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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Threads of Hope...Review

When Kristin Eikaas arrives in America, she encounters prejudice and destructive superstition that is infecting the town. Will she have the courage to stand up for what is right—even against her own family?

The year is 1848, and Kristin Eikaas has sailed from Norway to make a new life for herself in Wisconsin. It doesn’t take long for her Uncle Lars to warn her about the Sundberg family. When she asks why, Lars tells her that Karl Sundberg’s second wife is an Indian who “casts evil spells on the good people of this community.” Having just left the old country where superstitions abound, Kristin believes her uncle and heeds his warning.On the day after her arrival, the family attends the wedding of a fellow church member. At the reception that follows, Kristin meets Sam Sundberg and thinks he’s charming. Still, she can’t help but remember her uncle’s warning. After coming to the rescue of Sam’s half-sister, Kristen is ostracized by her family and the entire community and sent to work at the only place that will take her in—the Sundberg farm. When she learns of Sam’s true nature, his benevolence toward others, his care and concern, she’s finally able to lay her belief in superstitions to rest and put her entire trust in the Lord. Furthermore, she can’t help but fall in love with Sam, the man who helped her understand this truth. She knows her uncle will never approve of the match. Will she have the courage to follow her heart?

After the death of her family, Kristin Eikaas leaves Norway and arrives in Wisconsin at her uncle's farm.  Anxious for a new start, Kristin quickly discovers that her uncle was less than honest about his situation and she finds herself in a difficult, abusive home.  Her uncle has a deep dislike for the Sundberg family because Sam Sundberg's stepmother is Indian.  Sam's father doesn't like the Sundberg's because he believes they stole silver from him years before.  Yet, Kristin and Sam find themselves drawn to each other and when she helps his young sister, her family kicks her out.  Sam's family brings her into their home as household help and Kristin finds herself falling in love.

As the feud between the Sundberg's and the Eikaas' grows, the town and church congregation find themselves divided.  Discovering how, and if,  that divisiveness can be healed makes Threads of Hope a compelling novel.

Some of the dialogue was a bit stilted and formal at times, but this was a sweet story about love and forgiveness.  Andrea Boeshaar has a gift for creating realistic characters and situations. I've enjoyed everything I've read from her so far and as this is the first book in the Fabric of Time series, I eagerly look forward to more.

Thanks to Jon of Charisma House and First Wildcard for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Andrea Boeshaar here. You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars


Threads of Hope...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 author is:


and the book:

Realms (January 3, 2012)

***Special thanks to Jon Wooten of Charisma House for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar is a certified Christian life coach; a popular speaker at writers’ conferences, workshops, and women’s groups; and the author of numerous published books, including the Seasons of Redemption series: Unwilling Warrior, Uncertain Heart, Unexpected Love, and Undaunted Faith.

Visit the author's website.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Kristin Eikaas has her hopes set on a new life in America.

The year is 1848, and Kristin Eikaas has traveled from Norway to Wisconsin with dreams of a new life. But when she arrives, she finds one disappointment after another. Worse, her superstitious uncle now believes that his neighbor’s Oneida Indian wife has put a curse on Kristin. Everyone knows the Sundbergs put spells on people…

Everyone except Kristin. Her run-ins with Sam Sundberg only prove that he is a good man from a Christian family. But when her uncle discovers she’s been associating with Sam, his temper flares. To escape his wrath, Kristin gratefully accepts a job as the Sundbergs’ house girl, finding solace at the family’s spinning wheel.

In the time Sam and Kristin spend together, their friendship develops into much more, and Sam prays about a match between them. But opposition threatens to derail their newfound love. Will they have the courage to stand up for what is right—even against their own families?

Product Details:
  • List Price: $13.99
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Realms (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616384972
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616384975

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER: 


September 1848

It looks like Norway.

The thought flittered across nineteen-year-old Kristin Eikaas’s mind as Uncle Lars’s wagon bumped along the dirt road. The docks of Green Bay, Wisconsin, were behind them, and now they rode through a wooded area that looked just as enchanting as the forests she’d left in Norway. Tall pine trees and giant firs caused the sunshine to dapple on the road. Kristin breathed in the sweet, fresh air. How refreshing it felt in her lungs after being at sea for nearly three months and breathing in only salty sea air or the stale air in her dark, crowded cabin.

A clearing suddenly came into view, and a minute or so later, Kristin eyed the farm fields stretched before her. The sight caused an ache of homesickness. Her poppa had farmed . . .

“Your trip to America was good, ja?” Uncle Lars asked in Norwegian, giving Kristin a sideways glance.

He resembled her father so much that her heart twisted painfully with renewed grief. Except she’d heard about Onkel—about his temper—how he had to leave Norway when he was barely of age, because, Poppa had said, trouble followed him.

But surely he’d grown past all of that. His letters held words of promise, and there was little doubt that her uncle had made a new life for himself here in America.

Just as she would.

Visions of a storefront scampered across her mind’s eye—a shop in which she could sell her finely crocheted and knitted items. A shop in which she could work the spinning wheel, just as Mor had . . .

Uncle Lars arched a brow. “You are tired, liten niese?”

Ja. It was a long journey.” Kristin sent him a sideways glance.

“I am grateful I did not come alone. The Olstads made good traveling companions.”

