Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Critical Condition

Critical Condition

Richard Mabry is my go-to author when I need a story about ordinary citizens caught up in a major mystery. 
In the last year, I've had the pleasure of reviewing three of his books: Stress Test, Heart Failure, and now Critical Condition. 

And I swear his mysteries get more perplexing with each novel- there were at least three major plot twists in Critical Condition that I never expected!
But I'm getting ahead of myself here. 

Critical Condition is the story of a sister, and a reluctant sister's keeper. 

Meagan Frasier really needs a "Bless This Mess" coffee mug. The youngest Frasier girl, she can be lovable and infuriating all at once. 
She's beginning to realize that while her life is untidy and she's been derailed in the past, there is hope and a good future ahead of her. That's why I loved Meagan: she's the person inside all of us who knows that sometimes we cause trouble and sometimes we make a mess of things, but we want to keep trying. 

Frankly, Dr. Shannon Frasier is tired of cleaning up behind Meagan. When they were young it was dishes and laundry, now it's prescription drug addiction rehab and loser boyfriends. Will Meagan never straighten up?! 
At least Shannon tries to live up to role as grown-up Pastor's daughter. On the outside, her life looks fine. It's clean, productive, and respectable. 
On the inside, she feels hollow.
When her fiancee died ten years before, the loss opened up a hole inside her and she's never fully healed. 

And her current situation looks nothing like a prescription for healing: her sister is crashing at her house again, this year's wave of residents have just arrived at the hospital for training, and there's been a murder on her front lawn. Shannon is being pushed to the breaking point. 

I loved this story, not just for the mystery (which sure was tricky and startling!) but for the tale of two sisters and restoration after loss. 
Richard Mabry combines suspense with people-oriented plots, that show how men and women move closer to God in the middle of real life. 

Get ready to join Shannon in sleuthing, sistering, spiritual renewal, and suspense.

Thank you Litfuse for my review copy! 

When Richard is not writing, he spends his time reading, working fruitlessly to improve his golf game, and defending his title as the world’s best Granddad. He and his wife live in north Texas and are active members of Stonebriar Community Church, pastored by Dr. Chuck Swindoll.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Surprised by Grace: Relentless Love!

Surprised by Grace: A True Story of Relentless Love

If you've read The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom or God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew, then you may have noticed another name on the front cover: Elizabeth Sherrill. 
As you read those amazing true stories, you may have wondered about this woman who helped give life to other's experiences through her words.
Now, at long last, and after much encouraging from friends and family, Elizabeth Sherrill is telling us her story. 

Surprised by Grace was one of those books that didn't want to leave my hand once I began it. 
The first thing that hit me and resonated was on page 6.
Elizabeth describes being a young woman and seeing the coast of England for the first time, in 1947. It was ravaged by bombs, and evidence of the toll of war was everywhere. When she burst into weeping, the soldier beside her was quick to comfort. She tells us that she didn't know how to explain it, but she wasn't crying out of mourning, but because she felt she'd come home. 
Then she says that she thinks that every person will have an experience like that, a mystical connection to a place they've never seen before, and that those moments are reminders that God is preparing a place for us- we are not always to be pilgrims wanderers, and we will recognize it when we arrive. 

Surprised by Grace is part memoir, part meditation. It's pure goodness. I intend to loan this book to some friends of mine, some Christians and some not yet, because I can't imagine them not being moved by one passage or another. 

Throughout this book Mrs. Sherrill looks back over her life and sees the times when she was touched by God, when she met Him in places unexpected, and when she caught a glimpse of glory, long before she was a Christian. 
Her words are so, so quotable. I think I wore out a highlighter marking beautiful lines. This book is an excellent reminder of a great truth: God loves us madly and pursues us thoroughly through all our days. We can own our past, our history, our unredeemed time, as part of our Story, part of the way God chased us and caught us.

Thank you Guideposts and Litfuse for the chance to own, read and review Surprised by Grace. 

