Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Review: "For Time and Eternity" by Allison Pittman

All Camilla Deardon knows of the Mormons camping nearby is the songs she hears floating on the breeze. Then she meets one of them—a young man named Nathan Fox. Never did she imagine he would be so handsome, so charming, especially after Mama and Papa’s warnings to stay away. Though she knows she should obey her parents, Camilla can’t refuse her heart. But even Nathan’s promises cannot prepare her for what she will face in Utah.

Let me start out by saying, this book was very difficult for me to read. This is not saying that the book is not written well. It is written beautifully and extremely well. I was caught up in the story and I couldn't stop reading. But it focuses on one of the subjects that I have difficulty in reading - polygamy. (In case you were wondering, I also feel uncomfortable reading about rape and child molestation.) And because of this, it took me a while to finish the book because I had to keep putting it down because I would feel uncomfortable. I'm not saying this will happen to everyone nor am I saying that it should in anyway affect someone's experience with reading this book. I'm just merely stating how I felt while reading.

Throughout the book, I just kept thinking about how horrible it would be to be married to someone who didn't think monogamy in marriage was important. I don't know which would be worse, to have your husband constantly cheat on you but do it separately away from you or to have your husband marry another woman and force the two of you to live together. Seriously, it just boggles my mind as to which would be the worse situation. I am so thankful that my husband does not want a second wife (I asked him JIC). The thing that got me most about the story, is that it seems as this is all a power trip on the man. He reaps all the benefits here in this lifetime and in the next and the women get nothing. It's also rather disgusting how they keep wanting younger and younger wives so they can keep having more children.

If somehow I found myself in Camilla's shoes, I honestly have no idea what I would have done. Probably either the situation she chose or kill myself. That seems to be the only options that were available to women during that time period. It's extremely sad that they had no say at all in this and were expected to do what was asked of them.
Since Pittman handles such a delicate subject about polygamy and the Mormon church of the 1800s, the question and answer section included at the end of the story is very helpful. She mentions that by writing this series she "didn't want to take on the entire Mormon faith." This is relevant because Pittman is not writing about modern day Mormons but those from the 1800s. This could probably be akin to someone writing about Christians during the Crusades as opposed to Christians during present day. It's not the same.

The only thing that kills me is that the ending of the story is a cliffhanger and I have to wait until SUMMER 2011 before I can read the next book! I'm having another fork in the road moment there because while I REALLY want to read more in this story, I don't want to wish all those months away before I can! Well I will just have to wait patiently because I know that it will be another fascinating read from Pittman.

For Time and Eternity by
Allison Pittman is published by Tyndale (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

GetGlue and Books!

So, if you've been a longtime reader of my blog, you know how much of a fan I am of GetGlue.com. Well, since I've gotten an IPod Touch (well technically it was my husband's but I've since confiscated it) and downloaded the GetGlue app, it's been even more fun. I've enjoyed earning stickers by checking in to movies and TV shows (although I don't watch any of the big shows that get stickers...). And I'm even more excited because now there are going to be more stickers for books!

"We have teamed up with Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster, Random House, and Penguin for exclusive stickers for both the biggest titles of the fall and perennially bestselling authors." - Laura from GetGlue


So if you haven't already, get the free GetGlue app and start checking in and earning stickers for the books you read starting October 5!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Book Review: "Latte Daze" by Erynn Mangum



Maya Davis already has many titles—Christian, barista, maid of honor (new), possible girlfriend (newer), aunt (newest)—and her life is about to become even more complicated. Just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse, her ex-boyfriend proposes to her roommate and best friend, Jen. It’s not long until their apartment becomes Wedding Central. As if that weren’t enough, Jen’s obnoxious mom moves in to help plan the wedding, and Maya’s genius brother and sister-in-law announce that they're expecting. Then to top it off, there's the whole matter of Jack—is it love? Who wouldn't need a coffee break!

First off, let me start by saying that I LOVE the cover of this book. Why? Because those are the EXACT same bouquets I had for my wedding last year! Well not the bride's bouquet, but I had blue hydrangeas and white roses in mine and my bridesmaid's bouquets too! They're so pretty aren't they?

I really enjoy reading about Maya. I honestly think that if she and I were to meet, we would be good friends. She sounds just like me in a lot of ways and I really love her life. I love her family, her job, her friends and her dog. Seriously, I wouldn't mind just being in her shoes for one day. If you haven't read the first book in the series, fear not, this book can be read as a standalone. This story deals with Maya having to adapt to changes in her life, mainly her relationship with her new boyfriend but long time best friend, Jack as well as her brother expecting a baby and her best friend/roommate becoming engaged. The book revolves around these three story lines as they show how Maya has to react and support all these new phases in her life. It's all blended together and you never feel rushed while reading. I enjoyed going along for the ride very much.

I want to visit Cool Beans! I love independently run coffee houses. There used to be one in my hometown that my friends and I use to hang out there on weekends. It was a very inviting place with comfy sofas, friendly staff and really good coffee drinks. Places like Starbucks or Caribou Coffee just don't have the same feel. Cool Beans sounds like the place that I would probably want to visit and never leave. Also the baristas (except for maybe the new guy) really enjoy their jobs AND coffee as well. Reading about the descriptions of their coffee drinks as well as the fresh baked cinnamon rolls dripping with icing made my mouth drool several times. In fact, thanks to this book and the Coffeehouse mystery series that I was reading, I caved and went to Starbucks to get a frappachino.

While I really loved reading this book (and wish I could live Maya's life), there was one tiny thing that bugged me and it's a personal preference. I just felt that even though Maya and Jack have known each other for a long time, it's a bit too soon for wedding plans for them. They didn't seem as if they had dated for a long time. But as I said, this is just personal preference. The two have great chemistry together and unless something drastic happens in the next book, I have a feeling those two are going to have a really good life together. While Maya is a Christian and faith is an important part of her life, it never feels preachy. If you're looking for chick lit with a faith based angle, this is a great, fun and highly caffeinated read.

Latte Daze by Erynn Mangum is published by NavPress (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Book Review: "The World is Bigger Now" by Euna Lee with Lisa Dickey And Book Giveaway


For the first time, Euna Lee—the young wife, mother, and film editor detained in North Korea—tells a harrowing, but ultimately inspiring, story of survival and faith in one of the most isolated parts of the world.

On March 17, 2009, Lee and her Current TV colleague Laura Ling were working on a documentary about the desperate lives of North Koreans fleeing their homeland for a chance at freedom when they were violently apprehended by North Korean soldiers. For nearly five months they remained detained while friends and family in the United States were given little information about their status or conditions. For Lee, detention would prove especially harrowing. Imprisoned just 112 miles from where she was born and where her parents still live in Seoul, South Korea, she was branded as a betrayer of her Korean blood by her North Korean captors. After representing herself in her trial before North Korea’s highest court, she received a sentence of twelve years of hard labor in the country’s notorious prison camps, leading her to fear she might not ever see her husband and daughter again.

The World Is Bigger Now draws us deep into Euna Lee’s life before and after this experience: what led to her arrival in North Korea, her efforts to survive the agonizing months of detainment, and how she and her fellow captive, Ling, were finally released thanks to the efforts of many individuals, including Bill Clinton. Lee explains in unforgettable detail what it was like to lose, and then miraculously regain, life as she knew it.

