Monday, April 14, 2014

Sincerely Yours....Four Times the Fun


I read a new volume of novellas titled Sincerely Yours written by Jane Kirkpatrick, Amanda Cabot, Laurie Alice Eakes and Ann Shorey.  I like the format of the novella; shorter than a novel but longer than a short story. The stories in this book have one thing in common: a letter received that can forever change the life of the one who receives it.

Moonlight Promise by Laurie Alice Eakes is about a young woman from England who lost her rank and fortune and came to America to begin a new life. America offers much at a time when the Erie Canal is about to open, offering a pathway to the unsettled west. Camilla, the heroine, misses her connection and is short on funds when she literally jumps aboard the Marianne, raising the ire of one Captain Nathaniel Black who'd just as soon toss her overboard than provide safe passage to find her friends. Raised as a lady with no skills to make her way, she is surprised at the gifts she receives on this ride to her new life. The captain is beset with troubles of his own as he fights to keep the Marianne and secure his future. He has no use for women and it is a wonder how he allowed Camilla to remain on board. The surprises do unfold though and there are twists that kept me turning pages until the end. 
Lessons in Love by Ann Shorey tells of M.M. Bentley, a marriage advice columnist applying for the weekly newspaper. The arrangement is a happy one until the columnist receives a letter from the editor who wants to meet Mr. Bentley and offer him a permanent assignment for the paper.  The letter was a dream come true for Marigold Montgomery Bentley, who is a young, single woman. Marigold (Merrie) quickly enlists her piano teacher, Colin Thackery to act as her husband, so that she can keep writing for the paper. What follows is a warm hearted story of a time of calling cards, debutantes and balls. Ann Shorey is very good at writing about independent spirited young women, and Merrie is no exception.

One Little Word  by Amanda Cabot is a good story about mistaken identity and how sometimes first impressions can be misleading. Lorraine Caldwell, our heroine stands to lose her fortune if she misses a deadline for marriage and the only prospect is a man that makes her skin crawl. She receives her letter from her  brother, whom she feared dead asking her to come to him by train for some important news. She jumps at the chance to see him  and makes a hasty trip to Lilac Hall.  Lorraine is met at the station by one Jonah Mann, an English carousel artist.  I love historical fiction and this one gave me good insight  into carousels. Fictional Jonah trained under Charles Looff, the renowned carousel carver and creator of the carousel I have ridden on since childhood in Spokane Washington. I loved the history that is interspersed in this story. The next time I go downtown for a ride I plan to take a closer look at the horses he carved so lovingly.

A Saving Grace by Jane Kirkpatrick is a story of friendship. Friendship stemming from the Dalles Oregon to a desolate health clinic on the Puget Sound of Washington State.  Grace Hathaway receives her letter from 8 year old Caroline asking Grace to find her mother, Grace's friend Rebecca. Rebecca was despondent after the drowning death of her husband and after a time, she entered a secluded sanatorium  run by Dr. Linda Hazzard. Dr. Hazzard and her husband offer special treatments that promise to restore health.  Grace intends to visit Rebecca and have her come back to Oregon with her.  Grace meets Mr. Milliken at her hotel and discovers he is surrounded by mystery and a connection to the Sanatorium. This is a story of bittersweet courage on Grace's part in persisting in the challenge of helping her friend Rebecca find her way back to Caroline. After reading this story I looked up Dr. Linda Hazzard and her clinic in Olalla Washington. I am always amazed to learn of things that happened in our state long ago that seem like they couldn't happen but did happen.

I look forward to reading more books by each of these authors.

Monday, March 31, 2014

In the Shadow of Jezebel...A Plot of Biblical Proportions!

What lies In the Shadow of Jezebel by Mesu Andrews for me is a memory of Lady Macbeth and all her treacherous plots to move her husband to the to the top of the game of leadership. A woman so cunning she would risk everyone she purports to love.  Queen Athalia is the daughter of Jezebel and a high priestess of Baal. Her husband becomes king by her hand in plots of murder and formidable use of dark arts.

In the Shadow of JezebelAthalia favors her Stepdaughter Jehosheba and wishes for her to become a great high priestess. Her rigorous training to live the celibate life as priestess to Baal is an honor to Sheba and perhaps the way to win the queen's love. The skills she has learned are the one thing she is certain of in her life. The queen's mother love is mixed with abuse enough to scare the young princess and cause her to doubt any true love or to trust that she can be loved.