Elizabeth Sherrill

Elizabeth Sherrill is the author behind the classic best sellers The Hiding Place about Corrie ten Boom, The Cross and the Switchblade about David Wilkerson, and God's Smuggler about Brother Andrew. She also is a longtime contributor to America's best-loved inspirational magazine Guideposts, and best-selling devotional, Daily Guideposts. Visit her at

Monday, April 28, 2014

Defy The Night

Defy the Night

One sentence review: This book means something. 
Defy the Night is a heart-rending story. It's terrible and wonderful and the characters become strong presences in your mind as you read. 

Historical fiction can often seem fluffy, with modern people and poor plots forced back into a different era. 
Not so Defy The Night. 
This book is written in a serious, steady way, with a tone that captures the tedium and the danger and intensity of life in 1941 Tanieux France. 

Magali is a fifteen year old girl living in a country where the government capitulates with the Nazi's and her neighbors have largely ceased to resist. It all spells "weakness" to her, and she loathes it. 
Magali wants to be strong. She has courage, but it's raw and untested. It's courage without wisdom and prudence.

Paquerette can teach Magali how to be brave and smart, and she can give Magali a reason to live. 
Paquerette is young in years and old in spirit, with eyes like firelight on steel. 
Standing tall and straight, Paquerette walks into the lion's den week after week and steals away his prey.
The lions are the internment camps, the prey is the sick and dying children who manage to get medical releases. Paquerette is their escort to safety, their lifeline. She becomes Magali's Joan of Arc.

This story is excellent historical fiction, and a great choice for a teenage girl who wants her life to make the world better, who wants to break out of the narrow box that every woman she knows seems to live in. 
If someone asked me what stood out to me most about this novel, I'd say it is a story about a girl who finds out what strength really is, and learn what it means to be strong. 

Paquerette who poured out all her reserves, to the last drop, to save lives. 
Magali, who desperately wanted her life to matter in the fight against evil. 
Magali's mother, who wanted to shelter her girl and needed to let her go.
Rosa, the refugee girl who never stood out yet had abilities that Paquerette needed in her work. 
Nina, the girl who had experiences behind her eyes that she never could explain, who was grateful for every drop of kindness, and whose brokenness became proven strength. 

Tank you Kregel for my review copy! I'll certainly be looking for How Huge The Night.

This is an interview with the authors, about How Huge the Night, book one in the series: 
Heather and Lydia Author Interview!

Girls in Rivesaltes... 

The ruins of Rivesaltes today...

The town of Le Chambon...

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Southern Heat... a wild ride mystery.

Southern Heat

My favorite stories are the ones where a motley crew saves the day.
Especially in a mystery, it's essential that we find resolve, courage, and self sacrifice in unexpected places. When an author brings together a crazy mix of people- most of them slightly disturbed, so I can relate- that resulting book will get my attention. 

And if you tell me that the title of that book is Southern Heat, then I know I'll have to read it. Ever since watching eight seasons of In The Heat of The Night, Southern who-done-its have been my go to favorite stories. 

Southern Heat didn't disappoint. 

Brack Pelton is the best kind of hero, the kind with a troubled spirit. He describes himself as "A train wreck looking for a major intersection."
He's still grieving his beloved Jo, the woman who made him a better man. She died too soon, and so Brack played tough. 
He went in the USMC at 29 and came out hard drinking, fast driving, and ill at ease without his firearms close at hand. 
He wouldn't admit it, but he has kept his gentle side. It's buried deep, but it's increasingly obvious throughout the book. 
That's what makes him so likable. That and his attitude, expressed in a sharp, dry wit. 

Now he's got a murder case to solve, and it's deeply personal. 
Uncle Reggie, the only blood family that Brack isn't estranged from, died in his arms in an alley after an inexplicable shooting. 
Uncle Reggie the Vietnam Vet. 
Uncle Reggie, owner of the Pirate's Cove bar.
Uncle Reggie, whom Brack knows so well. 

Except maybe Uncle Reggie wasn't such an open book after all. 

Prepare yourself for a fast, engaging ride. You'll have to hang on as tight as if you were in the passenger seat of Brack's Mustang. 
He's about to chase leads- and suspects- all over Charleston. And you're going with him. Into the grit of the city, the darkness of man's choices and man's appetites, the depth of man's corruption and deceit. 

