Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Belonging to Heaven is one of those exceptional books . . .

Belonging to Heaven is one of those exceptional books which touched my heart and I wished the story would continue because it was so full of genuine humanity. True to her gift for writing authentic historical fiction, Gale Sears wrote a powerful historical novel about love, friendship and faith in God. I’ve read several of her books and really liked The Silence of God, but I thought Belonging to Heaven was a poignant story that Sears wrote with beautiful simplicity.

Sears first introduces us to George Q. Cannon, a young 23 year old missionary, called to the California gold fields and then transferred to what became his personal paradise, the Hawaiian Islands.  Not long after Cannon arrives in Hawaii, he feels compelled to begin teaching the native Hawaiians. Despite struggling to learn the Hawaiian language and backlash from foreign Protestant ministers, Cannon tirelessly works to gain the confidence and respect of the native people.

Sears' story follows Cannon through his missionary service and then continues with the story of Jonathan Hawaii Napela, one of Cannon first converts and influential Hawaiian church leader. Cannon and Napela work together to translate the Book of Mormon into Hawaiian, and when Cannon returns to Salt Lake City, Napela shepherds the native flocks through years of turmoil and change. Eventually, Napela travels to the Hawaiian leper colony to care for his beautiful wife Kitty. 

Napela and a young Catholic priest, Father Damien de Veuster, become close friends as they care for the lepers, serve God and eventually both contract the disease.  I actually cried when Napela died, and I was grateful to Sears for sharing his story in such a loving way. I don’t usually reread book, but I can definitely see myself reading this book again. 

Belonging to Heaven by Gale Sears. Published 2013 Deseret Book. 438 pages.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Secretary of State . . . What did Hillary Clinton really do?

I just finished a fascinating new book about Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State called The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the heart of American Power by Kim Ghattas. 

Hillary and I have had a politically embittered relationship until I read this book and learned about Hillary the person. While I haven’t become a devoted Hillary fan after reading this book, I have a new respect for Hillary’s passion to accomplish her visions and for the compassionate person her friends and colleagues know.

BBC foreign correspondent and author, Kim Ghattas shares her unique perspective of America, the world’s superpower and Hillary, second in command of the United States as perceived by the international community. Growing up in worn torn Beirut, Ghattas had a love/hate relationship with America. She hated America for not rescuing her country from war but she and her friends loved most things American. By weaving her own personal feelings deftly into her firsthand narrative account of traveling with the Secretary’s press corps around the world, Ghattas introduces us to a world that simultaneously complains about America’s interference abroad while vying for its’ favor and monetary aid.  

Ghattas’ narrative moves along quickly, providing enough details to help us understand Hillary’s role. Her background summaries of countries and conflicts are well balanced and introduce us to the context of Hillary’s dilemmas without detracting from the focus of the book which is Hillary’s experiences as Secretary. If you want to learn more about one of the most complex jobs in our government, and be introduced personally to some of the most controversial world leaders, this book is for you.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Check out Bethany House Publishers for entertaining, uplifting fiction

Bethany House Publishers is a Christian division of Baker House Publishing Group. I was first introduced to Bethany House when I read found Beverly Lewis’s Amish novels while browsing library shelves about a decade ago. I enjoy reading adult fiction, hands down, but I have learned to be wary of less than savory content mixed into some of the best fiction stories. That’s why I’m recommending Bethany Publishers for entertaining and uplifting fiction without the detracting material.

In the time that I’ve dabbled with new authors published under the Bethany label, I have not encountered any books I regret reading. Enough of my personal promotion. Here are some of my favorite authors and books published by Bethany House. Just so you know, I am partial to historical fiction so most the books I introduce come from that genre.

These days I read any of Lewis’s newly released fiction, but the Abram’s Daughters 5 book series remains my favorite, followed closely by The Rose Trilogy which is a recent series. After reading all of Lewis’s works, I moved on to Lynn Austin’s Hidden Places, after watching the Hallmark movie a few years ago. Some of my Austin favorites include:
  • While We’re Far Apart: A WWII love story with a touching plot.
  • Until We Reach Home: A tale of Swedish Immigrant sisters immigrating to America.
  • Wonderland Creek: A take off Christy by Catherine Marshall. In the woods of rural Kentucky, a young librarian wants to change the town.
  • A Proper Pursuit: Introduces us the golden period of the World Fair exhibitions and Chicago, the host city.

Recently I discovered Tracie Peterson, a prolific writer with an endless stream of stories to share. Her best novels explore the development of the American frontiers and the courageous women who settled there. Some of my Peterson favorites include:
  • Brides of Gallatin County series: Each book in the trilogy focuses on 1 of 3 sisters who settled in Gallatin County, Montana.
  • Song of Alaska series: Introduces us to an Alaskan frontier town of at the beginning of the 20th century.