Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin

Melanie Benjamin has created the most believable, behind the headlines, fictionalized account of
Anne Morrow Lindbergh's marriage to Charles Lindbergh.  The author states that she " is more interested in the emotion, the personal drama, than ... in a history lesson."  So as in most fictionalized accounts, there are some slight changes in time frames and much is inspired by the facts, but not completely documented.  I found the story of Anne's simultaneous devotion to and growing distance from her husband to be very believable. The Aviator's Wife is told in flashbacks, all centered around the last days of hours of Charles' life.  As he is dying from leukemia, Anne is slipped copies of some letters he has asked the nursing staff to mail.  From these letters, Anne learns for the first time about the "other" families - the women and children in Germany.

Actually there is no proof that Anne actually found out about Lindbergh's double life, but I would agree that most of us would like to know that she had the opportunity to confront him about this -- that she would have the chance to know the truth, process it into some kind of acceptance, and then have an opportunity to live her life, fully independent of the great legend who shadowed her every move.  That Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in real life, refused to be buried next to her husband indicates that she really sought such independence.

I think both those who are appalled at the world's interest in celebrities and those who thrive on news of the rich and famous will be surprised at the extent that the Lindbergh's family was cruelly treated, all in the guise of hero worship.

Benjamin's novel is well written, capturing both the mother and wife Anne was, but also the individual, who like many of us, gets hidden behind everyone else's expectations.  The backdrop of America's elite, Germany of the 30s with Lindbergh's isolationist views and then World War II adds an additional depth.  I guarantee that book clubs are latching onto this title and discussions will be lively, with varying opinions.  A final thought - Why does anyone get the right to be a hero?  Does any one event make that person worthy of lifelong idolization?  When we do that, doesn't the hero always fall?  Isn't there always a hidden side, a private side that shows the flaws, that shows that in the end we are all  mere humans?

The Aviator's Wife

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Winter in Full Bloom by Anita Higman

cover: winter in full bloom

Imagine being raised by a mother who always remains distanced and restrained, even into your adulthood.  Imagine a mother who doesn't rejoice and melt into an emotional mess when you make her a grandmother.  Imagine a grandmother who doesn't dote as your only child grows strong, beautiful, kind as she approaches her teens.  As the years pass and the rift between the two of you grows, a rift you've never understood, would you try one more time for answers, or would you just dismiss your previous life as something done and over?

Many of us would bury that past and embrace the work, child, and faith that have brought security and happiness to our lives, even if that life was scarred.  Lily, however, decides to confront her mother one more time -- that is, if she can get past the strange housekeeper named Dragan, who appears to guard her mother's solitude.  What she finds at that fateful meeting will send her on a whirlwind trip to Australia to seek a sister she never knew about. If she finds the sister, could there possibly be a family healing and reconciliation, or will she find herself again set aside and alone?  You must read Anita Higman's new contemporary novel Winter in Bloom, a suspenseful story about family, and the difficulties of overcoming mistakes made in the past.  You'll be caught up in Lily's questions that surround the unknown and the rush to find answers, as well as the emotional fragility of the other sister abandoned years before by her mother.

The book begins with a precocious ten year old girl noticing Lily's apparent fear of flying as the plane to Australia taxis for take off.  Her questions and advice make Lily think of a miniature psychiatrist, one to whom Lily easily reveals her tale of woe and mystery.  While reading this chapter, I couldn't help but smile, not because Lily's dreadful childhood and her new discovery were funny, but because I knew Anita Higman was going to take me on a delightfully, imaginative journey, peppered with surprises, wit, and well, good writing. Treat yourself and read this book.
I received a copy of this novel from LitFuse for review purposes.  All opinions are mine.

 To learn more about Anita Higman check out her website.  To read other reviews, check out this blog tour reviewing Anita's book.

Karla | Quiet Quilter
Nathania | Sophie and Momma
Erin | Capital Region Finds
Lauri | Knits, Reads and Reviews
Tammy | TammyIsBlessed
Lisa Marie | Learning Titus 2

JoJo | JoJo’s Corner
Marianne | Reviewing Novels Online
Michelle | I Hope You Dance
Deena | a peek at my bookshelf
Joy | Splashes of Joy
Amada | ASC Book Reviews

Kendra | Happily Managing a Household of Boys
Krista | Welcome to Married Life
Leila | All Meant To Shine
Lori | Morning Glories and Moonflowers
Julie | More Of Him

Amanda | Books By Amanda
Becky | Christian Chick’s Thoughts
Cindy | Cindy’s Book Reviews
Jalynn | A Simple Life,really?!
Kari | Alas 3 Lads
Beckie | By The Book

Mindy | A Room Without Books is empty
Ashley | loving mommahood
Christy | Home of OHM
Margaret | The World As I See It
Pamela | Daysong Reflections
Sharon | Sharon’s Garden of Book REviews

Lisa | A Casual Reader’s Blog
Victor | Vic’s Media Room
Marjorie | Manifest Blog
Nicole | bless their hearts mom
Billy | Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer
Melanie | A Year of Jubilee Reviews

Mary | The Mary Reader
Chelsey | Charming Chelsey’s
Faith | Found A Christian By His Grace
Patricia | It’s Time To Read Mamaw
Debra | 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too!