Her uncle cleared his throat and lowered his voice. “But you have brought my inheritance, ja?” He arched a brow.

Ja.” Kristin thought of the priceless possession she’d brought from Norway.

“And you would not hold out on your onkel, would you?”

Prickles of unease caused Kristin to shift in her seat. She resisted the urge to touch the tiny gold and silver cross pendent suspended from a dainty chain that hung around her neck. Her dress concealed it. She couldn’t give it up, even though it wasn’t legal for a woman to inherit anything in Norway. But the necklace had been her last gift from Mor. A gift from one’s mother wasn’t an inheritance . . . was it? “No, Onkel.”

She turned and peered down from her perch into the back of the wooden wagon bed. Peder Olstad smiled at her, and Kristin relaxed some. Just a year older, he was the brother of Kristin’s very best friend who had remained in Norway with their mother. She and Peder had grown up together, and while he could be annoying and bad tempered at times, he was the closest thing to a brother that she had. And Sylvia—Sylvia was closer than a sister ever could be. It wouldn’t be long, and she and Mrs. Olstad would come to America too. That would be a

happy day!

“You were right,” John Olstad called to Uncle Lars in their native tongue. “Lots of fertile land in this part of the country. I hope to purchase some acres soon.”

“And after you are a landowner for five years, you can be a citizen of America and you can vote.” The Olstad men smiled broadly and replied in unison. “Oh, jaja . . . ”

Uncle Lars grinned, causing dozens of wrinkles to appear around his blue eyes. His face was tanned from farming beneath the hot sun, and his tattered leather hat barely concealed the abundance of platinum curls growing out of his large head. “Oh, ja, this is very good land. I am glad I persuaded Esther to leave the Muskego settlement and move northeast. But, as you will soon see, we are still getting settled.”

Ja, how’s that, Lars?”

Kristin heard the note of curiosity in Mr. Olstad’s voice.

“I purchased the land and built a barn and a cabin.” He paused and gave a derisive snort. “Well, a fine home takes time and money.”

“Oh, ja, that way.” Mr. Olstad seemed to understand.

And Kristin did too. One couldn’t expect enormous comforts out in the Wisconsin wilderness.

Just then they passed a stately home situated on the Fox River. Two quaint dormers peered from the angled roof, which appeared to be supported by a pair of white pillars.

“That is Mr. Morgan Martin’s home. He is a lawyer in town.”

Uncle Lars delivered the rest of his explanation with a sneer. “And an Indian agent.”

“Indians?” Kristin’s hand flew to her throat.

“Do not fret. The soldiers across the river at Fort Howard protect the area.”

Kristin forced her taut muscles to relax.

“Out here the deer are plentiful and fishing is good. Fine lumber up here too. But the Norwegian population is small. Nevertheless, we have our own church, and the reverend speaks our language.”

“A good thing,” Mr. Olstad remarked.

“I cannot wait for the day when Far owns land,” Peder said, glancing at Mr. Olstad. “Lots of land.” The warm wind blew his auburn hair outward from his narrow face, and his hazel eyes sparked with enthusiasm, giving the young man a somewhat wild appearance. “But no farming for me. I want to be rich someday.”

“As do we all!” exclaimed Mr. Olstad, whose appearance was an older, worn-out version of his son’s.

Kristin’s mind had parked on land ownership. “And once you are settled, Sylvia will come to America. I cannot wait. I miss her so much.”

She grappled with a fresh onset of tears. Not only was Sylvia her best friend, but she and the entire Olstad clan had also become like family to her ever since a smallpox epidemic ravaged their little village two years ago, claiming the lives of Kristin’s parents and two younger brothers. When Uncle Lars had learned of the tragic news, he offered her a place to stay in his home if she came to America. Onkel wrote that she should be with her family, so Kristin had agreed to make the voyage. Her plans to leave Norway had encouraged the Olstads to do

the same. But raising the funds to travel took time and much hard work. While the Olstads scrimped and saved up their crop earnings, Kristin did spinning, weaving, knitting, and sewing for those with money to spare. By God’s grace, they were finally here.

Uncle Lars steered the wagon around a sharp bend in the rutty road. He drove to the top of a small hill, and Kristin could see the blue Lake Michigan to her left and farm fields to her right.

Then a lovely white wood-framed house came into view. It didn’t look all that different from the home they’d just past, with dormers, a covered front porch, and stately pillars bearing the load of a wide overhang. She marveled at the homestead’s large, well-maintained barn and several outbuildings. American homes looked like this? Then no wonder Mr. Olstad couldn’t wait to own his own farm!

Up ahead Kristin spied a lone figure of a man. She could just barely make out his faded blue cambric shirt, tan trousers, and the hoe in his hands as he worked the edge of the field. Closer still, she saw his light brown hair springing out from beneath his hat. As the wagon rolled past him, the man ceased his labor and turned their way. Although she couldn’t see his eyes as he squinted into the sunshine, Kristin did catch sight of his tanned face. She guessed his age to be not too much more than hers and decided he was really quite handsome.

“Do not even acknowledge the likes of him,” Uncle Lars spat derisively. “Good Christians do not associate with Sam Sundberg or any members of his family.”

Oh, dear, too late! Kristin had already given him a little smile out of sheer politeness. She had assumed he was a friend or neighbor. But at her uncle’s warning she quickly lowered her gaze.

