Sunday, January 31, 2010

Nancy Drew Challenge January Recap

The Nancy Drew Challenge is a reading challenge for 2010 for readers to attempt to read all 56 original yellow hardbacks that were in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories. Click here for more information or to sign up for the challenge. At the end of each month, I will put up a post where participants of the challenge can recap how they did during that month.

So the first month of the Nancy Drew Challenge ends today. How have you guys done?

I've read the first six books in January. These first few books have been reread by me many times over the past few years as I have attempted to read all the books. I always read about the first 10 before I end up having to postpone reading them.

Several thoughts I had while reading:

- Did Nancy recently graduate from high school? She's supposedly 18 and still lives with her dad. She doesn't go to college, doesn't have a job, and (at the time) does not have a serious boyfriend for potential husband material. So what exactly is she doing? Does she intend to live with her dad forever?
- Bess and George seemingly come out of nowhere. They are introduced in the 5th book, phasing out Nancy's friendship with Helen Corning.
- In the Secret of Red Gate Farm, I noticed some politically incorrect terms being used to describe Native Americans. One particular incident involved Nancy, Bess and George buying "Squaw costumes" for the dance
-This seems to be a recurring trend with a lot of mysteries, but I just love how the culprits will just blab their confessions to Nancy before the cops come. It seems to be the only way for the reader to get the whole background story.
- I've noticed that many times a character will react to a situation with a lot of excitement. For example "Are you serious?" cried Nancy. It just seems very weird to me to use the word cry as a verb in this way. Just a pet peeve.

This stinks because I KNOW I had lots more tidbits I was thinking while reading and now I can't remember them. For next month, I will have to jot down while reading.

Overall, I'm enjoying these reads. Some of the mysteries are better than others. Even more interesting is that for some of these books, even though I've reread them many times before, I could NOT remember who the culprit was. The storyline shows their age, but it's still a delight to read. I've already gotten the next several books on request for the library so I will be glad to continue my journey to complete my goal.

Oh, on another note, I received the prizes for those who complete the challenge (or at least read 30 books in 2010), the Nancy Drew Computer Games from Her Interactive. They look FAB. The winners of these are going to love them!

How was your experience with Nancy Drew in January? Link up your responses in the Mr. Linky below. Please link directly to your post page and NOT your main blog page. If you don't have a blog, write about your January recap in the comments.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Shelf Discover Challenge Report: Summer of Fear by Lois Duncan

Why is Rachel the only one to sense the evil that surrounds Julia?

From the moment Rachel's cousin Julia arrives that summer, she seems to seep into Rachel's life like a poison. Everyone else is enchanted by her--including Rachel's boyfriend. But what does Julia really want?

When I was in middle school, I was a HUGE Lois Duncan fan. My absolute favorite book of hers is Locked in Time. To this day, I will read that book and still get chills and then start over thinking. Also it was around that time when the movie I Know What You Did Last Summer came out and everyone wanted to go back and read the book that the movie was based on. However, somehow I missed out on four of Duncan's books that are considered some of her classic YA thriller stories. This is the first of them that I read for the Shelf Discovery Challenge.

Rachel is a teenage girl who is preparing for what will be a normal yet exciting summer for her. She's made a bunch of plans, plus the guy she likes has finally shown interest in her and things are looking good there. Then the news that her aunt and uncle have suddenly died and her cousin Julia must come to stay with them. Right from the beginning, Rachel begins to have suspicions of Julia and that she may not be who she truly is. These suspicions deepen when everyone around her seems to be bewitched by Julia and falls under her spell. No one believes Rachel even when she finds almost concrete evidence and those who care about begin to suffer drastic consequences.

As interesting as the story is, it shows its age. If the book had been set in the 90s or beyond, there would have been many ways for Rachel to prove that Julia wasn't who she was. Obviously the technology didn't exist back then so it was just frustrating to see what now would be so easy, back in the 70s was impossible. Something that was of interest is the fact that Rachel's parents refuse to listen to her concern and worries. Granted, how Rachel presented these feelings was not done in the best way, but it must have been a sign of the times for her parents to immediately dismiss her and side instead with Julie. Nowadays, parents should know that if their child starts feeling uncomfortable or disturbed in situations like this, they MUST show concern and investigate. Also comments that were made about how first cousins can still date were slightly disturbing. There's also the ending and resolution that I don't want to spoil, but let's just say that I found a lot of questions still unanswered.

Overall though, I did enjoy the book. I think the cover for the version I read was a little off. It's a bit blurry but the picture of the face looks like a werewolf or something. The book does a good job of combining mystery, terror and suspense without having to resort to sex, violence or language. There's lots of good buildup (ok I will admit, I peeked at the end) and it really keeps you on the edge of your seat. Teens of today will still enjoy this classic YA terror novel of the 70s.

I also found out that Wes Craven directed a TV movie based on this book starring Linda Blair as Rachel and Fran Drescher as her friend Carolyn (wonder if she spoke in the nasal voice). It was made in 1978 but I'm going to try to track it down to see how faithful or how much scarier Craven made the movie. Either way it should be interesting!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Book Review: "Becca by the Book" by Laura Jensen Walker

Adventurous, off-beat Becca Daniels will try almost anything—purple hair, skydiving, even her book club’s crazy challenge. To prove she’s not commitment-phobic, Becca agrees to twenty-five dates with whoever asks her out next. When “churchy” Ben—definitely not Becca’s type—calls, the hilarious and eye-opening dates could lead to Becca’s greatest adventure yet.

Ever since I was introduced to the Getaway Girls Book Club in Daring Chloe, I have wanted to become an honorary member. Seriously, they read the best books and then go on exciting adventures based on the books. What more could you ask for? This book speaks to us from Becca's point of view, which I knew was going to be interesting considering Becca had been my least favorite of the Girls. Something about her in the previous books just kept rubbing me the wrong way. I'm not sure if it was her attitude or what, but I found myself getting annoyed with how she acted in the other books in the series. I was hoping that this book would erase any prejudgments I had about her.

Well after reading, to be honest, I'm still not a Becca fan but I have learned that I can stand her for at least one whole book. To be fair, this story is very interesting as Becca is introduced to the "world of Christian-ese" as she attempts to win a bet she has with the other book club members. By dating Ben for a long period of time, she's thrown into the world of church potlucks, conferences and Jesus nail polish, a world she knows nothing about. The view that we get from Becca about these things is very interesting because as a non Christian, she questions as to why Christians use certain "code words" or act the way that they do. It's actually quite refreshing to see that a lot of times, Christians don't really know what they are doing and just seem to be talking the talk but not really walking the walk.

I enjoyed Becca and Kailyn's trip to New York as that is one of my top destinations in the US that I MUST visit before I die. I was especially geeked that the John Lennon memorial in Central Park was mentioned and visited. This trip seems to be the BIG one since the Statue of Liberty is placed on the front over. However I thought the trip to Monterrey and Salinas was much more interesting even though it took up less pages. More of the group got to share in this trip and the highlights mentioned sounded fabulous. I was rather intrigued by Paige's situation at the end of the book. I did not see that coming nor was there any indication that her character would have acted that way. The previous book in the series was told from her perspective and I never would have thought that she would have found herself in that predicament. As it stood in this book, it's rather glossed over which I found a bit surprising.