Vera | Chat With Vera
Victoria | deal sharing aunt
Dianna | Savings in Seconds
Elizabeth | Frugal Mom Eh
Sue | Thoughts from Mill Street
Lena | A Christian Writer’s World
Lisa | Just Another Rabid Reader

Lenore | Crazed Mind
Michelle | Healing Hearts book review blog
Lindsey | The IE Mommy
Marissa | The Review Stew
Charity | Giveaway Lady
Annie Kate | Tea Time with Annie Kate
Linda | Mocha with Linda

Sharon | Faith Hope & Cherrytea
Kathleen E. | Lane Hill House
Carole | The Power of Words
Erin | Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Melina | Melina’s Book Blog
Patricia | Live and Dream a little dream

Ramona | Create With Joy
Laurie | Laurie Here - Contemporary Fiction and MORE - Book Reviews
Becky | Braveheart: Tales from the Front Lines
Annette | A Well-Watered Garden
Brooke | i blog 4 books
Pam | Southern Gal Loves to Read

Ladette | The Life and times of a pwnmom…
Jeremy | Christian Fiction Addiction
Maggie | Literary Winner
Dawn | A Passion For Pages
Ruth | This That and the Other Thing
Jennifer | Mother of Three

Cafe Lily | Cafe Lily Book Reviews
Jessica | Crossroad Reviews
Tina | GivingNSharing
Holly | 2 Kids and Tired Books
Megan | When life gets you down…read a book
Sally | Proverbial Reads

Nancy | sunny island breezes
Renee | Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot
Barbara | Passing It Forward and Blessed by Grace
Ruth | My Devotional Thoughts
Kathleen | Jersey Girl Book Reviews
Jennifer | Jen’s Journey

Erin | Reviews By Erin
Andie | Radiant Light
Joan | Book Reviews from an Avid Reader
Karen | Karen’s Korner
Aizess | Christian Book Review Blog
Lisa | Living Echoes
Mary | Mary’s Cup of Tea

Monday, August 19, 2013

Threads of Change by Jodi Barrows

Jodi Barrow and her square in a square quilt techniques are recognizable in the quilting world.  She has appeared on television and quilt shows around the country for years, but now can add fiction author to her resume.  Threads of Change, just been published by River North (an imprint of Moody Publishing) is the first in a historical fiction series set just prior to the Civil War.  Four female cousins make the hard decision to leave Louisiana to start again in Fort Worth, Texas, a remote outpost which has been abandoned by the military.  With promises that their grandfather will join them as soon as he finalizes the sale of the lumber company, the women travel west.  Weather, unclear roads, and circumstances separate them from their guides for most of the journey, and young widow Elizabeth must remain strong and focused to keep everyone safe.

The families hope to set up a store and a sewing business, while one cousin has been hired as the community's new teacher.  Quilts- their beauty, comfort, and necessity play strong roles in this first installment of the women's tale.  What transpires in the volume covers just a few weeks in chronological time, but offers enough action and unresolved story line that readers should be interested in future books.
Those who know Jodi Barrows from their own quilting interests I am sure will be drawn to sampling her fiction.

I received a copy of Threads of Change  from the publisher for review purposes.  All opinions are mine.  Check out Barrows' website to learn more about the book and her quilting techniques.  If you follow this link to River North's site, you will find an insightful interview with Jodi Barrows in which she shares that this book series, based on pioneer women in her family, has taught her to be gentler, kinder, and more caring.

Jodi Barrows

Sunday, August 18, 2013

All I have Needed: A Legacy for Life by Mirian Jones Bradley

While some immediately think of money when they hear the word legacy, hopefully most of us think of those  other things which are deemed important enough to be passed from one person to another, or from one generation to another.  Stop for a moment and answer two questions.  First, what legacies did you receive from your parents and grandparents?  You must go beyond material items and money to answer this question.  Second,  what legacies are you creating for your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or even  your community members?  It is wonderful if you have wealth enough to fund their education or jump start their career dreams, but really dig deep and think about what else you want them to remember you for.

