Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Call of Zulina

Today's review is The Call of Zulina by Kay Marshall Strom, the first book in the Grace in Africa series.

The story centers around the Winslow family. Joseph, a white sea captain and slave trader, his wife Lingongo, an African princess and their daughter Grace. As the story opens, Grace is being forced into an arranged marriage with a pompous overbearing Englishman. Although Lingongo was in the same position at one time herself, having been forced to marry Joseph by her father the King, she has no sympathy for Grace.

Grace decides that the only way to save herself is to run away. The main problem here is that she has never in her life been out of the family compound. What lies outside the walls of the compound? Well for one thing the slave compound, Zulina.

Grace treads a very fine line - as her father is white and her mother is black in a time when those lines were very boldly drawn. Where does she belong? In the white world, owning slaves? Or is she herself a slave?

So of course when she escapes she ends up in Zulina and is used as a pawn in the approaching war between the slaves and the slave traders. Along the way she will have to decide who to trust and who not to trust and mostly she will have to decide where she belongs.

This is a very unusual book - not like any other I have read before. At times it is very ugly - as the practice of slave trading is. And at times there is overwhelming love as well as grief. By the end of the book lives will have been changed and lives will have been lost. All in all a very compelling book.


This book was provided by Kathy Carlton Willis Communications for my review.

About the Book:

(Eugene, Oregon) – An arranged marriage, a runaway bride, and an ugly family heritage of brutal and inhumane slavery operations leave no room for a fairytale story. Grace Winslow, daughter of an English sea captain and African princess, finds herself in a horrific position of betrothal. Doomed to marry an obnoxious white man, whom she does not love, Grace runs away to escape the slavery she’s been surrounded by all her life. Instead, her journey from home brings her face-to-face with issues of extreme slavery, abuse and human trafficking. In the end she discovers slavery is more than just chains and finds grace that exceeds a name given to her by her parents.

Written by Kay Marshall Strom, The Call of Zulina links historical slavery issues with the modern-day crisis tainting many countries. On the heels of important legislature regarding human trafficking, Strom tackles the subject boldly as she sheds light on the practices and techniques used by angry slave traders. Seen as an advocate for those who have no voice, Strom finds words to communicate the message of history to today’s readers. While this book shines the light on an uncomfortable subject, the message of hope, freedom, and justice prevail and eternal truths discovered.

About the Author:

Author Kay Marshall Strom has two great loves: writing and helping others achieve their own writing potential. Kay has written thirty-six published books, numerous magazine articles, and two screenplays. While mostly a nonfiction writer, the first book of her historical novel trilogy Grace in Africa has met with acclaim. Kay speaks at seminars, retreats, writers’ conferences, and special events throughout the country and around the world. She is in wide demand as an instructor and keynote speaker at major writing conferences. She also enjoys speaking aboard cruise ships in exchange for exotic cruise destinations.

Blog Tour Interview:

1. How did you come up with the storyline of The Call of Zulina?

While in West Africa working on another project, I toured an old slave fortress and was struck dumb by a set of baby manacles bolted to the wall. The characters of Lingongo and Joseph Winslow, Grace's parents, are modeled after real people who ran a slave business in Africa in the 1700s. I "met" them when I was researching Once Blind: The Life of John Newton, a biography of the slaver turned preacher and abolitionists, author of Amazing Grace. The more I thought about them, the more I wondered, "If they'd had a daughter, who would she be? Where would her loyalties lie?"

2. What inspired you to write a book so entrenched with uncomfortable issues?

I used to think that non-fiction was the meat and potatoes of writing and fiction was the chocolate mousse dessert... fun, but not of much value. But I've come to understand that truths can be revealed through fiction just as powerfully as through non-fiction. Sometimes, more so! The fact is, for so long we have tried to look away and pretend that this horrible chapter in history never happened. But it did, and we still feel the effects today. Moreover, the roots of slavery--hunger for power and money, fear and diminishment of people unlike ourselves, and humanity's endless ability to rationalize evil actions--abound today. The time seemed right.

