Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Saphora Warren has had enough. She has her packed bags in her hands when her philandering husband opens the door and announces that he's dying of cancer. So instead of escaping on her own to their summer home, she moves there with him as he gets treatment and lives out his last days.
Along for the summer is their eight year old grandson Eddie. The first person they meet when they arrive in town is Tobias, a young boy who befriends Eddie - and changes all their lives.
Deep down Saphora still loves her husband and I think his illness reveals that to her. She seems to try to take care of anyone who comes her way. She makes a bold stand for Tobias more than once. She makes friends easily and she's comfortable with herself.
While I didn't find this book impossible to put down it was a joy to pick up. Picking such a busy time of year to read it, there would be days I won't have time to read but each time I picked it up, I fell back into the time and place very easily.
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
This charming little gift book by Jean Gietzen is a very quick read and a wonderful book to read aloud to young children.
The story revolves around a family in 1943 who purchases a nativity set at the local five and ten store. When they get it home they find it has two baby Jesus figures. So they put a sign in the store "If You're Missing Baby Jesus call" with their phone number.
When the phone finally rings it's not at all what they expected and sends them out on a bitterly cold Christmas Eve on a totally unexpected mission that reinforces the true meaning of Christmas.
A simply wonderful book that needs to be read every Christmas season.
About November I start looking for books set at Christmas time to start reading. I was thrilled to see this book by Randy Singer as a free Kindle download and anxiously started to read it.
I so wanted to like this book and it does have good parts. But the legal drama seemed to just go on and on and on. A good portion of the book was spent on a girls basketball team and I'm just not interested in basketball so that was a drawback for me. I do enjoy books revolving around the legal system but this just seemed like it was repeating the same thing over and over.
The end of the book was very good. A couple of good twists that were rather unexpected and very pleasant ended the book on an up note.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
David C. Cook; Brdbk edition (October 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***
Rev. Dr. Robin Currie is the Early Childhood Librarian/Preschool Liaison for the Glen Ellyn Public Library and serves on the staff of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. She is also the retired pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn. Before and during seminary she was a children’s librarian for public libraries in Illinois and Iowa. She holds master’s degrees in Library Science from the University of Iowa and in Divinity from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, as well as a Doctor of Ministry in preaching from LSTC. Her published books include seven resource collections for librarians and over a dozen children’s Bible story collections.
Visit the author's blog.
List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Board book: 36 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; Brdbk edition (October 1, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER (Click on pictures to see them larger):
I absolutely loved this little book. The pictures are so colorful and adorable.
Monday, November 22, 2010
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
FaithWords (November 22, 2010)
Joyce Meyer is one of the world's leading practical Bible teachers. A #1 New York Times bestselling author, she has written more than eighty inspirational books, including The Secret to True Happiness, 100 Ways to Simplify Your Life, the entire Battlefield of the Mind family of books, her first venture into fiction with The Penny, and many others. She has also released thousands of audio teachings, as well as a complete video library. Joyce’s Enjoying Everyday Life radio and television programs are broadcast around the world, and she travels extensively conducting conferences. Joyce and her husband, Dave, are the parents of four grown children and make their home in St. Louis, Missouri.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $15.99
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (November 22, 2010)
Please press the BROWSE INSIDE THIS BOOK button to read the FIRST chapter:
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Vannetta Chapman has written a charming story of a daughter who has been living with family away from home, returning to care for her father following a serious accident right before Christmas.
Annie has spent her time away from home becoming a registered nurse - a bit of an issue in an Amish community that doesn't really believe in "advanced" education.
Samuel Yoder is the community's "doc" - not an actual doctor so much as a "healer". Samuel is skeptical of Annie's commitment to staying home as well as her ability to care for her father.
While drawn together in their care for Annie's father, they are confused by their attraction to each other. Samuel is a few years older than Annie and has lost a wife and child to an accident he blames himself for. He has closeted himself from social activities and is therefore a bit gruff when it comes to dealing with people.
Can Annie break through his defenses - and does she want to?
A thoroughly charming book although the ending came a bit abruptly - almost seems like it should be the first book of a series because there were some unanswered questions that seemed to be a big part of the plot.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Max Lucado's Cast of Character follows common people, people just like you and me, in the Bible.
In his unique style of story telling, Max shows us how God uses "ordinary" people to accomplish extraordinary tasks. Come revisit some of your favorite Bible characters and see what new lessons you can learn from them.
Friends you will revisit include Joseph, Matthew, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, Abigail, John, Paul, Moses and many others.
Another winner from Max Lucado!
Thanks to Thomas Nelson for my complimentary copy of this book.
Uncertain Heart by Andrea Boeshaar is the second book in the Seasons of Redemption series but it reads well as a stand alone novel.
Set in 1866 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin we follow Sarah McCabe, a young lady eager to be independent of her family, as she searches for a career for herself. After disappointment at losing out on a job teaching music she accepts a position as a governess to four children of Captain Brian Sinclair.
Richard Navis, one of the Captain's employees, is anxious to end his indentureship and return to his family farm, where his heart lies. And then he meets and falls in love with Sarah. But while Sarah is a willing friend, she doesn't seem to want anything further to develop between them.
This book is a page turner you don't want to miss. Engaging characters and flowing dialogue make it an easy read.
Thanks to Glass Road Publications for my copy of this wonderful book.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
The third installment in the Someday Quilts mystery series by Clare O'Donohue is a charming addition to the first two books.
The Someday Quilts group in Archer’s Rest, New York, is asked to lead a quilting workshop at the new Patchwork Bed-and-Breakfast. The retreat, however, seems to be jinxed from the start. The bed-and-breakfast clearly is not ready for the public, and those signed up for the workshops have little to no quilting experience. When a body is found in the woods and one of the Someday Quilters is the chief suspect, it’s clear that the excursion was not one of the group’s better ideas. Nell Fitzgerald leads the way in finding out who was really responsible for the murder, with the help of the other crafty ladies and her very own policeman friend Jesse Dewalt.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. We reunite with the characters from the first two books who have by now become like old friends I can't wait to visit with again. As an avid quilter I enjoyed learning about journal quilting, which is a step I have not taken yet. The mystery of the murder keeps you guessing until the end with red herrings and misleading clues thrown in along the way.
I can't wait for the fourth installment of this series.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
WaterBrook Press (October 5, 2010)
David Bordon and Tom Winters are partners in Bordon-Winters, LLC, a book concept and packaging company that produces successful books and gift products. Their previous titles include the 101 Things You Should Do series, especially the popular 101 Things You Should Do Before Going to Heaven.
List Price: $14.99
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (October 5, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Let Us Keep Christmas
Grace Noll Crowell
Whatever else be lost among the years,
Let us keep Christmas still a shining thing;
Whatever doubts assail us, or what fears,
Let us hold close one day, remembering
It’s poignant meaning for the hearts of men.
Let us get back our childlike faith again.
The History of Christmas
Many of our Christmas traditions were celebrated centuries before the Christ child was born. The twelve days of Christmas, the bright fires, the yule log, gift giving, carnivals, carolers going from house to house, holiday feasts, even church processions can all be traced back to the early Mesopotamians. These traditions were passed down throughout the known world and were popular in Rome long before the birth of Christ.
Most historians say that some three centuries after the birth of Christ, Christianity was spreading rapidly. Church leaders were alarmed that their converts continued to honor the ancient celebrations honoring pagan gods. Early Christians had chosen to keep the birth of their Christ child a solemn and religious holiday, without merriment. For centuries they had forbidden their members to take part in those ancient celebrations. But now it seemed it was a losing battle. As a compromise, they agreed to allow their members to partake in a demure and respectful celebration of the birth of Christ. Thus, the Christian celebration we know as Christmas was born in Rome, near the date 336 AD.
The actual date of Christ’s birth is unknown, so the early Christians chose December 25, probably to compete with the wildly popular Roman festival of Saturnalia. Eventually, most of the customs from the festival of Saturnalia were adopted into the celebration of Christmas and given new and sacred meanings.
Today, Christmas is both a holiday and a holy day. In America, it is the biggest event of the year, celebrated by people of all ages.
Christmas Every Day
William Dean Howells
The little girl came into her papa’s study, as she always did Saturday morning before breakfast, and asked for a story. He tried to beg off that morning, for he was very busy, but she would not let him. So he began:
“Well, once there was a little pig—”
She stopped him at the word. She said she had heard little pig stories till she was perfectly sick of them.
“Well, what kind of story shall I tell, then?”
“About Christmas. It’s getting to be the season.”
“Well!” Her papa roused himself. “Then I’ll tell you about the little girl that wanted it Christmas every day in the year. How would you like that?”
“First-rate!” said the little girl; and she nestled into comfortable shape in his lap, ready for listening.
“Very well, then, this little pig—Oh, what are you pounding me for?”