Bargained off in marriage to the High Priest of Judah, Sheba feels abandonment from her father. She is separated also from her beloved brother Ahazia. She is stripped of her right to succeed the queen into the role of a pagan high priest. She learns to see her world from a very different perspective, however, as she keeps her husband's marital conditions to serve the one true God of Judah and no other.

She is unprepared for marriage and for living in the temple of Judah where she must give up servants and luxuries that she is used to. Her husband, Jehoida is far different than anyone she has met in her life. He is kind, protective and he is true to his word. His faith in Yahweh is unshakeable no matter the events in an evil world that surrounded his temple and the life he and Sheba lived.

The story has all the elements of a thrilling tale of modern fantasy yet it occurs in the Old Testament of the Bible about people who descend from David's line. Mesu Andrews has brought this story to life for me. There are so many things I could speak to yet the story is not one I wish to spoil. I haven't read this author's work before but plan to look for more in the future.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ann H Gabhart's Summer of Joy...A Novel

Summer of JoyI read Summer of Joy by Ann H Gabhart while recovering recently from foot surgery. It kept me company as the days filled with ice and elevation grew long and lonely. I felt myself becoming one with the staff of the Hollyhill Banner, a weekly paper for the folks in the small town of Hollyhill, Kentucky. David Brooke is pastor of the Mt. Pleasant Church and newspaper editor. His daughter Jocie helps out at the paper while sister Tabitha is single mother to Stephen Lee, a bi-racial baby boy.

Gossip and speculation abound in the story but as David Brooke teaches his daughters you just have to put things out there and eventually any talk that may come will fade away. He knows this to be true from experience when his first wife walked out one night when Jocie was little.  Now, all these years later, David is ready to love again and marry Leigh, who is loved by both Jocie and Tabitha. Before this can happen though, we meet with some unexpected suspense in the story that will keep you turning pages!

 Small town life in the south during 1964 seems like a idyllic setting and that is not the case with Summer of Joy. For that matter, some of the story is not joyful at all but like all life there is a story here to be shared.



 


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Whimsical Wednesday....


Fiebiger J'Adore Pink Ankle Strap Heels
Strappy!
The Open-Toe, Rupert Sanderson Suede Floria Stiletto Sandals, $825; ssense.com    Read more: Spring Shoes for Women 2013 - Spring Heels Wedges Flats Booties  Follow us: @ElleMagazine on Twitter | ellemagazine on Facebook  Visit us at ELLE.com
Supportive!
I have been off from work for a week now recovering from foot surgery. I am now in touch with my inner being, read 4 books and looked at every category on Facebook and perused a lot of Pinterest Boards.  I have watched the entire season of Drop Dead Diva. I am only now pondering who will marry Jane or who will bring Marshmallow Pops for Easter...after all the choices for both are intriguing.

Flora Suede Point Toe Pump
Gorgeous!
I must say that I am ready to have my stitches out so I can get moving again. I told my doctor last week  that my goal for the surgery was NOT to wear stilettos. All in all there are some great looking shoes out there on Pinterest!

oh, this brings out the kid in me (which never really left anyway)  CAN YOU SAY Pumped up Kicks?
Sensible....but....















Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Dream Dress by Janice Thompson


The Dream Dress is the third book in the christian romance series Weddings by Design by Janice Thompson. For every bride there is a dress; not just a dress but the dress.  Being a mom of two married daughters, I concur, the dress has to be the dress for each bride. Our story is about Gabi Delgado, a young woman living with her mother and grandmother in a house of unfulfilled dreams. Gabi is an independent woman who designs and sews her own creations by night and works in an alteration closet by day for one of the most renown designers in Texas. At the beginning of each chapter is a witty quote from Gabi's role model Ginger Rogers the famous dancer....who did everything in heels. Gabi works hard for everything she has and is determined one day to get her big break; in romance, as a famous designer and maybe as the owner of a car with both side mirrors firmly attached to a newer car.  In this romantic story our heroine finds that everywhere she turns she is asked to have a little faith. Gabi finds little of that in her heart, especially when it comes to love.  Will she be put off the handsome writer for Texas Bride? Will she ever get a break in her own designing career? How can she stand one more day working for someone who doesn't appreciate her work?  Janice Thompson shares the hopes and dreams of a young woman with little hope and lots of dreams. The story is humorous and touching but more importantly, it is a testament faith and how a bit goes a long way.  Pick up a copy and settle in for a relaxing good read.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Culture Clash: My Amish Boyfriend

