Pat of Silver Bush by L.M. Montgomery

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Pat of Silver Bush by L.M. Montgomery

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Nothing means more to Pat than being at home with the people she loves. And nothing frightens Pat more than change. But growing up will mean that not everything can stay the same in Pat of Silver Bush, a novel by author L.M. Montgomery.

Some of the best reading of my life has come from this author, including classics like Anne of Green Gables and more of the Anne novels, but even more so than those, for me: Emily of New Moon and the following two novels about Emily Byrd Starr, three of my all-time favorite books.

But after I moved on to some of this author’s more “mature” work over the past few years and ran into stories with unequivocally racist undertones and overtones, I wasn’t sure if I’d seek out any more of her writing. In this case, I read this novel chiefly because I’m interested in reading the one after it, and I already own copies of both. I believe that after these two, I’ll simply keep the good L.M.M. books I’ve read, continue to appreciate them for what they are, and leave the rest of the would-be-new-to-me stories where they are, wherever they may be.

As for this novel, I think I might have enjoyed it more if I weren’t already so familiar with Emily, Anne, and the ways of their books. Pat’s story felt too similar but somehow not as interesting, and this fairly lengthy novel might’ve been half as long without all of Judy’s ramblings. (Yes, I enjoyed Sarah’s [were they Sarah’s?] ramblings in Rilla of Ingleside, but I guess it wasn’t something I needed to see done over again with a “too similar” character.)

Still, as I expected it would, this novel vividly paints the beauty of Prince Edward Island and the sparkle, pain, poignancy, and wonder of childhood and growing up. All things considered, I’m glad I read it.

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Yep. I read Pat’s first novel mainly so that I won’t be at all lost when I read her next, Mistress Pat.

 

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Favorite Reads 2017

I received complimentary copies of most of the books I mention here in exchange for honest reviews, which you’ll find in the posts I’ve linked to.

I wait for these awards all year! As my blog is all about hope and inspiration, these are the books that most fit that bill for me in 2017 and that I highly recommend to fellow readers. You’ll find them listed in a pretty eclectic order.
*And to the authors of the winning books, if you’d like a little gift for making the list, see the bottom of this post.*

Meals from Mars: A Parable of Prejudice and Providence by Ben Sciacca

Christian Fiction/Contemporary Fiction

★★★★★ from me

Two men, two different walks of life, and a dangerous gas station incident that links their paths. Before reading it, I wondered if this “parable” might be the kind to preach a social message hard without being a good novel. But I needn’t have worried. There’s some beautiful imagery, humor, and, yes, the ideas in this novel are blatant and barefaced, but not at the expense of story or believable characters. The book raises questions without trying to tell the reader exactly what to think, and it doesn’t sugarcoat or tie up its message in a nice, neat bow on its way to bringing hope. I think many Christian readers, especially in the United States, would do well to read this timely novel.

Home by Ginny L. Yttrup

Christian Fiction/Women’s Fiction

★★★★★ from me

Forty-nine-year-old Melanie checks out of reality through her writing; only this time, she can’t. Nothing against readers who enjoy decidedly melancholy fiction, but I have a hard time with women’s fiction novels that feel like page after page of dry gloom, killing me softly as I read. This novel, however, dug through dark, tough issues in a way that softly gave me life. Yes, I, a writer, tend to be partial to books and movies that get real about writers. But this novel gets real, period, in a style that isn’t sparkling but is still engaging. It’s a beautifully written story that gave me a “God is here” experience that I don’t get with all books. And, yes, I loved it.

The Dog Who Was There by Ron Marasco

Christian Fiction/Biblical Fiction

★★★★★ from me

A courageous dog, Barley, bears witness as the greatest story ever told unfolds. No, this isn’t a book about a dog who follows Jesus around everywhere, but He ultimately does fit in this account that centers on brave and lovable Barley’s journey. Seriously, even though animal tales aren’t my usual thing, Barley’s poignant story put tears in my eyes at least three different times. While there’s a simple, storybook feel to the characters, there’s genius in the novel’s layering and delivery. It’s the kind of book that makes you want to be a better person, and that says a lot.

