Review: A Courtship on Huckleberry Hill by Jennifer Beckstrand

Through loving grandmother Anna Helmuth, author Jennifer Beckstrand successfully uses her matchmaking skills yet again – but this time it’s a little more difficult than usual.

Elsie comes to stay with her grandparents after taking a local teaching job. I loved seeing Elsie in action -she’s a firm, authoritative, fun, and loving teacher who wants the best for her students. I have to say, Elsie’s unconventional ways of dealing with troublemakers had me chuckling. When Wally — the boy with a missing leg — misdirects his anger and bullies his classmates, Elsie knows just what to do. And there starts a love/hate relationship between Elsie and Wally’s older brother Sam.

Sam and Elsie are one of my favorite Beckstrand duos. They’re spitfire. They’re full of love. They’re loyal. They’re stubborn. And I appreciate Beckstrand’s ability to make them so likeable despite their flaws.

I had fun watching Elsie’s class’ escapades, and Sam’s family dinners. And even though I’ll read the next Huckleberry Hill book no matter what, I’d totally love to see a cameo appearance by these two characters!

-calliope

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Review: An Engagement in Seattle by Debbie Macomber

I like a hokey, predictable romance once in a while, but this one left a lot to be desired. I liked the Lesley-Chase meet cute. I didn’t like the pretense and forced feel of the romance that followed. I liked Chase – until he got just too smarmy for me. And I liked Lesley until I realized that I wasn’t going to see any depth later in the book, because character development stalled at 30-40%. What truly disappointed me was the chauvinism in this book. I have very traditional values, but that doesn’t mean I expect women to be viewed as objects, as I felt the women in this book were portrayed.

If you can overlook those things – and you’re in the mood for a clean, sweet romance, this might be for you.

-calliope

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Review: In This Moment by Karen Kingsbury

Here’s some Christian fiction that really made me think. Quinn is a public school principal, and he is questioned over and over when he decides to host a voluntary Bible study after school in order to provide some structure and direction to his students. His reputation is at stake, his relationships are threatened, and his job is on the line.

I liked the law aspect that made this book a kind of cross between John Grisham and women’s Christian fiction. I also liked the juxtaposition of the different types of dads and their relationships with their children. Kingsbury does a wonderful job writing families, though I wasn’t as impressed with the romance plot line. Quinn was a true protagonist, meeting with conflict throughout the story and accumulating secondary characters along the way who either helped or hindered his cause. Reading about Quinn’s struggles made me question my motivations, my willingness to take risks, and whether my walk in faith is even close to enough of a good example for others on this journey.

-calliope

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Review: Bless Her Heart by Sally Kilpatrick 

Some people might rate this book 4 or 5 stars for the authentic southern characters that Kilpatrick introduces with such aplomb you feel like you’ve known these people forever. Some readers might fall in love with “fun Posey” who uses the 7 deadly sins as a guide to make up for 10 sucky years married to a controlling, manipulative jerkhead.  And some readers might call this book a winner for its excellent writing – and easy dialogue among a hippie mom, sisters named after natural elements, and a best friend who literally saves more than one day. 

I’m giving Bless Her Heart a bunch of fat stars because it made me so sufficiently mad at Chad Love, so ticked off that he thought it was okay to treat any human being the way that he treated his wife, and so angered with a patriarchy that thinks “Wives, submit to your husbands” isn’t part of a speech that says “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … Love your wives like your own bodies,” that now I am taking steps to help some people who are in situations like Posey’s. Sally Kilpatrick, any gratitude that comes my way from women who are tired of being controlled and interrogated and mentally beaten down – that gratitude is due to you. 

-calliope

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Review: The Promise of a Letter by Kathleen Fuller

Leanna is one of my favorite protagonists! She doesn’t apologize for being different (and that’s something, when you’re not a naturally domestic kind of gal, but you *are* Amish), and she doesn’t resent being different, either. Leanna uses her talents to work in a mechanical shop, and she loves it! But author Fuller doesn’t stop there; she fleshes out the full character of Leanna – a loving sibling, a fun caregiver, and a fiercely loyal friend. 

And then we meet Roman. He’s Amish too, sort of. And he is also a mechanic, sort of. He’s on a journey of self-discovery, self-acceptance, and reconciliation with his brother. 

Fuller does a great job illustrating modern Amish life, touching on family dynamics, spirituality, unconventional career choices, education, and romance. I appreciate that Fuller wrote a strong, feminine character that performed a “man’s” job,  without making Leanna into a stereotype or a mascot for feminist politics. And I am pleased that there was a happily ever after for more than one couple. 

-calliope 

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Review: Any Dream Will Do by Debbie Macomber 

Sometimes predictable is just the thing you need, especially when it’s painted with the brush of faith and hope. Macomber is an expert in helping her characters gain faith in humanity and hope for themselves – even when it seems impossible. 

Any Dream Will Do is the motto of Shay’s new friend — the one who will help Shay save herself from the pit of despair she needs to step out of. But Shay hasn’t believed in dreams in so long, that’s a tough order to fill. 

I enjoyed this quick read centered around redemption and loving others. I’m not sure the story was quite realistic – there were some hokey parts where I suspended my disbelief – but it certainly was hopeful. And although only a small part of the book focused on romance, Macomber wrote a lovely happily ever after. 

-calliope

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Review: Under a Summer Sky by Melody Carlson

This is a cute summer read set in Savannah, where we find art teacher Nicole house-sitting for a family friend and working at an art gallery. Nicole thought she’d have a quiet summer with plenty of time to paint, but instead finds herself overwhelmed with a difficult co-worker, childhood friends-turned-handsome-men, and a teenager who just needs a little love and direction. 

I loved all the references to art and architecture, the Savannah sunsets, and the diplomatic way Nicole finessed her way through a few unexpected situations. As usual for her novels, Carlson includes a little bit of God to illustrate his presence, but doesn’t use the novel to preach or proselytize. And as usual for my favorite summer reads, this one ends in a happily ever after. 

-Calliope 

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