Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Playing By Heart by Anne Mateer A Heartwarming Story!

I am a champion of younger sisters, being number 9 in a family of 11 children, I was that younger sister. In Playing by Heart, Anne Mateer has captured many feelings I had growing up under the discerning eyes of older siblings who were inclined to give me advice on what I should do. I love them dearly, but as with our heroine, Lulu Bowman, sometimes you just wish they would let you get on with what you really want to do with your life. Or at least, think you want to do.

 Lulu earned the prestigious Donnally Mathematics Award, the first time the award was won by a woman. This award granted her a teaching job and tuition while she did graduate studies. Pulled back to Dunn after the untimely death of her brother-in-law, her oldest siblings decide she will give up Donnally Award and teaching at the college to support her widowed sister Jewel with her five children.

Set during World War I, our story settles on Lulu and Chet Vaughn, a handsome young teacher at the high school in Dunn Oklahoma. Both Lulu and Chet are living their lives to please others. Neither Chet nor Lulu have intentions to marry. Strict conduct rules were enforced, mostly against the women teachers of the day and Lulu was determined to abide by them.  An unlikely friendship begins when Lulu gets a job as the Music Teacher under condition of coaching the girls basketball team!


Chet has remained in Dunn to live with his mother while his brother is off fighting the war in Europe. Chet has a difficult time living with his mother but finds refuge in his faith and in coaching the boys basketball team.  He is a champion for his students and works hard both in the classroom and on the basketball court to encourage his students to graduate from high school.

The story is filled with rich characters who lived in a very different time than young teachers today.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book, the people and the glimpse the early days of  basketball. I didn't realize the game was played by girls back then. I can only imagine the girls on our local high school teams going back in time and wearing such cumbersome uniforms!   If I were in a book club, this would be a selection; there are questions on Anne Mateer's website to start a good discussion!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Love's Fortune in Review

aside-lovesfortune2When I finished reading Love's Fortune, I wanted to learn more about the heroine, Rowena Ballantyne's life beyond the life between the covers. I fell in love with Wren, as she is called by her father and those closest to her. Laura Frantz really hit the mark in finding the balance between love and the innocence of a young woman raised simply in Kentucky who rises to the heights of a debutante making her debut in the high society of Pennsylvania.

Raised by her father following her mother's death, Wren follows her parents with her gift of music. She is content with her life at home with her father who handcrafted beautiful violins and was taken completely surprised when a letter arrives from grandfather Ballantyne summoning him home to Pennsylvania where he is needed.  Soon thereafter, she is on a river boat piloted by handsome and mysterious James Sackett, a handsome man who is much more than pilot of a riverboat.

With vague memories of her father's family from her early childhood Wren finds it disconcerting to be so suddenly thrust into this new life. Her grandparents are lovely, but her spinster aunt Andra finds fault with everything about Wren. When her father must travel to manage business affairs for her grandfather, he leaves her in the care of Andra, who he believes has Wren's best interests at heart.


An engagement, an untimely death, a disconcerting escort for the "season" and uncertainty about when she will see her father again make life difficult for Rowena. She must prepare for the season with  the fittings for gowns and lessons on becoming a lady. Wren is a spunky individualist though and successfully carries out part of the season in her own way.

Here is a peek at getting the cover art done and a few words from Laura Frantz:

http://youtu.be/6-pqeyQoN9Y

I enjoyed the book and spent many hours reading it over our Labor-Day weekend travels. The story had many heartwarming sub-stories interwoven seamlessly within the book. Also, given the year of 1850 when Wren makes her way to Pennsylvania there are the Abolitionist sympathizers who smuggle travelers to the Underground Railway.  Adventure, romance and a strong faith make this book a good read!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

An Amazing Story of Resilience: A Light In The Wilderness

Cover Art
I just finished reading A Light In the Wilderness by Jane Kirkpatrick. I am interested in the great westward migration of our country through the Oregon Trail and inspired by the grit and courage of all who left so much behind to face the unknown. The journey exacted a toll on men, women and children of all ages. This alone usually gives me pause but consider the danger a free black woman making the trek with a white man.  Our heroine, 26-year-old Letitia is a former slave who carries her freedom papers with her at all times in order to prove to the slave patrols that she is not a runaway. Meet Letitia in this video: http://youtu.be/8Ixka881BNY


 Letitia first met Davey Carson, a red-headed Irishman when she wanted to buy a cow and needed a white man to make the purchase for her. In her situation she could never buy a cow let alone own property.  Trusting him to be an honest man she goes back to see him when she needed a place to stay after being left behind by her former employer for the Oregon Trail. Davey and Letitia become close enough to forge a forbidden relationship and decide to marry albeit illegally, saying vows over the bible. She would not let Davey live as her husband without those vows.