“Because you said little pig instead of little girl.”
“I should like to know what’s the difference between a little pig and a little girl that wanted Christmas every day!”
“Papa!” said the little girl warningly. At this her papa began to tell the story.
Once there was a little girl who liked Christmas so much that she wanted it to be Christmas every day in the year, and as soon as Thanksgiving was over she began to send postcards to the old Christmas Fairy to ask if she mightn’t have it. But the old Fairy never answered, and after a while the little girl found out that the Fairy wouldn’t notice anything but real letters sealed outside with a monogram—or your initial, anyway. So, then, she began to send letters, and just the day before Christmas, she got a letter from the Fairy, saying she might have it Christmas every day for a year, and then they would see about having it longer.
The little girl was excited already, preparing for the old-fashioned, once-a-year Christmas that was coming the next day. So she resolved to keep the Fairy’s promise to herself and surprise everybody with it as it kept coming true, but then it slipped out of her mind altogether.
She had a splendid Christmas. She went to bed early, so as to let Santa Claus fill the stockings, and in the morning she was up the first of anybody and found hers all lumpy with packages of candy, and oranges and grapes, and rubber balls, and all kinds of small presents. Then she waited until the rest of the family was up, and she burst into the library to look at the large presents laid out on the library table—books, and boxes of stationery, and dolls, and little stoves, and dozens of handkerchiefs, and inkstands, and skates, and photograph frames, and boxes of watercolors, and dolls’ houses—and the big Christmas tree, lighted and standing in the middle.
She had a splendid Christmas all day. She ate so much candy that she did not want any breakfast, and the whole forenoon the presents kept pouring in that had not been delivered the night before, and she went round giving the presents she had got for other people, and came home and ate turkey and cranberry for dinner, and plum pudding and nuts and raisins and oranges, and then went out and coasted, and came in with a stomachache crying, and her papa said he would see if his house was turned into that sort of fool’s paradise another year, and they had a light supper, and pretty early everybody went to bed cross.
The little girl slept very heavily and very late, but she was wakened at last by the other children dancing around her bed with their stockings full of presents in their hands. “Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!” they all shouted.
“Nonsense! It was Christmas yesterday,” said the little girl, rubbing her eyes sleepily.
Her brothers and sisters just laughed. “We don’t know about that. It’s Christmas today, anyway. You come into the library and see.”
Then all at once it flashed on the little girl that the Fairy was keeping her promise, and her year of Christmases was beginning. She was dreadfully sleepy, but she sprang up and darted into the library. There it was again! Books, and boxes of stationery, and dolls, and so on.
There was the Christmas tree blazing away, and the family picking out their presents, and her father looking perfectly puzzled, and her mother ready to cry. “I’m sure I don’t see how I’m to dispose of all these things,” said her mother, and her father said it seemed to him they had had something just like it the day before, but he supposed he must have dreamed it. This struck the little girl as the best kind of a joke, and so she ate so much candy she didn’t want any breakfast, and went round carrying presents, and had turkey and cranberry for dinner, and then went out and coasted, and came in with a stomachache, crying.
Now, the next day, it was the same thing over again, but everybody getting crosser, and at the end of a week’s time so many people had lost their tempers that you could pick up lost tempers anywhere, they perfectly strewed the ground. Even when people tried to recover their tempers they usually got somebody else’s, and it made the most dreadful mix.
The little girl began to get frightened, keeping the secret all to herself, she wanted to tell her mother, but she didn’t dare to, and she was ashamed to ask the Fairy to take back her gift, it seemed ungrateful and ill-bred. So it went on and on, and it was Christmas on St. Valentine’s Day and Washington’s Birthday, just the same as any day, and it didn’t skip even the First of April, though everything was counterfeit that day, and that was some little relief.
After a while turkeys got to be awfully scarce, selling for about a thousand dollars apiece. They got to passing off almost anything for turkeys—even half-grown hummingbirds. And cranberries—well they asked a diamond apiece for cranberries. All the woods and orchards were cut down for Christmas trees. After a while they had to make Christmas trees out of rags. But there were plenty of rags, because people got so poor, buying presents for one another, that they couldn’t get any new clothes, and they just wore their old ones to tatters. They got so poor that everybody had to go to the poorhouse, except the confectioners, and the storekeepers, and the book sellers, and they all got so rich and proud that they would hardly wait upon a person when he came to buy. It was perfectly shameful!
After it had gone on about three or four months, the little girl, whenever she came into the room in the morning and saw those great ugly, lumpy stockings dangling at the fireplace, and the disgusting presents around everywhere, used to sit down and burst out crying. In six months she was perfectly exhausted, she couldn’t even cry anymore.
And now it was on the Fourth of July! On the Fourth of July, the first boy in the United States woke up and found out that his firecrackers and toy pistol and two-dollar collection of fireworks were nothing but sugar and candy painted up to look like fireworks. Before ten o’clock every boy in the United States discovered that his July Fourth things had turned into Christmas things and was so mad. The Fourth of July orations all turned into Christmas carols, and when anybody tried to read the Declaration of Independence, instead of saying, “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary,” he was sure to sing, “God rest you merry gentlemen.” It was perfectly awful.
About the beginning of October the little girl took to sitting down on dolls wherever she found them—she hated the sight of them so, and by Thanksgiving she just slammed her presents across the room. By that time people didn’t carry presents around nicely anymore. They flung them over the fence or through the window, and, instead of taking great pains to write “For dear Papa,” or “Mama “ or “Brother,” or “Sister,” they used to write, “Take it, you horrid old thing!” and then go and bang it against the front door.
Nearly everybody had built barns to hold their presents, but pretty soon the barns overflowed, and then they used to let them lie out in the rain, or anywhere. Sometimes the police used to come and tell them to shovel their presents off the sidewalk or they would arrest them.
Before Thanksgiving came it had leaked out who had caused all these Christmases. The little girl had suffered so much that she had talked about it in her sleep, and after that hardly anybody would play with her, because if it had not been for her greediness it wouldn’t have happened. And now, when it came Thanksgiving, and she wanted them to go to church, and have turkey, and show their gratitude, they said that all the turkeys had been eaten for her old Christmas dinners and if she would stop the Christmases, they would see about the gratitude. And the very next day the little girl began sending letters to the Christmas Fairy, and then telegrams, to stop it. But it didn’t do any good, and then she got to calling at the Fairy’s house, but the girl that came to the door always said, “Not at home,” or “Engaged,” or something like that, and so it went on till it came to the old once-a-year Christmas Eve. The little girl fell asleep, and when she woke up in the morning—
“She found it was all nothing but a dream,” suggested the little girl.
“No indeed!” said her papa. “It was all every bit true!”
“What did she find out, then?”
“Why, that it wasn’t Christmas at last, and wasn’t ever going to be, anymore. Now it’s time for breakfast.”
The little girl held her papa fast around the neck.
“You shan’t go if you’re going to leave it so!”
“How do you want it left?”
“Christmas once a year.”
“All right,” said her papa, and he went on again.
Well, with no Christmas ever again, there was the greatest rejoicing all over the country. People met together everywhere and kissed and cried for joy. Carts went around and gathered up all the candy and raisins and nuts, and dumped them into the river, and it made the fish perfectly sick. And the whole United States, as far out as Alaska, was one blaze of bonfires, where the children were burning up their presents of all kinds. They had the greatest time!
The little girl went to thank the old Fairy because she had stopped its being Christmas, and she said she hoped the Fairy would keep her promise and see that Christmas never, never came again. Then the Fairy frowned, and said that now the little girl was behaving just as greedily as ever, and she’d better look out. This made the little girl think it all over carefully again, and she said she would be willing to have it Christmas about once in a thousand years, and then she said a hundred, and then she said ten, and at last she got down to one. Then the Fairy said that was the good old way that had pleased people ever since Christmas began, and she was agreed. Then the little girl said, “What’re your shoes made of?” And the Fairy said, “Leather.” And the little girl said, “Bargain’s done forever,” and skipped off, and hippity-hopped the whole way home, she was so glad.
“How will that do?” asked the papa.
“First-rate!” said the little girl, but she hated to have the story stop, and was rather sober. However, her mama put her head in at the door and asked her papa:
“Are you never coming to breakfast? What have you been telling that child?”
“Oh, just a tale with a moral.”
The little girl caught him around the neck again.
“We know! Don’t you tell what, papa! Don’t you tell what!”
William Dean Howells (1837—1920) Best known as an editor and critic, this American fiction writer produced more than forty novels and story collections. He challenged American authors to choose American subjects, portray them honestly, and create characters who use native-American speech. As a critic, he helped to introduce writers like Mark Twain, Hamlin Garland, and Stephen Crane to American readers.
What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past,
courage for the present, hope for the future.
It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow
with blessings rich and eternal, and that
every path may lead to peace.