Illusionary by Desiree Williams

Fantasy/Young Adult Fiction

★★★★★ from me

For Kamryn, this rescue mission in the Land of Ur is more than it appears to be…  Awe. Some. Ness. I wasn’t ready. I mean, the book starts out cute and funny, and then the parallel world escapades begin. I was stopped in my tracks in places, sometimes with a single, spoken word. “Heal.” “Hope.” And before and after a crucial twist, this story presents an assortment of wonderfully woven themes: growing up and innocence, grief and illness and regret, finding out who you really are and what you’re capable of. True bravery! It’s a fantasy tale like The Chronicles of Narnia in that it’ll speak to you on multiple levels if you have the ears to hear it—but whether you go to those other levels or not, it’s still a darn good adventure.

Without Warning by Joel C. Rosenberg

Christian Fiction/Thriller

★★★★★ from me

J.B. Collins fears the president, Harrison Taylor, won’t take decisive action against a major threat before it’s too late. Even as riveted as I was to the J.B. novel that precedes this one, I don’t think a thriller has ever left me at such a level of shaken speechlessness when I finished it. I was punched in the soul by this book, and though I’m not much of a political or doomsday kind of person, the story had me inhaling the pages in fewer sittings than I’d normally take for a novel of this length. I’d highly recommend it to any other ChristFic fans who can stand a solid punch–’cause there’s nothing like being punched in the soul by love.

The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege by Ken Wytsma

Nonfiction/Christian

★★★★★ from me

In my book reviews, I normally don’t make a big point of the author’s race or gender. Nevertheless, I’ll note that this book, which is directed toward a Christian audience, was written by a white man. And, yes, a lot of people—especially white people—should read it. The fight for racial equality in the United States isn’t something any one race should be fighting for alone. This book has so many compelling points, including the need not to merely do acts of justice, but to become just. The author also includes action points, so readers won’t be left with a problem without any idea what to do next. If you think racial issues are “just politics” or not something that Christians should be too concerned about, I’d encourage you all the more to read this.

Black, White, Other: In Search of Nina Armstrong by Joan Steinau Lester

Christian Fiction/Young Adult Fiction

★★★★★ from me

Finding her place as a biracial teen is becoming so difficult… What a story this is about family and friendship, injustice and unrest, legacy and identity. I’ll admit that Nina’s attitude sometimes got a few head shakes from me, but she also has great moments of protectiveness and dry humor. I appreciate different points raised in the story, including how so many of us (no matter our “color”) are really more mixed than we know, and about how slavery is not merely something that happened back in the past, in one country. Whether you’re an inspirational fiction fan or not, a young adult fiction fan or not, I’d recommend this as a worthwhile and moving read.

Can I Be Frank? by Rob Wyatt

Fiction/Humor

★★★★★ from me

Father Francis, a young, Catholic priest, wants to be helpful, but he trips and splashes himself into the soup. Not literally, but, you know. This novel has a healthy helping of moments that are downright hilarious. But it also packs a substantive story that addresses church business and politics, the immigration dilemma in the United States, and a young man who just wants to be “plain old Frank” while “Father Francis” expectations are weighing on his shoulders. Fans of humorous fiction that looks at serious issues should get a kick out of this novel.

Loving Luther by Allison Pittman

Christian Fiction/Historical Fiction

★★★★★ from me

Katharina von Bora, a nun, desires something more than a cloistered life as she begins reading the words of an excommunicated priest: one Martin Luther. Now, although this book contains a love story, it’s not a romance novel. Neither is this book “about” the Protestant Reformation, so much. Rather, this is the compelling story of a woman who loves God, longs for liberty, and eventually faces life outside the convent walls. It would’ve been easy to spring for too much drama and overdone characters during such a tumultuous period in history, but here, the writing style is nuanced, with emotion that isn’t flashy but runs deep. I’d highly recommend this novel to fans of historical ChristFic—especially those who are already familiar with Katharina and Luther and who’d be interested in a different approach to their love story.