When I first heard about this book, I was very interested in reading it. I remember when this story came out in the news last year and I kept track of all the details of the story. I hadn't seen any of Euna Lee or Laura Ling's work prior to their capture, but I had grown up watching Laura's sister Lisa Ling on Channel One and then followed her journalism career. Plus, being an Asian American female made me really interested in their story.

Honestly, I had no idea that Lee was a Christian before reading this book. As far as I remember, it was never brought up in any of the news stories, I don't remember hearing it in any interviews or reading about it in news stories. In fact, I really don't remember much coverage on Lee and more of the focus being on Ling. Other than the shots of Lee embracing her daughter, I really don't recall much focus on her. I seem to remember more about Ling because of her relationship with her sister. Anyways, I was delighted to read her story and even more so to see how much her faith was relied on during this horrible ordeal.


Since this is a memoir and not an autobiography, the focus of the book deals with Lee's captivity in North Korea. Background information is given about her life before, such as her coming to the US, her marriage, being a mother and her career but it is not the main focal point of the story. Instead she uses all these experiences to show how it helped her get through her ordeal. I really felt as if I was along with Lee during her captivity. Everything was so vividly described with so much emotion in the words. The most emotional parts would be when Lee was able to speak with her husband and especially the first time he missed her call. How devastating that must have been on both sides.

After reading the book, it made me really think about the people in North Korea. There's nothing I can do for them, other than pray, but it just saddens me to think how many people are "trapped" there and pretty much nothing can be done. It makes me really glad that I was born where I was and how grateful I am to have lived the life I have. There were so many things we take for granted and Lee shows this as she revels in the wonder of peanut butter or reading a classic novel. A hot bath became a luxury and even clean clothes was such a relief. Reading this book was an eye opener for me and made me appreciate what I have.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. The story gave a fascinating insight into what happened during Lee's captivity as well as also a good look into Asian culture. I don't know if I could have handled the situation as well as Lee did. It was a true test of her faith and that is what got her through the situation. I haven't read Ling's account of the situation but after reading Lee's side, I'd like to read hers as well. As soon as I finished this book, I went on YouTube to see the video of Lee and Ling coming off the plane and being reunited with their families. I always felt emotional when seeing Lee hug her daughter but after reading this book I teared up. This book is a fascinating read and one that I think everyone should read.

The World is Bigger Now by Euna Lee with Lisa Dickey is published by Broadway (2010)

This ARC was provided by the publisher

I'm able to give away three copies of this book provided by the publisher. To enter, you must fill out the form and have a US or Canada address. Winners will be picked Tuesday, October 5.

PLEASE use the form only to enter the contest. For any comments about the book, review, etc. please use the comments link at the bottom of the post. All information must be filled out correctly or else your entry will not count. (ie. you must use FULL name and list your mailing address). Your info will only be used for this contest and will be deleted after the contest is over.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Book Review: "This Gorgeous Game" by Donna Freitas

Olivia Peters is over the moon when her literary idol, the celebrated novelist and much adored local priest Mark D. Brendan, offers to become her personal writing mentor. But when Father Mark’s enthusiasm for Olivia’s prose develops into something more, Olivia’s emotions quickly shift from wonder to confusion to despair. Exactly what game is Father Mark playing, and how on earth can she get out of it?

Wow. Seriously, this story was just...wow. Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down. I was reading this book while eating at a restaurant by myself and I ate my food slowly because I didn't want to get up and interrupt my reading. I don't think I've ever read a book like this before. It's an uncomfortable read. You are not going to walk away from this book feeling happy go lucky. But you will be moved.

Olivia is a high school student who's just won a prestigious writing award and will get to study with a famous author mentor. She's very excited about this and is the envy of everyone else. However after a few meetings with Father Mark, her attitude begins to change. Unfortunately she can't confide in anyone else. That was the scary part for me. To think that she felt so helpless and no one could understand or believe what she was going through. It's scary to think that an adult in a position like Father Mark uses his power to act this way.
While this book does make one uncomfortable, there are never any graphic scenes in the book. Sometimes, just power and mind tricks can be more scarier than physical acts. The story is written extremely well and is from Olivia's point of view so the reader experiences everything, every emotion, every feeling directly from her.

The only qualm I had was that we're never really clear as to what happens to out Father Mark. The reader is never told exactly what Olivia did in revealing the truth to the authorities. Of course we can speculate and it is obvious that she did tell. I personally would have liked him to have died a horrible, painful death for all the trauma that he has inflicted on Olivia. The scary part is that she was probably not the first one who had to go through this and will probably not be the last one.

This book does not blame the church or even religion at all. Faith is actually a huge part of the story as it is pretty much what gets Olivia through all this. As I said earlier, there is nothing graphic or even sexual in the relationship. Just obsessive behavior that is unwanted and inappropriate for someone in Father Mark's position. You cannot walk away from this story without feeling something from it (unless you have no emotions at all). It's an extremely powerful read and one that teens AND adults should read. I will have to go back and read more from Freitas because she really got a hold of me through this book. HIGHLY recommended.

This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas is published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Answers to Your Questions and Book Giveaway


As promised, here is the second half of my blogiversary celebration: answers from questions that were asked plus a special surprise at the end. Thanks to everyone who left a question!

Anything new on the horizon? Plans, dreams, etc., for your blog? - Wordlily


I really would like in the future to get my own domain name but since I went and bought all those business cards, I'll wait til I run out of those first! Short term, I really want to be able to go back and fix all the old things on my blog that need fixing - formatting issues, creating a review database, fixing images. I've semi-seriously said that I will stop blogging when all my review books have been reviewed. At this rate that won't be for several more years so I'm good.

Have you read any of the Enchanted, Inc. series by Katie Chandler? (Chick lit/fantasy) - Shadow Boxer

No, I haven't BUT I hopefully should be receiving these in the mail soon from another blogger. I heard about these books a few years ago in Paperbackswap and I've been wanting to read them for a while.

If you were starting a brand new blog and you have the knowledge you've gained over the last four years, what would you do differently? What do you think of eReaders? - Kathy (BermudaOnion)

Well first off, I definitely would NOT have done what I did when first started blogging: do every post in a different color! Wow, I have NO idea what I was thinking when I did that. I've had to go back and fix all those posts. It took me FOREVER. I also would not have done my web address the way it is formatted. It's very hard to remember with all those stupid dashes. I seriously have NO idea why I put dashes in my name.

I would love to get an eReader. I've been trying to win one and I just cannot win! They would really be handy when I go traveling as I normally either bring too many or too few books. Alas, it is not in the budget for the next few months so I just have to keep trying to win one from somewhere.

Do you think being so ingrained in book blogging hinders your social life outside of the internet? - Anonymous

No I don't. I have been able to meet a lot of people in person through book blogging including several people in the area. I've joined a real life book club with people I've met through book blogging. In fact, just yesterday I met a bunch of book bloggers in DC and we all got to hang out together. I'm not someone who goes out a lot in the first place, I don't go clubbing or go to bars so for those nights that I do stay in, reading and book blogging is a great alternative.