I did have a few qualms with this book. To be honest I felt that it was the weakest one of the series. I didn't really like how members of Ben's church were portrayed. They were portrayed as the extreme stereotypical Christian. I can understand why Walker made them that way, but they just came across as very cardboard characters. I just didn't appreciate the close mindedness of some of the members and that there was no rebuttal to their actions and thoughts. I also felt that the book ended rather abruptly. I felt as if there could have been more to Becca's story but the story pretty much came to a complete halt and then there's an epilogue updating as to what the rest of the club is doing. That also made me pretty sad as it seems this is the last book in the series. I felt that there could have been more books spotlighting all the members. Jenna completely disappears from the story by the beginning of the book with not much explanation and I didn't feel as if we got to know the group members as well as we did in previous books.

Overall, even though this is probably my least favorite book by the author, I did enjoy the book. It was a fun read and I really liked all the references about books (although the comment that Christians shouldn't read fiction - while said as a stereotype - did irk me). If you've read the other books in the series, you will want to read this one. I will say that if you don't normally read Christian chick lit, this book might not be your cup of tea.

Becca By the Book by Laura Jensen Walker is published by Zondervan (2010)

This review copy was provided for a blog tour with the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance.

Courteous Cad by Catherine Palmer

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Courteous Cad

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (December 3, 2009)

***Special thanks to Christy Wong of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Catherine Palmer lives in Atlanta with her husband, Tim, where they serve as missionaries in a refugee community. They have two grown sons. She is a graduate of Southwest Baptist University and holds a master's degree in English from Baylor University. Her first book was published in 1988. Since then, she has published more than 50 novels, many of them national best sellers. Catherine has won numerous awards for her writing, including the Christy Award—the highest honor in Christian fiction—and the Romantic Times BookClub Career Achievement Award for inspirational fiction. Total sales of her novels number more than 2 million copies.

Visit the author's website.

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:














Otley, Yorkshire

1817

“I shall never marry,” Prudence Watson declared to her sister as they crossed a busy Yorkshire street. “Men are cads, all of them. They toy with our hearts. Then they brush us aside as if we were no more than a crumb of cake at teatime. A passing fancy. A sweet morsel enjoyed for a moment and soon forgotten.”

“Enough, Prudence,” her sister pleaded. “You make me quite hungry, and you know we are late to tea.”

“Hungry?” A glance revealed the twitch of mirth on Mary's lips. Prudence frowned. “You think me silly.”

“Dearest Pru, you are silly.” Mary raised her wool collar against the cold, misty drizzle. “One look at you announces it to all the world. You're far too curly-haired, pink-cheeked, and blue-eyed to be taken seriously.”

“I cannot help my cheeks and curls, nor have they anything to do with my resolve to remain unmarried.”

“But they have everything to do with the throng of eligible men clamoring to fill your dance card at every ball. Your suitors send flowers and ask you to walk in the gardens. On the days you take callers, they stand elbow to elbow in the foyer. It is really too much. Surely one of them must be rewarded with your hand.”

“No,” Prudence vowed. “I shall not marry. I intend to follow the example of my friend Betsy.”

“Elizabeth Fry is long wed and the mother of too many children to count.”

“But she obeys a calling far higher than matrimony.”

“Rushing in and out of prisons with blankets and porridge? Is that your friend's high calling?”

“Indeed it is, Mary. Betsy is a crusader. With God's help, she intends to better the lives of the poor women in Newgate.”

“Better the lives of soiled doves, pickpockets, and tavern maids?” Mary scoffed. “I should like to see that.”

“And so you will, for I have no doubt of Betsy's success. I shall succeed, too, when God reveals my mission. I mean to be an advocate for the downtrodden. I shall champion those less fortunate than I.”

“You are hardly fortunate yourself, Pru. You would do better to marry a rich man and redeem the world by bringing up moral, godly, well-behaved children.”

“Do not continue to press me on that issue, Mary, I beg you. My mind is set. I have loved and lost. I cannot bear another agony so great.”

“Do you refer to that man more than twice your age? the Tiverton blacksmith? Mr. . . . Mr. Walker?”

Prudence tried to ignore the disdain in Mary's voice. They were nearing the inn at which they had taken lodging in the town of Otley. Their eldest sister, Sarah, had prescribed a tour of the north country, declaring Yorkshire's wild beauty the perfect antidote to downtrodden spirits. Thus far, Prudence reflected, the journey had not achieved its aim.

Now, Mary had raised again the subject of great torment to Prudence. It was almost as though she enjoyed mocking her younger sister's passion for a man she could never wed. Whatever anyone thought of him, Prudence decided, she would defend her love with valor and tenacity.

“Mr. Walker is a gentleman,” she insisted. “A gentleman of the first order.”

“Nonsense,” Mary retorted. “He has no title, no land, no home, no education, nothing. How can you call him a gentleman?”

“Of course he has no title--he is an American!” Annoyed, Prudence lifted her skirts as she approached a large puddle in the street. “Americans have no peerage. By law, they are all equal.”

“Equally common. Equally ordinary. Equally low.” Mary rolled her eyes. “Honestly, Pru, you can do far better than Mr. Walker. Sarah and I hold the opinion that her nephew, Henry Carlyle, Lord Delacroix, would suit you very well indeed. She writes that he is returned from India much improved from their last acquaintance. Delacroix owns a fine home in London and another in the country. He is wealthy, handsome, and titled. In short, the perfect catch. Leave everything to your sisters, Pru. We shall make it all come about.”

“You will do nothing of the sort! Delacroix is a foolish, reckless cad. I would not marry him if he were the last man in England.”

Annoyed, Prudence stepped onto a narrow plank, a makeshift bridge someone had laid across the puddle. Attempting to steady herself, she did not notice a ragged boy dart from an alleyway. He splashed into the muddy water, snatched the velvet reticule at her waist, and fled.

“Oh!” she cried out.

The plank tilted. Prudence tipped. Her balance shifted.

In a pouf of white petticoats, she tottered backward until she could do nothing but unceremoniously seat herself in the center of the dirty pool. Mud splattered across her blue cape and pink skirt as she sprawled out, legs askew and one slipper floating in the muck.

“Dear lady!” A man knelt beside her. “Are you injured? Please allow me to assist you.”

She looked into eyes the color of warm treacle. A tumble of dark curls fell over his brow. Angled cheekbones were echoed in the squared jut of his jaw. It was the face of an angel. Her guardian angel.

“My bag,” she sputtered. “The boy took it.”

“My man has gone after him. Have no fear on that account. But what of you? Can you stand? May I not help you?”

He held out a hand sheathed in a brown kid glove. Prudence reached for it, but Mary intervened.

“You are mud from head to toe, Pru!” She blocked the stranger's hand. “You must try to get up on your own. We are near the inn, and we shall find you a clean gown at once.”

“Hang my gown!” Prudence retorted. “Give me your hand, sister, or allow this gentleman to aid me. My entire . . . undercarriage is wet.”

At this, the man's lips curved into a grin. “Do accept my offer of assistance, dear lady, and I shall wrap my cloak about you . . . you and your damp undercarriage.”

The motley crowd gathered on the street were laughing and elbowing one another at the sight of a fine lady seated in a puddle. Prudence had endured quite enough derision and mockery for one day. She set her muddy hand in the gentleman's palm. He slipped his free hand under her arm and helped her rise. Before she could bemoan her disheveled state, he swept the thick wool cloak from his shoulders and laid it across her own.

“My name is Sherbourne,” he said as he led her toward the inn. “William Sherbourne of Otley.”

“I am Prudence Watson. Of London.”

Utterly miserable, she realized a truth far worse than a muddy gown, a missing slipper, and a tender undercarriage. She was crying. Crying first because she had been assaulted. Second because her bag was stolen away. Third because she was covered in cold, sticky mud. Fourth and every other number because Mr. Walker had abandoned her.

