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BLUE: A Book Review by Kathryn Dover

I was excited to follow Junior Bledsoe’s journey in the second novel in the Baker Mountain series, Blue. Junior does not have as large a role in this novel as he does in the series’ previous novel, Aim, but his character is crucial because he helps his friend and neighbor, Ann Fay Honeycutt, who is the protagonist and first-person narrator of Blue.

The beginning is very moving—Ann Fay’s father is going off to war and leaves her as the “man of the house” while he is away (11). He also instructs Junior to keep an eye on the family in exchange for the privilege of driving his truck, which, as Ann Fay states, “Junior would do anyhow, on account of that’s just how he is. He’s got a big heart” (15). Similarly, Ann Fay describes Junior as “the definition of a true friend—someone who knows you might be dangerous to be around and they stick by you anyhow” (63). Thus, Junior’s character has developed much from the selfish, bitter teenager he was in Aim.

The plot pace is moderately fast and suspenseful, and the story flows very well. The story’s many conflicts keep the plot moving. World War II presents one conflict in Blue, but another conflict, the polio epidemic, affected the home front just as strongly. The Honeycutt family faces many trials during Ann Fay’s father’s absence, and Ann Fay’s character develops immensely throughout the novel. She describes her father’s departure as “the beginning of a journey for me. I didn’t go anywhere, really. But I was never in the same place after that either” (14). Ann Fay develops spiritually as well. On her “journey,” Ann Fay befriends a black girl, Imogene. Imogene’s testimony of how God has helped her get through some trials inspires Ann Fay to trust God more.

As with Aim, the title of Blue is perfect and very fitting, but its meaning is not as explicit as that of Aim. The word “blue” serves a dual meaning for Ann Fay. The color blue is very important to her. Her favorite flower, the wisteria, is blue. The wisteria links Ann Fay to her father; they often argued over whether the wisteria blooms are blue or purple. Ann Fay believes they are blue, and every time she looks at them, she is reminded of her father. On the other hand, “blue” represents Ann Fay’s sadness. Ann Fay has many reasons to be sad and describes her mood as “blue” (101). Also, as with Aim, the novel reads as if Ann Fay wrote it herself. The rich dialect and elements of the time period make Blue realistic and thus appealing to me.

The ending is a wonderful surprise; the story ends happily but leaves room for more character development and growth to follow in the subsequent novels. While I enjoyed Aim, I enjoyed Blue even more. The story is much deeper, more involved, and full of rich details and metaphors. Any story that evokes a reader’s emotions as well as Blue does is certainly well-written. I recommend Blue to teenagers and young adults, and as with Aim, I think almost any age reader will enjoy it. I look forward to seeing how Ann Fay’s “journey” continues in the next book, Comfort

 

Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including three cats (and counting!), a dog, two fish, and many house plants. She will be attending Presbyterian College in the fall and wants to study Math and Creative Writing. She enjoys playing the piano, reading, and writing plays.

GIVEAWAY

Boyds Mills and Kane have generously provided a copy of each of Joyce Hostetter’s books to give away in conjunction with Kathryn Dover’s reviews. To enter the giveaway for Blue, please leave a comment by 9 AM on July 3  We’ll enter your name for each time you share it on a social media site; just make sure to tell us in the comment what you did. continental United States addresses only.

MASTER CLASS

Joyce will be presenting on writing fiction at our first master class on September 19. There is a $20 Early Bird discount if you register by August 1. If you come–bring your book so she can autograph it! PLUS we will be giving away a set of four books to give as a door prize!

AIM: A Book Review by Kathryn Dover and a Giveaway!

I have been interested in reading the Bakers Mountain series by Joyce Moyer Hostetter since I first heard about it at Write2Ignite 2018. When I was offered this opportunity to review all four books in the series, I gladly accepted. I am beginning my reviews with Aim, the first book, and will progress through the series with Blue, Comfort, and Drive over the summer.

 

The beautiful artwork on the novel’s cover and its intriguing synopsis instantly drew me into this novel. The beginning of Aim is captivating; the plot pace is fast, and the story flows extremely well. The story is told by first-person narrator Junior Bledsoe, who is growing up in North Carolina during the outbreak of World War II. The war is not Junior’s only struggle. His grandfather has come to live with his family, and his father has died. Junior describes his struggle well: “Sometimes it felt like war wasn’t across the ocean. It was right there in my own house. And inside me too. I didn’t know which way to think or feel” (54). Junior is suffering a loss no one seems to understand. While his father was an unpleasant man, he was still Junior’s father, and Junior loved him dearly.