Agnes M. Pharo
3 cups applesauce
3 cups ground cinnamon
Mix applesauce and cinnamon together until it is thick enough to hold a form. Flatten the mixture on a flat surface and cut into cookie-cutter shapes.
Place cookie shapes on a cookie sheet to dry for 3 to 4 days depending on the size and thickness of the cookies. If using as a hanging ornament, make a hole with a toothpick before drying.
Makes 15 ornaments.
8 Tbsp. butter
3 ribs celery with leaves, chopped
16 ounces chestnuts
1 large chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 pound sourdough bread, cubed
3 cups turkey stock
Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut a deep X into the flattest side of each chestnut and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes, or until outer skin of chestnut splits. Wrap roasted chestnuts in a towel to keep warm. Peel off the tough outer skin of the chestnut and thinner inner skin with a sharp knife. Chop the chestnuts coarsely and set aside.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Empty skillet contents into a large bowl. Add cubed bread, parsley, and enough stock to moisten the mix, about 2 1/2 cups. Stir in chestnuts and add salt and pepper to taste.
Use to stuff poultry or place in a buttered baking dish, drizzle with 1/2 cup more stock, and bake 30 minutes to an hour.
Makes 10–11 cups.
1 goose, 10–12 pounds
1 orange, halved
kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
For giblet stock (used in gravy):
2 onions, quartered
1 carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 pints of water
2 sprigs of sage
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 Tbsp. cornstarch (to thicken)
The goose should be defrosted and left at room temperature for at least 2 or 3 hours before cooking to bring it to equilibrium. This will improve the overall texture of the finished product. Remove the giblets from the goose and set aside. Wash the bird thoroughly inside and out with cool water and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Cut away any loose pieces of fat. Then rub the orange inside and outside of the bird. Mix the salt and pepper and rub into the skin and inside the cavity of the bird to season it.
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Truss the bird by folding the wings back under the body. Then tie the legs together with butcher’s twine. Lightly prick the skin of the bird several times with a fork to allow the fat to adequately render during the cooking process. It is important not to pierce the flesh of the bird. Place the goose breast-side up on a rack in the roasting pan, and bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes to develop some initial color. Then reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and continue cooking for approximately 3 hours.
Make a simple giblet stock to fortify and enrich the gravy while the goose is roasting by placing the giblets in a saucepan with some goose fat and cooking over low heat until browned. Add chopped onion, carrot, celery, herbs, and water. Bring to a boil and then simmer gently for about one hour. Strain and cool until needed.
The goose is done when the internal temperature of the thigh reaches 175°F. For a visual test to see if the goose is cooked, insert a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh. If the juices run clear, then it is ready. If not, then return to the oven for additional roasting time.
Once the goose is cooked, allow it to rest for 20–30 minutes. This will allow the meat to firm up and will help retain the juiciness of the bird. Remove all of the drippings from the roasting pan, strain, and remove the fat. Add these defatted drippings to the giblet broth and season to taste. To thicken the gravy, combine 1 Tbsp. of cornstarch with 3 Tbsp. of water and add to the gravy. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1–2 minutes or until thickened.
O Little Town of Bethlehem
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!
How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.
Where children pure and happy pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!
On Christmas Eve, 1865, Phillips Brooks was in Jerusalem, a trip intended to inspire spiritual rebirth after the horrors of the Civil War. Just a few months earlier, he had spoken at the funeral of President Abraham Lincoln. That clear night as he walked the streets of the Holy City, he had a sudden inspiration. Renting a horse, he set out for Bethlehem. After a solitary journey under the clear night sky, Brooks reached the tiny, remote village and was surrounded by the spirit of the first Christmas. His impoverished soul was refreshed as he considered what had happened there so many years before. Three years later on Christmas Eve, 1868, as he sat alone in his study preparing his sermon for the next day, he felt inspired to pen the words to this beautiful carol.
I, the Lord All-Powerful,
will send my messenger
to prepare the way for me.
Then suddenly the Lord
you are looking for
will appear in his temple.
The messenger you desire
is coming with my promise,
and he is on his way.
(Malachi 3:1, cev)
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
In the third volume of the Timber Ridge Reflections series, a young widow juggles hardship, family, and romance. In this page-turning faith-based romantic novel, Rachel Boyd is kept busy from dusk to dawn caring for her ranch and her two young boys. Reluctant to find new love after the loss of her husband, she avoids situations that she thinks will only lead to heartbreak. But when she begins to spend time with the local doctor, she soon realizes that she cannot keep guarding her heart.
Although I have not read the first two books in this series, this book was easy to follow. Reference is made to the earlier books and not all is fully explained but it's nothing that makes this book confusing.
The romance builds slowly and is quite believable. The characters are interesting and the descriptions of the locations are beautiful.
Thanks to Bethany House for my free copy of this book.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Emily McCarthy needs either a job or a husband. Since teaching posts for women are few and far between, Emily reluctantly accepts the mail-order-bride offer placed in the Chicago Daily Tribune by wealthy Montana rancher Bart Axel. On the way there, her stagecoach is held up. Luke Sullivan never intended to “rescue” Emily; he simply wanted the money Axel had cheated his father out of years ago. However, when Luke sees Axel’s fiancée, he knows Emily has no idea of the kind of man she is about to marry, which leaves Luke with only one option: take Emily with him. Newcomer Harris enriches the plot with plenty of good, old-fashioned western ingredients, including cattle rustling, cowboys and Indians, evil villains, and a conflicted hero who is saved by the love of a good woman. Deftly imbued with both the realistic grit and the courageous spirit of those who settled the West, this is an excellent genre-crossing choice for both romance fans and western readers.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book although at one point I did think "oh no - not another catastrophe". But everything that happened built on the things before it to bring the book to a very satisfying conclusion. The title is a bit misleading - the story is more from Luke's (the Vigilante) point of view than from Emily's, as I had expected.
In any case, it was a good book and highly recommended.
Thanks to Bethany House for my complimentary copy of this book.
Mercy Land has made some unexpected choices for a young woman in the 1930s. The sheltered daughter of a traveling preacher, she chooses to leave her rural community to move to nearby Bay City on the warm, gulf-waters of southern Alabama. There she finds a job at the local paper and spends seven years making herself indispensable to old Doc Philips, the publisher and editor. Then she gets a frantic call at dawn—it’s the biggest news story of her life, and she can’t print a word of it.
Doc has come into possession of a curious book that maps the lives of everyone in Bay City—decisions they’ve made in the past, and how those choices affect the future. Mercy and Doc are consumed by the mystery locked between the pages—Doc because he hopes to right a very old wrong, and Mercy because she wants to fulfill the book’s strange purpose. But when a mystery from Mercy’s past arrives by train, she begins to understand that she will have to make choices that will deeply affect everyone she loves—forever.
This book has some charming characters and an interesting storyline but it's a fantasy that is never truly explained. I thoroughly enjoyed River Jordan's writing style and I'm sure this will not be the last book of hers that I read.
My copy was provided by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
WaterBrook Press (October 5, 2010)
Expertly weaving together fantasy, romance and Biblical truths, Donita K. Paul penned the best-selling, fan-favorite DragonKeeper Chronicles series. After retiring early from teaching, she began a second career as an award-winning author and loves serving as a mentor for new writers of all ages. And when she’s not putting pen to paper, Donita makes her home in Colorado Springs and enjoys spending time with her grandsons, cooking, beading, stamping, and knitting.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $14.99
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (October 5, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
With snowflakes sticking to her black coat, Christmas lights blinking around shop windows, and incessant bells jingling, Cora should have felt some holiday cheer.
And she did.
Just not much.
At least she was on a Christmas errand this very minute. One present for a member of the family. Shouldn’t that count for a bit of credit in the Christmas-spirit department?
Cora planned out her Christmas gift giving in a reasonable manner. The execution of her purchasing schedule gave her a great deal of satisfaction. Tonight’s quest was a book for Uncle Eric—something about knights and castles, sword fights, shining armor, and all that.
One or two gifts purchased each week from Labor Day until December 15, and her obligations were discharged efficiently, economically, and without the excruciating last-minute frenzy that descended upon other people…like her three sisters, her mother, her grandmother, her aunts.
Cora refused to behave like her female relatives and had decided not to emulate the male side of the family either. The men didn’t buy gifts. They sometimes exchanged bottles from the liquor store, but more often they drank the spirits themselves.
Her adult ambition had been to develop her own traditions for the season, ones that sprouted from the Christianity she’d discovered in college. The right way to celebrate the birth of Christ. She avoided the chaos that could choke Christmas. Oh dear. Judgmental again. At least now she recognized when she slipped.
She glanced around Sage Street. Not too many shoppers. The quaint old shops were decked out for the holidays, but not with LED bulbs and inflated cartoon figures.
