Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer wins the 2015 Christy Award

Last night Sigmund Brouwer's historical fiction book THIEF OF GLORY was named the 2015 Christy Award book of the year.  It also won in the Historical Romance category.  So much more than a historical romance, Brouwer's book was among my favorite reads of 2014.  I can't wait for him
to publish more titles.  Here is a link to my original review of this title. You can read there why I think this book is so exceptional.  I know that our library has a copy of the book.  Hoping that many other libraries do, also.


Image result for thief of glory sigmund brouwer

Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer's List by Anita Higman

Summer’s ListSummer Snow's (think about that name for a second) young life has been shaped by selflessness.
First she gave up dreams of college to care for her parents who had been injured in an accident, then when her grandmother retired Summer willingly took over the small children's bookstore that had been her grandmother's dream.  Despite being a delightful place, the bookstore barely eeks out a living, and it certainly isn't the social spot for twenty and thirty somethings.  But Summer has never complained about her circumstances. Summer's grandmother, who has just found out her heart condition has worsened, realizes that Summer has become too complacent in her tiny life and she intends to push Summer "out of the nest" before it is too late.  Granny creates an odd list of things she wants Summer to do before the elder woman's death, and naturally, Summer cannot refuse.

First on the list is a request to find Martin, who as a young boy had been Summer's constant companion.  When his mother had died, Martin had been adopted and then left the neighborhood.  Granny is sure that the smart, but quirky boy has become a man who would see Summer's merits, and she hopes Martin will aide Summer in completing her list.

Everything I've described so far sounds like the preparation for a light hearted romance, perhaps laced with a little self discovery.  That there is a small chihuahua who takes a prominent role makes the likelihood of a fluffy story even more likely.  But Anita Higman's newest novel can't be easily pegged.  Yes, there is a summer romance; yes, Summer does experience some awakening; and yes, the dog adds a fun element.  Martin's story isn't as easily explained.  He's a little odd and brings with him a complicated family story and two brothers who seem to be as cruel and empty of love as ever witnessed.  While I expected a realistic contemporary romance, what I got had almost the element of a magical fairy tale - one in which we see why the "wicked step brothers" are wicked, and where love changes all.

I received a copy of Summer's List from LitFuse for my honest review.

Here is a link to more information about Anita Higman and her newest novel, including more reviews by readers. http://litfusegroup.com/author/ahigman


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anita Higman is a CBA bestselling and award-winning author with 40 books published, several of which she co-authored. She is a two-time finalist for a Selah Award and has won a Cascade Award and an Inspirational Readers Choice Award for 2011 and 2013. She’s also been honored in the past as a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston. 
Higman has a BA degree in the combined fields of speech communication, psychology and art from Southern Nazarene University. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and The Writer’s View.
Higman has also won two awards for her contribution to literacy and has raised thousands of dollars for that cause while serving on the board of directors of Literacy Advance of Houston. She has been married to her husband for 35 years.

Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has over thirty books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. She’s been a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

 Image result for girl on the trainTHE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, a British psychological thriller by Paula Hawkins, is told by Rachel, a young business woman who rides the same commuter train every day.  While other commuters bury their thoughts in the daily paper or close their eyes for privacy and solitude, Rachel looks out at the houses near the tracks, noticing one house in particular and purposely avoiding another house only a few feet away.  A young couple lives in the first house, people Rachel has never met but for whom she has created a fantasy life, complete with names.  Rachel is sure that they are totally smitten with each other, evidenced by the embraces she has witnessed, and the warm glow of the house's lights.  Readers will quickly learn that Rachel avoids looking at the nearby house because just a few years earlier it had been her home, one she shared with a husband who now loves another.  Readers will also be alerted to Rachel's drinking, her unstable behaviors, and wild mood swings, so when she reveals that she has witnessed Jess (the name she has given the lady in the house near the tracks) in the yard being embraced by a tall dark man, someone other than her husband, you understand why Rachel is totally unsettled by the sight.  When she learns on the tellie a short time later that Jess (real name Megan) has disappeared, Rachel feels compelled to tell someone what she saw.

