Monday, November 24, 2014

CFBA Book Review: Swept Away

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Swept Away
Abingdon Press (November 18, 2014)
Laura V. Hilton
Cindy Loven


Award winning author Laura V. Hilton has penned many novels, including the Amish of Seymour series, the Amish of Webster County series, and the forthcoming Amish of Jamesport series. A member of ACFW, Laura is also a professional book reviewer for the Christian market, with over a thousand book reviews published at various online review sites. A pastor’s wife, stay-at-home mom, and home school teacher, Laura and her family make their home in Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas.

A lifelong reader, Cindy Loven is an active church wife of a minister and mother to one son who is a home school graduate. Cindy and her family reside in Conway, Arkansas.


Sara Jane Morgan is trying to balance teaching with caring for her ailing, stubborn grandmother. When school lets out for the summer, the plans are for Grandma to teach Sara Jane to quilt as they finish up the Appalachian Ballad quilt Grandma started as a teenager. But things don’t always go as planned. Andrew Stevenson is hiding from his past—and his future. He works as a handyman to pay the bills, but also as an artisan, designing homemade brooms. When Sara Jane’s grandmother hires him to renovate her home, sparks fly between him and his new employer’s granddaughter. Still, it doesn’t take Sara Jane long to see Drew isn’t what he seems. Questions arise, and she starts online researching him. What she discovers could change her life—and her heart—forever.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Swept Away, go HERE.

Pattie's Review: I know of Laura Hilton because we've both been reviewing Christian fiction books for a very long time. Cindy Loven is new to me as an author.

The strength of this novel is in the handling of the situation with Grandma Sari. It's not easy to deal with an aging parent or grandparent, and Sara Jane's situation with her grandmother is portrayed with realism and grace.

I also liked the links within the story of historical significance, as well as the link to the Appalachian Trail experience.

The romance seems a bit forced to me in several places. Sara and Drew don't seem to mesh well at all, yet before we know it they're "feeding the crush" they have on each other. I think that could have been handled a bit better. I do like that Sara gets over her first impression by reading Drew's online blog from his hike. That was really neat, and it is culturally relevant with Cheryl Strayed's Wild coming out in theaters soon.

If you're looking for a sweet, clean, Christian romance, this is a good book for you. Probably the entire series, actually, since Abingdon Press is a well-known Christian fiction/romance publisher with quite a few good series in their catalog.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day: Pride and Gratitude

I think it's rather fitting to say "Thank You" for our military veterans and their families. Most of us spouses and families just want our service members to be honored, and many of the service members are embarrassed to be so recognized.

I think one day a year, during the month when we already celebrate Thanksgiving and express our gratitude for our many blessings, is apropos. You may not agree, and that's okay too.

Remembering my family legacy of service: Grandpa D. served in the Navy in the Japanese theater in WWII; Grandpa W. served in the Army in the European theater in WWII; Dad served in the Navy in the Vietnam War; his brother was career Army, serving both as enlisted and as an officer, in the wake of Vietnam, during the Gulf War, and in the wake of 9/11; his sister's husband served in the Army in Vietnam. My husband's family: his father served in the Air Force during Vietnam; his uncle served in the Air Force during Vietnam, then as a reservist for a full career, serving active duty for a while in the wake of 9/11; and my husband serves as an Air Force chaplain.

Today my daughter will speak at her high school's Veterans Day program. I am more proud than I can even express.

Friday, October 31, 2014

What didn't make the list: #31Days of Books

I'm sure you're wondering what didn't make the list of 31 books. There are so many great books that I have read and loved, and even if I wrote for 365 days for years on end, I'd still never run out of books. My annual reading goal for the past ten years has been to read 100 books per year. Most years I exceed that goal.

My criteria for choosing the books for October was narrowing down the list to the books that have had the most influence on me personally, and that hold special meaning for me in some way. This included many books I read in my teens and twenties.

October 31st: Hamlet

"Brevity is the soul of wit."
Shown: My antique volume of The Complete Works of Shakespeare,
with a cartoon I found in college that was used as a bookmark.
"Hey, Hamlet, who were these?" showing a smiley face and Killroy.

