Sunday, October 31, 2010

Book Review: Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar

About the book:

Can a Canaanite harlot who has made her livelihood by looking desirable to men make a fitting wife for one of the leaders of Israel? Shockingly, the Bible’s answer is yes. At the age of fifteen Rahab is forced into prostitution by her beloved father. In her years as a courtesan, she learns to mistrust men and hate herself. Into the emotional turmoil of her world walks Salmone, a respected leader of Judah. Through the tribulations of a stormy relationship, Rahab and Salmone learn the true source of one another’s worth in God and find healing from fear and rejection.

My thoughts:

It sounds so cliche to say this was a fabulous book, but when a book leaves me completely speechless when I've turned the last page, then, you know it gets a very high recommendation from me.  I've read several fictional tales about Rahab, but never one whose story centered on her life after Jericho, and the man who was her husband. 

This book read like it should've been divided into two parts:  the first part dealing with her life as a harlot and the fall of Jericho, and the second part dealing with her life after Jericho.  The first part seemed a little rushed at times, but that really didn't bother me since I already knew that story.  What was great to read were the emotions that Rahab felt regarding her father's insistence that she become a harlot.  As a young girl, she loved and trusted her father, and with his decision, he tore those feelings away from her.

The second part of the book was what really made this book simply incredible.  I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I've never given much thought to Salmone's brief mention in the genealogy of Jesus.  Ms. Afshar did a marvelous job of bringing his character to life in this book, and giving me a glimpse at his and Rahab's story.  I found myself on the verge of tears at least three times, mostly during scenes between Rahab and Salmone.  He had a tendency to come off as a gruff individual at times, but once he realized his feelings for Rahab, he became such a tender person toward her.  Their relationship was not without it's problems, mostly because of her past, but when they both understood their own emotions, their love story became one of the most beautiful ones I've read in a very long time.  And one more tidbit...the scene between the two of them that explains the title for the book will take your breath away.

I truly hope Ms. Afshar has another book coming out in the near future because she is definitely an author that I will be reading more of.  It's been awhile since I've read a book that really got to me the way this one did.  I'm a firm believer that sometimes, a certain book crosses my path at just the right time, and it's one that had I read it at any other time, it may not have made an impact.  Pearl in the Sand was the perfect book for this current season in my life, and for that, it will always hold a special meaning for me.

5 Stars

**Thanks to Moody Publishers for providing a copy for review.





Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wednesday Plugs...

Mercy, I cannot believe how crazy things have been for me lately!  So, I'm spending the day playing catch up for you guys, as well as letting you know about some cool stuff...  :o)

Most of you know that my DH had emergency surgery last month to remove his appendix.  Thank the Lord that he came through that without a single problem, and in fact, only had to spend one night in the hospital.  He's limited to what's he able to do physically (which isn't really a bad thing b/c he could stand a break), at least for the next few months....which means that I've been the heavy lifter person in our household lately!  LOL!  :o)  I take out the trash, push and pull it out for the garbage collectors, and take care of the yard...all in place of hubby.  But it's okay...I suppose he's worth it.  *wink*  Also, because of the surgery, he's been so fortunate to have such an understanding teacher in his last college class.  Yep, hubby will be a 2-time college graduate by the end of this year!  YAY!  I am definitely the proud wife.  :o)

In other news, we now have a new relative that is living near us.  Hubby's grandma flew in just last night from California.  He's only seen her maybe 6 times in his entire life because of living so far away, so it will be so great for him to make up for lost time with her now.  :o) 

And now for some other tidbits...

There are only TWO DAYS LEFT to get your comment in for the Julie Lessman book giveaway!  She's offering reader's choice for any one of her four books.  If you haven't gotten a hold of her new one yet, be sure you click here to leave your comment to sign up before midnight Friday, October 29th.

Next, we are only a few weeks away from seeing the winners of the first Inspy Awards.  If you have not seen the list of this year's nominees, then you really need to take a look!  There are some great books up for nomination, and as a judge, I'm already having a hard time narrowing it down to which book will be my favorite for the Amish fiction category!  :o)  (BTW, there's a great interview up with Beth Wiseman today on the Inspy site...she's one of the Amish category nominees.)

I also wanted to give a little plug today for something that I'm loving more and more every day....NetGalley!  This is THE place to catch some great galleys from a ton of publishers.  Currently, there are only 5 (at least, I think that's right) Christian publishers--Barbour, B&H, Moody, Abingdon Press, and AMG--represented over there, but honestly, that's pretty good!  :o)  Thanks to NetGalley, I've had the opportunity to read and review a lot of great books that I might not have gotten around to otherwise.  Currently through NetGalley, I'm reading the newest book by Susan Page Davis...The Blacksmith's Bravery.  You do have to sign up and have your membership approved, and the site is geared toward book reviewers.  Go check it out!

Monday, October 25, 2010

More Paula Deen...thanks to CSN!

Okay, if you have NEVER visited CSN stores online, then you are missing out on such a treat!  They have been so great to me as a reviewer, and I simply cannot say enough great things about them.  ;o)  You may remember a few months ago where I mentioned that I would soon have another opportunity to review some products from their site.  I decided to expand my collection of Paula Deen cookware, and chose to review three products:  a 9x9 baker, a pie plate, and a mixing cup.  Let me just tell you...I love them all!