Since discovering Christianity, she’d been confused about the trappings of Christmas—the gift giving, the nativity scenes, the carols, even the Christmas tree. Every year she tried to acquire some historical background on the festivities. She was learning. She had hope. But she hadn’t wrapped her head around all the traditions yet.
The worst part was shopping.
Frenzy undid her. Order sustained her. And that was a good reason to steer clear of any commercialized holiday rush. She’d rather screw red light bulbs into plastic reindeer faces than push through a crowd of shoppers.
Cora examined the paper in her hand and compared it to the address above the nearest shop. Number 483 on the paper and 527 on the building. Close.
When she’d found the bookstore online, she had been amazed that a row of old-fashioned retailers still existed a few blocks from the high-rise office building where she worked. Truthfully, it was more like the bookstore found her. Every time she opened her browser, and on every site she visited, the ad for the old-fashioned new- and used-book store showed up in a banner or sidebar. She’d asked around, but none of her co-workers patronized the Sage Street Shopping District.
“Sounds like a derelict area to me,” said Meg, the receptionist. “Sage Street is near the old railroad station, isn’t it? The one they decided was historic so they wouldn’t tear it down, even though it’s empty and an eyesore?”
An odd desire to explore something other than the mall near her apartment seized Cora. “I’m going to check it out.”
Jake, the security guard, frowned at her. “Take a cab. You don’t want to be out too late over there.”
Cora walked. The brisk air strengthened her lungs, right? The exercise pumped her blood, right? A cab would cost three, maybe four dollars, right?
An old man, sitting on the stoop of a door marked 503, nodded at her. She smiled, and he winked as he gave her a toothless grin. Startled, she quickened her pace and gladly joined the four other pedestrians waiting at the corner for the light to change.
Number 497 emblazoned the window of an ancient shoe store on the opposite corner. She marched on. In this block she’d find the book and check another item off her Christmas list.
Finally! “Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad, Books,” Cora read the sign aloud and then grasped the shiny knob. It didn’t turn. She frowned. Stuck? Locked? The lights were on. She pressed her face against the glass. A man sat at the counter. Reading. How appropriate.
Cora wrenched the knob. A gust of wind pushed with her against the door, and she blew into the room. She stumbled and straightened, and before she could grab the door and close it properly, it swung closed, without the loud bang she expected.
“I don’t like loud noises,” the man said without looking up from his book.
“Neither do I,” said Cora.
He nodded over his book. With one gnarled finger, he pushed his glasses back up his nose.
Must be an interesting book. Cora took a quick look around. The place could use stronger lights. She glanced back at the clerk. His bright lamp cast him and his book in a golden glow.
Should she peruse the stacks or ask?
She decided to browse. She started to enter the aisle between two towering bookcases.
“Not there,” said the old man.
“I beg your pardon?” said Cora.
“How-to books. How to fix a leaky faucet. How to build a bridge. How to mulch tomatoes. How to sing opera. How-to books. You don’t need to know any of that, do you?”
“Wrong aisle, then.” He placed the heavy volume on the counter and leaned over it, apparently absorbed once more.
Cora took a step toward him. “I think I saw a movie like this once.”
His head jerked up, his scowl heavier. He glared over the top of his glasses at the books on the shelves as if they had suddenly moved or spoken or turned bright orange.
“A movie? Here? I suppose you mean the backdrop of a bookstore. Not so unusual.” He arched an eyebrow. “You’ve Got Mail and 84 Charing Cross Road.”
“I meant the dialogue. You spoke as if you knew what I needed.”
He hunched his shoulders. The dark suspenders stretched across the faded blue of his shirt. “Reading customers. Been in the business a long time.”
“I’m looking for a book for my uncle. He likes castles, knights, tales of adventure. That sort of thing.”
He sighed, closed his book, and tapped its cover. “This is it.” He stood as Cora came to the desk. “Do you want me to wrap it and send it? We have the service. My grandson’s idea.”
Cora schooled her face and her voice. One of the things she excelled in was not showing her exasperation. She’d been trained by a dysfunctional family, and that had its benefits. She knew how to take guff and not give it back. Maintaining a calm attitude was a good job skill.
She tried a friendly smile and addressed the salesclerk.
“I want to look at it first and find out how much it costs.”
“It’s the book you want, and the price is eleven dollars and thirteen cents.”
Cora rubbed her hand over the cover. It looked and felt like leather, old leather, but in good repair. The book must be ancient.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“Which?” the old man barked.
“Which part of the statement am I sure about? It doesn’t matter because I’m sure about both.”
Cora felt her armor of detachment suffer a dent. The man was impossible. She could probably order a book online and get it wrapped and delivered right to her uncle with less aggravation. But dollar signs blinked in neon red in her mind as she thought how much that would cost. No need to be hasty.
Curtain rings rattled on a rod, and Cora looked up to see a younger version of the curmudgeon step into the area behind the counter.
The younger man smiled. He had the same small, wiry build as the older version, but his smile was warm and genuine. He looked to be about fifty, but his hair was still black, as black as the old man’s hair was white. He stretched out his hand, and Cora shook it.
“I’m Bill Wizbotterdad. This is my granddad, William Wizbotterdad.”
“Let me guess. Your father is named Will?”
Bill grinned, obviously pleased she’d caught on quickly. “Willie Wizbotterdad. He’s off in Europe collecting rare books.”
“He’s not!” said the elder shop owner.
“He is.” Bill cast his granddad a worried look.
“That’s just the reason he gave for not being here.” William shook his head and leaned across the counter. “He doesn’t like Christmas. We have a special job to do at Christmas, and he doesn’t like people and dancing and matrimony.”
Bill put his arm around his grandfather and pulled him back. He let go of his granddad and spun the book on the scarred wooden counter so that Cora could read the contents. “Take a look.” He opened the cover and flipped through the pages. “Colored illustrations.”
A rattling of the door knob was followed by the sound of a shoulder thudding against the wood. Cora turned to see the door fly open with a tall man attached to it. The stranger brushed snow from his sleeves, then looked up at the two shop owners. Cora caught them giving each other a smug smile, a wink, and a nod of the head.
Odd. Lots of oddness in this shop.
She liked the book, and she wanted to leave before more snow accumulated on the streets. Yet something peculiar about this shop and the two men made her curious. Part of her longed to linger. However, smart girls trusted their instincts and didn’t hang around places that oozed mystery. She didn’t feel threatened, just intrigued. But getting to know the peculiar booksellers better was the last thing she wanted, right? She needed to get home and be done with this Christmas shopping business. “I’ll take the book.”
The newcomer stomped his feet on the mat by the door, then took off his hat.
Cora did a double take. “Mr. Derrick!”
He cocked his head and scrunched his face. “Do I know you?” The man was handsome, even wearing that comical lost expression. “Excuse me. Have we met?”
“We work in the same office.”
He studied her a moment, and a look of recognition lifted the frown. “Third desk on the right.” He hesitated, then snapped his fingers. “Cora Crowden.”
He jammed his hand in his pocket, moving his jacket aside. His tie hung loosely around his neck. She’d never seen him looking relaxed. The office clerks called him Serious Simon Derrick.
“I drew your name,” she said.
He looked puzzled.
“For the gift exchange. Tomorrow night. Office party.”
“Oh. Of course.” He nodded. “I drew Mrs. Hudson. She’s going to retire, and I heard her say she wanted to redecorate on a shoestring.”
“That’s Mrs. Wilson. Mrs. Hudson is taking leave to be with her daughter, who is giving birth to triplets.”
He frowned and began looking at the books.
“You won’t be there, will you?” Cora asked.
“At the party? No, I never come.”
“I know. I mean, I’ve worked at Sorenby’s for five years, and you’ve never been there.”
The puzzled expression returned to Serious Simon’s face. He glanced to the side. “I’m looking for the how-to section.”
Cora grinned. “On your left. Second aisle.”
He turned to stare at her, and she pointed to the shelves Mr. Wizbotterdad had not let her examine. Mr. Derrick took a step in that direction.
Cora looked back at the shop owners and caught them leaning back in identical postures, grins on their faces, and arms crossed over their chests.
Bill jerked away from the wall, grabbed her book, rummaged below the counter, and brought out a bag. He slid the book inside, then looked at her. “You didn’t want the book wrapped and delivered?”
“No, I’ll just pay for it now.”
“Are you sure you wouldn’t like to look around some more?” asked Bill.
“Right,” said William. “No hurry. Look around. Browse. You might find something you like.”
Bill elbowed William.
Simon Derrick had disappeared between the stacks.
William nodded toward the how-to books. “Get a book. We have a copy of How to Choose Gifts for Ungrateful Relatives. Third from the bottom shelf, second case from the wall.”
The statement earned him a “shh” from his grandson.