Renowned Shakespeare scholar Harold Bloom, in his book Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, notes, "After Jesus, Hamlet is the most cited figure in Western consciousness" (xix). We are aware of Hamlet, even in the 21st century, as we are aware of Jesus--specifically His words in the King James Bible. All that said, we know Hamlet. It has become ingrained in our Western culture and thought. To read it is to think about humanity, revenge, parent-child relationships, love, romance, insanity, and friendship.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

October 30th: Joy for Beginners

Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister

I enjoy Erica Bauermeister's work. She does a wonderful job in her novels of switching points of view.

From my new smartphone Kindle app.
I'm still trying to learn this
new technology!
Summary on Goodreads: At an intimate, festive dinner party in Seattle, six women gather to celebrate their friend Kate's recovery from cancer. Wineglass in hand, Kate strikes a bargain with them. To celebrate her new lease on life, she'll do the one thing that's always terrified her: white-water rafting. But if she goes, all of them will also do something they always swore they'd never do-and Kate is going to choose their adventures.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

October 29th: The Contemplative Mom

Restoring Rich Relationship with God in the Midst of Motherhood. It's possible.

The idea of having a consistent quiet time when my children were tiny and I was working full-time was completely overwhelming to me. This often-undone task made me feel as if I was a failure as a Christian and as a mother, when I could barely find time to read a verse or two some days, or pray while I was driving to work.

Enter Ann Kroeker and her wonderful book.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

October 28th: A Wrinkle in Time

Gosh, I loved 5th grade.

I had the best teacher, Ms. S., for the second half of fifth grade (we moved from Iowa to St. Louis in January, so I don't remember my Iowa 5th grade teacher. I'm sure she was a good teacher, though.) Ms. S. was not only my first teacher who went by "Ms." but also she had a great habit: she read aloud to our class every day the last twenty minutes.

Of course, moving is always awkward and adjusting is not easy, so when we finally got into school, it was midway through the month and midway through the readaloud book, which was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. I was fascinated, but lost, so Ms. S. suggested I check the book out at the school library. It was checked out. Then the bookmobile, that magical library-in-a-truck, arrived, and I was able to get it there.

To say I devoured the book is probably an understatement.

Monday, October 27, 2014

October 27th: The Best Yes

"Just as our bodies need oxygen, our souls need truth flowing steadily in and out."
from The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst

 {This is my second Lysa book this month, if you didn't notice. The first was Unglued.}

I read this book this summer after reading The Cure for the 'Perfect' Life (also a favorite book choice this month), and it was the best follow-up ever.

I love this book for many of the same reasons I loved Unglued. Biblical, practical, helpful, and real. She has a nifty process (with a super-nifty chart on her website) for planning whether something is a yes or a no or a Best Yes.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

October 26th: Betsy and Tacy in Deep Valley series

Betsy and Tacy and Tib and Minnesota. 

Who wouldn't love them? Turn of the century grade school and then high school and then college and marriage and Europe and adulthood...

I discovered Betsy Ray and her besties--Tacy and Tib--after moving to Missouri in grade school. I found Heaven to Betsy in the library stacks and I was hooked! I started in the middle and had to work backwards, then forwards, to read Betsy's entire story. I used to have to request Maud Hart Lovelace's books from other library branches, because they were out of print and the entire St. Louis County library system had only one set among all the branches. It's wonderful that they've now been reprinted in paperback more than once (you can see the two styles of cover in my photo--I did have most of them in the style on the right, but when they reprinted two novels per volume in the style on the left, I took the opportunity to replace my older set with fewer books for obvious reasons).

Saturday, October 25, 2014

October 25th: The Chosen and Davita's Harp

I first read The Chosen in ninth grade English. Mrs. Meier brought the books to class, checked them out to us, and we read the opening baseball scene with Reuven Malter and Danny Saunders aloud.

