Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie: Midwestern writers on food edited by Peggy Wolff

It's no surprise that our recollections of our childhoods and our heritage is interwoven with memories of our favorite foods.  In Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie several writers explore their memories and the foods that help define specific midwestern places in specific time periods.  Whether you're reading about the new state fair craze to deep fry almost anything and put it on a stick, or the memory of those old time apple varieties, I am sure you will find a couple essays that you make you think about your own food memories.  Although a few entries appealed to the foodies (or food snobs) more than to the down home, I certainly enjoyed this book.  I learned about the lore of the Indy 500 in the late 1950s and early 60s, the Iowans love for their pork tenderloin sandwiches, and the history of Chicago's own beef sandwich.  I only wished there had been more entries about Wisconsin's favorite foods.  Wisconsin writers, where are the stories about the Friday fish fry, our Sheboygan brats, or the perfect grilled cheese?  How about a look back to giant farm meals prepared for the hayers or the combiners? I remember my mom slaving in the kitchen on the hottest days of summer to prepare roast beef, fresh corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, finished off with apple pie, made with the early August apples.  Who would want to return to the fields after such a meal?  But they did!!

The short essay about the history of Minnesota's Nordicware and their development of the bundt pan included a revisiting to the 1970s craze for bundt cakes.  That was enough to entice me to dig out my own seldom used nonstick fluted pan, and as you can see in the photo below, our New Year's Eve dinner will include a pistachio (aka Watergate cake) cake.

To memories and a New Year of making them.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Face of the Earth by Deborah Raney

Deborah Raney has already had one successful novel turned into a movie and has won several romance writers awards.  The Face of the Earth explores a question difficult enough to possibly make to the big screen (at least the home tv screen) -- how and when does one become released from vows or commitment made to another when the other person involved is no longer present.  Neighbors Mitchell Brannon and Shelley Austin face such dilemmas when their shared grief over the unexplained disappearance of Mitchell's wife brings the two closer together.
Mitchell and his wife Joy have always had a strong marriage, but when Joy does not return from a school conference, the authorities and small town gossipers look for evidence that Mitchell could be involved.  But nothing materializes and it appears that Joy is one of the thousands of missing people whose story may never be solved.

When do loved ones put grief aside and build new lives? Is alright for Mitchell to start anew after six months? nine months?  Is he to forever honor his vows when in all likelihood his wife is deceased?  And neighbor Shelly, who for more than fifteen years has been Joy's best friend and total confident, feels just as strong a commitment to Joy, while at the same time knows that each day her own love for Mitchell is growing.  I had expected that I would be most drawn to Mitchell in this book.  Clearly the back cover blurb made it appear that the book would be his story, and in narrative focus, it IS his story.  Yet, I found my sympathies just as strong for Shelley.  At times I felt Mitchell's feelings and actions were described just to provide "backdrop" for Shelley's thoughts and decisions.  I guess what I am saying is that I connected more with Shelley, and for some reason, that made the book less successful, not more so.  Shouldn't I be rooting for Joy's return?

Also, I had this nagging feeling that this is not the first time I'd read, heard, or seen this story.  This
deja vue stayed with me right up until the last page, sending me to the computer to check if this book had ever been published prior to the May 2013 date printed in the book.  I even checked my own handwritten list of books read this year to see if I had read a prepublication copy and forgotten it.  It does not appear so.

Final recommendation - Deborah Raney fans will like the book, those who devour contemporary Christian fiction will also like it.  I, however, did not really find the story "gut wrenching" as described by reviews.  I think the book began with big questions and premises laced with suspense but then took a very predictable path to a predictable ending.  I do have to confess, that, in real life that particular ending would be one of two possible best endings for the small town neighbors, so why I felt slightly let down by the book remains a puzzle to me.

The Face of the Earth

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Whole Enchilada by Diane Mott Davidson

Diane Mott Davidson's mystery series about caterer and super sleuth Goldy Schulz has been a favorite of mine ever since I discovered it more than a decade ago.  However, I would never attend an event catered by Goldy because someone always ends up dead! In fact, I would not even ride in Goldy's van as she seems to be always hitting something, sliding into a snow ditch, or having some other mishap.  Luckily in The Whole Enchilada it is spring in Colorado, and there's no snow in sight. but Goldy faces other mishaps that leave her bruised and sore.  And, yes, someone does die. This time it is an old friend who is co-hosting a dual birthday party for her son and Goldy's son.

Quickly, the catering dishes are cleaned up and Goldy is deep in helping her police detective husband solve the crime.  There are threads of story that run through all the Goldy books --- her disastrous first marriage to an abusive doctor, her long time friendship with the doctor's previous wife, the saga of raising a teenage son, and her long time love of good coffee.

As readers we DO connect with the characters, even in light hearted mysteries such as Davidson's.
I've always loved the catering connection and the descriptions of the tasty foods Goldy and her assistant create, but I have to admit when I gave up caffeine a few years ago ( I now drink decaf), I was a little alarmed at the amount of caffeine short little Goldy was packing away each day.  So I was delighted to see that Goldy has started to limit her caffeine intake.  After one or two espressos, she now switches to decaf for the rest of the day!! LOL

Goldy and sidekicks do solve the mystery, but just as important is the family story that takes a new twist at the end of this book. No other hints from me, except to say that the development opens many new opportunities for story lines in future books.  I obtained a copy of this fun novel through WPLC, our state library consortium for media and ebooks.  I noticed that there are dozens of holds for this book, so I know that Davidson continues to be a popular mystery writer.

The Whole Enchilada Unabridged CD By Diane Mott Davidson

Monday, December 23, 2013

Remembering Christmas by Dan Walsh

Remembering Christmas - Dan Walsh

Almost all Christmas literature centers around a change of heart, and rightly for Christians believe that accepting Christ as our Savior brings about a complete change of heart, attitude, and way of life.  Dan Walsh joins the multitude of authors who've put their own spin on the holiday change of heart story in his novel Remembering Christmas which is set in the early 1980s.  Part of the charm of this story about Rick Denton is the flashback to those 80s pre-cell phone days.  Think the first round of high gas prices, early Ronald Reagan politics, and the shooting of John Lennon.  

The story centers around Rick's return to Florida after receiving a frantic phone call from his mother that his step father has collapsed, perhaps from a stroke.  Readers quickly ascertain that Rick long ago walked away from his Florida life, swearing his mother's and step-father's small Christian bookstore and their way of life held nothing for him.  But when he receives that phone call, he can't say no, so he returns to operate the store for a few days while his mother stays by her husband's hospital bed.  A few days turns to a few weeks, and each day brings a change in Rick.  He can almost feel his head clear, finally away from the stress of his high tension accounting career, and he suddenly finds himself slightly more tolerant of and interested in other people --- except for that vagrant JD who sleeps near the bookstore steps.  Rick wants nothing to do with him and his filthy hair and overpowering smell. But like Scrooge in the classic Dicken's story, Rick will have his eyes opened.

