Monday, December 5, 2011

My Review of "A Lasting Impression" by Tamera Alexander

Tamera Alexander's writing shines in this post-Civil War novel about Claire, a young painter, trying to escape from her past to have a fresh start in a new place. The story is set in the phenomenal Belmont Mansion in Nashville, Tennessee, and includes the character of Adelicia Acklen, owner of the mansion. Sutton, a young lawyer and employee of Mrs. Acklen, has suspicions about Claire, but can't help liking her, even though he has an understanding with another girl. Sutton has his own set of perils, and has some lessons to learn as well.
I couldn't wait to read on, as each chapter endeared me to these characters more and more. I found myself reading until 2:30 in the morning! Imagining myself at Belmont, I "saw" the statues, danced at the reception, tasted lemon teacakes, and traipsed across the grounds through Tamara's expert storytelling.
The cover is my favorite from Bethany in quite a while. Claire's dress on the cover matches the description perfectly. And I love the little Belmont on the spine.
I live in Tennessee, but I've never visited the mansion before. After reading this book, I simply have to go there, so I've planned a homeschool field trip with my five children in January! We are excited about it. And from the sounds of it, I'm assuming that there will be more Belmont Mansion novels. Of course, I will have to read them all, and look forward to other novels by Tamera Alexander.
If you've never read a Tamera Alexander book, this one would be an excellent first!!
I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Review of "A Whisper of Peace" by Kim Vogel Sawyer

I've read almost every book that Kim Sawyer has out there, and I had to have this one too. It looked different, and it is different. Set in Alaska, this book is about Clay, Vivian, and Lizzie. All have obstacles to overcome, and all learn from the journey that they take through the story.
Clay and his step-sister, Vivian, move to a native village in Alaska to be missionaries. On their way to the village, they meet Lizzie, a village outcast who lives on her own. Clay and Vivian reach out to Lizzie, and risk the disapproval of the tribal leaders, and being forced to leave.
Lizzie plans to leave Alaska and reunite with her father in the states, but is torn by her attraction for the white missionary. And Clay is torn between his affection for Lizzie, and his calling from God to minister to the village people.
Vivian has her own set of problems too, and while I was interested in Vivian, I felt that she carried me away from Clay and Lizzie, whom I really wanted to stay with more than her.
I really enjoyed learning about the Athabascan culture, and about native village life in 19th century Alaska. As I said before, this book is very different from any other Kim Sawyer book I've read.
Kim has done an excellent job of intertwining the element of faith by showing the reader how simple the gift of salvation really is. This is one of the things I love about her writing.
"A Whisper of Peace is a good book, and I gave it five stars, but in giving an honest review, I have to say that like some of Kim's other books a little bit better.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New template!

Okay. I have been very busy working on my new template, and I still think I'm going to change it. The expert says that your blog should be simple, and this is my attempt at simple. Don't know if I'm there yet, but I'm aspiring. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

To Win Her Heart by Karen Whitemyer--My Review

I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review, and I must say that this was a good read! I really enjoyed Karen's writing voice, as well as her characters'. Eden is practically an old maid librarian with a jilted past, and Levi is a blacksmith with a shady past. Even though both of these characters have been redeemed by God's grace, they can't seem to let go of their previous hurts. They strike up a friendship by discussing something dear to both of them-literature. A romance blossoms, but becomes compromised when Levi is honest about his violent past. There are secondary characters such as Verna, Chloe, Duncan, and Ornery who add a lot of spice to the story, and prove that they story could turn out much differently if not for them. I loved this book, and highly recommend Karen as an author. This is my second Karen Whitemyer book, and won't be my last. I really liked her first book a little better, but that's probably just me. The covers of all of Karen's books have all been breath-taking! I would peruse the pages just to see what the cover teases about. If you're looking for a new author's books to read, then look no further. Karen Whitemyer is one to watch!!!