First up, the 9x9 baker

Now, I love to cook.  I particularly love to bake....and pretty much anything cooked in my sweet little oven I will eat.  The desserts are the best.... *happy sigh*  (Oh, dear, I'm getting carried away.)  I decided that I wanted to try my barbecue baked chicken recipe in this perfect-sized baker.  Not only is it perfect for chicken (think 3-4 lb. whole chicken), it is also perfect for yummy things like cornbread and brownies....commence drooling now.  :o)  The baked chicken recipe that I use is no fuss, and doesn't require that there be a lot of extra space in a baking dish.  That's when I knew this sweet little baker would be baking my chickens from this point forward.  It cooks like a dream--so evenly--and it's also provides a great presentation for the food. 

Next, I tried out the pie plate.  Now, while I love to bake, baking pies has never been one of my strong suits.  I love to bake cakes, rolls, breads, cookies, and just about anything else you can think of, but pies always seem to cause me problems (mostly, because I fill the shell too full, I think).  But in an effort to master pie making, I decided to try out this beautiful Paula Deen pie plate from CSN.  The recipe of the day for the pie plate was a Coconut Chess Pie....and trust me, you'll want this recipe (link at the bottom of this post)!  I've always wanted to try my hand at Coconut Chess Pie thanks to it being a dessert item on the menu at Texas de Brazil.  Mine was nothing like there's...in fact, I think it was better.  (I may be on the road to success with pie making after all!)  Cooked in this gorgeous plate, I don't think I'll ever have another pie problem again.  Just like the baker, the pie plate cooks so evenly, and this pie looked awesome when it came out of the oven!  After little more than a couple of hours, there was none of it left at my house...pie making success!

Also, while making the pie, I tried out Paula's handy little measuring cup.  Just like the other two pieces (and everything else in this line), it's beautiful.  The colors that are on these pieces are a mix between brown, rust, red, and green, and they all match perfectly.  This measuring cup is ideal for wet ingredients more than anything else...the dry ones weren't really doing as well.  Because I think it's use is more for decor than function, this probably won't be my every day measuring cup.  The measurements are printed on the inside, and because it's a stoneware cup and not a glass one, I really had to shake the dry ingredients around to make sure I had the proper measurements. 

Hey, if you're looking for a very nice gift for someone's kitchen, these or any of the other pieces in Paula Deen's stoneware collection are an excellent choice.  Each one is in a great price range, and would be ideal for a newlywed or maybe a couple's housewarming party.  All I know is that I'm a fan of this collection for life!

**Click here for the Coconut Chess Pie recipe.
**Click here for the Barbecue Baked Chicken recipe.  (Note:  I do not use the stuffing mix that is called for in this recipe.)
**Click here for my other Paula Deen Stoneware review.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Books I Grew Up With (Borrowed from Renee)

Thanks to Renee for providing this idea and a trip down memory lane!  :o)

I grew up with a love for reading.  My dad and I used to always read together every night before I went to sleep, usually Bible stories from one of 3 or 4 mainstay books.  Most of my other books were passed down from my brother, and most of them were Little Golden Books.  Believe it or not, my parents still have all of those books on a bookshelf in my old room waiting for the day when I start my own family.  My favorite of those books was The Poky Little Puppy.

I also grew up reading Little Women, which increased my love of the early version of the movie with Liz Taylor as well as the updated version with Winona Ryder.


Then, I got into the series books...and you'd be right if you guessed that I read every Babysitter's Club book I could get my hands on!  I can't even count how many I went through in a week's time, and I was a regular at my local library so I could check out as many as I could.  :o)  Another favorite of mine were the Trixie Belden books.  I didn't read as many of these because they seemed harder to come by, but I loved 'em just the same.  And last, but not least, were some of Lurlene McDaniel's books (not pictured).  When I was in junior high, I devoured these, and I think I shed some tears through every one....awesome, awesome books.  :o)


After all my great fun with all of these books so far, I started to get a bit more serious about reading.  I remember a group of girls that I used to hang out with in school when I was a freshman.  It seemed that reading a romance was really the cat's meow for us, and it was about the time when Multnomah released their line of Palisades romances.  These lasted for a few years (thankfully, for us girls).  :o)  The first one I read that glued me to Christian fiction was Secrets by Robin Jones Gunn.  This was the first book in her Glenbrooke series, and of course, after I read this one, I had to read all of the others (well, all of the other books she had written up to that point, anyway).  Pictured below is the original cover...which always was my favorite.  :o)



Thanks again, Renee, for helping me remember some great reading memories!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

CFBA Tour: While We're Far Apart by Lynn Austin


This week, the
 
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
 
is introducing
 
While We're Far Apart
 
Bethany House (October 1, 2010)
 
by
 
Lynn Austin

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

It was during the long Canadian winters at home with her children that Lynn made progress on her dream to write, carving out a few hours of writing time each day while her children napped. Lynn credits her early experience of learning to write amid the chaos of family life for her ability to be a productive writer while making sure her family remains her top priority.

Along with reading, two of Lynn's lifelong passions are history and archaeology. While researching her Biblical fiction series, Chronicles of the Kings, these two interests led her to pursue graduate studies in Biblical Backgrounds and Archaeology through Southwestern Theological Seminary. She and her son traveled to Israel during the summer of 1989 to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah. This experience contributed to the inspiration for her novel Wings of Refuge.

Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. Since then she has published twelve novels. Five of her historical novels, Hidden Places, Candle in the Darkness, Fire by Night, A Proper Pursuit, and Until We Reach Home have won Christy Awards in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, and 2009 for excellence in Christian Fiction. Fire by Night was also one of only five inspirational fiction books chosen by Library Journal for their top picks of 2003, and All She Ever Wanted was chosen as one of the five inspirational top picks of 2005. Lynn's novel Hidden Places has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel, starring actress Shirley Jones. Ms Jones received a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
In an unassuming apartment building in Brooklyn, New York, three lives intersect as the reality of war invades each aspect of their lives. Young Esther is heartbroken when her father decides to enlist in the army shortly after the death of her mother.