If you chose to read this book, set aside a day because you will not want to put it down.  It has elements similar to the widely popular GONE GIRL.  Naturally when Megan disappears, the husband is  a prime suspect and there are plenty of clues that he MAY be controlling and abusive.
When Megan herself begins to narrate some of the chapters, readers find she is complicated, reckless and with a past she tries to keep hidden.  Could she have chosen to disappear?  What is she keeping from her husband and others?  Similar to my reaction to both the husband and wife in GONE GIRL, I kept switching from suspecting one spouse to the other, and the more background info I learned, the more suspicious I was of everyone.  At times I even suspected Rachel, even though she kept professing never having met the couple.  In the end, I did guess most of the ending, but I would have been just as convinced if the book had ended in another way.

Rachel's viewpoint as a voyeur reminded me of the classic Hitchcock movie REAR WINDOW in which a wheelchair bound lawyer believes he has witnessed a murder, but no one will believe him.  Like that invalid, Rachel is not believed; and as she continues to act erratically, she is viewed as less and less reliable, even by readers.  I loved the author's use of the train -- for so many people, it is an unavoidable pattern to their day, something that uses time but adds nothing of value to their lives.  To Rachel, it was the last cord to a life lost.  If she gave up being THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, she would finally lose herself.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sew Pretty T-Shirt Dresses:More than 25 Easy, Pattern Free Designs for Little Girls - A Sweet Seams book

  I purchased this book last December on a trip to Branson, MO.  While I never duplicate an idea exactly as depicted in a book like this, I love the inspiration that I receive.  And books like this are such wonderful eye candy, letting you dream about party dresses and such.

My original idea was that I would recycle a t-shirt that I found at a thrift store or garage sale into a dress for my youngest granddaughter, aged 4.  Then her mom gave me a bordered remnant she had found at a thrift store.  "Hmm," I thought, "Wouldn't that make a wonderful skirt for a t-shirt dress?"  So once I had my focus skirt fabric, I wanted to find a t-shirt but wasn't scoring any time for rummage sales.  I hit a big sale at Boston Store a couple of weeks ago for some needed summer shoes and checked the "yellow dot" racks and found two sweet t-shirts, very, very reasonable.

Yesterday morning was stormy and rainy-- great day for the sewing room.  A couple hours later, we have two finished summer dresses.  It was such fun putting these together.  I basically followed the
SUNNY DAY directions on page 23 for the peach dress, adding ruffles made of remnant fabrics I had; and the blue and purple one comes from the basic idea of a t-shirt dress.  I think the blue one will be a maxi on my granddaughter, but I like that look and hopefully she will be able to wear it more than one summer.  I know she likes to twirl in her dresses so I think the peach one will be a hit.  I've always liked that tiered look for girl's summer dresses.  The top doesn't show up too well on the photos but it has lacey sleeves, making the outfit extra special.  I enjoyed those rainy hours in the sewing room. Even used my serger which doesn't get enough use.  By the time I was done, the sun was out and it was a glorious afternoon.
Sunny Dress directions 

Border fabric scored for 99 cents

Peachy dress - it is more peach than pink.

Happy border printed dress.  Notice the sequins.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A New Dresden plate wall hanging using an EZ quilting FAT CAT template

I bought an EZ quilting template called a FAT CAT a couple years ago to make a mini Christmas tree skirt.  The pattern was in Darlene Zimmerman's book Fresh From the Clothesline.  I don't like having a tool that I will only use once or twice, so I always planned to make something more.  The wedges are sewed together the same way Dresden plate wedges are, except these wedges are fatter, making a final circle that is a little less delicate than a traditional Dresden plate.

Our great room which is open to the kitchen is painted in blue and green -- more blue in the kitchen area and then green walls on the dining room side and down the hallways.  I purchased a combination of batiks from Nancy's Notions and one floral print from JoAnn's, then combined them with some basics I had from Connecting Threads and started making the large Dresden circles.  I actually made three of them in different color arrangements, thinking I would combine them into one quilt to hang on the dining room wall.  Once the plates were done, they sat for several months -- UFOs.  I don't usually have unfinished objects, but I just didn't know what to do with what I started.

