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Monthly Archives: August 2018

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Where the Fire Falls–Yosemite National Park

Where the Fire Falls

by Karen Barnett

Where the Fire FallsThemes abound in Karen Barnett’s work of historical fiction, set in Yosemite National Park, and they intertwine and work together well. In Where the Fire Falls, the Park itself almost seems like a character as it and its God-created beauty are central to the book. The novel has the Christian focus of man’s relationship with God through His grace. The two main characters have pasts they are struggling to both hide and overcome: Olivia, a rising watercolor artist, and Clark, a former pastor and currently a guide for tourists who want to mule pack into the wilderness.

The main characters are likable and the plot is surprisingly complex with some chaste romance throughout. Supporting characters include socialite patrons, an art agent, rangers at the park, other workers at Yosemite, a hermit, and Olivia’s two younger sisters and her Aunt Phyllis. Olivia has to overcome fears of the past, her inexperience with the outdoors, and her own naiveté. She has to peel off the mask she has created as a shield for herself and as a tool to promote herself in the art world. Clark seeks God’s guidance and direction but is unable to hear it because he feels unworthy.

The descriptions in this book are so well written that I can imagine standing at the various scenic spots as I am taken in by the beauty. Likewise, I can almost picture Olivia’s priceless watercolors that attempt to evoke an emotional response rather than provide a realistic depiction.

I enjoyed this book even more than the first in the series as the plot held more puzzles and surprises. The characters in the two books do not overlap so each actually is a standalone. It is my hope that the author will continue the Vintage National Park Series with new characters in a different national park.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to WaterBrook (Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction, Christian

Notes : A Vintage National Parks Novel

 

Publication:   June 5, 2018—WaterBrook (Random House)

Memorable Lines:

The impulsive decision now hung on her like a dress two sizes too large.

“Scripture says faith can move mountains, but I’ve found time spent in the mountains sometimes moves us toward faith.”

“God saved up the best bits of creation and spent them here.” Viewing it from this angle, she could almost imagine a divine artist smiling as He carved the valley away from the giant monoliths.

Dis-grace is a human term, Clark. God invented grace. No one can take it from you.”

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Sold on a Monday–grab your heart

Sold on a Monday

by Kristina McMorris

Sold on a MondaySold on a Monday is one of those books that keeps returning to your thoughts—sad and soul crushing, but at the same time hopeful. Even the book’s title has a haunting echo: Sold on a Monday. What would it take for a mother to give up her children or further to sell them? Just how precious is a child to a mother and how can she survive when her child is gone? Sold on a Monday contains this theme within the story of a reporter’s drive for success, a secretary’s desire for secrecy, and families’ difficult relationships.

Sold on a Monday is set in the financial desolation of 1931 in Pennsylvania where Ellis, a reporter, snaps a photo of a sign “2 children for sale.” This one picture sets in motion the events contained in Kristina McMorris’ work of historical fiction that incorporates many elements of the Depression. It shows a poverty that brings out the best and the worst in people. Orphans are “adopted” to become forced workers. Mobs control cities, and Prohibition is for those without connections. Neighbors help neighbors, and shopkeepers set aside unsold goods for for the hungry, helpless, and homeless.

I was a little troubled by the romantic triangle in Sold on a Monday. At some points I felt the secretary with reporter aspirations, Lily, is being unfair to the two men interested in her. In fairness to her, however, although she has a four year old son, she is very young. At a time when being an unwed mother is a disgrace, she is attempting to make a living, take care of her child, and help her parents without whose support she would be in desperate straits. The author works out the triangle satisfactorily, if perhaps a bit too tidily, in the end.

I do recommend Sold on a Monday. It would be especially good for book clubs as it lends itself well to discussion. In fact, the author includes a section of questions for that purpose at the end of the book.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Sourcebooks Landmark for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

Publication:   August 28, 2018—Sourcebooks Landmark

Memorable Lines:

“Even when life’s downright lousy, most kids are still so resilient because…well, I guess ‘cause they don’t know any different. It’s like they only realize how unfair their lives are if you tell them. And even then, all they need is the smallest amount of hope and they could do just about anything they set their minds to…”

He dared to ask for a repeat of a point and instantly saw his mistake in the man’s hardened face. Everything about him—his eyes and nose, his build and demeanor resembled a watchful owl. Just biding his time until he swooped in for the kill.

