Like Dandelion Dust by Karen Kingsbury

Title: Like Dandelion Dust

Author: Karen Kingsbury

Published By: Center Street (2006)

Synopsis:

Jack and Molly Campbell are right where they want to be, enjoying an idyllic life with their four-year-old son Joey, and the close family and friends who live in their small hometown just outside Atlanta. Then the phone call comes from the social worker the Campbells never expected to hear from again. Three states away in Ohio, Joey’s biological father has just been released from prison. He is ready to start life over, but not without his son.
A judge’s quick decision deals a devastating blow to the Campbell family: Joey must be returned to his biological parents. The day after the ruling, in the silent haze of grief and utter disbelief, they watch their son pick a dandelion and blow the feathery seeds into the wind.
In the days that follow the ruling, Jack Campbell has a desperate and dangerous thought. What if they can devise a way out? Then they could take Joey and simply disappear . . . LIKE DANDELION DUST
(Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

I really liked the concept of the story and found it a very intriguing premise (an adopted boy getting claimed by his birthparents by a technicality), but unfortunately, I didn’t like it much at all.

I thought the characters were too perfect. Honestly, I didn’t like Molly at all, and I found Beth and Bill to be too perfectly Christian. And then there’s Rip, who was an extremely confusing and inconsistent character. I could not figure out if he was good or bad, and in this case, it wasn’t a good thing. Joey was a very unrealistic child, too. I thought the way he found God was sweet to an extent, but also very implausible for a child his age. Wendy was by far the most intriguing character, but even she fell flat, and her plot arc ultimately meant nothing to the story in the end. She served her purpose and then disappeared without any sort of closure, which I didn’t like at all. Generally, I really appreciated the messages the author was trying to send, but I just wasn’t impressed by the delivery.

SPOILER BELOW

One minute Wendy’s determined to get her son back, which is causing the conflict of the story, but then when we come back to her after weeks pass, she suddenly has realized she wants what’s best for him, which basically ends the entire story. We get very little explanation on how this change came about, considering how crucial it is, and the explanation we do get didn’t feel real. I was really upset that there were no consequences for Molly and Jack’s actions, and that all their problems just disappear and they go back to their perfect little life without any lasting effects, good or bad, or any repercussions.

SPOILER ABOVE

Overall, I found the story very predictable and cheesy. I did finish it, so I guess that counts for something, but it was mostly because I had nothing else to read. I thought the ending was anticlimactic and unsatisfying. There was no closure; there were no repercussions or lasting effects. I also didn’t like how unnecessarily preachy the story got.

Negative Content/Notes:

None.

Overall:

When I first finished reading I thought I liked it okay, but now that I’ve written out a review, I’ve realized that I really didn’t like it that much at all. There were definitely good points about the book, but honestly, compared to other Christian fiction I’ve been reading, this just doesn’t measure up.

Rating: 2.5 / 5.0

Land of Silence by Tessa Afshar

Title: Land of Silence

Author: Tessa Afshar

Published By: Tyndale House Publishers (2016)

Synopsis: Before Christ called her daughter . . .

Before she stole healing by touching the hem of his garment . . .

Elianna is a young girl crushed by guilt. After her only brother is killed while in her care, Elianna tries to earn forgiveness by working for her father’s textile trade and caring for her family. When another tragedy places Elianna in sole charge of the business, her talent for design brings enormous success, but never the absolution she longs for. As her world unravels, she breaks off her betrothal to the only man she will ever love. Then illness strikes, isolating Elianna from everyone, stripping everything she has left.

No physician can cure her. No end is in sight. Until she hears whispers of a man whose mere touch can heal. After so many years of suffering and disappointment, is it possible that one man could redeem the wounds of body . . . and soul? (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

Okay, so, I LOVE Biblical fiction. So grudgingly, by default, I liked at least some of this book. It stayed with me for a while after I finished—but then again, it’s Biblical fiction, which fascinates me, so that alone pretty much guarantees it’ll stick with me for a while. However, on a practical level, I didn’t like this book at all.

The book felt weak. I really like the concept of taking a small story in the Bible like this one and turning it into a novel, but with so little details, it’s hard to make it really flow together, and Land of Silence felt stilted and unnatural. I didn’t really like any of the characters except for Ethan, and it seriously bugged me when Elianna turned him down time and time again for virtually no reason. Sure, there were reasons given in the book, but none felt real or natural. She loves him, but she doesn’t want to marry him? But she really loves him and wants nothing more than to marry him? But she won’t? I’m just not buying it.

