Everyday Tidbits...

It's hot. I'm melting. Is summer over yet?

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Great Catch...Review

About the book:
It is the beginning of a new century at Lake Manawa Resort in Iowa, but some things never change. When 22-year-old Emily Graham's meddlesome aunts and grandmother take it upon themselves to find her a husband among the resort guests, the spunky suffragist is determined to politely decline each and every suitor. She has neither the time nor the need for a man in her busy life.

Carter Stockton, a recent college graduate and pitcher for the Manawa Owls baseball team, intends to enjoy every minute of the summer at Lake Manawa, Iowa, before he is forced into the straitlaced business world of his father.

When Emily crashes into Carter at a roller skating rink, neither could guess what would come next. Will Carter strike out? Or will Emily cast her vote for a love that might cost her dreams?

The perfect summer novel,
A Great Catch will enchant readers with its breezy setting and endearing characters.

Emily is a young suffragette anxious to convert everyone to her way of thinking.  She's impetuous, accident prone and charming.  Carter is a handsome baseball player who is resisting his family's decree that he join the family business.  Add meddling aunts and other annoying characters mixed with drama, deceit and lessons learned and you have a fun, light read, perfect for an afternoon escape.

As in Making Waves Lorna Seilstad has done her research for the history of the Lake Manawa area and the turn of the century time period.  I love baseball and stories that feature it and I enjoyed seeing the women's baseball teams of the early 20th century make an appearance here.  

I will admit to occasionally being more annoyed than entertained because of the antics of Emily's aunts and even Emily herself.  I had to roll my eyes and seriously wanted to slap Aunt Ethel silly.  I liked the story, but not as much as I enjoyed Making Waves.  I loved Making Waves. I do, however, look forward to more from Lorna Seilstad and, hopefully, Lake Manawa. 

Second in the Lake Manawa Summers series and while Marguerite and Lilly make a welcome return from Making Waves this novel stands alone just fine.

Available May 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna Hausler of Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Lorna Seilstad here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Paper Garden...Review

About the book:
An inspirational tour de force that proves it’s never too late to be who you might have been.

Mary Delany was seventy-two years old when she noticed a petal drop from a geranium. In a flash of inspiration, she picked up her scissors and cut out a paper replica of the petal, inventing the art of collage. It was the summer of 1772, in England. During the next ten years she completed nearly a thousand cut-paper botanicals (which she called mosaicks) so accurate that botanists still refer to them. Poet-biographer Molly Peacock uses close-ups of these brilliant collages in
The Paper Garden to track the extraordinary life of Delany, friend of Swift, Handel, Hogarth, and even Queen Charlotte and King George III.

How did this remarkable role model for late blooming manage it? After a disastrous teenage marriage to a drunken sixty-one-year-old squire, she took control of her own life, pursuing creative projects, spurning suitors, and gaining friends. At forty-three, she married Jonathan Swift’s friend Dr. Patrick Delany, and lived in Ireland in a true expression of midlife love. But after twenty-five years and a terrible lawsuit, her husband died. Sent into a netherland of mourning, Mrs. Delany was rescued by her friend, the fabulously wealthy Duchess of Portland. The Duchess introduced Delany to the botanical adventurers of the day and a bonanza of exotic plants from Captain Cook’s voyage, which became the inspiration for her art.

Peacock herself first saw Mrs. Delany’s work more than twenty years before she wrote
The Paper Garden, but “like a book you know is too old for you,” she put the thought of the old woman away. She went on to marry and cherish the happiness of her own midlife, in a parallel to Mrs. Delany, and by chance rediscovered the mosaicks decades later. This encounter confronted the poet with her own aging and gave her-and her readers-a blueprint for late-life flexibility, creativity, and change.

I'd never heard of Mary Delany before I read this book.  Her mosaicks are beautiful and her story is compelling.  The book is a combination biography and memoir.  Molly Peacock weaves her own story in and among Mary Delany's and her observations are interesting and somewhat thought-provoking.  This isn't a book to rush through but it was still too slow for me.  It was also much more scholarly than I'd anticipated and at times almost reads like a textbook.

I had a really hard time getting into it.  It fascinated me, it didn't resonate with me.  I do think that The Paper Garden is one I could go back to at some point in my life and savor it then, as I can't now.  Sometimes appreciation of a book is all about timing.  My review seems to be outside the norm, however, and many other reviews are glowing and very positive.

Thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Molly Peacock here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Monday, April 25th:  Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, April 27th:  Allison’s Book Marks
Monday, May 2nd:  Library of Clean Reads
Thursday, May 5th:  Sophisticated Dorkiness
Monday, May 9th:  Life in Review
Tuesday, May 10th:  Broken Teepee
Thursday, May 12th:  Dolce Bellezza
Monday, May 16th:  In the Next Room
Tuesday, May 17th: Rundpinne
Wednesday, May 18th:  Joyfully Retired
Monday, May 23rd:  Picky Girl
Wednesday, May 25th:  2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews

Read 5/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Apothecary's Daughter...Review

About the book:
Lilly Haswell remembers everything—whether she wants to, or not...

As Lilly toils in her father's apothecary, preparing herbs and remedies by rote, she is haunted by memories of her mother's disappearance. Villagers whisper the tale, but her father refuses to discuss it. All the while, she dreams of the world beyond—of travel and adventure and romance.