Since I wanted something done before our out-of-state company arrived in early July, I uncovered the pieces last week and starting planning.  One slight mis-cut of the background fabric changed my original plans, and I ended up using just one Dresden plate in a square wall hanging.  I will be finishing another, almost identical square to use as a table topper.  I like the decision to go with separate pieces.

I have decorative stitches down each petal and then around the points.  Beyond that there is straight line quilting that echoes the corner triangles and the Dresden plate itself.  When hubby came in from his workshop for lunch, I got his help with switching out the oil painting that had been on the dining room wall with this finished wall hanging.  I like it and it complements another quilted square which above the nearby pantry door.  I've added some photos for you, but must say that they are not true color.  Colors are much brighter, including the walls themselves!.

Closeup view of the hanging.  Photo is not centered, sorry.

Closer view of the quilting

Dining room view

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Wonderbag Portable Slow Cooker --- Trial recipe

My Wonderbag with the pot inside simmering our soup
I mentioned on Facebook back in May that I had received a Wonderbag Portable Slow Cooker from my daughter for my birthday /Mother's Day.  When you purchase one of these stuffed fabric bags which are really a way to cook, another is given to a family in a third world country.  These slow cookers often let the family make their fire wood stretch.

To use the cooker, you need to have a non-ceramic pot with small handles.  You bring your food (soup, stew, or casserole type dish) to a boil on the stove or over a fire.  Once the food is hot, you put the dish into the bag, draw the string tightly, and let it sit.  No need for further flame.  After a matter of time (from one hour to several, depending on the dish), you open the cooker and your food should be done.  As it says on the website Boil it, Bag it, Slow Cook it, Share it.

We tried my new cooker when we were camping in late May at Calumet County Park.  I took along a new pot with round side handles and the ingredients for a sausage tortellini soup with black beans and carrots.  I let the pot sit for several hours.  This is very nice because I could leave the campsite and go play with our granddaughter.  I did not have to worry about a pot on the stove or even an electric slow cooker heating up the camper.  When we opened it to eat, the soup was definitely done, but the temperature was a little cooler than I like my soup.  I need to figure out what went wrong.
Possibilities:  1.  The handles on the new pot I used inside left too much air space around the pot when tied up.  2. I left the soup for too long.  We should have eaten sooner.  3.  I did not have the soup simmering on the stove long enough to really have it hot before I put it in the cloth bag.
I forgot to take a photo of the soup but this is hubby after supper, enjoying supper.

I will keep trying my Wonderbag slow cooker.  I am looking for recipes to try with it, but most I find are for spicy stews and meatless dishes that are not part of our diet.  I will keep looking.  The booklet that came with the cooker says that it can be used to as a cooler also.  I can see how this will be useful when transporting dishes to parties and potlucks.

Here is a link to the Wonderbag website so you can learn more about this ingenious invention and the mission behind the bag.   http://wonderbagworld.com/

Friday, June 19, 2015

Fatal Trauma by Richard L. Marbry, M.D.

Fatal Trauma

It was a routine, but busy night at the emergency room, when everything changed for Dr. Mark Baker as he sees Nurse Kelly Atkinson being forced to wheel an injured man into the trauma area.  Behind her is another man with a gun aimed directly into her back.  Later, Mark will confess that his first thoughts were how was he going to save himself, while Kelly relays that she was thinking just how much she liked Mark and wished she had told him so.  What happens in the tense, danger-filled minutes that night will plunge both Mark and Kelly into a large drug Cartels plot for revenge.  Just as the two begin to make plans to protect themselves, another doctor, Anna King, and a colleague are killed, and since Mark had dated Anna, he is a possible suspect in her death.  As Baker realizes that not only his life, his career and his freedom are all being threatened, he also begins to realize that he cares for Kelly Atkinson more than he has anyone for a very long time.
I think writing realistic Christian suspense must be extremely difficult. Add in a medical setting, and I believe the task must be super difficult.  Richard Mabry, a retired physician, has a reputation of creating books that combine suspense, medicine, and faith successfully.  I've heard his stories described as "having heart."  While I liked FATAL TRAUMA, it seemed to fall a little short, and I can't quite explain why.  I think it tried too hard to accomplish all things.  Mark has been lax in his faith and he rediscovers that.  He makes a commitment to a woman when he hasn't done that since high school ( there is a connection to that part of his life that I thought was very contrived, but it may open the way for a future book).  There are other details such as a child abuse incident that maybe were meant to fill out the realism of the story, but I just felt were confusing.  Then there are the cast of minor characters and of course, there has to be a villain hidden within the workings of the hospital.
I will say there is a surprise villain at the end of the story, one I never saw coming.  The presence of this person fits the plot, but I wish readers had had more exposure to this person so we would buy into that person's "evilness."  I am giving FATAL TRAUMA a 3.5 -- worth reading, but not my favorite suspense title.   I received a copy of this novel from Litfuse for my review.  I was not compensated in any other way.
Richard Mabry is sponsoring a giveaway and it ends June 20.  Check out  http://litfusegroup.com/campaigns/fatal-trauma-richard-mabry to learn more.