Penny Goodrich has been in love with Eddie Shaffer for as long as she can remember; now that Eddie's wife is dead, Penny feels she has been given a second chance and offers to care for his children in the hope that he will finally notice her and marry her after the war.

And elderly Mr. Mendel, the landlord, waits for the war to end to hear what has happened to his son trapped in war-torn Hungary. But during the long, endless wait for victory overseas, life on the home front will go from bad to worse.

Yet these characters will find themselves growing and changing in ways they never expected--and ultimately discovering truths about God's love...even when He is silent.

If you would like to read the first chapter of While We're Far Apart, go HERE.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Julie Lessman Interview!

I am so thrilled to have Julie Lessman on my blog today! It has been a dream of mine for a VERY long time to interview her for the SST blog, and the day has finally arrived. :o)  For those that may be unfamiliar with Julie, her trademark is passionate Christian novels that show what God intended for romance. Her first novel, A Passion Most Pure, earned her the 2009 ACFW Debut Author of the Year award. Julie recently wrote her fourth novel, A Hope Undaunted, which is the first book in her new series, Winds of Change.
________________________

Welcome, Julie!

You attribute your dream of becoming a writer to reading Gone With the Wind at a young age. What was it from this epic story (Scarlett’s sassy attitude, Rhett’s dashing good looks, the Civil War setting) that steered you toward writing?

GRIN … are you kidding??? The ROMANCE, of course!! Yes, Scarlett was sassy and selfish, but what drew me was the pull she had over Rhett—a man who wanted her but couldn’t have her. To me, seeing a strong male type like Rhett Butler “who wasn’t the marrying kind” give in and marry her because he loved her and wanted to cherish her, spoke volumes to me.

Even as a little girl, I sensed that was what romance was all about—finding a man who couldn’t do without you and to whom you were the most important woman in the world. It wasn’t until I gave my heart to the Lord that I learned it was a foreshadow of how God sees romance in Ephesians 5:25: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Now I am not saying that Rhett Butler typified the kind of love Christ had in mind, but he wanted Scarlett so badly, he was willing to give of himself to get her. No other woman alive could do that to him, only her. Now to me, that’s romance!

All of your characters are so realistic with ups and downs like everyone else. How do you manage to keep a balance between the good times, the bad times, and the romance in your novels?

DOUBLE GRIN … honey, all I do is emulate life (mine, anyway!) with its constant ups and downs, good times and bad, all tightly anchored by my faith in God and the romance in my own marriage, both of which keep me afloat through it all. As an EXTREMELY passionate person in every thing I do (whether it’s brushing my teeth with a vengeance, piping guest initials into twice-baked potatoes, or nearly getting arrested by Facebook for spam charges when I responded to too many comments too quickly at my Facebook Party last week), I tend to live a VERY dramatic life, much of which I breathe into my novels! I have to laugh at readers who liken my books to a roller-coaster ride because honestly, that’s everyday fare for me—in my mind, in my life, day in and day out—so I see it as normal for the most part. All I know is that my husband always says what Mitch Dennehy says about Charity in A Heart Revealed:

"Yes, she was a handful and challenging and infused his life with more drama than any woman he’d ever known, but life with Charity was never boring, never dry and always an adventure. She was the most passionate woman he’d ever met, loving her family, her friends—him—with an intensity that took his breath away."

I’ve heard rumors about a Marcy and Patrick prequel. Is this just a rumor, or is it actually a possibility?

Oh, it’s WAY more than a possibility, I can tell you that! I have this burning desire to get Marcy and Patrick’s story on paper, so I fully intend to, maybe after I finish Steven’s story, which is the last book in the “Winds of Change” series AND the last book about the O’Connor clan. I don’t know if it will be published, but to show you how serious I am, here is a glimpse of what I have in my mind:

A LIGHT IN THE WINDOW

An Irish Christmas Love Story

I am the light of the world:
he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness,
but shall have the light of life.
— John 8:12

A Light in the Window is the prequel love story of Marcy and Patrick O’Connor whose discovery of each other is as turbulent as the era in which it takes place. The year is 1894, and following a decade of explosive industrial growth and immigration that Mark Twain called America’s “Gilded Age,” the nation plummets into the worst economic depression thus far. But in the midst of these trying times, in an O’Henry-style “Gift of the Magi” tale that wrenches the heart, one woman discovers that although two men have professed their undying love, only one has responded to “the light in the window.”

Your trademark for all of your novels is “passion with a purpose.” Have you ever considered writing a book that could help couples jazz up the passion in their marriages?

Okay, Christy, you’re making me laugh WAY too much here!! With zero training in counseling or psychology, the only thing I have to back me up is the success of a marriage literally “made in heaven” through the application of God’s precepts. Trust me, they work—HE works—when He is front and center in a marriage. It is my personal belief that most “normal” marriages (i.e. those not involving spousal abuse, infidelity, addictions, etc.) can become passionate love affairs between mates when one or both parties diligently apply God’s precepts. Period. And when that marriage lines up with His precepts, I guarantee you from personal experience, the result is PASSION galore!!

When you’re not writing or popping up all over the web, what do you love to do with your free time?

