Friday, May 25, 2018

Late May reading



 Image result for a bell for adano




Planting, weeding, more planting, more weeding -- once the May weather warmed up, it really warmed up and the work piled on, too.  With regular housework, that left almost no time for reading or quilting.  I did not want to miss bookclub so I squeezed in time to read this month's choice - the 1945 Pulitzer winner A BELL FOR ADANO by John Hersey. Once I settled into the writing style, I enjoyed this book, especially the characterization of Mister Major ( the name the Italians gave to Major Joppolo who oversees the occupation of  the Italian city Adano).  Of Italian descent himself, Joppolo does not face a language barrier and easily understands the feelings of the villagers, especially their wish to replace their confiscated bell.  Our bookclub discussion last night was quite lively with many observations about war and human nature. We left with questions about the greater Italian occupation and recovery from the war.  Time for some research.


 No One Ever Asked


Right after finishing Hersey's novel, I started Katie Ganshert's just published contemporary Christian novel NO ONE EVER ASKED. The book was sparked by the many true episodes of gun violence, continuing racism, and specifically the problems caused when poor, black schools (systemic racism) fail.  Ganshert placed her book in the state of Missouri which has a law that parents of students in failing school systems can request transfers of their kids to nearby successful schools.  As Ganshert shows in her novel, that often means black students enter predominately white suburban districts. The book revolves around three women and their families.  First there is Anaya Jones, a first year teacher who secures a job in the Crystal Ridge suburb, when her heart is really in the black district where her father taught and she grew up. But she decides on the more secure, higher paying job in Crystal Ridge where she can look out for her high school aged brother who will be transferring in the fall. Before even starting her job, Anaya meets her classroom mother, PTA president and all around supermom Camille Gray.  It is Camille who first says at a community meeting, "No one ever asked," meaning that no one ever asked the residents of Crystal Ridge how they felt about the court decision, but her words will come to mean so much more as the complex lives of the three main characters collide.  The final central character is Jen Covington, a new Missouri resident, who has settled in Crystal Ridge with her husband and her newly adopted seven year old daughter Jubilee.  With only her husband to support her, Jen struggles with Jubilee's emotional outbursts, fearing that they will never bond as mother and daughter.  Finding themselves in a neighborhood already edgy about racial issues does nothing to help the bi-racial family settle into harmony.  There have many fiction books written about race relations, few have been told by Christian authors.  Much of the layered drama and the ever evolving story will remind you of Jodi Picoult, but the hope that ends the book is Ganshert's own. I hope she continues to write stories with such wonderful characterizations and tough issues.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Spring - what a busy time

April snows and rains bring forth busy May, a time filled with children's concerts for all 6 grandchildren, school softball games (2 granddaughters), school baseball games (1 grandson), one weekend quilt retreat, one grandson's confirmation, Mother's Day, my birthday, and 3.5 days at the cabin opening it up for the summer.  Oh yes, there is also the outside work-- perennials transplanted, the outlying beds around the lawn weeded, and the garden tilled and a few things planted.  And it is only half way through the month.  So all this leaves almost no time for reading or quilting, but one can not live on work (or grandparenting activities) alone, so I did manage to two quick reads while driving to the cabin and at night there.  However, my reviews of them are going to be short and to the point!!!












Murder at Half Moon Gate (A Wrexford & Sloane Mystery #2)







MURDER AT HALF MOON GATE by Andrea Penrose was one of the reads for the FARMGIRL Facebook book club (Keningston Publishers and MaryJanes Farm magazine).  I read the book later than others so I did not take part in the online discussion.  This is the second Wrexford and Sloane mystery, and although reading the first installment was not necessary to understand the mystery, the interplay between Wrexford (a nobleman) and Sloane ( a pretty widow who is secretly keeping up her husband's satirical cartoons) refers a lot to their first investigation together.  What I liked best about this Regency mystery was the language, mannerisms, and backdrop of the city.  The two "urchins" or young boys that Sloane has taken under her wings reminds one of Dicken's street characters.




 The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck







THE SECRET LIFE OF SARAH HOLLENBECK BY Bethany Turner is a contemporary Christian novel perfect for the younger readers looking for a fresh twist on the typical.  Sarah Hollenbeck, freshly divorced, finds that her life for the past decade has been mainly a ruleadbber stamp of what her husband wanted.  Finding her authentic self is a journey rift with mistakes and unexpected successes.
On a whim she writes a steamy romance, which amazingly sells and propels her into a career writing two more. With the help of a Christian friend, Sarah sets on a new path of faith which almost miraculously leads to a relationship with a handsome widowed pastor.  Of course, you see what is coming, don't you?  When will the congregation find out about her recent past writing success?  Certainly someone will recognize her from her Tonight Show appearance and book tours?  I am sure that younger readers will be drawn to this title.  Me, I enjoyed the main character's humor and I thought the pastor was a prince, but other wise I found the book predictable.