This book was published a few years ago, so readers may have to look to find a print copy.  However, e-copies are readily available from the normal vendors.  Also I am sure that many libraries has this title in their holiday collections.  Remembering Christmas is a fast, encouraging read.  At this time of year, don't we all love a story about someone who sets a new and better course for his life.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford

Jamie Ford, debut author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, has returned with another touching story of Chinese-Americans in the Pacific Northwest.  Songs of Willow Frost alternates between the 1920s and the 1930s as we learn how twelve year old William Eng has ended up at Seattle's Sacred Heart Orphanage.  When he sees an advertisement for a new oriental singing and screen sensation named Willow Frost, William is sure that she is his mother Liu Song.  Despite the nun's assurance that his mother is dead, William and his blind friend Charlotte escape, intending to meet the actress.

We learn, as William learns, that Liu Song has suffered not only from the harsh judgment and restraints of old world Chinese traditions, but also from America's racist attitudes.  Those hardships and abuse forced every decisions she made, and ultimately, shaped William's lonely life at the orphanage.  While telling this tale of essentially the love between a mother and her child, Ford also gives us windows into Chinese culture, the budding entertainment industry of the early twentieth century, and the gloomy existence of thousands of children who were left at orphanages during the Great Depression, often with the promise that their parents would return shortly.  Shortly, too often, never arrived.

There have been several literary novels in the past decade centered around Chinese Americans.  I always find them fascinating. The judgment and restraints thrust upon people coming from old traditions and superstitions run through all these novels, but there are also elements of beauty and grace.  I am happy to say that Ford's stories also depict perseverance, strength, and sacrificial love.
I didn't expect that I would have the time or patience to finish a literary novel during this busy time of the year, but the story beckoned to me.  I am glad that I took time to learn William and Willow Frost's stories.  You should take the time also.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Return to Wake Robin: One Cabin in the Heyday of Northwoods Resorts by Marnie O. Mamminga

If  you own your own vacation cabin or if you've ever vacationed in the same northwoods spot more than once (especially Wisconsin's northwoods), then you'll understand Mamminga's nostalgic look at her family's cabin named Wake Robin by her grandmother.  I first heard of this book when it was being read on Wisconsin Public Radio's chapter a day, but I am not one to faithfully listen to the radio each day, so I sought out the book through the library system.  Lucky for me, the memoir is available as an audio, so while I drove and sewed a few weeks ago, I was able to follow Marnie's family (5 whole generations of them) as the made the seven hour trip annually to their cabin in the Hayward area.   I chuckled as I listened to stories of Marnie riding crammed in the sedan's backseat with her siblings, arriving at the cabin late into the night, and then heading down to the pier in total darkness to say their first hello to the lake.  I could almost close my eyes and hear the fishing fun, feel the sun bathing on the dock, and see the twisting paths through the woods.

As her reminiscences unwound, I found myself smiling and smiling.  First, although I never returned to the same cabin more than once when I was growing up, my parents did take us on several up north adventures, enough that a deep love for Wisconsin's north of the tension line became ingrained in me.
Now that our family does have our little bit of northern heaven, I am hoping that we are building multi-generational memories that will live on beyond Grandpa and Grandma's days.  I believe that the dream is beginning to come true.  Just this week, I stopped by the hallway of my first grader granddaughter to see the Christmas decorations.  On one wall were journal entries of favorite Christmas traditions.  What did Eva's say?  "I like this time of year because we sometimes get to go to my cabin." Last time I checked, the cabin belonged to Grandpa and me, but it delighted me that she is already seeing the cabin as belonging to all of us. Plus a few weeks ago our youngest grandchild, just three, told her mother she really wanted to go to the cabin.   And just as Marnie cherished being chosen to accompany her grandmother for a special "just the two of us" trip north, I hope each of our grandchildren has many "just us" memories.

Check out the this link to learn more about the author and this entertaining book of family, memories, and northwoods magic.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dining with Joy by Rachel Hauck

Imagine someone who was afraid to drive trying to pass herself off as a race car driver!  Sounds impossible, but in the book Dining with Joy, Joy Ballard lives with a similar charade.  Unbeknownst to her food show audience, Joy is nothing like her deceased father  While he was a genius in the kitchen, Joy beaks out in a sweat just thinking about cracking an egg and stirring up a quick omelet.  How she has gained a faithful following among the cable network watchers is due largely to her humorous skill at hiding her ineptitude.
When her show is sold to another producer who has big plans to make Joy a household name, Joy finds the stress of hiding her secret fear of cooking ing too much.  When talented chef and total hunk Luke enter Joy's life, she hopes she has found the answer to her dilemma.  Can she shift all the onscreen cooking to him while she entertains the audience with her other foodie escapades?  And can she possibly deal with the sizzling chemistry that comes to life when the two share a kitchen and a camera?

This is a light, fun read that will appeal to foodies and young romantics. Personally I find the idea that someome can't learn to make the most basic food unlikely, but then the real Food Network did do a reality show about awful cooks, so I guess it is possible.  I've read other Rachel Hauck titles  While I was entertained by this story, I did not feel it was as imaginative or as well written as The Wedding Dress.  I checked out Dining with Joy for my Nook from WPLC.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Rules of Murder by Juliana Deering

Back in the summer I was the winner of a blog giveaway over at Margaret Daley's blog.  The prize, a copy of Julianna Deering's new mystery Rules of Murder arrived quickly along with a nifty pen bearing the book's title.  As always for me, I already had a hefty pile of books which required my attention, some of them for blog tours and others with looming library due dates.  Ever so slowly Rules of Murder moved up the pile until finally, it was time for a warming fire in the pellet stove and some "feet up" reading time. The cover reminds one of a 1930s or 40s Hollywood movie with a debonair leading man who despite his great charm remains slightly aloof.  The beautiful woman, the luxurious limo and the grand estate behind him all point to a story of wealth and privilege.  And so it is in Deering's first Drew Farthering mystery.

It is 1930s England and Drew has just arrived home to his country estate to find his mother and step father giving yet another lavish party.  When Drew finds that his own private quarters have been lent to a Mr. Lincoln, Drew is livid.  How could his mother bring this scoundrel into their home?  When Lincoln is found dead the next day, everyone at the party is a suspect.  As the constable begins to investigate and more deaths occur, Drew, his best friend Nick, and a lovely young American Madeline Parker find their curiosity and shared love of mystery writers compels them to begin their own investigations.  