Oh, you mean how I USED to spend my free time? That’s easy: watching old movies (Gone With the Wind, That Touch of Mink, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Susan Slept Here are some of my favorites), reading more books, gardening and hosting elaborate dinner parties a la Martha Stewart. I’m pretty driven in whatever I do (anal might be a better word). And, yes, I’ve been known to cut napkin rings out of real lemons to hold lemon green beans as well as make a toasted almond-encrusted, dark/milk/white-chocolate streuseled bowl just to HOLD the white-chocolate mousse I was making, all of which would sit in a pool of raspberry sauce!

Which … was fine when I was younger and had the energy to do it, but these days, sitting at my computer with a candle burning and a cup of Hazelnut Cinnamon coffee is my pastime of choice. Although … I do enjoy occasionally lying out in the sun while listening to oldies, bike riding on the Katy Trail, chatting with friends and family around the fire pit on our lower deck, or just dinner out with people I love.

Where can readers find you on the web?

I LOVE to hear from readers, so they can contact me through my Web site at http://www.julielessman.com/, either by sending an e-mail via my site or by signing up for my newsletter at http://www.julielessman.com/sign-up-for-newsletter/. My newsletter is chock-full of fun info on my books and there’s always a contest featuring signed book giveaways including one right now to have a character named after you or a loved one in my next book. Also, I have a cool feature on my website called “Journal Jots” (http://www.julielessman.com/journal-jots/), which is a very laid-back, 3-or-4-times-weekly journal to my reader friends that would give your readers an idea as to my relaxed style of writing. Then finally, I can be found daily at The Seekers blog (http://seekerville.blogspot.com/), a group blog devoted to encouraging and helping aspiring writers on the road to publication.

Thank you, Christy, for hosting me on your blog—it’s been fun!

God bless and hugs,

Julie

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Julie, for making this reader’s dream come true, and sharing some time with me today! I hope you’ll stop back by again soon! :o)

_____________________________

Now, the fun begins!!  Julie is offering to give a way one signed copy of any of her four books to one special reader.  To sign up for the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post with your email address so that we can reach you.  No email addy...no entry.  Be sure to get your comments in before October 29th, and US addresses only, please.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

100 Books in 2010!

You better watch out cuz I'm on a roll!  :o)  Haha...just kidding!  I've been reading lately like there's no tomorrow which means that I've just finished up another reading challenge.  This one was for 100 books in 2010.  Woot woot...I did it, and 2010 isn't even over yet!  Seriously, this is the most books I've EVER read in 10-1/2 months time, and I can't wait to see how many more books I can add to that final number before the year's over.

Wanna see what I read?  Here's the list:

