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A Daughter for the Mountain Firefighter–past collides with future

A Daughter for the Mountain Firefighter

by Melinda Curtis

If you’ve been following the tales of the Silver Bend Hot Shot crew from Idaho, you know what a difficult and dangerous job mountain firefighters have. A Daughter for the Mountain Firefighter is the fourth book in this series written by Melinda Curtis. Itfocuses on Cole, also known as Chainsaw because his responsibility is to cut paths through the forest for fire barriers and roadways.

As this fire season draws to a close, Cole is preparing to attend medical  school in the Bahamas. To his surprise, his path crosses with an old friend, Rachel, whose sister Cole dated. Rachel has become a mechanic and pilot employed to fly her tanker in support of the firefighters.

Cole and Rachel have complications and issues that go back to their birth families. Cole carries guilt and sorrow. Rachel suffers from PTSD and feels responsible for the well-being of her dad, her niece, Jenna, who has had to grow up too quickly, and her nephew, Matt, who never really knew his mother.

The discovery of the identity of Jenna’s biological dad causes tremors in family relationships. A nearly fatal airplane crash sends Rachel to the hospital and jeopardizes the family’s financial stability. Meanwhile, romance is brewing as Cole begins to wonder if he ever really loved Rachel’s sister, Missy. Rachel, on the other hand, has only ever loved one man. As they stumble through their current, seemingly insurmountable problems, will Cole and Rachel manage to overcome their pasts to find happiness?

I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance

Notes: #4 in the Mountain Firefighter Series, but works well as a standalone.

Publication:  June 26, 2020—Purple Papaya

Memorable Lines:

She understood that the callouses on hearts were’t reliable, that they sometimes softened and let the ache of loss back in.

“Every pilot knows they’re defying the laws of nature by taking to the skies. We weren’t born with wings. But every pilot loves to fly more than they fear the risk of falling.”

Rachel had boarded the denial train.

Crazy Brave–memoir of the U.S. Poet Laureate

Crazy Brave

by Joy Harjo

When the Poet Laureate of the United States writes a memoir, you can expect it to deviate from the standard timeline format, and Joy Harjo’s Crazy Brave is anything but formulaic. She divides her book into four parts according to compass directions. As a Creek Indian, directions, nature, art, music, and family provide her orientation to life. Each section begins with poetic prose. 

“East is the direction of beginnings.” She begins her tale this way and it is a little difficult to settle into the story as she shares her views from the eyes of a child filled with a mix of fear and adoration.

“North is the direction where the difficult teachers live.” In the second  section, Harjo shares the realities of a brutal and abusive childhood in a time and culture that viewed spousal and child abuse and drunkenness as family problems to be either dealt with or endured within the family. After I read the book, I learned later through a webinar that this section was a very difficult one for Harjo to write. In fact, she got stuck for years on this part of her story with the book taking fourteen years to complete. There is redemption in her story, however, as education offers Harjo, as a teenager, a way out of her circumstances.

“West is the direction of endings.” In this section, Harjo describes her young adulthood as she becomes a teenage mother and finds herself trying to live in poverty, at odds with her mother-in-law, and responsible for a stepchild. What happened to her hopes and dreams for a creative life?

“South is the direction of release.” Probably the most poetic and visionary of the sections, “South” continues Harjo’s fight to survive but also interprets her dreams and visions as short stories and poems. She creates an interesting mix of fiction and nonfiction in her writing featuring monsters, eagles, demons, and ancestors.

Harjo describes her panic attacks as monsters. She labels the instincts   that help guide her decision making as the “knowing.” She refers to her ancestors, those who have passed, as guardians in her life, and she speaks to them through her poetry. This memoir is a mix of what really occurred, her perceptions of those events, and flights of fantasy taken from her dream world; she melds poetry and prose in mind bending impressions. 

Crazy Brave personalizes for me the individual and tribal struggles of Native Americans. Although the abuse tied to alcoholism is difficult to read about, it is an important part of Harjo’s experiences and of understanding  the Native culture that helped shape her voice as an author and artist.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Memoir

Notes: Harjo is currently writing another memoir to continue her story where Crazy Brave left off.

