Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Only Best Place by Carolyne Aarsen

I forget how I heard about this book, but I am thankful to whomever it was that lead me to it. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. Neta Jackson (author of the Yada Yada Prayer Group series) is quoted on the back covering as follows: “… Carolyne Aarsen writes for every woman who has said yes with her mouth but not her heard, who has left he comfort and safety of the known and stepped (mentally kicking and screaming) into the unknown.” That quote really does sum up Leslie VandeKeere (the heroine).

Leslie is living the good urban life with all the energy and rush she loves. She has a happy family and a great career… both pull her in a zillion directions, but she thrives in the tension of the moment. So she is far from thrilled when she finds herself uprooted and replanted on her husband’s family farm in Montana. Leslie has never pictured herself as a farmer’s wife and she is determined this is a temporary time of duty as her husband helps his mom with the struggling farm.

When other family members indicate the move is permanent and Leslie’s husband doesn’t correct them, Leslie knows a battle is on and she knows in her heart there can be no winners. She is surrounded b people… family… and yet she feels totally alone. No one seems to care about her… her wants, her needs, her plans.

As Leslie struggles to find a way, she finds that she is not alone… God has not forsaken her… and she learns the only best place is in her heart.

Excellent book! The characters are rich and real… the situations are not sugar coated or exaggerated… they are very real… and the solutions are not easy and cost in a number of ways.

Dying to Decorate by Cyndy Salzmann

This is the first book I have read by Salzmann and probably won’t be the last. I enjoy her writing style and her characters. The book is chick lit, so written in first person, which I don’t always enjoy. But it worked well here. Salzmann is able to work in more dialogue and information about other characters and scenes than some chick lit writers, so this book isn’t just about the “main” character with her doing all the talking.

The cover says that Dying to Decorate is a Friday Afternoon Club Mystery, which indicates to me that there are (or will be) more books concerning the group of women we meet here. The Friday Afternoon Club (FAC) is made up of a group of girlfriends who get together once a week (guess when? LOL) to unwind and vent a bit. They pray for each other… encourage… exhort… and have a whole lot of fun. Oh yes, food plays a bog roll in their getting together and Salzmann has been kind enough to include recipes with each chapter. I will definitely be trying some of the goodies she has shared!

Lucy is a member of FAC and she is drowning in grief. Her husband is killed suddenly, then her mom dies and her daughter leaves for college. Lucy holes up at home wearing the same ratty clothes, eating junk food (or nothing) and watching Lifetime movies. Not a horrible way to spend a day, but not months! FAC comes to the rescue! Upon learning that Lucy as inherited a pre-civil war home, the group decides it is time for a road trip!

At Locust Hill they find mystery and adventure and along the way God opens their eyes to His truths and teaches that He still has work for them to do.

I did enjoy reading this book and would like to read others in their series… if there are any. I do have one thing I didn’t like and I will share it… but I have to warn that it is a bit of a spoiler. So if you don’t want to know, stop reading now.


OK, here is the deal. In this home that Lucy inherits, they find a secret room and in it an old quilt with what appears to be blood stains on it and some metal they learn is part of an old pair of shackles. Lucy is distraught as she decides her ancestors tortured folks. No one really seems to have any idea what the room was for or why the items are there. Then they are given a journal and over time, as they read, they learn that Locust Hill was a station on the Underground Railroad. Now maybe it is just me, but when I read of the room and the items in it, the first thing I thought of was the UGRR. It seems a bit implausible that grown women wouldn’t think of that… wouldn’t put those pieces together. It didn’t ruin the book for me, but it did seem a bit unrealistic.

On the Run & Stranded by Lorena McCourtney

On the Run is book three and Stranded is book 4 of McCourtney’s Ivy Malone Mysteries. To date, there are 4 books in their series. I have read them all and loved them all. I am hoping the series hasn’t ended. It was difficult to tell from book 4 and there were definitely some loose ends still flapping in the wind.

On the Run finds Ivy tooling around in an old dilapidated RV with her cat, Koop. Still running from the Braxtons (who are still determined to silence Ivy for good), she finds herself in the small town of Dulcy, Oklahoma. While there, Ivy picks up a new friend and traveling companion, Abilene, who has her own reason for being on the run, and to know surprise she stumbles across 2 dead bodies. Once again, Ivy’s sleuthing skills come in handy as she and Abilene poked around in the Northcutt’s lives and find a large motive for murder.

In Stranded, Abilene is still traveling with Ivy and as the title indicates, they get stranded… in Hello, Colorado. Ivy and Abilene find a bit of peace there and find that they fit in with the locals. With the RV out of commission and no money for repairs, they hunker down for a bit and find jobs and a place to stay…. a home with a sordid past… a very recent sordid past… a murder and their landlady is the prime suspect. Ivy is determined Kelly had nothing to do with her uncle’s murder and sets off to find out who did.

Both books are wonderful… so much fun to read. Ivy is a hoot and the characters she meets along the road are rich and colorful… not flat cardboard cut outs. This is must read series for mystery lovers, but you definitely need to start with book 1 and read them in order! Warning: you will be hooked!