Kristin’s ever-inquiring nature got the best of her. “What is so bad about that family?”

“They are evil—like the Martins. Even worse, Karl Sundberg is married to a heathen Indian woman who casts spells on the good people of this community.”

“Spells?” Peder’s eyes widened.

Ja, spells. Why else would some folks’ crops fail while Karl’s flourish? He gets richer and richer with his farming in the summer, his logging camps in the winter, and his fur trading with heathens, while good folks like me fall on hard times.”

“Hard times?” Peder echoed the words.

Ja, same seed. Same fertile ground. Same golden opportunity.”

Uncle Lars swiveled to face the Olstads. “I will tell you why that happens. The Sundbergs have hexed good Christians like me.” He wagged his head. “Oh, they are an evil lot, those Sundbergs and Martins. Same as the Indians.”

Indians? Curiosity got the better of her, and Kristin swung around in the wagon to get one last glimpse of Sam Sundberg. She could hardly believe he was as awful as her uncle described. Why, he even removed his hat just now and gave her a cordial nod.

“Turn around, niese, and mind your manners!” Uncle Lars’s large hand gripped her upper arm and he gave her a mild shake.

“I . . . I am sorry, Onkel,” Kristin stammered. “But I have never seen an Indian.”

“Sam Sundberg is not an Indian. It is his father’s second wife and their children. Oneida half-breeds is what we call them.”

“Half-breed, eh?”

Kristin glanced over her shoulder and saw Peder stroke his chin.

“Interesting,” he added.

“How very interesting.” Kristin couldn’t deny her interest was piqued. “Are there many Indians living in the Wisconsin Territory?”

Ja, they trespass on my land, but I show my gun and they leave without incident. Sundberg brings his Indian wife to church.” He wagged his head. “Such a disgrace.”

“And the Territory officials do nothing?” Mr. Olstad asked.

Uncle Lars puffed out his chest. “As of three months ago, we are the State of Wisconsin—no longer a territory.” Uncle Lars stated the latter with as much enthusiasm as a stern schoolmaster. “Now the government will get rid of those savages once and for all.” He sent Kristin a scowl. “And you, my liten niese, will do well to stay away from Indians. All of them, including our neighbors, the Sundbergs. You hear, lest you get yourself scalped.”

Ja, Onkel.”

With a measure of alarm, Kristin touched her braided hair and chanced a look at Peder and Mr. Olstad. Both pairs of wide eyes seemed to warn her to heed Uncle Lars’s instructions. She would, of course. But somehow she couldn’t imagine the man they’d just passed doing her any harm. Would he?



Sam Sundberg wiped the beads of perspiration off his brow before dropping his hat back on his head. Who was the little blonde riding next to Lars Eikaas? Sam hadn’t seen her before. And the men in the wagon bed . . . he’d never seen them either.

After a moment’s deliberation he concluded they were the expected arrivals from the “Old Country.”  Months ago Sam recalled hearing talk in town about Lars’s orphaned niece sailing to America with friends of the family, so he assumed the two red-haired men and the young lady were the topics of that particular conversation. But wouldn’t it just serve Mr. Eikaas right if that blonde angel turned his household upside down—or, maybe, right-side up?

He smirked at the very idea. Sam didn’t have to meet that young lady to guess Mr. Eikaas would likely have his hands full. Her second backward glance said all Sam needed to know.

The word plucky sprang into his mind. He chuckled. Plucky she

seemed, indeed.

But was she wise enough not to believe everything her uncle said?

Sam thought it a real shame. Years ago Pa and Lars Eikaas had been friends. But then Pa’s silver went missing, insults were traded, and the Eikaases’ prejudice against Ma, Jackson, and Mary kept the feud alive.

The Eikaas wagon rolled out of sight, leaving brown clouds of dust in its wake. A grin threatened as Sam thought again of that plucky blonde’s curious expression. Maybe she did have a mind of her own. Now wouldn’t that be something? Sam thanked God that not everyone around here was as intolerant of Wisconsin Natives as the Eikaas family. There were those who actually befriended the Indians and stood up to government officials in their stead. Like Pa, for instance. Like Sam himself.

The blistering sun beat down on him. Removing his hat once more, he wiped the sweat from his forehead. He started pondering the latest government proposal to remove the Indians from their land. First the Oneida tribe had been forced out, and soon the Menominee band would be “removed” and “civilized.” As bad as that was, it irked Sam more to think about how the government figured it knew best for the Indians. Government plans hadn’t succeeded in the past, so why would they now? Something else had to be done. Relocating the Menominee would cause those people nothing but misery. They’d stated as much themselves. Furthermore, the Indians, led by Chief Oshkosh, were determined not to give up their last tract of land. Sam predicted this current government proposal would only serve to stir up more violence between Indians and whites.

But not if he and Pa could help it.

In the distance he heard the clang of the dinner bell. Ma didn’t like him to tarry when food was on the table. Across the beet field, Sam saw his younger brother run on ahead of him. He wagged his head at the twelve-year-old and his voracious appetite.

With one calloused hand gripping the hoe and the other holding the bushel basket, Sam trudged toward their white clapboard home. Its two dormers protruded proudly from the second floor.