3. How haveyour travels around the world equipped you for writing such a historical novel?

People ask me where my passion for issues such as modern day slavery come from. To a large degree it is from the things I have seen and heard on my numerous trips to India, African countries, Cambodia, Nepal, Indonesia, and other places around the world.

4. Tell us a personal story regarding modern day slavery.

A most pervasive type of slavery is what is known as bonded servitude, where entire poor families are bound into virtual slavery--sometimes for generations--because of a small debt. This is especially common in India. I visited a village in central India where the women had been freed from bondage and set up with a micro loan that allowed them to raise a small herd of dairy cows. They worked so hard and saved every rupee. When they had enough saved, they persuaded a young teacher to come and start a school for their children. Then they used further profits to make low interest loans to others in the area so they could start their own businesses, too--a little bank. I sat in a circle with the five women who made up the "board of directors." Only one could read and write. I asked, "How will the next generation be different because of what you have done?" They said, "No more will be like us. When people look us, they see nothing. But when they look at our children, they see real human beings with value."

From invisible slaves to human beings... all in one generation!

5. Grace, the lead character in The Call of Zulina, forsakes all to escape the slavery of her parents and an arranged marriage.How common is this scenerio today in other countries?

Horrifyingly common. Slavery today takes many forms. According to UNICEF's more conservative count, there are about 12 million people living as slaves today--three times as many as in the days of the African slave trade. As for child arranged marriages, I have talked to girls "enslaved" to husbands in many countries. Examples include a girl in Nepal married at 9 to a middle-aged man, one in India married at 11, a 13-year-old in Egypt married to a man older than her father. I've seen it in Africa, Eastern Europe... so many places!

6. What about in America, are there slavery and trafficking issues here?

Unfortunately, there are. The U.S. State Department estimates between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the Untied States each year, although it concedes that the real number is actually far higher. And it's not just states like New York and California that are affected, either. According to the U.S. Justice Department's head of the new human trafficking unit, there is now at least one case of trafficking in every state.

7. You've had 36 books published, and more written and contracted for future release. How has this one impacted your own life?

Some books report, some tell stories. This book has torn my heart.

8. Briefly tell us about the next two books in this Grace in Africa trilogy.

In Book 2, Grace watches her reconstructed life smashed by slavers and revenge, and she is forcibly taken to London. There she faces a new kind of tyranny and another fight for freedom... and for her husband, who is enslaved in America.

Book 3 is set in the new United States of America, in the heart of the slavery. It is a story of slavery at it's worst and redemption at its best.

What Can Concerned Citizens Do to Raise Awareness?

* Find out all you can about Modern Day Slavery: then watch for chances to pass on what you have learned.
Write to your elected officials: Petition them to place a high priority on enforcing anti-slavery laws and to put pressure on countries that tolerate forced labor or human trafficking.
* Buy Fair Trade products: Fair trade provides a sustainable model of international trade based on economic justice. To find out more, see .
* Support organizations that are in a position to make a difference. When you find an one that is doing a good job on the front lines, contribute to their cause so they can continue on.
* Be willing to step into the gap. If you suspect someone is being held against his or her will, call the Department of Justice hotline: 1-888-428-7581. Or you can call 911.

Grand Prize Giveaway!!!

Kay Marshall Strom is giving the following books to one fortunate commenter from The Call of Zulina blog tour. The prize package includes several of Kay's books:

* Seeking Christ: A Christian Woman's Guide to Personal Wholeness & Spiritual Maturity
* John Newton:The Angry Sailor
* Making Friends with Your Mother
* Making Friends with Your Father

To be entered in the giveaway please leave a comment by November 2.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kiss Me Again, Restoring Lost Intimacy In Marriage

Kiss Me Again, Restoring Lost Intimacy In Marriage by Barbara Wilson explores the question of why marriage can seem like the end of intimacy and sexual desire instead of the beginning. Ms. Wilson uses her experience counseling and speaking to answer that question.

Following the Biblical principle of bonding through sex Ms. Wilson shows how you bond to each person you have sex with and how the bonds you have formed in the past can be a challenge to your marriage.

Through many personal examples, some of her own and some of the ladies' she has counseled, she covers sexual history issues to help you on the road to healing.