Cover ArtShannon does not have it all but she does have goals for summer vacation that won't see her sitting idly by. Not bad goals for a girl of sixteen!  Life does take a turn in this story though and sometimes reality is harder to believe than fiction.  No matter how you plan  it seems that life often takes those unexpected turns.  Summer vacation has just begun and Shannon learns that her mother's parents are alive. Not only alive but they are Amish!  Shannon and her chronically ill mother are to take the bus to Ohio the very next morning so that her mother can get well again.  Hard to absorb this piece of news, it is harder yet when Shannon gets off the bus and waits for her uncle to pick them up in a horse and buggy.

As Shannon is adapting to living a plain life she is captivated by a young Amish man named Ezra who has all the looks and charms to sweep her off her feet. His smooth talking ways are sincere to Shannon, who has just met her first love. Is he truly in love with her?  Would he love her more if she converted to the Amish faith?  Would her mother's family accept her more too if she became one of them?

Her mother, Anna, is not improving and Shannon is faced with serious decisions to make that are not supported by her Amish family.  She must take responsibility and come into her own identity.  This is a coming of age story unlike many you have read. Melody Carlson tells a story of love and being true to self. I love how she weaves so many ideas through the story. A simple life is not as simple as it looks.  Anyone who lives past their teen years knows from experience they are difficult in and of themselves.

I am impressed with the well written plot and character development of My Amish Boyfriend. My granddaughter saw my copy on my desk and is waiting to borrow it. It will be a fun book to discuss with her and I am sure we will talk at length of the characters.  I wonder how she will react when she sees the plot twist and turn; I wonder what she will say about Ezra and his loyalty to his faith and family.  This is the first time I have read one of Melody Carlson's books and I understand her appeal to young readers. The characters are easy to identify with and the story keeps the reader's interest.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Loves Sweet Beginnings

Love's Sweet Beginning (Sisters at Heart #3)In the years following the Civil War, a young woman named Cassie Haddon and her mother struggle after losing everything. How can two women used to living a life with servants in a fine home make it on their own.  The story unfolds to show how determined Cassie was to step in to provide a home for her mother. With no skills this proves difficult. In the predictable sense of a good story, she finds a job and works hard to build a home for herself and her mother. What is important is how she accomplishes this in a  time when ladies don't work with their hands and need the protection of a strong man.

Ann Shorey's characters in this novel are strong people who represent the strength of character necessary to build the great country we live in today.  Cassie's mother, a helpless widow used to fine things. Jacob West who owns the restaurant and grocery hailed from Boston. Wash and Becca, former slaves who come together for a new life in freedom.  All of the characters in this story become as changed as the times they lived in.  History, romance and a deep faith make Love's Sweet Beginning a good story to be read with a good cup of tea.

Rachel by Jill Eileen Smith

Jill Eileen Smith has touched us again with her Wives of the Patriarchs series. Rachel, book three in this series is a compelling story of Rachel and her sister Leah, who both love and marry Jacob.

Cover ArtSet in biblical times, this is the story of Jacob and his two wives.  The author brings them to life and we experience their joys of love and agonies of deception. Jacob is deceived on his wedding night when his bride is switched for her sister. He wakes up in the morning to discover Leah, and not Rachel by his side.  Thus begins the deception of Laban, father of both women and Jacob's uncle.  The deception Jacob faced from Laban was cruel and inspired by greed. Jacob worked seven years to pay the bride price for Rachel only to be tricked into working another seven years to pay for her hand.

Perseverance and faith in God dominate a story that is timeless in its humanity.  Jacob's faith in one God, Adonai, inspired Leah's faith and over time she learned to persevere in her love and devotion. Rachel also abandoned the many gods of her father's people. She too began to love with an open heart and abandon life long jealousies between herself and Leah.