When a relative offers to host her in London, Lilly discovers the pleasures and pitfalls of fashionable society and suitors, as well as clues about her mother. But will Lilly find what she is searching for—the truth of the past and a love for the future?

Blending romance, family drama, and fascinating historical detail, The Apothecary's Daughter is a novel to savor and share.

Lilly is the brilliant daughter of a brilliant apothecary.  She is as knowledgeable as her father but, being a woman, she isn't able to garner the respect she deserves.  After spending a season in London, she returns home to find her father in ill health and his apothecary shop in near ruin.  As Lilly begins work on restoring her father's shop and the Haswell reputation, she learns who her friends and supporters are.  Mystery abounds as Lilly searches for answers to her mother's disappearance.  Meddling villagers threaten the Haswell reputation, Lilly's brother Charlie causes some problems and secrets are uncovered.

Lilly has several suitors, but the author does a great job keeping the suspense of who will win her hand in the end.  The Christian elements are there but not preachy. 

A delightful story and one I thoroughly enjoyed.  Julie Klassen's research is terrific and this is a fascinating look at the life of an apothecary or early pharmacist.  Fans of Julie Klassen and fans of the Regency era will definitely enjoy it.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Jane Austen Education...Review

About the book:
In A Jane Austen Education, Austen scholar William Deresiewicz turns to the author's novels to reveal the remarkable life lessons hidden within. With humor and candor, Deresiewicz employs his own experiences to demonstrates the enduring power of Austen's teachings. Progressing from his days as an immature student to a happily married man, A Jane Austen Education is the story of one man's discovery of the world outside himself.

A self-styled intellectual rebel dedicated to writers such as James Joyce and Joseph Conrad, Deresiewicz never thought Austen's novels would have anything to offer him. But when he was assigned to read Emma as a graduate student at Columbia, something extraordinary happened. Austen's devotion to the everyday, and her belief in the value of ordinary lives, ignited something in Deresiewicz. He began viewing the world through Austen's eyes and treating those around him as generously as Austen treated her characters. Along the way, Deresiewicz was amazed to discover that the people in his life developed the depth and richness of literary characters - that his own life had suddenly acquired all the fascination of a novel. His real education had finally begun.

Weaving his own story - and Austen's - around the ones her novels tell, Deresiewicz shows how her books are both about education and themselves an education. Her heroines learn about friendship and feeling, about staying young and being good, and, of course, about love. As they grow up, the lessons they learn are imparted to Austen's reader, who learns and grows by their side.

A Jane Austen Education is a testament to the transformative power of literature, a celebration of Austen's mastery, and a joy to read. Whether for a newcomer to Austen or a lifelong devotee, Deresiewicz brings fresh insights to the novelist and her beloved works. Ultimately, Austen's world becomes indelibly entwined with our own, showing the relevance of her message and the triumph of her vision.

A unique look at the works of Jane Austen. William Deresiewicz takes each book and breaks it down to a key point or core lesson that is learned from each book.

Emma:  Everyday Matters.  There is nothing mundane or ordinary.  Every experience we have, every conversation we have, are what create the tapestry that becomes life.

Pride and Prejudice: Growing up. You aren't born perfect. Mistakes make us who we are.

Northanger Abbey: Learning to learn. Pay attention and don't take things for granted.  There are new experiences to be had everywhere.  Life surprises you.

Mansfield Park: Being Good.  Be useful to people, be a good friend.

Persuasion: True Friends.  Friends are the family you choose.  I love that concept.

Sense and Sensibility: Falling in Love. Love works with what you have and who you are.  It challenges you and your true character is what begins to show.

Mine has about 5 bookmarks in it, including two pieces of torn kitchen towel.  I found passages I liked but didn't have a highlighter with me!

This isn't a fast read and it's a bit more scholarly than I originally expected, but then,William Deresiewicz is an English professor.  And, he's a man who not only loves Jane Austen, but knows Jane Austen.  He includes quotes from the novels and quotes from Jane's personal correspondence.  He shares anecdotes and experiences from his own life that define and explain each novel and each core lesson.

A delightful and fascinating book.  Fans of Jane Austen will love it.  Jane Austen scholars will adore it.

Thanks to Trish at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about William Deresiewicz here. You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Tuesday, April 26th: Diary of an Eccentric
Wednesday, April 27th: Nonsuch Book
Monday, May 2nd: The House of the Seven Tails
Tuesday, May 3rd: A Fair Substitute for Heaven
Thursday, May 5th: Book Reviews by Molly
Monday, May 9th: 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
Tuesday, May 10th: Laura’s Reviews
Tuesday, May 17th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Wednesday, May 18th: The Lost Entwife
Thursday, May 19th: Books Like Breathing
Tuesday, May 24th: Overstuffed

Read 5/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Arrivals...Review and Giveaway

About the book:
It's early summer when Ginny and William's peaceful life in Vermont comes to an abrupt halt.

First, their daughter Lillian arrives, with her two children in tow, to escape her crumbling marriage. Next, their son Stephen and his pregnant wife Jane show up for a weekend visit, which extends indefinitely when Jane ends up on bed rest. When their youngest daughter Rachel appears, fleeing her difficult life in New York, Ginny and William find themselves consumed again by the chaos of parenthood - only this time around, their children are facing adult problems.