He had declared he loved Prudence too much to make her his wife. He kissed her hand. He bade her farewell. And she had neither seen nor heard from him since.

“You will catch pneumonia,” Mary cried as she hastened ahead of them to open the inn's door. “Oh, Pru, you will have a fever by sunset and we shall bleed you and care for you and you will die anyway, just like my dear Mr. Heathhill, who left me a widow.”

“Upon my word, madam,” William spoke up. “I would never lay out such a fate for a woman so young and lovely. Miss Watson is hardly bound for an early grave. Do refrain from such predictions, I beg you.”

“Oh, Mary, his rose was in my reticule,” Prudence moaned. “The rose Mr. Walker gave me. I pressed it and vowed to keep it forever. And now it is lost.”

“Your husband?” William asked. He helped her ascend the stairs and escorted her into the inn. “Give me his name, and I shall alert him to your distress.”

“She has no husband,” Mary informed him. “We are both unmarried, for I am recently a widow.”

“Do accept my sincere condolences.”

“Thank you, sir. But we have not been properly introduced. I am Mrs. John Heathhill of Cranleigh Crescent in London.”

“William Sherbourne of Otley, at your service.” He made a crisp bow. “You are Miss Watson's sister?”

“Yes,” Prudence cut in, “and if she will stop chattering for once, I shall welcome her attention. Mary, come with me, for I am shivering.”

“Heavens! That is exactly how the influenza began with my dear late husband!” Mary took her sister's arm and stepped toward the narrow staircase. “Thank you, Mr. Sherbourne. We are in your debt.”

“Think nothing of it,” he replied. “I wish you a speedy recovery and excellent health, Miss Watson. Good afternoon, ladies.”

“Such a gentleman!” Mary exclaimed as she accompanied her sister up the stairs and into their suite. “So very chivalrous. I wager he is married. Even so, I should be happy to see him again. You have his cloak still, and on that account we are compelled to call on him. What good fortune! He is well mannered indeed. And you must agree he is terribly handsome.”

Prudence was in no humor to discuss anyone's merits. “Find my blue gown, Mary. The one with roses. And ask the maids to bring hot water. Hot, mind you. I cannot bear another drop of cold water. I am quite chilled to the bone.”

While Mary gave instructions to the inn's staff, Prudence began removing her sodden gown. She shuddered at the memory of that boy snatching her reticule. Thank heaven for Mr. Sherbourne's kindness. But Mr. Walker's rose was gone now, just as the man himself had disappeared from her life.

“Did you like him?” Mary asked as she sorted through the gowns in her sister's trunk. “I thought he had nice eyes. Very brown. His smile delighted me, too. He was uncommonly tall, yet his bearing could not have been more regal. If he is yet unmarried, I think him just the sort of man to make you a good husband.”

“A husband?” Prudence could hardly believe it. “You were matchmaking while I sat in the mud? Honestly, Mary, you should wed Mr. Sherbourne yourself.”

“Now you tease me. You know my mourning is not complete. Even if it were, I am certain I shall never find another man as good to me as my dear late Mr. Heathhill.”

“If you will not marry, why must you make such valiant efforts to force me into that state? I have declared my intention never to wed. You and Sarah must respect that decision.”

“Our duty to you supersedes all your ridiculous notions, Pru. You have no home and no money. Society accepts you only because of your excellent connections.”

“You refer to yourself, of course. And Sarah. With such superior sisters to guide me, I can never go wrong.”

When the maids entered the room with pitchers of steaming water, Prudence gladly escaped her hovering sister. She loved Mary well enough, but the death of Mr. Heathhill had cast the poor woman into a misery that nothing could erase. Mary's baby daughter resided in the eager arms of doting grandparents while she was away, but she missed the child dreadfully. With both sisters mourning lost love, their holiday in the north had proven as melancholy as the misty moors, glassy lakes, and windswept dells of Yorkshire.

Not even a warm bath and clean, dry garments could stop Prudence from shivering. Mary had gone to the inn's gathering room with the hope of ordering tea. The thought of a cup of tea and a crackling blaze on the hearth sent Prudence hurrying down after her sister.

Amid clusters of chatting guests, she spotted Mary at a table near the fire. Two maids were laying out a hearty tea--a spread of currant cake, warm scones, cold meats, jams, and marmalade. A round-bellied brown teapot sent up a curl of steam.

Prudence chose a chair while Mary gloomily cut the cake and served it. “Not enough currants,” she decreed. “And very crumbly.”

“I have been thinking about your observations on my situation in life,” Prudence said. “I see you cannot help but compare my lot to that of my siblings. Thanks to our late father, Sarah has more money than she wants. You inherited your husband's estate and thus have no worry about the future. But I? I am to be pitied. You think me poor.”

“You are poor,” Mary corrected her. “Sarah is not only rich, but her place in society was secured forever by her marriage into the Delacroix family. She is terribly well connected. Surely you read Miss Pickworth's column in last week's issue of The Tattler. She reported that Sarah's new husband is likely to be awarded a title.”

“Miss Pickworth, Miss Pickworth. Do you read The Tattler day and night, Mary? One might suppose Miss Pickworth to be your dearest friend--and not some anonymous gossip whose reports keep society in a flutter.”

“Miss Pickworth keeps society abreast of important news.” Mary poured two cups of tea. “I value her advice, and I welcome her information.”

“Unfounded rumors and hints of scandal,” Prudence retorted. “Nothing but tittle-tattle.”

“Oh, stir your tea, Pru.”

For a moment, both sisters tended to their cups. But Prudence at last broached a subject she had been considering for some time.

“I am ready to go home,” she told her sister. “I want to see Sarah. I miss my friends, Betsy most of all. Anne, you know, is dearer still to me, but she is rarely at home. I do not mind, really, for the thought of Anne only reminds me of Mr. Walker.”

“Please forgive my interruption.”

A man's deep voice startled Prudence. She looked up to find William Sherbourne standing at their table. He was all she had remembered, and more. His shoulders were impossibly broad, his hair the exact color of strong tea, his hands so large they would circle a woman's waist without difficulty. She had not noticed how fine he looked in his tall black riding boots and coat. But now she did, and she sat up straighter.

“May I trouble you ladies for a moment?” he asked.

“Mr. Sherbourne, how delightful to see you again.” Mary's words dripped honey. “Do join us for tea, won't you?”

“Thank you, but I fear I cannot. Duty calls.” He turned his deep brown eyes on Prudence. “Miss Watson, my man retrieved your bag. I trust nothing is amiss.”

He held out the velvet reticule she had been carrying. So delighted she could not speak, Prudence took it and loosened the silk drawstrings. After a moment's search, she located her small leather-bound journal and opened it. From its pages, the dried blossom fluttered onto her lap.

“Sister, have you nothing to say to Mr. Sherbourne?” Mary asked. “Perhaps you would like to thank him for his kindness?”

“Yes, of course,” Prudence said, tucking the rose and notebook back into her reticule and rising from her chair. “I am grateful to you, Mr. Sherbourne. First you rescued me from the street, and now you have returned my bag. You are very gallant.”

He laughed. “Gallant, am I? I fear there are many who would disagree with you. But perhaps you would honor me with the favor of your company for a moment. There is someone I wish you to meet.”

Prudence glanced at her sister, who was pretending not to notice anything but the few currants in her tea cake.

“Do run along, Pru,” Mary said. “I am quite content to take my tea and await your return.”

