Refuge at Pine Lake by Rose Chandler Johnson

Refuge at Pine Lake Blog Tour

About the Book

Refuge at Pine Lake

Series: Pine Haven

Genre: Christian, Contemporary

Publisher: Chanson Books

Publication date: March 7, 2019

Robin Lancaster, a twenty-six-year-old former kindergarten teacher, has her summer and her life all figured out. She’s ready to be on her own, writing and illustrating her children’s stories at her family’s beloved lake house. Once there, she intends to rekindle a romance with Caleb Jackson, the area’s top hunting and fishing guide, and bag him for herself. Complications arise from the start when Robin finds out her mother has rented the lake house to a man they know nothing about. Matthew McLaughlin, forty-year-old widowed university professor and author from California, shows up at Pine Lake in crisis. A sabbatical might be his only hope to save much more than his career. He needs a place of refuge. Sharing the lake house with a lighthearted young woman and her dog is the last thing on his mind. Caleb Jackson has his own plans. He’s used to things going his way, but a man staying in Robin’s house presents unforeseen challenges. When paths unavoidably entangle for these three, hearts are on the line.

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About the Author

rose-chandler-johnson

Rose Chandler Johnson is known for her heartwarming, inspirational writing. In addition to works of sweet contemporary fiction, her devotional journal, won the Georgia Author of the Year Finalist Award in 2014.

In her novels, Rose brings to life fascinating characters with compelling relationships embracing family, community, and faith. In distinctive southern settings, Rose creates memorable stories that will stir your heart. Readers often say her writing warms the soul as it reaffirms belief in love and wholesome goodness. Don’t be surprised if you sigh with pleasure as you savor the final pages of her stories. Rose has lived in a suburb of Augusta, GA for thirty plus years. Before retiring from Georgia’s school system, she taught English, French, and ESOL. Currently, she is an English instructor at a community college. In addition to reading and writing, Rose enjoys cooking, sewing, gardening, and spending time with her six children and her beautiful grandchildren.

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Giveaway

(1) winner will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card.

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Giveaway ends June 14 at 11:59pm MT.

Enter the giveaway HERE.

Tour Schedule

Check out the other stops and follow along with the blog tour HERE.

Little Town at the Crossroads by Maria D. Wilkes

Little Town at the Crossroads, by Maria D. Wilkes, was published in 1997 by HarperCollins. It is the sequel to Little House in Brookfield.

Rating: 2/5

Little Town at the Crossroads is a book that is very similar to Little House in Brookfield, in terms of both content and style. The content is very much like previous Little House books: each chapter is episodic, without a distinct arc beyond the passing of time. Wilkes seems to be trying to convey numerous aspects of the time period without necessarily tying everything together, which isn’t a bad thing. The book does, however, distinctly lack charm and excitement as did the first one.

I loved these books as a kid, but as an adult, they’re definitely missing the mark. Some of my favorite books (that I remember) are later in the series, after there is an author change, so perhaps it’s just Wilkes’s style that I’m struggling with. Everything is too cut-and-dry; characters sound like they’re rehearsing lines. There’s no real voice to them beyond “Caroline is the neat one, Martha is the spunky one.”

As historical fiction, Little Town at the Crossroads does a good job of capturing life in the 1840s. However, as a story, it’s lacking a theme to tie it together and some excitement and charm. Everything is just a bit too wooden and similar, and the characters don’t grow or change. I’m hoping that changes as the series goes on. 

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Historical Fiction

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2XrkUuq

1961 Newbery Medal: Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell, was published in 1960 by Houghton.

Rating: 2/5

Island of the Blue Dolphins is not nearly as interesting as O’Dell’s Newbery Honor-winning book The King’s Fifth. There’s not nearly as much dialogue or character interaction, for one, since the premise of this book is a girl stuck on an island by herself for years. There’s also not enough action or tension to help with the overall tedium of the plot.

The most interesting thing about this book is that it is inspired by a true story: the story of “The Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island” (Juana Maria), who lived for eighteen years by herself on San Nicolas Island (off the coast of California) after her tribe left. This is a survival story, so O’Dell imagines what Juana Maria (Karana in the novel) must have done to live off the land and survive as the only human.