The Ramona Quimby Series by Beverly Cleary

  

Fiction/Children’s Books

★★★★★ overall from me

Let’s hear it for the adventures and challenges of an everyday, unforgettable girl: Ramona Geraldine Quimby! This was my all-time favorite series as a child, which I had the abundant pleasure to reread this year as an adult. (With the exception of the “new” last book in the series, Ramona’s World, which hadn’t been written yet when I was little. I’m now glad to have read it for the first time!) I–and countless other readers out there, for plenty of years–just “get” Ramona so well, with her plights and joys, her many laugh-out-loud moments and her heart-tugging moments. There’s a fine art to writing excellent stories for children, tales with humor and substance that are accessible at any age. Cleary’s clear understanding of human nature, from children to grownups, is what has made her books so classic.

The Herringford and Watts Mystery Novels by Rachel McMillan

  

Christian Fiction/Historical Mystery

★★★★★ overall from me

*2017 Favorite Cover Picks*

A lady detective duo investigates murders in Toronto, Canada and the United States in the early twentieth century. I’ve also read the three Herringford and Watts novellas, which include a couple of non-murder mysteries. (FYI: I’m on the lookout these days for mystery writers who can indeed write about more than murder! 🙂 ) Having read all of these books, I can say that the mysteries alone aren’t the elements that have most drawn or impacted me. There’s so much more in these novels about history, about immigration, about the need for social reform, about love, about friendship, about the tension between the duty to one’s family and the call of one’s professional passion. The layers, the splashes of humor, the four central characters I couldn’t get enough of, and the threads of poignancy and heartrending moments woven into the stories have made me quite a fan of this author.

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And that wraps up another (calendar) year of great reading for this book lover!

Entries for 2017’s Favorite Reads giveaway are now closed, but comments on the post are remaining open.

  

Also feel free to check out some of the other reading I’ve enjoyed this year, a coming of age romance series, When It’s Time. (That’s right. After my author self writes ’em, my bookworm self reads ’em.) The series begins with Love Unfeigned.

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Congratulations, authors, and thank you for writing your books! If I’ve selected yours as a Favorite Read this year, you’re welcome to a complimentary medal to display on your website, blog, social media–wherever you wish. Click the image below and contact me to receive a full size PNG medal. (The lined watermark will be removed, of course, and the medal will include the year on it, 2017.) Thanks again!

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Favorite Covers 2017

I received complimentary copies of some of the books I mention here in exchange for honest reviews, which you’ll find in the posts I’ve linked to.

I’m not strictly a “judge a book by its cover” kind of reader, as I’ve found and have read some wonderful books with covers I didn’t particularly care for. 🙂 Still, I have an appreciation for cover art as a part of the reading experience, and here are covers I particularly liked from books I’ve read this year! They’re listed in the order I read them.
*And to the authors of these books, if you’d like a little gift (one for you and/or for your cover artist) for being on this list, see the bottom of this post.*

The Last Operative by Jerry B. Jenkins

Christian Fiction/Suspense

Jordan Kirkwood wants to end his NSA career, but a new national security threat might end his life first. The dominant silhouette on this cover is simple but striking, as is the way the title cuts through the blacked-out man with the image’s background colors. It all effectively sets the reader up for danger and intrigue.

Unveiling Love: Episode I by Vanessa Riley

Christian Fiction/Regency Romantic Suspense

A fight for truth in English courts, and a fight for light in a tenuous marriage. It’s not the most common thing to find Regency ChristFic featuring characters of color–just one reason why this cover can make readers stop and take a second glance. The vivid imagery, lighting, and visual drama are superb, right in line with the story’s themes, with fine typography to match.

The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

Christian Fiction/Historical Mystery

They’re sure Wren Lockhart holds the secrets of the late, great Houdini–but she has secrets of her own. This image could have been taken right out of a vaudeville show, with text and embellishments that are doing a lot without going overboard. The cover has a whimsical, but not silly, flair, and it keeps the different, contrasting colors at a minimum, giving each color a chance to draw the eye.