Even so, Junior realizes his father’s shortcomings and wants to be a provider who is always there for his family, in contrast to his drunken father. Yet everyone, even Junior’s own family, makes fun of Junior’s attachment to his father and predicts he will end up like his father—a comment not encouraging to Junior. They also continually remind him that he does not have a father. Junior states: “It seemed like I couldn’t turn around without somebody rubbing my nose in the fact that I didn’t have a father anymore. I knew it wasn’t what they intended. It’s just the way it was” (64). As a result, Junior becomes bitter and a troublemaker. Junior must decide if he is going to let other people dictate the course of his life and follow in his father’s footsteps or if he is going to forge a new path for himself.

The title of Aim is perfect, as the story follows Junior’s aim for his life. I enjoy simple, one-word titles because they summarize the entire story with one powerful word. In addition, the story is historically accurate, containing details from the time period, such as quotes from President Roosevelt’s speeches. Dialect also contributes to the realism of Aim and adds depth to the characters. One detail from the time period that interested me was that Junior is left-handed. Society pressured left-handed people to use their right hand, and Junior’s teacher forces him to write with his right hand, contributing to his bitterness. Once again, no one understands him.

Readers can learn from reading Aim the influence their actions and words can have on someone who is suffering. Their words can encourage him to follow the right—or wrong—path. Thus, Aim gives great insight into the mind of a child who has lost a parent.

Aim is written in an unusual style that did not appeal to me at first, but as I kept reading, I began to appreciate the author’s unique voice. Every author has his own voice that makes his works special, and Joyce Hostetter’s informal, realistic style reads as if Junior himself had written the novel, attesting to her great skill as a writer. By the end of the novel, I enjoyed the style. The ending marks how much Junior has matured throughout the novel, leaving me feeling satisfied but wanting to know Junior’s role in the next book. I recommend Aim to readers from middle graders to young adults, as I think almost any age would enjoy it. I look forward to reading Blue, the next book in the series, soon.

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Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including three cats (and counting!), a dog, two fish, and many house plants. She will be attending Presbyterian College in the fall and wants to study Math and Creative Writing. She enjoys playing the piano, reading, and writing plays.

GIVEAWAY

Boyds Mills and Kane have generously provided a copy of each of Joyce Hostetter’s books to give away in conjunction with Kathryn Dover’s reviews. To enter the giveaway fo Aim, please leave a comment by 9 AM on June 25.  We’ll enter your name for each time you share it on a social media site; just make sure to tell us in the comment what you did. Continental United States addresses only.

MASTER CLASS

Joyce will be presenting on writing fiction at our first master class on September 19. There is a $20 Early Bird discount if you register by August 1. If you come–bring your book so she can autograph it! PLUS we will be giving away a set of four books to give as a door prize!

 

The Land Beneath Us: Book Review by Teen Blogger, Kathryn Dover

The Land Beneath Us is the third and final novel in Sarah Sundin’s Sunrise at Normandy series. I have read numerous Sarah Sundin novels and enjoyed them all; her stories are the perfect balance of romance and mystery in a well-researched historical environment. Sunrise at Normandy follows the stories of the three Paxton brothers, Wyatt in The Sea Before Us (my favorite!), Adler in The Sky Above Us, and Clay in The Land Beneath Us, who are divided after a tragic incident at home and are reunited at the Battle of Normandy in World War II.

The prologue of The Sea Before Us introduces the incident that is the basis for all three novels. Wyatt and Adler are in love with the same girl, Oralee. They have a fight which leads to Oralee’s death. Adler, who was engaged to Oralee, blames Wyatt for the argument and tries to kill him. His brother Clay stops him, and Wyatt runs for his life. Wyatt takes Clay’s life savings and joins the Navy. Clay also threatens to kill Adler, and Adler leaves and joins the Air Force. Clay, stripped of his family and money, joins the Rangers. With the prospect of death looming near, Wyatt and Adler reconnect and make efforts to reconnect the whole family, but Clay’s fate at Normandy is uncertain until this novel. Clay is the key to the family’s being reunited. But will he live long enough to make it happen?

Each brother meets a woman throughout his military career that helps him grow in his faith. During training in Tennessee, Clay meets Leah, a librarian and orphan who is searching to discover her identity (orphans endured much prejudice in the 1940’s). The story’s mystery arises when someone assaults Leah: a mysterious attacker is targeting young women. However, I found this mystery to be much less intriguing than the previous two novels. Sundin focuses more on the romance between Clay and Leah than on the mystery of Leah’s attacker.

The characters are realistic, and each has internal struggles with his faith that Christians can identify with. Also, the story contains many biblical allusions and parallels. Clay compares himself to Joseph’s being cast in a pit by his brothers. Like the elder brother in Luke 15, the parable of the prodigal son, Clay is loyal to his father and works for him, while Wyatt and Adler are the prodigal sons who squander their lives and come back to their father.