How does your blogging go over with your husband? Is he supportive of you, and encourage you? Or is he like my husband who constantly complains and tells me I'm wasting my time? I love my husband, but I also love my blogging.....how do you make it work? - Nancy

To be honest, I don't think my husband really understands what I'm doing! I tell him everything and he listens but I don't think he gets it. And it's not just him, I've found it hard to explain to other family members or outside people exactly what book blogging is. But he is supportive. He doesn't mind that our bedroom gets filled to the brim with books or that the mailman will deliver 3-5 packages a day. He lets me talk about books and the book blogging community and actually listens. I think he knows about all my twitter friends too. At night, when we watch the news, I'll twitter/blog but when we're watching a movie, I'll put it away. I give the same attention to his interests so it works out both ways. I'll usually blog during football games. I can't read when the TV's on but I can go online and do stuff. That way we're together and I can cheer when he does but I can do my own stuff as well. He is glad that I have a hobby that I enjoy.

Were you happy with the way LOST ended? - Amy

Yes and no. Well I felt it was a little like a cop out ending BUT I was satisfied. I'm sad that it has ended. Now what am I going to watch????

Why don't you review more vampire books? I think you'd like them! - Amy

I think it has to do with the fact that I don't normally like paranormal books. I've read several Christian books that have vampires in them and they were ok. I've also read Twilight and well, I didn't like that. I think I've read others but I can't remember any off the top of my head. I guess it might have to do with the sexuality that is normally shown with vampires and I'm not too big a fan of it.

Edward Cullen or Ron Weasley? - YRSTRLY

Duh. Ron. I go after red heads. Not sparkle. Although personally I prefer Fred and George. But I guess since Fred died, I have to go after George.

Do you know if I got off this woof infernal woof island? - Vincent

I think you stayed on the island. Walt probably can't take of you in the city and you seemed happy with Rose and Bernard. I do hope you alerted someone that Jack had died so he could be properly buried. I hope you didn't eat him.

Umm....Do you want to do a giveaway for your blogiversary? I maybe be able to help... :) - AdamSab

Why yes! That would be awesome!

So thanks to Tyndale House, I am pleased to be able to giveaway one of my favorite books of 2010: Her Daughter's Dream by Francine Rivers. Click here for my review.

I'm able to give away one copy of this book provided by the publisher. To enter, you must fill out the form below. This contest is open internationally. Winner will be picked Sunday, October 3.

PLEASE use the form only to enter the contest. For any comments about the book, review, etc. please use the comments link at the bottom of the post. All information must be filled out correctly or else your entry will not count. (ie. you must use FULL name and list your mailing address). Your info will only be used for this contest and will be deleted after the contest is over.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Book Review: "Love's First Bloom" by Delia Parr

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?

I'm not quite sure why I've been avoiding Delia Parr's books. It's not that I have anything against her. In fact, I have all her books. I just haven't read any of them yet. However after reading this one, I think I'm going to have to go back and read all of them. I really enjoyed this story. It was a good historical read with a touch of mystery and plenty of romance as well.


The story deals with a lot of deceit and lying. Ruth is trying to protect her father but is deceiving the people who are helping her. She feels horribly guilty about lying to them but due to her loyalty and wanting to honor her father, she keeps up the charade. This puts her in an awkward situation as people think worse of a person by her made up situation. I don't know if I could do that especially after finding out my father was keeping secrets from me as well. Ruth handles it a lot better than I would especially after she meets up with Jake Spencer. The chemistry between the two is handled well although it's interesting to think that what Jake needed was right under his nose and he didn't know it.

While I really enjoyed the story, I had one small qualm. Why didn't Ruth change her name to something else? She stays with Ruth throughout the entire story. If I was trying to hide my identity, I would have picked a different first name to disguise myself. I was really surprised that people didn't find out about her sooner. The resolution to Ruth's problem seemed a little soap opera-ish dramatic to me. Not that there was anything wrong with it, but it seemed like it was a plot line that came out of nowhere to make the story more exciting.

Overall I enjoyed the story. Parr kept me turning pages and I never lost interest at all in the story. I'll be looking forward to going back and reading the rest of her backlist.

Love's First Bloom by Delia Parr is published by Bethany House (2010)

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

Thursday, September 23, 2010

500 Books in 2010

Just finished reading my 500th book of 2010. I'm about 2 months ahead of this time last year. Maybe I can break 600? We shall see...

Book Review: "A Hope Undaunted" by Julie Lessman

The 1920s are drawing to a close, and feisty Katie O'Connor is the epitome of the new woman--smart and sassy with goals for her future that include the perfect husband and a challenging career in law. Her boyfriend Jake fits all of her criteria for a husband--good-looking, well-connected, wealthy, and head-over-heels in love with her. But when she is forced to spend the summer of 1929 with Luke McGee, the bane of her childhood existence, Katie comes face to face with a choice. Will she follow her well-laid plans to marry Jake? Or will she fall for the man she swore to despise forever?

While I am a big fan Julie Lessman's past books, I am NOT a fan of Charity O'Connor. Seriously, I just could not stand that girl. Have you ever had a character that just feels like you're hearing fingernails on a chalkboard all the time? Yep that is her for me. Even though the story is written beautifully, Charity just rubbed me the wrong way every time I read about her. Lucky for me, she makes only brief appearances in this story. And also lucky for me, I liked Katie A LOT better than I did Charity.

This story takes place in the late 1920s in Boston. It continues the story of the O'Connor clan that started in Lessman's Daughters of Boston series. While it helps to have read that series to understand all the characters, this book can be read on its own as it focuses on a different set of O'Connor siblings. The focus of this story is on the youngest daughter of the O'Connors. Katie is on her way to college, dating a guy that can move her up in society and just enjoying her last summer at home. Unfortunately for her, a chance encounter with an old friend ends up with Katie on restriction during the summer and her having to volunteer with the one person she didn't want to see again.

The chemistry between Katie and Luke is great but I found the story between Luke and Betty to be even more interesting. The flip flopping between the two kept me intrigued and to be honest, I was actually rooting for a non traditional ending involving the two. Katie grows up a lot in the book. She starts off rather flighty but by the end of the book, she's become a mature woman. I was a bit surprised that except for Patrick O'Connor's illness, the Depression didn't seem to affect the O'Connor family like other families of the time period.


There were only two qualms I had with this story. One, I was not a big fan of how the storyline with Parker was resolved. It seemed like he was given an easy way out of the situation by the path he had chosen. Also, without spoiling the story, I felt that the reason he chose that path is not a good reason at all to choose that path. It has potential to backfire in the future. The other was the situation between Faith, Collin and Evelyn. I felt that Faith was too trusting and Collin got off too easy. It may be because I just read Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin that has almost the same plot and I walked away from that book not happy. This story had the reverse resolution but I didn't like how it was resolved either.

Overall though I enjoyed the book. The story gave a really good feel of the late 1920s culture. The historical aspects balanced nicely with the romance story. Lessman is known for lots of passion in her stories (something still controversial in Christian fiction) and it is evident in this book. I didn't think it was anything over the top though, in fact I felt it was downplayed from her previous series. As I have felt about her other books, I do enjoy seeing emotions and actions like this in Christian books. There needs to be more of it and Lessman does a fine job balancing the two. I'll be looking forward to the next books in the series as we hear more from the O'Connor clan.