In the words of Brother Thomas, "A man can't avoid reaping what he sows." 

Thank you Pump Up Your Book Tours for my copy of this book. 

David Burnsworth became fascinated with the Deep South at a young age. After a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee and fifteen years in the corporate world, he made the decision to write a novel. Southern Heat is his first mystery. Having lived in Charleston on Sullivan’s Island for five years, the setting was a foregone conclusion. He and his wife along with their dog call South Carolina home.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Through the Deep Waters

Through the Deep Waters

Kim Vogel Sawyer's latest novel is one that has been on her heart for years. I can see why. 

Dinah is a girl fighting a battle every day just to keep living. 
She's paralyzed by fear and bound by shame, and both were bequeathed to her by one abuser, one man. 
Dinah is extremely sensitive to other people's suffering. That's why she asked a limping stranger a very pointed question: "What broke you?" 
In a world where we avoid addressing people's pain- perhaps because we are impotent to fix it?- Dinah stood out. 

Little did she know that this stranger would soon see *her* brokenness and be drawn to her. That man was Amos Ackerman. 
Amos's time with Dinah is less about him and her than about God changing him, because even tender-hearted Amos will judge a person without knowing them. His story is about how God changes his attitude, showing him how he could easily be part of Dinah's problem instead of Dinah's healing.

Then there's Ruthie, a fellow chambermaid at the Harvey Hotel. 
A young lady from a wholesome home who doesn't fear the dark or shy from men's attention. 
Ruthie must crack open her heart and realize that not everyone had the beautiful, innocent early years like she did. 
She must learn how- reluctantly, falteringly- to give kindness to Dinah, and be glad instead of jealous when Dinah is blessed.
Ruthie's part in the story serves to remind us that we don't know somebody until they reveal themselves. 
We can guess and assume and judge but until we communicate honestly we can't meet their needs.

Another truth comes through in this story, if you know where to look. Prostitution is not a choice women make, it's a situation that they're forced into.
In our sin-sick world we don't always gather the vulnerable and broken and destitute under our wings. Sometimes, we push them out onto the street. And once there, whether you're a 24 year old mother of three with nobody to help provide, or a 15 year old runaway with self-absorbed or abusive parents, what do you do to stay alive? 
Whether you're forced into sex slavery out of poverty, or because you've been bombarded by the message that you're good for nothing else, or because a boyfriend/pimp has taken control of you, every woman deserves better. The evils of others are not her fault. 
She didn't bring them upon herself, and she does have a future ahead of her if we will step up and help her heal. 

Fellow reader, if you have a passion for helping women be healed and set free after abuse and mistreatment, then I suggest that you read further. Educate yourself about the psychology of abuse. Study the patterns of shame that bind a woman when she's told that someone else's crime was her fault. Try Naomi Zacharias' book The Scent of Water. Try Mary Pipher's book Reviving Ophelia. 
Look up Vicki Tiede and Shannon Ethridge, both of them speak hope into women's lives. 

The sex slavery that Dinah was surrounded by still goes on, and will until theres's no one left who thinks they can purchase a woman.
Read The White Umbrella by Mary Francis Bowley. She believes that it can happen: Sex Slavery and Prostitution can be ended. 
That's the vision. That's the goal. 
It will involve large-scale work like is done at Wellspring Living, and personal restoration like what happened to Dinah. 
The results will be just as beautiful as a confident, peaceful, loved young woman. 

Thank you Waterbrook for my review copy! 

Kim Vogel SawyerKim Vogel Sawyer is the author of fifteen novels, including several CBA and ECPA bestsellers. Her books have won the ACFW Book of the Year Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Kim is active in her church, where she leads women's fellowship and participates in both voice and bell choirs. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas, and have three daughters and six grandchildren. She invites you to visit her Web site for more information."

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Promise in Pieces...

