Monthly Archives: September 2014

Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer

Lula Bowman has been struggling her entire adult life to prove that she is not the flighty teenager of which she was once accused. She accomplishes this through a highly competitive mathematics scholarship and stable graduate career. However, when her older sister Jewel calls with devastating news, Lula finds herself back in her small Oklahoma hometown, her past confronting her once again. Desperate to prove herself capable and support her sister, Lula reluctantly accepts a position at a local high school, not intending to stay more than a year before returning to her more serious pursuits. She hesitantly asks the young handsome Chet Vaughn to assist her with one of her duties—coaching the girls’ basketball team, a task Lula has no desire to perform and a subject she has absolutely no experience. Chet, meanwhile, is struggling with his own place in the community, as most young men, including his older brother, are proudly fighting overseas during World War I. But as Chet and Lula work together, both are drawn to the other as they realize sometimes God can change the greatest desires of their hearts.

Playing by Heart is a sweet romance story, the dreams of both Chet and Lula revealing a deeper character depth. A few plot points rankled this reader, such as Lula and Chet’s relationship as observed by the principle and Lula’s siblings’ obvious dislike for their own sister, but the ending of the novel redeemed the overall story. Also, Lula’s supposed “flightiness” is not so well told that the reader completely understands this part of Lula’s character. The writing style is slightly different as each chapter is a first-person account of the events from either the perspective of Lula or Chet. Although this allows the reader a greater glimpse into the minds of Chet and Lula, occasionally this created a choppy plot. The descriptions, conversations, and storyline, however, flowed well overall and made for a pleasant read. In addition, a few unpredictable events near the end of the book kept it interesting. This novel is recommended for readers of romance who enjoy a bit of history sprinkled throughout.

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Love’s Fortune by Laura Frantz

Rowena “Wren” Ballantyne enjoys her simple life in Kentucky, where she and her father work to create beauty through fashioning and playing violins. But when her father receives an unexpected letter from his family in Pennsylvania, she suddenly finds her world turned upside down. After she realizes her arduous journey to visit her relatives is a one-way trip, Wren is thrust into a lavish society with virtual strangers, her past life only a memory. She does not care much for the rules of the rich, however, and is drawn to the quiet, mysterious James Sackett, a steamship pilot of the Ballantyne’s shipping line and a long-time friend of her grandfather. James is able to serve as an escort and assist Wren is navigating the demands of high society, drawing their relationship closer together. But James is more than simply a pilot for the Ballantyne’s, and his other responsibilities may jeopardize their growing relationship.

Love’s Fortune is beautifully told. Laura Frantz possesses such a wonderfully rich and deep manner in which she writes that the words simply flow from the page in delicious phrases. Her descriptions are captivating and meaningful and her writing style is unique and enthralling. Wren is a gentle and sweet soul, willing to support her father’s need for family despite her desire to return to her comfortable and familiar home. She strives to form relationships with those around her in spite of the difficult society. James is a man of deep morals, willing to work for what he knows is right, despite the cost. The storyline is interesting and told at a pleasant pace. A few plot points felt frustrating, such as Wren’s father’s disregard for her feelings and James’s inability to appreciate Wren’s friendship. Overall, however, this novel is recommended for readers who enjoy a book with interesting history, good character depth and development, and fantastic writing style.

I received a copy of this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

The Desire by Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley

Allan and Michele have been trying to have children for almost two years. For Allan, who is currently focused on his missions work in Africa, this does not seem like such a long time. For Michele, however, who desires children almost more than anything else, this seems like eternity. As both struggle to communicate the deepest longings within their hearts to one another, they discover they are growing distant in their marriage. Additionally, Michele’s parents find themselves suddenly caring for a single, pregnant female, inviting this young girl to be a part of their family.   As Michele befriends her, she learns much about herself and her wishes for a child. But Allan’s focus on the children in Africa takes a surprising turn. Unexpectedly, both Allan and Michele realize their deepest desires may be for something neither of them had ever anticipated.

The Desire, according to the authors’ notes, is loosely based on true accounts of infertility among Christian couples as well as mission’s work in Africa. This history allows the reader to more fully appreciate the sensitive nature in which the authors handle two delicate issues in today’s culture. However, although the storyline is carefully written, this particular reader found some content to be much too preachy for a fiction novel, perhaps better suited for even a nonfictional account of couples struggling with infertility. Allan’s character is somewhat unlikable, although he redeems himself a bit near the end of the book. The writing style is very simplistic and straightforward; yet some readers may find themselves moved emotionally if this topic is personal. The final few chapters of the book were the best parts of the novel and redeemed its cliché and one-dimensional plotline slightly. Overall, this book is probably best recommended only for those who enjoy reading pastoral accounts of current Christian struggles.

I received a copy of this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

A Light in the Wilderness by Jane Kirkpatrick

Letitia, an African American woman in the Southern United States during the mid 1800’s, knows that the free papers given to her by a previous owner are priceless, but she realizes they do little to encourage whites to treat her as an equal. Yet Davey Carson, an Irish immigrant, is kind towards her and gradually earns her trust. She soon finds herself traveling west with him in hopes of building a new life, one in which she can make decisions for herself, perhaps even own a bit of property. While preparing for the journey, Letitia meets generous Nancy Hawkins, a white woman who looks beyond the color of Letitia’s skin to her strong and courageous soul. The two women bond together as they struggle to overcome a great many trials during their crossing west. Upon arriving, they befriend an elderly native Kalapuya Indian named Besty, who offers to help her new friends settle into the foreign land. All three women possess spirits that grow stronger in the face of adversity as they carve out lives in a land and a culture not accepting or forgiving towards some.

A Light in the Wilderness, according to the author’s detailed post note, is based on a true story. The extensive historical research collected during Ms. Kirkpatrick’s writing is a testament to the raw, authentic plotline. Although this book may be difficult to absorb due to some of its grim material, Ms. Kirkpatrick is to be applauded for telling a story that has trials but weaves in a message of hope and justice. The characters have true courage in the midst of real adversity and their inner strength shines through the pages more than once. A few plot points jump without proper explanation and a bit more detail may have allowed the story to flow better. However, the accounts and journey of these strong women is interesting and worth learning. This novel is recommended for those who enjoy history and wish to read how the events transpired without having the less satisfying portions of history glossed over or ignored.

I received a copy of this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews