanding, but her needs to stay connected to her Englisch father (an atheist, but a seeking one) and to Quill, a former Amish whose departure left the community with unanswered questions, threaten the young couple's future plans.  Meanwhile Skylar who is the real Brenneman daughter (and sister to twin Abrahm) lives with her Amish parents, but does not embrace the faith.  Ariana's return and her problems bring out Skylar's jealousy and insecurities.  Woodsmall's plot did not follow the simplistic
lines that I expected; not everyone chooses the Amish way over the worldly one.  Blind, unthinking allegiance to authority is questioned and challenged.   Exposure to knowledge just for knowledge's sake is considered and its value embraced by some.  I have shied away from Amish fiction because I often find the characters and plots too simplistic.  A few strict Amish moved to our small Wisconsin rural community about 40 years ago, and we are now one of the largest Amish settlements in Wisconsin.  We have Amish neighbors all around us; we shop their businesses, see their schools, and more.  When I read Amish fiction, I want realistic, not idolized portrayals. I think Woodsmall did a good job of presenting a young woman who finds herself exposed to more of the "world" than most Amish.  What her family accepts would not happen in our area, but it was an ending that fit this story.

I received a copy of this novel from Litfuse.  All opinions are mine.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Pretender: a blackguard in disguise by Ta Mara Hanscom

According to author Ta Mara Hanscom there are two types of men - a knight, a person of highest moral character, and a blackguard, someone willing to trick and lie to get his way.  A proper lady should avoid a blackguard at all costs.  One would think that such definitions might lead into a fairytale, regency romance or perhaps a Gothic mystery, but Hanscom's story THE PRETENDER begins in 1975 South Dakota.  Tillie, a high school senior, not yet eighteen, leaves her small town for an art show in Rapids City.  The youngest in her close knit Italian family and the first to be born in the US, Tillie has been sheltered all her life.  What causes her to trust a handsome twenty-something stranger she meets her first night away from home, even she can't explain.  By the time her school trip comes to a close, Tillie is sure she is in love, and that Noah is a knight (see above definition).  Still keeping his existence a secret, Tillie returns to Rapid City a few weeks later and witnesses something that shatters her heart and labels Noah a blackguard.  Hanscom has peopled this novel with many characters, especially Tillie's large family which includes a brother and sister-in-law who work tirelessly to bring down members of the Mafia.  Then there is is Noah's story, his relationship with his preacher brother and his old crowd of boozers.  Noah and Tillie's story begins in this book but the full story of the families continue through another four books.  This is NOT a typical romance, nor is it historical fiction.  It is a story about family, disappointments, paths unseen and more.  I got confused at times with the Mafia-hunting and continent jumping, found some "circumstances" unbelievable, but was at other times completely drawn in by the story telling.  I received a copy of this title from Litfuse; all opinions are mine.

Monday, October 2, 2017

These Healing Hills by Ann H. Gabhart

 These Healing Hills

A native Kentuckian herself, Ann H. Gabhart captures 1940's Appalachia and the work of the Frontier Nursing Service.  Perhaps you've seen photos of those dedicated nurses on horseback, who, under the guidance of Mary Breckinridge, brought medical care, nutritional education, and midwifery to the hills, resulting in fewer infant deaths. THOSE HEALING HILLS is a quiet book, but Gabhart has an eye for the details that makes both place and characters come alive.  Francine Howard sought nursing training while her boyfriend is fighting overseas.  When she learns that he is returning after the war's end with a British fiance, Francine knows she cannot stay in Cincinnati and takes a job in Appalachia which will lead to a midwife certification.  Soon, despite her inability to keep her directions straight on the poorly developed trails of the mountains, Fran is enjoying her work. While some nurses keep an emotional and social distances from the hill people, Fran admires their determination and hard work.  She even listens to Granny Em, an elusive elderly woman whose natural medicines and ways may just have merit.  Ben Locke, safely returned to the mountain after serving in Europe, must accept that life has changed in his absence.  His father had died, his little brother Woody is now a strong teen who wants to make his own decisions, his sister has married and will soon be a mother.  While the GI Bill offers Ben a chance to get the education he has always wanted, he is reluctant to leave the mountains he so longed for while overseas.  Plus his path keeps crossing that of Francine, and he finds his heart growing for this dedicated nurse, but then his mother reminds him that she is not a mountain girl.  Does that really matter?