Deering, I believe, has set out to create a series with the quiet tone of Agatha Christy and other classic mystery writers. Add in a similarity to the current popular Downton Abbey and other period PBS series, and I think she has a successful formula.  I am looking forward to future additions to the series as Drew and Madeline pursue their mutual attraction as they, of course, get caught up in some unsolved mystery. Hopefully, Nick's character will continue to add depth, humor, and spark to the stories.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The War on Christmas edited by Bodie Hodge

When I was given a chance to review The War on Christmas: Battles in Faith, Tradition and Religious Expression I was intrigued enough to request the book.  Every year we hear cries that Christ is being taken out of Christmas and we can clearly see by tales of mounting credit card debt amid lavish spending that for many the emphasis is totally askew.  I guess I expected the book to cover some of those statistics and maybe point out recent court cases against religious displays, etc.  I was wrong.

The book concentrates on the connection between Adam and Eve, the beginnings of man and the need for Christ.  The authors' main point is that we need to bring others to see that connection/need, and then the reason for celebrating Christmas will be clear.  They are saying that keeping the baby in Christmas is an empty attempt if you don't fully embrace why the baby came.  Although I agree, I did not find the book a total literary success.  Being basically a collection of essays, I found the writing quality varied greatly.  Having different authors also resulted in major repetition and overlap.  New essays or topics, despite having bold titles and chpater headings, often seemed to lack clear introductions or conclusions. Despite that, the whole book has a beautiful artistic layout, making it a visual success.

I did find the historical and archaeological discoveries that help clarify the facts behind the scriptural account of the nativity vs. our popular view of it to be very interesting.  Much of what they proposed made sense.  And I do agree that many people have a "cinematic" view of the nativity that is probably far from accurate.   While I may have a creche with three wise man in attendance, and that number and the time of their visit may be inaccurate, the authors helped me refocus on what they represent -- fulfillment of prophecy and an example of adoration of the child.

I am not sure to whom I would really recommend this book.  Ministers and lay leaders may find a nugget or two of historical information that is new.  Nonbelievers would probably feel brow beaten with a repetitive message.  As I read, I did not like that there was no information about any of the authors or their credentials. That in itself made me uneasy as I read despite agreeing with much of what they wrote.  I felt it was worth my time because my husband, adult daughter and I discussed some of the book together last night.  Those conversations are always important.

I received a copy of this title from Handlebar for my honest review.

War on Christmas: Battles in Faith, Tradition, and Religious Freedom

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Forever Friday by Timothy Lewis

Timothy Lewis's first novel, Forever Friday, is a gentle, contemplative story similar in tone to the works of Nicholas Sparks or Richard Paul Evans.  As he sorts materials for yet another estate sale, Adam Colby stumbles upon a series of photo albums, filled not with treasured family photos, but hundreds of post cards, all written by Gabe Alexander to his wife Pearl.  When Adam learns that Gabe sent his wife a postcard with a new poem each and every Friday of their 60+ years of marriage, Adam wonders what kept this romance alive for decades when his own short marriage has ended in divorce. Where had he (and his wife) failed?  Adam sets out to learn more about this couple and their deep love, not an easy task since they have no children or close relatives.  When he locates the daughter of the couple's long time house keeper, Adam begins to learn more about the life of Gabe and Pearl.

Despite the alternating modern day chapters and flashbacks to Gabe and Pearl's life, this book was a fast, entertaining read. I especially liked Pearl's spunk and the Texas oil country setting.  I am sure others will be warmed by this story.

Check out this link to learn more about Timothy Lewis and his first novel.  You can read the first chapter by following this link.  I received a copy of Forever Friday from Blogging for Books for my honest review.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Born of Persuasion by Jessica Dotta

Born of Persuasion by Jessica Dotta is the first in a trilogy entitled Price of Privilege.  Readers who are caught up in 17 year old Julia Elliston's plight will find the dramatic and suspenseful ending difficult to handle since the second and third books will not be published until 2014.  Fans of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters may find this tale to their liking.  It is 1838 and following her mother's (her father died previously) death, Julia finds herself under the control of an anonymous guardian who seems intent on sending her from England to Scotland to work as a lady's companion.  Sure that marriage is her only escape, Julia plots to return to the home of a childhood friend where she plans to reconnect with her childhood sweetheart and hold him to his promise to wed.  When she learns that he has become a vicar, Julia is crushed.  Years before, her father, an outspoken atheist, was treated badly by the church and the young seventeen year old has accepted his view that God does not exist.  It seems that she and her dear Edward will not wed after all, and Julia must find another husband in haste or be sent to the wilds of Scotland.  As she settles into a bargain with Lady Foxmore, a dark cloud of mystery settles over the story.  Frankly, as readers, we will never know who to trust or what the great secrecy is about Julia's past, but then neither does Julia.  A huge, remote estate is the scene for much of the book. It's winding hallways, locked doors, and gossiping servants attempts to create a tone of foreboding and impending danger similar to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca and other Gothic romances. Unfortunately, I didn't care for Julia nearly as much as I did Rebecca when I read her story years ago. I believe that in telling a story so long and complicated that it takes three separate books, authors create a risk of taking too long to develop a strong reader-heroine connection.  I think that the surprises in Julia's life, her poor choices, and her past will lead her to profound changes in the future books (a relationship with a God she denies??), but I haven't connected deeply enough to care.  That may short changing the trilogy, since I've found many other series to build as they continued.  I hope that Price of Privilege is that way.

I received a copy of this book form Tyndale in exchange for my honest review.  I was ot compensated in any way.  All opinions are mine.

Born of Persuasion

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Song of the Broken Hearted by Sheila Walsh and Cindy Martinusen Coloma

Like In Leah's Wake which I recently reviewed, Song of the Broken Hearted tells the story of a family in crisis. Although the elements of crisis were just as serious and life changing, I never felt that the family or the reader were thrust into total despair. As the story begins, Ava, who has felt the security of a loving husband and his successful career in the financial world, devotes her time to leading a Bible study group and organizing a crisis ministry.  We learn immediately that Ava is alienated from her extended family and has been for many years.  It appears that it has something to do with her father, a former preacher, who is now in prison.  Within pages of meeting Ava. we will see her world change, and neither Ava or readers will understand why at first.  Her college aged, engaged daughter comes home unexpectedly without her intended; son Jason (star athlete) sits on the bench during an extremely important game; and husband Dane begins to spend all his time at work, while imploring that Ava not use any credits cards.

