Monday, September 26, 2011

Prairie Storm by Catherine Palmer

book cover

Prairie Storm
by Catherine Palmer

ISBN-13: 0-8423-7058-7
Trade Paperback: 262 pages
Publisher: Tyndale
Released: 1999

Source: From my personal library.

Book Description, my take:
Evangelist Elijah Book agrees to raise a dying woman's now-orphaned baby, but he has no way to provide the mother's milk the baby needs to survive. When he preaches near Hope, Kansas, a woman from a traveling show agrees to nurse his baby--for money. The locals offer to pay Elijah to be their pastor, so Elijah agrees for the baby's sake. But he's certain God wants him to go to China to preach the Word. Surely that'd be easier than being a small town pastor!

Lily Nolen, a singer in a traveling show, is heart-broken of the very recent deaths of her baby and husband. When she hears a hungry baby's cry, she tracks down the baby and agrees to become his nurse. She adores the baby, but she's also certain the preacher will act just like her religious father--physically abusive and using Scripture to manipulate people for his own gain.

Since God didn't protect Lily like the Bible promises, she wants nothing to do with Him. But then she realizes that the Bible doesn't promise that God will always protect her--just that He will be with her through the storms. But why would a loving God allow suffering and hardship to happen to his followers? Is there reason to trust God, anyway? And what about the preacher that she's discovering is very unlike her father?

My Review:
Prairie Storm is a historical romance set in 1866 in Kansas. This book is the third in the series, but you can read it as a stand-alone. Reading this book before the other will spoil a few events in the previous novels, but not enough to spoil those books.

The characters were engaging, acted realistically, and had realistic struggles (even if some of the struggles weren't common ones). The setting and historical details were not highly detailed though they were enough to paint a mental picture. The suspense was created partly by relationship tensions (and not just romantic tensions--Lily and her old friend, Lily and her abusive father, etc.) and the search for answers about God.

The characters quoted a lot of Scripture and hymns, but it flowed naturally in the story (rather than feeling like it was primarily for the benefit of the reader). Lily knew Scripture well, but she initially used it in a critical way. Both main characters were searching for answers about God and, for the pastor, for God's will in his life. They looked to the Bible for answers since they realized they'd picked up wrong ideas from what religious people had told them. I liked how all of this was handled.

There were no sex scenes or bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this charming novel.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Hope, Kansas

A sudden, high-pitched cry caught Lily Nolan's attention. She sucked in a breath. A baby? Somewhere in the growing darkness, a baby was crying. Lily pushed aside the tent flap and stepped outside, listening. There it came again! Weak but insistent, the wail curled into the marrow of Lily's bones.

Abigail, she thought. Oh, my darling Abby!

No. That wasn't possible, was it? Abby was gone, buried in a little wooden box at the edge of Topeka. But whose baby was crying? Why didn't the mother rock the child?

Read more from chapter one.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Healing Waters by Nancy Rue & Stephen Arterburn

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Healing Waters
by Nancy Rue &
Stephen Arterburn

ISBN-13: 9781595544315
Trade Paperback: 423 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: 2008

Source: Bought through

Book Description, my take:
Lucia Coffey sees herself as fat and a failure. When she looks at her thin, beautiful sister, Sonia, she sees a popular and charismatic ministry leader with a devoted following. Lucia's parents expected her to give up her dreams so that Sonia could attain hers. Lucia believes that God favors Sonia, too--He's given Sonia everything but left Lucia with only broken dreams of a husband with eyes for only her and of a child of her own. Lucia buries her fears and anger by eating food, yet she feels like a worse failure for doing so.

Then Sonia faces a major blow to her life and faith, and she asks for her sister's help. Sullivan Crisp, an offbeat but popular Christian psychologist, is trying to discovery why his wife committed suicide and if his actions played some part in her death. He hopes that finding answers will help heal his shattered confidence in his skills. A friend encourages him to offer to help Sonia cope with the changes in her life, but he ends up helping Lucia instead. Can they find healing before the person who is trying to destroy Sonia's life strikes again?

My Review:
Healing Waters is a Christian general fiction novel that deals with God's role when it comes to suffering. The characters were complex, varied, and dealt with realistic relationship problems and faith challenges. The suspense mainly came from relationship tensions--Lucia and her husband, Lucia and her sister, etc.--but there was also a mystery as to who was trying to harm Sonia. I was somewhat surprised that the authorities weren't more suspicious of the person who turned out to be "whodunit," so I wasn't surprised by the whodunit.

While the book wasn't "preachy" (except when pointing out the flaws in the "if you just had enough faith...." and "suffering is God's punishment for a sin in your life" belief system), there was a lot of God Talk ("God's going to heal me. I'm expecting a miracle.").

I would agree with Crisp's briefly-stated points about why and how Sonia's belief system wasn't correct (and neither was Lucia's view of God). However, his own stated beliefs about suffering, while sounding profound, left me uncertain as to what he actually believed. Perhaps this will become more clear in the next books in the series since this book makes the point that he's in the process of working through his own questions about suffering.

There were no sex scenes (or anything more intimate than a hug by a husband). There was a minor amount of explicit bad language and some fake bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this well-written, interesting novel.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
I had done everything on my list. Everything but the last item. Neat black checks marked the first five to-dos:

paint bathroom
put last layer on torte
redo makeup
call modeling agency--say NO
shave legs

Before the traffic moved again and I made the turn into tiny Northeast Airport, I put a second check beside number five. I'd shaved twice. Chip liked my legs hairless as a fresh pear. Not that I expected him to be interested in them or in any other part of my ample anatomy, but it couldn't hurt to be prepared for a miracle. In truth, I'd probably broken out the razor again just to procrastinate--because I wasn't sure I could do the sixth thing on the list.