This book ignited in me a love for Judaism and a desire someday to study Hebrew. Chaim Potok's writing intrigued me, made me think, and made me consider my own Christian faith in light of the Old Testament. 

Of course I headed to the library to read more of Potok. I read The Promise, which is the sequel to The Chosen. But then I found Davita's Harp with its strong female protagonist, and its historical background in the Spanish Civil War and the art of Picasso...and I was even more intrigued. 

Like most of the country, we went online in 1997 with America Online. I remember being so thrilled to be a part of an AOL chat with Chaim Potok. Total fangirl evening before "fangirl" was even a thing. He even answered one of my submitted questions, and I was absolutely thrilled.

Years later, I would find Potok's book Old Men at Midnight to be a bit harsher, both in tone and in content, even though it uses Ilana from Davita's Harp as the protagonist. Creatively it was masterful. But I did not love it like I loved these two books. When I think of books that influenced me and my interests, these two are definitely a part of my teenage years.

To read more of this #31DaysofBooks series, visit the introduction post.

Friday, October 24, 2014

October 24th: Found Art

For most of my adult life, I have struggled with the concept of home.

My family moved away after I graduated high school, so on vacations from college I didn't go home--I went to my parents' and sister's home.

My husband and I got married right after college graduation, and after that we moved every 2-4 years. Then he joined active duty military life, and we have moved three more times.

My parents moved to Wisconsin for three years, Minnesota for four, Indiana for another few years until their divorce, and in the meantime my sister got married and has lived in the same house in Minnesota for 12 years. I told her recently that she wins the prize.

So when Leeana Tankersley wrote this book about finding beauty in foreign places, I wasn't sure what to expect.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

October 23rd: Emily of New Moon Trilogy

Sometimes my favorites are not as popular, but just as good.

I read the Anne of Green Gables series in my teen years, as did many of you who are in my generation and of my reading taste. We thrilled when Anne found Diana, her bosom friend. We cheered when she smacked Gilbert over the head and broke her slate--not his head--clear across. We followed her through school, through college, and into marriage and family life. But then I found Emily.

Emily of New Moon. She lived on PEI just like Anne did, but her experience was different.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

October 22nd: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

It's hard to know what to say about one of my favorite novels ever. This book was recommended to me early after its release in 2008 and I read it, loaned it out until the book fell apart (well, one person I loaned it to was not kind to books...), purchased copies for gifts, read it with my Grand Forks book get the idea.

The book is set in both London and the Channel Island of Guernsey during 1946, in the aftermath of World War II. It's told entirely in letters (we English teachers call that "epistolary" and let's just say it is much better than the original epistolary novel, Pamela, that I had to read in college). It's a love story told in several ways, with sobering moments of the war told among humorous stories also of the war. I just love it.

It is on my Kindle, it's a comfort read that I love to curl up with during the holidays, and I always recommend it first when someone says, "What should I read?"

To read more of this #31DaysofBooks series, visit the introduction post.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October 21st: A Fall of Marigolds

Susan Meissner is one of my favorite writers.

And not just because I've met her in person :)

She's good. She has written stand-alone contemporary novels and historical novels, and one detective/mystery series set in the Twin Cities that was really good. But she really came into her own style when she started writing books with a link between a historical and a contemporary setting. It was like, "Oh, this is what she was meant to write."

A Fall of Marigolds is her first general market novel, but it is far from "secular" in tone or theme. It tells two stories, one of the aftermath of 9/11 and the other of the aftermath of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Both stories are linked with a scarf.

It's a masterful novel. It's beautiful, it made me cry, it made me think, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Monday, October 20, 2014

October 20th: The Snow Child

There is something truly amazing and almost magical about reading a book 
written about where you live.

The first time this happened to me, I was living in west central Arkansas in a very small town in a tightly-knit community. One of our church members was a school librarian, and she loaned me the Shiloh Legacy series by Bodie Thoene...written about the same area where we lived. It was really fun to read and according to my friend, quite accurate in its depiction of Depression-era Arkansas.

