Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Needled to Death by Maggie Sefton

Book 2 of Sefton's Knitting Mysteries series.

You do not have to be a knitter to enjoy these books... I know, I love reading this series and have never knitted a stitch in my life (haven't purled either! LOL!)  I do think you will relate a bit more to the characters if you are a crafter. There is something about a community of people who share a love of fibers or fabrics or embellishments or beads etc.  But as with knitting, I don't think it is necessary to be a crafter to enjoy these books.

Kelly Flynn is settling into her "temporary" life in Fort Connor, Colorado... telecommuting from her office in DC, taking breaks for caffeine and knitting with friend at the House of Lambspun, attempting a casual relationship with a handsome fella and trying to keep her dog in the yard and away from stray golf balls.  If only she could figure out a way to make this permanent.

But it seems homicide is a part of this new life also.  Volunteering to drive a group of touring knitters to a local alpaca farm seems harmless enough, until Kelly finds the owner dead on her latest creation. The police jump right in, but Kelly feels the need to aid them, whether they really want her help or not.

Needled to Death is a fun cozy mystery.. just like book 1 (Knit One, Kill Two) was and just like I expect all the others to be! Book 3 is winging its way here via USPS even as I type!

If you like mysteries... especially the cozy kind, check out Sefton's Knitting Series. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Authentic Relationships by Wayne Jacobsen & Clay Jacobsen

A friend mentioned this book on FaceBook and the subtitle caught my eye.. "discover the lost are of 'one anothering'"  After reading a quote or two my friend posted and asking him about the book, I decided to order it.  Wow!  Good decision on my part!  This is truly a wonderful book... one I think every Christ-follower should read.

The Jacobsen brothers point out that their are verses (commands) throughout the Bible that tell us how to treat our fellow Christians.  And if we would only heed God's word, we would find true authentic lasting vital relationships within the body that in turn make us more effected as we reach out to those outside the body.

While the book does not focus on ever single "one another" verse, it does cover many and, honestly, most of the ones they cover encompass virtues that are found in the ones not discussed.  We look at loving one another, honoring one another, encouraging one another, praying for and with one another, submitting to one another, forgiving one another, being kind to one another and more.

This book can be used for a small group study and has discussion questions for each chapter. If you choose to read it alone, as I did, these questions can be used for deeper meditation and digging into the Word.

I tend to underline and highlight in my non-fiction books. This one is full of pen marks and asterisks.  I have already gone back and looked at things again and again and have no doubt I will continue to do so. I also know that I will be ordering more of this book and giving it to friends and family. NOT because I think they are doing a poor job in their relationships, but because this is just a great focused tool that points us to Scripture and how God wants us to live.  It teaches us, again through Scripture, how to be the church not just go to church.

"One Anothering"... definitely a lost art and one I, personally, hope to revive in my life.

A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist

I have read one other book by Gist... Maid to Match... and loved it! You will find my review here: Maid to Match Review  So I was excited to start another book by this author and anticipated it being just as fun to read. I was not disappointed!

A Bride in the Bargain is a hoot!  It is a sweet story with fun characters, but over all (to me) it was a book that made be laugh and smile the whole time I read it.  Joe Denton has his land... he has worked to prove it and has a thriving lumber business. What he doesn't have is a wife and if he doesn't get one soon, or prove he had one at the time he started this endeavor, then he will loose it all. Asa Mercer is promising brides... orphans and widows of the Civil War who have no one.  Desperate, Joe purchases one of Mercer's brides and then waits for her to arrive.

Anna Ivey needs to escape... the pain of all she lost to the war and the clutches of an unscrupulous boss who wants more than a cook.  She signs on with Mercer to move west and cook for a lumber business in Seattle.  What he fails to tell her and many of the other women is there is more to the bargain!

When Joe Denton escorts Anna to the preacher she is appalled!  She came to be a hired cook not a wife and she wants nothing to do with marriage! With only a few months left before he loses all he has, can Joe convince Anna that marriage would serve them both well?

There are so many twists and turns and hilarious happenings in this book.. not only with Joe and Anna, but with some of the other characters like Mrs. Wrenne and her lack of teeth or the Judge and his nameless children called One, Two, Three and Four!

Delightful book!  Put it on your "to read" list. You will not be disappointed!

From a Distance by Tamara Alexander

This is book 1 is the Timber Ridge Reflections series.  It took a bit for me to get into this book, but I think that was more to do with me than the book. I had just finished a series that I adored and was still caught up in the characters there.  However, once I got connected with the characters of this book I was enthralled.  This would be classified as a historic romance but what I love is the romance is light... not overbearing... it is very real feeling... not fairy tale.  There are other issues and circumstances happening and the romance is just a part of it all, not the main thrust.  I am hopeful the other books in this series will be the same.

The setting is the late 1800s, after the Civil War.  Elizabeth Westbrook has travelled from her refined upbringing in Washington, DC to the rugged wild west of the Colorado Territory. Her goal? to capture the grandeur of the landscape with her camera lens and send them back to the Washington Chronicle in hopes of becoming their next photojournalist.. and the first female on staff.

Former Confederate Sharpshooter, Daniel Ranslett is running from a past riddled with hurt and death and guilt.  He will do whatever it takes to protect his secrets, his land and his solitude.