A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman is published by Revell (2010)

This review copy was provided for a blog tour with Winsome Media

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

T Shirt Winner

Congrats to the winner of the Ted Dekker T Shirt giveaway!


ImageChef.com - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

I'll be sending your info directly to the publicist. Congrats again!!

Fall Reading Challenge 2010



FINISHED!


Well it's that time of the year again! The Fall Reading Challenge is here! Katrina at Callapidder Days is issuing out the command to get our reading lists out and done!

I started these twice-yearly challenges because I thought it would be fun to share my love of reading with other bloggers and to push myself to read some books I might not otherwise read, or to finish some books I had started and then abandoned & stashed under my bed. I thought there were probably others out there who would appreciate the accountability and encouragement that a challenge can provide. And along the way, I discovered there were lots of people who — whether they needed the extra push or not — loved to share what they planned or hoped to read during the upcoming months.

So that’s the point: sharing some reading goals with all the other participants and doing it in a way that works for you. If you want to push yourself, go for it! Or if you just want to share what you’re hoping to get around to reading before winter, that works too. The most important thing is to read this fall, to enjoy it, and to share that enjoyment with others.

So without further adieu is here is my list for the challenge! Note: These are all my library books, which means these MUST be read by the end of the challenge or face the wrath of fines!

Christian Fiction
  • Missing Mabel by Nancy Mehl
  • The Thanksgiving Target by Laura Scott
  • Sabotage by Kit Wilkinson
  • Yuletide Protector by Lisa Mondello
  • Survival Instinct by Rachelle McCalla
  • Field of Danger by Ramona Richards
  • A Hand to Hold by Kathleen Fuller
Cozy Mysteries
  • Sketch Me If You Can by Sharon B. Pape
  • A Rose From the Dead by Kate Collins
  • Shoots to Kill by Kate Collins
  • Evil in Carnations by Kate Collins
  • Sleeping with the Anemone by Kate Collins
  • French Pressed by Cleo Coyle
  • Espresso Shot by Cleo Coyle
  • Holiday Grind by Cleo Coyle
  • Roast Mortem by Cleo Coyle
  • Dead Men Don't Get the Munchies by Miranda Bliss
  • Dying for Dinner by Miranda Bliss
  • Murder Has a Sweet Tooth by Miranda Bliss
  • Murder in Volume by D.R. Meredith
  • Death by Darjeeling by Laura Childs
  • Wreath of Deception by Mary Ellen Hughes
  • Murder is Binding by Lorna Barrett
  • Alpine for You by Maddy Hunter
  • Candy Apple Dead by Sammi Carter
  • Steamed by Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke
YA
  • All Access by Randi Reisfeld
Contemporary Fiction
  • How to Knit a Love Song by Rachael Herron
29 books, rather small (for me at least!) but I've been trying to stop borrowing library books so I can focus on all the review books that I have sitting here! I usually make it a point to go to the library beforehand to "stock up" for this challenge but this year I didn't. And yet I still have this many books! Actually what happened is a lot of these books are from the honor system checkouts at the library and don't have any due dates which means they could technically stay with me forever and no one would ever know. But I want them read and gone! And as always, since I WILL be reading additional books besides these, look forward to my post at the end of the challenge which will have the list of all the other books that I read as well. Well here's to another season of reading!

Book Review: "In Every Heartbeat" by Kim Vogel Sawyer

As three friends who grew up in the same orphanage head off to college together, they each harbor a special plan for the future. Libby Conley hopes to become a famous journalist. Pete Leidig believes God has called him to study to become a minister. And Bennett Martin plans to pledge a fraternity, find a place to belong, and have as much fun as possible. But as tensions rise around the world on the brink of World War I, the friends' differing aspirations and opinions begin to divide them, as well. When Libby makes a shocking discovery about Pete's family, will it drive a final wedge between the friends or bond them in ways they never anticipated?

I honestly don't know why I don't normally put Kim Vogel Sawyer's books on my wish list. Every one of her books that I have read, I have really enjoyed. The story is engaging and the characters are really interesting. This story was no exception. I found myself drawn in right from the beginning and enjoyed my entire time reading the story. I found it to be very well written and a pleasant way to pass the afternoon. In fact the same day that I got the book, mere minutes after getting the mail I started reading the book and couldn't stop.

The three main characters are all orphans who grew up together and are now attending college. I was pleasantly surprised that the use of a love triangle between the three characters was NOT used at all. I was desperately afraid that the overused plot line would be a shown here and was really glad to see that a different direction took place. I really enjoyed reading about college life in the early 20th century. While there are obvious differences from dorm living and fraternities of today compared with back then, there are still many similarities that readers will be able to relate with.

Out of the three characters, I found Bennett's character to be the most interesting. This is mainly because he doesn't have a past that he can go back to or really remember. He wanted to go to college to make a new name for himself and start fresh. Yet the other two keep trying to make him remain the same. While I can understand why they were doing this, at the same time it was a bit annoying that they couldn't go out and enjoy growing up and a new life. Libby and Pete got a little preachy at times. The whole morality in stories bit irked me at times. I found that Libby reminded me of Jo March with how she was writing stories for the paper and her dream of becoming a writer.

I sympathized with Libby's frustrations about not being adopted and feeling like she wasn't wanted. I also could not understand why in the world Maelle and Jackson never realized how hurt Libby was at the news that they were adopting other girls. I wonder why after they got married they never considered adopting Libby. It stays unresolved throughout the book and it's very frustrating that no answer is ever given. I just wish that either Libby could have asked straight out or Maelle just give out an answer or realize how Libby felt.

As this is a Christian book, talking about faith is weaved a lot throughout the story. It plays a great deal in the lives of all the characters. However I felt like it was never a dominant force and that the story itself was very intriguing and enjoyable. If you have read any of Sawyer's books before, you will recognize characters from her previous book, My Heart Remembers. While reading that book is not required at all to enjoy this one, it's really nice to see former characters and see how they've all fared since the first book ended. Overall, I found this to be a good historical read and I would love if there's another book in the future that features these characters. I will definitely remember to put it on my wish list.

In Every Heartbeat by Kim Vogel Sawyer is published by Bethany House (2010)

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

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Book Review: "Rendezvous" by Melody Carlson

Having learned some hard lessons about the costs of recklessness and fame, sisters Paige and Erin Forrester feel ready to take their fashion-focused TV show on location to Paris. Unfortunately, it doesn't take long for many of their good intentions to get lost in translation. An unplanned week of filming at runway model Eliza Wilton's family estate leads to romance, jealousy, and surprises. With cameras rolling, both girls have to be careful or the future of On the Runway could end up as wobbly as Paige's stiletto heels.

Once again, it's time to enter the world of fashion with Erin and Paige Forrester. In this book the girls get to travel to Paris, the heart of the fashion world. There they become transformed into classic beauties reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. Seriously it was just divine reading about the girls' adventures with bags, shoes and all those clothes. I really have enjoyed learning about fashion through these books. Carlson makes the scenery totally come alive in her writing. I could picture myself with Erin as she goes through France, from the cities to the countryside. It's a total armchair travel read in that alone.