As the community begins to sense that problems have hit Ava and Dana's household, one church member tells Ava to look within herself for the source.  Ava is stunned and hurt.  While that statement is cruel and unsympathetic, readers will have a nagging feeling that Ava does have a hidden unresolved issue. This nagging feeling is accentuated by the symbolic story of a willow tree in the family's back yard which appears to be dying.

This story of crisis is just as serious as In Leah's Wake. Readers will cheer as both families make life-changing discoveries in the midst of crises that have destroyed other families; both stories are peopled with destructive secondary characters which you hope you never meet in real life. Yet, I certainly enjoyed reading Song of the Broken Hearted more.  There is a light touch of humor and caring between Ava and her best friend that keeps this story from sinking too far into gloom.  While both families have basic values and faith tested, I never felt that Ava was teetering on abandoning God while Leah's family in the previous book certainly was.

I read this book on my nook, having gotten the e-copy from Wisconsin Public Library Consortium.  Thanks, WPLC for another entertaining read at my fingertips.

Song of the Brokenhearted

Friday, November 15, 2013

In Leah's Wake by Terri Guiliano Long

WINNER, Literary Fiction - IndieReader Discovery Awards (IRDA), 2012
Winner - Global eBook Award, 2012
Book Bundlz 2011 Favorites - First Place
Book Bundlz 2011 Book Club Pick
CTRR Reviewer Recommend Award, 2011

Author Terri Guiliano Long has received the above awards, most of them for her contemporary novel
In Leah's Wake. an emotional tale of a talented 16 year old soccer star who, amidst the normal angst and fight for independence, goes terribly astray.  Her downward spiral does not just disappoint her parents; it thrusts them onto their own self-destructive paths.  And Leah's younger sister, a near-perfect 8th grader, finds herself left to flounder alone.  Readers will find just how quickly the American dream can plunge into tragedy as father, mother, and young sister crumble in the tumultuous "wake" left by Leah's poor choices.

As a mother (thankfully my children are grown), grandmother, and someone who worked with teenagers all my career, this book was almost too much.  Both Leah's self-destructive choices and her parents' lousy parenting skills made me want to scream!  The undeserved guilt that younger sister Justine heaps upon herself is heart breaking.  Maybe the emotion was just too much for me, but I almost quit reading this book.  I doubt if I have put aside more than five books in my entire life without finishing them, so I didn't quit.  Instead I skimmed many pages, getting the facts but not delving too deeply into the lowest points of the drama.  Obviously, the list of awards that Long has won shows that other readers connected a little better to her story and style of writing.  Before I end the review I want to talk about Officer Jerry.  I can't reveal much about him without sharing spoilers, but I wonder how others responded to his presence in the story. I found that his actions and decisions really impacted much of the story, and I am not sure how I feel about that.  Often it takes a third party to defuse the destructive behaviors within a family as volatile as the Tylers, but I wonder about the author's choice to create a personal story between Jerry and Leah's mother.

In Leah's Wake - Terri Giuliano Long

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Assassin's Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Lincoln by Kate Clifford Larson

Mary Surratt, mother of Charles Surratt ( a known Southern sympathizer and courier), was the first woman to be executed in the United States after being found guilty of taking part in John Wilkes Booth's plot to assassinate President Lincoln.  Perhaps the best description of her role is this one --"She kept the nest where the egg was hatched."  Mary and her husband had run a tavern in Surrattesville, MD, but when he died unexpectedly she leased the tavern to another and set up a boarding house in Washington D. C.  Over the months that preceded Lincoln's death in April 1865,
John Wilkes Booth and other conspirators met several times at the boarding house, often talking with Mary's son and with Mary herself.  Lewis Paine, who would later brutally attack Secretary Seward, stayed at the boarding house multiple times, under more than name.  It is speculated that Mary's daughter Anna, a naive 22 year old, had a crush on the famous actor Booth.

It can not be disputed that Mary and her son had southern sympathies, but whether Mary was an active participant in the actual assassination conspiracy continues to be debated.  Author/historian Larson expected that her research would add credence to those that questioned the military court's finding in July 1865 that Mary was guilty.  What she found, instead, was a preponderance of strong, credible evidence that can't be cast aside -- Mary knew what was being planned and she in several ways aided the effort.

I began listening to an audio version of this book and within ten minutes I knew that I had to save my listening experience for a time when both my husband and I could hear the book.  This past weekend we did just that as we drove to our cabin.  We were both so captivated by the complexities of her story that we listened to several chapters at the cabin both Saturday and then again on Sunday.  We were able to complete the book on the drive home.  Historical books such as this one which are packed with names, dates, and locations can be  confusing and tedious to listen to, but both of us had enough basic knowledge of the assassination to be able to follow along.  My book club just finished discussing Killing Lincoln so many names and theories were fresh in my mind.  Instead of being tedious, it was compelling.

I strongly recommend this book.  Even with all that I've read and studied, I still can't wrap my mind around the extreme hatred that the conspirators felt for President Lincoln, but it is fascinating to delve into the minutiae of their actions and of Washington D.C. that fateful April.  I downloaded the audio book through WPLC, our Wisconsin library consortium for digital and audio books.

The Assassin's Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Distancers: An Ameriocan Memoir by Lee Sandlin

While many families have a historian who keeps track of marriages, births, deaths and that sometimes complicated family tree, few families have someone whose been able to capture the dreams, disappointments, and virtual essence of the key players within past generations.  Lee Sandlin has done that under the guise of telling how a single house became the glue that kept multiple generations of his family connected.  Only as an adult did Lee question why he, his siblings, and cousins spent their summers at this house with four adults they knew little about.  As he delved into finding out more about them, he never imagined that their stories would reveal lessons about the midwest, its values, his own family's secrets, and
a long valued family tradition of "keeping one's distance."

This book definitely shows that there are stories everywhere, even in those frame houses and four squares that have lined the fields and village blocks of the midwest's smallest towns since the last days of the nineteenth century While interesting to read, a sad thread of truth runs throughout this book.  Seldom do we reach our potential; our dreams seldom come true, yet the years tick away.  Those people you've always known as close mouthed, serious adults may have at one time been busting with desires -- desires they've now kept buried so long that they can no longer acknowledge them.  This brings another question -- do we really want to know the whole story of everybody's life?  Reading this book makes me think of the distant cousins (several generations back) on my mother's side.  I think there were 7 or 8 siblings, and not one, not a single one married or had children.
I believe that as adults all lived and later died in their childhood home. What story lies hidden there?  How could not one of them found love or companionship?  Do I really want to know the answer?  Or is it better to sink my thoughts into another fiction story instead-- where the pain, disappointments, and yes, the happy endings are only made up?