I obtained both of these books from our library system.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

THE GIRLS IN THE PICTURE by Melanie Benjamin









 Title: The Girls in the Picture (Signed Book), Author: Melanie Benjamin




THE GIRLS IN THE PICTURE recreates the early days of the film industry through a fictional account of the friendship between scenarist (screen writer) Frances Marion and actress Mary Pickford.  Told in alternating points of view, we see a story of female friendship so strong that it helps build both women's careers, but also so fragile that love, family, and success threaten it over and over. World War I, the lasting acceptance of movies as entertainment, the creation of new studios (some still existing), and the rise of stars and notable producers all add to the depth of this book.  Pickford's love affair with Douglas Fairbanks and their "sweethearts of America" status calls forth a similarity to today's latest idols.  Also familiar is the male dominance that both Frances and Mary fought their whole careers.  And then there is the story of "talkies" forever changing the movie industry, destroying the careers of some, quickly replacing them with new sweethearts and stars.  Like  Benjamin's earlier book THE AVIATOR'S WIFE (about Charles Lindberg's wife), THE GIRLS IN THE PICTURE totally drew me in for a great read.  My only criticism is not one that can be corrected.  With historical fiction built on so much interpersonal relationship and conversation, I always question the accuracy.  In both books, Benjamin has addressed the issue in her afterward, basically stating that the dialogue, emotions, and the reasons why people acted as they did is basically imagined, but based on research.  I don't want my view of history to be colored by inaccurate fictional depictions, so I always read cautiously novels with real people as major characters.  That said, I can recommend this book for its total depiction of Hollywood and movies.  I obtained this book through interlibrary loan. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White





The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White



THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT begins like dozens, perhaps hundreds, of contemporary women's fiction titles -- a jilted young wife who must begin again, in a new neighborhood with a new school for her kids and with her life and heart still majorly in bits and pieces.  But after the first few pages, author Karen White tells an entirely fresh and captivating story (actually more than one story).  First, there is the relationship between Sugar Prescott and her new tenant, the freshly divorced Merilee Talbot Dunlap.  Sugar, 93, wants to live out her years on the same land where she has always resided.  Determined not to sell her land to developers, not even to the grandson of her best friend, Sugar rents out the small cottage where she began her own marriage, sure that the short distance from her older, larger home will be enough to keep her self-imposed privacy.  But from the start, Sugar senses there are wounds hidden beneath Merilee's " working mother of two, trying to cope" facade -- wounds that go beyond her ex- husband's betrayal.  I mean doesn't a proper Southern lady have an obligation to intercede and rescue a sister (although much younger) who can't even bake or make a drinkable sweet tea and who has the pizza delivery man on speed dial?   But it isn't just Sugar who seems to take Merilee and her children under the neighborly wing.  As Merilee's children begin the year in a prestigious private neighborhood school (paid for by the ex-in laws), Merilee finds her befriended by the overwhelming Queen Bee of all queen bees -- Heather Blackford.  And that friendship is the core of the drama, intrigue and resulting danger that makes THE NIGHTS THE LIGHTS WENT OUT a suspenseful read.

 Packed with glimpses beyond the gated communities of the tennis playing suburban moms and flashbacks to Sugar's own wounded past, it will soon be apparent that the Atlanta suburb of Sweet Apple has many secrets hidden behind its facade. When an anonymous blogger begins regular postings, a blend of gossip and Southern wisdom, it seems that "she" might be targeting Merilee for scrutiny.