William held out his arm, and Prudence slipped her hand around it. “I hope you do not think me forward in my request,” he remarked. “You know nothing of my character, yet you accompany me willingly.”

“I have called you gallant,” she replied. “Was I mistaken?”

“Greatly.” His brown eyes twinkled as he escorted her toward the door of the inn. “I am so far from gallant that you would do well never to speak to me again. But it is too late, for I have taken you captive. You are under my spell, and I may do with you as I wish.”

Uncertain, Prudence studied his face. “What is it you wish, sir?”

“Ah, but if I reveal my dark schemes, the spell will be broken. I would have you think me courteous. Noble. Kind.”

“You tease me now. Are you not a gentleman?”

“Quite the opposite. I am, in fact, a rogue. A rogue of the worst sort, and never to be trusted. I rescue ladies from puddles only on Tuesdays. The remainder of the week, I am contemptible. But look, here is my man with the scalawag who stole your bag. And with them stands a true gentleman, one who wishes to know you.”

Feeling slightly off-kilter, Prudence turned her attention to a liveried footman just inside the inn, near the door. In his right hand, he clasped the ragged collar of a young boy whose dirty face wore a sneer. Beside them stood a man so like William Sherbourne in appearance that she thought they must be twins.

“Randolph Sherbourne, eldest of three brothers,” William announced. “Randolph, may I introduce Miss Prudence Watson?”

“I am delighted to make your acquaintance, madam.” He made her a genteel bow.

She returned a somewhat wobbly curtsy. It was one thing to meet one man of stature, elegance, and wit, but quite another to find herself in the presence of two such men.

“Miss Watson, you are as lovely as my brother reported,” Randolph said. “His accounts are so often exaggerated that I give them little notice. But in your case, he perhaps did not do you justice.”

“I believe I called her an angel, Randolph. There can be no superlative more flattering. Yet I confess I did struggle to give an adequate account of Miss Watson's charms.”

“Please, gentlemen,” Prudence spoke up at last. She had heard too much already. These brothers were men like all the rest, stumbling over themselves to impress and flatter. “My tea awaits, and I must hasten to thank your footman for retrieving my reticule.”

“But of course,” William agreed. “Harris, do relate to Miss Watson your adventures of the afternoon.”

The footman bowed. “I pursued this boy down an alley and over a fence, madam. In short order, I captured him and retrieved your bag.”

“Thank you, Harris.” Prudence favored him with a smile. “I am most grateful.”

“What shall we do with the vile offender?” William asked her. “I have considered the gallows, but his neck is too thin to serve that purpose. The rack might be useful, but he has already surrendered your reticule, and we need no further information from him. Gaol, do you think? Or should we feed him to wild hogs?”

Prudence pursed her lips to keep her expression stern. “I favor bears,” she declared. “They are larger than hogs and make quick work of their prey.”

The boy let out a strangled squawk. “Please, ma'am, I'm sorry for what I done. I'll never do it again, I swear.”

She bent to study his face and noted freckles beneath the dirt. “What is your name, young man? And how old are you?”

“I'm ten,” he said. “My name is Tom Smith.”

“Tom Smith,” she repeated. “Does your father own a smithy?”

“No, ma'am. My father be dead these three years together.”

“I am sorry to hear it. Tell me, Tom, do you believe your father would be pleased that you have taken to stealing?”

“He would know why I done it, for he would see Davy's sufferin' and wish to ease it--same as all of us.”

“And who is Davy?” she asked.

“My brother. We're piecers, ma'am. And all our sisters be scavengers. Davy was crippled in the mill.” Tom's large gray eyes fastened on William Sherbourne as he pointed a thin finger. “His mill.”

“Impossible,” William said. “My family built our mill, in fact, with the express purpose of providing honest and humane labor for the villagers of Otley.”

“Take this, Tom.” Prudence pressed a coin into the boy's grimy hand. “Please use it for your brother's care.”

“A shillin'?” He gaped at her.

“Yes. But you must promise to turn from crime and always be a good boy.”

“I promise, ma'am. With all my heart.”

“Run along, then.” She smiled as he pushed the shilling deep into the pocket of his trousers.

“You are an angel,” Tom said. “Truly, you are.”

With a final look back at her, he slipped out of the footman's grasp and flew through the doorway and down the street.

“Now that is an interesting approach to deterring misbehavior,” William addressed his brother. “Catch a thief, then pay him. What do you think, Randolph? Shall you recommend it to Parliament on your next appointment in the House of Lords? Perhaps it might be made a law.”

Prudence bristled. “I gave the shilling to aid Tom Smith's injured brother. Perhaps you should recommend that to Parliament. I have heard much about the abhorrent treatment of children who work in the mills.”

Randolph Sherbourne spoke up. “My family's worsted mill, Miss Watson, is nothing like those factories of ill repute.”

“I believe young Davy Smith might argue the point. His brother blames your mill for the injury.”

“Do you take the word of a pickpocket over that of a gentleman?” William asked her.

“I see you call yourself a gentleman when the situation requires one, Mr. Sherbourne. Only moments ago, you were a rogue.”

“I fear William's first account of his character was accurate,” Randolph told her. “We have done our best to redeem him, but alas, our efforts always come to naught. He is bad through and through, a villain with a black heart and no soul whatever.”

“As wicked as that, is he?” Prudence suddenly found it difficult to fan her flame of moral outrage. “Then I am glad our acquaintance will be of short duration. My sister and I soon end our tour of the north country. Perhaps as early as tomorrow morning we shall set off for London.”

“But I have hardly begun to abuse William,” Randolph protested. “My brother deserves much worse, and you must know the whole truth about him. My wife and I should enjoy the honor of your company at dinner today. You and your sister are welcome at Thorne Lodge.”

“You will never persuade Miss Watson to linger in Yorkshire,” William assured his brother. “Her heart hastens her toward a gentleman who has been so fortunate as to win the love of an angel.”

“Ah, you are engaged, Miss Watson,” Randolph said. “I should very much like to congratulate the man who prevailed over all other suitors.”

“His name is Walker,” William informed him. “With a single red rose, he secured his triumph.”

“You assume too much, sir. I am not engaged.” Prudence looked away, afraid the men might see her distress and mock it. “Marriage is not the object of my heart's desire.”

“Yet your pain upon losing Mr. Walker's rose was great indeed,” William observed. “What can have parted you from him?”

“Upon my honor, Mr. Sherbourne,” Prudence snapped, “I think you very rude to intrude on my privacy with such a question.”

“Yes, but rudeness is the hallmark of my character. I give offense wherever I go.”

“Indeed,” Randolph agreed. “William is always impolite and discourteous. I should urge you to ignore him, Miss Watson. But in this case, I am as curious as he. How dare anyone object to a gentleman of whom you approve so heartily?”

“Mr. Walker is an American,” she told the brothers. “He is a blacksmith. And poor. With so many disadvantages, society decreed a match between us unconscionable. We were parted, and I do not know where he has gone.”

“An American, did you say?” William asked. “Is he an older man? rather tall with a stocky build? black hair?”

“Mr. Walker's ancestors were native to America,” Prudence said. “Of the Osage tribe. He is more than twice my age. Sir, do you know him?”

“I hired the man three months ago. He is the blacksmith at my mill.”

Prudence gasped. “Mr. Walker is here? in Otley?”

“Perhaps she will not be leaving Yorkshire quite so soon,” Randolph commented. “I believe Miss Watson has found a reason to stay.”