\



Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Postage Stamp Garden:Grow Tons of Organic Vegetables in Tiny Spaces and Containers by Karen Newcomb-- Completely Revised

PictureHubby and I have been gardening in raised beds for over a decade now.  I've never really been trained about what to do, but have just experimented with intensive plantings and sometimes multiple crops. Despite the deer and rabbit damage, we have supplied many, many vegetables for our summer and fall eating.  When I had the opportunity to review THE POSTAGE STAMP GARDEN (updated version) by Karen Newcomb for Blogging for Books, I knew I was interested.

Karen's book takes you through all the steps of getting the most out of a small garden plot, beginning with a chapter on planning the garden before you do anything else.  I confess I am weak in this area, I usually have a plan in my head, but I fail to get it down on paper, and too often the plan changes as Russ prepares the beds and I actually sow.  This is definitely an area I can improve and I am going to look at that chapter closely over the winter months for garden 2016.  Karen also devotes  whole chapters apiece to the soil mix and getting the ground ready.  As I said, we have a series of raised beds and one garden strip; each year we try to build up the soil.  This has been a long process as the soil was very low in organic matter when we began.  Small space gardening needs to keep the soil nourished and Karen gives good advice.  Next, comes advice about when and how to plant -- lots of good charts in this chapter.  I had never heard of using Mother Nature's guide (what is blooming or budding in the spring flowers/trees) as a guide, but that makes total sense and I will be looking over that chart more carefully for my early crops next year.  Karen also gives great "spacing" lists which is a big help for any container, small space, or raised bed gardener because the seed packages and plant stakes always give numbers based on row gardening.  Further chapters include watering a small garden (thorough, but too frequent), heirloom varieties of vegetables and herbs, plants that like each other, and controlling pests.  One appendix takes you through composting and another is a seed source.

I have been gardening since I was a little girl, but don't consider myself any kind of expert.  I think this book will be a handing reference for future years and I may be doing a little experimenting in the future, with companion planting, successive crops, and heirloom varieties.  This book is not one of those gardening books with tons of color photos of elaborate, 10+ rated gardens.  I've bought those books before and they become nothing but coffee table books because my garden will never look that way.  Newcomb's book is a valuable, inexpensive tool that any gardener would appreciate.  Even a master gardener will appreciate a fresh perspective and some handy hints.

Thank you to Blogging for Books for the opportunity to review this book.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

At The Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

At the Water's EdgeSara Gruen, the talented author of WATER FOR ELEPHANTS which topped book club lists for several years and made the transition to the big screen, has published another novel, which in my opinion, outshines WATER FOR ELEPHANTS.  AT THE WATER"S EDGE, set in 1944, is narrated by young socialite Madeline Hyde.  As Maddie relays the drunken, partying escapades of her husband, Ellis, their best buddy Hank, and herself over the first few weeks of 1944, I could not help thinking of Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom in THE GREAT GATSBY.  When their poor behavior and Ellis's 4F status so upset Ellis's parents that they are banished from the family mansion, the three decide the only way back into the Hyde's favor is by succeeding where Col. Hyde had so publicly failed years earlier -- by hunting down Scotland's elusive Loch Ness monster.