By summer's end, the family gains new ideas of loyalty and responsibility, exposing the challenges of surviving the modern family--and the old adage, once a parent, always a parent, has never rung so true.


Family dynamics fascinate me so the premise for The Arrivals sounded good.  All the adult children returning home at the same time and all in some sort of crisis.  The problem was that not one of these characters is at all likeable.  Well, except maybe William.  The rest are whiny, complaining, selfish people.  I finished it, hoping these characters might grow on me.  Sorry, no.

Predictably, they all resolve their particular issues and everyone goes their separate ways, leaving William and Ginny empty nesters once more.  But by the time that happened, I didn't care.

People will call it real or endearing or fresh, but for me it was a story that sounded promising but ultimately couldn't deliver.

Mine is only one of many reviews and this is a book that will appeal to many people.  You can find other, more positive reviews of the book at The Last Book I Read, Diane Prokop, BookNAround, Thoughts in Progress, Wee Share, and Dakota Pam.

Thanks to Anna Balasi of Hatchette Books for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Meg Mitchell Moore here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

----------------------------------------
GIVEAWAY:
Thanks to Anna Balasi of Hatchette Books I have 2 copies of The Arrivals to giveaway. 

It really bugs me when you have to jump through tons of hoops in order to enter giveaways, so a comment with your email address will suffice.

However:
If you would like to become a follower that would garner you an additional entry.
If you change your profile to have your email address visible, if it isn't already, you will gain an additional entry.

I ask this because it's so annoying to have someone leave a comment you would like to respond to, but can't, because their email is hidden. This is especially annoying if a question is asked in said comment.

Just tell me in your comment if you've done any of the extras. You don't need to leave separate comments for each thing (too annoying!).

U.S. or Canada addresses only and no P.O. Boxes. Sorry!

Winners will be subject to the one copy per household rule, which means that if they win the same title in two or more contests, they will receive only one copy of the title (or one set in the case of grouped giveaways) in the mail.

This giveaway ends May 28th.

This giveaway is now closed.

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Read 4/11

*
1/5 Stars

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Lightkeeper's Ball...Review

About the book:
Olivia seems to have it all, but her heart yearns for more.

Olivia Stewart's family is one of the Four Hundred-the highest echelon of society in 1910. When her sister dies under mysterious circumstances, Olivia leaves their New York City home for Mercy Falls, California, to determine what befell Eleanor. She suspects Harrison Bennett, the man Eleanor planned to marry. But the more Olivia gets to know him, the more she doubts his guilt-and the more she is drawn to him herself.

When several attempts are made on her life, Olivia turns to Harrison for help. He takes her on a ride in his aeroplane, but then crashes, and they're forced to spend two days alone together. With her reputation hanging by a thread, Harrison offers to marry her to make the situation right. As a charity ball to rebuild the Mercy Falls lighthouse draws near, she realizes she wants more than a sham engagement-she wants Harrison in her life forever. But her enemy plans to shatter the happiness she is ready to grasp. If Olivia dares to drop her masquerade, she just might see the path to true happiness.


Like The Lightkeeper's Daughter this is a light, entertaining story.  There is nothing deep or profound in it.  The premise is rather implausible.   I liked Harrison well enough, but I never did like Olivia, unfortunately, as she was selfish and annoying.  I found her pretense of being Lady Devonworth to be rather dubious and I couldn't believe that Harrison fell for it, even to the point of asking her to marry him without ever knowing her first name or, really, anything about her. 

The villains are appropriately villainous caricatures and everything works out in the end.

Third in the Mercy Falls series, I read the first one, The Lightkeeper's Daughter when I received this one and realized it was part of a series. I've been on the waiting list at the library for the second one, The Lightkeeper's Bride, but I haven't received it yet.  Characters return here from both previous novels, but each book seems to stand alone well.

Fans of Colleen Coble will enjoy it, I'm sure.  I found it to be an entertaining diversion, nothing more.

Thanks to Audra Jennings of the B&B Media Group for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Colleen Coble here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Paradise Valley...Review

About the book:
“I would do a great many things for you.”

Even at sixteen, Jake’s handsome features hold the calm certainty and patient confidence of a man, and Rachel Bender knows—Jake Weaver is the one.

Rachel will grow into a strong young woman with powerful gifts—but in a faraway country, without her Jake. In 1921, Ohio’s new law forces Caleb Bender’s family to seek sanctuary in the wilds of Mexico where the government will not interfere with their Amish way of life, or take their children from them. Nor will it protect them from the bandits terrorizing the countryside.

In an unfamiliar land where no one speaks their language or knows their ways, the Benders establish a homestead in exile. Sisters Emma, Rachel, and Miriam find strengths unimagined, gifts unexpected, and yearning beyond their deepest dreams. Even steadfast Caleb is compelled to wrestle with the demands of faith, only to discover that love has its own demands.

When a law is passed in 1921 Ohio that requires all children to attend public school, Caleb Bender goes to jail rather than send his children to an English school.  When he is finally released, he realizes that he can't stay in a place where his beliefs are challenged and he has no rights in regards to his family.  Learning about a lush farming valley for sale in Mexico, Caleb makes the decision to move.  His daughter Rachel, nearly courting age, is distraught to leave behind the love of her life, Jake Weaver.  But, trusting that God will provide and trusting that her father is doing the right thing, she joins her family in their exodus.