To me, it seemed like a lot wasn’t true to the setting, either—the names felt too modern and I don’t think people in Biblical times were telling others to “Shut up.” That’s a modern phrase. It felt more like a modern story altered to fit a Biblical setting. 

Decimus was too perfectly evil, not real at all, and too predictable. There was too much skimmed over in the book; weeks and months pass, important events happen, and there’s no details. I get that the author has to hurry the story along to the part where Elianna has been bleeding for 12 years, but if you can’t write anything about those twelve years at all, maybe you should just start the story after the twelve years. Also, to just skim those 12 years and all the important happenings isn’t really that interesting to read; on the flip side, it feels anticlimactic and disappointing. We finally got sorta attached to these characters, and if you’re gonna make us miss 12 years of important events with them, it’s gotta be done right—and in the case of Land of Silence it just wasn’t done right at all. 

 Also. When you have two characters that you want to end up together, but one of them is married, it is generally not good literary art to kill off the spouse so that they can be together. It’s very weak writing. Now in certain stories this can be done, but it’s gotta be the right story and you’ve got to do it well. It was not done well in the case of Land of Silence.

I also didn’t like the sudden switch in Biblical cultures to one during Jesus’ time. We had no warning to the change in tone of the story, it just suddenly happened. It was cool to read about to some extent, but it felt out of place compared to the rest of the story. It felt so out of place! The story would have been better off just focusing on her after the 12 years, or just not going there at all. Consequently, Land of Silence felt stilted, chunky, and unnatural.

Negative Content/Notes:

There were some scenes likely meant to be a more “adult” scenes, but it never felt that way, and there nothing inappropriate.

Rating: 3.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Not recommended.

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

Title: The Hired Girl

Author: Laura Amy Schlitz

Published By: Candlewick Press (2015)

Synopsis:

Fourteen-year-old Joan Skraggs, just like the heroines in her beloved novels, yearns for real life and true love. But what hope is there for adventure, beauty, or art on a hardscrabble farm in Pennsylvania where the work never ends? Over the summer of 1911, Joan pours her heart out into her diary as she seeks a new, better life for herself—because maybe, just maybe, a hired girl cleaning and cooking for six dollars a week can become what a farm girl could only dream of—a woman with a future.

Inspired by her grandmother’s journal, Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz brings her sharp wit and keen eye to early twentieth-century America in a comedic tour de force destined to become a modern classic. Joan’s journey from the muck of the chicken coop to the comforts of a society household in Baltimore (Electricity! Carpet sweepers! Sending out the laundry!) takes its reader on an exploration of feminism and housework, religion and literature, love and loyalty, cats, hats, bunions, and burns. (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

I really liked this book. It’s a very different genre than what I typically read, and I usually can’t read journal-format, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this.

First off: the setting/time period. This book reminded me why I love historical fiction! It was authentic and true to the time, down to the phrases and words used by the narrator, and I found that refreshing—it’s always nice when an author takes the time to actually make their novel authentic. Even though I usually don’t like journal-format books, Joan was such a fun character that I couldn’t get enough of it. It felt very true to an actual journal, which was nice— usually I find journal type books to be so unrealistic; nobody just sits down and writes out pages of dialogue from memory—and Joan does tell things in great detail, but that’s also just how she is: thorough and excited. Overall I just was very impressed.

Joan was just hysterical! She was such a fantastic and real character and reading about her entertained me so much. There’s not much plot to the book; no strong overarching thematics or story; but it’s simply a sweet and true narration of one spirited girl and her determination, and it was very inspiring. 

I loved what I learned about Jewish/Catholic culture in 1900s as well–I felt like I came away with a lot more knowledge then before. The romance was sooooo sweet, but I also really appreciated how it ended (I won’t share, to save spoilers). I felt it ended a little anticlimatic, but considering I just explained how there wasn’t much plot, I guess I can’t complain.