The book is mostly book form but also includes some "workbook" type sections so you can record your own thoughts.

Ms. Wilson has "been there, done that" and speaks from personal experience. She isn't afraid to lay out the details of her past in the hopes of helping her readers heal. There's lot of good information in this book and I recommend anyone struggling with a loss of intimacy in their marriage read it. It is set up as a ten-week study and I like that format. It gives you time to think about what you're reading and work on things a bit at a time.

For more information or to purchase this book you can follow this link:

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

WaterBrook Mltnomah was also generous enough to provide me with an extra copy that I can send to one lucky winner. For your chance simply leave me comment by October 30 with a way to contact you. Odds of winning will depend on the number of entries. Contest is open to US residents only.


A Drunkard's Path

I just finished Clare O'Donohue's second in the Someday Quilts series, A Drunkard's Path.

Once again murder strikes in the small town of Archer's Rest. Jesse stands Nell up on their first date and when she goes to find him she finds him investigating a murder. Of course it's not long before a second body turns up - right in Nell's yard. Is a serial killer prowling around Archer's Rest?

Nell, Eleanor and all the gang from the first book return. It's like a gathering of old friends. And we get to make a few new friends too.

Nell begins to investigate and before long suspects her art teacher - famous (or should I say "infamous") artist Oliver White. And to complicate matters Oliver has begun a relationship with Nell's grandmother Eleanor. How is Nell going to protect Eleanor without investigating Oliver? On the other hand, how is Nell going to investigate Oliver without hurting Eleanor's feelings?

Great mystery mixed with some good quilt talk - what more could you want? Well, to be honest - book three in the series. lol.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

One Imperfect Christmas

Yes, I'm starting my Christmas reading early. I think this is the third Christmas book I've reviewed this week.

This offering is Myra Johnson's debut novel One Imperfect Christmas. I was triply blessed with this book. First, I won it on a blog giveaway. Second, when it came it was autographed by Ms. Johnson. And third was the book itself.

At one point I thought "this book is too long - I need to know what the ending is NOW!" lol. And at the end I thought "this book is too short - I'm not ready for it to be over!". I love a book that touches me so much that I don't want to say good-bye to the characters.

Natalie Pearce is a graphic artist with a loving family. Husband Daniel, daughter Lissa and her parents Bram and Belinda, and her brother Hart and his family. This is a close family and you can feel the love and compassion these people have for each other. As with every family there are misunderstandings and "life" rushes in on you when you least expect it.

Belinda suffers a stroke at the beginning of the book and Natalie blames herself for not being there. It happens soon after Christmas and changes what was once a the favorite family holiday. Belinda was the heart and soul of their Christmas, making it a lovely and memorable occasion every year.

Over the next year, as her mother lies in a rehab facility Natalie wallows in guilt and pushes her husband and daughter away. She throws herself into her job and lets her marriage fall by the wayside.

What follows is a journey as Daniel tries to reach out to Natalie and she gives in to her fear of letting him get close. She continues to blame herself for her mother's condition and as Christmas draws near she desperately looks for a way to heal her mother - as well as herself.

This was a heartwarming as well as heartbreaking book. It was so compelling I found it hard to put it down. An outstanding debut and I will certainly be looking forward to reading more of Ms. Johnson's novels in the future.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Christmas Bus

The Christmas Bus by Melody Carlson is a perfect little book to get you in the Christmas spirit.

Collin and Amy are a young couple traveling in a Partridge Family style bus. They're headed to California and on the way they plot a course that will take them through Christmas Valley. Christmas Valley, of course, capitalizes on it's name by making an industry of Christmas. With businesses like Mrs. Santa's Diner (featuring Blitzen Burgers) to The North Pole Coffee Shop to the Shepard's Inn B&B they are fully immersed in Christmas.

The pastor Charles Ryan and his wife Edith operate the B&B, which is normally closed Christmas week. This year, much to Edith's dismay, their four children are unable to come home for Christmas. During Wednesday evening service Charles gives a sermon about entertaining angels unawares and it inspires Edith to open the B&B over Christmas.