Mexico is wild, untamed and dangerous with marauding bandits.  And, as the Bender family struggles to create a new home, they discover dangers and difficulties they could only imagine.  They must prepare the way for other Amish families to follow and they must continue to adhere to their faith, on their own, without a preacher or a church. As they work together they also discover hidden strengths and a new understanding about faith in God.

Wow.  This is not your typical Amish fiction.  This is such a compelling story and one I didn't want to end.  I loved these characters and I cannot wait to find out what happens to each of them.  They are well developed, believable and even complex in their thoughts and personalities.  Rachel, Emma and Miriam, especially, are terrific.

This story of Amish settlements in Paradise Valley, Mexico is based on historical fact.  Dale Cramer has taken what facts are known and created a fictional masterpiece. I didn't want to put it down and now I'm anxiously awaiting the next book in the series.  This one says it's Book 1 in The Daughters of Caleb Bender series, so I seriously hope there are more books coming and soon.

Thanks to Bethany House for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Dale Cramer here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/11

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Peach Keeper...Review

About the book:
The New York Times bestselling author of
The Girl Who Chased the Moon welcomes you to her newest locale: Walls of Water, North Carolina, where the secrets are thicker than the fog from the town’s famous waterfalls, and the stuff of superstition is just as real as you want it to be.

It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.

But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.

For the bones—those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago—are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town.

Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living.

Resonant with insight into the deep and lasting power of friendship, love, and tradition,
The Peach Keeper is a portrait of the unshakable bonds that—in good times and bad, from one generation to the next—endure forever.

Even though Willa returns to Walls of Water, North Carolina after her father's death, she is able to keep her distance from those people in her past.  That is, until she receives an invitation to a gala celebrating the restoration of the Jackson family home and the Women's Society Club organized by her grandmother 75 years previously.  Suddenly she is thrust back into her past and an alliance with Paxton Osgood, a former classmate.

Our connection to our history fascinates me and Sarah Addison Allen is able to write across the generations, linking past and present so well together.  As Willa and Paxton work together to uncover the truth about the skeleton and their grandmothers' connection to it, they also discover that the bonds of friendship transcend time and age.  Not only their grandmothers' friendship, but their own.

Sebastian and Colin are perfect complements to Paxton and Willa and I cheered when Paxton finally discovered her backbone and made decisions for herself.

I have loved every Sarah Addison Allen book I've read, but I think that The Peach Keeper is my favorite.  Her books are enchanting and captivating.  Her characters are likeable and there is always a mysterious, magical element.  My favorite part of the book?  When Sebastian tells Paxton, "Every life needs a little space.  It leaves room for good things to enter it."  I think that's worthy of being placed on the wall of your family home!

Thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Sarah Addison Allen here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see more reviews and tour stops here.

Wednesday, April 13th:  Knowing the Difference
Friday, April 15th:  Peeking Between the Pages
Monday, April 18th:  Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, April 19th:  Book Reviews by Molly
Wednesday, April 20th:  A Few More Pages
Thursday, April 21st:  Sara’s Organized Chaos
Friday, April 22nd:  Life in Review
Monday, April 25th:  The Broke and the Bookish
Tuesday, April 26th:  Life in the Thumb
Wednesday, April 27th:  Crazy for Books
Friday, April 29th:  A Fair Substitute for Heaven
Monday, May 2nd:  Fizzy Thoughts
Tuesday, May 3rd:  Coffee and a Book Chick
Wednesday, May 4th:  Jenn’s Bookshelves
Thursday, May 5th:  Alison’s Book Marks
Friday, May 6th:  Bookfoolery and Babble
Monday, May 9th:  A Library of My Own
Tuesday, May 10th:  Teresa’s Reading Corner
Wednesday, May 11th:  Unabridged Chick
Monday, May 16th:  A Bookshelf Monstrosity
Wednesday, May 18th:  Two Kids and Tired
Friday, May 20th:  In the Next Room

Read 5/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Heart Divided...Review

About the book:
It is 1878 and the Caldwells and Wainwrights have been feuding for decades. Still, Sarah Caldwell has misgivings when her father pressures her into distracting a ranch hand while he and her brothers rob the Wainwright place. When it becomes clear that hand is actually Cord Wainwright, Sarah realizes she needs to lay low. But Cord spots her in town and, with the sheriff away, makes a citizen's arrest, dragging her off to the Wainwright ranch until the sheriff's return. As the feud boils over, Cord and Sarah make a most inconvenient discovery--they are falling in love. Can they betray their families for love? Or will their families betray them?

Against the beautiful and wild backdrop of the Rocky Mountains comes this sweeping saga of romance, betrayal, and forgiveness from beloved author Kathleen Morgan.


A fun read with a Hatfield and McCoy type feud. Cord and Sarah are terrific characters and I loved Nick. Danny was adorable and the villains appropriately villainous and unexpected. This is an entertaining and compelling story and one I enjoyed.

This seems to be the first in a series and introduces many characters who could potentially play a part in future books. At times I felt like I was missing past history, but hopefully many of these characters and their histories will be fleshed out in future books.