A Promise in Pieces

Emily Wierenga's debut novel is one of those stories that feels real when you're reading it.
In beautiful prose, she weaves together the memories and present experiences of one woman, Clara. 
And I felt like I was "listening in," or reading a private journal, as Clara told the story from her heart. 

It is the year 2000, and Clara's family is joining her on a road trip to New Orleans. Everyone knows this trip means a lot to her, and the destination involves a special event, but there are disparate parts of the story that need to be drawn together to show the whole, before they arrive. 
So Clara begins telling the tale of her life, in the backseat of the car where she rides with her teenage grandson. 
And as the miles roll on, so does the tale of A Promise in Pieces. 

I was as captivated as her grandson, Noah. Clara tells us of her strict growing up years in the 1930's, and then the night she learned that the war was tearing a hole out of souls and families and nations, and the hour she slipped out of the house to join the nursing corps, and then her time in the thick of the devastation. And then we see how the WWII never left her, it broke her heart and yet expanded it and made room for so much love. 

This story takes us along with Clara, through losses that shake her to the core and then her difficult return home and a search for purpose that leads her to places inside her that only God knew about. 
Because Clara narrates many chapters, this book reads like a mini-autobiography. I was engaged from the start, and even when it switched to third person, I was invested in her story and wanted to know what happened next. 
(This book would actually make a very cool movie, I think. You could have the scenes of the family on the road interspersed with scenes from Clara's life through the years.)

So whether you like contemporary family stories, or if you enjoy historical novels, and if you love tales of women trying to find identity and value and forgiveness and a reason to go on, then try A Promise In Pieces. 

Thank you Litfuse for my review copy! I'll be looking out for whatever Emily Wierenga writes next!

(I'm using Emily's personal bio here, I hope it encourages you to visit her personal blog. 
I think you'll find something to touch your heart there, as well as in this novel. )

 I’m Emily, and I’m honored and humbled to meet you, friend.
We’re all stumbling along on this journey and you can approach me about anything okay? I’m an open book, with dog-eared pages and a worn cover.
I’m mama to two boys, ages two and four, and married to a farm-boy-turned-math-teacher. We live in a small Dutch hamlet with three churches, one Co-Op and no stop lights. There are a lot of fields out here, there’s a lot of space and sky for breathing and running and writing.
We foster two boys in addition to our own two, and before I had kids, I took care of my Mum who had brain cancer. She fought back and has recovered, all glory to God, and my pastor-father still holds her hand while they go for daily walks.
I battled anorexia nervosa as a child, and then again as a newly married woman, and I write a lot about body image now and have a passion for women to learn to love themselves.
My husband and I have battled infertility and are currently trying to adopt our third child through the local Alberta government.
I hurt for the church, and believe in it, and pray for it, as I’ve grown up inside its walls and have heard its groanings.
I have a heart for Africa, particularly Uganda, and went there in January on a bloggers’ trip with World Help.
My favorite things to do are read literary novels, play guitar, snowboard, paint with oil and acrylics and hug my babies.
I am the author of two books on eating disorders, a novel releasing this spring, and a memoir coming out this summer. All of my books can be found here:
I hope you’ll connect with me on FB:, or if you prefer, Twitter: @emily_wierenga. I’d love to have a virtual glass of wine, or cup of coffee, with you.
Peace to you friends,

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Five Love Languages...

The 5 Love Languages Singles Edition

I'd read the original Five Love Languages from the library several years ago, and I really liked Dr. Chapman's ideas. 
They make sense: we each spell L-o-v-e differently. For some of us, it's words of affirmation, others it's acts of service, gift-giving, spending time together, or positive physical touch. Most of us have a dominant love language, identifiable from our own actions and our expectations of others, and all of us need to learn to speak all five languages.
On and off, I had though about the love languages in relation to my family and friends. 
Now, Moody Press offers several of Dr. Chapman's books for review, and I was eager to try one again. 

The Five Love Languages Singles Edition was a great choice. It encompass a lot of the basic teaching, while not being specifically about marriage. 