Important biblical themes like jealousy and lust are timeless and the lessons learned are still important today. I was inspired by the love and patience in this story. Rachel  forgives Leah and both women are stronger together than as rivals. It is hard to put myself into the stories of the bible at times of so long ago and the author captured the sights and sounds so well. In this story I can feel the wind on the desert and the sound of sheep.  I encourage you to get this book and experience the romance and intrigue in Rachel's story.  I have come away looking for more... and look forward to the next book in the series.

Friday, February 14, 2014

You're Going to Be Okay an Encouraging book for All Women

You're Going to Be Okay Cover
I am happy to review Holley Gerth's latest book, You're going to Be Okay. This book is well written with simple affirmations for every woman. Easy to implement strategies to help us all find God in our chaotic daily lives.

So often we are mired in the depths of our weakest moments. We know the mind is powerful yet we do not guard our hearts from the negative thoughts that overtake our common sense. When we turn to God and feel His amazing love for us in all situations we will find healing. We can stop sabotaging ourselves, change our attitudes and make the most of our changes. How often do we tell ourselves so many negative things that we become small minded? We are made to be loved and to love.

I liked having the questions for deeper study at the end of the book. Listed by chapter, this easy to follow guide is a good tool and easy reference to putting Holley's lessons into practice.  We are all made for a purpose and my purpose is not tied to the negative thoughts that can try to intrude my mind. How freeing to push such thoughts aside and find peace with a guarded heart.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Shadows of the Past a Suspenseful Adventure in Paperback

I was up for a suspenseful mystery so the prospect of reading Shadows of the Past by Patricia Bradley was a reward after a long week.

Shadows of the PastTaylor Martin is a Criminal Psychology professor with a specialty in criminal profiling.  The story begins at a crime scene where Taylor has been called in to consult with Newton County  Sheriff's Department.  As the crime scene wraps up she feels inside her pocket and finds an alarming note imprinted with Meade Funeral Home imprinted on the top. She smells the hint of Old Spice wafting through the air. How did the note get inside her pockets? Is it written by someone who has been stalking her? The last offering was a bouquet of black roses. Could it be from a troubled young man who had taken a course from her the term before?

At the scene she meets Nick Sinclair, a handsome writer from the south, not far away from Logan's Point, Mississippi where Taylor is from. Nick hides the detail that his brother Scott is the former student and suspected stalker. Things don't make sense to Nick; his brother was troubled but not a criminal. Just a troubled young man who had gotten in with the wrong crowd drinking and doing drugs. His attorney and administer of Scott's trust fund recommended Conway University so Scott could have a fresh start. It was far from his Memphis Tennessee home and former friends.

Taylor heads back to Logan's Point and finds herself on the same flight as Nick Sinclair who is going home to Memphis.  Taylor's father disappeared when she was quite young and she hopes for answers at last on why he disappeared. He went on a business trip, never to return again. Back in the South, the pieces begin to intersect both the lives of Taylor and Nick. They are strongly attracted to one another; there are puzzling bits of information though that threaten to doom any hopes of a relationship; beginning with Scott, the elusive brother, a large land deal for the Martin land and of course, how the stalker knew that she was in Logan's Point and not in Newton County, Washington State!

Taylor presses on with questions on her father's disappearance and goes so far as to request police files on anything related to his disappearance.  Her uncle Jonathon is trying to get everyone to agree to the sale of the property that has been in the family for generations. With ties to the underground railroad and historic preservation, he needs a majority vote in order to clear the way for a million dollar housing development. He has no time for Taylor's questions and want her to stop any further questions about his brother.

A string of coincidences bring danger to Taylor, to Scott and to others who have information about what happened to James Martin. There are too many things that don't add up and Taylor questions who she can trust.  As Taylor gets closer to the truth more than one life is in danger.

Scott resurfaces and attracts danger too. Will he sober up or will he die? He is looking for his friend Digger who helped him at Conway and now in Tennessee. Nick fears for Scott's life, trying to protect him but also trying to find out the identity of Digger. There are so many questions and turns in the story before we find the truth.

Intrigue and suspense play a big role in this is a story of greed and how it can destroy all a family holds dear: each other.
I recommend this book, a perfect antidote to a cold wintry day along with a rich cup of coffee.