Remember Typhon by Kimberly A. Rogers

Science Fiction

Commander Gavril may (or may not) live to regret taking Zenia, a communications expert, along on this rescue mission. Oh–and don’t forget Zenia’s cat. Zenia in the foreground and the arc of an illumined planet behind a hint of the spaceship in the background give us a total sci-fi feel: distinct, vibrant, and out-of-this-worldly.

Heartfelt Cases One, Two, and Three by Julie C. Gilbert

Christian Fiction/Suspense

  

Special Agent Julie Ann Davidson and her partner, Patrick Duncan, begin the action in this FBI series. The overall tone of the covers may be my favorite for contemporary suspense reads: City Lights at Night, so to speak. The darkness is obvious while the light stands out, bold and electric. I also appreciate how each of these covers fully commits to a different tint, and the three colors look good together. Pretty much makes it impossible to want to read only one of the books and not the others.

The Herringford and Watts Mysteries by Rachel McMillan

Christian Fiction/Historical Mystery

*with a 2017 Christmas Book Pick*

  

  

This series brings us the adventures of a female detective duo in early twentieth-century Toronto. As for the delicious covers–historical mystery feel in the images, embellishments, and typography? Check. Six designs in flawless harmony with each other? Check. And, yeah, those silhouetted images around the borders represent the various mysteries’ themes, major and minor. Quite a bit of fun to gradually learn the reasons behind the images, the further you get into the stories.

Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym

Nonfiction/Memoir

They steal much more than a wooden instrument when they steal Min Kym’s violin. Both the choice to picture the author’s headshot by half and to make it a grayscale one are great choices for this memoir. Then, my favorite aspect is the middle of the cover: a violin ripped out of the image and now GONE, just as the author’s thoroughly cherished instrument is ripped from her life. Spot-on imagery.

Weaver’s Needle by Robin Caroll

Christian Fiction/Romantic Suspense

Finding a stolen map to a legendary gold mine could be deadly for recovery specialists Landry and Nickolai. This cover has a sense of adventure and danger, but it isn’t dark. You can almost feel the blaze of the dry and scorching sun in the intriguing and well-layered design that screams “romantic suspense.”

The Calling of Emily Evans by Janette Oke

Christian Fiction/Historical Fiction

Emily will go answer the call for mission work, even if it means going alone. Here’s a cover with a gentle, historical, painted feel. It’s subtle, but you can see the heroine’s determination. She’s not merely ambling along with a bag hanging at her side, but she’s holding her suitcase with purpose. Hence, she doesn’t look lost while she’s heading toward her “calling.” I prefer the original covers of a lot of ChristFic novels, oftentimes for (but not limited to) sentimental reasons. But I think this lovely cover is quite an improvement over its original one, as well as the other few that followed before this.

Egypt’s Sister: A Novel of Cleopatra by Angela Hunt

Christian Fiction/Biblical, Historical Fiction

Chava’s girlhood friend becomes Queen Cleopatra in this novel set during the biblical “Silent Years.” The novel’s heroine is accurately depicted here as she looks on at the growing, queenly legend before her, away from her. The rich colors and textures as well as Cleopatra’s visual domination gets the job done, perfect for attracting the novel’s target audience.

Hold the Light by April McGowan

Christian Fiction/Women’s Fiction

Art is Amber’s passion, so how can she handle going blind? This book cover excellently captures the brilliant essence of the story: a lone woman, possibly depressed, slowly approaching the edge or end of something, headed toward obscurity—obscurity that’s full of light. With attractive and telling text that takes up most of the image while taking nothing away from it, you couldn’t style this cover more fittingly.

The Christmas Blessing by Melody Carlson

Christian Fiction/Historical Fiction

Amelia has little choice but to go and see if her late fiancé’s parents will accept or reject her–and her son. Here’s another example of a cover that’s totally on point for the audience it means to reach. The design is soft, bright, and Christmassy, with a touch of nostalgia added in. Makes you want to have yourself a merry little Christmas, even if it includes a wistful sigh.