As you consider this, perhaps you'll remember grandparents and parents who quietly (or not so quietly) demonstrated the lessons of living God's word.  Have you ever truly stopped and acknowledged their influence on your own life path?  Miriam Jones Bradley does just that in a series of thoughtful essays titled All I Have Needed: A Legacy for Life.  This slim volume is not slim on gratitude, hope, and tender reminisces.  A key thought throughout the essays is how the devastating death of Miriam's mother when Miriam was only 10 was buffered by the steady, loving presence of her four grandparents.  Then later when her father remarried she added a third set of grandparents, willing and ready to add to her growing legacy for life.  

One of my facebook friends recently posted this quotation by Gandhi : In a gentle way, you can shake the world. In many ways that quotation connects to this book.  Through the many years these gentle and quiet people lived out their faith, they were shaping (and sometimes shaking up) the world around them, especially the lives of their descendants.  While Miriam Jones Bradley does focus on the beliefs that shaped her world, she also includes some insightful essays on the powers of family photographs, the soundtracks of our youth, and those unforgettable smells and sights which can never be duplicated. Together, just like the pieces of a quilt, they piece together an image of home that is our precious legacy, a gift that cannot be duplicated.

This book would be a great gift for the historian in your family, a way of acknowledging that their interest in your family heritage is valued.  Giving this book to someone older that you love would an excellent way of saying that you recognize the legacy you've received from them.  Take the time to insert a letter or note, personally expressing some of those unforgettable moments, smells, or sounds.  If you read Miriam Jones Bradley's book first, you'll have no trouble connecting to those long ago memories.  I received a copy of Bradley's book from Ambassador International for review purposes.  All opinions are mine.  If you would like to learn more about this book and Miriam Jones Bradley's writings, I suggest you check out her blog.

Front Cover 130424

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Between Heaven and Texas by Marie Bostwick

Two years ago I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Marie Bostwick at the Quilt Expo in Madison, WI.  While talking about her Cobbled Court fiction series, Marie mentioned that she was going to write a new series centered around the life of Mary Dell Templeton and her sister Lydia Dale in Too Much, Texas.  Strong willed, talented quilter Mary Dell and her son Howard made a cameo appearance in the first Cobbled Court book.  Between Heaven and Texas goes back to the 1980s to tell the story of Mary Dell's marriage and her long wait to become a mother.  We also learn the story of Mary Dell's perfectly stitched quilts and her terrible color sense.  Could that be because the "color" genes were bestowed upon her twin sister Lydia Dale?  Beauty queen Lydia Dale has her own stories to tell, but in this first novel she remains slightly in the wings, while readers are caught up in Mary Dell's dreams, disappointments, and her strong drive to succeed -- a serious tale, but told with both humor and warmth.

Between reading the preface and having that very short conversation with Marie about this new series, I learned that Mary Dell is one of Marie's favorite characters.  Mary Dell and her Down Syndrome son Howard demanded that their whole story be told.  So did readers who, over the years, told Marie Bostwick that they wanted to know more about the pair.  I was delighted to hear that Bostwick will still continue the Cobbled Court series, and in fact, is working on the newest volume.  If you are a fan of that series, and if you read Between Heaven and Texas, you will have a have hard time deciding which series you will want to continue first. I know I will.  Both are top notch; other reviewers aptly have compared reading Bostwick's work to wrapping up in a favorite quilt.  While the Cobbled Quilt series seems to move ahead with new people and new stories with each book, I hope that the Too Much Texas
series gives us more of Mary Dell, her strength, her son and her budding new business.  I sure would like to see Donny back in the story, but telling you anymore would be a spoiler.

Going to have a few hours over the upcoming Labor Day Weekend?  Reading Between Heaven and Texas would be a great way to cap off the summer.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Point:The Redemption of Oban Ironbout by William E. Jefferson

A young married couple Hollie and Goodwin (Win) Macbreeze, struggling with Hollie's recent diagnosis of kidney disease, retreat to the remote island of Estillyen, a place Win's grandfather had often visited. In fact, Win has brought along a small painting he (Win) did as a child from a photograph his grandfather had taken of an island spot known as the Point.  One of his goals is to visit that spot and see it for himself.  Hollie would like to pursue her art while on the island and hopes to gain a perspective on her health condition.

 What the couple finds is a place like no other, a place that begins to affect their lives from the first day on the island.  Each building has a character, design, and history unique to itself. A series of twelve dramatic readings are given at various cabins over several weeks, each one narrated by one or two monks, who bring to light the truth of God's love, the sacrifice of his Son, and the blessed gift of redemption.  Lurking in the shadows of each tale of the power of the Word is the insidious jealousy and dark heart of Satan. Win and Hollie feel themselves strengthened and intrigued by the readings, as well as being drawn to the people of the island.