Then she heard. “Can you tell me how it all started?” It was a standard question that blended the reporter in Lily’s head with the detective before her, and she wasn’t entirely certain which of them had asked.

Died in the Wool–in pursuit of a murderer

Died in the Wool

by Peggy Ehrhart

Died in the WoolDied in the Wool, like the first book in Peggy Ehrhart’s Knit and Nibble Mystery Series, has a calmness that gives me pleasure as I read. Although the main character Pamela sometimes follows inadvisable investigative leads like other cozy mysteries’ main characters, neither her pace of life nor her pursuit of justice is frenetic. I sometimes wonder how some main characters manage to maintain a job while trying to solve the mystery and juggle their many personal issues.

Pamela, like author Ehrhart, enjoys knitting and food, and those passions are evident in Pamela’s life as a member of a knitting club whose meetings  also feature snacks or desserts. Ehrhart includes a knitting pattern and recipes in the back of the book, but more pointedly, her descriptions of various foods are detailed and mouth-watering.

The knitting club Knit and Nibble works for weeks producing stuffed animal aardvarks, the school mascot, to sell in support of the football team at Arborfest. Unfortunately there is a murder and the knitting group’s reputation is damaged. Pamela and her friend Bettina try to find the murderer. This cozy has twists and turns with the criminal’s identity discovered only after many understandable, but wrong assumptions and some exciting scenes. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series, Knit One, Die Two.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Knit and Nibble Series, but works well as a standalone

Publication:  August 28, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

She tested several ice-breaking comments in her mind, settling on “Your daughter’s tabouli is delicious.” He turned, looking as startled as if she’d announced a taste for human blood. Terribly shy, Pamela said to herself, awkward in social situations.

At that moment, the sandwiches arrived, on cream-colored oval plates with slender pickle spears tucked alongside. Gobbets of tuna salad and golden streaks of melted cheddar were barely contained by bread that had been grilled to buttery and toasty perfection.

Pamela wasn’t a wary person. She woke up every morning expecting the day to unfold predictably, just the way a knitting project moved predictably toward completion with only an occasional dropped stitch that could easily be picked up again.

Stabbed in the Baklava–secrets and more secrets

Stabbed in the Baklava

by Tina Kashian

Stabbed in the BaklavaAuthor Tina Kashian draws heavily on real life for background and details as she composes her Kitchen Kabab Mystery Series. Like Lucy, her heroine, Tina Kashian grew up working all the various necessary jobs in her parents’ Armenian restaurant on the New Jersey coast. She later worked as a lawyer honing her investigative expertise. Now she puts all of her skills together to create mouth-watering cozy mysteries.

In Stabbed in the Baklava, when Lucy Berberian and her staff cater a celebrity wedding reception, a murder victim is found. To save Lucy’s head chef, Lucy and her friend Katie work hard to find the perpetrator amidst a lot of possibilities. It seems everyone has a secret, and the secrets cause a lot of pain and misunderstandings. Lucy has to get to the bottom of the puzzle to save lives and satisfy justice.

This is a fast-moving cozy mystery with lots of twists and turns to keep the reader engaged. Several times the author uses Lucy to clearly review the complicated plot as the events appear at that point in the story—not a bad technique of summary and clarification. The ending unravels in a surprising and satisfying conclusion.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes:  This second book in the Kitchen Kabab Mystery Series works well as a standalone. The author fills the reader in on background from the first book in the series thoroughly but not tediously.

Publication:   August 28, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

A chrome and black Harley-Davidson motorcycle was in the driveway, its engine purring like a large contented beast. A tall, good-looking, dark-haired man wearing faded jeans and a leather jacket walked out of the garage and halted by the Harley. Lucy couldn’t see his eyes from this distance, but she knew they were as bright blue as the sky on a sultry, summer day at the beach.

A knot tightened in Lucy’s stomach, and she struggled with an unexpected uncertainty. If she was getting better at misleading people in order to gather information, what did that say about her?