Wonderful, aren’t they? My applause to the artists who gave these books such a great look!

Entries for 2017’s Favorite Covers giveaway are now closed, but comments on the post are remaining open.

    

Also feel free to check out another book that has one of my favorite covers this year, World of the Innocent, a contemporary love story.

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Congratulations, authors, and thank you for writing your books! If yours has one of my favorite covers, you’re welcome to a complimentary medal to display on your website, blog, social media–wherever you wish. Click the image below and contact me to receive a full size PNG medal. (The lined watermark will be removed, of course, and the medal will include the year on it, 2017.) If you know the artist who designed your cover, feel free to pass on the word about the award. The artists are welcome to display the medal as well. Thanks again!

 

Christmas Book Picks 2017

I received complimentary copies of some of the books I mention here in exchange for honest reviews, which you’ll find in the posts I’ve linked to.

The time is here once again! I share my Christmas Book Picks before Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. in case any of my blog readers would like to procure and read a title or two from the list during the holiday season, which I very much hope you will. 🙂 You’ll find them listed in a pretty eclectic order.
*And to the authors of my Christmas Picks, if you’d like a little gift for making the list, see the bottom of this post.*

Bedford Falls: The Story Continues by Anne Morse

Christian Fiction

from me

George Bailey’s grandson and his hometown have lost their way, so it’s about time for another visit from Clarence, the guardian angel who now has his wings. I usually refrain from reading classic work continuations written by people other than the original authors. But am I ever glad I read this novel, based on the story and characters from the classic film, It’s a Wonderful Life. The book isn’t a fairy tale, merely romanticizing the Baileys and Bedford Falls while lacking the film’s true depth. Morse is clearly someone with a real grasp on the significance of the story, and the complexity and spirit of the poignant continuation she’s woven together does not disappoint. This moving work of fiction is now on my list of all-time favorite reads.

Bespoke: A Tiny Christmas Tale by Amanda Dykes

Christian Fiction/Historical Fiction

from me

To give her composer father one last gift, Aria will need the help of the childhood friend she lost. Once I started this novella, I was drawn into a mystery of sorts, one that gradually, quietly unfolds through the book. There’s such an aching beauty to this story, a story that, wisely, doesn’t feel it has to spell everything out for the reader. It’s tragic. Poignant. Intensely romantic. Redemptive and hopeful. I may appreciate this book the more for having experienced it at the most wonderful time of the year.

Pemberton Manor: The Goodbye Girl by Becky Doughty

Christian Fiction/Women’s Fiction

from me

Grace is stuck in an elevator on Christmas Eve with an apparently pompous guy… Yes, this is the prequel to a serialized novel, but it’s a satisfying story on its own. I found this novella funny and distinctly touching, with such an understanding of human nature. I love this Grace heroine, how compassionate, flawed, and grown she is. At a pivotal point in the story, I said to myself, “See, that’s what a heroine does when she’s not a self-centered little girl at heart. When she’s grown.” And the story closes–it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger or anything, but it certainly whet my appetite to meet more of Pemberton Manor’s misfits.

Comfort and Joy by Lynette Sowell

Christian Fiction/Romance

from me

A widowed grandmother, Gwynn, and a widowered professor, Theophilus, may be in for a surprising Christmas. This novella is warm, down to earth, and engaging, a story that moves at a nice clip without rushing. The romance is well-developed, balancing attraction with the ease of Gwynn and Theo’s dialogue. It also raises realistic points about finding new love later in life. The reading was like sitting down to watch a cozy Hallmark Christmas movie without commercials. This was my first time ever reading this author, and this romantic and comforting holiday tale has certainly put her writing on my radar.