“She may find reason to go when she learns that Mr. Walker is soon to be married.” William's brown eyes softened. “I am sorry to bear unhappy tidings. Dear lady, you look quite pale. May I bring you a chair?”

“No,” she said, holding up a hand. “I am unmoved by your news. It is right and proper that Mr. Walker has found a wife. I am very happy for him. And now if you will both excuse me, my sister has long been wishing for my company.”

After giving the briefest of curtsies, she turned away and made for the fire as swiftly as her feet would fly. She would not cry. She would not reveal the slightest emotion. No one must guess she felt anything but contentment and perfect ease.

“Whatever is the matter with you?” Mary asked as Prudence sank into her chair. “You look as if you might faint dead away!”

“Mr. Walker is here,” Prudence choked out. “In Yorkshire. In this very town. And he is engaged to be married.”

Mary offered her handkerchief. “Shocking,” she whispered. “Shocking and sad. But dry your eyes before you make a scene, Pru, for I have just had the most wonderful news from the lady at the next table. Do you not wish to hear it?”

Prudence could barely form words. “No, Mary. I am quite undone.”

“You must hear it anyway, for this news concerns you.” Mary leaned across the table and lowered her voice. “Mr. William Sherbourne, who rescued you from the puddle and has paid you such extraordinary attention, is a proper gentleman with excellent connections. His eldest brother is a baron and owns a great estate in Yorkshire. His second brother is a clergyman who lives in India. He himself is a most distinguished officer in the Royal Navy, and he has just returned from sea after many months fighting the Americans . . . or was it the French? I can never recall.”

“Nor can I,” Prudence murmured.

“Never mind, because he has quit the Navy and is now settled in Otley for good. He owns a large worsted mill and is worth five thousand pounds a year. Think of it--five thousand a year! And best of all--he is unmarried. Quite unattached. How wonderful for you!”

Prudence swallowed against the growing lump in her throat. “I do not care if he is worth ten thousand a year and owns five worsted mills, Mary. I do not want him. I do not want him at all.”

“Quick, dry your eyes, Pru, for here he comes. And his brother. You may win his heart yet, and what happiness awaits you then. Oh, heavens, why did I not wear my good bonnet?”

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Book Review: "Deliver Us From Evil" by Robin Caroll

A beautiful yet tough woman working in a beautiful yet tough setting, Brannon Callahan is a search and rescue helicopter pilot for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Strong faith and a decorated history of service have kept her one step ahead of on-the-job dangers, but there's no precedent for what's about to happen. After a blizzard takes down a small plane carrying U.S. Marshal Roark Holland (already haunted by a recent tragedy), Brannon must save him in more ways than one and safeguard the donor heart he's transporting to a government witness on the edge of death. Otherwise the largest child trafficking ring in history-with shocking links from Thailand to Tennessee-will slip further away into darkness along the Appalachian Trail.

I have been reading Robin Caroll's Love Inspired Suspense books for years and have greatly enjoyed them. Therefore when I heard she was having her first trade paperback release come out this year, I knew I would be wanting to read it. The story is quite thrilling as it involves daring rescues, quickfire escapes and a storyline with an important message that needs to be told. There's a lot of action and fast paced storyline right from the get go as we follow the adventures of Brannon and Roark and witness their growing relationship.

I had a bit of trouble with the story as I felt it was VERY heavy on the romance and not so much on the suspense. I'm the type of person that actually prefers more emphasis on the suspense with just a touch of romance to enhance the story. Therefore with this read, I didn't feel very engrossed in the romantic subplot. I felt that the characters weren't very developed in terms of their relationship. I just personally thought it seemed that Brannon and Roark didn't have that much chemistry. There will probably be others that disagree with me, but I just did not feel the connection.

However the sections on child trafficking and sex trade were very informative and very powerful to read. It's so sad that this happens even in the US under our noses. More attention needs to be brought to this plight and this book does an excellent job with informing unaware readers about the situation. This is information that needs to be made more public and I applaud Caroll for taking an extremely uncomfortable and difficult subject and making it mainstream. I felt so bad for the girls who were subjected to this lifestyle. It is disgusting how people condone this behavior and treat other humans as pawns in their money making schemes.
Overall I did enjoy reading Caroll's first novel with her new publisher and I'll be looking forward to reading future readings from her.

Deliver Us From Evil by Robin Caroll is published by B and H Publishing (2010)

This ARC was provided by the publisher

Tea With Hezbollah by Ted Dekker and Carl Medearis

(I really really want to read this book but with school starting and other emergencies popping up, I just haven't had the time to before the blog tour, so check back later for a true review, for now here's the publisher's info)

Is it really possible to love one’s enemies?

That’s the question that sparked a fascinating and, at times, terrifying journey into the heart of the Middle East during the summer of 2008. It was a trip that began in Egypt, passed beneath the steel and glass high rises of Saudi Arabia, then wound through the bullet- pocked alleyways of Beirut and dusty streets of Damascus, before ending at the cradle of the world’s three major religions: Jerusalem.

Tea with Hezbollah
combines nail-biting narrative with the texture of rich historical background, as readers join novelist Ted Dekker and his co-author and Middle East expert, Carl Medearis, on a hair-raising journey. They are with them in every rocky cab ride, late-night border crossing, and back-room conversation as they sit down one-on-one with some of the most notorious leaders of the Arab world. These candid discussions with leaders of Hezbollah and Hamas, with muftis, sheikhs, and ayatollahs, with Osama bin Laden’s brothers, reveal these men to be real people with emotions, fears, and hopes of their own. Along the way, Dekker and Medearis discover surprising answers and even more surprising questions that they could not have anticipated—questions that lead straight to the heart of Middle Eastern conflict.

Through powerful narrative Tea With Hezbollah will draw the West into a completely fresh understanding of those we call our enemies and the teaching that dares us to love them. A must read for all who see the looming threat rising in the Middle East.

Ted Dekker is the author of many nationally bestselling novels, including Bone Man’s Daughters, The Circle Trilogy, Thr3e, and House, which was coauthored by Frank Peretti. His unique style of storytelling has captured the attention of millions worldwide. Visit him at TedDekker.com.

Carl Medearis is the founder and president of International Initiatives, LLC, an organization that promotes cultural, educational, and commercial exchange between the East and the West. He is an advisor on Arab affairs to the members of the U.S. Congress and leaders in international business.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Book Review: "The Last Place I Want to Be" by P. Buchanan

At fourteen, Amy is supposed to be hanging out with friends and enjoying life as a carefree teenager. Instead, her father announces he's moving the family across the country—away from home, away from friends, and away from the school newspaper that Amy adores. And all to open a bed-and-breakfast in a tiny Northern California town. Why her? Why now?

Feeling like the newbie she is, Amy is left out and alone. How is she supposed to fit in where she is obviously not welcome? And how can she help her family with their new business when she is so unhappy? When finally Amy seeks God's guidance, she quickly learns that God's answers to prayer are never what we expect.

I love finding little gems of reading goodness that I would have never come across had it not been for being a book blogger. This book was one of those little nuggets of reading joy. Honestly I just could not get over how much I enjoyed reading this book. It had everything I love in a YA book - food, friendships, characters I could relate to, small town settings, deep characterizations. Amy is trying to fit in with her new surroundings but she's having trouble. When she does manage to find a niche with the school paper, it's not the glam job she thought it was going to be.

