©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Angst, Mr Darcy, and Pot Luck Favorites

I chose this book because of its title: Persuasion, Captain Wentworth, and Cracklin' Cornbread. It looked like it would be a fun read. I had no clue what the book would be about, truly, but that didn't matter, the title sounded fun. Mary Jane Hathaway has written a nice book even though it wasn't what I expected.

There are characters in the book who really made me angry because they couldn't see past the ends of their own noses, there are characters I wanted to shake and say, "Wake Up!," and then there are characters that I really came to adore and wished they were real people.

Lucy is trying to keep her family's antebellum plantation home from going into foreclosure but she can't stop her father from overspending or get him to stop her sister's frivolous spending. Lucy's Aunt Olympia has come up with the solution--lease out the servants' quarters to the free clinic of Tupelo, Mississippi, which is a reasonable idea to Lucy. The only catch is that the doctor who will be providing the services in the free clinic is Lucy's old boyfriend, Jem Chevy. Jem is remembered by Lucy's family for bringing a pan of cornbread to a catered affair. He was from "the wrong side of the tracks," and really not seen as fit for Lucy, but now Lucy is old enough to make her own decisions.

In taking care of her family and her home, Lucy has more worries than she can truly manage. When her sister buys a $7000 purse, it is almost more than Lucy can take. In the midst of this Lucy is asked to be in her cousin's Jane Austen wedding where the men will dress like Mr Darcy and the women will dress in Regency Era dresses.

I will say this, in spite of the angst in the book, it is a good read. I really got sucked into the story and ended up staying up way past my bedtime to finish the book. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a pan of homemade cornbread.

Simon and Schuster provided the book galley to me for my honest review. I was not compensated in any way for my opinions.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Amish Grace at Its Best

I've not read an Amy Lillard book before, but she writes an intriguing tale. To take the differences between various branches of Amish and weave them into the story is the work of a real talent. Amy has done just that. Caroline has moved from her Schwartzentruber Amish group in Tennessee to a Beachy Amish group in Wells Landing, Oklahoma, while holding a secret. While there, she has given birth to her beloved daughter, Emma, and become one of the community. Andrew has moved from Missouri to Wells Landing to help his Uncle Abe with furniture making and to recover from the loss of his fiancee, Beth. Caroline and Andrew meet and begin to plot and plan to get Uncle Abe together with Esther, who employs Caroline and gives her a home. In the meantime, Esther and Abe plot and plan to get Caroline and Abe together.

Caroline resists entering into a relationship with Andrew because of her secret--that Emma's father is not dead and she's not a widow as people have assumed. When Caroline finds out that Emma's father, Trey, has been searching for her, she goes back home to Tennessee to find him. When Trey finds out he has a daughter, he wants to marry Caroline and make things right. The only problem with the plan is that Caroline would have to give up everything she's ever known--she would be totally excommunicated from the Amish, and her whole family. It's almost too hard to bear, but in order for Emma to know her father, Caroline feels that's exactly what she must do. It is through this situation that the grace comes to the fore and is lived out in Caroline's life.

Caroline's Secret is well written, with a compelling plot that holds the reader from page one all the way through to the back cover. Meeting Caroline through the bakery where she works and through her love for her daughter shows Amish grace at its best. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and cookies that will melt in your mouth.

Zebra Books provided a copy of this book for my honest, yet opinionated review. I was not compensated in any way for my thoughts.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Courageous Women

The book I finished reading last night is, very unfortunately, forgettable. Wanda Brunstetter is known for her Amish fiction, and this is a departure from her normal milieu.

Amanda and her father are Quakers and heading toward the Spaulding Mission to serve the Nez Perce. On the way, Amanda's father dies and Amanda and her guide are left to finish the journey. During a heavy storm, Amanda's guide is crushed by a falling tree limb and now Amanda is alone to finish her journey. Amanda, chilled from the storm, becomes ill and is not able to continue her journey. She falls asleep under the trees where she is found by Buck, a mountain man checking his traps. He takes her to his friend Jim's cabin where Jim's wife takes care of her until she is fully recovered. Jim asks Amanda to stay until his Nez Perce wife Mary Yellow Feather is delivered of her baby. When Rendezvous time comes around, Jim, his wife, and Amanda head for the Rendezvous, but before they get there, Jim is struck by a rattle snake and dies. Mary Yellow Feather and Amanda continue on to the Rendezvous and meet up with Buck again.