Negative Content/Notes:

The only thing I can think of to note: Joan falls in love with one of the men at the house, and one night, she runs away from a job in the pouring rain to his house, where she approaches him daringly and tells him she wants to go with him as his wife. When a minute later the mistress and master walk in and see Joan wrapped in blankets (because she was wet) and alone with their son, they think Joan has been sleeping with him—though they don’t declare it in such explicit terms. Rather, it’s just implied in a way that it’s not directly said, but anyone would know what the parents are referring to. (I really appreciate this form of storytelling when it comes to these topics.)

Overall: I thought this a very enjoyable read! It was a little long, but I couldn’t get enough of it. Loved it!

Rating: 4.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Ages 13+ would probably enjoy it best. Content wise appropriate for ages 12+.

 

Wishing on Willows by Katie Ganshert

Title: Wishing on Willows15759952

Author: Katie Ganshert

Published By: WaterBrook Press (2013)

Synopsis:

Does a second chance at life and love always involve surrender?

A three-year old son, a struggling café, and fading memories are all Robin Price has left of her late husband. As the proud owner of Willow Tree Café in small town Peaks, Iowa,  she pours her heart into every muffin she bakes and espresso she pulls, thankful for the sense of purpose and community the work provides.

So when developer Ian McKay shows up in Peaks with plans to build condos where her café and a vital town ministry are located, she isn’t about to let go without a fight.

As stubborn as he is handsome, Ian won’t give up easily. His family’s business depends on his success in Peaks. But as Ian pushes to seal the deal, he wonders if he has met his match. Robin’s gracious spirit threatens to undo his resolve, especially when he discovers the beautiful widow harbors a grief that resonates with his own.

With polarized opinions forming all over town, business becomes unavoidably personal and Robin and Ian must decide whether to cling to the familiar or surrender their plans to the God of Second Chances. (Taken from Goodreads.)


Review: 

I loved this book! I loved the characterization, the setting, the feel, the romance, everything! 

This book did take me a while to get into—but once I was attached to the characters, there was no putting it down. The premise and thematics of this novel were AMAZING. A woman pursuing her dream in the form of owning her own coffee shop where she keeps her piano and plays for customers whenever inspiration strikes? I just LOVED it. The depth in Robin’s character—from her flawed and beautiful motherhood, to her longing for Micah, to her tender growing love for Ian—created a living, breathing fictional character I loved. 

And Ian was another phenomonal character because he was one I hated at the beginning. I really did not like him and wanted him to LEAVE! But by the end I was rooting for him. It takes very impressive talent to pull off these type of character arcs, but Ganshert nailed it. 

The plot *could* be seen as a little slow, but it was yet definitely there, pulling us along even when we couldn’t even see it entirely. I never once grew bored. Her fight to keep the cafe was honestly so inspiring, and the whole story, despite its depth – one aspect is Robin recovering from her husband’s sudden death – was yet so sweet.

Negative Content/Notes:

This is an adult book. There are mentions to adult things, though not in the wrong light, and it never goes into anything in detail. Nothing that waved a red flag for me, the content was just a little more mature.

Overall: 

Altogether, this was an incredible book. The setting was unique and sentimental, the depth was masterfully painted, the characters alive and breathing, and a gentle yet intriguing plot guiding it all together to create a truly beautiful tale. Highly recommended.

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Ages 14 & up.

Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly

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Title: Seventeenth Summer

Author: Maureen Daly

Published: 1942

Synopsis:

Until the summer before college, Angie Morrow didn’t really date. Her mother didn’t like her to go out much. But no one — not even Angie’s mother — can resist the charm of strikingly handsome Jack Duluth. His good looks grab Angies’s attention from the moment in June when Jack throws Angie a smile at McKight’s drugstore. And on their first date sailing under the stars — when Jack leans in and whispers to Angie, You look nice with the wind in your hair, the strange new feeling s begin. Tingles, prickles, warmth: the tell-tale signs of romance. It’s the beginning of an unforgettable summer for Angie, full of wonder, warmth, tears, challenge, and love.Maureen Daly had created a love story so honest that it has withstood the test of time, winning new fans for more than six decades. Today, this classic is enjoyed by many who think of it as the quintessential love story, and as a glimpse of love in the 1940’s; a refreshing alternative to modern love stories, reflecting the beauty and innocence of new love.  (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

This was such a beautiful old book and I absolutely inhaled it. Though nothing drastic or dramatic happens over the course of the story, the characters and the beautiful ways the reader was pulled into their minds was sweet and captivating enough to hold me. The descriptions were lucious and thoughtful; in a normal book I might have said there were too many descriptions and not enough story, but considering the spirit and feel of this book, I thought it was fine. The romance as told by Angie was tangible and explored in an innocent way. I thought Angie was a really real character and it just seemed like a perfect snapshot of one teenage girl’s mind.