There were times when Amy really got on my nerves with her attitude. I understand her desire to fit in and get a head start on the school paper. However the way she came across was very unlikable. She just acted like a know it all and was incredibly naive about how things were run. I think the worse was just her assumption that she would get a top position simply because she had gone to a bigger school and thought she knew better than the other staff members. Her first impressions of the other girls on the staff are incredibly snobbish considering the fact that she's just a lowly freshman AND the new girl! Therefore her transformation throughout the book is much needed and comes across very naturally and believable. The author is male, but you would never know it from the story as the story is told perfectly in a 14 year old female's POV. It's full of all those awkward moments of growing up and learning that it's ok to be wrong.

I loved the small town setting and all the townsfolk that showed up in the story. Billie and Mark's story is hilarious. There's a lot of miscommunication and hurt feelings that could have been avoided if pride didn't get in the way but it all played out very well. I also really liked seeing the inn transform both physically and how it affected Amy's family. I felt that Amy's dad's dream of having the bed and breakfast open was parallel to Amy's dream about the newspaper. It didn't work out exactly as they both planned but it ended up being better for them in the long run.

The only qualm I had was that it's never found out as to why Amy's letters got unanswered. I chalk it up to friendships fading after one moves away, but still it leaves the reader hanging and I would have liked a definite answer. Other than this, I am just raving about the book. Really, the entire book was just really enjoyable to read. It's a rather thin book at less than 200 pages, but the story is one that is very comforting to read and reaches deep. If I could find out more information about the author, I would love to know if he has any other novels published because this book was a total pleasure for me. HIGHLY recommended.

The Last Place I Want to Be by P. Buchanan is published by Kregel (2009)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book Review: "Beautiful" by Cindy Martinusen - Coloma

Since childhood, 17-year-old Ellie Summerfield has fought to overcome her grandfather's painful words by becoming driven, determined, and successful---even to the detriment of others. But when tragedy strikes, she's confronted with her deepest fears. What is her life really worth? Experience one girl's journey to rebuild herself and discover true beauty.

"Wow" is all I could say after finishing this book. Cindy Martinusen-Coloma has most definitely found her niche in writing YA fiction. This was an extremely profound and moving read yet at the same time really enjoyable to sit back and relax. It's thought that Ellie has the perfect life with everything going for her. Meanwhile her older sister Megan feels overshadowed and never noticed. Then a tragic accident happens which changes both sisters' attitudes, personalities and how they view life. I felt that I could understand why both girls acted the way they did. Everything they thought they knew had completely changed in a single incident. Even if I didn't agree with how they handled the situation, I knew and understood their actions. Their grandfather was utterly horrible. I'm appalled that even though their parents knew what was going on, nothing was done about the problem. It's really sad that Ellie had to have those words hanging over her throughout her life, it's something no child should ever have to face.

For readers wondering if you need to read
Ruby Unscripted before reading this book, you do not need to. Other than the story taking place in the same school, I saw no other ties at all. This book can be completely read as a standalone. The only thing I would change about the book was the fact that nothing on the back cover hints that this is also a sister story. There's no mention of Megan anywhere on the cover therefore I was surprised that half of this book is about her. There's nothing really wrong with this other than I thought that Megan gets kinda shafted in terms of marketing for the book.

Other than this, I truly loved this book. It touches on so many levels and unlike a lot of fluff young adult books, it really makes a person think and ponder after finishing the story. Both sisters really got to me and I felt totally drawn into the story. Even though this book is categorized as Christian fiction, there is no preachiness in the story and nothing that will make a non-Christian uncomfortable. I really have enjoyed Cindy's YA books and I am totally looking forward to her next release. If you are looking for a new author in YA fiction, you MUST read these books. Simply put, Beautiful was a beautiful read. VERY HIGHLY recommended.

Beautiful by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma is published by Thomas Nelson (2009)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Monday, January 25, 2010

Book Review: "Jenna's Cowboy" by Sharon Gillenwater



Jenna Callahan has a young son and rewarding work on her father's ranch. She's content. But she never expected to see Nate Langley back in town--the first guy she noticed, the one her father sent away all those years ago. And she never thought the attraction they felt would be as strong as ever. Jenna's cowboy has some healing of his own to do, though, after two tours of duty in the armed forces. With the help of good friends, strong faith, and a loving family, he hopes to put the horrors of the past behind him--and become the man Jenna deserves.

I had read Sharon's earlier books in the past and had really enjoyed reading them. Therefore I was looking forward to her newest book as it had been a while since she had a new one released. From the cover, the book looks like it would be a light casual romance but it was much more than that. The townsfolk are charming and bring life to the story. The chemistry between Jenna and Nate is done really well and I enjoyed watching their relationship bloom throughout the story. What I liked best was just sitting back and learning about the family and the town. Little details brought the story to life such as the big deal about the mums at the football game. I never would have imagined so much hoopla about flowers but apparently in towns like Callahan where football games are considered the biggest event possible they are.

This book is a real eye opener to the trauma that the men and women in our armed forces face every day. Just because they have come home from the battlefront does not mean the war is over. Life was a struggle for Nate every day as he had to battle his own personal demons and memories of being in the war zone. Little things that most people would dismiss would put him on high alert and bring him back to the dangerous places from his memory. It was extremely powerful and left me really grateful for the services that our armed forces do for our country every day. It's a task not to be taken lightly and stays with you forever even after you've left it behind. Honestly, this was one of the few books that really show how post traumatic stress disorder really affects everyone and not just the person suffering from it.

The only thing that irked me a bit was Nate's refusal to get any help for his problems. I understand how he didn't want to get hooked on any prescriptions but the fact that he didn't even want to go the VA and get help just sort of got on my nerves. I know there's the pride thing and all but it just grieves me when people refuse to get the help they need because they think it'll make them look weak. Other than this I really enjoyed reading the book. At first the cover kind of turned me off because it looked like a straight up predictable romance. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised at how the focus of the story angle and really liked how the book progressed. The characters are all very engaging and I really enjoyed being in the town of Callahan Crossing. I know I will be eager to make a return trip and read more about the adventures of the Callahan siblings.

Jenna's Cowboy by Sharon Gillenwater is published by Revell (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Kelly's Chance by Wanda Brunstetter



This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Kelly’s Chance
Barbour Books; Reprint edition (January 1, 2010)


by


Wanda E. Brunstetter


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



A Note From Wanda:



Ever since I was a child, I wanted to be a writer. When I was in the second grade, I wrote my first poem about a moth. Luckily, I received encouragement from my teacher. During my teen years, I wrote skits that my church teen group performed during special holidays.


It wasn’t until 1980, that I took a course on writing for children and teenagers. I became serious about a career as an author. Soon after that, I began to write stories, articles, poems, and devotionals, which appeared in a variety of Christian publications. Later, I had 5 books of puppet/ventriloquist scripts published. *These books are currently available by contacting me. (wanda@wandabrunstetter.com)

My first novel was released by Barbour Publishing’s book club, Heartsong Presents, in Dec. 1997. I have now written nearly fifty books, with over 4 million books in print. Many of the novels I've written are Amish-themed.

ABOUT THE BOOK





Life for Kelly McGregor is a daily drudge of driving her overbearing father’s mules along Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Canal. She dreams of one day owning an art gallery where her own drawings and paintings are on display. But these dreams don’t include marriage. . .not after seeing what her father has done to her mother. How then can Mike Cooper, a general store owner, make her realize he is different than her father and wants to support her artistic talent? Will Kelly learn that dreams can walk hand in hand with a love created by God?



If you would like to read the first chapter of Kelly’s Chance , go HERE.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Faith 'n Fiction Saturday

My Friend Amy, who brought us Book Blogger Appreciation Week has a new carnival in the works, the Faith 'n Fiction Saturday.