Publication:   July 9, 2012—W.W. Norton & Co.

Memorable Lines:

Because music is a language that lives in the spiritual realms, we can hear it, we can notate it and create it, but we cannot hold it in our hands. Music can help raise a people up or call them to gather for war.

Though I was blurred with fear, I could still hear and feel the knowing. The knowing was my rudder, a shimmer of intelligent light, unerring in the midst of this destructive, terrible, and beautiful life. It is a strand of the divine, a pathway for the ancestors and teachers who love us.

It was in the fires of creativity at the Institute of American Indian Arts that my spirit found a place to heal. I thrived with others who carried family and personal stories similar to my own. I belonged. Mine was no longer a solitary journey.

In the Land of Blue Burqas–eye opening view of the women behind the blue veils

In the Land of Blue Burqas

by Kate McCord

What would it be like to live in a country where the language, religion, and culture are extremely different from your own, a country like Afghanistan? Kate McCord raised support from friends and embarked on what was destined to be a five year adventure as a project manager, arranging for and supervising programs to help the local people. In the process, she found ways to interact within the cultural norms which, if violated, could result in penalties including physical abuse, expulsion, or execution. 

Although she could not openly evangelize, she spent much time there having tea with women, and sometimes men, sharing stories to illustrate the teachings of the Honorable Jesus who is regarded as a prophet in Islam. Those stories included parables Jesus himself shared with His followers. In recounting tales they could relate to and by the way she lived her life, Kate was able to show her Muslim neighbors and friends a God who loves them, unlike Allah, who is never associated with love. Allah’s followers obey him according to the interpretations of the local mullah in a most legalistic fashion.

Kate spent time learning the language and culture. Led by the Holy Spirit, she developed culturally sensitive ways to share difficult concepts like the Trinity. She lived as an Afghan woman, learning clothing requirements and social rules such as where to sit on a bus and when to make eye contact. Clearly a foreigner with her own religion, she adapted their customs to her own in a way that respected both traditions. Kate faced challenges in deciding whom to help in the most culturally appropriate way and looked to the locals to ascertain their attitudes toward individuals seeking aid. Knowing she could not revolutionize a society in which none of her many female friends said their husband had never beaten them, she nevertheless planted seeds of generosity, good attitudes, and kindness which helped the women in their relationships as well as showed them a side of the Honorable Jesus that they did not know thus drawing them to Him.

In the Land of Blue Burqas is the canvas on which Kate McCord paints a remarkably positive picture of Afghanistan and its citizens in spite of their dislike of most foreigners and regardless of the many brutal aspects of their culture.  I came away with a clearer understanding of why the country vehemently resists change and is so hostile to non-Muslims. I also emerge from this enlightening book grateful that I live in a country where I am free to choose to worship a loving God.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Evangelism, Christian Missions

Notes: I had a difficult time choosing the memorable lines I wanted to share. Sound bites and even longer quotes don’t do this story justice. I urge you to read the book to get a more complete understanding. It is a fascinating read. It also stimulates me to want to read about how Islam plays out in other countries.

Publication:   May 1, 2012—Moody Publishing

Memorable Lines:

Still, my greatest fear in the country has always been that I would be kidnapped and sold to some warlord as a fourth or fifth wife, relegated to household and sexual slavery behind a twelve-foot, mud-brick wall and locked gate. Even the mildest stories of Afghan women’s lives haunt me.

Our very presence challenges the power of the mullahs and the worldview of our neighbors. It’s one thing to hate and reject the voiceless, faceless masses of pig-eating, alcohol-drinking sons of Satan from the other side of the world—mythic caricatures interpreted by the mullahs through history and religion. 

But we Christian foreigners are flesh and blood with eyes and voices, laughter and tears, stories and faith. When Afghans meet us, see our lives, hear our stories, and recognize our humanness, conflicting worldviews collide. The safe box of well-defined ideological fortress-orthodoxy trembles, walls collapse, and doors open.