A disparate group congregates, two couples with issues, a single elderly woman, a single older gentleman and a newly single mother with her small daughter. And then there's the bus parked in front of the B&B. Oh - did I mention - Collin and Amy are very young and Amy is very pregnant? Of course being a Christmas story I think you can see where this is going.

The beauty of this book is how Ms. Carlson brings all the characters together. There's lots of tension, people not getting along, people not wanting things to be different than they normally are and personality clashes. There are cliches, no room at the inn, angels in disguise, a crusty busybody and the ever present Christmas pageant - but they work. There's also laughter, fun, long held traditions most of us are acquainted with and a lesson to be learned.

The Christmas Bus is a shorter book so it's a good quick read. And better yet, it begs to be read all at once - it's just too good to put down.


Monday, October 12, 2009

The Sound of Sleigh Bells

The giveaway book was won by Deborah M. Congratulations!!

The Sound of Sleigh Bells by Cindy Woodsmall is the perfect book to read now as the weather is cooling down (well it is here in PA anyhow). The central character of the book is an Amish woman named Beth Hertzler. Beth is mourning the death of her fiance - but well past the normal mourning period - and harboring some guilt. Her family doesn't understand why she can't move on with her life and so they try different ways to get her to join the activities the family and community plans.

Beth works as a sort of go between for Amish craftsmen and "English" storeowners and customers. On one of her buying trips after taking an unexpected detour she finds a treasure in a small store. It's an intricate wood carving of Amish children playing in the snow. She falls in love with it but is afraid her bishop will find it to be too much of an idol to allow her to sell it.

Through some twists and turns she meets the carver and because very close to him. He has some issues of his own. Can they put their pasts behind them and move to the future they want together?

I have enjoyed Ms. Woodsmall's books for quite some time now. She writes from the knowledge gained by knowing the Amish personally. This book is a bit different from other Amish stories that I have read before. It examines some things not normally seen in Amish books. There is physical handicap - and I'm not sure why that isn't a topic in more Amish books. The Amish have a different view of handicaps than the world in general. Older people and people with handicaps, which sadly the "Englishers" tend to shy away from, are honored, cherished and protected in the Amish world. There's also another issue, which I won't reveal as it is a major plot point, but it is one that I have never read about in an Amish fiction book before.

If you haven't ever read Ms. Woodsmall's books, think in the lines of Beverly Lewis and Wanda Brunstetter - and pick up any book with Cindy Woodsmall's name on it.

You can follow this link to find information about purchasing your own copy:

If you would like an opportunity to win a hardback copy of this lovely book - just leave a comment below (be sure to leave an email address so that I can contact you). I'll be picking a winner on Friday, October 16. This contest is open only to US residents and the odds of winning depend on the number of entries.


A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Extraordinary, The Life You're Meant to Live

The giveaway copy was won by Kathy Carlton Willis. Congratulations!

For a change, I have a non-fiction book to review. I must say that this one was a bit difficult for me. I don't really do a lot of non-fiction because it's hard for me to focus on non-fiction. And this one was no different. I actually started it about four times before it really started to hit me how good it was.

The book is Extraordinary, The Life You're Meant to Live by John Bevere.

Let me start you off with the publisher's blurb:

There’s a question that troubles many believers: “Why am I not experiencing more joy, more hope, more satisfaction, more intimacy, more power, more everything in my Christian life--didn’t Jesus promise that?”

He did promise an abundant life, but too many people are trapped by the curse of “the ordinary.” They have accepted the wrong idea that following God means losing individuality, creativity, and a passion for achieving lofty goals.

Nothing could be further from the truth! John Bevere builds a convincing case, straight from Scripture, for a way of living marked by extraordinary experiences and accomplishments—the life God always intended for his children.

Here is a guide to understanding God’s incredible plans, and how to enjoy a life where he adds the “extra” to “ordinary.”

Mr. Bevere is quick to point out that there is a difference between God loving us and God being pleased with us. That ties directly in to the difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary. We're taught that God loves us no matter what, and that's true. But are our actions pleasing to God? And what are the rewards of pleasing God? No, this is not selfishly trying to "get" for ourselves. God wants to give us all things - but many times we ourselves hinder that process.