Entering the mudroom, he fetched cold water from the inside well, peeled off his hat, and quickly washed up. Next he donned a fresh shirt. Ma insisted upon cleanliness at the supper table. Finally presentable, he made his way into the basement where the summer kitchen and a small eating area were located. The cool air met his sun-stoked skin and Sam sighed, appreciating the noonday respite.

Next he noticed a cake in the middle of the table.

“That looks good enough to eat,” he teased, resisting the urge to steal a finger-full of white frosting.

Ma gave him a smile, and her nut-brown eyes darkened as she set the wooden tureen of turkey and wild rice onto the table. “Since it’s Rachel’s last day with us, I thought I would prepare an extra special dessert.”

Sam glanced across the table at the glowing bride-to-be. In less than twenty-four hours Rachel Decker would become Mrs. Luke Smith. But for the remainder of today she’d fulfill her duties as Ma’s hired house girl who helped with the cooking, cleaning, sewing, washing, and ironing whenever Ma came down with one of her episodes, which were sometimes so intensely painful that Ma couldn’t get out of bed without help. Rachel had been both a comfort and an efficient assistant to Ma.

“I helped bake the cake, Sam.”

He grinned at his ten-year-old sister, Mary. “Good job.”

They all sat down, Mary taking her seat beside Rachel. Sam helped his mother into her place at the head of the table then lowered himself into his chair next to Jackson, who’d been named after Major General Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of this great country.

“Sam, since your father is away,” Ma began, “will you please ask God’s blessing on our food?”

“Be glad to.” He bowed his head. “Dearest Lord, we thank Thee for Thy provisions. Strengthen and nourish us with this meal so we may glorify Thee with our labors. In Jesus’s name, amen.”

Action ensued all around the table. The women served themselves and then between Sam and Jack, they scraped the bowl clean.

“Good thing Pa’s not home from his meetings in town,” Jack muttered with a crooked grin.

“If your father were home,” Ma retorted, “I would have made more food.”

“Should have made more anyhow.” Jack gave her a teasing grin. “No seconds.” He clanged the bowl and spoon together as if to prove his point.

“You have seconds on your plate already,” Ma said. “Why, I have never seen anyone consume as much food as you do, Jackson.”

His smile broadened. “I’m growing. Soon I’ll be taller than Sam.”

“Brotherly competition.” Sam had to chuckle. But in the next moment, he wondered if his family behaved oddly. Didn’t all families enjoy meals together? Tease and laugh together? Tell stories once the sun went down? According to Rachel, they didn’t. The ebony-haired, dark-eyed young woman had grown up without a mother and had a drunkard for a father . . . until Ma got wind of the situation and took her in. She invited Rachel to stay in the small room adjacent to the kitchen and offered her a job. Rachel had accepted. And now, years later, Rachel would soon marry a fine man, Luke Smith, a friend of Sam’s. 

Taking a bite of his meal, he chewed and looked across the table at Mary. Both she and Jack resembled their mother, dark brown hair, dark brown eyes, and graceful, willowy frames, while Sam took after his father, blue eyes and stocky build, measuring just under six feet. Yet, in spite of the outward dissimilarities, the five Sundbergs were a closely knit family, and Sam felt grateful that he’d known nothing but happiness throughout

his childhood. He had no recollection whatsoever of his biological mother who had taken ill and died during the voyage from Norway to America.

Sam had been but a toddler when she went home to be with the Lord, and soon after disembarking in New York, his father met another Norwegian couple. They helped care for Sam and eventually persuaded Pa to take his young son and move with them to Wisconsin, known back then as part of the “Michigan Territory.” Pa seized the opportunity, believing the promises that westward expansion touted, and he was not disappointed.

He learned to plant, trap, and trade with the Indians, and he became a successful businessman. In time, he saved enough funds to make his dreams of owning land and farming a reality.

Then, when Sam was a boy of eight years, his father met and married Mariah, an Oneida. Like her, many Oneida were Christians and fairly well educated due to the missionaries who had lived among them. In time Sam took to his new mother, and she to him. Through the years Ma cherished and admonished him as though he were her own son. She learned the Norwegian language and could speak it fluently. As far as Sam was concerned, he was her own son—and Mariah, his own mother.

They were a family.

“Was that the Eikaas wagon driving by not long ago?” Mary asked.

Sam snapped from his musing. “Sure was. It appears they have relatives in town.”

“Mr. Eikaas didn’t stop and visit, did he?” Mary’s eyes were as round as gingersnaps.

Sam chuckled. “No, of course not. I can’t recall the last time Lars Eikaas spoke to me . . . or any of the Sundbergs, for that matter.”

“Erik is nice to me at school.” Mary took a bite of her meal.

“Glad to hear it.”

“I can’t wait to begin school next week.”

Sam grinned at his sister’s enthusiasm. He’d felt the same way as a boy.

“Sam, what made you assume Mr. Eikaas transported relatives in his wagon today?”

He glanced at Ma. “A while back I’d heard that Lars’s niece was coming to America, accompanied by friends, and since I didn’t recognize the three passengers in the wagon this morning, I drew my own conclusions.”

“Is she pretty?” Jackson’s cheeks bulged with food.

“Is who pretty?”

“Mr. Eikaas’s niece . . . is she pretty?”

Sam recalled the plucky blonde whose large, cornflower-blue eyes looked back at him with interest from beneath her bonnet. And pretty? As much as Sam hated to admit it, she was about the prettiest young lady he’d ever set eyes on.