From the very first, I knew this was not an ordinary novel.  It is laden with an allegorical and poetic style.  The twelve readings or lessons could be read on their own, and I think I would recommend that to anyone who reads the book.  Apart from the timeless, powerful lesson of God's love for us, the book's parallel plot is Win's quest to see the Point and his new relationship with the bitter, broken man Oban who resides at the top of the Point.

While some reviews I've read rave about the island itself and the dense prose that describes its buildings, monks, nuns, and even its animals, I found myself bogged down in the detailed descriptions.  With powerful reminders in every chapter that WORDS MATTER, I was afraid that I would miss something of spiritual significance in even the narrative sections of such mundane activities as eating breakfast. Nothing was a smooth read for me, and though I occasionally felt myself becoming attached to Win, Hollie, and Oban, I felt their actions and dialogues were too stilted to read as realistic, or even as characters in a fantasy.  I'm not sure what relationship author Jefferson wanted to create between readers and his characters, and I can't say whether the failure to connect was mine alone, but suffice to say I never made full connections. I know there is power in Jefferson's telling of the twelve stories (described by one review as illuminating the words of the Bible for a modern audience) and I know that there are readers who will delight in every descriptive detail of the Isle of Estillyen.  I hope that such readers find this title and delve into it.

For those who are intrigued by the title, take a short trip to the island by visiting this website.
I want to thank Handlebar and Port Estillyen Productions for providing a copy of the title for review purposes. All opinions are mine.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A great garden book for tots by Janet Stevens

Tops & Bottoms

My recent trip to Bookworm Gardens in Sheboygan brought the delightful book Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens.  At the gardens in the Barn/vegetable garden section, there is a vertical garden in plexiglass which allows visitors to see just what grows above the ground and what grows below the ground.  This display allows the delightful story Tops and Bottoms to make sense to young children who have never experienced growing beets and carrots versus, let's say, lettuce and peas.  In the book, lazy landowner Bear does not want the work of gardening his plot so he agrees that clever Hare can plant and they will share the crop.  Hare even let's Bear pick the half he will keep -- tops or bottoms.  When Bear selects tops, Hare wisely plants beets and other root crops.  Thinking he can't be outsmarted a second time, Bear selects bottoms when it is time for the next garden.  You got it, Hare plants all crops that grow above ground leaving Bear worthless roots.  And the story continues, but I'll leave that for you to discover.

Stevens won a Caldecott Honor for this book in 1996.  Caldecotts are given for outstanding and unique illustrations of a children's book.  In this case, the book is actually read and viewed by placing the spine, not at the left, but across.  Then readers follow the story with the two open pages showing what grows above the ground and what is happening beneath the surface.  Very clever and it makes reading the book so much fun.  I believe the story has become a standard in pre-school and kindergarten classes that have food units.
If you've got little ones and you've got a garden, or are visiting one, why not get a copy of this book from your library and share some fun!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bookworm Gardens - What a great place to visit

Jack and the Beanstalk at Bookworm Gardens
Sunday was a special day for my husband and me as we got to spend time with two of our favorite girls - our daughter and her little girl.  First we spent some time at Kohler Andrae State Park on Lake Michigan which little L. called her ocean.  The weather was perfect and the sandy beach a delight.  After playing in the waves, we had a picnic lunch, cleaned off our sandy toes and drove to nearby Bookworm Gardens at the UW-Sheboygan Extension campus.  

This delightful garden is only a couple years old.  It combines some of the best children's literature and a peaceful woodsy garden setting.  Each garden segment is themed after one or more children's book.  I've inserted a map from their website so you can get the idea.  From the winged school bus
(Magic School Bus) to the food hanging from the trees (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), this tour was one of surprises, humor, and great fun.  We tallied at the creative area where we played the huge outdoor marimbas and posed in the large picture frames for silly photos.  It was the Barn area (Charlotte's Web and Click Clack Moo) that captured little L's attention.  She climbed on the big cow statue and then spent time scribbling on the outdoor chalk board with a new little friend.  Meanwhile Grandma and Grandpa were checking out all the neat metal garden sculptures and the vegetable soup garden.

Bookworm Gardens Map

Throughout the gardens are little library structures where you can "check out" laminated copies of the children's books that area is based on.  You're encouraged to sit on a bench or one of the many special chairs to read the book with your child.  Our granddaughter loved the crayola chairs and we all sat together in Papa Bear's chair.  Over in the Animal gardens, older kids were taking turns scrubbing "Dirty Harry" from Harry the Dirty Dog.  I was enchanted by the miniature garden and house for Stuart Little.  

Obviously this garden is the result of some highly creative minds and lots of love!  Currently touring Bookworm Gardens is free, but donations are definitely encouraged.  Check out their website to learn more.  Take a walk through the website, and I think you'll catch a little of the excitement we experienced.
I wonder if this cow can really type

Little L smiles for the camera

Stuart Little's Miniature World