While Maddie seems to be just as spoiled and superficial as her husband and friend Hank during the first events of the book, we slowly see a different woman emerge as the trio endure a rough passage on a cargo ship to Scotland.  Once they arrive at the tiny inn near the famous loch supposedly home to the monster, Ellis and Hank continue their drunkenness and airs of superiority, never fully comprehending the great hardships the people of the British Isles have lived under during the entire war. When Maddie does begin to understand and actually begins to make herself useful, Ellis berates her for becoming too familiar with the "help."  Soon Maddie's efforts change from simply being useful to actually caring about others, and readers will be as drawn to the little Scottish village as she was.

Ellis and Hank rank up near the top 1 or 2 percent of book characters I've hated, and the more Maddie
begins to see what a shallow egocentric creep Ellis is, the more I disliked him and admired Maddie.
Despite, never quite getting over the feeling that Hank, Ellis, and Maddie and the Hydes belonged to the American 1920's, not 1940's wartime (is it Gatsby that drummed that image into me or were the twenties so ego-driven?),  I give Sara Gruen top marks for a well constructed novel and intriguing characters -- even the villains.   I am sure AT THE WATER'S EDGE will be topping book club lists next  year.   I obtained a copy through Winnefox, our library system.  The system has 44 copies (regular print, large print, and audio combined) and almost all copies are checked out with more than 30 holds for people waiting.  As the word on this novel gets out, I expect the waiting lists will increase.  If you are interested in the book, buy a copy at a local bookstore, or get your name on a waiting list at your local library.
 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Are you taking time to make this summer special?

As I have quite often mentioned, our family has a little cabin in northern Wisconsin, or as we
Wisconsiners say, UP NORTH.  Like the cabin, the lake it is on is small and unassuming, just the way we like it.  What is difficult is the 3.5 hour drive to get there; that length makes it a little hard to just swing by for the weekend.  When Russ was still working part-time it was a challenge to schedule enough free time to make the trip.  Either it was his driving, his commitments to the men's choir, a grandkid activity, or something I had to do.  During this past long winter, I decided that we would give time UP NORTH a priority this summer. Plus we bought a tiny travel trailer and we need to get that on the road.

It is approaching mid-June and we have made 4 trips to the cabin, although none was as long as I would have liked.  We have also taken Kermit, the travel trailer, out for two short excursions.
That has meant we need to work extra hard at keeping up with yard work when we are home.
Before our most recent trip north, I decided to take some photos of our lawn and early flowers.  Good thing I did as they were past their prime when we returned.

First, is a photo of two of our peony bushes in bloom.  This is the first year they have been large enough to put forth much color.  Peonies have a special place in my heart for several reasons.  First, we always had a long row of pink ones at the farm when I was a kid.  I really did not appreciate them then, but now I think of my mom when I see well established old fashioned peony beds.  The other reason I have come to like them is that peonies were the flowers that adorned the church sanctuary when Russ and I got married 44 years ago this week.  A dear elderly lady (probably in her 80s when we wed, but she lived to 100 or more) picked her peonies as tight, tight buds in late May, put them in her refrigerator, and then took them out in just enough time for them to burst into full bloom for our wedding day.  She arranged the bouquets as a gift to Russ and me.  She and her husband also hid our car from Russ's trickster brothers.  Since they were unfamiliar with the rural neighborhood where I hailed from, they drove right by her house and garage on their way to the church. LOL.
Our peonies in the front yard

I always appreciate flowers at weddings, but no matter what the amount that the family has spent, I've never seen bouquets as grand as Margaret's peonies.  Maybe someday, my bushes will provide blooms for a special event.  Here are some other photos of part of our yard.
Some other photos of the yard

Front door







Side yard



Hubby and grandson planting a fruit tree in memory of my dad


Now for some UP NORTH photos

Hubby (note the mosquito protective hat) playing SOMEWHERE OVER
THE RAINBOW on his ukulele.  