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague

by Geraldine Brooks

Year of WondersOur book club undertook Year of Wonders by Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks. There are many things to recommend it, especially the depth of character development. Also prominent is the ability of the author to immerse the reader in the year 1665 in a small town in England where women of all classes were subject to the whims and humiliation of men.

We divided the reading and the discussion into two parts. The first half of the book was well received even though graphic descriptions of the Plague were tough to read. Several of us had to put the book aside for a time because of the horrors of the Plague and the difficult lives of the characters. 

The ending of the book was met with a consensus of disappointment. After detailed and extensive exploration of the characters, author Brooks turns everything upside down leaving a shambles of motivations and actions that are disjointed based on expectations drawn from previous descriptions of their personalities. There is a baseness and meanness rising to the surface of characters who have been portrayed as admirable. The theology exposed by the ministers is not Biblically sound, but if one were to read the notes at the end of the book, it would not be surprising as the author refers to herself as having a “secular mind.”  This is a dark book and not one that I would recommend mainly because the ending tries to provide closure much too quickly and, in the process, rather bizarrely changes the essential characters of all the major actors in the story.

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

Rating: 2/5

Category: Historical Fiction

Notes:  This book includes an afterword, interview with the author, and discussion questions.

Publication:   April 30, 2002—Penguin Books

Memorable Lines:

I liked her, too, because it takes a kind of courage to care so little for what people whisper, especially in a place as small as this…She was a rare creature, Anys Gowdie, and I had to own that I admired her for listening to her own heart rather than having her life filled by others’ conventions.

And so, as generally happens, those who have most give least, and those with less somehow make shrift to share.

“…we must take stock of these herbs and such remedies as the Gowdies may have left here. The key to defeating this Plague, I am convinced, must lie here, in the virtue of such plants as can be used to nourish those who remain in health. We must strengthen our bodies that we may continue to resist contagion.”

Charmed by the Cook’s Kids–a chef with hidden talents

Charmed by the Cook’s Kids

by Melinda Curtis

Charmed by the Cook's KidsHarlan Monroe’s many descendants have personalities and passions that are as diverse as the snowflakes that fall on the dying Idaho tourist town of Second Chance, but they have one thing in common. The terms of their beloved grandfather’s will led to their parents’ firing them from family businesses. They now must agree on saving their grandfather’s hometown or selling it off.

Ivy was rescued from an abusive marriage by Harlan and is now raising her children by running the Bent Nickel, the town’s only restaurant. She supports herself as a short order cook, but she indulges her culinary passions in her secret kitchen. Cam Monroe, who has a coveted Michelin star, arrives in the little town only to discover that his family wants him to cater out of Bent Nickel’s  marginally adequate kitchen for a crowd of celebrities at his cousin’s wedding. 

Ivy and Cam lock horns over different culinary goals and methods before they get to know each other. They both have likable sides and honorable goals, but they have histories that they have to work through.

Melinda Curtis tells their story in Charmed by the Cook’s Kids where you, also, will be charmed by R.J., an aspiring 8 year old chef, and his 5 year old brother Nick. Foodies at heart, they are protective of their mother and have her rules and routines engrained in their psyches. I have enjoyed all the books in the Mountain Monroes, and Charmed by the Cook’s Kids is no exception. If you have read the other books in this series, you will enjoy meeting up with old friends. If this book is the first for you, I think you will find enough information provided that you will not puzzle over characters who are not central to the storyline. Although a clean and heartwarming romance, this book addresses head-on emotional and verbal abuse and the damage they cause. The main storyline has closure, but a few threads are left dangling to entice you to join the denizens of Second Chance to see how situations play out in the next book in this fun series that will leave you smiling.

I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance

Notes: #6 in the Mountain Monroes, but works well as a standalone.

Publication:   June 1, 2020—Harlequin Heartwarming

Memorable Lines:

…she’d felt a shock when he’d taken her arms and shifted her out of his way, a jolt like the first tart taste of lemon in a finely made meringue.