Dr. Chapman's thesis is that much pain and confusion could be avoided if we just spoke each other's language. I agree. 
Within my own family, I know that there's no lack of love, but we certainly all feel unloved at times.
Why? Because we aren't expressing that love in a way that means something to the beloved. 
(If I really need a hug, and you offer to vacuum the floor under my desk, you'll wonder why I felt so neglected when you'd been so helpful.)

My Grammy loves receiving gifts. You can give that lady a package of pencils or a pair of socks, and she's hug you and kiss you like you gave her the Hope Diamond. My Mom hates most surprises, and she doesn't like accepting gifts because she knows how much they must have cost. For Mom, it's an act of service that touches her most. A bracelet that Grammy would be delighted to receive will truly mean less to Mom than a week's worth of folded laundry. 
Family disharmony can come from very simple roots: Grammy gifts Mom a pink bathrobe for Christmas. Mom looks at it and wonders "Thirty dollars for a garment I'll never wear? Why?" Meanwhile, Mom thinks "I didn't buy her anything, but I know she need's her plants repotted. I'll visit her with new potting soil and make a day of the project, that'll bless both of us."
Was it love? Yes, on both sides, but they were each speaking their own language, and that spelled "You don't understand me!" to the other. 

So simple, it's ridiculous. I can see why this book is full of personal stories, from college students with intractable roommates to second marriages, where the Love Languages turned things around. 

Too many people, when faced with a personality conflict, react in defensiveness: "I don't need to change what I'm doing- they need to change how they're reacting!" Maybe all you need is a tune-up in they way you both act towards each other? 
The other big obstacle I can picture is discomfort: "It's not my style to give verbal praise, hug people, hang out just catching up, etc." 
Like Dr. Chapman says, your own style may never change, but you'll probably need to expand your skills so you can meaningfully relate to people with different styles. That's what this whole thing is about... meaningful interaction. 

So, if you're curious about the Love Languages, and you're ready to apply them to friends, family, and significant other, then this edition is a fine place to begin. It's got testimonies to show you how this stuff works out in people's lives, it's got an overview of each language, it's got a quiz to assess your own languages, and because it's for singles it's got several chapters specifically looking at the point of dating in the first place. Again, I think Dr. Chapman nails it: dating is ultimately about connecting with another person, and if we aren't used to deep, intentional relationships to start with, dating will be difficult. That's why he applies the Love Languages to every relationship. There's no time like the present to begin learning.

Thank you Moody Press Newsroom for my review copy!

Gary ChapmanIn addition to his busy writing and seminar schedule, Gary Chapman is a senior associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he has served for 36 years. Gary and his wife, Karolyn, have been married for 45 years, have two adult children, and two grandchildren.

Gary Chapman is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in anthropology from Wheaton College and Wake Forest University, respectively. He received M.R.E. and Ph.D. degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and has completed postgraduate work at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Duke University.

Manual to Manhood: Skills for Boys to Master.

The Manual to Manhood: How to Cook the Perfect Steak, Change a Tire, Impress a Girl & 97 Other Skills You Need to Survive

Ok... this book is a great addition to a teenagers library! 

I wanted this book when Revell offered it to me because I figured that most of the same information would apply to me as well. I was right. 
This book has step by step instruction for so many things that every boy and girl needs to know for at work and around the home. 
A good chunk of it was new to me! And I'm glad I own the book so I can reference it when I need it. 

Ok... in the cars and driving section, there's info about how to parallel park, how to shift a manual transmission, how to jump a dead battery, and how to speak to a police officer should you have occasion to. 

In the Fix-It and Repair section, you learn how to calculate square footage, how to use a circular saw, how to use a drill, and the how-to for several other skills. There is also an oh-so-necessary section about unclogging sinks and toilets. As the author says, yelling "Stop, water, stop!" to an overflowing toilet will not work. I didn't even know that there was a way to shut off the water directly to a toilet! No more overflow. In a family, that is a useful skill. 

There's a section on Finance, Savings, and Planning for the Future, which casts a vision for smart moneymaking and spending. 

There's a section on Work and Ethics, with Diligence outlined as the best job skill, and ideas for Applications, References, asking for a well-earned Raise, and even Resigning! 