Each week she will post a blogging prompt, which participating bloggers will answer on their own blogs. Then they head back to the original post and sign Mister Linky! This way we can all come to know each other more closely.

This week: Today we're sharing some of the Christian fiction books we're looking forward to in 2010. I'm going to show the ones that have covers. Note to publishers: put up your covers early!

Priceless by Tom Davis

Photojournalist Stuart Daniels has found purpose in life. After suffering the fallout of a tragic assignment, Daniels rediscovered his faith while helping a young African orphan. Now his photo work carries a greater mission: To educate people about social injustice happening around the world.
Daniels next assignment carries him back overseas and into the heart of Russia. Once there, Daniels is persuaded by an old friend to help save two girls from a desperate situation. Soon he becomes a key player in a dangerous campaign to rescue helpless women trapped in the sex-slave trade. What Daniels encounters during his journey will shake his faith, test his courage, and even threaten his life. Yet as Daniels gets deeper and the stakes get higher, he will discover that hope can be found in the darkest of places.


Caleb & Kate by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma

When Kate's family purchases a hotel in the Pacific Northwest, she enters a world that is wholly unknown to her. She never has any privacy because of the constant flow of guests. And as the hotel owner's daughter, she struggles to make friends.

Then she meets Caleb, a strange combination of working-class, Hawaiian culture, and Christian bad boy. He talks about love in an all new way that she finds so alluring. But the two have nothing in common. He rarely smiles, rides a motorcycle with a rough crowd from town, and worst of all, he totally ignores Kate. But Kate has something that he needs and she resolves to prove to him that what she has doesn't define who she is.


Dancing on Glass by Pamela Binnings Ewen

In the steamy city of New Orleans in 1974, Amalise Catoir sees Phillip Sharp as a charming, magnetic artist, unlike any man she has known. A young lawyer herself, raised in a small-town Christian home and on the brink of a career with a large firm, she is strong and successful, yet sometimes too trusting and whimsical. Ama’s rash decision to marry Phillip proves to be a mistake as he becomes overly possessive, drawing his wife away from family, friends, and her faith. His insidious, dangerous behavior becomes her dark, inescapable secret.In this lawyer’s unraveling world, can grace survive Ama’s fatal choice? What would you do when prayers seem to go unanswered, faith has slipped away, evil stalks, and you feel yourself forever dancing on shattered glass?


It Had to Be You by Janice Thompson

Bella couldn't be happier that her long-feuding Aunt Rosa and Uncle Lazarro have finally admitted their love for one another and are getting married. Their forties-style wedding is sure to be a night to remember. But when the Rossi house begins to fill up with family from Italy--and an old mobster from New Jersey--life starts to get complicated. Will Lazarro's friend from the past drive the happy couple apart once more? And will Bella ever have time to think of her own rapidly-approaching wedding amidst the chaos? Full of laugh-out-loud humor, plenty of Italian passion, and a bit of Texas gumption, It Had to Be You is the satisfying conclusion to an entertaining series.


The Bishop by Steven James

FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers's cutting-edge 21st-century geospatial investigative techniques and impeccable logic have helped him track some of the country's most grisly killers. But those skills are pushed to the limit in this new installment of the highly-acclaimed, award-winning The Bowers Files series. This time it's a congressman's daughter who is found dead even as her killers launch a spree of perfect murders in the Northeast. With nothing to link the crimes to each other, Agent Bowers faces his most difficult case yet--even as his personal life begins to crumble around him. Known for his intricately woven, masterfully plotted novels of high-octane action and spine-tingling suspense, Steven James delivers once again. The Bishop is a gripping, adrenaline-laced story for readers who are tired of timid thrillers. Strap on your seatbelt and get ready for a wild ride. The game is on.



Perfectly Dateless by Kristin Billerbeck

Daisy Crispin has 242 days to find the right date for the prom. There's only one problem--her parents won't let her date or even talk to a guy on the phone. Oh, and she's totally invisible at school, has to wear lame homemade clothes, and has no social skills. Okay, so maybe there's more than one problem. Can she talk her parents into letting her go to the prom? Or will they succeed at their obvious attempt to completely ruin her life? With hilarious and truthful writing, Kristin Billerbeck uncovers the small--and large--mortifications that teen girls encounter. Readers will fall in love with Daisy's sharp wit and resourcefulness as she navigates the world of boys, fashion, family, and friendship.

(I Have been waiting YEARS for a new Full length book from FR!!)

Her Mother's Hope by Francine Rivers

The first in an epic two-book saga by beloved author Francine Rivers, this sweeping story explores the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters over several generations. Near the turn of the 20th century, fiery Marta leaves Switzerland determined to find life on her own terms. Her journey takes her through Europe and finally lands her with children and husband in tow in the central valley of California. Marta’s experiences convince her that only the strong survive. Hildie, Marta’s oldest daughter, has a heart to serve others, and her calling as a nurse gives her independence, if not the respect of her mother. Amid the drama of WWII, Hildie marries and begins a family of her own. She wants her daughter never to doubt her love—but the challenges of life conspire against her vow. Each woman is forced to confront her faulty but well-meaning desire to help her daughter find her God-given place in the world.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Book Review: "Gone to Green" by Judy Christie



Lois goes from being a corporate journalist at a large paper in the Midwest to the owner of The Green News-Item, a small twice-weekly newspaper in rural North Louisiana. The paper was an unexpected inheritance from a close colleague, and Lois must keep it for at least a year, bringing a host of challenges, lessons, and blessings into her life.

When Lois pulls into Green on New Year's Day, she expects a charming little town full of smiling people. She quickly realizes her mistake. After settling into a loaned house out on Route 2, she finds herself battling town prejudices and inner doubts and making friends with the most surprising people.

Having both worked on my school paper and being a high school correspondent for my local paper, I always enjoy reading books about newspapers. There's something about having to meet deadlines, getting all the facts and discovering stories that could have major impact that always make for a good read for me. Therefore reading this book had great appeal for me, as I read about the adventures Lois had to face with going from big city newspaper to twice weekly small town Green.

I was really glad that even though there are prejudices and Lois having to deal with the "good ol' boys club", the book did not go into the way of stereotypes of both the south or small towns. There was nothing horribly cliched in the book which I was very grateful for. The town had a bunch of quirky and genuine characters that helped Lois get settled into a new life in Green. Even though some of the people took a while for both Lois and them to get warmed up to each other, after a while they began to accept her in their town and she began to feel like one of them. The main attraction of the story for me was seeing how the newspaper was run. I was glad to see that even though it was a small paper, the people took pride in running in. There were staff members who took their job seriously and had potential to move away to bigger things in the future.

If there was any qualms I had about the book, I would say that the resolution of the book happened really fast and I felt like I had missed it somehow. I found myself flipping back to make sure I had read what happened to everyone. Other than this, I thought this was a great read. It's not preachy at all, faith is mentioned but it is not a main focus point. The story introduced me to how a small newspaper has to survive and also to the local flavor of the town of Green. I know that I am going to be excited to read the next book in the series and more adventures from the townsfolk!

Gone to Green by Judy Christie is published by Abingdon Press (2009)

This review copy was provided by the author

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book Review: "Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart" by Beth Pattillo

Claire Prescott is a sensible woman who believes in facts and figures, not fairy tales. But when she agrees to present a paper to a summer symposium at Oxford on her ailing sister's behalf, Claire finds herself thrown into an adventure with a gaggle of Jane Austen-loving women all on the lookout for their Mr. Darcy. Claire isn't looking for Mr. Anyone - she's been engaged to Neil, a sensible actuary, for three years, even though she can't quite bring herself to set a wedding date.