Don’t touch my dish, Ivy. You’ll just ruin it. Her ex-husband’s voice echoed in the kitchen, in Ivy’s head, in her very bones. He’d yell and whisper and hiss that she should stay away, and then he’d contradict himself. You knew my sauce needed more basil. What kind of idiot lets it go out that way?

Diane fixed Ivy with a stare cold enough to freeze the Salmon River.

Twins for the Mountain Firefighter–standing up for those you love

Twins for the Mountain Firefighter

by Melinda Curtis

Twins for the Mountain FirefighterThea Gayle, working on her PhD in textiles, takes on a job as a nanny for ten year old twin girls. When their truck driving, widowed dad is absent for two months without paying Thea’s salary or the apartment rent, Thea finds herself and the girls literally on the sidewalk in Seattle with their belongings. When Thea latches on to the mention of Uncle Logan, a mountain Hot Shot firefighter, she packs the girls and their possessions in her yellow VW Beetle and heads to Silver Bend, Idaho.

In the little town she discovers Logan, aka Tin Man because he “has no heart,” still in deep distress over the death of his twin sister Deb, the girls’ mother. He is having trouble coping with his grief, maintaining his challenging job, and caring for his aunt Glen who has declined rapidly both physically and mentally. Thea brings light into all of their lives, but she and Logan both had serious problems in their family backgrounds and wonder if they can overcome them to find happiness.

Melinda Curtis’ Twins for the Mountain Firefighter is clean and heartwarming, but it does address serious issues including abuse, abandonment, and trust. Although the series focuses on a crew of Hot Shots, there is more emphasis in this novel on relationships than on the actual firefighting. It has characters reaching deep into themselves to find strength, courage, and caring they never knew they had.

I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance

Notes: #2 in the Mountain Firefighter series, but works well as a standalone.

Publication:   March 16, 2020—Purple Papaya

Memorable Lines:

She swung her foot, causing a ripple from the bells attached to her shoes, reminding herself to believe in sunshine and happily-ever-afters, of dreams being achieved.

The distance between them and their goals suddenly seemed insurmountable. She and Logan operated on two different planes. He guarded himself from others with invisible plates of armor and wanted to be alone. She called people to her with color and sound.

His acerbic niece turned to face him. And suddenly, it wasn’t Deb’s face he saw in her scowl but his own. Here was more fallout of his actions, proving he was like a rock dropped into a pond, creating ripples where he shouldn’t.

The Oceans Between Us–disgrace for two nations

The Oceans Between Us

by Gill Thompson

The Oceans Between UsA very good storyteller, Gill Thompson discovered a story that needed to be told and related in such a way that it reached past the bare facts. In The Oceans Between Us, she has done just that.

I was pulled into the story relating to each of the characters as we explored them and their part in making history. Molly and Jack are British mom and son separated when a wartime bomb is detonated destroying their home. They end up oceans apart and although the thread flowing through the book is their longing for each other, their lives continue on with highs and lows. Other themes are institutional abuse and racial discrimination. Those are hard and cold terms that come alive as we watch them played out in this story. The events are a part of history I was unaware of. You’ll want to read this book to see one author’s view of how it may have played out on a personal level and discover if justice was actually ever served.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction

Publication:   March 21, 2019—Headline

Memorable Lines:

Everything seemed out of kilter. Like when she’d tried for hours to do a jigsaw here at Warlingham, only to realize half the pieces came from another set.

Jack was a frozen child, forever trapped in her mind in his five-year-old body. Molly could no more imagine him at eighteen than she could fly.

But the lawyer in him resisted the child. He couldn’t risk his career before it had started. Bindoon had given him brawn but it hadn’t robbed him of a brain. Besides, you didn’t fight violence with violence. You fought it with cunning.