I found this book available on Amazon and CBD in paperback and Kindle.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Another Dawn by Katherine Cushman Review

I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review, and I was very excited because the author is originally from where I live, and there were some local landmarks listed in the book. This story deals with a touchy subject, and a very real subject. Grace, who now lives in California, must come home to TN to take care of her father for a couple of weeks. Grace's son contracts measles some time before the trip, quite unknowingly. He passes the disease on to some babies. Everything comes unglued from there. The people in Cushman's fictional town put all the blame on Grace and her son, even calling anonymously to harass her. Honestly, I was a bit taken back at how brash the people in this story treated her. There are a number of Amish people who live here, and they do not get vaccines. If the measles did break out, we would deal with it, not condemn a person for standing up for what she thought was right. The portrayal of TN residents left me feeling as if everyone here had been judged. On the other hand, the story was very well written. I liked the story being told from the first person point-of-view. I liked seeing the names of familiar landmarks within the pages of the book. The author has a unique voice that I liked. I hope that I can read something else by her that I like better. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen book review

When I first read the back of this book online, I was immediately interested. I mean, a girl with secrets and a hidden past is certainly worth a read. Right? Really right! And I had never read a book penned by Julie Klassen, although I had heard great things about her writing. So naturally, this book beckoned to me.
I got a free review copy from Bethany House, and let me say that the cover is absolutely wonderful! I love the fact that the cover is not only beautiful, but it also reflects the description of the gatehouse and a dress that Mariah wears in the book. So many books that I've read have deceptive covers that have nothing to do with the contents. I also love the flourishes on the cover and every chapter opening.
When I opened the cardboard box that held my Klassen treasure, I delved into the first page with all of the anticipation of a child on Christmas morning. If the cover had not completely won me over, the first line finished the job nicely.
Julie Klassen includes an author's note that describes Jane Austen's influence on her writing. Understatement of the century. If I did not know that Julie Klassen wrote this book, I could be coerced into believing that Jane Austen herself wrote it. And I do love Jane Austen!
I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but I do want to tell a bit of it. The main character, Mariah, is sent away for some secret reason or wrong-doing. And no, you don't really find out what it is until the end, as is fitting. She has to find some way to support herself and her former nanny, now companion. Writing novels secretly seems to be the best way to stay out of the public eye, but her ever secret past is forever looming before her. I could scarcely put this book down for wanting to find out what had happened. And of course the appearance of a handsome captain appealed to the romantic in me. As I read, I became immensely jealous of the object of the captain's affections. That alone tells me that Julie did her job as a writer. I felt so much a part of the story that I found myself speaking to the characters aloud!
The story makes references to God, and His will, and there is a faith element woven into it. I just wish it had been a bit more prominent, not so subtle.
I can't say enough about how much I loved this book. I will not loan it out, for fear that I won't get it back, and I don't wish to part with it, for I'm sure I will read it again.
This was by far the best I've read in a few months. Even though there were a few characters that seemed less believable, I still found affection for them, and became interested in their welfare as well, especially Maggie and Martin.
Kudos to Julie Klassen! She is definitely on my list of favorites now. And if you love Jane Austen, or just a mysterious, historical romance, then this should be the next book on your list!
Julie is published by Bethany House Publishers, and you can find more about her on her website:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Blessings are Meant to be Shared

I ran into an old friend a few weeks ago. When our eyes met across the top of the candy isle, we recognized each other and smiled. "Hey!, How are you?" he asked, coming around to my side and shaking my hand.
"I'm great!" I replied right back to him. "How are you?"

His smile softened and he said, "I'm blessed!"

I was on my way to get my kids, so I told him that it was good to see him, and I hurried off to the check out, thinking of how his answer had affected me. Being blessed is much better than being great. Suddenly I felt like his answer pleased God more than mine. It was as if he had taken more opportunities to thank God than I had. I resolved right then and there to share more of my blessings with others.
An opportunity came just as I was leaving the store. A lady I had not seen in at least a year approached me, asking how I was. I smiled and said, "I'm blessed." She smiled right back and said, "Aren't we all?" Oh, that felt good to hear that right back, when we could have been agonizing over how far away we had to park from the building. Feeling blessed is so much better.
So, when I finally reached my car and sat down in the driver's seat, I thought of everything that has transpired in my life, and how God's hand has been in all of it. I thought of all the times I have relied on God to meet my needs, and how every time He has come through. I thought of all of the ways that I can share my blessings with others, and I'm challenging myself to challenge others to see the blessings in their own lives each and every day, to not see things as luck. Luck has nothing to do with it. God's hand is at work in everything that transpires in our lives. We are all "blessed and highly favored!"