Most of the book revolves around calamities, deaths, and disaster. I will grant that traveling to the frontier was fraught with all kinds of dangers. It was not an easy trip to make and people were largely unprepared for the hardships they would face. It took A Woman of Courage to make the trip and then to fulfill the desires that sent them on the trip in the first place. The writing is compelling enough to keep the reader engaged; I would have enjoyed it a bit more without so much death and disaster. Three and a half stars.

This book was provided to me by Shiloh Run Press through NetGalley.com in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed in this post are only that--opinions. No compensation was given to me for this review.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Handbag Workshop

I am all over sewing things for myself, for others, or just in general. Today I made two neck coolers and wrist coolers using the soil moisturizing pellets--nothing much--just a few seams and it's done! But that's not what this is about. I grabbed the Handbag Workshop by Anna M Mazur to read and review because I am always on the lookout for a neat purse pattern. I took the time to read through several chapters and found that Anna is a wonderful author as far as her directions and designs go. The patterns were wonderful! This book is about sewing with leather and she makes incredible sense in her directions. She is thorough in listing tools needed, steps to take, how to measure and cut out the patterns, as well as how to customize her patterns for your personal statement bag. It will definitely take a second read for me to choose a bag to make for me.

Five Stars

Taunton Press provided a copy of this book for me through NetGalley.com. I was not compensated in any way for my honest review of the book.

A Match of Wits

We are glad to have you at our Jen Turano "A Match of Wits" Awards program. It promises to be an entertaining evening.
By the way, have you heard: He who doesn't lose his wits over certain things has no wits to lose.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

Just remember never to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed man!

Presenting our first award are Arabella and Theodore Wilder:

"Theodore, isn't it great to be able to be here tonight? Can you imagine all the events that brought us to this point?"

"Yes, Arabella, but we need to get on with our presentation--the nominees for the best female character in a supporting role are: Drusilla Swanson, Matilda Watson, Cora Watson, Gloria Beckett, and Piper Beckett. And the winner of the female character in a supporting role is Matilda Watson!"

The crowd is hushed as Matilda makes her way to the stage to accept her award. Matilda is elegantly dressed in a new diamond collar and pink silk leash. As she makes her way to the podium, the audience wonders what Matilda will say about how she won her award. Matilda takes her place at the microphone and, . . .

"I am deeply grateful for Agatha Watson Beckett who saved me from that horrible place the hotel manager wanted to send me to, Mrs. Drusilla Swanson, Mr. Francis Blackheart, and Mr. Zayne Beckett who all saw me safely to New York. I never realized until tonight how important my role was; all I was doing was taking care of Agatha, or protecting her. She understands me, loves me, and takes me wherever she goes. She's all a girl like me could hope for. Thank you to the Jan Turano Foundation for this award, and to all the readers who voted for me. I love you all."

As I wait outside to interview Matilda, I hear the crowd going wild because Matilda won her coveted Witty award. Here she comes now.

Matilda may I ask you a couple of questions?

Certainly, dear.

Tell me, Matilda, what drew you to Agatha in the first place?

She's one of the most caring individuals I've ever met, and besides that, she needed me. In fact, she still does--that woman does not know how to stay out of trouble. Did you know someone was after her, trying to kill her? It took all I had to keep her alive, or that miserable man would have succeeded.

Why was "that miserable man," as you called him, trying to kill her?

He thought she was trying to do his job, he was jealous she could do it better, that people liked her more, and that she should be at home taking care of hearth and family.

Aren't those rather shallow reasons for trying to kill someone?

Oh yes, dear, but when someone is out to get another, one reason is as good as any other.

What other role did you fill in Agatha's life?

When she thought Zayne was going to go back to Helena, I was no small comfort to her, and then I was instrumental in getting her together with Zayne at last. It's all a fascinating story, but I've got to run. Agatha is waiting for me.

And there you have it. What's that you say? Didn't I noticed that Matilda was a . . . ? Shhhhhhhhhhh, she doesn't like that word! If you are going to call her a 'P' word, call her Princess. She doesn't like being called a P I G.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a small porcine animal to protect you.