But when a tall, dark and dashing stranger crosses her path, will the staid Claire suddenly discover her inner romantic heroine? Her chance meeting with a mysterious woman who claims to have an early version of Austen's Pride and Prejudice- in which Lizzie ends up with someone other than Fitzwilliam Darcy- leads to an astounding discovery about the venerated author's own struggle to find the right hero for Lizzy Bennett. Neil's unexpected arrival in Oxford complicates Claire's surprising - and unwelcome - journey to the truth about her feelings for her longtime fiance.

I really really really enjoyed reading this book. As a huge fan of not only Jane Austen in general but of the author's previous book, Jane Austen Ruined My Life, I had been eagerly awaiting this book. I felt like I was really a part of the story. The descriptions of Oxford made me feel like I was really there. I would have LOVED to be a part of the class that Claire took on Jane Austen. The discussions on the impact and image of Darcy were incredibly interesting. I was geeked that there were even discussions about who played the right Darcy and excited that no one bashed my personal favorite Matthew McFayden (don't worry, I still love Colin Firth). Seriously Jane Austen fans will swoon over all the Austen trivia and discussions sprinkled throughout the book. I felt that with Claire's character as well, both the hardcore Jane Austen fan and the one that's barely dipped their toe in the Austen pool will enjoy the book. As I have said with the first book, I would have loved for the Formidables to actually exist. The thought of all these works actually existing would blow the mind of any Jane Austen reader or historian. Claire, as a casual fan, acted differently than most fans would which was a nice change. A rabid fan would have devoured those papers faster than you could name your favorite Lizzy Bennett.

Claire's back story is interesting although I felt that it was overshadowed by the Jane Austen papers. It definitely did not turn out the way I expected so there is no predictability there. The only qualm I had with this book was how Claire's sister treats her during the story. I understand where Missy was coming from and why she did what she did but the way she it was very harsh. It was almost as if she had completely disregarded everything that Claire had done for her in the past and wasn't thankful but annoyed at her for doing it. This issue does not get resolved by the end of the book, other than it opening Claire's eyes to how she's been acting. I mean she got angry at Claire for calling her just to tell her about the place. I just felt that Missy was very ungrateful and Claire just lets her walk over her by the end of the book.

Other than this, I really adored this book. I couldn't put it down after I started reading it. I was totally swept into the story, both in present day Oxford and then in the imagined manuscript. I'm not normally a big fan of fan fiction but Pattillo's version of an imagined version of the first manuscript of Pride and Prejudice was wonderful. I would actually want to read a whole bound book of this, if Beth was to write it out completely. This is probably the best book that I have read so far in 2010 and I'm thinking it's going to make my top ten list for the entire year. VERY HIGHLY recommended.

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo is published by Guideposts (2010)

This ARC was provided by a publicist

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book Review: "Knit, Purl, Die" by Anne Canadeo

Gloria Sterling had it all — money, looks, and a new sexy young husband. So when she's found floating face down in her own swimming pool, shock waves ripple through tiny Plum Harbor. At the Black Sheep Knitting Shop, Maggie Messina and her circle are devastated to lose their dear friend — a woman as colorful as her fabulous yarn creations.

The police are quick to call it an accident, but sorting out Gloria's final hours leaves too many loose ends to satisfy her friends. The vivacious, fiftysomething cougar had her French manicured tips in more than a few pots, and the threads of some inside deals stashed in her chic knitting tote.

Who was the last person to see Gloria alive on that quiet summer night? Two empty wine glasses suggest she wasn't home alone knitting the entire evening.... The Black Sheep need to know the truth and set out to unravel — stitch by stitch — the weighty secrets that pulled poor Gloria under.

I have been wanting to really get into reading mainstream cozy mysteries for a long time and I am also a fan of books that feature women that like to knit. Therefore this was the perfect book for me to dive into as it combines both of them. The cozies that I have read in the past were really fun to read and just that, cozy to read. This book was no exception. I had a blast meeting the women in the Black Sheep Knitting group and getting to know them. This is the second book in the series, but for the most part I didn't feel like I was missing out by not reading the first book. Even though I have no idea how to knit myself, I would have loved to visit Maggie's shop and hopefully learn how to knit myself. The characters are all engaging and I enjoyed getting to know them. They are also quite funny women as I found myself chuckling while reading.

The mystery itself was a good read. I was a bit disappointed at the ending and the ultimate culprit. I thought it was fairly predictable as to who the blame should lay on but the ladies in the story did not seem to pick up on clues as well as I did. This is not really a problem per se as I enjoyed reading the entire book but there were times when I wanted to be like "Seriously? You guys don't notice this?!" Maybe they are too trusting as they all seem like really nice women.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the author is the same person who co-writes the Cape Light books with Thomas Kinkade under the name Katherine Spencer. My mom is a huge fan of those books and I think that she would like this series as well. Cozies are great to read because they have clean story lines but still have all the fun and action of a good mystery. This book was great fun to read and I really liked the recipes that were featured. Suzanne's pasta sounds delicious and I would love to make that in the future. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was a great intro for me into the cozy genre and I'm eager to get the first book and catch up on the series. If you are a cozy mystery fan or like books about knitting, this book is perfect for you.

Knit, Purl, Die by Anne Canadeo is published by Pocket Books (2010)

This review copy is provided by the publisher

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Book Review: "Thicker than Blood" by C.J. Darlington

Christy Williams finally has her life on track. Shes putting her past behind her and working hard to build a career as an antiquarian book buyer. But things begin to unravel when a stolen Hemingway first edition is found in her possession, framing her for a crime she didn't commit. With no one to turn to, she yearns for her estranged younger sister, May, whom she abandoned after their parents untimely deaths. Soon, Christy's fleeing from her shattered dreams, her ex-boyfriend, and God. Could Mays Triple Cross Ranch be the safe haven shes searching for? Will the sisters realize that each possesses what the other desperately needs before its too late?

I have been waiting for this book since I found out that C. J. Darlington had won the First Novel Contest from Tyndale publishers. I was definitely not disappointed when I finally finished it. Normally debut authors can be hit or miss with their work, but I felt like I had been reading C. J.'s books for years. I really got sucked into the story and could relate to both the main characters. What I liked best was that Christy's behavior is never apologized for. She doesn't get all tidied up and drops all her bad habits by the end of the book. Even if she has a change of heart, it's not going to magically erase all the years that have hardened her. It was very realistic and by not changing that, it didn't take me out of the story as other books have done with their forced happy endings.

The information about book collecting, antiquing and reselling were tremendously interesting. I loved learning all these bits and pieces about the industry and it was really fascinating to read. Most people don't have a clue about the old books they have in their house and think they are a waste of space when really they have a goldmine in their basement. Also the tips about knowing what is valuable and what isn't were really helpful as well. I would have never in my life known what to look for when it comes to old books but after reading this one, I now have some hints of what to keep an eye out for!

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a fast paced read and had a well driven tight plot. I actually liked that there was a lack of romance in the story as both main characters didn't really need that side plot line to distract from the main story. The story kept me engrossed from the beginning and I could not stop turning the pages. This was a wonderful debut novel from C.J. and I know that I will be looking forward to her sophomore release. If you looking for a book from a debut author and you aren't sure of who to pick, choose this one. You won't be disappointed.

Thicker than Blood by C.J. Darlington is published by Tyndale (2009)

This review copy was provided by the publisher