Monday, February 21, 2011

No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow. — Proverb from Guinea

I trimmed my roses, pricking my finger in the process. It burned a tiny hole in my finger, stinging with the wrath of a thousand miniature bees. When it bled, I winced a little, but I remembered why I was trimming the roses, and I forged ahead, trimming larger stems with larger thorns. Had I worn gloves, the task would have been less daunting, but as I was racing against an approaching torrent of rain, I knew I didn't have time to even look for the misplaced gloves. With Spring right around the corner, now is the time to prune, giving the best chance for new growth. When we prune, we are removing the old, the dead, the diseased, allowing the plant to breath, to reach up and touch the rays of the sun, to begin again. That's just what God does with us. He prunes away our old habits, our dead intentions, our diseased attitudes, leaving us clean and new, ready to grow new fruit. Fruit grown exactly the way He would grow it. He shines His rays of light and love. We only have to reach up and soak Him in. Sometimes our thorns prick Him, and He feels the pain only a father can feel from the thorns of a child. But despite the pain, He keeps trimming us, making us into the person He wants us to be. We have to yield to the Master Gardener. Spring smells much sweeter when He takes control of the garden. After all, it's not our garden, it's His......

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Learning how to be a Great Writer

A friend of mine asked me a question this week. "Do you want to win a contest, or do you want to be a Great Writer?" She knew the answer to this question because her answer would be the same as mine. Both. Writing is not for the faint of heart. It's not something that flows easily from the tip of the pen, or the clicks of the keyboard. Writing requires a commitment. Dedication. It's like a lifetime love affair. When you love someone, you have to put your heart out there, exposed, hoping that they will love you back. Maybe they won't. Maybe your heart will get broken, or even crushed. But still, you had the guts to put it out there. Writing is much the same way. You love your story and your characters. You want other people to love them too, so you put your writing out there, exposed, hoping that someone will like it and fall in love with it. When your heart gets broken, does that mean you will never love again? Does it mean that no one else will ever love you? No. You will love and be loved again. It's the same with your writing. Everyone has an opinion, and not all opinions are the same. I don't like chocolate cake, but that doesn't mean that chocolate cake is bad. My husband loves chocolate cake, but that doesn't mean that he is bad. And even though I don't like chocolate cake, that doesn't mean that I don't like my husband. I don't like to read murder mysteries. I much prefer sweet romance novels with lots of conflict. That doesn't mean that murder mysteries are bad. So if one person doesn't love your writing, that doesn't mean that someone else won't. Should you just give up and stop trying? If you have to rewrite and edit, does that mean that you should retreat and stop writing? No. You keep working on your love-hate relationship with your writing and find the place where you have edited the life back into it and someone else loves it. There are always fish in the sea. There's a great big world out there. You'll find love elsewhere. Once you find the love, it will inspire you to keep giving the love by producing more of your heart's ponderings. Anything is possible if you are willing to work at it. Even marriage is something you have to work at. Everyday. Writing is taking a chance that your heart will be broken, and being tough enough to pick up the pieces and try again. In essence, if I never get my heart broken, I may never be a Great Writer.
So I will edit. I will write and rewrite. I will be Great, if only for myself...........and I will dream.......and write again.........

And my critique buddies will cheer me on!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Getting Rid of Stuff

This morning I read. As I read, I thought about what I would need if I had to minimize my household belongings to 10 boxes. Wouldn't 10 boxes fit into the back of a wagon? Probably. So what would I pack in those 10 boxes? Obviously, not furniture. What would be the most important possessions in my home? Is there anything that I feel like I just cannot live without? Well, technically, there is absolutely nothing in my home that I can take with me when I die. There are sentimental "things" that I would like to look at from time to time like my photographs, and my books, but those would be useless to me otherwise. Mentally, I made a list of things that I feel that I just cannot live without. In my mind, those things went into the 10 boxes. Then, I charged myself a hundred dollars for each box to move them to another place where I might "settle" if I were moving. In light of paying money to take the stuff with me, I realized that it didn't mean as much to me as I thought it did. In reality, I would settle for just the photographs, and some books. That cut me down to 2 boxes instead of 10.
With all of this in mind, and a desire to be organized, I decided to get rid of some "stuff." This all started back in the Fall, and to date, I have gotten rid of about 8 truck loads of "stuff." I also watched a couple of episodes of Hoarders. If you've been wanting to clean out, this show will convince you to delve into the backs of closets, and the eaves of attics. No box has been left unturned in my house. And I'm not finished yet. My husband says that I have to make a mess to clean up a mess. So I've made a few messes. What of it? I have purged and cleansed my inner storage. Now I'm working on organization. I've been spending time trying to "teach" the kids where things are supposed to go. Surprisingly, they are beginning to put things in the right places.
As I've been cleaning, here are the two questions I've been asking myself? "Do I really need it? Can I live without it?" Chances are that the answer will be "No" at least 9 times out of 10-- to both questions. That means that you can cut up to 90% of your clutter just by asking yourself the same things. Give it to the local thrift store. You can get a receipt for what you think it's worth. (I don't get the receipt.) Bag it up. Get rid of it. And if that doesn't work, you can always watch Hoarders, again....