1. The Choice by Suzanne Woods Fisher--1/2/10
2. The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen--1/8/10
3. A Sinister Silence by Jane Peart--1/9/10
4. Outlaw Bride by Lori Copeland--1/10/10
5. A Shattered Life, An Amazing God by Madeline A. Spencer--1/15/10
6. Michal by Jill Eileen Smith--1/21/10
7. Burn by Ted Dekker and Erin Healy--1/26/10
8. Beguiled by Deeanne Gist and J. Mark Bertrand--1/29/10
9. A Place Called Bliss by Ruth Glover--1/31/10
10. The Pastor's Wife by Jennifer AlLee--2/4/10
11. Texas Heat by Debra White Smith--2/6/10
12. A Kiss for Cade by Lori Copeland--2/11/10
13. Abigail by Jill Eileen Smith--2/20/2010
14. Gardenias for Breakfast by Robin Jones Gunn--2/21/2010
15. The Parting by Beverly Lewis--2/22/2010
16. Plain Jayne by Hillary Manton Lodge--2/25/2010
17. Fit to Be Tied by Robin Lee Hatcher--3/2/2010
18. June Bug by Chris Fabry--3/6/2010
19. Torch Red by Melody Carlson--3/7/2010
20. Hangman's Curse by Frank Peretti--3/8/2010
21. One Smooth Stone by Marcia Lee Laycock--3/12/2010
22. Halfway to Forever by Karen Kingsbury--3/14/2010
23. Wind by Calvin Miller--3/16/2010
24. Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa by Melanie Dobson--3/19/2010
25. The Bride Bargain by Kelly Eileen Hake--3/22/2010
26. Heart of Stone by Jill Marie Landis--3/24/2010
27. Above All Things by Deborah Raney--3/26/2010
28. Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson--4/2/2010
29. Asking for Trouble by Sandra Byrd--4/4/2010
30. The Bride Backfire by Kelly Eileen Hake--4/8/2010
31. The Desires of Her Heart by Lyn Cote--4/15/2010
32. Her Inheritance Forever by Lyn Cote--4/22/2010
33. Her Mother's Hope by Francine Rivers--4/24/2010
34. A Stranger's Wish by Gayle Roper--4/24/2010
35. No Place for a Lady by Maggie Brendan--4/28/2010
36. Petticoat Ranch by Mary Connealy--5/1/2010
37. Calico Canyon by Mary Connealy--5/3/2010
38. Gingham Mountain by Mary Connealy--5/8/2010
39. Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot--5/10/2010
40. A Woman Called Sage by DiAnn Mills--5/13/2010
41. Love Finds You in Bridal Veil, Oregon by Miralee Ferrell--5/16/2010
42. One Perfect Gift by Kathleen Morgan--5/16/2010
43. Wanted by Shelley Shepard Gray--5/17/2010
44. Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson--5/22/2010
45. Almost Forever by Deborah Raney--5/27/2010
46. A Matter of Character by Robin Lee Hatcher--5/28/2010
47. The Winter Pearl by Molly Noble Bull--5/29/2010
48. The Sheriff's Surrender by Susan Page Davis--6/1/2010
49. Deceit by Brandilyn Collins--6/3/2010
50. Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin--6/8/2010
51. Love on a Dime by Cara Lynn James--6/14/2010
52. Through Thick and Thin by Sandra Byrd--6/16/2010
53. Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico by Lena Nelson Dooley--6/22/2010
54. Chasing Lilacs by Carla Stewart--6/27/2010
55. In a Heartbeat by Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy--6/28/2010
56. The Gunsmith's Gallantry by Susan Page Davis--7/5/2010
57. The Sister Wife by Diane Noble--7/6/2010
58. A Rose for Melinda by Lurlene McDaniel--7/8/2010
59. The Other Daughter by Miralee Ferrell--7/8/2010
60. Angel's Den by Jamie Carie--7/11/2010
61. The Road Winds On by Francena Arnold--7/11/2010
62. Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon--7/13/2010
63. Shattered Dreams by Irene Spencer--7/16/2010
64. Predator by Terri Blackstock--7/24/2010
65. Brink of Death by Brandilyn Collins--7/26/2010
66. The Gifted Sophmores by Terri Blackstock--7/30/2010
67. Adrienne by Judy Baer--8/1/2010
68. Light of My Heart by Ginny Aiken--8/2/2010
69. Adam by Ted Dekker--8/3/2010
70. Stain of Guilt by Brandilyn Collins--8/7/2010
71. Forgotten by Melody Carlson--8/8/2010
72. The Price of Freedom by Carol Umberger--8/9/2010
73. The Mark of Salvation by Carol Umberger--8/14/2010
74. Masquerade by Nancy Moser--8/20/2010
75. Her Daughter's Dream by Francine Rivers--8/27/2010
76. Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss--8/27/2010
77. Jillian Dare by Melanie M. Jeschke--8/30/2010
78. Where My Heart Belongs by Tracie Peterson--9/3/2010
79. Choosing to SEE by Mary Beth Chapman and Ellen Vaughn--9/6/2010
80. The Vigilante's Bride by Yvonne Harris--9/7/2010
81. For Time and Eternity by Allison Pittman--9/9/2010
82. The Bride Blunder by Kelly Eileen Hake--9/13/2010
83. Fighting for Bread and Roses by Lynn A. Coleman--9/14/2010
84. Making Waves by Lorna Seilstad--9/20/2010
85. The Seeker by Ann Gabhart--9/27/2010
86. A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman--9/28/2010
87. Judgment Day by Wanda L. Dyson--9/29/2010
88. The Dead Rise First by Ragan/McLaughlin--9/30/2010
89. Weaving a Future by Susan Page Davis--10/01/2010
90. The Sunroom by Beverly Lewis--10/02/2010
91. Dated Jekyll, Married Hyde by Laura Jensen Walker--10/03/2010
92. The Lumberjack's Lady by Susan Page Davis--10/07/2010
93. Menu for Romance by Kaye Dacus--10/09/2010
94. Over the Waters by Deborah Raney--10/09/2010
95. Hearts Twice Met by Freda Chrisman--10/09/2010
96. Sooner or Later by Vickie McDonough--10/10/2010
97. Banking on Love by Janice A. Thompson--10/10/2010
98. Mozart's Sister by Nancy Moser--10/10/2010
99. The Waiting by Suzanne Woods Fisher--10/16/2010
100. I Am Nujood, Age 10, and Divorced by Nujood Ali--10/17/2010

I tell ya, what really saved my bacon was Dewey's Read-a-thon last weekend.  I read 4 books the day of the Read-a-thon, and then, 2 more the next day.  Another strange thing (at least to me)...I started off the year with Suzanne Woods Fisher's first book, and the second to last book that I finished for this challenge was her second book.  No, I didn't plan it that way.  :o)

What about you guys?  Been keeping up with how many books you've read?

Book Review: The Waiting by Suzanne Woods Fisher

About the book:



From author Suzanne Woods Fisher, who has written extensively about the Amish in books like Amish Peace and Amish Proverbs, comes The Waiting, an endearing fictional story about an Amish girl, looking for love.

Jorie King has been waiting for Benjamin Zook to return home to Lancaster County so they can marry. When news arrives that Ben has been killed, Jorie finds comfort in the friendship of his brother Caleb. That friendship ripens into love, and it seems that they are meant to be together. 

But when the unexpected happens, their worlds are turned upside down once more. Will Jorie trust God to lead her into the arms of a new man?

A multifaceted story about complex people living the simple life, The Waiting is the second book in the Lancaster County Secrets series. Readers will find themselves transported into the world of the Amish and deeply invested in these wonderful characters.

My thoughts:

Amish fiction has become such a popular genre that it's becoming more difficult for authors to come up with clever plots for this simple society.  The good news is that Suzanne Woods Fisher doesn't have that problem.  The Waiting was one of the best Amish books I've read in a very long time, and my eyes were glued to every single page.  


This was a tough book to read right from the very beginning because of the grief that Caleb and Jorie were experiencing.  This opening was very similar to the first book in the series, The Choice, where the heroine of that story dealt with 3 deaths and a marriage in a very small span of time.  By comparison in The Waiting, Caleb lost his wife and his brother, Ben, with his wife telling him on her death bed that she felt Jorie would be the perfect wife for him.  Then there's Jorie, who has waited for Ben since he left their community to go to Vietnam.  She has endured the talk of her possible spinster future, but her heart has never belonged to anyone else.  