Vince's family has decorated the refrig with cabin poetry!  Quite inventive with
their poems.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas

When Henry Phillips's father suddenly dies on New Year's Eve, Henry decides not to return to
the spring semester of college, saying he feels his father would want him to stay home and help his mother.  Those words are a facade for Henry's deep restlessness and despair.  Over the next few months, he never tries to find a true job, but spends his evenings helping an acquaintance run moonshine and playing fiddle in a few bars.  There is a quiet charade going on all around -- Henry's mother and his grandmother know he is up to no good but they silently pray that he will stop on his own accord; meanwhile, Henry feels guilty for his choices, but can't stop himself.

Henry does try to help his grandmother with some chores on her little farm and it is when he is there that he keeps running into Margaret, the young woman who does housekeeping for Henry's grandmother.  He and Margaret seem to be oil and water, but as Henry's uneasiness over his recent choices grows, he begins to realize what a steadfast friend Margaret is.  He also begins to realize, as do many others in the community, that Margaret's young sister Mayfair is someone with special gifts.

  I believe this novel is the follow up  to MIRACLE IN A DRY SEASON, but UNTIL THE HARVEST can be read as a stand alone.   The book has many outstanding elements that make the story successsful.  There is a minor love story of a couple in their nineties (they may have had a major role in the previous novel), but anyway, how often do the elderly have a major role in thoughts of love and romance?  The mystique surrounding Mayfair and her apparent ability to heal others while her own health suffers is a compelling paradox.  I also liked Henry's mother and grandmother -- down home types with commonsense and plenty of Christian love.

Despite all these great characters and their dilemmas, I found the book slightly lacking.  I know the novel, set in the early 1970's, is supposed to have that mystical aura and a Southern mountain flavor of a simpler time.  Knowing all that, my realistic streak still could not accept that Henry's grandma's farm with only one cow and a few chickens was enough to provide employment for Margaret and a compelling future for Henry. I kept thinking of the oversimplistic television movies with rural settings.  Having grown up on a small Wisconsin dairy farm in the 1960s and early 70s, I know better. It also seemed that Henry's mother did not have a job, yet after her husband died she was not concerned about money and Henry was not pressured to find a job.  Not very believable and I could not overlook what I thought were slight flaws in the overall story.  (I won't even get into the fact that the early 70's was the height of the draft and any young man who quit college would have been prime draft material!)

Sarah Loudin Thomas is a talented writer and I know that UNTIL THE HARVEST will have a successful following.  I received an ecopy of this title from Netgalley for my honest review.    


Sunday, June 7, 2015

On Shifting Sand by Allison Pittman

  ON SHIFTING SAND is the first novel I've read by Allison Pittman.  For anyone who balks at reading Christian fiction thinking the characters or plot are going to be flimsy backdrops for some whiny preaching should pick up ON SHIFTING SANDS.  Oh yes, there is a message and it is powerful, as Nola's story will bring life to the powerful destruction of infidelity and the unbelievable beauty of mercy and forgiveness.  Nola's unfaithfulness seems to rise up out of the dust that permeates every aspect of her life.  Yet it is an ages' old story and almost seems to be something Nola (and her father) knew she would do.

Having watched the Ken Burn's documentary on the Dust Bowl last year (think I actually watched it twice since it was so powerful), I was captivated by the way Pittman made the Dust Bowl setting an essential part of the novel. Everytime Nola's aging father asks,"Is this glass clean?" I could almost taste the grit.  And as Pittman describes the family's struggles to stay clean or the constant need to wash bed and kitchen linens just to sleep or have a meal, I began to sense the mounting hopelessness and fatigue that people felt.  All of that is powerfully transferred via words into Nola's character in the novel.  Nola's neighbor's are leaving daily, turning their small town into a ghost community. Each departure means one less family to support the church where her husband pastors.  Already isolated by her position as a pastor's wife and her past (won't share that), Nola feels lonelier and lonelier.  Fueled by her father's constant criticism, the family's dwindling finances, and the constant "sand" around her, Nola cannot see or appreciate what she has, until she recklessly endangers it all.

Nola tells this story, and we all know that first person narrators are not always reliable.  Even as she is telling the story, you will feel that you want to warn her that she is destroying her life. Sometimes you will question the full truth of what she is sharing.  At other times you will want to comfort her and build her up.  Pittman made an excellent choice in selecting the point of view for this novel; no one could have told us the impact of Nola's actions except Nola herself.