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Craft books and Genre

So, when I went to the ACFW Conference way back in September, I took lots of notes. One thing that resonated over and over was this: For every 1 writing craft book that you read, you should read 4 more books in the genre that you want to write in. I have diligently been trying to do just that, but time constraints have had me in a gridlock. So far, I have managed to read these books:
1. Craft ebook by Randy Ingermanson called "Writing Fiction for Dummies." This has been my favorite craft book so far. Randy is candid and refreshing with his style of "teaching." A far cry from some boring how-to's that I've forced myself to indulge.
2. Historical Fiction with a hint of Romance by Suri Mitchell called "Love's Pursuit." This book is superbly written although I was a bit confused for the first three chapters as to who was speaking from scene to scene. I loved the message overall, but I am a hopeless romantic and I must say that I am all for happy endings. So if you haven't read this book, it is a must read and I won't give anything away except this, I think it's a Pocahontas story, and a good one. It's not an Amish book as the cover implies, but it is a book about Puritan life, and offers lots of juicy historical bits to sink your teeth into.
3. Historical Romance by Kim Vogel Sawyer called "A Hopeful Heart." Kim is writing so fast that I'm beginning to get behind on her books. I have two more of her books to read since this one came out. But this book was a charming read. It's about a girl who goes to a school of sorts for training to become a Rancher's wife. Written in true Kim Sawyer style, this book is another must read.
4. Contemporary Romance by Kaye Dacus called "Love Remains." Although this one wasn't in my genre, I enjoyed it because I am from Tennessee, and this story was set in Tennessee. Of course it was a romance, so I would have enjoyed it anyways. I really liked how the characters kept God at the center of everything they did.
5. I'm trying to read another book that is just sucking the life out of me. This book I won't name, but it is supposed to be a historical. The main problem with it is that it doesn't compel me to turn the page. I'm only reading it so that I can say that I did. I think it has too much information about things that are not necessary to the story. I've heard that called an "info dump." It's not a must read, but you will have to figure that out if you try to read it yourself.
6. I began reading "Courting Miss Amsel" by Kim Vogel Sawyer yesterday, and I was really impressed with even the first page.I've learned alot from reading first pages. I've spent hours at the thrift perusing first pages. It's a good exercise. You should try it. Then I have a Francine Rivers book ready to read after that. I've heard raves about it, so I intend to see for myself.
Have I learned from this exercise? You bet. While all of these authors are good in their own rights, they are still individual authors with individual voices, and individual styles. You have to stay true to your own writing, and let it flow, all the while learning from others.
I'm getting closer to finishing my manuscript. My goal was to finish by the end of January. That has now turned into Feb. as I have hit upon a twist and a loophole in my plot. (a good one) So I am now trying to work it in. I think it will make my story stronger and better. Back to the next installment of my WIP!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Chickenpox and Church pews

It's through groggy eyes that I'm viewing this screen this morning. I discovered yesterday that I do indeed have chicken pox. Yes ladies and gentlemen, I am a full grown adult with 5 glorious children, and I have had them before. The case that I had at the ripe old age of 6 was a light one, and that, it seems, has been my demise. So now, I have yet another light case so far, none the less, a case, and thus I am contagious. So the field trip that I had so laboriously planned for Saturday is now postponed, and the choir on Sunday will not have a pianist. No groceries will be bought today, and, I fear, no clothes will be washed as I am just not feeling it. My brain tells me that this will be the perfect time to continue work on writing my break-out novel, but my body tells me that it will not sit all day, but it will lay. We will see what writing is to be done.

As for the church pew. It is absolutely gorgeous! My cousin got a whole set from somewhere, and it has always been my dream to have one in my house--(well, one of my dreams,) and so he gave me one. The big boys and I worked really hard to get it from the back deck, to the front living room last night. We should be given honorary engineer degrees. We used the little red wagon to move one end, and Mom/son power to move the other end. It fit perfectly in the spot we had measured for it. And the seat cover matches the carpet in that room which is now going to be our music room. Since we all play something, the need for a music room far outweighs the need for an antique showroom. So I made space for my prizes in an attic closet, stripped the border from the top of the wall, and plan to paint one wall sometime this weekend. I will post pics when everything is complete. We shall see about that too. But just seeing it in the house made me feel better.

My parents always got me a little prize of some kind when I was sick, and it made me feel better, so, I guess the church pew can be my prize............ :o)