There’s a brother, too, which O’Dell gives as the reason for why Karana is left behind, but then the brother makes a quick exit about thirty minutes (or so it feels) after the tribe leaves, when he runs into a pack of wild dogs. Thus, Karana quickly realizes the impetus for her staying behind is now gone, and now she must wait for the ship to return.

I do honestly enjoy survival stories, but the ones I’ve read lately have been underwhelming. Karana is well-prepared to stay for years on the island, and I suppose that’s a bit of what takes the wind out of the sails: there’s never any sense of real danger or real struggle. The most exciting part of the book is a tidal wave, followed by an earthquake; it’s the only part of the book where Karana loses her unflappability and becomes more like a real person. I think the story, on paper, is great—again, I love survival stories—but actually written out, Island of the Blue Dolphins is underwhelming and mostly boring.

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Historical Fiction

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2YZ8muB

The Riddle by Alison Croggon

The Riddle, by Alison Croggon, was published in 2004 by Candlewick. It is the sequel to The Naming.

Rating: 2/5

The Riddle is the book that I probably remember most of the Books of Pellinor. The ending of this book is the ending that I thought was in the first book. I remember when I read it the first time that I thought it was a very sweet and poignant scene, but this time around was more of a “shrug, meh” moment. Maybe because I remember absolutely hating the ending of the fourth book, and the ending of the second book is the precursor to that.

Anyway, The Riddle continues to be Tolkien-esque. It’s a hefty book, though to be honest, I feel like most of the first half of the book could have been left out. Maerad and Cadvan spend weeks on an island for no reason. The most interesting part of the book is the second half, when Maerad traverses the ice lands in the North and is then taken to the domain of the Winter King. Croggon does a little better with worldbuilding overall in this book, though there’s still the feeling that there’s so much she isn’t covering beyond the Bardic system. Her world feels so empty most of the time, full of no one but Bards and enemies.

The series as a whole is very female-centric, and this one in particular is full of choice and empowerment and all that jazz. Personally I found Maerad’s struggle in the Winter King’s domain too much; her actual struggle to escape was fine, but the other bit that Croggon wants to get into, well, that was developed far too quickly and resolved far too quickly to seem like anything more than another character obstacle for Maerad to overcome.

I feel like there’s so much here in the book that I would love if it was revealed or developed in a different way. If I liked Maerad more, I might enjoy the books more, but she’s too…something…for me. I can’t really put my finger on what it is about her that I don’t care for. It’s like she’s too timid, but also too fierce, and I still don’t understand the magic enough to understand why she’s so powerful. I also don’t like the clumsy way Croggon is working in all of the “Fated One” stuff.

If I remember correctly, the next book takes place from the point of view of Hem, which may or may not be a nice change from two books of Maerad. I don’t usually like viewpoint changes, though, so I don’t know if it will matter for me. I’m two books in, so I think I will finish the series, but The Riddle didn’t do much to recommend the rest of the books to me.

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2M7uAcv

My Face to the Wind by Jim Murphy

My Face to the Wind: The Diary of Sarah Jane Price, a Prairie Teacher, by Jim Murphy, was published in 2001 by Scholastic.

Rating: 2/5

Dear America picks some odd topics to focus on. My Face to the Wind is about teaching school in the West. And it’s about as interesting as it sounds.

I’m sure that topic could be made interesting—Laura Ingalls Wilder’s story in These Happy Golden Years comes to mind—but the book takes way too long to get  to the actual teaching part, and there isn’t enough conflict or tension to keep things interesting. Oh, sure, Sarah Jane has some problems with her pupils, but not that much, and there’s very little of the novel actually focused on teaching. Most of the time Sarah Jane is only briefly describing what she does, while expounding on the tension at her boarding house or on brief clashes with the students.

There’s also such a strange inclusion here of a Reverend character. In the Historical Note, Murphy talks about religion, so it’s not strange to have a Reverend. What’s strange is that the Reverend’s actions are contrasted with that of the boarding house owner, Miss Kizer, and there’s an odd scene where Sarah Jane observes Miss Kizer reading her Bible and thinking and smiling, and Sarah Jane thinks, “Hmm, I wonder what she’s thinking about.” Then it never comes up again. So whatever comparison Murphy was trying to make falls a bit flat amidst all the other preachiness.