The Christian elements are well balanced between light and preachy. The romance elements and chemistry are a bit stronger than you might find in Christian historical novels, but here it was refreshing. 


Available May 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna Hausler from Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Kathleen Morgan here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, May 16, 2011

How Huge the Night...Review

About the book:
Fifteen-year-old Julien Losier just wants to fit in. But after his family moves to a small village in central France in hopes of outrunning the Nazis, he is suddenly faced with bigger challenges than the taunting of local teens.

Nina Krenkel left her country to obey her father's dying command: Take your brother and leave Austria. Burn your papers. Tell no one you are Jews. Alone and on the run, she arrives in Tanieux, France, dangerously ill and in despair.

Thrown together by the chaos of war, Julien begins to feel the terrible weight of the looming conflict and Nina fights to survive. As France falls to the Nazis, Julien struggles with doing what is right, even if it is not enough-and wonders whether or not he really can save Nina from almost certain death.

Based on the true story of the town of Le Chambon-the only French town honored by Israel for rescuing Jews from the Holocaust, How Huge the Night is a compelling, coming-of-age drama that will keep teens turning the pages as it teaches them about a fascinating period of history and inspires them to think more deeply about their everyday choices.

A coming-of-age story set during the drama of France in World War 2.  Upon relocating from Paris to his father's childhood home in rural France from Paris, Julien finds himself on the outside of the other boys his age.  When, Benjamin, a Jewish refugee comes to live with him, the ostracism is worse.  As the war breaks out, there is uncertainty and distrust, especially after Germany invades France.

Nina and her brother Gustav escape Austria and, after harrowing, near-death experiences, finally make their way to rural France. 

As the novel progresses, however, these young people learn about life, friendship, politics and loyalty.  We learn about the scars that were left from World War 1 and how that affected the parents who lived through it as they try and help their children adjust to the new war and all it brings.  The story is slow-paced, yet thoughtful and compelling.  Julien's and Nina's stories finally cross, but there is no real personal interaction between the two of them which was disappointing given that the teaser indicates differently. 

This is a slower-paced, thought-provoking story with elements based on factual events and one that might appeal to young people, especially those who like historical novels or stories about this time period. I think it would be a terrific book for discussion, either in a youth book group or a classroom setting.  The Christian elements are strong, as is the importance of belief in and reliance on God, regardless of ones faith.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Kregel for the opportunity to review this book.  You can read the first chapter here.  You can learn more about Heather and Lydia Munn here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

How Huge the Night...Wildcard!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card authors are:


and the book:

Kregel Publications (March 9, 2011)
***Special thanks to Cat Hoort of Kregel Publications for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:


Heather Munn was born in Northern Ireland of American parents and grew up in the south of France. She decided to be a writer at the age of five when her mother read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books aloud, but worried that she couldn’t write about her childhood since she didn’t remember it. When she was young, her favorite time of day was after supper when the family would gather and her father would read a chapter from a novel. Heather went to French school until her teens, and grew up hearing the story of Le Chambonsur-Lignon, only an hour’s drive away. She now lives in rural Illinois with her husband, Paul, where they offer free spiritual retreats to people coming out of homelessness and addiction. She enjoys wandering in the woods, gardening, writing, and splitting wood.

Lydia Munn was homeschooled for five years because there was no school where her family served as missionaries in the savannahs of northern Brazil. There was no public library either, but Lydia read every book she could get her hands on. This led naturally to her choice of an English major at Wheaton College. Her original plan to teach high school English gradually transitioned into a lifelong love of teaching the Bible to both adults and young people as a missionary in France. She and her husband, Jim, have two children: their son, Robin, and their daughter, Heather.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

When had God ever stopped a war because a teenager asked him to?

For fifteen-year-old Julien Losier, life will never be the same. His family has relocated to southern France to outrun Hitler’s menace. But Julien doesn’t want to run. He doesn’t want to huddle around the radio at night, waiting to hear news through buzzing static. Julien doesn’t want to wait.
Angry, frustrated, and itching to do something, Julien finds a battle everywhere he turns.
Soon after his family opens their house to a Jewish boy needing refuge, Julien meets Nina, a young Austrian who has fled her home by her father’s dying command. Nina’s situation is grave and Julien suddenly realizes the enormity of having someone’s life or death depend on… him.

Thrown together by a conflict that’s too big for them to understand, these young lives struggle to know what to do, even if it is not enough. Is there a greater purpose in the shadows of this terrible war? Or will their choices put them in greater danger?

Endorsements:

“The Munns have written an engrossing historical novel that is faithful to the actual events of World War II in western Europe during the tumultuous year 1940. But How Huge the Night is more than good history; it is particularly refreshing because the reader sees the conflict through the lives of teenagers who are forced to grapple with their honest questions about the existence and goodness of God in the midst of community, family, and ethnic tensions in war-ravaged France.”—Lyle W. Dorsett, Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

“Seldom have the horrors of war upon adolescents—or the heroism of which they are capable—been so clearly portrayed. I loved this coming-of-age story.”—Patricia Sprinkle, author of Hold Up the Sky


“The book expertly weaves together the lives of its characters at a frightening moment in conflicted times. As we read of their moral dilemmas and of their choices, we too wonder, Would I do has these in the story have done?”—Karen Mains, Director, Hungry Souls



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (March 9, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 082543310X
ISBN-13: 978-0825433108

AND NOW...AN EXCERPT:

From Chapter 23

Thursday the power came back on. They sat in the living room, around the radio that crackled with static; they looked at each other, and then away. The room grew quiet as the announcer began to speak.

