Book Reviews for Bethany House Publishing

Since I don't have an official blog (and I'm not sure I want everything that comes along with a blog!), I am posting my reviews of Bethany House Publishers books here. Please feel free to e-mail me at if you have questions or comments about my reviews. These reviews are also available on by searching for the book's title(s). Thank you.

A Rush of Wings by Kristen Heitzmann
Reviewed 11/12/10 ~ 5/5 stars

I've only become interested in Christian fiction in the past year or so, but I have fallen hard and have not read any secular bestsellers in at least that long.

When I picked up this book, I'd just finished several by Lynn Austin, and I was skeptical that any other Christian author could even come close to her beautiful prose and stories. This is the first time I've read anything by Kristen Heitzmann. I had come across her name before in my searches for Christian books, but I've had such fun reading tales of the frontier and other novels set in distant times. I was afraid Heitzmann's books would be too close to "regular" fiction for my liking, so I never succumbed. But enough preamble.

This was a lovely book. It WAS much more like mass market fiction than what I had been reading, but in a good way. It was nice to read something that could be set in present time, and I even enjoyed the suspense/mystery aspects of the book. I thought the "whodunit" aspect might take away from the "Christian-ness" but I was wrong. Heitzmann wove everything together beautifully. The characters were well developed, and there was just enough suspense to keep you turning just one more page without interfering with the impact of the messages Heitzmann wanted to bring. Some might consider the underlying plot a bit intense for Christian fiction, but I did not. These situations do happen in life, and I appreciate Heitzmann's willingness to tackle them with respect. This was my first Heitzmann book, but it will definitely not be my last. If you normally don't choose Christian suspense, give this one a try. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my review.

The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen
Reviewed 04/23/11 ~ 5/5 stars

I read Klassen's "The Silent Governess" and enjoyed it very much so was pleased to receive Klassen's latest book for review. I'd just finished reading a wonderful Christian series of 10+ books surrounding the same characters, so "Girl in the Gatehouse" was a breath of fresh air. Klassen's writing is very smooth, like rich milk chocolate. It definitely held my interest and had me starting dinner late a few nights this week so I could savor just a few more pages. The characters are believable and the story, while somewhat predictable, was made fresh by not divulging details too quickly. I enjoyed the connections to Austen as well as the glimpse into the life of a woman author of this time period.

I would have liked to read what happened when Captain Bryant went to Mariah's parents' home, but I can see why it wasn't included. I would have also enjoyed a little more Christian reference, but I do feel the message was well done and well received. For readers who don't like religion shoved down their throat but do like a clear Christian message without all the violence and gristle seen in popular fiction today, you will love Julie Klassen. Highly recommended. This book is a keeper and will stay on my personal library shelf to be savored again in the future. I hope Klassen has another delicious novel waiting in the wings.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my review.

Promises to Keep by Ann Tatlock
Reviewed 04/24/11 ~ 2/5 stars

I was both disappointed and depressed after reading this book. Let me start by saying I have never read anything by Ann Tatlock before, so I cannot comment on whether this book follows her prior style. Her writing was fine - easy to follow with good dialogue. I did keep reading, so that says something in itself!

I didn't feel I got to know the characters very well - even Roz felt a little superficial; the other minor characters were complete strangers to me throughout the novel, save for Tilly. Tilly held the book together and was the propellant that kept me reading. Other than Tilly, every character was in a constant state of depression, sadness and/or fear, which while perhaps imitates real life for some (hopefully a very few), it did not make for pleasant reading. I kept hoping for the light at the end of the tunnel, but it never arrived until the epilogue; frankly, I felt cheated having read so many pages of depression in exchange for the scant few pages of happiness.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my review.

The Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden
Reviewed 04/24/11 ~ 2/5 stars

I had high hopes for this book after reading all the great reviews, but I was disappointed. The plus side is that the writing is well done and flows nicely, and the Christian message is clear ~ albeit predictable. However, the plot was lacking. I didn't find much unique about this novel. I wanted more details about something ~ anything ~ everything, but the stories and characters remain superficial throughout. Boy and girl meet. Boy and girl are kept apart by "well meaning" relatives. Boy and girl meet again and fall in love. Boy fights with girl. Girl almost dies but doesn't. Boy and girl reconcile, get married, and have kids. Really? Haven't we all read that before? The author had the opportunity to tell us more about the time period and the railroad industry, Daniel's inventions, Clara's father, what happened to Bane, etc. but everything was glossed over, and I was left wondering why I'd read the book. Basically the most interesting details were given to opium and how one feels after taking it. Not exactly what I was looking for.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my review.

Reclaiming Lily by Patti Lacy
Reviewed 11/17/11 ~ 4/5 stars

Reclaiming Lily reminded me of a Jodi Picoult novel without the court/trial and surprise ending ~ and I mean that in a good way. It spoke to me on a number of levels. I'm adopted. I work in the medical field. And I know about PKD as it relates to cats (although the disease progression is much the same, only without the option of a transplant for our feline friends). I found Lacy's writing style easygoing and enjoyable ~ again, very similar to Picoult's writing. I did feel Kai's character was a bit stilted compared to some of the other characters, and I wished she would relax enough to let us get to know her better. Lily/Joy stood out as the star character with all the bubbly personality, mood swings, and emotional turmoil of the typical teenager while her mother was a bit too emotionally extreme. I thought she overreated to Kai at first and then boomerang-ed too far, too quickly, in the other direction. I also think Lily/Joy connected with Kai a bit too easily than she might have in real life. That being said, she did have memories of her life in China, so perhaps that aspect coupled with her "fitting in" issues helped to make it all seem perfectly plausible. I thought all the loose ends were perfectly tied up in the end, and I was so pleased to see that Kai ended up with her colleague rather than her former boyfriend. A very enjoyable novel; I'll be looking forward to seeing Lacy's future work.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

Valley of Dreams by Lauraine Snelling
Reviewed 11/21/11 ~ 5/5 stars

When I was offered a chance to review Lauraine Snelling's first book in a new series, it was a no-brainer. I adore Snelling's books. I haven't read all of them but I'm working on it. Valley of Dreams is a wonderful start to a new adventure, and I can't wait to read more. It was so comforting to see a little of the Norwegian background I loved so much in the Blessing series coming out in Cassie. Just reading about her "Mor" brought me back to the Red River valley, but Cassie's story deserves a stand alone accolade. Snelling's writing is comfortable but not necessarily predictable, and I like that. The story was great, although I would have loved to read more about trick riding and the workings of a Wild West show, but perhaps Snelling will explore that in a later book (a prequel?). Snelling also teases by giving snippets of information about Jason, Micah, and Chief, not to mention Ransom and Lucas (who will win Cassie's heart in the sequels?). Each character could easily have his own book, and I hope Snelling makes that happen. Don't hesitate to pick up this great start to another great Snelling series.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

Whispers in the Wind by Lauraine Snelling
Reviewed 10/25/12 ~ 2/5 stars

I was thrilled to see the second installment in the Wild West Wind series by Lauraine Snelling up for independent review, and I quickly snapped it up. Unfortunately, it was disappointing. I gave the first book in the series, Valley of Dreams, 5 stars, but its sequel left much to be desired. I didn't feel the characters were developed any further, and honestly, I don't feel the plot was expanded at all. At the end of this book, I was left feeling like I still didn't know any more about the characters than I did after reading the first. This fell far short of my expectations for an author who has made me feel like her characters are my neighbors & friends. I know the characters (and Snelling!) have a lot more to offer, and I will read the third installment with high hopes that it will make up for this lackluster performance by one of my favorite authors.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.