There's a section that every boy's future spouse will love him for practicing, all about washing laundry, drying it, and folding/ironing it. Oh yeah! 
I myself never really understood ironing, so I should probably learn. 

There's even a Cooking section, explaining how to whip up the pancakes and mashed potatoes and roasted chicken and grilled fish and broiled steak and the most important dish: Bacon. 

Yep. I picture this book getting a lot of wear in the hands of a high school boy. This is stuff that kids love to learn, stuff that they can master step by step and see their own progress. And it's stuff they'll never outgrow, they'll only build upon the initial foundation. 

The Manual to Manhood is a winner. 

Thank you Revell for my review copy! 

Jonathan Catherman

Jonathan Catherman is a leading education trainer specializing in the character and leadership development of youth. An award-winning cultural strategist, Jonathan speaks worldwide about the principles and strengths that empower greatness in children, teens, and young adults. The father of two sons, he sees daily the importance guys place on gaining respect and avoiding embarrassment. As both a parent and a professional, Jonathan is committed to assisting young men in the making to experience success and significance as they mature into manhood and lifelong leadership. Jonathan, his bride, and their boys live in North Carolina. Learn more at

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn...

In our family, we always learned history best through Story. If you give me characters to love, I'll soon care about their times and places. I'll want to know what shaped them and where their life was likely to go. 
And it helps if the story you tell is vividly described and set in a fascinating period... like it is in The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn! It's here! Lori Benton's second book!

After an act of violence leaves her in grave danger, Tamsen Littlejohn is forced into a desperate exile. 
With nothing extra but a cloak and a metal box containing secret papers, she flees into the wilderness.
Her guide is a man whose name she doesn't even know, and a revelation about her heritage has changed the way she views herself and the world around her. 

If your heart was stolen by Willa in Burning Sky, then you've definitely been on pins and needles waiting for Tamsen's story. It's time for another adventure... this one into the Overmountain settlements in Tennessee.

It's uncompromising country, with rushing streams and wild animals and thick forests. No place for a lady, that's for sure. No place this lady has ever needed to go. 
And the danger isn't only found in the environment: the settlers are divided under the two battling governments that really did bisect Tennessee territory between 1784 and 1789. Think roughshod politics, often "taken with a side of lead." (You learn quick not to announce which government you favor.) 
Tamsen is being tested in mind, mettle, and spirit. 

This is one great story. You feel like you're right there with Tamsen, and over almost 400 pages you get to meet so many other great characters. For example, Jesse Bird's Pa Cade is one of my favorite characters. 

This brings me to the one single thing I would change about this story. 
I'm unsure if I even want to mention it, but this is such a serious thing, and causes so much brokenness in our world that I am very sensitive anytime it comes up in a book or anywhere else. 
There's a minor character, a 15 year old girl who was "in love" with Jesse before Tamsen came along. This girl is nearly raped by two unsavory characters, and when Tamsen asks Jesse if it was their fault, Jesse says Bethany is old enough to be accountable for her actions. I wish that line could have been left out. If what happened to Bethany was a near-rape, then by definition it had nothing to do with any of her actions, because a rape is not provoked or asked for. Bad behavior by a man (or two men) is not caused by any action of any fifteen year old girl. Other than that line, Jesse is hero material. He did genuinely care for the women in his life... both Tamsen and young Bethany... I wish he hadn't said that. 
All Bethany had been looking for was love and affection. 

So get ready to travel with Tamsen Littlejohn. 
This journey will cause her to question her past and trust in her future, and she's taking you along. 

Lori Benton

Lori Benton was born and raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American and family history going back to the 1600s. Her novels transport readers to the 18th century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history, creating a melting pot of characters drawn from both sides of a turbulent and shifting frontier, brought together in the bonds of God's transforming grace.

When she isn’t writing, reading, or researching 18th century history, Lori enjoys exploring the mountains with her husband – often scouring the brush for huckleberries, which overflow the freezer and find their way into her signature huckleberry lemon pound cake.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Sensible Arrangement....