While I felt that the opening sequence of events was a little dramatic, I think that's what kept me furiously turning the pages.  Another thing that I really liked was that this was a historical Amish story set during the Vietnam War.  There wasn't much mention of the war since the Amish are Pacifists, but the war setting, along with the mention of some of the medical treatments that were present back then, really added a lot to the overall story.


Even though this book is the second book in the Lancaster County Secrets series, it can be read as a stand-alone novel since none of the characters from book one present themselves in this book.  Suzanne has created a lovely series with these two books, and I'm anxious to see how she wraps things up with the final book coming out next year entitled The Search.


4 Stars


**Many thanks to Revell books for providing a copy for review.





Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chess Squares Recipe


Well, it's that time of year again!  Time to start breaking out the cookbooks, and working on the meal plans for holiday dinners.  :o)  Personally, I love it.  I love putting out a spread and having my whole family over for Thanksgiving.  I dole out responsibilities to a few people--my mom must always bring her banana pudding, my mother-in-law must always make the dressing, my aunt must always bring her green bean casserole and deviled eggs...you get the picture.  Unfortunately, this year, we'll be out of town...so the Thanksgiving spread at my house won't happen again until next year (at least, I hope it does).  We'll be visiting some family, so the best recipes for me to make this year are ones that don't require refrigeration or to stay hot.  So....here's one of my mainstays that I know I'll be toting to Thanksgiving this year....and it's soooo easy!  (I apologize that I don't have a pic.)

Chess Squares

Crust:

1 Box butter cake mix
1 Stick butter
1 egg

Filling:

1 8 oz. box cream cheese
3 eggs
1 lb. box powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all of the crust ingredients together and press into a 9X13 baking dish.  Next, mix all of the filling ingredients together.  Pour on top of crust.  Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.  Wait until cool before cutting into squares.

Couple of suggestions:

*I've found that I Can't Believe It's Not Butter works best for the crust.  I have tried all sorts of different brands, and find this one works best.

*Nuke the cream cheese just a bit before you start to mix it with the other filling ingredients.  Otherwise, it's a pain to try to mix.

I'm linking up to Amy's 2nd Annual Fall Festival Recipe Exchange.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

CFBA Blog Tour: Embers of Love by Tracie Peterson


This week, the



Christian Fiction Blog Alliance



is introducing



Embers of Love
 
Bethany House (October 1, 2010)



by
 
Tracie Peterson


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tracie Peterson is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than 85 novels.

She received her first book contract in November, 1992 and saw A Place To Belong published in February 1993 with Barbour Publishings' Heartsong Presents. She wrote exclusively with Heartsong for the next two years, receiving their readership's vote for Favorite Author of the Year for three years in a row.

In December, 1995 she signed a contract with Bethany House Publishers to co-write a series with author Judith Pella. Tracie now writes exclusively for Bethany House Publishers.

She teaches writing workshops at a variety of conferences on subjects such as inspirational romance and historical research.

Tracie was awarded the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for 2007 Inspirational Fiction and her books have won numerous awards for favorite books in a variety of contests.

Making her home in Montana, this Kansas native enjoys spending time with family--especially her three grandchildren--Rainy, Fox and Max. She's active in her church as the Director of Women's Ministries, coordinates a yearly writer's retreat for published authors, and travels, as time permits, to research her books

ABOUT THE BOOK:

The logging industry in eastern Texas is booming, and Deborah Vandermark plans to assist her family's business now that she's completed college. Unexpectedly, her best friend, Lizzie Decker, accompanies her back home--fleeing a wedding and groom she has no interest in.

Deborah, the determined matchmaker, puts her sights on uniting her brother and dear friend in a true love match. Deborah soon meets Dr. Christopher Clayton, a much-needed addition to the town. As their lives intersect, Deborah realizes that she has a much greater interest in medicine and science than the bookkeeping she was trained in.

But when typhoid begins to spread and Lizzie's jilted fiance returns, Deborah wonders if true love can overcome such obstacles...for those dearest to her, and for herself.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Embers of Love, go HERE.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Book Review: Menu for Romance by Kaye Dacus

About the book:

The Chef and the Party Planner Each Seek the Kind of Love that Requires No Reservations


After eight years of unrequited love, Meredith Guidry decides it’s time to move on, to try to find someone who’ll love her in return. So she makes a prayerful New Year’s resolution to meet someone new and end her single status by year’s end. And when the handsome contractor she hires to finish remodeling her house asks her out, it looks like her prayer may have been answered. But dating the handsome contractor doesn’t seem to do anything to lessen Meredith’s feelings toward a certain chef she works with every day.

Executive Chef Major O’Hara has foresworn relationships, knowing he could never saddle the woman he loves with a family situation like his. When he’s offered the opportunity of a lifetime—to open his own restaurant—he must weigh his family responsibilities and feelings for Meredith with the desire to move forward in his career. Should he leave his comfortable job—and Meredith—for this once in a lifetime chance? And can he create a menu for romance to win Meredith back before he loses her forever? Will God serve up a solution before it’s too late?

My thoughts:

I do believe that I have found the author who can consistently provide me with my contemporary romance fix!  Now, I've only read 2 of her books so far, but I stand by my first statement because both of those books have been THAT GOOD!  Her Brides of Bonneterre Series has everything I love in a contemporary romance:  the heart-stopping kissing scenes, the fun (but at times, flawed) characters, and a good dose of Southern charm. 