Truthfully, The Distancers is an interesting look back, perhaps telling more than any sociology textbook.

The Distancers book cover art

Monday, November 4, 2013

An Amish Country Christmas by Charlotte Hubbard and Naomi King

Charlotte Hubbard/Naomi King

Christmas Visitors
Charotte Hubbard, who also writes as Naomi King, has several Amish romance series.  Recently I blogged about
Winter of Wishes, a Seasons of the Heart novel set in Willow Ridge.  For the first novella in the Amish Country Christmas two book volume, Hubbard returns to Willow Ridge and nearby Cedar Creek to introduce readers to spunky ( and romantic dreamers) twins Martha and Mary and vistors Bram and Nate Kanagy.  The two brothers believe they stumbled upon a chance afternoon of fun and adventure, with even a kiss or two.  Little do they know that the girls are as scheming and adventuresome (within reason) as they.

Kissing the Bishop
: As the New Year’s first snow settles, Nazareth Hooley and her sister Jerusalem are given a heaven-sent chance to help newly widowed Tom Hostetler tend his home. But when her hope that she and Tom can build on the caring between them seems a dream forever out of reach, Nazareth discovers that faith and love can make any miracle possible.

If you need a stocking stuffer for someone who reads romantic fiction, then these seasonal stories will slide into the stocking quite nicely and will deliver a few hours of pleasurable reading.  Christmas Visitors offers the smells and traditions of an Amish Christmas a midst not one, but two, whirlwind romances.  Add in the humor of a "twin switchero" and you have a fun read.  At just 150 pages a piece, both Christmas Visitors and Kissing the Bishop offer some quick, but satisfying reading for a cold winter's eve.  I received my copy from Pump My Book for review purposes.  All opinions are mine.

An Amish Country Christmas

Gunpowder Tea by Margaret Brownley

Check the cover of this title carefully and you'll get a preview of the book.  A handsome ranch hand is looking up with just a hint of suspicion and defiance in his eyes.  His mouth -  is that a look of determination or a look of questioning?  And the lovely lady?  Why she is politely serving tea, a polished, civilized action.  But at the same time, she is ready to take action with her hidden derringer. Not a likely mix.  In this latest addition to the The Brides of Last Chance Ranch, we travel to 1897 Arizona Territory as Pinkerton agent Miranda Hall goes undercover as Annie Beckman to locate and capture the mysterious bank robber known as the Phantom, whom some believe is hidden out at the Last Chance Ranch.  When Miranda's (Annie's) train is robbed on the way, she is sure that the robbers are somehow connected to the Phantom.  What is most disturbing to her is that prior to the robbery one of the passengers had caught her attention with his striking blue eyes. When she later recognizes those same blue eyes behind a mask and then learns that the same man who goes by the name Branch has taken a new job at the ranch, Annie is sure that he is part of the Phantom's gang.  Meanwhile, Jeremy Taggert, or Branch (his latest alias), is sure that the fiesty woman who's just arrived at the Last Chance must somehow be involved with the gang and sets out to investigate HER.

Physical attraction, budding romance, mistaken identities, and two private investigators intent on showing their worth in an increasingly dangerous situation make for a fast paced, lively western which is told with a well crafted mixture of drama, humor, and even some spiritual insight.  I especially liked the short "detective" quotations which began each chapter, such as this one: Sign outside private detective's door.  In God we trust, all others will be treated as suspects." (p.38)  

I received a copy of Gunpowder Tea from Litfuse Publicity Group for review purposes.  All opinions are mine.  Litfuse and Thomas Nelson Publishing are sponsoring a blog tour of this book.  Check out this link to learn more about Margaret Brownley's giveaway, her facebook party, and the other reviews.

More about the author

 Thrills, mystery, suspense, romance: Margaret penned it all. Nothing wrong with this---except Margaret happened to be writing for the church newsletter at the time. After making the church picnic read like a Grisham novel, her former pastor took her aside and said, "Maybe God's calling you to write fiction." So that's what Margaret did. She's now a New York Times bestselling author and a Romance Writers of America RITA finalist with more than 25 novels to her credit. Her first non-fiction bookGrieving God's Way: the Lasting Path to Hope and Healing has won much critical acclaim. She is currently working on the third book in her Brides of Last Chance Ranch series. Not bad for someone who flunked 8th grade English. Just don't ask her to diagram a sentence.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Not What I Designed: The Story of An Extreme Heart Makeover by Betcky Dietrich

At a slim 136 pages, Not What I Designed: The Story of An Extreme Heart Makeover might be overlooked as being simply too short to offer any significant insight.  Such a judgment would be wrong.  Dietrich offers a powerful memoir that details how she affirmed her faith during her college years, despite being a child of the turbulent sixties, witnessed how God should be number one in her life, and then over the next 40 years slowly let the desires of her heart and her family's troubled finances usurp the first place spots in her heart and mind.

An interior designer by talent and later as a career, Becky created beautiful homes, not to be ostentatious but to offer hospitality, warmth, and comfort to others,  But when her pastor husband lost his job, the family unwisely became entangled in a new lifestyle and over the years stress, financial failures and multiple bad decisions moved Becky further and further away from God, until at age 60+ and bankrupt, Becky had a "heart makeover" when she was finally able to put aside what she describes as her "idols."   Becky's tale makes it clear that things, goals, and pursuits, that in themselves are not bad or wrong, can become toxic when they allow someone to put a barrier between himself and God.
As I said earlier, there is a strong message in this tiny volume.

I received a copy of this book from Deep River Books and Tell Us the Truth Reviews for review purposes.  All opinions expressed are mine.

Not What I Designed: The Story of an Extreme Heart Makeover  -     
        By: Becky Dietrich

Friday, November 1, 2013

When Mountains Move by Julie Cantrell

Cantrell is a fresh voice in the Christian fiction market whose first book Into the Free won two Christy Awards, and who now returns to complete the story with When Mountains Move.
This newest novel set in the early 1940s takes up exactly where Into the Free leaves off. Seventeen year old Millie (Millicent) has decided she will marry Bump (Kenneth) and leave with him to run a Colorado ranch for Mr. Tucker.  She's put aside any dream of reuniting with the young gypsy boy River, but cannot quiet the nightmares that remind her of Mr. Miller's cruel attack.  As the young couple work tirelessly to restore the long abandoned buildings on the ranch and prepare it for the cattle and horses that will soon arrive, Millie finds herself pregnant.  Wishing she had told Bump about Miller's attack before their wedding, she tries to hide her pregnancy as long as possible.   Shortly after their arrival in Colorado, her grandmother joins the young couple in their rough new life, and Millie begins to learn more of her family history, including the generational violence that haunted her childhood.  When a beautiful neighbor seems to be seducing Bump, Millie wonders if she will ever have a chance for a happy life.