An Undivided Heart & A Place to Belong by Nancy Moser & Vonette Bright

These are books 3 & 4 in the Sister Circle Series by Moser and Bright. Another wonderful series based on women and their friendships… and another series best read in order (as most are). Evelyn Peerbaugh continues to run Peerbaugh Place, a boarding house for single women. In An Undivided Heart, Evelyn finds herself with all new tenants and it comes as no surprise that she has gotten more than she bargained for. One tenant’s name is vanity (ok… not really, but it should be) and another is engaged to a demanding man who uses her like a doormat and she lets him. Fortunately Mae, Piper, Audra and Tessa are still around to encourage and help. Their sister circle continues to go and to grow as Evelyn embraces the new sisters God has placed in her life.

In A Place to Belong, Peerbaugh Place is once again empty and Evelyn is worried about her financial well being. On top of money worries, Evelyn also has love trouble… her heart is drawn to a certain someone who doesn’t seem to share her feelings. Despite her need for income, Evelyn finds herself opening Peerbaugh Place to new sisters who have no means to pay rent and as she steps out in faith, she finds that God has new plans for her home and her heart.

8 Sandpiper Way by Debbie Macomber

You will find a many reviews here on my blog for Macomber’s books. I really enjoy her writing, She is a secular writer, but her books tend to be clean and I have noticed more and more references to faith in her books. The first Macomber novel I read was 16 Lighthouse Road, which is book 1 of the Cedar Cove series. I love this series and will be saddened when and if it ends. 8 Sandpiper Way is the latest Cedar Cove installment, although there is a Christmas tale available now also and the promise of book 9 in the fall (too long a wait!)

8 Sandpiper Way picks up where the last Cedar Cove novel left off (which means you need to read them in order). I was reunited with old friends like Olivia and Jack, Grace and Cliff, Terri and Bobby, and more. Life is moving on at a rapid pace in Cedar Cove… babies are on the way… love is in the air… illness threatens the happiness of one family… secrecy another… and while many things are resolved, there are plenty of loose ends left hanging to whet the reader’s appetite for book 9. Did I mention we have to wait until September 2009 for that one! So not fair!
I cannot recommend Macomber’s books enough and Cedar Cove is a great place to start. You will fall in love with the people there and will find bits of yourself in many of them

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman

My friend, Susan, and I trade off books from time to time and this is one I caught her reading one day. I had never heard of the author nor seen the book, but the cover and summary on back intrigued me, so she loaned it to me.. and I am so glad she did.

A Passion Most Pure is Lessman's debut novel and book 1 of her series, The Daughters of Boston. (I recently learned that book 2 is out and will be grabbing it up soon!)

Faith O'Connor has a problem... she's in love... with the man who loves her sister. How could this have happened and why can't she stop these feelings? To top it off, her parents do not approve of Collin McGuire for any of their girls and forbid her younger sister to see him. What will they do when they learn of Faith's heart and that it appears Collin may have feelings for her also? As this struggle with love threatens to rip their family apart, America is thrust in the the first World War and the O'Connors have a new battle to contend with. The women and children head to Ireland, as the men go off to war with everything left hanging in the balance while they wait for the world to return to normal... if it ever does.
I look forward with great anticipation to reading more books by Lessman in the future. Just what I need! Another wonderful author to add more books to my to-read stacks! :)

A Promise to Believe In by Tracie Peterson

As I have stated before, Peterson is one of my favorite authors. I cannot think of any of her books that I don't like. Certainly I like some more than others, but they are all great reads! A Promise to Believe In is no except. It is book 1 in her new Brides of Gallatin Country series, which has made my to read list grow longer and will cause me to exercise patience between the publishing of each book in the series.

Many of Peterson's books are set in the west and in days gone by, so it comes as no surprise to the reader to find herself in the Montana wilds in the late 1800s. There are other elements to A Promise that are seen in previous works by Peterson, such as the wonderful way she shows grace to the "soiled doves" who worked in the saloons, the struggles with faith we continue to face today, and the power of God's Spirit to change lives. In the midst of that familiar territory come new faces and new situations for the reader to ponder and enjoy.

The three Gallatin sisters live in the wilds of Montana with their father at a stagecoach crossroads which is about to be birthed into a town. Gallatin House is a place for travellers to find rest and a good meal before continuing on their journey. After spending years travelling around with their restless father, the girls are settling into a life of normalcy when tragedy strikes. Their father is accidentally killed and now the girls must decide how to move forward.

Gwen, the oldest Gallatin girl, is certain she is cursed. Everyone she loves dies.... her mother and baby brother, her husband of only a few days and now her father. She fears what will happen to her sisters and wonders if they should part company to ensure the girls' safety. As Gwen ponders what to do and works to keep the roadhouse running, a stranger arrives with strong opinions and accusations against Gwen. Can she convince him she is innocent of his charges and send him on his way or does God have a different plan.... one that requires healing and open hearts?