Read more using Google Preview.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Truth-Teller's Tale by Sharon Shinn

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The Truth-Teller's Tale
by Sharon Shinn

ISBN-13: 9780670060009
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Viking Children's Books
Released: July 21, 2005

Source: Bought through

Book Description from Cover:
Innkeeper's daughters Adele and Eleda are "mirror twins"—identical twins whose looks reflect each other's—and their special talents are like mirrors, too. Adele is a Safe-Keeper, entrusted with hearing and never revealing others' secrets; Eleda is a Truth-Teller, who cannot tell a lie when asked a direct question. The residents of Merendon often turn to the twins— especially their best friend Roelynn Karro, whose strict, wealthy father is determined to marry her off to a prince she's never met. When the twins are 17, a handsome dancing-master and his apprentice come to stay at the inn, and thus begins a chain of romances and mistaken identity that will have readers utterly beguiled.

My Review:
The Truth-Teller's Tale is a young adult or middle-grade fantasy novel which will appeal most to girls. It's the second novel in a series, but you don't need to read the first book to understand this one. This one may spoil events in the first novel, though.

It's a charming novel, though I found it predictable. But it probably won't be predictable to a middle-grader. I was expecting a more complex story based on the "a Safe-Keeper told a secret, a Truth-Teller told a lie" beginning promise, but the moral choice was there at the end.

The story was a quick read, though it built slowly toward an action-filled ending. It was mostly about relationships--learning about the pitfalls of romantic relationships as well as loving people who are very different from you (like her twin sister and best friend). The characters were engaging, and the encounters they had due to their special skills were interesting.

I liked that the story touched on the drawbacks of getting physical (even "just" intense kissing). One couple cared about each other for years and were always true to each other, but there was one female (and two male) characters who were constantly falling in and out of love. Though our main character was rightly skeptical, it was implied that finding true love will immediately and completely break people of their habit of falling in love, growing bored with the person, and then looking elsewhere.

There was a minor amount of explicit bad language. There were no sex scenes. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable novel.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
What would you say if I told you there was a time a Safe-Keeper told a secret, a Truth-Teller told a lie, and a Dream-Maker did everything in her power to make sure a wish went astray? Believe what I tell you, for I am a Truth-Teller, and every word I say is true.

No sisters could ever have been less alike than my twin and I. To the casual observer, we looked exactly the same, for we both had wheat blonde hair and exceptionally pale skin, and the bones of our faces had an identical structure. But Adele was right-handed; she parted her hair on the right; he right eye was blue and her left eye was green. I was left-handed; I parted my hair on the left; my left eye was blue and my right eye was green. We each saw in the other the very same face, the very same figure, we saw in the mirror every morning.

Read more from chapter one.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

And the winner is...

It's time to announce the winner of the Back to the Books Giveaway Hop. Including Twitter entries, 55 people entered. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:


Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address.

For those who didn't win, you can always buy a copy of these books from your favorite bookstore or see if they have them at your local library.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Inda by Sherwood Smith

book cover

by Sherwood Smith

ISBN-13: 9780756404222
Mass Market Paperback: 624 pages
Publisher: DAW
Released: August 7, 2007

Source: Bought from Books-A-Million

Book Description from Goodreads:
Indevan-Dal is the second son of the Prince and Princess of Choraed Elgaer, destined to become his elder brother Tanrid's Shield Arm-his military champion. Like all second sons, he is to be privately trained at home by Tanrid, the brother whose lands he will one day protect.

When the King's Voice comes to summon Inda to the Military Academy, he might well feel foreboding, or even fear-war is imminent-yet youthful Inda feels only excitement. But there are things that Tanrid hadn't prepared him for, and Inda will soon learn that the greatest threats to his safety will not come from foreign enemies, but from supposed allies within his own country.

My Review:
Inda is a fantasy novel. This author's young adult novels are some of my favorite stories because they have an innocence and earnestness about them even when bad things are happening. This book is so different in writing style and tone from those stories that I wouldn't have even guessed it came from the same author if her name wasn't on the cover.

Each character had a nickname, a title, another title, and all of these frequently changed. The titles were often very similar, adding to my difficulty in keep straight who was being talked about. The author also switched viewpoints from character to character from one paragraph to the next, so it was even harder to keep track of what was going on. This also meant that I never really got to know any one of the huge cast of characters.

It also seemed like every time we got to a scene where Inda could have charmed us (like all the characters) with his natural leadership skills, the author jumped over the scene and had two adults talking over what a brilliant, natural leader he was. I wanted to see it, not just hear it.

Another problem I had was that the story was about teen boys beating up pre-teen boys and forcing them to badly beat each other up. Not surprising, due to all the verbal and physical abuse, Inda tended to show little emotion in most of his scenes. Honor is not rewarded. Inda isn't even given an explanation for how the adults treat him (referring to part 2 of this book) when they could have told him. It was not fun reading.

While the world was well-developed and unique, it was also a confusing one due to the writing style and a depressing one due to the content. I didn't even find the characters interesting. Since the action mostly occurred "off scene," there wasn't much suspense most of the time. Basically, I was very disappointed.

There was some explicit bad language. There were no sex scenes, but unmarried sex was encouraged and homosexual relationships were normal there. Overall, I wouldn't recommend this book, especially not to those who enjoy Sherwood Smith's previous novels.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt from chapter one.