Jackson elbowed him. “Hey, I asked you a question.”

Sam gave his younger brother an annoyed look. “Yeah, I s’pose she’s pretty. But don’t go getting any big ideas about me courting her. She’s an Eikaas.”

“You’re awful old to not be married yet.” Jack rolled his dark eyes.

“What do you know about it? I’m only twenty-one.” Sam grinned. “Hush up and eat.” It’s what the boy did best. “So . . . did everyone have a pleasant morning?” He forked another bite of food into his mouth, wondering why he tried so hard to shift the subject off of Lars Eikaas’s niece.



Kristin looked around the one-room shanty with its unhewn walls and narrow, bowed loft. Cotton squares of material covered the windows, making the heat inside nearly unbearable. 

Disappointment riddled her being like buckshot. Although she knew she should feel grateful for journeying safely this far, and now to have a roof over her head, she couldn’t seem to shake her displeasure at seeing her relatives’ living quarters. It looked nothing like her uncle had described in his letters nor the homes she’d glimpsed on the way.

“Here is your trunk of belongings,” Uncle Lars said, carrying the wooden chest in on one of his broad shoulders. With a grunt, he set it down in the far corner of the cabin. “Where is my inheritance? Let me have a look at it.”

“Right now, Onkel?”

Ja, ja . . .” Impatience filled his tone.

Pulling open the drawstring of her leather purse, she reached inside and extracted the key. She unlocked the trunk and opened its curved lid. Getting onto her knees, Kristin moved aside her clothes and extra shoes until she found what she searched for. Poppa’s gold watch. She held the black velvet-covered box reverently in her hands for one last, long moment before she stood and presented it to her uncle.

“This belonged to my poppa.”

“Ah . . .” Uncle Lars’s face lit up with delight as he opened the box. Looking to Aunt Esther, he nodded. “This will bring a fair price, do you think?”

Disbelief poured over her. “But . . . you would not sell Poppa’s watch, would you?”

“None of your business!”

Kristin jumped back at the biting reply. Her opinion of her uncle dropped like a rock into a cavern.

“Anything more?” Her uncle bent over the wooden chest and quickly rummaged through it, spilling clothes onto the unswept floor.

Onkel, please, stop. My garments . . .”

“Does not seem to be anything else.” Uncle Lars narrowed his gaze. “Is there?”

“No.” The necklace Mor had given her burned against her already perspiring skin. Still, Kristin refused to part with the gift. “Nothing more. As you know, Poppa was a farmer. He supplemented his income by working at the post office, but no money was ever saved. After my parents died, I sold everything to help pay for a portion of my passage to America. I earned the rest myself.”

“Any money left?”

Kristin shook her head as she picked up the last of her belongings, careful not to meet her uncle’s stare. A little money remained in the special pocket she’d sewn into her petticoat. For safety, she’d kept her funds on her person throughout the entire voyage. The last of her coinage would purchase muchneeded undergarments. She’d managed to save it throughout the journey for the specific purpose of buying new foundations when she reached America. It wasn’t inherited. She’d worked hard for it.

With a grunt Uncle Lars turned and sauntered out of the cabin.

“You will sleep in the loft with your cousins.” Aunt Esther’s tone left no room for questions or argument. Wearing a plain, brown dress with a tan apron pinned to its front, and with her dark brown hair tightly pinned into a bun, the older woman looked as drab as her surroundings. “Your uncle and I sleep on a pallet by the hearth.”

“Yes, Tante. I am sure I will be very comfortable.” Another lie.

“Come, let us eat.” Aunt Esther walked toward the hearth where a heavy black kettle sat on top of a low-burning fire. “There is venison stew for our meal.”

“It sounds delicious.” Kristin’s stomach growled in anticipation. She’d eaten very little on the ship this morning. Excitement plus the waves on Lake Michigan made eating impossible. But after disembarking in Green Bay, her stomach began to settle, and now she was famished.

Aunt Esther called everyone to the table, which occupied an entire corner of the cabin. Her three children, two girls and one boy, ranging in ages from seven to sixteen, came in from outside, as did the Olstads. After a wooden bowl filled with stew was set before each person, the family clasped hands and recited a standard Norwegian prayer . . .

I Jesu navn gar vi til bords,—We sit down in the name of Jesus,

Spise drikke pa ditt ord,—To eat and drink according to Your

Word,

Deg Gud til are, oss til gavn,—To Your honor, Oh Lord, and

for our benefit,

Sa far vi mat i Jesu navn.—We receive food in the name of

Jesus.

Amen.

Having said grace, hands were released, and everyone picked up a spoon and began to eat. Kristin noticed her cousins, Inga and Anna, eyeing her with interest. They resembled their father, blonde curls and blue eyes.

“What do you like to do on sunny afternoons such as this one?” she asked cheerfully, hoping to start conversation. After all, Inga’s age was close to hers. Perhaps her cousin would help her meet friends.

“We do not talk at the table,” Aunt Esther informed her. “We eat, not talk.”

“Yes, Tante.” Kristin glanced at Peder and Mr. Olstad who replied with noncommittal shrugs and kept eating.

Silently, Kristin did the same. The Olstads always had lively discussions around their table.

When the meal ended, the girls cleared the table and the men took young Erik and ambled outside.