Beside the Frontier Nursing Program, I've read historical writings about the librarians on horseback that served Appalachia during the same years.  Both programs helped enrich and improve the lives of families across the mountains, especially the mothers and children.  Gabhart has done a marvelous job of capturing the essence of the program, while weaving a sweet romantic story at the same time.
While reading this book, I kept thinking about the book CHRISTY and the television show that was based on that book.  An anniversary edition of CHRISTY is releasing soon, and I plan to give my self the pleasure of re-reading that classic this winter.  THOSE HEALING HILLS has made me anxious for that time.  I've been a Ann H. Gabhart fan ever since I first stumbled upon the story ANGEL SISTER; she is an expert at telling stories of the human heart.  I received a copy of this book from REVELL READS.  All opinions are mine. 

What will I be reading next?

I have quite a stack of books to be read and an extremely busy month ahead, leaving not much
reading time.  First up on my pile is THE PRETENDER by Ta Mara Hanscom.  While I am reading, why don't you check out this link which tells  you more about the book and leads to a link featuring
a giveaway.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser


Amid quilting projects over the past few days I listened to the audio version of Jessica Strawser's debut novel ALMOST MISSED YOU.  As the book opens, Violet is basking in the beach's sunlight and sand, her mind drifting to what she believes will be a romantic evening for she and husband Finn after they tuck in their little 3 year old boy "Bear."  But when she arrives upstairs at their suite, Violet finds an empty room.  Gone are all traces of Finn and the little boy.  Told from three points of view, with plenty of flashbacks, this psychological novel is perfect for an audio production.  Each new scene is like a layer of an onion being peeled away to reveal more of the truth.  Violet and Finn seem like the perfect couple; even the story of how they meant is legendary among their acquaintances, but Violet will soon find that Finn has never been truthful with her, and that magical meeting has a dark shadow hanging over it.  In the hours and days that Violet waits for her son to be found, she learns that Finn has not been the only one keeping secrets.  Her friend Kaitlin, who was first Finn's friend, has not been forthright with all she knows about Finn's past, leaving Violet to feel even more alone and violated. ALMOST MISSED YOU shows love is complicated, not easy, and certainly not innocent.  Guilt, blame, and fear all are primary players in this suspenseful story, and those emotions drive the plot to unseen twists and turns, right down to the ending sentences.  I was amazed to learn that this was a first novel; I hope that Jessica Strawser has more stories to tell as intriguing as this one.  ALMOST MISSED YOU will appeal to younger adults, but despite that target audience, I enjoyed this audio version.

Friday, September 22, 2017

RULE OF LAW by Randy Singer


Randy Singer has become one of my favorite authors for legal-centered fiction, but I was a bit apprehensive about his new book RULE OF LAW which delves into the political-military scene as well. No need for concern, Singer delivers a complex story line that had me engaged from the opening scenes right through until a powerful, emotional ending.  Action begins with a secretive SEAL operation outside a prison in Yemen and bounces to the strategy room of the White House.  Soon readers will be led to the hallowed ground of Arlington Cemetery, the steps of the Supreme Court, and even to the dusty roads of the Middle East for a secret meeting with a radical Muslim Holy Man. 

Following a SEAL operation gone wrong, Paige Chambers, a young prosecuting attorney leaves her job to represent the widow of "Beef" Anderson who was killed along with all his teammates, including Paige's boyfriend (soon-to-be fiancee) Patrick Quillen.  Both Paige and widow Kristen have received anonymous information that high level government officials, either the CIA director or the President, or both, knew that this secret mission had been compromised, but proceeded in sending the SEALS to their deaths. But soon the legal case seeking answers to what happened at the raid seems to turn against Paige and her co-counsel, Wyatt Jackson.  Both are accused of receiving classified information, and when a sealed deposition is leaked to the press, they are the most likely suspects.

This plot line is complicated, filled with legal twists and even more overseas "turns," but Singer's writing pulls the reader along at every step, explaining legal dilemmas at just the right moments. The jumping back and forth between settings and characters happened at a pace that kept me informed but also kept the suspenseful thread proceeding.   Paige's co-counsel Wyatt Jackson adds that renegade-type lawyer that seems to be prevalent in so many legal dramas, and the rocky relationship between Paige and Jackson adds yet another layer to the story.  SEAL Patrick Quillen, although physically only present in the early pages, has a presence throughout the book, as Paige draws on his faith to strengthen her own.  Having finished the book late last night, my mind today keeps coming back to some of the big questions that RULE OF LAW proposes -- what role should drones play in our country's military?  Who should be able to initiate and carry out a drone strike?  What intelligence should be necessary for using drones?  Do we, the American people, know what is being done?  Do we have a right to know?  How much of a president's actions are protected information?  Just reading this book made me realize that each day technology and world circumstances makes what we consider "military action" or "war" has changed and continues to change.  Keep telling the stories, Randy Singer, and keep raising questions that stack our actions against our values.  I received a copy of this title from LITFUSE.  I was not required to write a review.  All opinions are mine.