I also read North Dakota novels while living in North Dakota. (Although, incidentally, not the series my friend read, Lauraine Snelling's Red River of the North books...those are on my "to read someday" list. I did go to a writing workshop that Lauraine Snelling taught at the East Grand Forks, MN, library, though. It was awesome.)

So when we got to Alaska, I was able to procure a copy of an Alaska book called If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name by Heather Lende, a well-known author in Haines, Alaska. It felt familiar in a way, because we'd lived in small towns. The Alaska book most often recommended is Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild, but because I know the end already, it's a freezer book for me. (Freezer book is a well-loved term from the tv show Friends. You can watch the clip here.)

Each year the Anchorage Public Library chooses a book to read together, and two years ago it was the novel The Snow Child by Palmer native Eowyn Ivey. It was amazing.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

October 19th: Daring Greatly

I first read Daring Greatly last summer (along with The Gift of Imperfection), and I think Brene' Brown is one of the best encouragers out there.

The opening of the book attributes her title to President Teddy Roosevelt from a speech he gave in 1910:

"...who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst. if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly..."

Here are a few quotes from the book:

"Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experiences."  (p. 12)

"I know the yearning to believe that what I'm doing matters and how easy it is to confuse that with the drive to be extraordinary." (p. 23)

"To feel is to be vulnerable." (p. 33)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

October 18th: Gone With the Wind

"I'll think about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day."

Just a couple of weeks ago, I went to a movie theatre to watch the classic film on the silver screen. It was amazing, truly amazing, to see the details we miss on television. It reminded me of what I love about the book--the sweeping drama of the story, the characters and their quirks and foibles (and in some cases, their stereotype), and it rekindled my love for this book.

I don't know when I first read the book, but I remember who first told me about it: my friend Michele in 8th grade. She had a trace of a Southern accent, and when we visited Scott O'Dell, he commented on it. On the way back to school that day, she and her mom were talking about the book and the movie. I was intrigued.

Friday, October 17, 2014

October 17th: Unglued

Being unglued doesn't mean you have to come undone.

I studied this book this past spring at PWOC. I am an emotional gal, so I knew this would be a helpful study.
One of the best things about Lysa TerKeurst is that she takes Biblical truths and puts them on paper in a real and practical way. How can we control our emotional outbursts? How can we know what to do in those situation in which we feel out of our minds with anger or sadness or frustration? This book gives lists, scripts for what one might say in a situation, and Bible verses to study, memorize, internalize, and meditate on.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

October 16th: The Awakening

I first read Kate Chopin's The Awakening in the summer of 1997 after my Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition training in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I had never heard of Chopin before, so when my teacher-classmates all said, "Oh, you MUST read this," I listened.

Chopin was a woman ahead of her time. This book was first published in 1899, but was not really popular again until the latter 20th century. It is now often taught in high school and college, and not necessarily just in a feminist lit course.

I was 27 when I read the novel, and Edna Pontellier ("one who bridges") is 28. Right away I felt a kinship, a sisterhood, with this woman. I read about her disenchantment with her life and her desire for more. The imagery and characters resonated with me on a very deep level.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

October 15th: A Grief Out of Season

In 2002, my parents split up after 35 years of marriage. Their divorce was final the following spring. Their separation came out of nowhere; we were floored and sad, shocked, grieving, confused, and in a great deal of pain. So devastating.

I had joined a club I never wanted to join, but whose membership grows every single day: ACOD, Adult Children of Divorce. Because I am a resource person, I looked for resources. Back in 2002, there was exactly one book available: A Grief Out of Season. (Thankfully now there are several others.)

I was able to borrow this out-of-print book through inter-library loan from the library in the town where I was teaching, a half-hour's drive away from our home. Later on, I found a used copy online.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

October 14th: Believing God

The first online Bible study of its kind, Beth Moore's "Believing God" went online in 2002 and I was so excited to sign up! I had always wanted to do a Beth Moore study, but at the time I hadn't been able to do so.