A Sensible Arrangement (Lone Star Brides, #1)

A Sensible Arrangement, that's all it was. 
Marty Danridge Olson (is her name a tribute to the original Marty, from Janette Oke's classic Love Comes Softly I wonder?) feels that every hope of marriage and motherhood has been cut down with the death of her beloved Thomas. 

Yet she has accepted a marriage proposal from widower Jake Wythe. As a bank manager, the board of trustees thinks that a wife will seal his good-standing and future success in the town. He didn't to risk having his heart torn again,so he asked for only two things: a woman content to keep up appearances, and someone who came from the Lone Star state to remind him of his home. Despite the life he has now, Jake longs to return to ranching in Texas, and he's unaware that in Marty's mind, that place symbolizes all the loss and bereavement of a past she's escaping. 

They have no clue what they're getting into. To use the tried and true Texan phrase, they're about to find themselves in a heap o' trouble! :) 

Marty finds Jake's lifestyle wonderful in several ways, and difficult in others. She's suddenly the object of queenly care: beautiful dresses and long hot baths and a grand home to furnish and outfit any way she see's fit. Yet she keeps her spunk, and resists some of the more onerous formalities... she even insists on befriending the household staff! 

As the days of her new marriage go by, Marty draws especially close to Alice, a young lady's maid whose own story is soon told. 
You see, Alice's father worked for the bank before he was murdered, before Jake came along. As Marty and Alice become more like sisters, Marty determines to find out as much as she can about those strange circumstances and protect the younger girl who's seen so much and has so much wisdom. 

Yes... Marty has her work cut out for her. She's got to figure out how to become friends with all the new people she's meeting, and with her own newly wed husband. Making a marriage work based on appearances (and what Marty increasingly feels is deception) only compounds the out-of-place feelings that she has. 
Marty knows that she may never find love like Thomas gave her again, and so she determines to become Jake's best friend. 
A thought that guides her in her relationships is expressed in a conversation between Marty and Alice. 
Alice says that people think familiarity breeds contempt. Marty rightly responds that familiarity can encourage love and trust. How true, Marty, how true. 
Too often we take advantage of the people around us, because they're just always there. Imagine what might change if we decided to become each other's friends, especially within a family!

This story will make you laugh and make you grin, and you will feel for Alice and Marty. There's also a wee bit of a mystery element, and the last few paragraphs are the sweetest part of all. 

Thank you Litfuse for my review copy!

Tracie Peterson Tracie Peterson is a bestselling author who writes in both historical and contemporary genres. Her novels reveal her love for research as well as her strong desire to develop emotionally meaningful characters and stories for her readers. Tracie and her family live in Montana.

Monday, April 14, 2014

No One Can Stem The Tide...

No One Can Stem the Tide: Selected Poetry 1931-1991

Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay were the ladies who introduced me to poetry the winter that I was fourteen. The words and the images that they captured demanded to be stamped on my memory, so I began writing my favorites down in a scrap book. 

Since then, my poetry collection has grown to its own place on the shelf, and I have continued to copy down my favorites in a memory book. I'm so glad that No One Can Stem The Tide is now part of my library. 
Jane Tyson Clement's lend themselves to slow, restful reading, and time to let them sink in. They deserve the extra meditation space. 

The first one I opened to was titled Autumn, and in it Jane Tyson Clement says that God "charges me to see all lovely things." I think these poems are her collection of seeing, of noticing. 
And as you read about what she's seen, you call it up in your mind's eye and realize that these same sights have shaped and made their mark on you, too. The word pictures she crafted jump off the page.
April rain is "heedless/lovely/necessary/" and Autumn is when "the wind fills with scarlet spinning down..." 

Most of the poems start with something in nature (mouse tracks in snow, bells ringing out, salt spray of the sea) and then delve into the human heart. Her inner world and the created world and their merging with the spiritual world are all explored here.

One poem that I really love begins with this affirmation: 
"The earth's good, in spit of evil; 
The earth's good; I've tasted it."
It goes on to describe the many ways that we've all eaten and drank of the goodness amidst the brokenness. That poem reminded me of These Have I Loved by Rupert Brooke. 