“May I help with cleaning up?” Kristin asked her aunt.

“No. You rest today and regain your strength. Tomorrow we are invited to a wedding, the day after is the Sabbath. Then beginning on Monday, you will labor from sunup to sunset like everyone else in this place.”

“Except for one,” Inga quipped. No one but Kristin heard.

“Who?” Her lips moved, although she didn’t utter a sound.

Far, that is who.” Disrespect seeped from Inga’s tone, which was loud and clear.

Hadn’t Aunt Esther overheard it?

Tante suddenly whirled around and glared at Kristin. “Do something with yourself. We are working here.”

With a frown, Kristin backed away. Her aunt’s brusque manner caused her to feel weary and more homesick than

ever. She missed her parents and her little brothers. Why did God take them, leaving her to live life without them? And Sylvia . . . how she longed for her best friend!

Kristin knelt by the trunk and carefully lifted out a soft, knitted shawl that had once belonged to her mother, Lydia Eikaas. Mor had been an excellent seamstress, expert in spinning wool into yarn and thread, as well as in weaving and sewing garments. She’d taught Kristin everything she knew about the craft. Surely Kristin could now put her skills to good use in this new country, this land of opportunity.

She sighed and glanced over to where her aunt and two cousins continued straightening up after the meal. Inga and Anna barely smiled, and her aunt’s expression seemed permanently frozen into a frown. Is that what this country really afforded . . . misery?

Allowing her gaze to wander around the dismal cabin once more, Kristin began to wish she had not come to America.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Summer of Promise...Review

About the book:
Though she had planned to spend the summer in Vermont with her sweetheart, Abigail Harding cannot dismiss her concerns over her older sister. Charlotte's letters have been uncharacteristically melancholy, and her claims that nothing is wrong ring false, so Abigail heads West to Wyoming. The endless prairie seems monotonous, but when her stagecoach is attacked, Wyoming promises to be anything but boring. Luckily, the heroics of another passenger, Lieutenant Ethan Bowles, save the day.

When circumstances—and perhaps a bit of matchmaking—put Abigail and Ethan together, there's certainly attraction. But Abigail is planning to marry another man and return to life in Vermont as soon as she is finished attending to her sister. And Ethan loves his life in the Army and the wilds of Wyoming. When summer ends, will Abigail go back East? Or will she fall in love with this rugged land herself?

Book 1 of the new Westward Winds series, Summer of Promise is a tale of following your heart to unexpected places. Readers will enjoy Amanda Cabot's passionate characters and vibrant setting in the beautiful high prairie.

I love stories about strong women and Summer of Promise delivers a charming one.  Abigail plans on marrying a fellow teacher, but before her wedding, she travels to Wyoming to spend the summer with her sister Charlotte who is married and expecting her first child.  The journey out west is an adventure itself with a robbery attack on her coach.  A young soldier traveling on the same coach saves the day and once at Fort Laramie, Abigail finds herself often in the company of Ethan Bowles.  She doesn't love the army life nor the rugged Wyoming countryside, but as she is drawn to Ethan, she wonders if she can ever go back to Vermont.

Abigail must find out why her sister's life isn't as charmed as she once thought and as stagecoaches continue to be robbed and equipment goes missing from the fort, Ethan must not only discover who at the fort is the traitor, but what Abigail Harding will do with his heart. This is a delightful, compelling story with a strong heroine and an element of intrigue and one I thoroughly enjoyed.

I haven't read Amanda Cabot before, but I'm so glad to know that this is the first in a series.  I look forward to more.

Available January 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna Hausler of the Baker Publishing Group for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Amanda Cabot here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

1/12

 * * * *
4/5 Stars

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Where Wildflowers Bloom...Review

About the book:
The War Between the States stole a father and brother from Faith Lindberg-- as well as Royal Baxter, the man she wanted to marry. With only her grandfather left, she dreams of leaving Noble Springs, Missouri, and traveling west to the Oregon Territory to start a new life, away from the memories that haunt her. But first she must convince her grandfather to sell the family's mercantile and leave a town their family has called home for generations.

When Royal Baxter suddenly returns to town, Faith allows herself to hope that her dreams might come true. Does he truly love her? Or could another man claim her heart? Will she find that following her dreams may not mean leaving home after all?

The characters in Where Wildflowers Bloom jump off the page and into the reader's heart. Author Ann Shorey infuses her characters with the virtues and quirks that bring them fully alive as they search for contentment and love.

After Faith Lindberg loses her father and brother in the Civil War, she wants to leave Missouri for a new start in Oregon.  Her grandfather wants nothing to do with leaving and wants Faith to run his mercantile so he can write his memoirs and stay in his home.  As Faith begins managing the store, she secretly makes preparations to go west.  But, life and God have other plans for her.

I enjoyed these characters although I though Faith was somewhat clueless and selfish at times.  Curt and Rosemary were terrific as was Amy. This was simply a sweet novel about love, family and friendship.   I look forward to the rest of the series.