Readers can see Sarah Sundin does extensive research for her novels; they are all accurate, referencing real people, battles, ships, and elements of the home front. I enjoy the historical accuracy of her books because the characters and situations are even more real. While reading the Sunrise at Normandy series in order is not necessary, I highly recommend doing so.

I have always thought a good World War II story should end with the war’s end, and this series does. While I did not want the book to end, the ending is so complete that I felt satisfied. In addition, I have always thought a good story should span a long time, not just a few days. The Land Beneath Us encompasses two years, and by the end of the story, readers feel as if they know each character personally.

In all the novels I have read, I have rarely read anything as gripping, moving, and intriguing as these novels; I literally cannot put them down. The Land Beneath Us does not disappoint. I highly recommend this novel—and all other Sarah Sundin novels, especially The Sea Before Us—to teens and adults and promise you will not be able to put the books down!

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Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including her cats, Prince and Harley; dog, Lady; and two fish, Minnie, and Gilligan. She is a homeschool student and enjoys math, playing the piano, reading, and writing plays.

 

HOPE HEALS: Book Review by Teen Blogger, Kathryn Dover

My mother and I were surprised to see Katherine Wolf at a Going Beyond Live conference we attended last summer; we had never heard of her. We had gone to see Priscilla Shirer and had not expected any other speakers. At this conference, Mrs. Wolf told a short version of her story from her and her husband, Jay’s, new book, Hope Heals. Her story is astonishing. The book switches between Katherine and Jay’s perspectives; they relate flashbacks of their wedding and life until Katherine suffered a massive brain stem stroke nearly four years later. She was only twenty-six years old, had a six-month-old baby and was not expected to live.

Her husband was in law school taking his final exams and had come home to retrieve some papers when Katherine had her stroke. Katherine was taken to the third-best hospital in the country that providentially had a renowned neurosurgeon on staff. That surgeon saved her life by performing massive brain surgery most doctors would not have done. In order to save her life, the surgeon had to “sacrifice” many of her physical functions, such as her ability to swallow and to walk. Amazingly, she had just won fifty thousand dollars on a game show, and that money enabled her husband to take care of her without needing to work. In addition, he had just taken out a catastrophic life insurance policy. Her family, friends, and church rallied around her to care for her and her baby.

Her miraculous recovery was a long and overwhelming process. She was in ICU for forty days and was then transferred to an acute rehab facility at UCLA medical center. After that, she moved to a long-term rehab facility, Casa Colina. Before leaving UCLA, Jay returned to her ICU room and took a picture of it as a remembrance. They wanted to memorialize this part of her experience as a reminder of God’s grace and how far they had come.

After Casa Colina, Katherine lived in a house that was part of the facility with daily therapy. On Thanksgiving, as she sat watching her family eat and fellowship, Katherine had what she calls her “epiphany of hope.” She was despairing about not being able to partake in the festivities of her favorite holiday when she suddenly heard God speaking to her. Her stroke was not a mistake; God was in control. From that moment on, everything changed. While most of her life was out of her control, Katherine could make the decision to have hope: Hope Heals. Later during her therapy, she realized that her story could be an inspiration to others and began writing Hope Heals with her husband.

While she will never be the same, Katherine’s life is amazing. The most fascinating part is that after her recovery, Katherine was able to have another baby. It was one of her main hopes to have another child, and the fulfillment of this was a testimony of God’s providence. Katherine Wolf underwent eleven surgeries. Her circumstances are unimaginable, and clearly her faith is the only way she made it through. Hope Heals is a compelling, emotional story that leaves the reader hopeful and encouraged. Our troubles seem small in light of her devastating loss. Katherine Wolf’s incredible testimony reminds readers of God’s faithfulness and strengthens their faith. Indeed, hope is healing for anyone, and I believe every reader will be inspired by this extraordinary book.

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Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including her cats, Prince and Harley; dog, Lady; and two fish, Minnie, and Gilligan. She is a homeschool student and enjoys math, playing the piano, reading, and writing plays.

 

CAMP MAX – Book Review by Kathryn Dover

I enjoyed reading the delightful children’s story, Camp Max by Penny Reeve. The illustrations drew me into the book. The first page is an illustration of the main character, Tania Abbey, and several more exist throughout the book.

Camp Max goes beyond being a simple children’s story; it reveals powerful life lessons. Through Tania’s point of view, the reader observes her internal conflicts. In the story, Tania; her brother, Daniel; her friend, Emily; and Emily’s brother, Sam are planning to attend a summer camp, Camp Max. Tania and Daniel have been before and are excited to bring their new friends with them this year. In reality, bringing Emily is a solace for Tania, whose best friend, Sue, has moved away.

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