A Singular and Whimsical Problem by Rachel McMillan

Christian Fiction/Historical Mystery

 from me

A missing cat, missing young women, and a female detective duo in 1910 Toronto. I’m no mystery expert or anything, but I rather enjoyed this novella. It’s got entertaining dashes of humor, even as it doesn’t make light of a serious human trafficking problem. There’s a lot packed into this quick read; the main characters are interesting, the unfolding case is intriguing, there are lovely whispers of romance in the story, and the ending becomes especially Christmassy. This is a companion to a novel and something of an introduction to a series, the Herringford and Watts Mysteries. I couldn’t not go on to read more of the series after reading this.

That Gift! by Sheryl Fawcett

Fiction/Short Story

from me

Thirty years ago, his Christmas gift to his wife was all wrong. Has he finally improved on it? I got such a kick out of the title and cover, here: cute, fun, and catchy without being too silly, and it’s all very much on theme. The tale itself is the kind of delightful holiday goodness that’s right up my alley. I often say that I’m not big on book blurbs, and in the case of this short story, I’m quite glad that I didn’t read the blurb ’til afterwards, as it was enjoyable to discover the story’s “aha moment” without the blurb’s explanation. This tale is a quick, meaningful, and satisfying dose of holiday warmth!

Ino’s Love by Marianne Sciucco

Fiction/Short Story

from me

For eighty-year-old Innocenzia, love during her holiday extends to more than just family. This short Christmas story is perfect for when you have a little time–and a little Kleenex, just in case. I saw much of what was coming in the story, but watching it unfold tugged at my heartstrings anyway. The tale doesn’t shy away from taking an honest look at human nature. In a situation that’s pretty wrong, Ino is pretty right (that’s what tears me up!), and she finds a way to still make Christmas, Christmas. A quick and bittersweet read that ultimately made me smile, even if I might’ve been on the teary side.

The Worst Christmas Ever by Elizabeth and Juliet Rowe

Christian Drama/Play

 from me

When everything goes wrong for one family on Christmas Eve, what can turn it all around? Reading and reviewing this was a first for me: a play for children, written by a young pair of sisters. It’s an enjoyable story to read, cute and humorous with a serious and heartfelt holiday message in it. I’d recommend this play to any Christian group looking to put on a children’s production–or to anyone else who can appreciate a quick and uplifting tale with refreshing innocence and Christmas warmth.

A Christmas Promise by Thomas Kinkade and Katherine Spencer

Christian Fiction

 from me

In the town of Cape Light, Christmas gifts are coming in unexpected packages. I was curious to see how it would feel to read this novel after such a long break from the series, which I started over a decade ago and hadn’t revisited in five years. Although this book will naturally have that much more meaning if you’re already familiar with the people of Cape Light, it’s still a full enough story to read as a standalone. It’s an easily-paced tale of heartache and hope, a touch of suspense, gentle romance, and blessings in disguise. Quintessential holiday warmth for fans of feel-good reads, right here. And I highly recommend reading more novels in the series, which is an all-time favorite of mine.

12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep

Christian Fiction/Historical Mystery

 from me

Spending Christmastide at the manor will bring Clara a much needed reward, but there’s danger lurking… As the first book of the Once Upon a Dickens Christmas series, there’s certainly something Dickens-esque about this Victorian holiday mystery. It’s cold and dreary but with drafts of light and humor that slide in, and it features an eclectic cast of distinct and interesting characters. What first drew me most into this story is its style, with excellent imagery and rare turns of phrase—a classic touch that’s refreshing to find in a modern read. I certainly plan on reading the second book in the series when it comes out next year, in plenty of time for Christmastide.

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There you have ’em–my picks for the year. Christmas is now officially kicked-off!

Entries for 2017’s Christmas Book Picks giveaway are now closed, but comments on the post are remaining open.

Check out a romantic comedy that ties right into the holidays: The “She” Stands Alone. It’s a part of a collection, Inspiring Love: Three Romantic Reads.

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Congratulations, authors, and thank you for writing your books! If I’ve selected yours as a Christmas Pick this year, you’re welcome to a complimentary medal to display on your website, blog, social media–wherever you wish. Click the image below and contact me to receive a full size PNG medal. (The lined watermark will be removed, of course, and the medal will include the year on it, 2017.) Thanks again!