She is a skilled midwife and meets her lifelong friend Nancy Hawkins when Nancy's son knocks on the door to ask Letitia for her services. Nancy's family doesn't see the color of Letitia's skin and when both families are planning the trip to Oregon Territory, they will travel together. Nancy is our second strong woman character in this story.  Nancy doesn't look forward to this move but the love of her husband, who wants to start a new life in Oregon compels her to agree to leave her home and most of her belongings behind.  

Married in the eyes of God but not of man, Tish wants a guarantee that Davey will take care of her and that he will acknowledge her and their children in the event that something happens to him on the trail. A black woman who had so much to lose if he died needed this protection. After many reminders and arguments, Davey brought her a document that he signed, giving her the satisfaction she needed to make the long journey in 1845 as his wife. Wife in name only of course since neither could acknowledge this. She was posing as his employee, his pregnant slave by all appearances. She took her freedom papers and put them with his contract in the bottom of the wooden flour barrel for safe keeping. These papers meant the world to Letitia and she could not afford to have them lost or stolen.

Our third strong woman was Betsy, a Kalapuya Indian woman who is raising her grandson Little Shoot and teaching him the ways of her people so that the ways of their people will carry on in a time when there are few left. Betsy, who speaks English is a guiding force in Oregon for Letitia, teaching her about plants, wildlife and even facts about weather important to new settlers.  Her friendship is also an important part of Letitia's life.  Betsy could move to the reservation with her people but her friendship for Letitia keeps her at Soap Springs near the homestead.

When the trip is over and life begins anew in Oregon, the pioneers adjust to many things, not the least of them is a life without some of their loved ones. I don't want to spoil the details of this good book and invite you to take this journey along with the Carsons. I have read several books about the Oregon Trail and I still don't know how the men and women endured this journey but the faith played a major role in carrying them along. 

In the back of the book the author included great references for further reading. I particularly enjoyed seeing a listing for a Facebook page called: Friends of Letitia Carson. You can see wonderful drawings of some of the locations 
on the trip such as Oregon City, the Dalles before the dam was built and many copies of deeds. 
I have read one other story by Jane, the novella A Saving Grace from  Sincerely Yours: A Novella Collection that debuted April 1, 2014. I recommend this collection too.





Thursday, September 4, 2014

Nowhere To Turn Is A Page Turner!

For Danielle Harding, life is a roller coaster of emotions as she carefully plans how to escape from her abusive husband with their eleven-year-old son. Her husband, an FBI agent swept her off her feet but her dreams became a nightmare no woman should have to endure. Every turn she makes there is a roadblock. She connects with Operation Refuge where she meets Adam Buchanan, her guiding force in a journey that takes her from a terrible life to the dregs of an impossible world full of danger.

Packing up to leave, she clears out her husband's safe only to have her brother-in-law show up at her door to retrieve something Kurt, her husband left behind. What follows is a trail of wonder as we learn that Kurt has been killed, and his killer is looking for what was left in that safe. Nowhere To Turn by Lynette Eason is a suspenseful page turner that had me guessing on the edge of my seat until the end. The surprising twists to the plot weaves us into so many surprising scenarios that I wasn't sure who to trust or where Dani and her son Simon could find shelter.

If you like a good mystery that is well written and full of surprises read Nowhere To Turn because the book lives up to its title. It is the second book in Lynette's Hidden Identity Series. The first book, No One To Trust is another good suspense novel.  There are too many spoilers so I recommend you simply get the book, turn off the phone and settle into a reading weekend.


Monday, September 1, 2014

A Bride in Store Is A Treat In Store!

I finished reading A Bride In Store by Melissa Jagears last week. I fully intended to take it to the lake for a little Labor Day weekend reading but once I started I just kept going. I got involved with Eliza Cantrell, the heroine immediately. Many young women traveled west as a mail-order brides but Eliza was not seeking romance. She was a woman who possessed rare business acumen in a man's world. Her father ran a successful mercantile in Pennsylvania and she was behind the counter by the age of nine. When her father died he left the business to Eliza's brother who rejected her help in the store and settled cash on her instead.  

Looking for a new start and a chance to have her own store, she placed an ad offering herself as a mail-order bride. Axel Langston, part owner of the Men's Emporium in Salt Flatts Kansas answered the ad and following a period of correspondence she headed out west by train.  The train was robbed and as a reluctant victim the bandit injured her face and took all of her money.

Arriving in Salt Flatts, she meets Will Stanton, a would-be doctor who is enlisted to stitch up her injured cheek. She soon discovers he is part owner of the Men's Emporium. Her intended is nowhere to be found but she is determined and begins right away working in the store.  She and Will share a rocky start as she learns his business skills are weak and he is anxious for his partner to return. Axel never mentioned a bride, didn't let on when he would return and word is traveling that there is a new single woman in town.  
Will begins to see Eliza not as the plain woman she believes she is but as a striking woman who has soft skin and beautiful eyes. She begins to see what a gentle, caring man he is and begins to wish the absent Axel would get back to town so she can quit thinking about Will. 