Thread on Arrival–helping the helpless

Thread on Arrival

by Lea Wait

Thread on ArrivalI’m so happy to have read Thread on Arrival, the latest in the Mainely Needlepoint Series, by Lea Wait. Angie Curtis, with some private investigator training in Arizona, has returned to Maine to run the Mainely Needlepoint group formerly run by her grandmother who raised her. She finds herself involved in several simultaneous investigations in this mystery, but they all spring from a runaway boy, Leo, who is in a panic because the homeless man who has taken him under his wing has been brutally murdered. To prove Leo did not murder his friend, Angie must find the real killer and suspects abound. I did guess the murderer before the end of the book, but I still have trouble understanding how anyone could be so cruel. If you like watching how investigative clues are put together, you’ll enjoy this book.

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:  #8 in the Mainely Needlepoint Series

Publication:   April 30, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

As long as men and women made a living from the waters, mourning and remembering would continue, and names would continue to be carved on the monument.

Being a teenager was never easy. But it was much harder when you weren’t like everyone else in your town or school.

The Secrets of Paper and Ink–God’s working it out

The Secrets of Paper and Ink

by Lindsay Harrell

The Secrets of Paper and InkThe lives of three women cross in Lindsay Harrell’s novel The Secrets of Paper and Ink. Sophia is a women’s therapist in Arizona who finds herself in the need of therapy. Ginny is a formerly rich American who abandoned that life to follow her husband to Cornwall, England, to open a bookstore. Their lives cross when Sophia, who needs more healing time, answers Ginny’s ad for a vacation rental. They find a notebook with the story of Emily Fairfax, a woman who lived in the mid 1800’s. Sophia becomes obsessed with learning more about Emily.

Each of the three main characters has to deal with a problem particular to women—abuse, abandonment, and discrimination. The author handles all of these issues with respect. The plot pops back and forth with each chapter focusing on one character, but with Ginny and Sophia’s stories overlapping in real time. Both ladies are impacted by Emily’s story, and there is a delightful surprise ending. Readers who delight in all things bookish will particularly relish this book as it includes a wonderful bookstore, journaling, and a female author in a time period when that was unacceptable. Readers who enjoy a good Christian romance will take pleasure in the gentle ways in which the characters’ interest in God is reawakened. Lastly, historical fiction buffs will appreciate the inclusion of Emily’s story.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Christian Fiction

Publication:   February 26, 2019—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

But no matter what she felt, she knew deep down that her story did matter. She had to fight against the lie that it didn’t. And if she didn’t protect her own story or have the courage to write it down, no one else would. No one else could.

My senses rang with the cacophony of the muffin man’s bell, the clamor of the clarinet player on the corner, and the clickety-clack of the pattens on ladies’ feet.

Someone had finally noticed me drowning and offered to point me in the direction of the shore. Now it was up to me to keep stroking through the water until I reached the sandy beach beyond.

As Directed–pharmaceutical poisoning

As Directed

by Kathleen Valenti

As DirectedIf you have a master’s degree in pharmacology but come up on the wrong side of Big Pharmaceuticals, you might end up like Maggie O’Malley as a pharmacy technician working her way up to becoming a pharmacist. Along the way Maggie stumbles over dead bodies, gets wound up in several investigations, and finds that her deadly nemesis has been released from jail.

As Directed by Kathleen Valenti is a complicated mystery that makes you feel like you are in a maze. There are lots of victims and many potential criminals. Maggie makes an engaging main character, trying to do the right things but often stumbling along in the frustrating fog of post-concussion syndrome. Her ever supportive boyfriend Constantine is  always ready with IT help and amusing quips.  His pet hamster Miss Vanilla and a stray dog that the couple is “definitely” not going to keep make multiple appearances along with interesting characters who people the book. I recommend this book as a fascinating whodunit especially if you like mysteries with a medical bent.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:  5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Maggie O’Malley Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone.

Publication:   March 12, 2019—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

Levon Petrofina was particular to the point of rigidity, committed to not just following the letter of the law but alphabetizing each letter.

She used to think of the place where she shoved the uncomfortable, the painful, as the Wall. Now she realized she had added to her repertoire of denial, creating a blister around her heart that encapsulated the feelings and memories she wanted so desperately to avoid.

Broken out windows gaped like empty eye sockets. The front door, splintered and half off its hinges, sagged in a toothless frown.

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