When I started this title, I thought I would read a bit per day.  Really this time of year, reading needs to take a lower priority as outdoor and family activities increase.  Dutifully, I put the book aside last night and headed for bed at a reasonable hour, thinking it would be Wednesday or Thursday before I had time to finish the book  An hour and a half later, when sleep still eluded me and the pull of the full moon and the suspense of the book pulled too strongly, I got up.  It was at 3 a.m. that I finished the last page, content with, but still reeling a bit from the ending.  I obtained this novel from our library system and will be reading more by Karen White.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

JULIE by Catherine Marshall







Julie  -     By: Catherine Marshall


Will the dam hold?
Julie Wallace has always wanted to write. Trying to escape the Great Depression, Julie’s father buys the Alderton Sentinel, a small-town newspaper in flood-prone Alderton, Pennsylvania, and moves his family there. As flash floods ominously increase, Julie’s investigative reporting uncovers secrets that could endanger the entire community.
Julie, the newspaper, and her family are thrown into a perilous standoff with the owners of the steel mills as they investigate the conditions of the immigrant laborers. As the Alderton Sentinel and Julie take on a more aggressive role to reform these conditions, seething tensions come to a head.
When a devastating tragedy follows a shocking revelation, Julie’s courage and strength are tested. Will truth and justice win, or will Julie lose everything she holds dear?


 MY REVIEW:


Catherine Marshall authored dozens of inspirational books but only two were fiction titles: CHRISTY (drawn from her grandmother's experiences as a young teacher in Appalachia pre-WWI) and JULIE(set in a 1930's Pennsylvania company steel town).  It took Marshall close to ten years to research and write each of these books, partially because she cared so deeply about getting all parts of the stories "right." Written when Christian fiction had not become its own genre, both books were successes and among the few books that I remember long after reading them.  For CHRISTY, it was the mountain life and the exuberant naivety of the young teacher set to make things better that remained with me long after I read the book; for JULIE, it was the description of the flood that destroyed so much of the fictional Alderton, PA.

Recently, both of Marshall's  novels have been re-released with new covers, ready for new audiences to be captured by the powerful stories.  And of course, like me, many who loved the books years ago are rediscovering them.  Several months ago I reviewed CHRISTY; now it is time to do the same for JULIE. As in most coming of age stories, main character Julie changes dramatically throughout the book.  A newcomer to Alderton, Julie helps her father try to keep their newly purchased newspaper afloat, all while surviving her senior year in a new school.  On the school girl side, readers find Julie maneuvering through first dates, a major crush (or is it more), and periods of confusion over how she can be attracted to more than person and for different reasons.  But more and more, serious adult issues and concerns occupy her thoughts. First of all, she comes to accept that her family will not be able to send her to college, so she focuses on writing well enough that her father will let her do more than proofread and edit.  Perhaps it was the newness to Pennsylvania that drew Julie to trying to understand the workings and inequalities of life in a company town.  It is that curiosity that leads Julie to write about the conditions at McKeever Steel Mill and also to question the safety of an earthen damn owned by Mr. McKeever and his hunt club.  Eventually her writing and the social work of Pastor Spencer Meloy fuel a divide in the town.

While the story of a young girl growing up, JULIE is so much more.  The fight for and against unions and the power of the rich over the poor is central to the book.  But we are also reminded that it was the ingenuity and tenacity of the powerful that made industry thrive and grow.  The role of the church is questioned as Pastor Spencer Meloy focuses on helping the poorer steel workers.  And then there is the mysterious Dean Fleming and his unwavering faith in Julie's family.  Catherine Marshall shows us the best and the worst of humanity and teaches us much about faith, strength and family in a captivating story.  Some readers may find the style of writing dated or slow, but I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting Marshall's last novel.  I received a copy of this title from Gilead Publishing and JUSTREAD tours. I was not required to write a review.





MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Catherine Marshall (1914-1983), “The New York Times” best-selling author of 30 books, is best known for her novel “Christy.” Based on the life of her mother, “Christy” captured the hearts of millions and became a popular CBS television series. Around the kitchen table at Evergreen Farm, as her mother reminisced, Catherine probed for details and insights into the rugged lives of these Appalachian highlanders. Catherine shared the story of her husband, Dr. Peter Marshall, Chaplain of the United States Senate, in “A Man Called Peter.” A decade after Dr. Marshall’s untimely death, Catherine married Leonard LeSourd, Executive Editor of “Guideposts,” forging a dynamic writer-editor partnership. A beloved inspirational writer and speaker, Catherine’s enduring career spanned four decades and reached over 30 million readers.
HERE IS A LINK TO  MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE BLOG TOUR for JULIE and a great giveaway 
https://justreadtours.com/2018/04/23/welcome-to-the-julie-blog-tour-giveaway/


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Dog that Whispered by Jim Kraus