Eliza dresses like a plain woman dressed in black yet she can sell things to men they didn't realize they needed. She wants to implement F.W. Woolworth's style of business on the store to fulfill her dream of owning a successful store. Marriage to the missing Axel Langston will provide the link to this dream. When Axel finally returns, she discovers a secret at the altar that changes her plans altogether. 

The story unfolds in 1881, a time when women were supposed to be home having babies and building a livelihood alongside their husbands.  I liked the determination of Eliza Cantrell to live her dream while making changes to her life that enabled her to become who she was meant to be. Beauty is in the eye of the holder and as she learns of her own true beauty, she blooms into a woman whose rarity goes beyond her natural affinity for business. I recommend this book to all who love reading a good story about pioneers in the west. With this glimpse into the past, I appreciate those who came before me.  A special thanks to Melissa Jagears for this complimentary copy of this book to review.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Deb Proof Living.....How to Get Out of Debt and Stay That Way

I received a copy of Debt-Proof Living: How to Get Out of Debt and Stay That Way by Mary Hunt from Revell Publishers to review this month. It is a very informative book that was updated this year from the 1999 version. It is hard to believe but our world has changed so much in these few short years. More people, more debt, more toys and so many things that are designed to be thrown away make increasing demands on our incomes. The average college graduate is so encumbered with debt by the time they hit the work force it is difficult to picture all those student loans paid off.

Making more money is not just the answer. It is finding strategies to manage what we already have.  This book is worth reading to find solid answers to this dilemma. Learning how to rapidly pay off your debts and how much to save are tools that everyone would benefit from when they start spending money. I recommend this book as a gift for the high school graduate. As we make changes in our spending  habits we do have to determine what strategies one can live with. The most important step is taking that first step in assessing how the money is spent and the necessity of those changes!

After reading the book I checked out Mary Hunt's Everyday Cheapskate blog! It has some great ideas: http://www.everydaycheapskate.com/ 


Monday, August 4, 2014

Miracle In A Dry Season in Review

I just finished my review copy of Miracle In A Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas this afternoon. In the quiet of a hot summer day what better plan than to finish a book I could barely put down only a day ago.  I am at that point every reader is at when a good book is finished and there is not another to take its place.

PhotoThe story is set in 1954 in Wise, West Virginia. It is a small town with only one grocer, a place the town gathers for coffee and gossip. Robert and Delilah Thornton owners of the store have taken in their niece Perla Long, the young unwed mother of Sadie. The times are vastly different in 1954, a time when morals ran higher than one expects today when seemingly anything goes.  The town is suspicious of Perla who arouses curiosity as she cooks like a dream with a few simple ingredients.

Take Casewell Phillips, a youngish single man who accepts Delilah and Robert's invitation for Sunday dinner after meeting Perla at church. He isn't sure what to make of her situation but enjoys the finest pork roast he's ever eaten and isn't sure just how to thank her. He is taken with Sadie and  decides the thank you will be in the form of furniture for her doll.  He isn't looking for a relationship with Perla; after all, she is considered damaged goods and he couldn't think how any man could raise a daughter born out of wedlock.  Yet there is something about Perla that captivates Casewell and he can't get his mind off her gentle ways, her sweet Sadie and of course, her cooking!

The story weaves its way through these central characters to Casewell's harsh father John and his loving mother Emily. Pastor Longbourne, a stereotypical southern minister with a penchant for loud blustery sermons is a man without compassion or wisdom. The Talbot sisters, Liza and Angie, twins who both loved the same man have secrets that are waiting to come out into the open.

The town thrives with the same routine and stories until that dry summer that brought the drought. Wells dried up, crops failed and cattle were destroyed before they could die from lack of food and water. The drought brought out many things human nature tries to sweep under a rug. Tempers flared, people grew hungry and remembered the Great Depression of the 1930's. Perla, gifted cook that she was, fed the community with resources pooled together. Soon enough though, and with help fueled by an unlikely source, suspicions gave way to fear and mistrust and what unfolds can break the spirit if one is without faith.  

Without spoiling a wonderful story, the lessons learned are lessons from times long ago and yet ageless. The author has cast her characters in a way that could have walked off the streets in my own hometown in 1954 and shown their humanity, failings and grace. This story stirred my heart and I am looking forward to reading more books by Sarah Loudin Thomas.  Many thanks to Bethany House for the opportunity to read and review this book!


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Cate Kincaid...Assistant Private Investigator!

