(Review) Many Sparrows by Lori Benton


Publisher and Publication Date: WaterBrook. August 29, 2017.
Genre: Historical fiction, frontier and pioneer life, romance, Colonial America.
Pages: 390.
Source: Complimentary copy from Blogging for Books for this review. I was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Very good to Excellent. 4 1/2 stars.


The year is 1774. Philip and Clare Inglesby, and their young son Jacob, are traveling by wagon from Virginia to the Ohio-Kentucky frontier. Clare is heavy with child. The travel by bumpy wagon is miserable. Philip is impulsive and headstrong. He is impatient in not  waiting for a canoe to be built. A canoe trip for the family would be an easier passage. Clare is uneasy, she is concerned about her advanced pregnancy; she is concerned about their lone travel through the frontier. A wagon accident begins a series of events that will change the course of their lives.
Jeremiah Ring is a frontiersman. He has lived with the Native Americans for several years. He understands their language and culture. He understands frontier life.
Jeremiah and Clare meet at the point of her greatest need.

My Thoughts:
The title and front cover caught my attention first. I’m drawn to meaningful titles and beautiful front covers. It seems most of the time an airbrushed female model graces the cover of a Christian fiction book. I’m turned off immediately. To me, this shows no creativity. It is blah. The front cover of Many Sparrows, shows the wild frontier, which is the setting of the story.
Clare is a strong character. She carefully and with trepidation walks the tight rope with Philip. She disagrees with many of his choices. However, she tries to be the dutiful and respectful wife. She is stubborn, headstrong, feisty, and has perseverance. She is not the sort of character for this time period I’d expect. I felt sorry for her. She is caught in a marriage with a man who is foolish. Everyone can see his foolishness but him. Clare has regrets but is stuck. Clare represents all those who are married to people they desperately want to be rid of. They stay in the marriage because of children or because of the commitment made. Her plight is the main reason that kept me reading. On the other hand, her headstrong actions brought trouble in the story. I understand her choices, but I wanted to shush her or tell her to wait. (Isn’t if funny when we talk to characters in books as if they can hear us?)
Jeremiah is a character I fell in love with (at least strong admiration) at his first introduction. He is my favorite kind of man: strong yet tender. A strong man needs a strong woman to make a story work well. Their strengths balance the story. Their strengths give a tenacious grip. Their strengths represented the true pioneer spirit.
The pace of the story is slow in a couple of spots. It’s possible Benton was dragging the closure for intensity.
The Native Americans and their culture showed me the stark contrast between them and white early Americans. In this story, the early Americans are rural people, single or families. The Native Americans in this story showed me their difficulty in the changes the early American settlers brought. The land where they lived and hunted was changing because of the settlers. The Native Americans were fearful and angry. Some wanted revenge and some wanted to work towards peace. I feel this is an important aspect of Many Sparrows.


(Review) Mercy Triumphs, Book Three by Jana Kelley

Mercy Triumphs

Publisher and Publication Date: New Hope Publishers. September 4, 2017.
Genre: Christian fiction.
Pages: 296.
Source: Complimentary paperback copy from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Good.

Litfuse Publicity Group is closed. Any links for this site will be broken.

Side by Side, 2015

Door to Freedom, 2017 

Mercy Triumphs, 2017

Author Info:
Author of the captivating novel “Side by Side,” Jana Kelley is a Texan who hardly ever lives in Texas. Raised in Southeast Asia, Jana developed a love for cross-cultural living early in life. Her love for writing came soon after. Jana returned to Texas to attend East Texas Baptist University. She and her husband married a month after she graduated, and by their second anniversary, they were living in a remote African town. After 13 years living in Africa and the Middle East, Jana, her husband, and their three boys moved to Southeast Asia where they currently live.

Michael and Mia Weston live in Sudan, Africa with their three children. Michael works as a project coordinator for the Kellar Hope Foundation. They had befriended a young woman named Halimah (her story is in the previous books) and led her to Christ Jesus. She and her sister are left with how to live out their belief in Jesus while living in an Islamic culture. Michael, Mia, and their children have become adjusted to the way of life in Sudan. However, the Sudan political climate has become intolerant to westerners.

My Thoughts:
The front cover nor the beginning pages explain Mercy Triumphs is the third book in a series. The back cover clued me in. It could be the publishers believe Mercy Triumphs, can be read as a stand alone and does not need the previous books to help tell the full story? Most books in a series state its place on the front cover giving the series number of the book. And, the series usually has its own title. I feel a bit lost not having read the first two books. I feel it would have helped the strength of the characters plight and circumstances, as well as the triumph at the conclusion.
The strength of the story is the setting or environment. The dire and complicated circumstances of the cultures of Sudan, and Islam, have a strong impact on the three female characters. Mia as an American woman has lived in Sudan for a while and has become accustomed to wearing appropriate clothing. She has also become accustomed to dealing with no electricity, the sand storms, limited shopping choices, not having secure medical care, and not having central air conditioning. She has adapted to the culture and standards of an Islamic Sudan. It is difficult for Mia to re-adjust to the American way of life. I feel this is a strong aspect of the story. It contrasts sharply with her American friends who take western life for granted. The two sisters are Halimah and Rania. They are faced with a decision about their new beliefs in Jesus Christ. Will they be able to worship Jesus or will they be forced to hide their Christian beliefs out of fear of death?
Mia has limited encounters with a few women in Sudan. What brings them together is their basic commonality: their role as mothers. I enjoyed this aspect of the story. Women, no matter where they live, if they are mothers, they have a strong link. Caring for their dearly loved children brings an instant connection.
Mia wants to share the gospel with the women she meets, but the Islamic culture and the women’s place in society prevents conversion.
The back cover of the book states, “Faced with harrowing circumstances.” I counted three times when the story began to feel tense with anxiety about a situation. However, the story does not stay at that point long. I feel the intention is to give closure to the trilogy. Mercy Triumphs is a Christian fiction book. Christian fiction backs off from causing too much tension and fear.