“Since Mussolini’s declaration of war on France two days ago, Italian troops are pushing west—”

Mama was on her feet. “The thief!” she hissed. “The backstabber, the coward!” Her face was red. Everyone was staring. She sat down.

Papa looked at her. “Saw his chance, I guess.”

“He’s a shame to his nation,” Mama snapped. Julien stared. Then they heard the shift in the announcer’s voice and turned sharply to the radio.

“German troops are approaching Paris at a rapid pace. As we speak, the vanguard is reported to be fifteen kilometers from Versailles. This will be our last broadcast for a while.”

They did not look at each other. The silence was total.

“Today Paris has been declared an ‘open city.’ Our military will not defend it. This decision was made to avoid bombardment and the great destruction and loss of life that it entails. . . .”

Julien realized he had not been breathing. It was an amazing thing, breathing. Tears shone in Mama’s eyes.

“They won’t bomb Paris,” said Papa quietly.

“They won’t bomb Paris,” Mama whispered.

Benjamin stood, his face very still. He walked slowly to the door and took the stairs.

Julien waited, breathing, seeing Paris; seeing Vincent and his mother look up out of their second-floor window at a clear blue sky. He waited until the news ended, until they had read a psalm that said The Lord has delivered.

Then he followed Benjamin.

Benjamin’s door was closed. Julien hesitated, biting his lip, and went into his own room.

He looked out the window in the fading light. They wouldn’t defend it. This was it, then. What Pastor Alex said was true. German tanks would roll down the Champs-Elysées for real in just a couple days. Then the boches would come here. And they would stay.

He pulled Vincent’s last letter out from under his nightstand. I can’t believe you almost died, it said. That’s crazy. He got up, and went and knocked on Benjamin’s door.

No answer.

“Benjamin? You all right?”

“Fine.”

Julien opened the door. Benjamin turned quickly, scowling.

“Did I say you could come in?”

“Well sorry,” Julien growled. How am I supposed to help when he’s like this? “Just wanted to say good night.”

“Good night then.”

“Look, it’s not as bad as it could have been, okay? They could have bombed the place to shreds like Ro—” He bit his tongue.

“You’re right,” said Benjamin, looking away. “That’s good for your relatives. I’m glad.”

“And your parents!”

“Nothing’s good for my parents.” His voice was toneless. “Look, Julien, we can talk about this in the morning. I need to go to bed.”

Julien knew when to quit. He turned away. “Sleep well.”

“You too.”

But he couldn’t. He turned and turned in his bed, twisting the sheets.

He got up and looked out at the crescent moon and the stars high over Tanieux, so white, so far, always the same; they would still be there when the Germans were here; they would still be there all his life. They were still there over Rotterdam, too. It didn’t make any difference.

When he finally slept, he dreamed: Paris on the fourteenth of July, the fireworks, bursts of blue, of gold, of red above the city. A whirling rocket going up with a hiss and a bang. Then a louder bang. Then a bang that threw up a great shower of dirt and stones, and people screaming, people running as the shells began to fall—

He woke, and lay shivering. He got up to close the window. The stars shone down like cold eyes.

He heard a faint scratching. Mice maybe. A floorboard creaked. He listened.

And he heard it. Very slow, stealthy footsteps going down the stairs.

He sat up slowly. Magali or Benjamin. Tiptoeing down the stairs to the kitchen, wishing there was something to eat. . . . He got out of bed and leaned out the window, watching for the faint light that would come through from the kitchen. No light came.

But on the ground floor, the heavy front door opened, and a dark shape slipped out into the street. A shadow with a suitcase in its hand.

He ran across the hall and threw open Benjamin’s door. A neatly made bed, a letter on the pillow. He grabbed it, ran back to his room, jerked his pants on over his pajamas, and ran downstairs in his socks. He’d catch him. Benjamin was on foot. He had to catch him. He scrawled on the flip side of the note, I’ve gone after him, pulled on his shoes and jacket, and flew down the stairs and into the dark.

He raced down the shadowed street and stopped at the corner, heart pounding, looking both ways. North, over the hill: the road to St. Etienne. A train to Paris, like he’d said? There were no trains now. Or south—south to where? Oh Lord if I choose wrong I’ll never find him.

Think. What would he do if it were him? He’d go south—north was suicide, but—he didn’t know, he didn’t know Benjamin. Who did? Nothing is good for my parents, he’d said—he didn’t seem to even care that Paris wouldn’t be bombed—

Because his parents weren’t in Paris.

Julien turned, suddenly sure, and ran.

The Kellers had left Germany because of Hitler and his people. Would they stay in Paris and wait for them? “Let’s walk south,” Benjamin had said—and that stupid map—he should have guessed.

He ran, breathing hard, his eyes on the dark road ahead. Oh God. Oh Jesus. Don’t let me miss him please—please—

He broke free of the houses; the Tanne gleamed in front of him under the splintered moon, cut by the dark curve of the bridge. He froze. He ducked into the shadows and breathed.