This book was provided to me by Bethany House for my honest review. I received no compensation for stating my opinions.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

For the Love of Pete

Debby Mayne writes an incedibly entertaining novel and For the Love of Pete is no exception.

Bethany is widowed and has moved back to her hometown, Bloomfield, into her mother-in-law's home with all her mother-in-law's things and tchatchkes. Her life feels as cluttered as her home, but she's too attached to her "stuff" to let it all go.

Pete is the confirmed bachelor that Bethany has known since she was in high school. Unknown to Bethany, the reason that Pete has never married is because he's been in love with her ever since he's known her and no other woman has ever measured up to Bethany, and now she's back!

Throwing in Pete's parents, Bethany's mother, and the president of the garden club all trying to match them up makes a recipe for hilarity and frustration for Bethany and Pete.

The only criticism I have is that Bethany's mother and the president of the garden club are strong personalities and tend to run rough-shod over everyone and everything in their paths. One strong personality would have been enough to make the book a good book, but two of them make it a little harder to enjoy.

Even though this is part of a series, it stands alone well enough that the reader is not lost in the reading.

Four Strong Stars

This book was provided for me by the publisher through NetGalley.com for my honest review. I was not compensated.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Buttermilk Sky

A buttermilk sky is full of little fluffy clouds and for Mazy, it's full of happy thoughts. Mazy is from the hills of Kentucky, but at the time of the book is living in Lexington going to secretarial school. She wants more from life than her small town life can give her.

Buttermilk Sky is one of the Troublesome Creek novels by Jan Watson. She describes a quiet town with people who want to live quiet lives. That quiet life never seems to happen--back in Skip Rock Shallows, the sheriff Chanis Clay has to deal with an ornery Mrs Evers in trying to take care of her husband, Oney. Oney has diabetes and there isn't much known about the disease in the early 1900's--it's commonly called "the sugar" and it's completely misunderstood. Mazy's life in Lexington isn't very quiet either; with four other boarders living with her in the boarding house, there is always something brewing for fun and entertainment.

Jan Watson has a way with words that gives the reader a sense of an enjoyable afternoon talking with friends over a glass of iced tea. This story moves along at a languid pace with a few bits of excitement thrown in to keep the reader awake. I enjoyed the book, but didn't LOVE it. Even though it is part of a series, I didn't feel lost trying to find my way through the plot--there is enough information for it to stand alone. The characters are exactly whom Jan has written them to be: some lovable, some tolerable, and some not so much. True emotions work their way through these characters in realistic situations and make the book an exquisitely likable read. Four strong stars.

The galley of this book was provided for me through Tyndale House in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated in any way for my review.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Through Deep Waters

Last night I stayed up till this morning finishing this book, which wasn't the smartest move I've ever made. I had a list of errands as long as my arm to accomplish and really needed to be at full functioning power, BUT I couldn't put this down. I've read quite a number of Kim Vogel Sawyer's books and with minor exceptions I have LOVED every book I've read by her. She's a gifted writer with the ability to grab the reader from the very first page and not let go. Once the reader finishes one of her books, that reader wants more and will not be easily satisfied--at least I am not.

Dinah was born and raised in a brothel and wanted out in the worst way. When her mother was sick and dying, Dinah did the unthinkable to get the money to take care of her and bury her, then she left the brothel and moved to a city where the FIRST Harvey hotel, the Clifton, was located. She was hired as a chambermaid because she was too young to be a server. The first person she met in Florence, Kansas, was Amos Ackerman--a chicken farmer and a man who wanted to befriend Dinah. Dinah also met Ruthie, her soon to be roommate and the daughter of the local pastor. Through Ruthie Dinah met the most important Person she'd ever know--the Lord.

Kim has woven the gospel into her book so seamlessly, that the reader wonders how the book would work without it. When Dinah reads the story of the daughter of Jacob and Leah, she finds how her life has mirrored Dinah's from the Bible. Ruthie points out another woman that Dinah's life could mirror--the woman healed of the hemorrhage--that Dinah could receive healing from her experience from the One who heals all diseases.

