Many Sparrows by Lori Benton

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. Blogging for Books provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.
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Many Sparrows by Lori Benton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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

Out on a westward journey, a wagon accident has forced Clare’s husband to go back for help, and pregnant Clare is left alone with her four-year-old son, Jacob. When her labor pains begin, Clare leaves the wagon during the night, only to return and find Jacob gone. A passing frontiersman, Jeremiah, offers to help Clare search for her son, but getting the boy back from the Shawnee people who took him will be no simple task in Many Sparrows, a novel by author Lori Benton.

I must say I was gripped early on in this novel. I hadn’t encountered a childbirth scene as harrowing as the one here since the last time I watched Michaela Quinn in labor in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. I didn’t remain quite as gripped the further I got into the book, but I hadn’t expected to. Having previously read three other novels by this author, I expected to gradually wade through a dense story and look out for the striking, brilliant parts, especially like the memorable ones in The Pathfinders series.

While this novel isn’t without its own striking moments, I did find the pace too slow at times. I’m used to the “waiting” feeling I’ve also encountered in other stories by this author, and waiting is indeed a theme of this novel. But I got a little weary here and there, waiting for the plot to move forward. Also, though I understood Clare and her plight, I wish I could have liked her more, at least as much as I did Jeremiah.

Nevertheless, I think this novel will be right down the alley of other historical ChristFic fans. And like the author, I’d also recommend readers to check out The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn after reading this, if they haven’t already.

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The Christmas Blessing by Melody Carlson

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. Revell provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.
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The Christmas Blessing by Melody Carlson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

Amelia and her fiancé James had planned to marry right away, but she hears that he’s been killed in the war, shot down with his plane. Hence, Amelia can’t legally claim the benefits of a war widow, even when she gives birth to James’s child, Jimmy. With nowhere else to turn, Amelia seeks out James’s parents–even though they don’t know that she and Jimmy exist in The Christmas Blessing by author Melody Carlson.

I’ve enjoyed a few World War II Christmas novellas in the past. Without reading much of the blurb for this one, I took a gander at the soft, Christmassy book cover and decided to check it out.

I think this story has much that fans of nostalgic WWII fiction will enjoy. The plot is serious, but not too heavy, and the holiday theme is strong. Except for the very end, which may be somewhat rushed, I found the pacing to be steady, even a bit slow at points, as characters stop to think or re-think things over maybe a little more than necessary. However, I can appreciate a complete tale on the shorter side that doesn’t hurry through or skimp on all the important parts.

There’s some “info-dumping” in the opening conversation, and although it’s not unrealistic for a woman in Amelia’s position to cry a lot, her sobbing loses some of its effect on the page when it happens over and over. Also, I hope this isn’t something widely common that I’m just starting to notice in general now, but it seems that far too many sentences in the story begin with the word “And,” until it feels monotonous. I’m not sure if this issue appears in the final version of the book; I read an ARC.

Overall, it was refreshing to find a holiday tale that wasn’t completely predictable to me, and I think many other ChristFic readers will like this one.

The Hawk and the Jewel by Lori Wick

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.
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The Hawk and the Jewel by Lori Wick

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

While her family in England has always thought she died at sea as a toddler, Sunny has been in Arabia, being raised as a daughter of the emir in Darhabar. When the emir eventually arranges for an adolescent Sunny to return to England, young Captain Brandon Hawkesbury takes her into his charge. He begins to prepare her for a new life as an English lady in The Hawk and the Jewel, a novel by author Lori Wick.

Yes, I’m a Lori Wick fan. Most (or all) of the books I’ve read and finished by her, I’ve read more than once. This is a special author for me in that I knowingly abide or wink at some aspects of her stories that I don’t go for with other authors. There’s just something about several of her books that sticks with me and draws me back.

Upon picking up this novel, I was pretty sure it’d be rather fairytale-like and perhaps not the truest historical portrayal of England’s Victorian period. I may’ve been right about that. Still, I guess I was expecting something more to this plot than what’s there, in the first half.

Not much apart from Sunny’s ponderings on God interested me. There’s much ado about Sunny’s looks, her clothes, and her admirers. It seems I was expected to feel something right away for her English family members, since they’re emotional about having her back after all these years. But tearful reunions and such don’t mean much to me when I don’t know the characters, and I haven’t grown to care about them enough to keep pushing through the second half, as this novel isn’t exactly a short one.

I was tempted to skip ahead just to see how the story generally resolves, but that’s not my style. I do plan on continuing the Kensington Chronicles, though, since some coming plot points have intrigued me. And I’ll revisit this first novel if I later suspect I missed something in it that’s crucial to the series.

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The Hawk and the Jewel is Book One of the Kensington Chronicles.

  

Loving Luther by Allison Pittman

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. Tyndale House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.
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Loving Luther by Allison Pittman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

As a young woman who’s been raised in a convent, Katharina von Bora takes her vows to become a nun for practical reasons. But she desires something more for her future as she begins reading the words of an excommunicated priest: one Martin Luther. Pondering Luther’s teachings about freedom in Christ, Katharina plans a risky escape from her cloistered life in Loving Luther, a novel by author Allison Pittman.

Now, this love story isn’t a romance, as much of the novel is (wisely) given to painting a picture of Katharina’s years in the convent and her thoughts and questions about Christian life, with no love interest around. Neither is this a novel about the Protestant Reformation, as although it’s the obvious backdrop for Luther’s character, the ins and outs of the reformation aren’t the novel’s focus.

Rather, this is the compelling story of a woman who loves God, longs for liberty, and faces a challenging life outside the convent walls. There’s a richness to Katharina’s character and experience. She’s flawed, unpredictable, and doesn’t always know how to feel in new situations.

It would’ve been easy to spring for too much drama and overdone characters during such a tumultuous period in history. But instead, this novel’s style is nuanced, with emotion that isn’t flashy but runs deep. Now, I agonized through some of the waiting I had to endure during the reading. And after all of that agony, I was somewhat dissatisfied with where and how the story ends.

Nevertheless, this is a substantive, poignant, beautiful read. I’d highly recommend it 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.