Cora shifted her attention to the man from her office and walked a few paces to peek around the shelves. “Mr. Derrick, I’m getting ready to leave. If you’re not coming to the party, may I just leave the gift on your desk tomorrow?”
He glanced at her before concentrating again on the many books. “That’s fine. Nice to see you, Miss Crowden.”
“Crowder,” she corrected, but he didn’t answer.
She went to the counter and paid. Mr. Derrick grunted when she said good-bye at the door.
“Come back again,” said Bill.
“Yes,” said William. “We have all your heart’s desires.”
Bill elbowed him, and Cora escaped into the blustering weather.
She hiked back to the office building. Snow sprayed her with tiny crystals, and the sharp wind nipped her nose. Inside the parking garage, warm air helped her thaw a bit as she walked to the spot she leased by the month. It would be a long ride home on slippery roads. But once she arrived, there would be no one there to interrupt her plans. She got in the car, turned the key, pushed the gearshift into reverse, looked over her shoulder, and backed out of her space.
She would get the gift ready to mail off and address a few cards in the quiet of her living room. There would be no yelling. That’s what she liked about living states away from her family. No one would ambush her with complaints and arguments when she walked through the door.
Except Skippy. Skippy waited. One fat, getting fatter, cat to talk to. She did complain at times about her mistress being gone too long, about her dinner being late, about things Cora could not fathom. But Cora never felt condemned by Skippy, just prodded a little.
Once inside her second-floor apartment, she pulled off her gloves, blew her nose, and went looking for Skippy.
The cat was not behind the curtain, sitting on the window seat, staring at falling snow. Not in her closet, curled up in a boot she’d knocked over. Not in the linen closet, sleeping on clean towels. She wasn’t in any of her favorite spots. Cora looked around and saw the paper bag that, this morning, had been filled with wadded scraps of Christmas paper. Balls of pretty paper and bits of ribbon littered the floor. There. Cora bent over and spied her calico cat in the bag.
“Did you have fun, Skippy?”
The cat rolled on her back and batted the top of the paper bag. Skippy then jumped from her cave and padded after Cora, as her owner headed for the bedroom.
Thirty minutes later, Cora sat at the dining room table in her cozy pink robe that enveloped her from neck to ankles. She stirred a bowl of soup and eyed the fifteen packages she’d wrapped earlier in the week. Two more sat waiting for their ribbons.
These would cost a lot less to send if some of these people were on speaking terms. She could box them together and ship them off in large boxes.
She spooned chicken and rice into her mouth and swallowed.
The soup was a tad too hot. She kept stirring.
She could send one package with seven gifts inside to Grandma Peterson, who could dispense them to her side of the family. She could send three to Aunt Carol.
She took another sip. Cooler.
Aunt Carol could keep her gift and give two to her kids. She could send five to her mom…
Cora grimaced. She had three much older sisters and one younger. “If Mom were on speaking terms with my sisters, that would help.”
She eyed Skippy, who had lifted a rear leg to clean between her back toes. “You don’t care, do you? Well, I’m trying to. And I think I’m doing a pretty good job with this Christmas thing.”
She reached over and flipped the switch on her radio. A Christmas carol poured out and jarred her nerves. She really should think about Christmas and not who received the presents. Better to think “my uncle” than “Joe, that bar bum and pool shark.”
She finished her dinner, watching her cat wash her front paws.
“You and I need to play. You’re”—she paused as Skippy turned
a meaningful glare at her—“getting a bit rotund, dear kitty.”
Skippy sneezed and commenced licking her chest.
After dinner, Cora curled up on the couch with her Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad bag. Skippy came to investigate the rattling paper.
Uncle Eric. Uncle Eric used to recite “You Are Old, Father William.” He said it was about a knight. But Cora wasn’t so sure. She dredged up memories from college English. The poem was by Lewis Carroll, who was really named Dodson, Dogson, Dodgson, or something.
“He wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” she said. “There’s a cat in the story, but not as fine a cat as you. He smiles too much.”
Skippy gave her a squint-eyed look.
Cora eased the leather-bound book out of the bag. “The William I met at the bookstore qualifies for at least ancient.”
She put the book in her lap and ran her fingers over the embossed title: How the Knights Found Their Ladies.
She might have been hasty. She didn’t know if Uncle Eric would like this. She hefted the book, guessing its weight to be around four pounds. She should have found a lighter gift. This would cost a fortune to mail.
Skippy sniffed at the binding, feline curiosity piqued. Cora stroked her fur and pushed her back. She opened the book to have a peek inside. A piece of thick paper fell out. Skippy pounced on it as it twirled to the floor.
“What is it, kitty? A bookmark?” She slipped it out from between Skippy’s paws, then turned the rectangle over in her hands. Not a bookmark. A ticket.
Admit one to the Wizards’ Christmas Ball
Dinner and Dancing
and your Destiny
Never heard of it. She tucked the ticket in between the pages and continued to flip through the book, stopping to read an occasional paragraph.
This book wasn’t for Uncle Eric at all. It was not a history, it was a story. Kind of romantic too. Definitely not Uncle Eric’s preferred reading.
Skippy curled against her thigh and purred.
“You know what, cat? I’m going to keep it.”
Skippy made her approval known by stretching her neck up and rubbing her chin on the edge of the leather cover. Cora put the book on the sofa and picked up Skippy for a cuddle. The cat squirmed out of her arms, batted at the ticket sticking out of the pages, and scampered off.
“I love you too,” called Cora.
She pulled the ticket out and read it again: Wizards’ Christmas Ball. She turned out the light and headed for bed. But as she got ready, her eye caught the computer on her desk. Maybe she could find a bit more information.
What an enchanting story! I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Many thanks to Waterbrook Press for my complimentary copy of this book.
Friday, October 15, 2010
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
WaterBrook Press; Original edition (September 7, 2010)
Susan Meissner has spent her lifetime as a writer, starting with her first poem at the age of four. She is the award-winning author of The Shape of Mercy, White Picket Fences, and many other novels. When she’s not writing, she directs the small groups and connection ministries at her San Diego church. She and her pastor husband are the parents of four young adults.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; Original edition (September 7, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Upper West Side, Manhattan
The mantle clock was exquisite even though its hands rested in silence at twenty minutes past two.
Carved—near as I could tell—from a single piece of mahogany, its glimmering patina looked warm to the touch. Rosebuds etched into the swirls of wood grain flanked the sides like two bronzed bridal bouquets. The clock’s top was rounded and smooth like the draped head of a Madonna. I ran my palm across the polished surface and it was like touching warm water.
Legend was this clock originally belonged to the young wife of a Southampton doctor and that it stopped keeping time in 1912, the very moment the Titanic sank and its owner became a widow. The grieving woman’s only consolation was the clock’s apparent prescience of her husband’s horrible fate and its kinship with the pain that left her inert in sorrow. She never remarried and she never had the clock fixed.
I bought it sight unseen for my great aunt’s antique store, like so many of the items I’d found for the display cases. In the year and half I’d been in charge of the inventory, the best pieces had come from the obscure estate sales that my British friend Emma Downing came upon while tooling around the southeast of England looking for oddities for her costume shop. She found the clock at an estate sale in Felixstowe and the auctioneer, so she told me, had been unimpressed with the clock’s sad history. Emma said he’d read the accompanying note about the clock as if reading the rules for rugby.
My mother watched now as I positioned the clock on the lacquered black mantle that rose above a marble fireplace. She held a lead crystal vase of silk daffodils in her hands.
“It should be ticking.” She frowned. “People will wonder why it’s not ticking.” She set the vase down on the hearth and stepped back. Her heels made a clicking sound on the parquet floor beneath our feet. “You know, you probably would’ve sold it by now if it was working. Did Wilson even look at it? You told me he could fix anything.”
I flicked a wisp of fuzz off the clock’s face. I hadn’t asked the shop’s resident and unofficial repairman to fix it. “It wouldn’t be the same clock if it was fixed.”
“It would be a clock that did what it was supposed to do.” My mother leaned in and straightened one of the daffodil blooms.
“This isn’t just any clock, Mom.” I took a step back too.
My mother folded her arms across the front of her Ann Taylor suit. Pale blue, the color of baby blankets and robins’ eggs. Her signature color. “Look, I get all that about the Titanic and the young widow, but you can’t prove any of it, Jane,” she said. “You could never sell it on that story.”
A flicker of sadness wobbled inside me at the thought of parting with the clock. This happens when you work in retail. Sometimes you have a hard time selling what you bought to sell.
“I’m thinking maybe I’ll keep it.”
“You don’t make a profit by hanging onto the inventory.” My mother whispered this, but I heard her. She intended for me to hear her. This was her way of saying what she wanted to about her aunt’s shop—which she’d inherit when Great Aunt Thea passed—without coming across as interfering.
My mother thinks she tries very hard not to interfere. But it is one of her talents. Interfering when she thinks she’s not. It drives my younger sister Leslie nuts.