My heart broke when Dinah's past caught up with her in the person who took her innocence, and Amos could not reconcile himself to what had happened to her. I wanted to stand and cheer when Dinah's boss kicked that man out of the hotel and reported him to the sheriff. That Amos was there to witness that incident was just icing on the cake.

This book is definitely FIVE STARS, two thumbs up, and an exceptionally clean room in the Clifton

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Love. Period.

I was invited to participate a blog tour reviewing a book by Rudy Rasmus. The Worthy Publishing website describes Rudy this way:
Pastor Rudy Rasmus has led St. John's United Methodist Church with his wife, Juanita, for more than twenty years. St. John's has grown to over 9,000-member church (3,000 of whom are, or were, homeless at one time) and is one of the most culturally diverse congregations in the country. Pastor Rudy attributes the success of the church to a compassionate congregation which has embraced the vision of tearing down walls of classism, sexism, and racism, and replacing them with unconditional love and acceptance. Rudy and Juanita are the proud parents of two daughters.
Through reading his book, I came to know Rudy quite well. He has written a book of transparency and realness.

Love. Period. is a way to do ministry, is a way to do life, is life itself, and ultimately has to be the motivation behind every action and every thought. By taking 1 Corinthians 13 and breaking it down into digestible pieces, Rudy Rasmus has defined love the way it has to be lived in the present culture and society. One thing that Rudy says in the book that really struck home with me is about short term missions trips. He says that the short term trips don't always achieve the desired objective. They tend to remove a person's desire to "do" for themselves, make the people more dependent, and fill a need in the person making the trip rather than the person being "served."

A recent conversation with my brother reinforced everything Rudy has said in this book. My brother said that the sole purpose of the church is to point people to Jesus. For the ones who don't know Christ, the church should be pointing to Jesus as the ONLY source of salvation. For those who do know and follow Christ, the church needs to be showing Jesus as the only example to model their lives on. It is the Christian's duty, call to action, raison d'etre, and privilege of life.

Today after I finished the book, I handed it to my husband, who is also an elder in my church, and remarked that it should be required reading. I didn't specify who should read it, just that it should be widely read. And once it's read, it should be practiced.

When I agreed to participate in this tour, I was given the transcript of an interview with Rudy, and I offer it here for your reading pleasure. After reading it, I encourage you to buy the book; read it; buy it for your pastor, your friends, your relatives; and then to start living a life of Love. Period.

1. You believe that loving without condition means loving regardless of race, class, gender, orientation, or past deeds. How would you respond to someone who says he can’t love someone who he believes is making sinful lifestyle choices?
Sinful is a big word with many implications and interpretations based on the cultural context. I define sin as “anything that separates a person from their creator and prohibits that person from fulfilling their God ordained purpose.” With this definition in mind, to determine another person’s “sinful lifestyle choice” is a subjective experience based on how the person interprets the word “sin.”

To begin with, I carefully separate a person’s race, class, gender, or orientation from a person’s conscious deeds which are more connected to a person’s character defined by the way a person thinks, feels or responds. The task of every person in the human family is to respect “the other’s” place in the world rather than assuming agreement is necessary for love to be present.

2. How have you seen love break down walls of classism, sexism, and racism in your own city of Houston?
Achieving racial equality has been a long journey in Houston and the rest of the American South. I drank from a separate water fountain until I was 11 years old in Houston but today it is one of the most diverse cities in the United States.
If the mandate of love is to “love your neighbor as you love yourself,” then Houston is proving everyday that it is a place where people of every class, station, or orientation have a place to call home. This is a reminder that love ultimately accomplishes what legislation can’t.

3. You write that there is a big difference between loving our neighbor as ourselves and loving the neighborhood. What do you mean by that?
I don’t believe you can truly extend love to broader cultural context before you can perfect loving the person in front of you at this very moment. If I want to know how you interpret love, I can look for your fruit as a determinant. The love Jesus talked about is not preferential love based on a pre-existing qualification process, but its love in the same way that God loves us and out of this love we are to love “the neighbor.” I am making the assumption “the neighbor” is a sociological parameter and not a geographic determination makes everyone on the planet our neighbor whether we like, agree, or approve of their life expression or not. The greatest commandment was to love God (through sacrifice), love others (through service), and to love self (through self-respect).