Mr. Bevere shows us through personal examples and the most wonderful scripture selections (that he clarifies right in the selection) how we can move forward in living our lives extraordinarily. I saw things that I have read and heard in church since I was a small child with a completely new view. There's so much more to life than the ordinary and God wants it all for us.

Pick this book up and see what you can learn from it. You can follow this link to information about purchasing this book:

If you leave a comment below you can be entered into a drawing to win a copy of this book. I'll be drawing a name on October 16. This drawing will be limited to US residents and the odds of winning will depend on the final number of entries.


This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

The Lover's Knot, A Someday Quilts Mystery

My latest read is The Lover's Knot, A Someday Quilts Mystery by Clare O'Donohue.

Quilting and reading are my two favorite hobbies so when I get to combine both of them in one I'm one happy camper.

The Lover's Knot refers to a quilt that Nell Fitzgerald's grandmother Eleanor made for Nell and her finance Ryan. On the day that Nell receives it in the mail, however, Ryan tells her that he thinks they should put the wedding on hold. Shocked and hurt Nell goes to Archer's Rest, on the Hudson in NY, to see her grandmother and nurse her broken heart.

Eleanor owns a quilt shop, Someday Quilts. As soon as Nell arrives she meets Marc, the handyman fixing up Eleanor's house, who will be a major figure in her near future. She also meets the member's of Eleanor's Friday night quilting group, who, like most quilters I know, try to draw Nell in to their group.

Eleanor takes a spill on the stairs and Nell ends up staying in town to help run the quilt shop, which Eleanor has just decided to expand into the vacant diner next door - with Marc doing the renovations. Nell and Marc begin to get close, Ryan shows up and murder follows close behind.

A wonderful group of characters blend together in a heart warming tale of deciding when something is worth working on and when it's time to let go - whether it be a quilting project or a relationship. And of course there is the murder mystery - complete with widowed sheriff Jesse in charge of the investigation.

Obviously you can tell by the "A Someday Quilts Mystery" that this is the first of a series. And I'm so glad. When I make new friends, I like knowing they're going to be around for a while.

The story, the friends, the mystery, it all comes together like, well, a quilt. And I'll be happy to cuddle up with the next one - hopefully someday really soon. And it shouldn't be too hard, the second book, A Drunkard's Path, has already been released. It'll be nice to hear from my new friends again.


Friday, October 2, 2009

The Lost Hours

My latest read was The Lost Hours by Karen White.

The main character of the book is Piper Mills. Orphaned at six, she was raised by her grandparents. When she was twelve, Piper helped her grandfather bury a box of her grandmother's in the backyard.

After her grandfather's death, with her grandmother in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer's disease, Piper inherits their beautiful home in Savannah, Georgia, along with the box and all it's secrets.

Piper opens the box and finds a charm necklace and some scrapbook pages and what follows is Piper's quest to discover her grandmother's story.

I will admit that the necklace was one of the main draws for me. I have a charm necklace. When my mother passed away we came across her charm bracelet while going through her things. It's still in her dresser drawer, my sister and I deciding that we would leave it there and if either of us wanted to wear it - it would be there waiting. I absolutely love that charm bracelet. It wasn't an anonymous charm bracelet - it held charms of things that represented her journey through life.

My charm necklace is like that. Every charm on it represents a part of my life. It's gotten very heavy as more and more charms have been added to it. In fact it's at the point I don't know how I'll add more to it and will probably need another one if I'm going to continue it.

The charm necklace in the book was also a representation of the events of the life of it's owners. Piper's grandmother and her two best friends owned the necklace and scrapbook. They each had it for four months of each year and wrote in the scrapbook and purchased a charm or two to add to it.

Until a terrible incident that tore the girls - and the scrapbook - apart.

Piper, who realizes she never really knew her grandmother, begins the quest to find the truth and learn her grandmother's story.

This book was so hard to put down. I read it until my eyes got so tired that the words blurred and I couldn't continue. Innocence is lost. Friendships are lost. But, where there is life, there is hope.

Pick this book up and lose yourself in Piper's adventures. You won't be sorry.