“Do you want me to take it back to the store?” I asked.
“No! It’s perfect for this place. I just wish it were ticking.” She nearly pouted.
I reached for the box at my feet that I brought the clock in along with a set of Shakespeare’s works, a pair of pewter candlesticks, and a Wedgwood vase. “You could always get a CD of sound effects and run a loop of a ticking clock,” I joked.
She turned to me, childlike determination in her eyes. “I wonder how hard it would be to find a CD like that!”
“I was kidding, Mom! Look what you have to work with.” I pointed to the simulated stereo system she’d placed into a polished entertainment center behind us. My mother never used real electronics in the houses she staged, although with the clientele she usually worked with—affluent real estate brokers and equally well-off buyers and sellers—she certainly could.
“So I’ll bring in a portable player and hide it in the hearth pillows.” She shrugged and then turned to the adjoining dining room. A gleaming black dining table had been set with white bone china, pale yellow linen napkins, and mounds of fake chicken salad, mauvey rubber grapes, and plastic croissants and petit fours. An arrangement of pussy willows graced the center of the table. “Do you think the pussy willows are too rustic?” she asked.
She wanted me to say yes so I did.
“I think so, too,” she said. “I think we should swap these out for that vase of Gerbera daisies you have on that escritoire in the shop’s front window. I don’t know what I was thinking when I brought these.” She reached for the unlucky pussy willows. “We can put these on the entry table with our business cards.”
She turned to me. “You did bring yours this time, didn’t you? It’s silly for you to go to all this work and then not get any customers out of it.” My mother made her way to the entryway with the pussy willows in her hands and intention in her step. I followed her.
This was only the second house I’d helped her stage, and I didn’t bring business cards the first time because she hadn’t invited me to until we were about to leave. She’d promptly told me then to never go anywhere without business cards. Not even to the ladies room. She’d said it and then waited, like she expected me to take out my BlackBerry and make a note of it.
“I have them right here.” I reached into the front pocket of my capris and pulled out a handful of glossy business cards emblazoned with Amsterdam Avenue Antiques and its logo—three As entwined like a Celtic eternity knot. I handed them to her and she placed them in a silver dish next to her own. Sophia Keller Interior Design and Home Staging. The pussy willows actually looked wonderful against the tall jute-colored wall.
“There. That looks better!” she exclaimed as if reading my thoughts. She turned to survey the main floor of the townhouse. The owners had relocated to the Hamptons and were selling off their Manhattan properties to fund a cushy retirement. Half the décor—the books, the vases, the prints—were on loan from Aunt Thea’s shop. My mother, who’d been staging real estate for two years, brought me in a few months earlier when she discovered a stately home filled with charming and authentic antiques sold faster than the same home filled with reproductions.
“You and Brad should get out of that teensy apartment on the West Side and buy this place. The owners are practically giving it away.”
Her tone suggested she didn’t expect me to respond. I easily let the comment evaporate into the sunbeams caressing us. It was a comment for which I had had no response.
My mother’s gaze swept across the two large rooms she’d furnished and she frowned when her eyes reached the mantle and the silent clock.
“Well, I’ll just have to come back later today,” she spoke into the silence. “It’s being shown first thing in the morning.” She swung back around. “Come on. I’ll take you back.”
We stepped out into the April sunshine and to her Lexus parked across the street along a line of townhouses just like the one we’d left. As we began to drive away, the stillness in the car thickened, and I fished my cell phone out of my purse to see if I’d missed any calls while we were finishing the house. On the drive over I had a purposeful conversation with Emma about a box of old books she found at a jumble sale in Oxfordshire. That lengthy conversation filled the entire commute from the store on the seven-hundred block of Amsterdam to the townhouse on East Ninth, and I found myself wishing I could somehow repeat that providential circumstance. My mother would ask about Brad if the silence continued. There was no missed call, and I started to probe my brain for something to talk about. I suddenly remembered I hadn’t told my mother I’d found a new assistant. I opened my mouth to tell her about Stacy but I was too late.
“So what do you hear from Brad?” she asked cheerfully.
“He’s doing fine.” The answer flew out of my mouth as if I’d rehearsed it. She looked away from the traffic ahead, blinked at me, and then turned her attention back to the road. A taxi pulled in front of her, and she laid on the horn, pronouncing a curse on all taxi drivers.
“Idiot.” She turned to me. “How much longer do you think he will stay in New Hampshire?” Her brow was creased. “You aren’t going to try to keep two households going forever, are you?”
I exhaled heavily. “It’s a really good job, Mom. And he likes the change of pace and the new responsibilities. It’s only been two months.”
“Yes, but the inconvenience has to be wearing on you both. It must be quite a hassle maintaining two residences, not to mention the expense, and then all that time away from each other.” She paused but only for a moment. “I just don’t see why he couldn’t have found something similar right here in New York. I mean, don’t all big hospitals have the same jobs in radiology? That’s what your father told me. And he should know.”
“Just because there are similar jobs doesn’t mean there are similar vacancies, Mom.”
She tapped the steering wheel. “Yes, but your father said . . .”
“I know Dad thinks he might’ve been able to help Brad find something on Long Island but Brad wanted this job. And no offense, Mom, but the head of environmental services doesn’t hire radiologists.”
She bristled. I shouldn’t have said it. She would repeat that comment to my dad, not to hurt him but to vent her frustration at not having been able to convince me she was right and I was wrong. But it would hurt him anyway.
“I’m sorry, Mom,” I added. “Don’t tell him I said that, okay? I just really don’t want to rehash this again.”
But she wasn’t done. “Your father has been at that hospital for twenty-seven years. He knows a lot of people.” She emphasized the last four words with a pointed stare in my direction.
“I know he does. That’s really not what I meant. It’s just Brad has always wanted this kind of job. He’s working with cancer patients. This really matters to him.”
“But the job’s in New Hampshire!”
“Well, Connor is in New Hampshire!” It sounded irrelevant even to me to mention the current location of Brad’s and my college-age son. Connor had nothing to do with any of this. And he was an hour away from where Brad was anyway.
“And you are here,” my mother said evenly. “If Brad wanted out of the city, there are plenty of quieter hospitals right around here. And plenty of sick people for that matter.”
There was an undercurrent in her tone, subtle and yet obvious, that assured me we really weren’t talking about sick people and hospitals and the miles between Manhattan and Manchester. It was as if she’d guessed what I’d tried to keep from my parents the last eight weeks.
My husband didn’t want out of the city.
He just wanted out.
Lady In Waiting is a "What If" story. Ms. Meissner takes a figure from history and builds a "what if" story around that figure, in this case Lady Jane Grey. Blending Lady Jane's story with another Jane, this one a present day New Yorker, she weaves a tale of what ifs for both ladies.
A truly thrilling read although a bit of an explanation of some of the terms of the English aristocracy would have been helpful. If you don't what what a Queen Dowager, Duke, King Protector, etc. are it can be a bit hard to understand some of the action of the story.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Ruth Livingstone's life changes drastically the day her father puts a young child in her arms and sends her to a small village in New Jersey under an assumed name. There Ruth pretends to be a widow and quietly secludes herself until her father is acquitted of a crime. But with the emergence of the penny press, the imagination of the reading public is stirred, and her father's trial stands center stage. Asher Tripp is the brash newspaperman who determines that this case is the event he can use to redeem himself as a journalist. Ruth finds solace tending a garden along the banks of the Toms River--a place where she can find a measure of peace in the midst of the sorrow that continues to build. It is also here that Asher Tripp finds a temporary residence, all in an attempt to discover if the lovely creature known as Widow Malloy is truly Ruth Livingstone, the woman every newspaper has been looking for. Love begins to slowly bloom...but is the affection they share strong enough to withstand the secrets that separate them?
This was an interesting book. While not an impossible to put down page turner it did provide entertaining reading.
Thanks to Bethany House for my complimentary copy of this book.
Friday, October 1, 2010
In Every Heartbeat by Kim Vogel Sawyer is the story of three friends who grew up together in an orphanage and head off to college together.
Libby's goal is to be a famous journalist. Petey plans to be a minister. And Bennett wants to pledge a fraternity, find a place where he belongs and have all the things he felt he missed out on growing up.
As the country surges towards World War I tensions are high and opinions are strong. As the friends leave the small, enclosed world of the orphanage and enter the college campus they are pulled apart physically, for the first time in a decade the three friends will live close, but not in the same building, and emotionally. New friends are made, new desires are expressed and wants and longings are within reach.
As the friends struggle to stay together, Libby makes a discovery about Petey's family that threatens to tear them all apart. Or will it bind them together forever?
A wonderful book that was hard to put down. Well worth reading.
Thanks for Bethany House for my copy of In Every Heartbeat.