A lack of conflict in My Face to the Wind, coupled with a lack of focus on the actual teaching and weak student confrontations, makes it very boring. What saves it from a 1/5 rating is some interesting revelations about state law, hiring teachers, and other historical details. Yet, it’s still another random topic, uncompelling Dear America book to throw on the pile.

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Historical Fiction

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2WcDdWK

2004 Newbery Medal: The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo, was published in 2003 by Candlewick.

Rating: 2/5

I must not like Kate DiCamillo as an author (though I remember liking Because of Winn-Dixie). I didn’t like Flora and Ulysses, and I didn’t like The Tale of Despereaux, despite the latter’s place as a beloved children’s novel and one of the few that have had a film adaptation.

I really don’t know what it is about DiCamillo that I struggle with. Flora and Ulysses and The Tale of Despereaux are very dissimilar to each other. So, perhaps it is just the books and not the author herself.

What didn’t I like about Despereaux? Pretty much everything. The grating narrator “address the reader” asides, the simplistic themes, the annoying protagonist (yes, I found Despereaux annoying), the villain, the unwitting sidekick…all of it combined created an unpalatable mess that I could only barely tolerate. It was the type of book where, if I had my way, I would take forever to finish reading it because I dreaded it so much, but I forced myself to finish it so I could move on to a more exciting book.

However, Despereaux is still not bad enough for a 1/5 rating, and that’s because I acknowledge that this read had a lot more to do with me than it had to do with the book. I don’t like magical realism, I don’t like breaking-the-4th-wall narrators, and I don’t like simplistically obvious messages about light and dark and courage. Plus, the ending was extremely anticlimactic. However, I did like the introduction of complicated words and ideas that the narrator explained, and parts of the novel were, if not enjoyable, at least tolerable—so long as the narrator stayed out of things.

I’ve described lots of Newbery Medals as mediocre, and The Tale of Despereaux is one of the few that I’ve actively disliked, though I wouldn’t call it mediocre. I suppose it’s just an acknowledgement that tastes can vary among readers—even with award-winning books. The Tale of Despereaux is well-written and far from average, but, simply put, I just didn’t care for it.

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Fantasy, Realistic

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2X8Gvaw

The Hatchling by Kathryn Lasky

The Hatchling, by Kathryn Lasky, was published in 2005 by Scholastic. It is the sequel to The Burning.

Rating: 2/5

Growing up, I really enjoyed books seven and eight of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series. I liked the idea of a young owl overcoming his upbringing and seeking truth and new beginnings. The prophecy part was just an interesting addition for me. Now, of course, however many years later, I have different feelings about it (though the nostalgia factor is always there).

The Hatchling continues where The Burning left off—with Nyra and her egg. Nyroc is the son of Nyra and Kludd, and is destined, or so he is told, to be the next great leader of the Pure Ones. However, thanks to his friend Philip, a rogue smith, and his own firesight, Nyroc discovers the truth about his mother and the Pure Ones and runs away, eventually seeking to go Beyond the Beyond, a mysterious place full of wolves and volcanoes, to find the legendary Ember of Hoole.

As an adult, I can see many of the flaws and shortcomings of this book that I didn’t notice as a child. Nyroc’s change towards the Pure Ones is too abrupt and is handwaved away by his “strong gizzard” and by several actions taken by Nyra. A convenient enough reason for a children’s book, but too unsatisfying for me. The introduction of a random prophecy embedded into the Hoole stories is too sudden and not foreshadowed enough, although I liked that it is Otulissa, and not Soren, who discovers it and sets out on a quest.

But, I do like that Lasky is continuing to expand and build on her owl world, that she is introducing new concepts—however abruptly—and new places and new incentives for the characters. It’s exactly what an extended series should do, and she’s doing it (and she does it again in book 13). And, as I said, I didn’t notice any of these things when I was a child—I just enjoyed the story. So that’s a credit to Lasky.

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: Violence

Genre: Children’s, Fantasy

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2UsqtLO

1965 Newbery Medal: Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska

Shadow of a Bull, by Maia Wojciechowska, was published in 1964 by Atheneum.

Rating: 2/5

Shadow of a Bull is the story of Manolo, who struggles to find his own purpose in life as the people around him try to make him into the next great bullfighter, just like his father. It dives deeply into the rich history of Spain and of bullfighting, and Wojciechowska helpfully gives a glossary of all the Spanish bullfighting terms she uses. The whole book is basically a love letter to bullfighting and its roots in Spanish culture.