Paige is still dating her reality TV star boyfriend while Erin focuses on the guy from home even as she's wooed by some European hotties. Also the girls' mom experiences romance of her own including a decision that will affect everyone in the family. The subject matter in this book is best for older teens as alcohol abuse is brought up quite frequently. It's interesting to note that there is underage drinking however since they are in Europe for most of the story, technically it is legal.

As with previous books, even though I like both sisters, Paige just gets on my nerves at times. To be honest her foot shaking signature move is annoying. Even worse is how she gets moody and angry all the time. When Erin gets the Birkin bag (which would be AWESOME to get) simply for just casually mentioning it, Paige throws a hissy fit and tries to guilt Erin into giving her the bag. I was proud of Erin for not giving in but then she tries to help Paige and it's still not enough. Personally I think Paige is pretty spoiled and relies on her looks too much. Thank goodness Erin is very down to earth and a likable character. Lucky for Paige, Eliza is even more annoying than her. I was used to Eliza from the Carter House Girls series but she seems to get gotten bolder and even more vindictive. I guess now that she's on her own the cattiness really comes out.

Still even with those two, the story is really fun to read. I am enjoying how Carlson is blending fashion with faith. I say this again because in the past it was deemed non Christian to be into labels but this series shows how you have interests in both. I really like the direction the books are going and I am eager to read more about Erin and Paige's adventures. This is a great series that I think all teen girls, both Christian and non Christian, will enjoy.

Rendezvous by Melody Carlson is published by Zondervan (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Four to Score

Well guess what today is? Ok, yes The Hobbit was published today in 1937. And in 1981 Sandra Day O'Connor was confirmed as the first female justice of the Supreme Court. It's the birthday of Stephen King, Bill Murray, and the actors who played Joey from Full House and Carlton from Fresh Prince of Bel Air. But more importantly...today is my FOUR YEAR BLOGIVERSARY!

Yep, that's right, I've been around for FOUR years! I was in my next to final semester of my undergrad when I started this blog. As always, the reason why I started blogging was thanks to Camy Tang's blog which inspired me to write my own blog. My main goal was to blog about the books I read because I figured I'd like others to know about the good books that were out there. I honestly can't believe that it's lasted this long and I hope to keep going strong. I had no idea that there was a book blogging community when I first started this thing. I didn't know about getting ARCs, going to book blogging conventions or that I would have met so many wonderful new friends.

In the past year, I've been able to meet so many book bloggers through meet ups, book clubs, BEA, National Book Festival, and of course through Twitter (what would we have done without you??) And then last week, I was honored to have been voted Best Spiritual, Inspirational or Religious Blog during BBAW. Thank you so much to everyone who voted for me. It was a complete shock and joy when I found out that I had won. I don't think that I deserve it but thank you very much for bestowing the honor on me.

As of today I have written 635 book reviews, 72 movie reviews, and had 132 contests. When I first started my blog I had a mere 300 books. As of today I have a whopping 2683 books in my collection. Last year I had 2163 books. That's an accumulation of 520 books in one year! At this rate, if I live to be 90 I'll have over 35,000 books. Oh well I can dream can't I?

In the past year, I've really expanded my reading tastes. In addition to reviewing Christian fiction, I also feature a lot of general market chick lit, YA, contemporary fiction and memoirs on my blog. My review policy lists all these new details and I've very excited to discover new books, authors and genres.

I don't have any fancy giveaways to celebrate this momentous occasion. And what I'm about to do was all new and fun last year but seeing as how Formspring is the new blog thing to do, it's not very interesting anymore. But if you are curious about anything about me at all, feel free to ask me! I'll take questions until Saturday and answer them over the weekend. Go on...you know you want to! Ask me anything, I'll do my best to answer. But I'll only answer questions that go in the form below. Questions left in comments won't get answered.

I couldn't do this without you guys, readers of this blog, so even though I can't afford to send anything away, this is my small way of giving something back to you. Thank you again!!




Monday, September 20, 2010

Book Review: "Resurrection in May" by Lisa Samson

A strange and wondrous friendship ignites the fire of love in May Seymour's life. Lovely and winsome May Seymour graduated from college with the world at her feet… and no idea what to do with it. A spontaneous mission trip to Africa brought a great surprise—love—and a strong sense of purpose. But in loving others there, she encountered a severe tragedy that left her deeply wounded. She comes to heal at the farm of Claudius Borne—a sweet, kind old man who understands plants and animals far better than people. And his farm becomes May’s home. There on the farm, May renews a friendship with an old college flame named Eli whose path has taken unexpected turns too. As May tries to convince Eli to grab hold of life once again, he begins to pull May from her sheltered existence. Like old Claudius’s farm in spring, May begins to blossom back into life. But no resurrection ever comes without sacrifice—and this sacrifice will forever transform May.

Lisa Samson is one of those authors that I always recommend to readers, regardless of whether they read Christian fiction or not. I have found her books to be comparable to general market authors and she is always one of three authors that I mention as soon as someone asks me who writes good books. This story is yet another that I will be recommending.

The story is about May, a young college girl who finds herself having no direction in her life. She discovers a place where she can grow with Claudius, an old man who is usually a loner. The unlikely pair grow and blossom their friendship until May goes off to Rwanda on a mission trip.
May's experiences in Rwanda were difficult to read yet it was important that they were in the book. Samson doesn't shy away from the hardships of the situation yet at the same time doesn't make the reader suffer through graphic descriptions. May was incredibly brave to get past all that. There aren't many people who would have been able to come out of that situation without huge emotional scars that would affect them for the rest of their lives.

After she returns, May returns to the farm to heal and then plans on staying on to continue her life there. The farm becomes her hiding place, the only place where she feels safe. When threats come to take away her refuge, May does whatever she can to keep it intact. The second half of the story also blew me away. I was really surprised at how the relationship between Eli and May grew and the turns that it took. I was VERY surprised at the ending of the story. Without spoiling the ending, it really makes one think about capital punishment and the death penalty.

Overall, while I enjoyed the story, I didn't feel as if was my favorite adult book from Samson (her YA series, Hollywood Nobody, is one of my favorite YA series). Currently that honor belongs to Embrace Me. With this book, I felt a bit lost at times and there were several slow scenes that I felt was dragging the story. The writing however is beautiful. It's very poetic and the characters are both complex and engaging at the same time. Even with my qualms, it's a very good read and again another book that I would recommend to any reader of high quality fiction.

Resurrection in May by Lisa Samson is published by Thomas Nelson (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Whisper on the Wind by Maureen Lang

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:


Whisper on the Wind

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (August 4, 2010)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Maureen Lang has always had a passion for writing. She wrote her first novel longhand around the age of 10, put the pages into a notebook she had covered with soft deerskin (nothing but the best!), then passed it around the neighborhood to rave reviews. It was so much fun she's been writing ever since. Eventually Maureen became the recipient of a Golden Heart Award from Romance Writers of America, followed by the publication of three secular romance novels. Life took some turns after that, and she gave up writing for 15 years, until the Lord claimed her to write for Him. Soon she won a Noble Theme Award from American Christian Fiction Writers and has since published several novels, including Pieces of Silver (a 2007 Christy Award finalist), Remember Me, The Oak Leaves, On Sparrow Hill, and My Sister Dilly. Maureen lives in the Midwest with her husband, her two sons, and their much-loved dog, Susie.