It had been more than six months since I had read Into the Free, but Cantrell so successfully plunged me back into the story that I quickly remembered Millicent's troubled and emotional story.  Mountain lions, a ranch hand with a mysterious past, memories of the gentle gypsy, an unwanted pregnancy, and
tales of her Choctaw heritage all add to this rich story of a young, struggling marriage. Find copies of both books and read them as one story.  You will not be disappointed.  I received an ecopy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.  All opinions are mine.

9780781404259_HI (2)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Daddy's Gone A Hunting by Mary Higgins Clark

I used to read quite a few suspense books, but have shied away from that genre lately.
I tired of the violent descriptions and the evil, psychopathic villains that filled the pages.  The series writers were often blurring the lines between the lives of the "bad guys" and the protagonists --
that Silence of the Lambs effect, and that began to bother me.  So I continued to read legal thrillers and regular mysteries, but I've shied away from the more popular authors of intense suspense fiction.

Monday when I went to our local library, I decided to scan the shelves.  Lately, I've been reading advanced readers' copies sent to me, get books through interlibrary loan, or downloading books to my Nook, so I haven't been checking our own library shelves enough.  What caught my eye right away was a cover with a single bright red stiletto shoe on a field of snow.  When I realized that it was a new title by Mary Higgins Clark, I decided immediately that it was time for suspense and an intense block of reading time.

When I read an author such as M. H. Clark, I know that I will have to finish the book in just a few hours.  No reading a couple chapters a day over a period of days.  I know that from experience, but what did I do?  I started the book at about ten o'clock Monday night, reading only 40 pages or so before I went to bed.  Well, obviously that was enough to re-ignite my brain because I tossed and turned for 90 minutes or more before finally getting up and reading until my eyes were too dry and tired to go any further.  Yesterday I carved out enough time to speed read my way through the rest of the book.  While I would not rank this as my favorite Mary Higgins Clark book, I thoroughly enjoyed figuring out who was behind the murders of several young women (one a cold case from over twenty years earlier) and a mysterious factory fire which left a former employee dead and the owner's daughter in a coma. My main hunch was right, but there were enough red herrings and twists to keep some of the story a complete surprise until the end. With short chapters devoted to different characters, the story is advanced in tiny steps at a brisk pace, with even enough time for some little light romance.  There was one murder (and a murderer) that I felt was unnecessary;  its connection to the main story was contrived. It just seemed that there were too many dead bodies showing up!  Can't say any more without revealing some spoiler information. Even with that inclusion, Daddy's Gone A Hunting was a successful page turner.

If you're a suspense fan and somehow you missed last spring's release of Mary Higgins Clark's
Daddy's Gone A Hunting, look for it at your library or bookstore.

The Lost Years, by Mary Higgins Clark

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Whose Names are Unknown by Sanora Babb

When I watched the PBS series about the Dust Bowl earlier this year, I learned that a young journalist named Sanora Babb, herself an Oklahoma girl who later worked in California, had written a novel about the Dust Bowl and the Okies who went to California to work in the fields.  Her book had been accepted by Random House and editor Bennett Cerf had even given her an advance.  But before her words hit the "published" page, Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath hit the market, becoming such a success that Cerf told Babb that there was no need for two books telling the same story.

Although Babb went on to be a successful writer, Whose Names are Unknown remained unpublished until recently.  There is some speculation that when Babb shared some of her research with someone from one of the migrant camps who wanted to share her notes with another writer who was doing research that her notes ended up being used by Steinbeck.  There is no proof of that, but the mystery was enough to tweak my interest and I sought out Babb's book.  The Grapes of Wrath has always been a favorite of mine, and I have taught the book to high school juniors/seniors.

There are not many copies of Whose Names are Unknown in the library system so I had to wait several months until I finally got a copy.  Having just finished the book, I am still processing her powerful look at those desperate years.  I believe Steinbeck is the better story teller, but that difference is also what makes her book so powerful.  Perhaps it is because I've read GOW several times, or perhaps it is the alternating chapters of "universal" narration between the chapters about the Joads, but I've always felt the Joads were fictional --- representations of the Okies.  With Babb's writings, it was easier to see the people as real.  This was especially true in the early chapters as the Dunne family fight so hard to keep their farm and grow a successful crop.  With historical footage from the PBS series fresh in my mind, I could picture the dust storms, hear the dust pneumonia coughs, and visualize the faltering cattle and small children. Babb's characters could easily have stepped into that PBS documentary and told their stories, they were so similar to the memories of Dust Bowl survivors.  Later,  Babb's narration of the migrant camps and the struggle to find paying work is clearly accurate and informational.  Clearly she had visited these camps and knew what was happening.  But it is here, that Steinbeck's story telling weaves a  more entertaining story that mercilessly pits the reader against starvation poverty of the Okies.  I don't think anyone can forget the last chapters of GOW or the final scenes of the movie version.   Both books present strong views of humanity and strength fighting when they should be totally downtrodden by starvation and the greed of others.  In a way, I wish that Babb's book would have been published at the time of Steinbeck's.  Today we often have books with similar topics and plots, and readers decide which book  is the favorite.  Too bad Sanora Babb did not have that opportunity.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

The best selling author of The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes has returned with another winner.
I could not put this book down and finished it in just a couple days despite hosting a family birthday party/dinner.  Necessary Lies is set in 1960s North Carolina.  Newly married Jane Forrester has just taken a job as Grace County's newest social worker, even though her pediatrician husband wants her to settle in the lifestyle of a typical suburban wife.  But golf dates and charity balls have no allure for Jane, especially as she gets drawn into the lives of her clients who reside on a nearby tobacco farm.

Perhaps it is that Mary Ella's rare beauty reminds Jane of her own deceased sister, or that the younger sister Ivy's spunkiness reminds Jane of her own independent streak.  As Jane learns more about the family and more about the county's social welfare department, she feels torn between accepted procedures and her own sense of right and wrong.  When pushed by the department to see that paperwork be completed so that 15 year old Ivy will be sterilized without the girl's knowledge, just as her older sister had been earlier, Jane feels she is in the midst of Nazi Germany, not 1960's America.

