Under a Cloudless Sky by Chris Fabry {book review}


Under a Cloudless Sky by Chris Fabry, (bestselling author of War Room) is a charming and engrossing novel for fans of Southern fiction which explores the well-kept secrets of a  coal-mining town in danger of being destroyed for the sake of profit.

Actually it is the story of two girls who were best friends, and what became of them.

Summary:

1933. In the mining town of Beulah Mountain, West Virginia, two young girls form an unbreakable bond against the lush Appalachian landscape, coal dust and old hymns filling their lungs and hearts. Despite the polarizing forces of their fathers–one a mine owner, one a disgruntled miner –Ruby and Bean thrive under the tender care of Bean’s mama, blissfully unaware of the rising conflict in town and the coming tragedy that will tear them apart forever.

2004. Hollis Beasley is taking his last stand. Neighbors up and down the hollow have sold their land to Coleman Coal and Energy, but Hollis is determined to hold on to his family legacy on Beulah Mountain. Standing in his way is Buddy Coleman, an upstart mining executive who hopes to revitalize the dying town by increasing coal production and opening the Company Store Museum. He’ll pay homage to the past–even the massacre of 1933–while positioning the company for growth at all costs.

What surprises them all is how their stories will intersect with a feisty octogenarian living hundreds of miles away. When Ruby Handley Freeman’s grown children threaten her independence, she takes a stand of her own and disappears, propelling her on a journey to face a decades-old secret that will change everything for her and those she meets.

My Reaction:

Chris Fabry has written many books, is a best-selling author and hosts his own show on Moody Radio. This is my first read of his, hopefully the first of many.

This is the story of two girls, best friends, in a coal-mining town in West Virginia, and what became of them. It is a fictitious story from the author’s imaginings based on the lives of real people.

To be perfectly honest I did not enjoy reading this book. But this is one of those books that stays with you and the characters grow in the reader’s mind revealing the depth of the writing, which means it is very good.

The story is dark in places, and deep, real life; with a hint of hope, faith and love. I love the use of the hymn Beulah Land in the book.

It was difficult to keep track of the characters and understand the connections until the end (no spoilers). That is also a sign of good writing. By the end of the book I understood, and continue to understand as I mull it over.

The parallel time periods might have been clearer if the chapter headings were larger, more bold. I’m tempted to re-read the book just to get the flow now that it makes sense. I think it was necessary to write this way to convey the message of the book, which is tightly woven into the story and characters, which are vivid, and the action moves right along.

I identified most with the character of Frances. What character did you like best?

I recommend this book for all readers of historical and Christian fiction, young and old. There’s something in this book for every reader. I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. My opinions are my own.

My Rating: 3 stars

This review is also published on Goodreads, Christianbook.com, and Tyndale House Publishing.

The Author:

Chris Fabry is an award-winning author and radio personality who hosts the daily program Chris Fabry Live on Moody Radio. He is also heard on Love Worth Finding, Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, and other radio programs. A 1982 graduate of the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism at Marshall University and native of West Virginia, Chris and his wife, Andrea, now live in Arizona and are the parents of nine children.

Chris’ novels, which include Dogwood, June Bug, Almost Heaven, Not in the Heart, Borders of the Heart, Every Waking Moment, The Promise of Jesse Woods, Looking into You, and his latest release, Under a Cloudless Sky, have won five Christy Awards, an ECPA Christian Book Award, and two Christianity Today Book Awards of Merit, but it’s his lyrical prose and tales of redemption that keep readers returning for more.

Chris has also published more than 70 other books, ranging from nonfiction and film novelizations, including the recent bestseller War Room, to novels for children and young adults. He coauthored the Left Behind: The Kids series with Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, as well as the Red Rock Mysteries and The Wormling series with Jerry B. Jenkins. RPM is his latest series for kids and explores the exciting world of NASCAR.

Visit Chris’ website at www.chrisfabry.com. Read what Chris has to say about this book on his blog.

For more about the author and this book check out the downloadable  Author Q & A at Tyndale House Publishing.

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Until We Find Home by Cathy Gohlke {book review}


Until We Find Home by Cathy Gholke {book review} is the story of a young American woman who smuggles French Jewish children into England, and cares for them and German Jewish children during World War II.

The story is of Claire’s fear, her inability to feel loved, and her relationship with God and other people in her life, both past and present.

Background:

For American Claire Stewart, joining the French Resistance sounded as romantic as the storylines she hopes will one day grace the novels she wants to write. But when she finds herself stranded on English shores, with five French Jewish children she smuggled across the channel before Nazis stormed Paris, reality feels more akin to fear.

Set in England’s lush and storied Lake District in the early days of World War II, and featuring cameos from beloved literary icons Beatrix Potter and C. S. Lewis, Until We Find Home is an unforgettable portrait of life on the British home front, challenging us to remember that bravery and family come in many forms.