Lucy’s mind had seen what it expected to see rather than seeing the truth.

Amazing Auto History in Asheville

This summer I took a short trip to Asheville, NC and while there got a peek at the impressive Grove Park Inn.

After touring some craft shops with beautiful furniture, paintings, and sculptures, we went to the Antique Car Museum behind the Inn. It is housed in a former weaving shop belonging to Biltmore Industries. I’m sure the large windows were essential to the 40 workers making bolts of homespun fabric. Now the long building displays horse drawn carriages, a 1921 fire engine, and vintage autos.IMG_6276

My favorite is this beautiful 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham of which only 400 were produced.

Here’s the displayed information if you want to know more about this magnificent vehicle.IMG_6272

I can’t resist adding a picture of a cute restaurant that looks like it jumped off the pages of a fairy tale.IMG_6278

Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All

Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All

by Karen Ehman

Keep it ShutHave you ever stopped to think about the “aweful” (and sometimes awful) power our tongues can have? Like, maybe, when you put your foot in your mouth…again? Or, perhaps, you have pondered the good in your life when someone spoke words of kindness and encouragement. Karen Ehman has written a special, down-to-earth book for those interested in taming the tongue: Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All.

This book is humorous and full of anecdotes. It is also biblically based and gets REAL about the issues that all honest women will admit arise in their lives from time to time—especially in this digital age.  Ehman addresses various problems of communication including listening, talking to God before talking to others, gossip, flattery, and anger. She shares verses from Proverbs as the original tweets, and they are powerful. It turns out the Bible has a lot to say about what we have to say.

Ehman concludes Keep It Shut by summarizing tips and tricks derived from the body of her book as a quick and easy way to refer back to those truths. She discusses ways to find time and opportunities to get away with God for a few minutes or hours to be grounded in Him so you can make Godly decisions about what to say and when to say it. She lists ten verses that will “help you watch your words.” She has questions to ponder to help you examine your motives and decide if something is gossip or not. Ehman doesn’t stop at the negative. She also includes “powerful phrases” to speak to various people in your life and Scripture verses, quotes, and phrases that you can photocopy and display around your home or office as reminders.

Keep It Shut had a surprisingly big impact on me, giving me a lot to think about. One example is the “white lie.” Yes, I do tell white lies occasionally to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Ehman discusses the dangers of that and offers alternatives. I recommend Keep It Shut for the humor, the chatty presentation, and the Godly truths found in its pages.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Nonfiction

Notes: Ehman addresses women in her book because psychologists have shown that women speak a lot more words every day than men (20,000 compared to 7,000). Of course there are exceptions, but in general women have a lot more opportunities to get in trouble because of things they say than men.  Men, the biblical truths in this book would not be wasted on you either!

Publication:   January 6, 2015—Zondervan

Memorable Lines:

Don’t say something permanently painful just because you are temporarily ticked off.

All the humans you encounter throughout the course of the day are “on purpose” people. God plopped them into your life for a reason.

When we harden our hearts and let every little offense poke a hole in our happiness, we only hurt ourselves…But when we soften our hearts with love for others, and toughen our skins against their barbs, we are better equipped to show the compassionate love of Jesus to a watching world.

Mountain Motorcycling Picnic

IMG_6385Recently my husband and I decided to go on a ride on our dual-sport bikes into the New Mexico mountains between Chama and Tres Piedras. Perfect distance–not too long, not too short.IMG_6389

My husband is famous for transporting unlikely things by motorcycle. Like the time he brought me a dozen red roses in a vase inside his motorcycle jacket. So, while I envisioned a couple of sandwiches, some fruit and water, he prepared barbecued ribs, roasted corn, deviled eggs, bolillos, and watermelon. It was a delicious picnic with an awesome view of the mountains and valley below.IMG_6393

It was a little breezy and cool on top, but really a perfect ride. This is a great destination  for those suffering from the August heat.  When done, we decided to venture further and found a great backcountry road in the Carson National Forest. It was warmer there, the road was in great shape, and peace and solitude abounded. This is an area we plan to return to.IMG_6394IMG_6397

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