Available January 2012 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 Ann Shorey here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Sound of Red Returning...Review

About the book:
After losing everyone she loves, concert pianist Liesl Bower has nowhere to go but to escape into her music. Searching for the peace she usually finds in her concertos and sonatas, Liesl can’t shake the feeling that she is being haunted by her past . . . and by someone following her. When she spots a familiar and eerie face in the audience of a concert she’s giving for the president in Washington, DC, the scariest day of her life comes back to her with a flash. It has been fifteen years since Liesl watched her beloved Harvard music mentor assaulted on a dark night in Moscow and just as long since the CIA disclosed to her that he’d been spying for Russia. She had seen that man--that eerie face--the night Professor Devoe was attacked. And now he’s back--and coming for her.

On the run and struggling to rely on the protection of CIA agent Ava Mullins and handsome newspaper reporter Cade O’Brien, Liesl learns she is the prey of an underground cell of Russian KGB agents determined to restore their country to its former Soviet might. But what she doesn’t know is that she is in possession of something--a piece of sheet music--that Russian intelligence is now frantic to find. Inside that music is a secret code, the hidden transcriptions of her deceased mentor, that clearly identify a Russian mole operating inside Israel’s Department of Defense, a mole with enough power and access to execute a daring assassination that no one would see coming.

Caught in a deadly conflict between American and Russian undercover agents, this innocent young pianist is just trying to survive her own personal trauma. Through it all, Liesl must learn that no matter how dark her world grows or how fiercely her enemies pursue her, God is still in control--if only she can yield herself to His grace.

As a child of the 60's and 70's and a teenager in the early 80s, I grew up very much aware of the Cold War.  Russia was the enemy and spies were real.  As a young adult, I began working for a government laboratory in the late 80s, where we had security clearances, badges and guard gates.  One poster that I remember being on the wall of our copy room showed the earth with a satellite orbiting it and two red lines.  One went from Russia to the satellite and from the satellite to our location and cautioned that anyone could be listening.  I took Russian classes as a young college student because I'd grown up fascinated by that country and I was studying that language as the Berlin Wall fell and Cold War communism became a memory, or so we've all believed.

The Sound of Red Returning takes us into today's world of the CIA and KGB where national secrets are still desired, spies still lurk in our midst and the art of guarding and discovering intelligence is an integral part of national security.

When Liesl Bower's beloved mentor was murdered and revealed to be a Russian spy, her life was disrupted in ways she couldn't imagine as the CIA didn't believe that she wasn't an accomplice.  But life does go on and Liesl became a renowned pianist, putting her past behind her. 15 years later, information comes to light that leads Russian and American intelligence agencies to her door and Liesl must discover what information she has, where it is and who she can trust.

I enjoyed this novel so much.  These characters are likeable and you care for them immediately.  The intrigue and suspense are fast paced, but perfect and not predictable.  I loved the musical aspect and the cleverness of sending codes through sheet music.  Amazing.  I am thrilled that this is the first in a trilogy and I look forward to more from Sue Duffy.

Thanks to Amy at Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Sue Duffy here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can read an excerpt here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Read 1/12

* * * *
4/5

Friday, January 20, 2012

Small Space Organizing...Review

About the book:
While we may admire the spacious rooms in large homes we see in magazines or on TV, let's face it: most of us don't live in rambling estates. Instead, we live in homes, apartments, or condos with small rooms and even smaller closets. But you can enjoy an organized, beauty-filled life no matter what the size of your space. In this practical book, readers will learn how to

-perform a room-by-room audit of their space to see if it's functioning at its best

-make the most of existing storage space and find clever ways to add more

-find creative ways to arrange furnishings and accessories that maximize space and bring harmony and style to the home

Whether empty nesters who are downsizing, newlyweds who are setting up their first nest, or anyone who needs creative new ideas, readers will love these strategies, tips, and solutions to maximize their space and enhance their quality of life.

This is a terrific go to guide for downsizing and organizing.  We really do have too much stuff these days and many of us don't have huge houses in which to keep it all.  Kathryn Bechen approaches organization from the aspect of not having a lot of space to begin with. She takes you through each room in your house and gives suggestions for eliminating, storing and maximizing.

This is a book you can read straight through as well as being a book you can pick up simply for help with one particular room or issue.

My only complaint is that the book is written for small spaces, but not necessarily small budgets.  There are lots of suggestions for buying this or that to update or improve a space and that's not always realistic for people.

Available January 2012 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  Kathryn Bechen here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Robin Takes 5...Review

It's 5:00 PM. Everyone's hungry. It's takeout or fakeout, meaning nuking a processed meal from the freezer. But there's a third option that doesn't include processed food or an unhealthy heap of calories and fat--Robin Takes 5.

Imagine quickly preparing delicious meals for yourself, your friends, and your family with just 5 fabulous ingredients. Does it get any better? Absolutely, with Robin Takes 5. The book features 500 recipes and each dish is a mouthwatering 500 calories or less. Two-color recipe text complements full-color photography inserts. In addition, helpful icons note ideal recipes for holidays and entertaining as well as recipes with less than 500 mg of sodium. That's not all--nutritional information is given for each recipe.

In Robin Takes 5, 500 recipes highlight at least 10 different ethnic cuisines, and dishes range from soups, pizzas, and pastas, to chicken, beef, pork, seafood, side dishes, and desserts. Consider 70 recipes just for chicken, such as Cashew Crusted Chicken with Roasted Jalapeno-Mango Chutney, and 50 dessert recipes, such as Orange Marmalade Tart with Chocolate Covered Almonds. Consider yourself armed for mealtime. The next time the clock strikes 5:00 PM and you want both noshing and nourishment, check out Robin Takes 5.