(Review) High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin

Publisher and Publication Date: Bethany House. June 6, 2017.
Genre: Christian fiction, World War I.
Pages: 393.
Source: Complimentary paperback copy from Bethany House. I was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Very good.


Evelyn Marche is a nurse in German-occupied Brussels, Belgium during World War I. She lives with her mother. She has a brother and sister who are separated from the family because of the war. Evelyn, known as Eve in the story, works evenings in a café. She is also an agent for the resistance against Germany. When the story begins, her mission is to meet an agent who is bringing an important message. She is shocked to recognize the agent. She risks her life to secure the freedom of this important person.

My Thoughts:
I loved this story.
I was immediately captured by the character Eve. She is so many things that are important in a good character. For example, I understand her life through her thoughts and conversations. She is a person of principle and intellect. She is a dimensional character. I see her strengths and weaknesses. She is a character that I admire. She has painful memories and she has memories of joy. She carried the weight of the story through her resilience and strength. She is a believable character. She is not a perfect heroine and this is important.
I did not know until reading this story there was a resistance network during World War I. I am familiar with the resistance during World War II but not World War I. I felt Belgium was an interesting spot for the setting. Belgium was over-run  and damaged during World War II by the war. I did not know until reading this book its history during World War I.
I enjoyed reading the “Author’s Note” at the end of the book. The history of the spy network is explained, the role of female spies, and the destruction of Belgium during this period.
A strong element of the story is there is a double agent. I did not know who the person was until it is revealed in the story.
Another strong element is the love story. The first thing I think about in the love story is the characters commitment. I could name other factors, but these two people have persevered despite the war.
Lastly, the story shows how civilians felt about and treated those who collaborated or did business with the Boche-Germans.

(Review) Threads of Suspicion: An Evie Blackwell Cold Case (Book 2) by Dee Henderson


Publisher and Publication Date: May 2, 2017. Bethany House Publishers.
Pages: 429.
Genre: Christian fiction, mystery, detective.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Good.

Dee Henderson’s website

The first Evie Blackwell Cold Case book is Traces of Guilt

Evie Blackwell is a cold case investigator with the Illinois State Police. She recently began working in the Missing Persons Task Force. She has a new partner, David Marshal. David’s girlfriend is Maggie, a popular singer in a band known as Triple M. David is a Christian and hopes to marry Maggie. Maggie is not a Christian, and because of this David is holding off on marriage. Evie has a boyfriend named Rob. They too are contemplating marriage. David and Evie are working on a case involving the disappearance of Jenna Greenhill. When David and Evie interview people who knew Jenna, they get strong reactions of intense like or dislike.

I don’t read Christian fiction often. Most Christian fiction books I find are unrealistic. In order to maintain a clean content, the stories are void of the realness of life. The topics in the books are real, but things are stripped or omitted that give the reader a believability to the story. The characters seem pasty and inhuman. Some Christian publishers and authors are able to pull off a believable story, and some authors miss the mark.

My Thoughts:
An interesting element in Threads of Suspicion is a Christian engaged to an unbeliever. David Marshall wants to marry Maggie. Maggie is not a Christian, and David makes the decision to post-pone marriage for a while. They are still in a relationship, but he will not marry a person who is not a Christian. David shows patience and tender love for Maggie. His feelings for her did not change, but he was not going to progress to marriage unless she became a Christian. To an outsider, a person who is not a Christian, this attitude and action of David seems cruel. The topic of religion in marriage is huge. Eventually there is going to be a showdown between a married couple about religion. I feel this topic is an interesting add to the overall story. The characters, David and Maggie, are loving and gracious to one another. This shows Christian teachings of love and grace. Another Christian teaching: “Don’t become partners with those who do not believe. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14, CSB. On one hand, I am glad David and Maggie acted loving to one another. However, I wanted to see turmoil. I needed to see intense friction.

I enjoyed reading the interesting and insightful conversations between Evie and David. David is a smart guy. He is both intelligent and wise. Several things he said in the story stood out to me. For example, “Life is mostly captured in the decisions we make, the choices, the pivots.”

The details of gathering and studying information to solve the case is shown to be a slow and steady progression. Patience is required to be a detective. A good eye for detail is important. These things were brought through in the story and created a solid piece for this detective mystery story.

Overall, Threads of Suspicion is an enjoyable read.