Death Takes a Ride - Lorena McCourtneyDeath Takes a Ride is the first book I read by Lorena McCourtney and it won't be the last. I enjoyed meeting Cate and the cast of misfits in this fun mystery filled with quirks, love and the surprise finale. I changed my mind a few time on who the real killer was in the story and that is always a good thing for the mystery reader.


Cate Kincaid, heroine and Assistant P.I. does a good turn for Shirley, an employee at H&B Motors whom she never met before by volunteering to pick her up and drive her to the Fit and Fabulous class at her church.  As she meets Shirley and gets ready to leave H&B, Shirley's bosses call her into the office to witness a signature. What follows is the sound of a gunshot and then another, and the beginnings of a trail of suspects between Eugene and Salem Oregon. 

Mitch Berenski, Cate's boyfriend would be happy if she chose a new career but gives her help and support as needed...such as a night in a biker bar to meet a key witness for the crime. Fists, purses and lots of words later, Mitch has a stiff body and a black eye. Mitch is an all around great guy that Cate would love to keep in her life.   One of the co-owners of H&B, Kane, also a victim in the shooting has an over sized dog named Clancy, who goes to stay with Mitch.  Mitch didn't mind as long as it was for one night only....but you can guess how that ends up.

I enjoyed this book for a vacation treat and in the spirit of travel, ride along with this book and see how many different bikes you can find. A special thank you for the opportunity to read a review copy of the e-book from Revell.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Reviewing Love Comes Home

Love Comes Home is the second book by Ann Gabhart that I have read this year. I love how she takes you back to ways of life that are forgotten or unimaginable by our young people today. Love Comes Home is the third book in the Rosey Corner series. It is set after World War II when the world anxiously waits to welcome home their soldiers. The Merritt sisters are going to breathe again when two or their three men return to adjust to life after the war.

For Kate, who married just before her husband Jay went overseas it would be a test on whether she married in haste. For Evie, whose husband, Preacher Mike was a prisoner of war, life should go on as though the war didn't exist. Or did it? For Tori the return of her sisters' husbands is a reminder that her Sammy will not be returning. Can she give her daughter Samantha a good life and honor her husband's memory? Can she learn to let go and love again?

Lorena Birdsong, beloved youngest sister, left on the church steps until found by Kate has given much joy in the Merritt family. She is a favorite and wise beyond her fourteen years. Still, she longs to know what happened to her other family. I feel she is central to the family with all the bridges she built between the community, her family and intriguing characters that make small towns buzz with lazy Love Comes Homeexcitement.

I like the story for the rich character development and moments of surprise as the story grows. In the midst of it all we find God's love and faithfulness in the heart of Rosey Corner. We hear about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome today but it wasn't considered out loud in the 40's or 50's. Men didn't share their burdens of war and adjusting to the sights and sounds of home must have taken a lot of patience and love on the part of those welcoming loved ones home.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys studying people and the insight it brings. The story is not a mystery but I don't want to spoil a thing about Ann's tale of love, patience and faith. I am inspired to look at people more closely and see who they really are. Thank you Ann Gabhart for a delightful book.

 


Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Highlight of a Direct Sales Business~Conference!

I was beyond excited for my upcoming Thirty-One Conference in Denver Colorado last week! Five women from our team attended together and Denver was painted pink and coral and turquoise! There were more women than you can count and we all carried cute bags and beamed with excitement.

As our trip drew closer we planned our hair, our nails and our accessories so we'd look our coordinated best for three and one half days and one evening awards banquet!

 Color is hot this year. Forget about neutrals and go for broke with the bright hues that best suit your coloring. I love how bright things are in the summer and these looks work so well with our products. Thoughts like this flowed through my mind as I shopped to fill in the gaps to my wardrobe for the trip.  My bags were a big part of the plan so planning ahead made it easier.


For cool nights this look goes great with the Citrus Medallion Zip-Top Organizing Utility Tote. It holds all your essentials and keeps you organized with seven pockets that can make going from the mall to the grocers in style!

I love my Thirty-One business and all the opportunity and satisfaction I have in a job well done selling products I can really use!

As I reflect on my conference experience, I smile just thinking of the variety of styles and color! Many of us carried bags that were identical except  for the prints or personalization. It was fun to see how our bags looked on  other women!

In the end I learned a lot, met some wonderful people, ate well and explored Denver with gusto. I am so thankful for the experience and the camaraderie.  I also dressed comfortably and discarded lofty plans of perfect outfits and went for thirty-one t-shirts and comfortable Capris. I dressed up for the Awards dinner and felt great glamming it up for this big night. That extra room in my suitcase after leaving unnecessary clothes at home? Naturally I filled it with goodies I received and products I bought at the conference store! Now that was worth it!