 

My Reaction:  

This is my first read of this author who came highly recommended. I looked forward to this story, the history of children sent to the English countryside for safety during WWII. I hoped to be transported there from page 1. At page 300 the story came alive when it became personal to the children. If only it had been through the eyes of the children from the beginning.

That being said, this is a good book, my expectations aside. It is good writing, albeit not the type of descriptive writing that sets the readers’ senses on fire. While there are multiple relationships of different types, as with the setting they are described minimally. At one point I said to my daughter, this book is in black and white, no color. Even the cover is lacking color.

Personally I think the main character could have been better developed before page 300 through the eyes of the children. I understand there is a great contrast between characters at the beginning and ending of the book, but it comes across as being written less well, almost as if the author is afraid of getting to know the character. The story doesn’t move when it is seen through the main character point of view.

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy historical details and literary references woven into the story, and characters who seek a personal relationship with God. I really like Mrs. Newsome, and would love to read more about her earlier life. And, of course, it would be wonderful to know what the children, especially Aimee, did in their adult lives. Were any children from this time period reunited with family after the war?

This book is cleanly written with a touch of romance left to the reader’s imagination. I enjoyed the cameo appearances of authors Beatrix Potter and C.S. Lewis in the book. My favorite scene was, no spoilers, when a number of people were rescuing Aimee (more than once).

One more thing, the book did so much looking back to the past, it was hard to stay in the present, and the many literary references may have taken away from real life at times.

Kudos to the author for finishing the book. You can read her endnotes to find out why. May God be praised because of this story. Please keep writing as He allows.

I received this book from the publisher, Tyndale House, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

My Rating:  3 stars

This review is also published on Goodreads, Christianbook.com, and Tyndale House Publishers.

The Author:

Cathy Gohlke is the three-time Christy Award–winning author of the best selling and critically acclaimed novels Secrets She Kept (Christy Award; INSPY Award); Saving Amelie (INSPY AWARD); Band of Sisters; Promise Me This (listed by Library Journal as one of the Best Books of 2012); I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires (Christy Award, American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year Award and listed by Library Journal as one of the Best Books of 2008) and William Henry Is a Fine Name (Christy Award).

Cathy has worked as a school librarian, drama director, and director of children’s and education ministries. When not traipsing the hills and dales of historic sites, she, her husband, and their dog, Reilly, divide their time between Northern Virginia and the Jersey Shore, enjoying time with their children and granddaughter.

Visit her website at www.cathygohlke.com and find her on Facebook at CathyGohlkeBooks.

For more about the author and her writing read Q and A With Cathy Gohlke by Tyndale House Publishers.

For a lovely author interview and book giveaway (January 16-23, 2018) visit Relz Reviewz.

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The Pursued by Willowy Whisper {book review}


This review of The Pursued by Willowy Whisper {book review} is part of a blog tour (link below). It is the third book in the Hills of Innocence Trilogy.

 

Fawn Wendell has no choice but to flee. Her life depends on it. She has no where to go, but that doesn’t matter. She has to disappear. She has to get lost, never to be found again, before her pursuer attacks.
 
Adam Preston loves his children. They’re all he has left. But with the ranch to run, is there any way he can give them what they need, especially when he’s hurting himself?
 
Jake Sumner returns to an old house, a place that arouses too many memories. If he decides to stay, he may have trouble on his hands . . . trouble a whole lot bigger than him.
 
Sadie is an injured, silent bird, locked in a cage she can’t free herself from. Her nightmares are real. The fear kills her voice. Will she ever fly again?
 

My reaction: 

The Pursued is, as the title suggests, a novel about people who are wanted for something, and thus pursued. How they escape being caught is the story thread. The two story lines run parallel, increasing the suspense, with only one common acquaintance tying them together.

This book is a YA romance/mystery. It could be historical or modern day considering what is not told the reader. It takes place on/near a ranch. Written to a young audience, by a young author, and romance not being my favorite genre attributes to my reaction to the book. Also having read it in pdf format, it is unclear to the reader whether it has been properly edited. This is the author’s eighth book, of which this is my first read.

The book’s strong point is the action, the abundance of conversation, and its ability to hook the reader. It is a page turner. The characters are many, sometimes confusing, and not deep enough for my taste. There is a hint of faith, undeveloped but sought after in most characters. Perhaps the author wished to avoid being preachy. The book is not preachy. And it is squeaky clean, which is a great strength.

My Rating:  2 stars

I recommend this book to young readers looking for clean, wholesome adventure and mystery. I read a pdf copy sent to me by the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in her blog tour.

This review is also posted on Goodreads.

About the Author:
 
Willowy Whisper is a young, Christian fiction author. She lives in a beautiful place called West Virginia, nestled between mountain and field. She is the author of nine novels, eight of which are published, and numerous short stories. She is also a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, an incurable romantic, and a passionate dreamer. To follow her, visit her blog: http://www.willowywhisper.com

 

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