It’s also really boring.

This is the type of book where my mind goes wandering off while in the middle of reading, unable to find enough interest to keep its attention going. One time I read three pages without really processing what was happening, then had to give myself a little mental shake to get back on track. There was nothing to the book that really grabbed my attention and held it; I rushed to finish it because I was so bored of reading it.

Maybe it’s because outside of the main plot of Manolo deciding he doesn’t want to be a bullfighter, nothing else happens. It’s just bullfighting terms and people talking about bullfighting. That’s it.

I suppose after such a long string of good Newbery Medals, there had to be one that I didn’t like. Shadow of a Bull was not my cup of tea at all.

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Historical Fiction

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2HJtMHD

My Heart is on the Ground by Ann Rinaldi

My Heart is on the Ground: The Diary of Nannie Little Rose, a Sioux Girl, by Ann Rinaldi, was published in 1999 by Scholastic.

Rating: 2/5

My Heart is on the Ground is probably the most controversial Dear America book, and perhaps reportedly the most historically inaccurate. It’s the story of a young Lakota girl at the Carlisle Indian School and her experience there, and unfortunately it’s really not the best representation. That’s really a bit of an understatement, but since I don’t know much about the Carlisle Indian School (or any of those schools), I can only surmise from what I’ve heard people say about the book, as well as from the book itself.

I’m of the opinion that any book is useful for learning and teaching, which is why I didn’t give this book a lower rating. If anything, this book is a good stepping stone for a discussion on Indian schools and the treatment of the children there. It’s also a good lesson for how simplifying material to fit the audience can distort at best, and mislead at worst, other cultures and beliefs.

The story is…not great. Even I can tell the tone is tone-deaf, at best, and I only know little bits of Indian history from books such as I Buried My Heart at Wounded Knee. Just like in The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow, the tone is completely wrong. Nannie Little Rose is way too happy about the school, even in the midst of describing how the Carlisle Indian School is visibly eliminating most everything to do with her culture.

Plus, the author’s note is so lethargic, and so vague, that it makes Rinaldi seem as if she’s deliberately downplaying the history that she must have researched, or not willing to go into more depth and nuance in a children’s book. It is possible that the audience and nature of these books pressured her, or perhaps Scholastic did. I won’t really speculate as I can’t know for sure. But it seems odd that some of these books seem so well researched, and others not at all (or the research ignored).

I think many works of historical fiction have benefit, but it’s hard to talk about any benefit to My Heart is on the Ground beyond “how to enrage people with inaccurate history.” I’m really not sure what Scholastic, or Rinaldi, was thinking. Letting children know about that time period: good. Doing it in the way they did, when any amount of historical research will reveal the opposite of what this book is saying: bad.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None, beyond historical inaccuracy.

Genre: Children’s, Historical Fiction

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2OpfnRk

On Tide Mill Lane by Melissa Wiley

On Tide Mill Lane, by Melissa Wiley, was published in 2001 by HarperTrophy. It is the sequel to Little House by Boston Bay.

Rating: 2/5

On Tide Mill Lane is a dreadfully boring installment of the Charlotte Years. Though it details the end of the War of 1812, there is little to keep it interesting, family and friend drama aside. The Charlotte Years have always seemed the weakest to me, but this book highlights that weakness. There’s virtually no plot—each chapter is only tangentially related to others, if at all—and Charlotte has no growth at all. She’s also not a very convincing five-year-old. In fact, it’s Charlotte’s mother, Martha, who has most of the focus, as if Wiley is still trying to hold on to those Martha Years.

The dialogue and descriptions are also really cheesy. A child likely won’t find them that way, but as an adult, I could barely keep from rolling my eyes. In addition, everything is spelled out very nice and neatly, so that nothing can possibly escape the reader’s attention and understanding. I love children’s books, but this one is too non-subtle for me.

I can barely remember what happens in the next Charlotte book, but I remember the last one being quite interesting, and it at least has Charlotte stop being perpetually five. I will, however, be glad to be done with these last two books so that I can move on to the Caroline Years, one of my favorites.

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Historical Fiction

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2F9VsSf