Arts and Entertainment, Authors, Books, Fiction

The Calling of Emily Evans by Janette Oke

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.

The Calling of Emily Evans by Janette Oke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

Prairie settlements are in need of mission workers for local churches, and in Bible school, Emily responds to the call. Desiring to be a wife and mother someday, she imagines she’ll be ministering alongside a preaching husband. However, with no potential husband in sight, Emily decides what’s nearly unthinkable: she’ll head out to open a church on her own in The Calling of Emily Evans, a novel by author Janette Oke.

This is at least the third time I’ve read this novel. It’s the first in one of my all-time favorite series, Women of the West, by one of my all-time favorite authors. The book spoke to me on a number of levels when I read it years ago, witnessing the obstacles a young woman faces when she takes a different path than people expect.

Sure, the book has got some of the common things I’ve never been fond of in these novels. Sentences with too many dashes as the heroine frequently stammers over her words. Tears in her eyes so often that they lose their effect and cease to be interesting.

Yet, even with the overused stammers and tears, Emily is a strong heroine. Not because she feels strong or because she’s out to prove herself to everybody. No, she’s out to be of service. She doesn’t back away from hard work. Her determination springs from caring about people, and she continues to care even when she doesn’t have all the answers.

Even as my perspective shifts and expands over the years, this is still the kind of novel I could read over again.


Arts and Entertainment, Books, Fiction

Drums of Change by Janette Oke

historical-books nadine keels

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.

Four Silver Stars

drums-of-change-2Drums of Change by Janette Oke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Running Fawn has always loved and taken pride in the ways of her Blackfoot tribe. But survival is becoming difficult as the buffalo disappear, and white men have shown up on the prairie, bringing guns, diseases, and their foreign religion. Running Fawn will have to decide where she fits in a world she barely recognizes anymore in Drums of Change, a novel by author Janette Oke.

I first read this book by one of my all-time favorite authors, oh, twenty years ago or so. Rereading it was a walk down memory lane with a changed pair of eyes.

The Native American peoples’ plight is presented with a gentle hand by the author, but the tension, the irony, the pain, the resignation in all of it hit me in a different way this time around. The mix of skepticism, hope, and anger at the offer of (more) treaties. A nomadic people reluctant to face the prospect of no more buffalo to follow, but perhaps more reluctant over the prospect of moving to a Reserve. A young, imminent chief, Silver Fox, who respects his heritage but wants his people to make it in a world that, for better or for worse, won’t be the same.

Perhaps with the exception of Running Fawn, I didn’t get too strong a sense of the characters. This was particularly true with Reverend Forbes, since much of his “airtime” takes place through letters or in the background somewhere instead of through front-and-center action or dialogue. The “I wish I could marry him/her, but he/she isn’t a Christian” plot theme has never really worked to me, in a novel. And, yes, it amused me to run into the same error I remembered running into twenty years ago, where Running Fawn’s name is once mistakenly used to refer to Silver Fox.

Still, I enjoyed revisiting this novel from one of my favorite series, the Women of the West. I’ve already read most of the series’ novels two or three times and absolutely plan to reread some more.


Arts and Entertainment, Authors, Books, Fiction, Reading, Romance

Series Favorites I Shan’t Fully Review

fiction-books-6 nadine keels

My list of all-time Favorite Reads was lacking.

I dug deep (I mean, deep) to finally review the Emily of New Moon trio of books, which I read years ago, and I knew I’d have to do similar digging into the depths of life and memory to review other favorites of mine from years past with that kind of detail. Quite frankly, however, if I wait until I have the time for such digging for all of these other favorites, my master list may remain incomplete for years on end, which I don’t think would be fair to these previously unmentioned books.

So, I’m mentioning them now, and I implore you not to think I love these books any less than my other favorites, even if they haven’t series reviews long enough to give them each a separate page.

The Love Comes Softly Series by Janette Oke
(best read in order)

Love Comes Softly (Love Comes Softly, #1)Love's Enduring PromiseLoves Long JourneyLove's Abiding Joy
Love's Unending LegacyLove's Unfolding Dream (Love Comes Softly, #6)Love Takes Wing (Love Comes Softly #7)Love Finds A Home (Love Comes Softly Series #8)

Yes, I’m using their covers from the 80s, as I’m partial to the stories in all of their old-fashionedness, before the updated versions of cover art and later book edits that went into newer editions. (I didn’t read all of these in large print, mind you. 😀 ) The first book, Love Comes Softly, was the first I ever read by Oke, my introduction into her sweet, warm, and simplistic style of storytelling that would make her one of my all-time favorite authors, up there with Henry James and L.M. Montgomery. Yes, I love my classic authors with their legendary works, but there’s something to be said for an author who just tells a plain story that gets at readers’ hearts. The first three books are my actual favorite reads here, but the series is well worth reading in its entirety. A pity the film versions from Hallmark gradually strayed so incredibly far from the original stories. The films are enjoyable in and of themselves, but if you’ve only seen the films, you’d do well to see what Oke actually wrote about Clark, Marty, and the rest of these folks.