Extreme poverty, racial tensions, theories of social engineering, and human caring collide in this fast paced book.  With a simple flashback technique at the beginning of the book, readers will quickly get caught up in Ivy's desperate life on the tobacco farm, her desires to leave, and her need to trust the new social worker.

Check out Diane Chamberlain's website, Barnes and Noble, or perhaps Goodreads to see what others are saying about this book.  I can see many book clubs tackling this one.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Small Town Girl by Ann H. Gabhart

Last January I reviewed  the audio version Angel Sister by Ann Gabhart, noting that I had been thoroughly drawn into the life of the Merritt family, especially middle sister Kate and the abandoned little girl Lorena Birdsong. I also liked the eccentric village residents whose past lives add depth and interest to the story.  Although the book ties up nicely and can certainly can be read as a stand-alone, I was delighted to see that Gabhart had written a second novel centered around the Merritt sisters.

As Small Town Girl opens, it is clear that several years have passed.  It is 1941 and oldest sister Evie has just married the young preacher Mike who replaced the girls' grandfather at the church.  Kate is nursing a case of loneliness as she realizes that she will actually miss sharing a home with Evie.  Under the loneliness is also a thread of jealousy as Kate can't quite put aside her childhood crush on Pastor Mike.  Then she catches the attention of Jay Tanner who has swept into town to be Mike's best man.
Jay, who has never set aside the feelings of his own childhood abandonment, feels an instant kinship to  young Lorena Birdsong.  And he knows he is falling hard for Kate, but isn't sure if he can put aside his wandering ways. As World War II threatens, Jay would like to make a commitment, but feels unworthy.

While Angel Sister is more a story about community, family, and coming of age, Small Town Girl 
definitely towards the romantic, although Jay's personal story goes deeper than simply being the male romantic lead.  I strongly encourage readers to meet the Merritts and Rosey Corner in Angel Sister before picking up Small Town Girl.  

I received a e-copy of Small Town Girl from NetGalley for review purposes.  All opinions are mine.

Check out this link if you would like to learn more about these titles and other books by author Ann Gabhart.

Angel Sister

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Autumn news from the sewing room

Sometimes I wish I could clone myself and enjoy more things at once -- plus send a duplicate off to do all the necessary housework and chores.  I am in the midst of reading the sequel to Angel Sister by Ann Gabhart, but can't find much reading time.  Hope I will be able to review the book by Thursday.

Our local library is having a "Deck the Falls" silent auction later this week.  People are designing and donating fall decorations for sale.  Here are some photos of what I sent to be sold.
Woodland themed table runner.  Quotation is by Henry David Thoreau

The outside blocks are "string blocks" from scraps.
This table topper has Thanksgiving themed machine embroidered squares along with scrappy string squares.

I also made a scrappy kitchen oven mitt which I paired with a terry towel, autumn wax melt, and a colorful cookbook.  I forgot to take pictures of them and also forgot to take photos of the two tote bags made out of orphan blocks.   Hope these sell and help our computer update fund at the library.  We have quite a few families who use the library's computers regularly, not being able to afford or not wanting computers at home.

Three summers ago, while vacationing in the UP, Russ and I made a side trip to Paradise, Michigan - a small village on the tip of Lake Superior which just happens to have a great quilt shop.  While there, I picked up the pattern GRANNY'S NAP SACK by Joyce Waterman of the Village Rooster (Missouri company).
Now three years later, I finally used the pattern.  This is going to be a birthday gift for our 3 year old granddaughter.
 Rolled up and tied, the flannel sleeping bag looks like this.
 I used a flannel woodland camping panel for the front of the simple sleeping bag.  There is actually a list of forty items at the bottom that little ones can then find on the panel. You could also use patches of cotton or flannel. Both the top and bottom of the bag are quilted sandwiches. This sleeping bag is a simple slip in style, no cumbersome zippers.  The pillow is attached.  All in all this was easy to make.
Close up of the camping bears and their woodland friends. I can't wait to give this to a special birthday girl to use when she sleeps over at Grandma's and Grandpa's or when she travels to the cabin.

Thanks for looking at my latest projects.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Snow on the Tulips by Liz Tolsma

During the last days of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Gerald de Jong, along with some other Dutch resistance workers were hastily lined up to be executed.  Miraculously, Gerald was only wounded and survived by playing dead.  Within hours, he was rescued by a couple town's people, including a relative of our author Liz Tolsma.  Liz grew up hearing this story, as well as another of her father's cousin whose husband left on their wedding night when the Germans invaded the Netherlands; he never returned.   

Tolsma grew up hearing these stories within her family and also learned about area known as Friesland in the Netherlands.  Her fictional story Snow on Tulips blends these two tales in the courageous story of the young widow Cornelia who hides her teenage brother from the Nazi work details and then nurses the wounded Resistance worker Gerrit back to health.  Each day that he remains hidden in the little house in Friesland is a danger not only to Cornelia and her brother, but also to the entire village. Slowly Cornelia learns who she can trust; at the same time, the heart she thought was forever frozen on her wedding night begins to thaw. 

There are several reasons why I was attracted to this book.  First, Liz Tolsma is a new Wisconsin author, and I love to support Wisconsin writers.  Mostly I was drawn by the Friesland setting.  See, I live about 15 minutes from the tiny Wisconsin community of Friesland, which was settled mainly by Dutch immigrants who had left the Friesland, Netherlands area.  Some of these families came after WWII, so they have stories similar to the ones Liz grew up with.  I am not Dutch, neither is my husband, but about 12 years ago he began singing in a Christian men's choir that has its origins in Friesland, WI.

So over the years, we've made more and more "Hollander" friends.  These are people who hold dearly to their heritage and remain strong in their faith -- very similar to Cornelia and Gerrit in the book. Clearly Tolsma's upbringing and family have influenced her writing. I see that Liz Tolsma has two more books being published next year, and she is also going to speak at a Christian Writers Conference in Fond du lac soon.  I am sorry to say that she was in nearby Waupun in late summer and that I missed her.  Hopefully, our paths will cross in the future.  I know I will search out her next books.

Good luck to a Wisconsin author!

Snow on the Tulips
What a captivating cover!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Secrets over Sweet Tea by Denise Hildreth Jones

Scarlett Jo Newberry is as outspoken and flamboyant as her name, but her unique personality and good heart have also make her a dynamic part of her minister husband's ministry.  So no one is surprised when Scarlett decides to find out more about the newest neighbors in Franklin.  Never did she expect to find beautiful news anchor Grace Shepherd, who along with her hockey star husband, has made yet another move, to yet another strange house.  Little does anyone suspect that within weeks, Grace will find herself the client of another nearby neighbor, divorce lawyer Zach Craig, and that both Zach and Grace will face a summer of scandal, survival, and the deepest desire to find a lives that honor themselves and God.