All of these poems can be considered praise to the Maker, every moment she experienced, appreciated, and wrote about testifies and reminds us of Presence of God in life. Some of them are direct. 
Conversion, for example, reminded me of St. Patrick's Breastplate. 
"So may I be possessed and claimed and altered, 
no part of life denied but all transferred
into thy kingdom where no man has faltered
but to be raised again by thy sure word."

Some of them, like Rainbow, are laughing, limpid, joyous verses, as she points out that wet sheep in a meadow don't notice the rainbow resting on their backs. 

One of them is so short and compact, it's own structure mimics the subject! 
"Fern fiddleheads
like a loved story
whose ending we know well
and wait for-" 
For me, in New England, ferns are the sublime sign of Spring. This poem tells me that she understood. 

Just a few more examples of her verses....

To My Unborn Child: 
"I am in God's hands, and you
In God's hands, 
through me-
all of it God's: the light, the dark,
the winter, 
and this wild, petal-drifting,
sun-dazed May." 

Dark Interval:
"...the harmony has risen and has gone
into the mind of God 
where it will linger 
always among all beauty we have lost." 

So yes, lover of poetry, and lover of beauty, spiritual seeker, Jane Tyson Clement's poems belong on your shelf. Read them, enjoy them. Let the words root in your memory. 

And remember, from her poem Abiding, 
"Things that abide are those that God
and man have loved together:
the sheep, the keels, the bells, the bird
the shepherd- are forever." 

Thank you Plough publishing for my review copy. It is much appreciated!

Jane Tyson ClementPoet and writer Jane Tyson Clement (1917 – 2000) grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. But she always preferred Bay Head, New Jersey where her family owned a summer house. “There was something eternal about it that was always a rock and an anchor for me.” Jane earn an English degree at Smith College and married Robert Clement, a Quaker attorney. Together they sought for meaning in life and an answer to social injustice. They eventually joined the Bruderhof, a Christian community. Jane taught school and raised a family, but her unquenchable thirst for justice, and for the wonders and mysteries that lie hidden in nature, kept her restless. Her poetry and short stories mirror this lifelong quest for truth and wholeness.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Shadow Hand....

Shadow Hand (Tales of Goldstone Wood, #6)

*Right against wrong, good against evil, and the children caught in the middle.*

When I received Shadow Hand, I knew I was jumping into a series in the sixth book. Even though I hadn't read Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, or Dragonwitch, and I'd never met Daylily, Foxbrush, or Lionheart, I was drawn right into Anne Elisabeth Stengl's grown-up fantasy. 

I didn't like Fairy Tales when I was little. I avoided the Brother's Grimm because they scared me. It was only when I grew up and met Tolkien and Lewis that I began to learn: Fairy Tales take us to other worlds, give us strange adventures, let us fight epic battles, and teach us about ourselves in the process. 

Shadow Hand has all the elements you would expect in a Fairy Tale (the enchanted wood, the unwanted suitor, the dragon pestilence, the Fairy Queen, the seen and the unseen) and then makes it all fresh and lush and wild and surprising. Welcome to a world where nothing is as it seems. 

When you step into Goldstone Wood, expect nothing for sure except that you will want to return.

The prophecy says that he will give of himself for her.
She is fighting a battle in herself.
There is an evil sucking the life out of the lands.
They must save the children, the memories, and their destiny. 

The scope of this story is very vast- the past and the future, the here and the there, true love and shed blood. 
And then there's the tiny details and dialogues that make for such satisfying world-building. 
I see can why so many travelers journey into Goldstone Wood. 

Me and my friend have decided that we're going to read the first books in this series as our Summer Read Aloud this year. 

Thank you to Fred and Nora St. Laurent from for my review copy! 

Anne Elisabeth Stengl Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she's not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of HEARTLESS, VEILED ROSE, MOONBLOOD, and STARFLOWER, with DRAGONWITCH due to release in 2013. HEARTLESS and VEILED ROSE have each been honored with a Christy Award.