 The Dog That Whispered



Although we sometimes get in a rut of similar books, our book club usually reads a wide variety of novels and nonfiction. Our current read falls into that "unusual" category.   Jim Kraus's THE DOG THAT WHISPERED is a quick read, but also one that affirms the resiliency of the human spirit.  For Professor Wilson Steele that resiliency comes with a gentle, but firm shove from both his mother and a retired pastor friend, but mostly from the rescue Lab named Thurman.  The novel has a contemporary setting but focuses on the hidden shame and guilt that Vietnam vet Steele has kept under wraps for decades.  Both Wilson and his mother know that this has left him living a restricted and guarded life.  There are many books, both fiction and nonfiction, detailing how a canine presence changed someone's life, however, Thurman's effect goes beyond those "miraculous" stories.  It seems that Thurman talks, at least in short polysyllabic bursts. Word by word, phrase by phrase, Thurman pushes Wilson outside his comfort zone.  Meanwhile all the way across the country in Portland, Oregon, Hazel Jamison is selling her mother's home and settling the dead woman's estate when Hazel discovers a mysterious photo and key.  To answer the explosion of questions that the discoveries raise, Hazel undertakes a multi-state quest.  Both stories will give our group plenty to discuss when we meet this week.  Haven't decided how much I like this book; I am waiting for input from my fellow readers. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

JULIE by Catherine Marshall blog tour



 justread_JulieBlogBanner.jpg
 

 I am on a blog tour for the re-issue of Catherine Marshall's novel JULIE.  I won't be posting my review until later this week but wanted to share  information about the book, and links to the the tour itself and a wonderful giveaway.






 Title: Julie
Author: Catherine Marshall
Publisher: Gilead Publishing
ReIssue Date: April 17, 2018
Genre: Historical Romance Fiction
*A New York Times bestseller*
-------------------------------
Will the dam hold?

Julie Wallace has always wanted to write. Trying to 
escape the Great Depression, Julie’s father buys the
Alderton Sentinel, a small-town newspaper in flood-prone Alderton, Pennsylvania, and moves his family
there. As flash floods ominously increase, Julie’s investigative reporting uncovers secrets that could
endanger the entire community.

Julie, the newspaper, and her family are thrown into a perilous standoff with the owners of the steel mills
as they investigate the conditions of the immigrant laborers. As the Alderton Sentinel and Julie take on a more aggressive role to reform these conditions, seething tensions come to a head.

When a devastating tragedy follows a shocking revelation, Julie’s courage and strength are tested. 
Will truth and justice win, or will Julie lose everything she holds dear?

TO PURCHASE A COPY*
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Catherine Marshall (1914-1983), “The New York Times” best-selling author of 30 books, is best known for her novel “Christy.” Based on the life of her mother, “Christy” captured the hearts of millions and became a popular CBS television series. Around the kitchen table at Evergreen Farm, as her mother reminisced, Catherine probed for details and insights into the rugged lives of these Appalachian highlanders. Catherine shared the story of her husband, Dr. Peter Marshall, Chaplain of the United States Senate, in “A Man Called Peter.” A decade after Dr. Marshall’s untimely death, Catherine married Leonard LeSourd, Executive Editor of “Guideposts,” forging a dynamic writer-editor partnership. A beloved inspirational writer and speaker, Catherine’s enduring career spanned four decades and reached over 30 million readers.




 Julie Giveaway














       justread_JulieBlog_Giveaway.jpg





 JULIE TOUR dates


 April 23
Backing Books
Beautifully Broken 
Glamamamas Goodies
Glimpse of Our Life
The Power of Words
Remembrancy
Just Commonly
Book Reviews by Steph


April 24
All of a Kind Mom
Amanda In PA
Locks, Hooks and Books
Two Points of Interest
This Chattanooga Mommy Saves
Savings in Seconds
Veronica's 'Views
Meagan Davenport
Faery Tales Are Real


April 25
As We Walk Along the Road
Texas Book-aholic
Book by Book
Christian Chick's Thoughts
Bibliophile Reviews
Moments
Quilting Along Life's Way
Girls in White Dresses
Mom 2 Mom Connection


April 26
A Baker's Perspective
Impressions In Ink
A Room Without Books is Empty 
Christian bookaholic
Mocha with Linda
Lighthouse Academy
Running Through the Storms 
Coffee Addicted Writer
Live. Love. Read.
Thoughts from Mill Street
God's Peculiar Treasure Rae


April 27
For the Love of Books
I'm Hooked on Books
She Lives to Read
Becky J Miller
Jami's Words
Ponderings of a Poet & Procrastinator
Have A Wonderful Day 
Pause for Tales
Hope for Today's Heart
Neverending Stories
Jen Around the World
Maureen's Musings
Singing Librarian Books
Splashes of Joy 
Katherine Scott Jones
My Full Cup