Visit the author's website.


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:















Part I

September 1916

Scope of War Broadens

Rumania joins Allied Powers with hopes of shortening the war

Germany has declared war in response, claiming Rumania disgracefully broke treaties with Austria-Hungary and Germany. The Allied Powers, at the forefront including France, Britain, and Russia, welcome additional men and arms. They remind the world which country was the first to break a treaty when Germany marched into Belgium in direct defiance of an agreement to respect Belgium’s neutrality should international strife begin.

Fifteen nations are now at war.

La Libre Belgique


Chapter One

“Oh, God,” Isa Lassone whispered, “You’ve seen me this far; don’t let me start doubting now.”

A few cool raindrops fell on her upturned face, blending with the warm tears on her cheeks. Where was her new guide? The one she’d left on the Holland side of the border had said she needed only to crawl through a culvert, then worm her way ten feet to the right, and there he would be.

Crickets chirped, and from behind her she heard water trickle from the foul-smelling culvert through which she’d just crept. Some of the smell clung to her shoes and the bottom of her peasant’s skirt, but it was Belgian dirt, so she wouldn’t complain. The prayer and the contents of her satchel reminded her why she was here, in this Belgian frontier the occupying German army strove to keep empty. For almost two years Isa had plotted, saved, worked, and defied everyone she knew—all to get to this very spot.

Then she heard it—the chirrup she’d been taught to listen for. Her guide had whistled it until Isa could pick out the cadence from any other.

She edged upward to see better, still hidden in the tall grass of the meadow. The scant mist cooled her cheeks, joining the oil and ash she’d been given to camouflage the whiteness of her skin. She must have grown used to its unpleasant odor, coupled with the scent she had picked up in the culvert, because now she could smell only grass. Twigs and dirt clung to her hands and clothes, but she didn’t care. She, Isabelle Lassone, who’d once bedecked the cover of the Ladies’ Home Journal with a group of other young American socialites, now crawled like a snake across a remote, soggy Belgian field. She must reach that sound.

Uneven ground and the things she’d hidden under her cloak and skirt slowed her crawl. Her wrist twisted inside a hole—no doubt the entrance to some creature’s home—and she nearly fell flat before scuttling onward again. Nothing would stop her now, not after all she’d been through to get this far, not after everything she’d given up.

Then her frantic belly dash ended. The tall grass hid everything but the path she left behind, and suddenly she hit something—or rather, someone.

“Say nothing.” She barely heard the words from the broad-shouldered figure. He was dressed as she was, in simple, dark clothing, to escape notice of the few guards left to enforce the job their wire fencing now did along the border. Isa could not see his face. His hair was covered by a cap, and his skin, like hers, had been smeared with ash.

Keeping low, the guide scurried ahead, and Isa had all she could do to follow. Sweat seeped from pores suffocated beneath her clothes. She ignored rocks that poked her hands and knees, spiky grass slapping her face, dirt kicked up into her eyes by the toe of her guide’s boot.

He stopped without warning and her face nearly hit his sole.

In the darkness she could not see far ahead, but she realized they’d come to a fence of barbed wire. A moment ago she had been sweating, but now she shivered. The electric fences she’d been warned about . . . where bodies were sometimes trapped, left for the vultures and as a grim warning to those like her.

Her guide raised a hand to silence whatever words she might have uttered. Then he reached for something—a canvas—hidden in the grass, pulling it away from what lay beneath. Isa could barely make out the round shape of a motor tire. He took a cloth from under his shirt and slipped it beneath the fence where the ground dipped. With deft quickness, he hoisted the wire up with the tire, only rubber touching the fencing. Then he motioned for her to go through.

Isa hesitated. Not long ago she would have thought anyone crazy for telling tales of the things she’d found herself doing lately, things she’d nearly convinced her brother, Charles, she was capable of handling despite his urgent warnings.

She took the precious satchel from her back and tossed it through the opening, then followed with ease, even padded as she was with more secret goods beneath her rough clothing. Her guide’s touch startled her. Looking back, she saw him hold the bottom of her soiled cotton skirt so it would touch nothing but rubber. Then he passed through too. He strapped the tire and its canvas to his back while she slipped her satchel in place.

Clouds that had barely sprinkled earlier suddenly released a steady rainfall. Isa’s heart soared heavenward even as countless droplets fell to earth. She’d made it! Surely it would’ve been impossible to pass those electrified wires in this sort of rain, but God had held it off. It was just one more blessing, one more confirmation that she’d done the right thing, no matter what Charles and everyone else thought.

Soon her guide stopped again and pulled the tire from his back, stuffing it deep within the cover of a bush. Then he continued, still pulling himself along like a frog with two broken legs. Isa followed even as the journey went on farther and took longer than she’d expected.

She hadn’t realized she would have to crawl through half of Belgium to get to the nearest village. Tension and fatigue soon stiffened her limbs, adding weight to the packets she carried.

She heard no sound other than her own uneven breathing. She should welcome the silence—surely it was better than the sound of marching, booted feet or a motorcar rumbling over the terrain. Despite the triumph she’d felt just moments ago, her fear returned. They hid with good reason. Somewhere out there German soldiers carried guns they wouldn’t hesitate to use against two people caught on the border, where citizens were verboten.

“Let me have your satchel,” her guide whispered over his shoulder.

Isa pulled it from her back, keeping her eye on it all the while. He flipped it open. She knew what he would find: a single change of clothes, a purse with exactly fifty francs inside, a small loaf of bread—dark bread, the kind she was told they made on this side of the blockades—plus her small New Testament and a diary. And her flute. Most especially, her flute.

“What is this book?” His voice was hushed, raspy.

“A Bible.”

“No, the other one. What is it?”

“It’s mine.”

“What is it doing in this satchel?”

“I—I wanted to bring it.”

“What have you written in here?”

Instantly flushed with embarrassment, she was glad that he couldn’t see her face any better than she could see his under the cover of darkness. No one would ever read the words written in that diary, not even the person to whom she’d written each and every one. Well, perhaps one day he might, if they grew old together. If he let her grow old at his side.

“It’s personal.”

He thrust it toward her. “Get rid of it.”

“I will not!”

“Then I will.” He bolted from belly to knees, hurling the little book far beyond reach. It was gone in the night, splashing into a body of water that no doubt fed into the culvert she knew too well.

Isa rose to her knees, the object of her gaze vanished in the blackness. The pages that securely held each intimate thought, each dream, each hope for her future—gone. Every page a visit with the man she loved, now forever lost.

“How dare you! You had no right.”

The guide ignored her as he resumed the scuttle forward.

Fury pushed Isa now. That diary had meant more to her than this dark figure could know. When at last he stopped and stood beneath the low branches of a forest to scrape the wild heath off his clothes, Isa circled to confront him.

At that moment the clouds parted enough to allow a bit of moonlight to illuminate them. And there he was, in glorious detail—older, somehow, and thinner, but the black brows, the perfectly straight nose, the square jaw, and the eyes that with a single look could toss aside every sensible thought she might have. The very man about whom—and to whom—that diary had been written.

Her heart skipped wildly, rage abandoned. “Edward!”