I obtained a copy of this novel through our Winnefox Library System.  Check your library for a copy or it can be obtained through Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Christian Books, Family Christian Bookstores, or a local bookstore.  Remember most local bookstores can order almost any book you want, and they would appreciate your business.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

As Waters Gone by by Cynthia Ruchti

As Waters Gone By pKWhen I read that Cynthia Ruchti's newest book was set on Madeline Island, the largest of Wisconsin's Apostle Islands, I was immediately interested.  Lake Superior is one of my favorite places on earth.  When our family used to camp on the shores of Lake Superior at a special, almost unknown campground, I could feel myself being revitalized. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands are where my husband and I spent our honeymoon forty-four years ago.   Somehow I knew that Ruchti's book would be one of renewal and love. I just didn't know what a tender, fragile story it would be.  It almost reminds one of a wounded bird being found, nursed back to health, and then that baby bird begins to soar.

Emmalyn Ross has come to Madeline Island alone to a ramshackle hunting cabin owned by her husband and herself. Because the tiny place is basically uninhabitable until repairs can be made to it, Emmalyn has made reservations at the tiny Wild Iris Inn.  As she catches the last ferry of the day to the island from Bayfield, we begin to learn a bit of her story -- separated from her husband who appears to be incarcerated,  home sold, job resigned.  Clearly Emmalyn is a bundle of worry, anxiety, and hurt.  From her first step into the Wild Iris Inn, it appears that finally someone(s) will be caring for M, as the eccentric inn owner Bougie names her.

Readers will get Emmalyn's story in tiny bits and pieces.  There is a suspense there, but for me, sometimes it was too dragged out.  I don't think the story would have been harmed if the readers had learned more about Emmalyn, her husband and their past earlier in the book.  I liked the cast of island characters, all extreme individualists who each had their own scarred pasts. This added to the overall feeling that a rugged, but beautiful place such as Madeline Island can be part of one's healing.  These secondary characters also add to the readers need to consider our own blessings and needs.  For example, Bougie hosts a Thanksgiving meal at the inn that is unlike any Thanksgiving feast you've ever known, but it will have all of us with full pantries thinking about our abundance.  A few details of the story are a little too convenient or well-plotted to be realistic, but in all I was not disappointed in Ruchti's work.   Only in the last pages do you learn the meaning behind the title AS WATERS GONE BY.   If you do not know this verse from Job (I did not recognize it), I will leave you to discover it on your own.  Suffice to say it is an apt name for this little cabin turned refuge and for Emmalyn's rescued life.  I appreciate contemporary fiction that can be read by a wide age range, that goes beyond simple romance to explore the complexities of our lives.  I look forward to reading more by Ruchti.

I received a copy of AS WATERS GONE BY for review purposes from LitFuse.  All opinions are mine.

{MORE ABOUT AS WATERS GONE BY}

As Waters Gone By (Abingdon, May 2015)
How can a marriage survive when separated by hundreds of miles and impenetrable prison walls?
Emmalyn and Max Ross may have to endure the fight of their lives to mend the tattered fabric of their marriage. His actions ensured she could never be a mother and put him in prison, giving their relationship a court-mandated five-year time-out. On a self-imposed exile to beautiful but remote Madeline Island, one of the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior, Emmalyn has just a few months left to figure out if and how they can ever be a couple again.
Nudged along by the exuberant owner of the Wild Iris Inn and Café, a circle of misfit people in their small town, and a young girl who desperately needs someone to love her, Emmalyn restores an island cottage that could become a home and begins to restore her heart by learning what it means to love unconditionally. Yet even as hope begins to find a place within the cottage walls, Emmalyn still wonders if she’s ready for Max’s release. She may be able to rebuild a cottage, but can she rebuild a marriage?
Cynthia Ruchti

{MORE ABOUT CYNTHIA RUCHTI}

Cynthia Ruchti has more than three decades of radio broadcast experience with “Heartbeat of the Home” radio and currently serves as Professional Relations Liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers. Find Cynthia on the Web at www.cynthiaruchti.com.
Find out more about Cynthia athttp://www.cynthiaruchti.com.