In the small town of Jordan, Oklahoma residents find themselves the victim of a shocking terrorist attack. A society so completely dependant on technology for its security and commerce has suddenly been turned upside down. Even worse than the uncertainty of their immediate safety is another problem that no one can explain.
People who have been dead for years are popping up all over town, appearing and giving witness that the Rapture of the Church is eminent but for the lost, the Great Tribulation. Who will listen to their message and repent and who will refuse to believe their own eyes?
Meet Jack, a pastor who is suddenly slapped in the face by what has happened and then baffled when he spots Sister Gregg, a former member of his church. The only trouble is the last time he saw the woman was at her own funeral. The town begins to shake at these events and as a church turns to their leader, Pastor Jack desperately searches for the answers he must give his congregation. How much time remains for people to repent is anyone’s guess, for Jack and his flock it’s a race to reach the lost.
The Dead Rise First is a fast paced, intriguing read for anyone interested in the Rapture. This book brings something new to readers and is provoking discussion among scholars with this one question: why do the dead rise first? Although purely fiction, the events are based on scriptural answers that unearth a new understanding concerning the rapture of the Church. Does it reveal a mystery about how God will raise the dead in Christ as seen in 1Thess. 4:13-14? Will it be the same way Jesus resurrected in Matthew 27:52-53? You decide.
The very provocative and thought provoking book. If you would like more information or would like to purchase a copy go to www.thedeadrisefirst.com.
Thanks to Hamby Media for my complimentary copy of The Dead Rise First
Friday, September 24, 2010
Masquerade by Nancy Moser is the story of Charlotte Gleason, a wealthy English heiress who has known nothing but pampering and luxury, and her ladies' maid Dora Connors, who has known nothing but a life of service to others. Dora is only a year older than Charlotte and they have grown to be friends.
The year is 1886 and Charlotte's parents have arranged a marriage between Charlotte and a wealthy young American man named Conrad. It is decided that Dora will accompany Charlotte as she sails to America but she will go as her companion rather than her maid.
While on the ship Dora has her first taste of life as a "lady" and Charlotte gets a glimpse of how the "lower classes" live.
Charlotte is not altogether pleased with the purpose of her journey. She wants to fall in love and marry rather than marry a man her parents chose for her.
Before the ladies reach America Charlotte comes up with a plan. Dora will assume Charlotte's identity and marry Conrad while Charlotte will live out what she feels will be an adventure in a new land finding a man to love. It's not an altogether selfish plan on Charlotte's part. Dora will have a secure future as a lady.
So when they reach America Dora goes to Conrad's home and Charlotte begins her adventure. But things aren't quite what she hoped they would be. Immediately she lands in trouble. Will she change her mind about switching places?
Historically accurate and richly detailed. Ms. Moser even includes a section in the back of the book that reveals some of the parallels of her story and real life events as well as pictures and descriptions of some of the fashions described in the book.
Great characters, believable situations and wonderful story-telling make this a book you won't want to put down.
My thanks to Bethany House for my copy of Masquerade for my honest review.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2010)
BJ Hoff’s bestselling historical novels continue to cross the boundaries of religion, language, and culture to capture a worldwide reading audience. Her books include Song of Erin and American Anthem and such popular series as The Riverhaven Years, The Mountain Song Legacy, and The Emerald Ballad. Hoff’s stories, although set in the past, are always relevant to the present. Whether her characters move about in small country towns or metropolitan areas, reside in Amish settlements or in coal company houses, she creates communities where people can form relationships, raise families, pursue their faith, and experience the mountains and valleys of life. BJ and her husband make their home in Ohio.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Youth must with time decay…
Beauty must fade away…
Castles are sacked in war…
Chieftains are scattered far…
Truth is a fixed star….
From “Aileen Aroon” GERALD GRIFFIN (1803–1840)
New York City
It was a fine summer evening in the city, the kind of sweet, soft evening that made the young delight in their youth and the elderly content with their lot.
On this evening Daniel Kavanagh and Tierney Burke were indulging in one of their favorite pastimes—stuffing themselves with pastries from Krueger’s bakery as they lounged against the glass front of the building. As usual, Tierney was buying. Daniel as yet had no job and no money. But Tierney, with a week’s pay in his pocket from his job at the hotel and a month’s wages due from his part-time job at Patrick Walsh’s estate, declared he felt rotten with money and eager to enjoy it.
It had been a good day, Daniel decided as he polished off his last sugar kucken. His mother was visiting, as she did every other Saturday, delivered as always by one of the Farmington carriages. Every Saturday without fail, a carriage either brought her to the Burkes’, or came to collect Daniel for a visit at the Farmington mansion uptown, where his mother worked.
In truth, Daniel thought he preferred the Saturdays he spent at the Farmingtons’, for then he could visit with his friend, Evan Whittaker, and the Fitzgerald children, as well as his mother. He enjoyed his temporary living arrangement with Uncle Mike and Tierney, but often he found himself missing the daily contact with his mother and the Fitzgeralds—especially Katie.
The thought of Katie brought a smile to his face and a sting of worry to his mind. Katie was both his friend and his sweetheart; they would marry when they were of age—that had been decided long ago.
So committed to their future plans was he that Daniel paid little heed to Tierney’s relentless teasing about his “lassie.” The fact was that Katie Fitzgerald had been his girl from the time they were wee wanes back in the village, and he did not mind who knew it. But Katie had ever been frail, and the famine and the long, horrific ship crossing had taken a fierce toll on her.
Daniel could not help but fret about her health. He would have thought the good, plentiful food and proper medical attention she was receiving at the Farmingtons’ would be enough to have her feeling fit by now. Instead, she scarcely seemed improved at all.
Still, as his mother had reminded him just today, three months was not really so long a time—not with all the troubles Katie had been through. “You must be patient, Daniel John,” she had cautioned him. “You must be patient and faithful with your prayers.”
He was trying to be both, but it was hard, all the same, not to worry.
Shifting his weight from one foot to the other, Daniel turned his attention to Pearl Street. Although darkness was gathering, most of the neighborhood seemed to be in no hurry to return to their cramped living quarters. The sultry August atmosphere carried the sounds of children playing, mothers scolding, dogs barking, and men arguing. Most of the voices were thick with Irish brogue, although German and an occasional stream of Italian could also be heard.
Almost as thick as the cacophony of immigrant voices were the odors that mingled on the night air. The ever-present stench of piled-up garbage in the streets had grown worse with the recent warm temperatures; the fumes from sewage and animal droppings were more noxious than ever.
Still, there was no spoiling the pleasure of such a fine evening. Besides, Daniel was growing accustomed to the aroma of New York. Indeed, the smell rarely bothered him at all these days; it was negligible compared to the stench of Ireland’s rotten potato fields and the countless dead bodies lying alongside the country’s roads.
“So, then,” Tierney said, downing a nut kipfel in one bite before wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, “will they tie the knot soon, do you think? Your mum and my da?”
It was a question Tierney seemed bent on asking at least once a week, a question that continued to make Daniel feel awkward—almost as if his mother were somehow under an obligation to marry Uncle Mike. More and more Tierney’s prodding put Daniel on guard, made him feel the need to defend his mother—never mind that he secretly harbored the same question.
“I don’t suppose it’s for either of us to guess,” he muttered in reply. “Sure, and Mother does care a great deal for Uncle Mike.”
Tierney gave a curt, doubtful nod, turning the full intensity of his unnerving ice-blue stare on Daniel. “If that’s so,” he said, “then why is she still holding out?”
Daniel bristled. “It’s not that she’s holding out,” he protested. “She just needs more time, don’t you see? They haven’t seen each other for more than seventeen years, after all! She can hardly be expected to jump into marriage right away!”
Tierney regarded him with a speculative look, then shrugged. “You’re right, of course,” he said cheerfully, shoving his hands into his pockets. As if no friction whatever had occurred between them, he tilted a quick grin at Daniel. “I expect I’m just impatient because I’m wanting to see them wed.”
Not for the first time, Daniel found himself disarmed by his quicksilver friend. The older boy had a way of making abrasive, outrageous remarks, then quickly backing off, as if sensing he had caused Daniel discomfort.
Tierney had an incredible energy about him, a tension that sometimes made it seem that any instant he might leap from the ground and take off flying. He was impatient and blunt, decisive and headstrong. Yet he had an obvious streak of kindness, even gentleness, that could appear at the most unexpected moments.
Living with him was akin to keeping company with a hurricane. Wild and impetuous one moment, eager and conciliatory the next, he was entirely unpredictable—and a great deal more fun than any boy Daniel had ever known.
He liked Tierney immensely. In truth, he wished his mother would marry Uncle Mike so they could be a real family.
“If they do get married,” Tierney was saying, watching Daniel with a teasing grin, “you and I will be brothers. How do you feel about that, Danny-boy?”