All he offered was confused scrutiny, a glance taking her in from head to foot. She took off her hat and her blonde hair tumbled to her shoulders. In the dim light he might not be able to see the blue of her eyes, but surely he saw her familiar smile, the shape of her face, and the welcome that sprang from the deepest part of her.

The look on his face changed from confusion to recognition. Then astonishment.

“Isa?”

She threw herself toward him, and he received her as she dreamed he might one day, with his strong arms enveloping her, his face smiling a welcome. His eyes, if only she could see them better in the darkness, must be warm and happy. She longed for him to kiss her and raised her face, but there the dream ended. He pushed her away to arm’s length.

If there had been any warmth in his eyes a moment ago, it was gone now, replaced by something not nearly as pleasant.

“What are you doing here? I thought it was a fool’s mission to bring somebody in. A girl, no less. And it’s you, of all people!”

She offered a smile. “Well, hello to you too, Edward. After more than two years I’d expected you to be happy to see me. A guide was supposed to take me to you; no one told me it would be you.”

“We’ll retrace right now, young lady.” He took one of her hands and moved away so easily that he must have believed she would follow.

“I’m not going anywhere, except home. If you knew what I’ve been through to get here, you wouldn’t even suggest such an absurd notion.”

“Absurd? Let me give you the definition of the word, Isa. Absurd is smuggling someone into a country occupied by the German army, into a starving prison camp. Do you know how many people have been killed here? Is the rest of the world so fooled by the Germans that you don’t even know?”

“Edward, I’m sure no one on the outside knows everything that’s going on, except maybe Charles. He was in France, caught behind the lines. And now he’s working with the British, not far from where you were born. In Folkestone.”

“Your brother? Working? Now there’s a new concept. He should have talked you out of coming here.”

Isa wouldn’t admit just how hard Charles had tried. “I found my guide through him. Mr. Gourard—”

“Gourard! He was here—he was with us the day my father was shot.”

“Oh, Edward.” She leaned into him. “He told me your father was killed.” Tears filled her eyes, an apparently endless supply since she’d been told the news. “I’m so sorry.”

He pushed her away, but not before she saw his brows dip as if to hide the pain in his eyes. “Look, we can’t stand here and argue. The rain was working with us to keep the sentries away, but if we have to go through that fence when it’s this wet, we’d better go now before it gets worse. We’ve got to keep moving.”

“I’m not going back.” If he knew her at all, he would recognize the tone that always came with getting her way.

He stood still a long moment, looking one direction, then the other, finally stooping to pick up her satchel—now lighter with the absence of one small diary—and heading back to the grassland.

She grabbed his arm. “No, Edward! I won’t go. I—I’ll do anything to stay. I’ve been through too much to give up now.”

He turned on her then, with a look on his face she’d never seen before—and his was a face she’d studied, memorized, dreamed of, since she was seven and he twelve. That the war had aged him was obvious, and yet he was still Edward.

He dropped the satchel to clutch both of her arms. “Do you think I’ll let you walk into a death camp? That’s what Belgium is, even your precious Brussels. Go back home, Isa. Your parents got you out. Before all this. Why would you be foolish enough to come back?”

“I came because of you—you and your family. And because this is my home.”

His grip loosened, then tightened again. He brought his face close, and Isa’s pulse pounded at her temples. But there was no romance in his eyes. They were so crazed she couldn’t look away if she wanted to.

“Isa,” he said, low, “I’m asking you to go back.”

Her heart sped. “Only if you come out with me,” she whispered. Then, because that seemed to reveal too much and yet not enough, she added, “After we get your mother and Jonah.”

He dropped his hands and turned away, facing the grassland instead of the trees.

She could tell him what she had hidden inside her flute; surely that would change his mind about the wisdom of her actions. But something held her back. If she gave it to him now, he might simply accept the flute but return her to the border anyway. No, she wouldn’t reveal her secret. Not yet.




Isa picked up her satchel and started walking—deeper into Belgium, away from the grassland, into the wood that no doubt served a nearby village. Beneath her skirt and blouse, the other goods she carried tightened her clothes so she could barely breathe, but she didn’t stop. She didn’t even look back.

Before long she heard Edward’s footfall behind her. At first they did not speak, and Isa didn’t care. Her journey had ended the moment she saw his face. This was where she’d longed to be. She’d prayed her way across the Atlantic, escaped the wrath of her brother and all those he worked with. Days of persuasion led to downright begging, until she’d tried going around them and contacted Brand Whitlock, the American ambassador to Belgium, to arrange her passage home to Brussels.

But her begging had accomplished nothing.

Yet her journey had not ended there, thanks to the whispered advice of a clerk who worked in Folkestone with her brother. When Charles went off on an errand, another man approached her and spoke the name of a guide who started Isa on the final leg of her journey to Edward’s side.

“We’re coming to the village road,” Edward said flatly. “I was told your papers would give your name as Anna Feldson from Brussels, which match mine as John Feldson. We are cousins, and I am bringing you home from visiting our sick grandmother in Turnhout. There is a German sentry on the other side of this village, and we’ll no doubt be stopped. There won’t be anyone on the street at this hour, which is a good thing because even the locals won’t trust us. Nobody likes strangers anymore, especially this close to the border. So if we do see anybody, keep to yourself and don’t say a word.”

She nodded. A few minutes later the trees parted and she saw shadows of buildings ahead. The rain had let up to a drizzle again, and the moon peeked out to give them a bit of light. She wasn’t soaked through but knew a wind would send a chill, especially now that the anxiety of crawling through the underbrush was behind them.

Edward stopped. “I’m only going to ask once more, Isa, and then I’ll not ask again.” Now he turned to look directly into her eyes. “We have enough darkness left to make it safely. Let me take you back to the border.”

“I can’t,” she whispered. When the crease between his eyes deepened, she said, “This is where I belong, Edward. It must be where God wants me, or I never would have succeeded.”

“God.” He nearly snorted the word before he turned from her and started walking again toward the village.

“Yes!” She hurried to catch up. “If I told you all the ways He’s protected me so I could get this far, you wouldn’t doubt me.”

Edward turned on her. “I refuse to hear it, Isa. God’s not in Belgium anymore; you’ll find that out for yourself soon enough.”

His words stung. God had used Edward to show her His love to begin with, and she knew He wasn’t about to let Edward go. Had Edward let go of God, then? When? And why, when he must need God more than ever if things here were harder than she had imagined?

They walked through the quiet village without incident, the soft leather soles of their wet shoes soundless on the cobbles. The village was so like many others of Belgium: a few small homes made of familiar brick, a stone church with its tall bell tower, and a windmill to grind grain into flour. So different from the frame homes or sprawling businesses Isa had left behind in New York, but so dear that she wanted to smile as deeply as Edward frowned.

At the other end of the narrow village street, there was indeed a German officer stationed on the road. Isa’s heart thudded so loudly in her ears she wondered if she would be able to hear over it, or if the soldier would hear it too.

But he said nothing, not a word, at least not to her. He looked at them, looked at their papers, then asked Edward in rather bad French why they were traveling so early in the morning, having come so far from Turnhout already.

Edward replied that the steam tram was unreliable but that they hoped to reach the next village in time to catch it anyway.

The soldier waved them through.

“That was easier than I expected,” Isa whispered once they were well away.

“Don’t underestimate other soldiers based on that one. A suspicious one with a rifle can do as he pleases.”