There on the bridge was a slender figure leaning on the parapet, looking down at the dark water.

Oh God. Oh Jesus. Now what?

Benjamin turned and took a long, last look at Tanieux. Then he adjusted his backpack, picked up his suitcase, and walked away.

Julien slipped out of the shadows and up to the bridge, his heart beating help me Jesus help me, his mind searching for words. Come home. And if he said no? Drag him? Help me Jesus. He was across the bridge, ten paces behind Benjamin; he broke into a silent run on the grassy verge of the road. He caught up to him. Laid a hand on his arm.

“Benjamin.”

Benjamin whirled, eyes wild in the moonlight. They stared at each other. “Why.” said Julien. “Tell me why.” His voice was harder than he meant it to be.

“Let me go.”

“No.” He tightened his grip on Benjamin’s arm.

Benjamin tried to pull away. “Julien, let me go. You have no idea. You have no idea what they’re like.”

“The boches?” This time his voice came out small.

“The Nazis, Julien. Ever heard of them? Yeah, you heard they don’t like Jews—I don’t think any of you people understand.” The sweep of his arm took in the school and the sleeping town. “Your parents are great, Julien—offering shelter and all—they really are. But they don’t know. Yet.”

But they do. They know. “Know what? What’ll they—do?”

“I’m not waiting around to find out.” His face was white and deadly serious. “Trust me on this, Julien. They are coming here and when they do, it’s better for you if I’m long gone.” I believe it is very dangerous to be a Jew in Germany. And soon—

Julien stood silent. The night wind touched his face; the hills were shadows on the horizon where they blotted out the stars. Suddenly he felt how large the world was, how huge the night, how small they stood on the road in the light of the waning moon. Ahead, the road bent into the pine woods, and in his mind, Julien saw Benjamin walking away, a small form carrying a suitcase into the darkness under the trees. His fingers bit into Benjamin’s arm.

“I don’t care,” he said savagely. “Where would you go?”

Benjamin said nothing; the moonlight quivered in his eyes as they filled with tears. He turned his head away. “I don’t know.” His voice shook.

Julien caught him by the shoulders, gripped him hard. “Well I do,” he said fiercely. “You’re coming home.”

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Lost Girls...Review

About the book:
With their thirtieth birthdays looming, Jen, Holly, and Amanda are feeling the pressure to hit certain milestones—score the big promotion, find a soul mate, have 2.2 kids. Instead, they make a pact to quit their jobs, leave behind everything familiar, and embark on a yearlong round-the-world search for inspiration and direction.

Traveling 60,000 miles across four continents, Jen, Holly, and Amanda push themselves far outside their comfort zones to embrace every adventure. Ultimately, theirs is a story of true friendship—a bond forged by sharing beds and backpacks, enduring exotic illnesses, trekking across mountains, and standing by one another through heartaches, whirlwind romances, and everything in the world in between.


Taking a sabbatical and traveling sounds fun.  Any traveling is fun, I can attest to that.  And, taking a year off of work and life could be a fascinating experience.  Jen, Holly and Amanda did just that and traveled the world, seeking adventure.  This memoir is told from their alternating perspectives and narratives.  The book is refreshingly honest and they hold nothing back when it comes to conflicts and issues between them.

There are some fun anecdotes and a lot of drama.  I would have liked less drama and boyfriend issues as I never came to care about these girls and their personal lives, but I was curious about the places they visited.

I also think I would have related more to this if I was a single, 20-something searching for adventure.  I'm a 40-something wife and mother who has traveled a bit and is quite happy with her life as it is. We do plan more traveling as our children get a little older and I love reading about adventures or experiences in places I'd like to visit.  What I didn't like and could have done without was all the details and information about parties and pubs and exploits.  None of that added to my enjoyment of this memoir.

I think fans of books like Eat, Pray, Love will enjoy this.  It wasn't one that particularly resonated with me. However, there are many more, very positive reviews at the links listed below.  Mine seems to be outside the norm, which isn't unusual!

Thanks to Trish at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about The Lost Girls here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Tuesday, April 26th: Book Journey
Wednesday, April 27th: A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, May 2nd: Book Club Classics!
Wednesday, May 4th: Reading on a Rainy Day
Thursday, May 5th: Write Meg
Tuesday, May 10th: 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
Tuesday, May 10th: Books in the City
Wednesday, May 11th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Thursday, May 12th: My Reading Room
Friday, May 13th: Amused By Books
Monday, May 16th: The House of the Seven Tails
Tuesday, May 17th: Books Like Breathing
Wednesday, May 18th: Steph and Tony Investigate

* *
2/5 Stars

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Family Motto

I keep this blog pretty much only book related.  But, I was thinking about something the other day and had to share...


Many people have a family motto or family sayings.  They are kind and sweet and sometimes spiritual.  And, in the trendy craze of the day, they are often printed out in fancy vinyl lettering and placed on the walls of our homes.


And, many are phrases or sayings I like.


This is actually one of my favorite quotes.


Isn't this sweet?

Our family motto?

"You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter and medical attention. 
Anything else that you get is a privilege."

Our family motto? It comes from Regulations for Inmates U.S.P., ALCATRAZ at Alcatraz Island in San Francisco.  It's something my husband likes to say when our kids get whiny or are complaining about something, usually something they're deprived of.  And, according to them, they are deprived of everything that is wonderful and important in life.