Now, most books that try to have a Southern flair either get it right or get it wrong, and unless you're from the South, you might never know which bucket a book falls in.  Pleasantly, Menu for Romance fell into the "got it right" bucket.  :o)  If I'm not mistaken, Kaye is a from the South, so she's certainly stuck to the all-important writing rule of "write what you know."  Bonneterre is a fictional town in Louisiana that has an old-South charm.  There's a great love of family and friends there, not to mention the beautiful plantation homes that make one "ooh" and "ahh." 

Then, there's the Southernisms....things that I immediately noticed because they are already prevelant in my family (particularly obvious in my redneck brother).  A man is not called a man, but a "fella."  You don't say "everyone"--you say "y'all."  You come out of the womb with a John Wayne movie in your hands.  And your tea better be "so sweet that if you run out of syrup, you can pour it over your pancakes" (borrowed that line from Christian comedian, Mark Lowry). 

So, with all that Southern loveliness floating around, it should be easy for a couple to fall in love and start a relationship, right?  Well, almost.  Falling in love was obvious to everyone except Meredith and Major...which caused me to get a tad frustrated, but I was still understanding.  See, Major has a family secret that would be utter mortification if it got out to his friends.  And even though he's known Meredith for 8 long years, he's never been able to share this secret with her, his best friend.  So, he tries to put her out of his mind and his heart until another "fella" comes a'courting.  Equally, Meredith tries to move on past her 8-year crush on Major until she sees a certain woman making goo-goo eyes at him.  But God had other plans in mind for these two, if only they'd just open their eyes.  Trust me, it was well worth the wait once the light bulb came on for both Meredith and Major.  :o)

So, if you're a Southern gal like me, and love a great romance, then may I wholeheartedly recommend that you get yourself down the road to Wal-mart and buy yo'self a copy of this book!  (For those non-Southerners out there, most everything can be found at Wally World in our small towns.)  And if they don't have it at Wal-mart, then get to beggin', borrowin', or stealin' (well, maybe I shouldn't encourage that last one).  No matter...get yourself a copy of Menu for Romance and the book before it, Stand-In Groom.  You'll be really glad that you did.  :o)

5 Stars

**Click here for my review of Stand-In Groom.

**Many thanks to Barbour Books through NetGalley for providing a copy for review.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Book Review: The House on Malcolm Street by Leisha Kelly

About the book:

It is the autumn of 1920 and Leah Breckenridge is desperate to find a way to provide for her young daughter. After losing her husband and infant son in an accident, she is angry at God and fearful about the future. Finding refuge in a boardinghouse run by her late husband's aunt, Leah's heart begins the slow process of mending. Is it the people who surround her--or perhaps this very house--that reach into her heart with healing? Delightful, realistic characters and skilled writing make The House on Malcolm Street a treasure. Leisha Kelly's fans and new readers alike will find this simple story about the complexities of life an engrossing read. 

My thoughts (thus far):


This has been a really tough book to read so far, and it's not one I would recommend to someone looking for a happy read.  It is a story of deep grief for both Leah and Josiah because they have both lost a spouse and a child.  Leah tries her hardest to deal with her grief while raising her only daughter, Eliza, while Josiah represses his grief and avoids getting close to Leah and Eliza.  But in spite of the difficult circumstances that Leah and Josiah have experienced, I see that this is a story of hope....hope that God does not leave his children forsaken, and hope that in spite of a storm, God is always waiting with open arms of love.  I can't wait to reach the conclusion!

Remaining thoughts (from about 3 weeks later):

Well, it took me a long time to finish this one.  It seemed like I read and read and read, and nothing really progressed for the longest time in this story.  In spite of it being a very slow read, I was very impressed by Leah's fear of trains that literally jumped off the pages.  The way her nightmares were written felt extremely believable, as well as the panic attacks that followed.  Toward the end, I found myself more interested in the story happening between Leah's Aunt Marigold and her neighbor, Mr. Abraham, rather than the conclusion of Leah and Josiah's stories. My final rating for The House on Malcolm Street was 3 stars.


**Many thanks to Donna Hausler at Revell for providing a copy for review.
 

Countdown 2010 Challenge Completed!

Wow...this was a toughie!!  I thought for a minute there that I wouldn't wrap this one up by the deadline, but at 11:45pm last night, I finished the Countdown 2010 Challenge on 10/10/2010!  If it hadn't been for Dewey's Read-a-thon that I did on Saturday, I really don't think I could've done it.


The goal of this challenge was to read so many books published in a certain year:  10 from 2010, 9 from 2009, and so on. 


Here's a recap of what I've read since 9/9/09 last year:


2010

1. The Choice by Suzanne Woods Fisher--1/2/10 (review)
2. Burn by Ted Dekker and Erin Healy--1/26/10 (review)
3. Beguiled by Deeanne Gist and J. Mark Bertrand--1/29/10 (review)
4. The Pastor's Wife by Jennifer AlLee--2/4/10 (review)
5. Abigail by Jill Eileen Smith--2/20/2010 (review)
6. Plain Jayne by Hillary Manton Lodge--2/25/2010 (review)
7. Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa by Melanie Dobson--3/19/2010 (review)
8. Heart of Stone by Jill Marie Landis--3/24/2010 (review)
9. Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson--4/2/2010 (review)
10. Asking for Trouble by Sandra Byrd--4/4/2010 (review)