I was not familiar with Robin Miller before I received her book.  But, I love cooking and as we're trying to eat healthier at our house, this sounded terrific.  Every recipe has just about 5 ingredients and is less than 500 calories.  I've marked it up.  Seriously, it's full of post-it tabs.


I do wish there were more photos, but it's easy to read and the recipes are easy to follow.  Most recipes are fairly fast to make and not time intensive and the ingredients are ones you are likely to have on hand.  I prepared the Pork Chops with Sauteed Apples for dinner and my family loved it.  It received rave reviews and has earned a place in our dinner rotation. The leftovers are perfect on top of a salad.  Next on my list is Smothered Steak with Onions, Mushrooms and Mashed Potatoes.

Thanks to Eric at Planned Television Arts for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Robin Miller here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/12

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Books, Reviewing and Blogging

As I've cruised through the book blog world, I've noticed a few things.  First, lots of year end wrap ups and postings of favorite books read.  I love those posts and did one myself.  I've enjoyed perusing so many favorite books and I've added quite a few to my reading list.  The second thing I've noticed is several posts from bloggers who are re-evaluating their blogs, reviewing, etc.  I've been doing the same thing myself.


I love reading.  I was always the kid who had her nose buried in a book and I became an adult who always has her nose buried in a book.  I love reading and it's why I started this blog.  I wanted a place to keep track of the books I read and what I thought about them.  The reviewing part just sort of happened and, for the most part, I've enjoyed it.  I love receiving complementary books in the mail.  I have enjoyed "meeting" authors and bloggers.  I get a kick out of seeing a new comment on my blog.


One thing I've finally admitted to myself, though, is that I don't enjoy reading for deadlines.  I understand the reasoning behind scheduled book tours and I know that publishers/authors want the books they send out to be reviewed.  However, I've learned that sometimes you have to be in a certain mood for a certain book. There have been DNFs and one and two star books that I think I might have liked, if I could have read them within my own time frame and not someone else's.

Towards the end of 2011, I didn't want to visit book blogs, I didn't even want to read because of the pressure to finish certain books.  And, let me tell you, not wanting to read is a very disconcerting, strange feeling.


So, I've decided to be more discerning about the books I accept for review and that means less self published books and fewer scheduled blog tours. I won't give up on blog tours altogether though as there are authors whose books I will always, gladly review. But I also want to read more of the unread books lingering on my shelves.  As well, instead of always accepting review books I'd like, I will utilize my library to find those books on my own time, not for someone else's deadline.

What about you?  Is everything in your blogging life staying status quo or are you changing things up?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Keeper...Review

About the book:
Julia Lapp has planned on marrying Paul Fisher since she was a girl. Now twenty-one, she looks forward to their wedding with giddy anticipation. When Paul tells her he wants to postpone the wedding--again--she knows who is to blame.

Perpetual bachelor and spreader of cold feet, Roman Troyer, the Bee Man. Roamin' Roman travels through the Amish communities of Ohio and Pennsylvania with his hives full of bees, renting them out to farmers in need of pollinators. He relishes his nomadic life, which keeps him from thinking about all he has lost. He especially enjoys bringing his bees to Stoney Ridge each year. But with Julia on a mission to punish him for inspiring Paul's cold feet, the Lapp farm is looking decidedly less pleasant.

Can Julia secure the future she's always dreamed of? Or does God have something else in mind?

When Paul Fisher postpones their wedding, yet again, Julia Lapp is understandably frustrated. When she realizes that he did so after talking with Roman Troyer, she's incensed.  With her father in ill health, she has her hands full and dealing with Roman Troyer is not something she looks forward to.  However, as often happens in life, God has other plans for both of them.

Another delightful novel from Suzanne Woods Fisher. I loved these characters.  I enjoyed Fern and seeing her take over the family and become a welcome addition, even with her prickly nature.  The Lapp family is terrific and the Lapp daughters are strong and spunky. I can't wait to find out what happens to M.K. and Sadie and I'm thrilled that this is the first of a series.  I appreciated the topic of organ transplant and the strong case made in support of organ donation, even as I was sad over the loss of a beloved character.  I wish more people understood the importance of organ donation.

Thanks to Amy at Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Suzanne Woods Fisher here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Read 12/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 Wrap-Up

As near as I can tell, I read and reviewed 160 books in 2011.  Of those, 5 were DNF.  I wanted to beat my 2010 record of 163 and if you count the books I re-read, I definitely went over that number.  But, 160 new books this year is still just over 3 books per week, so I guess it is an accomplishment.  I've gotten a little burnt out on scheduled book tours and reading for deadlines, so it will be interesting in 2012 to see what the number is.

Some of my absolute favorites:


The Colonel's Lady
Paradise Valley


Blessed: Living a Grateful Life
Unexpected Love


Life Without Limits
The Violets of March


The Little Women Letters
The Kitchen Daughter


(dis)Abilities and the Gospel
Remembering Christmas


Some not so favorites:


How to Love an American Man
Best Staged Plans


The Arrivals
The Last Letter


Next to Love
Mrs. Tom Thumb

True disappointments:


None But You/For You Alone

Thanks for stopping by this past year.  Thanks for your comments and suggestions.  Here's to a fantastic 2012 and many more good book discoveries!