When Elizabeth and Daniel's paths cross it is not an easy passing.  The two start off on the wrong foot and appears they will never find common ground.  Then Elizabeth stumbles across a murder and finds herself in the danger.  Her protection falls to Daniel as he is called on to repay a debt to an old friend.  Forced to journey together through the Colorado mountains, these two come face to face with their pasts, their futures and each other.

Excellent book!  Looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Praying in the Messiness of Life by Linda Douty

When I saw this book advertised in a catalog, I thought  "Must Read!"  I ordered it and read it... and have mixed feelings about it. I will say that I would not recommend it to someone unless I knew they were mature in their walk with the Lord and were in the Word seeking Him and His truth.  Do I think this book is heresy or blasphemy? Not at all! But it is a bit freer in its thinking and, I believe, could be used to send someone off on the wrong track.

For example, in the chapter on Praying with the Surroundings there is a section called "The Teaching of Trees."  Here the author suggest that you find a large tree that you can stand under.  "Be aware of your feet solidly planted on the ground and then slowly look up through the leaves and branches.  Be silent for several minutes, open to what the tree has to teach you."  Being open to what the tree has to teach you is what bothers me a bit. I know that I learn from being in nature.. from observing... and pondering the things I see in light of my knowledge of God. However, I fear this practice of being open to what the tree has to teach you could easily be misconstrued as being one with nature and seeing the tree as a living being that teaches.  Sound far-fetched? Maybe, but there are people who worship nature and this kind of exercise fits right in with their practices.

On the other hand, there are points in here about praying scripture, being still and listening to God, and other prayer practices that line up with the Word of God.  

So the book is not a total wash... it is just one that needs to be read in light of Scripture (as all books should be) and.. well, prayerfully. If you choose to read this book, ask the Spirit to show you what is valuable and what needs to be avoided.  And honestly, if you are looking for a book on prayer and ways to pray, there are many others out there that are "safer" choices such as A Fresh Vision of Jesus by Cheri Fuller, The Hour that Changes Everything by Dick Eastman, and Pray with Purpose, Live with Passion by Debbie Williams (to name a few).  

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lassoed in Texas Series by Mary Connealy

These very well may be my favorite fiction books of 2011. They are certainly my faves so far this year! I devoured them. Housework... cooking... sewing... talking... even the computer took a back seat to these. I just loved them!

First they are set in the old west... a setting I love... the heroines are strong (even when they don't think they are) and quirky ... love that!... and there are cowboys involved... I love that too! LOL!  The titles are great too... as is the cover art. I try my best not to judge a book by its cover, but these covers grabbed my eye! I couldn't resist them!

Book 1: Petticoat Ranch

Sophie Edwards and her girls are doing just fine. Never mind they see no one and live in a hovel in a thicket far from civilization.  Still Sophie knows her time is short and she needs help. She cries out to the Lord and he answers in grander ways than she could have imagined.

Clay McClellan is searching for his long lost brother. Imagine his surprise when he finds Cliff is dead and has left a widow and four angelic girls.  Christian duty rises up in Clay and he insists that Sophie marry him, after all she and the girls need protection. Or do they?

In the midst of adventure and intrigue as Cliff's killer returns for "what is his", the reader finds much laughter and love. Sophie is not ordinary female and she is not planning on changing her ways.

Can these mismatched newlyweds find common ground and build a family in the face of danger and hardship on the Texas Frontier?

Book 2: Calico Canyon

We meet Grace in Book 1. She is a prim and proper school teacher new to the wild west of Texas.  Imagine her surprise when she wakes up in the home of Daniel Reeves with Daniel and his four wild boys who have terrorized her schoolroom every day she has been there.  To protect her reputation, Grace is forced to marry Daniel and the real adventure begins.

Daniel and Grace detest each other and their situation. Grace knows nothing of housework and cooking... and Daniel knows nothing of a soft feminine woman.  Add to the mix a figure from Grace's past determined to hunt her down and extract his revenge and you have a wild ride!

Will these 2 as different as night and day make a life together in Calico Canyon or will their differences lead to destruction?

Book 3: Gingham Mountain

Hannah has scrimped and saved and finally has a way to head west in search of her sister, Grace.  But plans change when 2 young orphans travelling on the same train are placed into the care of a single man, Grant.  Hannah knows the life of an orphan in the home of man who works his children to the bone and she is determined to protect these children.

In need of a job, Hannah is hired as the schoolmarm in Sour Springs and determines to keep a close eye on Grant and his brood.

As she comes to know Grant and all his children, Hannah finds her first impression may have been wrong.  But what of Prudence? Does Grant return her affections? Would she be a suitable mother to a house full of orphans?

Hannah's heart is leery and yet she is drawn to Grant and his family.  Hopefully it isn't too late for them.

Read the books in order.. the connect and flow better that way. So good! If you are a romance lover and especially historic romance, you need to read this series!

Anna Meets Her Match by Arlene James

Cute book!  This is a Love Inspired Romance. Reeves Leland has trouble... bees to be exact. They have invaded his home and so he and his young daughter have to leave. They move into Chatam House temporarily. Chatam House is the grand home of his 3 aunts who have decided to use this opportunity to try their hands at matchmaking.  But why on earth would they choose Anna Miranda as a match for Reeves!  All through their childhood she tormented him... such a brat! No way could he ever fall for her!

What Reeves didn't expect was the connection Anna would make with his daughter. Having been a girl without a mom gives Anna insight into Gilli and her antics... an insight Reeves lacks and needs.

Maybe the aunts are as far off base as Reeves thought?

Quick fun read!