But Isa was too relieved to be gloomy. “Amazing how I can still understand you through your clenched jaw, Edward.”

Edward didn’t look at her. “We have to be in Geel in less than an hour if we expect to make the tram.”

They made their way in silence, under sporadic drizzle and meagerly emerging sunlight. When at last they came to the next town, it was quiet until they reached the tram station, where soldiers outnumbered civilians. So many soldiers did what the rain couldn’t: dampened Isa’s spirits.

She had a fair understanding of German, but she could barely keep up. Not that she needed to; the soldiers ignored her, speaking of mundane things to one another, hardly worthy of interest. She prayed it would stay that way, that she and Edward would be invisible to each and every armed soldier.

A commotion erupted from the front of the platform. German commands, a snicker here and there. Silence from the civilians.

A man not much older than Edward was forced at gunpoint to open the packet he carried, to remove his coat and hat, even his shoes. A soldier patted him from shoulder to ankle.

Isa could barely watch and wanted more than anything to turn away. To run away. She told herself to look elsewhere, to allow the victim that much dignity, but was transfixed by the sight of such a personal invasion. Her throat tightened so that she couldn’t swallow, could barely breathe. She couldn’t possibly withstand such a search, and not just for modesty’s sake. “Edward . . .”

“Keep your eyes down and don’t say a word.”

“But—”

“Quiet.”

A tram entered the station and the man was allowed to board, everyone else soon following. Edward nudged Isa and they took seats.

The secret goods beneath Isa’s cloak and clothing clung to her skin, as if each sheet, each letter were as eager as she not to be noticed. She feared the slightest move would sound a rustle. Carefully, slowly, she stuffed her satchel beneath the seat, wanting to take comfort that it had escaped notice. If her flute was looked at with any scrutiny . . . She couldn’t bear to think of it.

The vehicle rumbled along far slower than the pace of Isa’s heartbeat. She wanted the luxury of looking out at the land she loved, the fields and the villages, the rooftops and steeples, the mills and the farms, but her stomach didn’t allow her eyes to enjoy any of it. At each stop a few soldiers departed, but new ones joined them. She tried not to study what went on, at least not conspicuously, but longed to learn how the soldiers chose which civilians to search. It appeared entirely random. More men were searched, but women weren’t spared. One holding a baby was made to unswathe her child, who screamed and squirmed when jostled from its secure hold.

Isa did as Edward told her, kept quiet, eyes cast downward or upon the passing landscape that under any other circumstances would have been like a gift from the finest art palette. One hour, then two. After the third she could stand it no longer. Surely they were near their destination? But she had no idea how far Louvain might be at the rate they were going with so many stops and searches. No doubt they could travel more safely by foot without losing much time.

Six times she nearly spoke, to urge Edward to take her out of this tram. Six times she held back. But one more search and she could resist her impulses no more.

“I—I must get off the tram, Edward. I’m sick.”

“Sick?”

“Yes, I must get away from—” She wanted to say away from the soldiers but dared not in case any of them spoke French and overheard. “I must get away from this awful tram. The stop and go is making me ill.”

“Another hour. Surely you can last?”

She shook her head even as from the edge of her vision she saw a soldier looking her way. How do you not look guilty when you’re completely, utterly, culpable?

Isa stood as the tram came to a slow stop at the next intersection. She kept her back to the soldiers, jumping to the ground just as soon as it was safe to do so. Then, without waiting for Edward, she walked forward as if she knew exactly where she was going.

She walked a block, well out of sight from the disappearing tram. There she stood . . . not amid one of the lovely villages, with their ancient way of life so quaintly preserved and appreciated. Instead, she found herself at the end of a row of destruction. Crumbling homes, demolished shops. Burned ruins of a town she once knew. Aerschot, where she’d dined and laughed and dreamed of walking the street with Edward’s hand in hers.

A moment later Edward’s shadow joined hers. “Are you positively mad?”

“We’re in Aerschot?” she asked, barely hearing his question.

“Obviously. And several hours’ walk from Brussels. Do you know how ridiculous that was? We don’t need any complications, Isa.”

She faced him. “Your contact didn’t tell you what I’d be carrying, did he?”

Suspicion took the place of the anger on his face. “What?”

“Well,” she began slowly, “I would try to show you, but among other things, I’m afraid I’d never get everything back in place.”

He let out what she could only call a disgusted sigh as he ran a hand through his dark hair—hair that seemed thinner and yet sprang instantly back into place, symmetrical waves that framed his forehead, covered his ears. He needed a haircut, but she found she liked the way he looked too much to think of changing anything, even the length of his hair.

“Isa, Isa,” he said, shaking his head all the while. “I should make you take out every scrap and burn it right here and now. Do you know what could have happened if you’d been searched on that tram?”

“Which is why we’re no longer on it.”

“You might have warned me!”

“I tried!”

He paced away, then turned to stand nearly nose-to-nose with her again. Not exactly the stance she’d dreamed of when she’d imagined him at such close proximity, but it sent her pulse racing anyway.

“You could have been shot. Do you know that? Shot.”

She nodded. “They warned me.”

His brows rose and his mouth dropped open. “Then why did you agree to the risk?”

“Gourard told me there are no newspapers, no information at all about what the rest of the world is doing to try to save Belgium and end this war. How have you lived so long without knowing what’s going on? I have the best portions of a couple of recent newspapers. And I have letters, too. Letters from soldiers. Don’t their families deserve to know they’re all right?”

“It doesn’t matter what I think. Gourard shouldn’t have taken your life so lightly or trusted such things to a young, naive child.”

“Child! I’m perfectly capable of deciding what risks I will or won’t take. I’m the one to decide what I will or won’t do for Belgium.”

“It was bad enough for you to come back, but to bring contraband—it’s beyond foolish.”

“Edward, don’t be angry with me. I’ll deliver the letters and then be done with it if you like, if it’s too dangerous for us. But I won’t abandon what I brought with me.”

“I don’t care about the risk for me. I’ve done so many things the Germans could shoot me for that one more thing doesn’t matter. It’s you. Maybe the Germans wouldn’t shoot you—being just a girl—but who knows?”

“I’m not—” . . . just a girl. But she didn’t bother with the words. She doubted they’d convince him.

She looked away, embarrassed. All she could think of when she agreed to smuggle the letters was how desperately she had wanted news of him and how other families cut off from their loved ones must be desperate too. She couldn’t have refused to take a chance with the letters and lived with herself. “I agreed to take the risk for the same reasons you’ve taken so many. Your mother and father didn’t teach values only to you and Jonah, you know.”

He emitted something between a moan and a laugh, then took her arm. “We’re going somewhere for you to take out the letters. And the newspaper clips.”

“But, Edward—”

He looked at her then, and she could see he was not to be argued with. “I’ll carry them in my cloak. It won’t be the first time.”




Monster Armored Cars Used by British in Charge on the Somme

Called “tanks” by those who’ve seen them, Allied soldiers themselves refer to these huge traveling fort machines as “Willies.” Driven like motorcars but able to scale barbed wire, leap trenches, knock down houses, and snap off tree limbs, they are a formidable weapon indeed and will no doubt play an important role in the defeat of the Germans.

La Libre Belgique