Of course I loved the time period and the authenticity—the book was written in the time period it takes place in! I loved seeing a glimpse into that time and what it was like for teenagers and the author did a great job capturing her time period.

Negative Content/Notes:

There were absolutely no sexual elements whatsoever; they kiss maybe twice. Just sweet, innocent romance that I loved. There were some elements that in today’s culture would be seen as “negative,” or “mature,” content such as drinking and smoking, but in that period it was completely normal and that’s all the author was doing when she wrote it—communicating normal teenage life in 1940s. So I had zero problem with it because it did not come from the wrong spirit, such as to promote it or glorify it, but rather was just there because it was just that way back then.

Overall: While nothing much happened over the course of this story and the plot could be seen as dull, I was enthralled by the beautiful ease the author narrated of a teenage girl’s mind and the sweet romance that played in with it. If you are looking for a sweet and happy read, with more than a touch of history, look no further!

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Ages 12+!

Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette

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Title: Wings of the Wind

Author: Connilyn Cossette

Published By: Bethany House Publishers (2017)

Synopsis: Alanah, a Canaanite, is no stranger to fighting and survival. When her family is killed in battle with the Hebrews, she disguises herself and sneaks onto the battlefield to avenge her family. The one thing she never counted on was surviving.


Tobiah, a Hebrew warrior, is shocked to find an unconscious, wounded woman among the Canaanite casualties. Compelled to bring her to a Hebrew healer back at their camp, he is soon confronted with a truth he can’t ignore: the only way to protect this enemy is to marry her.

Unused to being weak and vulnerable, Alanah submits to the marriage—for now. As she comes to know and respect Tobiah and his people, however, she begins to second-guess her plans of escape. But when her past has painfully unanticipated consequences, the tentative peace she’s found with Tobiah, the Hebrews, and Yahweh is shaken to the core. Can Alanah’s fierce heart and strength withstand the ensuing threats to her life and all she’s come to love? (Taken from Goodreads)

Review: 

This series is truly a work of literature. A very mature work of literature, however; I would not recommend any reader younger than fourteen reading this. The author does not skip over more mature scenes, but instead narrates them with delicacy and yet not ignorance.

This story tells the tale of Alanah, a Canaanite woman who disguises herself as a soldier in order to fight the Hebrews, who, in her eyes, took everything from her. Blind to the true atrocities around her, she embarks in battle and imagines how wonderful the feeling will surely be of striking down her Hebrew nemeses. However, it doesn’t go quite as planned and as she’s lying dying on the field, she gets rescued—by a Hebrew man who decides to take her as his wife in order to follow the Law. Will Alanah continue to fight against the Hebrews or will her eyes be opened to a truth she’s been missing?

First of all, I love Biblical fiction, and this series has cemented that fact in my mind. I learn so much and I love the opportunity to see our faith through such a different angle. The author does such a phenomenal job reimagining the lives and journeys of everyday Hebrews based only on few accounts in the Bible. I loved the tie in with Rahab’s story; it was so striking and emotional down to the core.

This book took my breath away. Seeing God’s glory through the eyes of the Hebrews was magnificent, and experiencing firsthand the horrors of Canaan had me nearly in tears. The horrific city is not glorified or described in endless detail, but not skirted around, either. All in all, I came away with a better understanding of not only the Bible story, but of the God whom I serve.

The characters arcs are magnificent. I loved the tie-ins with the previous books, of course; I love how every book is connected but separate at the same time. Alanah became such an incredible woman over the course of the story, and Tobiah was fantastic. Moriyah was a little underdeveloped at first, but she grew fast.

Negative Content/Notes:

No negative content, but some dark themes. Prostitution is discussed/addressed several times, though not dirtily. The book does not avoid discussing things such as temple horrors where there were sacrifices of infants and women. The author handles everything gently, but she does not skirt away from anything. Reading about all the awfulness that took place in Canaan was almost too much for me.

Overall: To all mature readers who want to understand these familiar Bible stories in a whole new eye opening way: read it.

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Ages 14 +. Maybe even older.