4. What is the connection between vulnerability and love?
Madeleine L’Engle once wrote, “When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable.”
The major obstacle in today’s world prohibiting the sharing of love is scarcity, inadequacy, and insecurity. In other words, not feeling as though I have enough; not feeling I can do enough; and not feeling I am enough. There is a proverb that goes, “The person who doesn’t know what enough is, will never have enough.” Scarcity is rampant in shame-prone, materialistic, competitive societies, which are overly focused on lack.
Love requires a generous heart, free of fear, and a willingness to be vulnerable.
In Love. Period. I wrote, “Love liberates us so we can walk fully in the truth of God’s love, and reach out to others with great vulnerability, in order to engage others in a relationship that brings honor to God.”

5. We hear a lot about being an “entitlement nation.” How do you see that displayed in our society today?
The term “narcissism” finds its origins in Greek Mythology where Narcissus is remembered for having fallen in love with his own reflection. And since he could not obtain the object of his love, he died of sorrow by the same pool. I’m not implying our society has fatally fallen in love with its own image, but could that we have become so consumed with our own reflection, that we have possibly missed seeing the needs of the world around us? At the end of the day, “Love is as love does.”

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Lady and the Officer

It was kind of hard to switch gears after reading the last book, but I got into this book fairly easily and finished it quite handily.

I am not acquainted with Mary Ellis' books and writing style but this was a nice introduction to both. The book is a Civil War romance with not much romance, but a whole lot of war. Mary has done her research into lifestyles and war practices during the 1860's and woven the information seamlessly into her novel.

Madeline Howard is a widow who wants nothing more than to continue her husband's dream of breeding and raising horses. When soldiers trample her flowers, the general with them apologizes to Madeline and moves his soldiers onward. The only problem is that he can't get her out of his mind. When someone comes and steals all of Madeline's horses, Madeline goes to appeal to the general for the return of her favorite horse. After Madeline's house gets hit with artillery fire and burns to the ground, Madeline moves to Richmond, Virginia, to live with her aunt, uncle, and cousin. Now Madeline has the attention of a southern officer assigned to Jefferson Davis' home guard, but she tells him from the very beginning that her heart is already given away to another man. He has a hard time believing her and pursues her affections throughout the rest of the book.

The novel is an easy-to-read novel with sympathetic characters, well researched plot elements, and believable situations. But I have a wish list for the book. Madeline wants to do more for the cause, but her efforts are few and far between. Mary introduces elements of the war into the book, but not enough. I don't mean the gore and such, she handled that well, but effects of the battles on the ordinary people of the town could have been worked in a bit better. Madeline's efforts could have taken a more prominent role in the story and only added to the intrigue of the plot. Overall, a four-star book

This book was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley.com in exchange for my honest review. No other remuneration was offered or given.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

In the Field of Grace

Oh My! For starters: Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a Sheaf of Wheat

Tessa Afshar writes books that take events in the Bible and puts them into a perspective both unexpected and highly entertaining. One thing you can say about Tessa's writings is that she researches the cultures and events of the times she is writing about. This book retells the love story of Ruth and Boaz. Do not forget that this is a novel--the parts of this story that fill in the blanks are all part of the author's imagination, but her imagination does a spectacular job of filling in those blanks. In the Afterword of the book, Tessa reminds her readers that reading her novels does not replace personal study of the Bible, because her books are fiction even though they are based on actual historical events.

The book opens before Ruth met Mahlon and describes the events that lead up to their coming together. Even after Naomi loses Elimelech, Mahlon, and Chillion, she stays in Moab for a time before deciding to return to Bethlehem. Ruth has no true ties to keep her in Moab and travels with Naomi back to Judah. When they get to Naomi's house, Ruth sees the deterioration from years of neglect and determines to work to make repairs. First she has to find work so that they won't starve. Her ability to listen to God takes her to glean in the wheat fields owned by Boaz.

Tessa takes this short book from the Bible and fleshes it out to make a compelling novel. This is the second book of Tessa's I've read, and I absolutely love her way with words.

Moody Publishers supplied a copy of this book for my honest review, there was no compensation for my opinion.