The rest of regulation #5 includes: "You earn your privileges by conducting yourself properly. "Good Standing" is a term applied to inmates who have a good conduct record and a good work record and who are not undergoing disciplinary restrictions."


I wonder how it would look in vinyl lettering on our wall?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

None But You/For You Alone...Review

About the books:
Eight years ago, when he had nothing but his future to offer, Frederick Wentworth fell in love with Anne Elliot, the gentle daughter of a haughty, supercilious baronet. Sir Walter Elliot refused to countenance a marriage, and Anne's godmother, Lady Russell, strongly advised Anne against him. Persuaded by those nearest to her, Anne had given him up and he had taken his broken heart to sea. When Jane Austen's Persuasion opens in the year 1814, Frederick Wentworth, now a famous and wealthy captain in His Majesty's Navy, finds himself back in England and, as fate would have it, residing as a guest in Anne's former home. Now, it is the baronet who is in financial difficulties, and Anne exists only at her family's beck and call. For eight long years, Frederick had steeled his heart against her. Should he allow Anne into his heart again, or should he look for love with younger, prettier woman in the neighbourhood who regard him as a hero?

Captain Frederick Wentworth, lately returned to England from a distinguished naval career fighting Napoleon, had re-visited the scene of his romantic defeat of eight years previous at the hands of Miss Anne Elliot to find his former love a pale, worn shadow of herself. Attracted by the lively young ladies in the area who regarded him as a hero, he had ignored Anne and entangled himself with Louisa Musgrove, a headstrong young woman who seemed all that Anne was not. Now, because of his careless behaviour and Louisa's heedlessness, his future appeared tied to her just at the moment when it had become painfully clear that Anne was still everything he truly wanted. In honour, he belonged to Louisa, but his heart was full of Anne. What was he to do?

Persuasion is one of my favorite Jane Austen novels.  Anne Elliot is my favorite heroine and I adore Captain Wentworth.  The idea of knowing Captain Wentworth's thoughts was very appealing.  That the book cover contained an endorsement from Pamela Aiden persuaded me to pick these up. I loved Pamela Aidan's take on Mr. Darcy, but these books completely miss the mark. 

I can't picture this Captain Wentworth.  While None But You captures his voice better than For You Alone, this man is not Jane Austen's captain.  This man references that while he visited prostitutes, he thought about Anne.  And, when Anne finally accepts him, this Captain Wentworth has no problems running away with her and getting married in some inn and spending his honeymoon night with her in the sordid room left vacant by the inn's working girl.  This is wrong on so many levels.

If you want to read about Captain Wentworth, read the original  Persuasion and draw your own conclusions as to his actions and frame of mind.  Don't bother with this drivel.

Thanks to my local library for having copies I could borrow and not buy.

Read 5/11

*
1/5 Stars

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Lost Girls...Preview

About the book:
With their thirtieth birthdays looming, Jen, Holly, and Amanda are feeling the pressure to hit certain milestones—score the big promotion, find a soul mate, have 2.2 kids. Instead, they make a pact to quit their jobs, leave behind everything familiar, and embark on a yearlong round-the-world search for inspiration and direction.

Traveling 60,000 miles across four continents, Jen, Holly, and Amanda push themselves far outside their comfort zones to embrace every adventure. Ultimately, theirs is a story of true friendship—a bond forged by sharing beds and backpacks, enduring exotic illnesses, trekking across mountains, and standing by one another through heartaches, whirlwind romances, and everything in the world in between.


About the author(s):
Jennifer Baggett is currently pursuing a freelance writing career and conspiring with her fellow Lost Girls on their next great travel and business adventures. Most recently she served as a Marketing Manager in the Branded Entertainment and Sponsorships Department at the Sundance Channel. She held the position of Integrated Marketing Manager for Vh1, Vh1.com and Vh1 Classic, and she worked in the Marketing/Ad Sales department at NBC Universal. She hails from Bowie, MD, and lives in New York City.

Amanda Pressner is a travel and lifestyle journalist and has served as Senior Nutrition Editor at Shape magazine and assistant editor at Self. She has contributed to national publications, including USA Today, Travel + Leisure, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Fitness, Prevention, Woman’s Day, First for Women, Seventeen, and Brides. She is a native of Tampa, FL, and lives in New York City.

Holly C. Corbett is a freelance writer who worked as an editor in the “Happiness” department of Self and served as the service and travel editor at Woman’s Day magazine. Her work has appeared in other publications such as Women’s Health, Prevention, Shape, Fitness, Seventeen, and Newsday. She lives in Syracuse, NY.

-----------------
Thanks to Trish at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to preview this book.  You can learn more about The Lost Girls here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Tuesday, April 26th: Book Journey
Wednesday, April 27th: A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, May 2nd: Book Club Classics!
Wednesday, May 4th: Reading on a Rainy Day
Thursday, May 5th: Write Meg
Tuesday, May 10th: 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
Tuesday, May 10th: Books in the City
Wednesday, May 11th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Thursday, May 12th: My Reading Room
Friday, May 13th: Amused By Books
Monday, May 16th: The House of the Seven Tails
Tuesday, May 17th: Books Like Breathing
Wednesday, May 18th: Steph and Tony Investigate