2009
1. Mohamed's Moon by Keith Clemons--9/10/09 (review)
2. In the Arms of Immortals by Ginger Garrett--9/21/09 (review)
3. Bo's Cafe by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and John Lynch--9/23/09 (review)
4. The Red Siren by MaryLu Tyndall--10/3/09 (review)
5. Stretch Marks by Kimberly Stuart--10/7/09 (review)
6. If Only You Knew by Mags Storey--10/8/09
7. The Sound of Sleigh Bells by Cindy Woodsmall--10/11/09 (review)
8. Love is a Battlefield by Annalisa Daughety--10/18/09 (review)
9. Leaving Carolina by Tamara Leigh--10/22/09 (review)

2008
1. A Cut Above by Ginny Aiken--9/13/09
2. In the Shadow of Lions by Ginger Garrett--9/16/09
3. Hidden by Shelley Shepard Gray--10/24/09
4. Someday by Karen Kingsbury--10/28/09
5. The Cat That Made Nothing Something Again--12/10/09 (review)
6. Face of Betrayal by Lis Wiehl and April Henry--12/21/09 (review)
7. The Face by Angela Hunt--12/29/09 (review)
8. The Bride Bargain by Kelly Eileen Hake--3/22/2010 (review)

2007
1. The Parting by Beverly Lewis--2/22/2010
2. One Smooth Stone by Marcia Lee Laycock--3/12/2010 (review)
3. Petticoat Ranch by Mary Connealy--5/1/2010
4. The Other Daughter by Miralee Ferrell--7/8/2010 (review)
5. Shattered Dreams by Irene Spencer--7/16/2010
6. Where My Heart Belongs by Tracie Peterson--9/3/2010 (review)
7. The Lumberjack's Lady by Susan Page Davis--10/07/2010

2006
1. The Soldier's Lady by Michael Phillips--10/18/09
2. Diamond Place by Robin Lee Hatcher--10/24/09
3. Abide with Me by Delia Parr--11/3/09 (review)
4. Weaving a Future by Susan Page Davis--10/01/2010
5. Banking on Love by Janice A. Thompson--10/10/2010
6. Mozart's Sister by Nancy Moser--10/10/2010

2005
1. Gardenias for Breakfast by Robin Jones Gunn--2/21/2010
2. Fighting for Bread and Roses by Lynn A. Coleman--9/14/2010  (review)
3. Over the Waters by Deborah Raney--10/09/2010
4. Hearts Twice Met by Freda Chrisma--10/09/2010
5. Sooner or Later by Vickie McDonough--10/10/2010

2004
1. Torch Red by Melody Carlson--3/6/2010
2. The Winter Pearl by Molly Noble Bull--5/29/2010
3. Brink of Death by Brandilyn Collins--7/26/2010
4. Light of My Heart by Ginny Aiken--8/2/2010
5. Stain of Guilt by Brandilyn Collins--8/7/2010

2003
1. Babylon Rising by Tim Lahaye--11/10/2009
2. The Price of Freedom by Carol Umberger--8/9/2010
3. The Mark of Salvation by Carol Umberger--8/14/2010

2002
1. A Sinister Silence by Jane Peart--1/9/2010
2. Halfway to Forever by Karen Kingsbury--3/14/2010

2001
1. Lady of Light by Kathleen Morgan--9/28/09 (review)


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Read-a-thon: Hour 19 and Final Wrap Up

I can't....go on....any longer (think of Stevie from Malcolm in the Middle...hubby loves that show now, and I'm becoming a bit partial to it myself).  I've made it to hour 19 which is a far cry from how long I went last year.  I didn't reach my 5 book goal, but that's all right...I'll finish the 2010 book challenge tomorrow, hopefully (see my first read-a-thon post for details on that).

Here's a recap of what I accomplished today:

Title of book(s) read since last update: Sooner or Later by Vickie McDonough
Number of books read since you started: 4
Pages read since last update: 170
Running total of pages read since you started: 950
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 3 hours, 30 minutes
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 15 hours, 45 minutes

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Read-a-thon: Hour 16

Title of book(s) read since last update: Hearts Twice Met by Freda Chrisman
Number of books read since you started: 3
Pages read since last update: 170
Running total of pages read since you started: 780
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 12 hours, 15 minutes

Read-a-thon: Hour 12

Title of book(s) read since last update: Over the Waters by Deborah Raney
Number of books read since you started: 2
Pages read since last update: 325
Running total of pages read since you started: 610
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 4 hours, 45 minutes
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 9 hours, 45 minutes

Mini-Event Survey.....

1. What are you reading right now? Just finished one book, not sure what I'll pick up next yet.
2. How many books have you read so far? Only 2...sigh.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? Some that are shorter!  :o)
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?  Thankfully, no.
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? Nope, no interruptions.  Hubby has slept all day b/c he stayed up all night, so the house has been very quiet, thankfully.  :o)  Then again, he just woke up, so I can't say what the rest of the day holds as far as noise goes.
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? The biggest surprise I had last year when I participated was how quickly I got sleepy!  I'm not used to waking up so early on the weekends, and I didn't mentally prepare myself to deal with such low energy.  But this year, I've been better prepared mentally.  I'm expecting that I'll last longer than I did last year, for sure!
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? The setup that's being used now seems perfect.
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? Nothing I can think of.
9. Are you getting tired yet?  Not really, thankfully.  Hubby will be going to Wally World soon for caffeine, as well as a trip to Mickey D's...so my energy burst will be coming around soon.  :o)
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?  Just a suggestion that I came across last year:  read a short book first.  I completely forgot that this year, and spent a lot of the morning reading a longer book, and almost got discouraged before I really got started.  So, now that I've read 610 pages so far today, I'm about to start on the shorter books so I can at least try to reach my personal 5-book goal for the read-a-thon.