Daniel rolled his eyes, but couldn’t stop a smile of pleasure. “Sure, and won’t I be the lucky lad, then?”
Tierney wiggled his dark brows. “Sure, and won’t you at that?” he shot back, perfectly mimicking Daniel’s brogue.
Avoiding Michael’s eyes, Nora stared at the flickering candle in the middle of the kitchen table.
The silence in the room, while not entirely strained, was awkward, to say the least. Nora had sensed Michael’s impatience early in their visit. She thought she understood it; certainly, she could not fault the man for wanting more of a commitment than she’d been able to grant him thus far.
On the other hand, she didn’t know how she could have handled things between them any differently. From the day of their reunion—Nora’s first day in New York City—she had done her best to be entirely honest with Michael. She had told him then—and on other occasions since—that she cared for him deeply but could not marry him for a time, if ever.
In the weeks and months that followed her arrival in New York, Nora’s life had changed radically. All that she had once held dear, everything familiar, had been mercilessly torn away from her. She had lost her home and her entire family except for Daniel John. Yet much had been given to her as well.
God had been good—and faithful. Daniel John had a home with Michael and Tierney, and she and the orphaned Fitzgerald children were safe and snug in the Farmington mansion with Lewis Farmington and his daughter, Sara—people who must be, Nora was certain, the kindest human beings God ever created.
Aye, she had fine lodgings—even a job—and she had friends, good friends: Michael, Evan Whittaker, Sara and Lewis Farmington, and Ginger, the Farmingtons’ delightful housekeeper. There was more food on her plate than she could eat, and a fire to warm her bones for the coming winter. Had any other penniless widow-woman ever been so blessed?
Yet when it came to Michael, something deep within her warned her to wait, to go slowly. There were times when she wanted nothing more than to run to the shelter of the man’s brawny arms and accept the security he seemed so set on offering—the security of a friendship that dated back to their childhood, the security of marriage and a home of her own. But in the next instant she would find herself drawing back, shying away from the idea of Michael as the solution to her problems.
She needed time, perhaps a great deal of time. Of that much, at least, she was certain. Time to heal, time to seek direction for her life. God’s direction.
And time to forget Morgan Fitzgerald…
“The Farmingtons seem more than pleased with your work for them,” Michael said, breaking the silence and jarring Nora back to her surroundings. “They cannot say enough good things about you.”
Struggling to put aside her nagging melancholy, Nora smiled and made a weak dismissing motion with her hand. “Sure, they are only being kind,” she said. “ ’Tis little enough they allow me to do. I suppose they still think me ill, but in truth I’m feeling much stronger.”
“I can believe that,” Michael said, studying her with open approval. “You’re looking more fit each day. I think you might have even gained a bit at last.”
Surprised, Nora glanced down at her figure. She did feel stronger physically, stronger than she had for months. “Indeed. Perhaps with all this fine American food, I’ll grow as round as Pumpkin Emmie,” she said, trying to ease the tension between them with reference to daft Emmie Fahey, one of the terrors of their youth.
“You’ve a ways to go, there,” Michael said, meeting her smile. “But you are looking more yourself, lass, and that’s the truth.”
Unnerved by the way he was scrutinizing her, Nora glanced away. “Our sons are becoming good friends, it seems.”
Michael, too, seemed relieved to move to safer ground. “Aye, they are,” he answered eagerly. “And I couldn’t be happier for it. Your Daniel is a fine boy—a good influence on that rascal of mine.”
“Oh, Michael,” Nora protested, “I think you’re far too hard on Tierney! He doesn’t seem nearly the rogue you paint him to be.”
With a sigh, Michael rose from the table to put the kettle on for more tea. “I’m the first to admit Tierney’s not a bad boy. Nevertheless, he can be a handful. And unpredictable—” He shook his head as he started for the stove. “Why, I don’t know what to expect from the lad one minute to the next, and that’s the truth.”
“It’s not an easy age for him, Michael. Don’t you remember how it was, being more grown-up than child, yet not quite either?”
Nora could have answered her own question. Michael had never seemed anything but a man grown, had never appeared to know the meaning of childishness or uncertainty, at least not in the time she had known him.
Returning with the kettle, he offered Nora more tea. When she declined, he proceeded to pour himself a fresh cup. “What I remember most about being a boy,” he said with just the ghost of a smile, “was trying to keep you and our lad, Morgan, out of the soup.”
Nora glanced quickly away. “Aye, you were like a brother to the both of us,” she said quietly.
“It wasn’t a brother I wanted to be to you, Nora,” he said pointedly, pausing with the kettle suspended above his cup. “That was your choice, not mine.”
He looked at her, setting the kettle down between them. “Is it still Morgan, then?” A muscle at the side of his mouth tightened. “Is he the reason you cannot bring yourself to marry me?”
“No! No, Michael, it is not Morgan! I’ve tried to explain all this before. I thought you understood…”
His gaze on her didn’t waver. “Nora, I have tried. But I’m not blind, lass. I see the way things are.”
Nora looked away, but she could still feel his eyes on her. “What do you mean?”
“I mean that Morgan Fitzgerald still occupies a large space in your heart—perhaps so great a space there will never be room for another.”
He waved away her protest, saying nothing. Instead, he went to stand at the window, his back to her. He stood there for a long time in silence. At last, he drew in a deep sigh and said quietly, “We’d be good together, I think. We could build a fine life, a good home—watch our boys grow to manhood.” Stopping he turned to face her. “Perhaps we could even have more children…”
He let his words drift away, unfinished. As he stood there, his gaze fixed on her face, the frustration that had hardened his expression earlier faded, giving way to a rare tenderness. The grim lines about his mouth seemed to disappear, and his eyes took on a gentle smile.
“We go back a long way, you and I,” he said softly. “And our boys—why, they’re well on their way to being brothers already. Ah, it could work for us, Nora! You must see that.” Shoving his hands down deep into his pockets, he stood watching her. “I know I cannot offer you much in the way of material things just yet, but we’d have enough, enough for us all. And things will improve, I can promise you that. I have prospects on the force—”
“Oh, Michael, you know none of that matters to me!”
With three broad strides he closed the distance between them. Bracing both hands palms down on the tabletop, he brought his face close to hers, his eyes burning. “What, then, Nora? What does matter? Tell me, lass, for I’ll do whatever I can to make this work for us. I swear I will! Tell me what I can do to convince you to marry me.”
Nora remembered he had asked her that same question once before, when he was still a young man preparing to go to America. He had done his best then, too, to convince her to be his wife.
That had been seventeen years ago. Seventeen years, and her answer was still not what he wanted to hear.
“Michael, you know you have ever been…special…to me.”
He said nothing, simply went on searching her eyes, his large, blunt hands now clenched to fists atop the table.
“I do care for you…” She did. She was not immune to Michael’s appeal, his almost arrogant handsomeness, the strength that seemed to pulse from him. But more than that, and far deeper, were the memories that bound them, the friendship that even today anchored their affection for each other. She could not bring herself to hurt him, but neither could she lie to him!
Suddenly, he stunned her by grasping both her hands in his and pulling her up from the chair to face him. Holding her hands firmly, he drew her to him. “And I care for you, Nora,” he said, his voice gruff. With one hand he lifted her chin, forcing her to meet his relentless gaze. “I have always cared for you, lass, and that’s the truth.”
Trembling, Nora held her breath as he bent to press his lips to hers. Irrationally, she almost wished Michael’s kiss would blind her with love for him, send stars shooting through her. Instead, she felt only the gentle warmth, the same sweet, sad affection she had felt for him all those years so long ago when he had kissed her goodbye, regret brimming in his eyes, before sailing for America.
He knew. He said nothing, but she felt his knowing as she stood there, miserable beneath those dark, searching eyes that seemed to probe her very soul. Gradually he freed her from his embrace, setting her gently away from him with a sad smile.
“You have been through a great sorrow,” he said huskily. “And I am asking too much of you, too soon. I’m sorry, lass. Perhaps it’s just that I’m anxious for you to realize that when you’re ready, I will be here. I will wait.”
“Oh, Michael, please—don’t…”
He put a finger to her lips to silence her. “Enough sober talk for tonight. Why don’t we have us a stroll? We’ll go and find the lads and see what they’re up to.”
Relieved, Nora nodded, managing a smile. “Aye, I’d like that.”
Michael smiled, too, watching her with infinite tenderness. Framing her face between his calloused hands, he brushed his lips over her forehead. “Remember that I am still your friend, Nora Ellen. No matter what happens—or does not happen—between us, I will always be your friend.”
Nora could have wept for gratitude at his understanding, his gentleness. “Thank you, Michael,” she whispered. “Thank you for being the man you are. And thank you,” she added fervently, “for being my friend.”
An intriguing second book in the series. Nice to revisit the characters from book one and meet some new interesting characters to continue the series.