The secrets that the title refers to are the secrets that we keep from even ourselves -- the secrets that dishonor the person we were meant to be, the secrets that can weave themselves so deeply into our lives that we lose almost  every sense of joy in our lives.  These secrets dictate how we treat others and decisions we make.  For both Zach and Grace, the decisions have led to shattered marriages and lifeless careers.  And it is perfectly clear that as each secret gains strength and power, it has led the owner further and further away from the life and person God has created.

Even though entertaining, some Christian fiction books read like fiction from the first sentence to the last.  Not so Secrets over Sweet Tea.  At times it was almost too painful to continue reading, especially if you've watched someone deal with broken dreams and shattered hearts recently.  Denise Hildreth Jones writes in her author's notes that book comes from her own struggle out of a broken place.  She also writes that this fiction book is a counterpart to her nonfiction book Reclaiming Your Heart: A Journey Back to Laughing, Loving, and Living.  I have not read that title, but plan to investigate it further.  Sweet Tea-white-book Trans

Friday, October 4, 2013

Winter of Wishes by Charlotte Hubbard

If you like love at first sight (beyond all odds)  and happy endings, then you enjoy Charlotte Hubbard's latest book Winter of Wishes, part of the Seasons of the Heart series which follows the many challenges of  the Amish Sweet Seasons Cafe, its owner Miriam Lantz and her daughters.  As the book opens, daughter Rhonda is experiencing a new feeling - loneliness.  Her twin sister has married and started her new life, plus mother Miriam will be remarrying and moving into a new residence in just a few weeks.  Suddenly, the fact that twenty year Rhonda  has no beaus on the horizon seems a little more ominous. Quickly, Rhonda shakes herself out of thoughts of becoming an "old maid", telling herself she just needs a new challenge.  Perhaps, a job independent of the cafe and her mother.

And that is how Rhonda ends up working for Andy Leitner as a housekeeper to his two young children and his mother, who is recovering from a stroke.  Instantly, the entire family warms to Rhonda and her simple ways.  Andy credits her with turning his house into a home again, pondering how she accomplished so much it seems simply with an apron, a mixing bowl, a batch of cookies and a pot of soup.  But when Andy arrives home late from an extended shift at the hospital and drives Rhonda home himself, unchaperoned,  then kisses her, Rhonda is for the first time in her life torn between two worlds.  Her heart tells hers she has done nothing wrong, but her bishop says otherwise.
Will she need to confess before the whole church?  Will she shunned? Will she need to leave behind the English family she cares so much about?

This series would be a nice stocking stuffer gift for those who enjoy Amish romance.  I would definitely include Summer of Secrets and Autumn Wishes because those stories include some surprises that pull the series together.  Whenever I read Amish fiction, my radar is buzzing, constantly comparing their actions and thoughts to what I see in my own Amish neighbors.  In almost all books, I find significant differences to what I know as Amish life.  I've come to just accept these inconsistencies and tell myself I am reading FICTION for fun. So I recommend this series, although I would never expect anyone to base their understanding of the Amish on the details in this book!  I was given a copy by Pump Up Your Book for review purposes.  Thanks Tracee for getting me the copy!  All opinions are mine

I am part of the Pump Up Your Book Tour for this book.  Check out the other reviews and enjoy a short interview with the author.  Please note some dates on this list (including mine) may not be accurate.

Winter Wishes Virtual Book Publicity Tour Schedule

Monday, September 16
Book reviewed at A Year of Jubilee Reviews
Interviewed and 1st chapter reveal at My Devotional Thoughts
Tuesday, September 17
Book reviewed at Teaberry Cottage
Interviewed at Raven Reviews
1st chapter reveal at Mom Loves 2 Read
Wednesday, September 18
Book reviewed at Book Him Danno
Book featured at 4 the Love of Books
Thursday, September 19
Book reviewed at Reviews from the Heart
Friday, September 20
Book reviewed at Lighthouse Academy
Tuesday, September 24
Book reviewed at Griperang’s Bookmark
Wednesday, September 25
Thursday, September 26
Book reviewed at All Grown Up
Book featured at Literary R&R
Friday, September 27 
Guest blogging at Shhh…Not While I’m Reading
Monday, October 7
Book reviewed at My Devotional Thoughts
1st chapter reveal at 4 the Love of Books
1st chapter reveal at Read 2 Review
Tuesday, October 8
Book reviewed at Books and Needlepoint
Wednesday, October 9
Book review, Interview and Guest blogging at Melina’s Book Blog
1st chapter reveal at Literary R & R
Thursday, October 10
Book reviewed at Thoughts From Mill Street
Book review and Interview at splashesofjoy
Friday, October 11
1st chapter reveal at Authors and Readers Book Corner
Thursday, October 17
Book reviewed at Literary R&R
Friday, October 18
Guest blogging at 4 the Love of Books
Monday, October 21
1st chapter reveal at Thoughts in Progress
Friday, October 25
Book reviewed at Mary’s Cup of Tea


Charlotte-HubbardI’ve called Missouri home for most of my life, and most folks don’t realize that several Old Older Amish and Mennonite communities make their home here, as well. The rolling pastureland, woods, and small towns along county highways make a wonderful setting for Plain populations—and for stories about them, too! While Jamesport, Missouri is the largest Old Order Amish settlement west of the Mississippi River, other communities have also found the affordable farm land ideal for raising crops, livestock, and running the small family-owned businesses that support their families.
Like my heroine, Miriam Lantz, of my Seasons of the Heart series, I love to feed people—to share my hearth and home. I bake bread and goodies and I love to try new recipes. I put up jars and jars of green beans, tomatoes, beets and other veggies every summer. All my adult life, I’ve been a deacon, a dedicated church musician and choir member, and we hosted a potluck group in our home for more than twenty years.
Like Abby Lambright, heroine of my Home at Cedar Creek series, I consider it a personal mission to be a listener and a peacemaker—to heal broken hearts and wounded souls. Faith and family, farming and frugality matter to me: like Abby, I sew and enjoy fabric arts—I made my wedding dress and the one Mom wore, too, when I married into an Iowa farm family more than thirty-five years ago! When I’m not writing, I crochet and sew, and I love to travel.
I recently moved to Minnesota when my husband got a wonderful new job, so now he and I and our border collie, Ramona, are exploring our new state and making new friends.
You can visit her website at www.CharlotteHubbard.com