The study was based on the Bible and what we as Christians say we believe about God. She summed it up thus:

Five Statement Pledge of Faith:
1) God is who He says He is.2) God can do what He says He can do.
3) I am who God says I am.
4) I can do all things through Christ.
5) God's Word is alive and active in me.

Monday, October 13, 2014

October 13th: Bread & Wine

"Practice hospitality." (Romans 12:13)

I've always known the Bible espouses hospitality, but I have struggled on and off with this my whole married life.

Enter Shauna Niequist. I was blessed to be on the launch team for this book, with the opportunity to read the book in advance and try a few of the recipes. (You can read my entire review here.)

This is what I wrote in my review:

One of those weaknesses I confess to you here: Hospitality is rarely easy for me. It's not in my nature to open my home and invite people over on a whim, or even on a plan. I was raised by parents who didn't often entertain, so I didn't really have a model for hospitality. Over and over again throughout my ministry marriage, I've been stretched in this area.

For me, Bread & Wine has been an experience not only in cooking, another weakness I see in myself, but also in challenging me to open my home.

I wrote that a year and a half ago. That next summer we hosted each of our new chaplains in our home for a welcome meal. Those meals were followed by us having the cast party last fall for my daughter's high school musical in our home (27 teenagers!). This spring we hosted a Memorial Day party.

I still consider this book to be the catalyst for conversation about hospitality, welcoming others, sharing food and conversation, and most of all, loving others as Christ does.

It's a work in progress.

To read more of this #31DaysofBooks series, visit the introduction post.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

October 12th: The Cure for the 'Perfect' Life

Today's book is one I recently read and reviewed: The Cure for the "Perfect" Life by Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory. I was blessed to be a part of the launch team, which was such an encouragement to me.

I marked this book up one side and down the other. It's full of practical tips for defeating perfectionism, performancism, people-pleasing, and procrastination. It is not always easy to make the braver choice, but every time I do, I get braver. Since finishing the book, I have found myself procrastinating less often, as well as caring less about what others think of me than I used to. I'm also becoming braver in acknowledging my feelings and hurts, and in the process, moving forward.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

October 11th: Bird by Bird

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is a now-classic book for writers about writing. However, I was not aware of it until the summer of 2003, when I attended a National Writing Project summer institute. Either I was one of the few people who hadn't read the book, or I was the only one--what I remember most was the collective disbelief and incredulity: "You MUST read Anne Lamott! This book is amazing!"

At my first opportunity, I bought the book at Barnes and Noble and started to read.

I had been writing and teaching writing for a decade by this point, and I was well versed in the writing process (prewriting, drafting, revising, publishing). But I don't think I ever felt permission to write truly awful prose until I read this book. There was something about her calling it a "s#!tty" first draft that freed me to write things I hadn't written that summer, to examine instruction in new ways, and to finally, bravely call myself a writer.

Giving me permission to try new things opened up my world that summer, both as a writer and as a teacher.

I count it a coup that when I taught a writing across the curriculum workshop the following spring at the high school where I taught (and where I'd just resigned to stay home for a year), I got the football coach to write a moving personal narrative paragraph and say, "I enjoyed this."

To read more of this #31DaysofBooks series, visit the introduction post.

Friday, October 10, 2014

October 10th: The Glenbrooke Series

Robin Jones Gunn started her career as a writer of children's and teen's books; then in 1995 she began writing novels for the adult market in what was then a fairly new genre: contemporary Christian fiction. No wagons or bonnets or Amish to be found!

I loved these books as a young adult.  The main characters were around my age, struggling with faith as I sometimes did.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

October 9th: GOD Strong

God Strong is the best book out there for military wives. 

This book is a great study and encouragement to those of us whose husbands serve the United States military.

I first became acquainted with Sara Horn in 2007 during my husband's deployment. I had been searching for some kind of support, as I was a new active duty wife after my husband transitioned from reserves to active duty. I don't exactly remember how I found her, but I began reading her blog and learned that her husband, a Navy reservist, was deployed to the same remote country as mine was.

Review: The Dinner List

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle My rating: 4 of 5 stars I heard about this novel last month. It sounded great, because who hasn't m...