The Song of Acadia Series by Janette Oke and T. Davis Bunn
(best read in order)

The Meeting Place (Song of Acadia, #1)The Sacred Shore (Song of Acadia, #2)The Birthright (Song of Acadia, #3)The Distant Beacon (Song of Acadia, #4)The Beloved Land (Song of Acadia, #5)

With these novels, I joined the ranks of readers who know what it is to be in the midst of a series, waiting, even with bated breath, for the next book in the series to be published. I appreciate the style and language that Bunn clearly brought into this co-written historical fiction saga with Oke. I remember being totally engrossed and on edge during a certain crucial stretch in The Meeting Place and was floored by the unembellished end to that nerve-racking rush: “And then it began to rain.” I grew attached to the characters over the course of the series, though I’ll admit I got a bit weary during the fifth novel, as while some of the characters were yet making more grand departures from one another, I lost the sense of what they were actually getting done, apart from moving around the globe. I might’ve been missing and/or forgetting things, though, weary in general after doing so much waiting, and I don’t regret a minute I spent with this saga.

The Women of the West Series by Janette Oke
(can be read in any order)

The Calling of Emily Evans (Women of the West, #1)Julia's Last HopeRoses For MamaA Woman Named Damaris (Women of the West (Bethany House Paperback))

They Called Her Mrs. DocThe measure of a heartA Bride for DonniganHeart of the Wilderness

Too Long a Stranger (Women of the West, #9)Bluebird and the Sparrow (Women of the West)A Gown of Spanish Lace (Women of the West The Drums of Change: The Story of Running Fawn

 Overall, this is my favorite series (that I’ve read so far) by Oke, where I really reveled in what the author had to bring in all of her sweet, warm, and simplistic glory. However, the books aren’t only warm fuzzies, as Oke does deal with some tough, and even some potentially controversial, issues, giving the reader some points to chew on but doing it in her warm style. I’ve read most of these books more than once (maybe even three times, with The Measure of a Heart), and while not each of them are individual favorites of mine, the series as a whole took me places I’m so grateful to have gone.

The Savannah Series by Denise Hildreth
(best read in order)

Savannah from SavannahSavannah Comes UndoneSavannah by the Sea

My introduction into Chick Lit and some of the absolute funniest reading of my life. Oh, sure, a few parts of the humor hinge on things one might roll her eyes at and say, “Right. Like that really would’ve happened,” but the fact that Hildreth wasn’t afraid to let loose and get a little ridiculous made me appreciate the series all the more. I mean, why always be confined inside the box of what’s “realistic”? Let your hair down, be a little silly, and laugh about life! Note, though, that what I appreciate most about the books is that they aren’t just all silliness and giggles, as Hildreth gives her heroine some serious lessons to learn, all without bogging the story down with sermons detached from the plot. Excellent!

The Chronicles of Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis
(best read in order)

The Chronicles of NarniaThe Chronicles of Narnia (#1-7)

  Yeah, I read all of the books in one volume, the edition with the White Witch on the cover, then I loaned the copy to someone who lost it (my first and last time making that mistake with so treasured a volume), so I bought the edition with Prince Caspian on the front. An esteemed classic series, and rightly so. I read more fantasy fiction as a child, the Narnia series likely being the only fantasy books I’ve read as an adult, but I can see why they’re standing the test of time. I’ve got all three of Walden Media’s Narnia films that are currently out (love ’em all), and when the next releases, I’ll be all over that one, too.

The Cape Light Series by Thomas Kinkade and Katherine Spencer
(the first four books best read in order)

Cape LightHome Song: A Cape Light NovelA Gathering Place: A Cape Light NovelA New Leaf: Cape Light #4A Christmas To Remember (Cape Light #7)

This series answers the question of what would happen if you stepped into Kinkade’s warm, vivid, signature paintings. It starts off with four novels, then continues with several Christmas novels, A Christmas to Remember being the one I’ve read. While the series brought all of the warmth and comfort I anticipated, the characters and their situations turned out to be more real than my initial anticipation thought they would be. Warmth, comfort, and realness without descents into sap and corniness: “feel good” reading at its best.

The Hadassah Series by Tommy Tenney and Mark Andrew Olsen
(best read in order)

Hadassah: One Night with the KingHadassah Covenant

I’ve nothing against hype. Sometimes we need to get hyped up about something or other in life to break out of blah. But, of course, hype can’t always be trusted on a rational level, and while hype about the Hadassah novel and its upcoming film was what alerted me to the book’s existence, I stepped away from the hype to read the book and see what I thought about it for myself. Is it okay to admit that it turned out to be better than I thought it would be? Better than its film counterpart as well, though One Night with the King does have its own points of movie merit (including the wedding scene’s music, which I absolutely loved.) Its obvious weaknesses notwithstanding, I still like the film for what it is, and I think it’s a come-up from earlier Christian features.