Karen Barnett – book review

Dear Readers,

I love visiting the National park across our country.  I have been to several and hope someday to check them all off my list.  But in the meantime, I can read books like Ever Faithful by Karen Barnett, third in her A Vintage National Parks series.  She has taken us to 2 other parks already, Yosemite and Mount Rainer, and with the 3rd installment Barnett takes us to my favorite National Park, Yellowstone.

By adding wonderful historical facts, not only is the reader treated to a fun little vacation in the park, but Barnett reminds us how much work went into making sure the parks stayed open in-spite of opposition and the depression keeping people away from the parks. 

I have enjoyed learning more about the parks, how there were people who believed the parks should only belong only to the elite and how it was a battle to make sure any and all could visit. How there has always been champions of the parks and how the parks were used to help young men from big cities find work and even complete their education. 

Elise, our main protagonist, lives at Yellowstone with her parents.  She works for the hotels to earn money to fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher.  As she draws closer to being able to afford school, her dreams come into question as the handsome new park Ranger starts showing her attention.  Is there a chance for love finally, but will she need to give up her dream to find true love? 

A sweet love story, with a thread of mystery and intrigue, set against the backdrop of the grandeur of Yellowstone.  What a perfect setting for a book.  Thank you, Karen for taking us on such lovely vacations to such an important part of the U.S.   

Happy Reading,

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Shawn Smucker – Q & A

Dear Readers,

I fell in love with Shawn Smucker’s writing from the very first page. His first two book, though considered YA books, were a great delight to read. (Yes, I am waiting for book #3) His 3rd book, Light from Distant Stars released today and I had a chance to sit down and ask him a few questions.

Thank you Shawn for joining me today.

In 2017, you wrote your debut novel, The Day the Angels Fell, for young adults. Now you are transitioning to an adult fiction title with Light from Distant Stars. Why did you decide to switch your audience?

I don’t see it as a huge switch, actually. My YA books are enjoyed by adults as well as young people, and a story told well in many cases can be appreciated by a wide age range. But some of the themes in this book, such as how parents and children can grow apart, might only be fully appreciated by people who have lived long enough to see this happen.

Can you provide a brief description of Light from Distant Stars?

This is a novel primarily about a child’s relationship to his father, the mistakes they both made through the years, and how long it can take us to find each other again. The main character, Cohen, finds his father nearly dead in their family funeral home and spends the next week thinking back over the formative events of his childhood, trying to find out where he and his father lost each other and what happened to the faith of his childhood.

Your main character experienced some traumatic events in his life that affect both his past and his present. Can you expand on this?

Everything we have experienced finds its tangible result in the relationships we have now. I think Cohen is trying to find an explanation for how he’s become who he’s become, and where his relationships with his father and God have gone.

Although Light from Distant Stars covers some difficult elements, it is also a story that explores grace and hope. How is this portrayed in your story?  

It’s a dark story at times, but at the heart of it is a man trying to find his father. And in the end, he has realizations about himself and his dad that change the way he views the events of his life. I think we are all given this task—to try to bring hope to the things that have happened to us.

Repressed memories are an underlying theme in Light from Distant Stars. Did it require specific research to understand how memories impact one’s overall outlook on life?

I was mostly intrigued with how children create imaginary friends, and how this sometimes happens as a way of coping with life that doesn’t fit their ability to understand. This continues into adulthood in some ways, as I think all of us create imaginary or reproduced versions of our past that we can live with. Cohen is in this phase, trying to figure out how he is going to define his life with his father.

Do you have a favorite character?

I love Cohen as a boy. I love his hope and the way he views the world from a sheltered place. As an adult, he makes me a bit sad because of how he responded to what life handed him, but I understand him too.

Readers have compared your writing to James L. Rubart and Neil Gaiman. How do you feel your style is similar to these authors?

I’m very intrigued with stories that take place at the edge of the imagination, with one foot in reality and one foot in something that might be beyond reality or a reality we don’t understand very well. I think this is similar to Rubart and Gaiman. I’m very flattered by the comparison.

What are you working on next?

Another tale that has one foot in reality and one foot in another world.

How can readers connect with you?

Readers can find me at http://www.shawnsmucker.com.

Rachel McMillan – book review

Dear Readers,

Murder in the City of Liberty by Rachel McMillan is simply a fun read.  It is the second book in the Van Buren and DeLuca Mystery series—#1 is Murder at the Flamingo—and set, once again, in the 40’s. McMillan does a fantastic job of making that time in US history come alive.  Not only in the descriptions of the clothes and setting, but also because of the different issues raised at that time.

Reggie and Hamish are once again caught up in a series of crimes.  This time ball player Errol Parker has been experiencing different “pranks” as the police label them.  Reggie and Hamish believe, along with Errol, that there is more behind them than just someone trying to be funny. Could they actually be targeting Errol because of his stance on the war in Europe? 

Once again, McMillan takes us on a lovely tour of Boston and what it might have been like in the early 40’s—the problems of the city and how there was a divide between the haves and have-nots, how being rich gets you privileges and how that if you don’t follow the “norm,” it can cost you. 

I love reading novels that remind me that the world today is not much different than the world of yesterday.  We are still fighting the same old problems and issues.  We are still trying to find our hope in this world.  Thankfully, authors like Rachel remind us that not all is lost and there is much light out there.  She does it while wrapping it all in a fun little murder mystery. 

Happy Reading,

Summer Reading list – Part III

Dear Readers,

One more picture of a place I love to sit and read at. It is in my sitting garden with the small little pond with a few gold fish. It is peaceful and quiet. Even though it is near our road, most days I will only see 2 or 3 cars.

I bought the bench at an auction and it needed lots and lots of TLC, but now it is one of my favorite spots.

Here is the last installment of the summer reading list.

Happy Reading,

The Bride of Ivy Green – Julie Klassen – #3 Tales of Ivy Hill – A Lovely regency series.  Who is the new dressmaker in Ivy Green?  Jane and Mercy along with the other ladies in town have tried to befriend her, but she just doesn’t seem to be who she says she is.  Historical/Regency – FRS 2019 author

My Dearest Dietrich – Amanda Barrett – Did you know Dietrich Bonhoeffer has a fiancée? Me neither, but Amanda takes on a wonderful journey of Dietrich and Marie finding each other in the midst of WWII. How one of the greatest theologians found love in the most unlikely spot. Historical – FRS 2019 author

Wherever You Go – Tracie Peterson – # 2 Brookstone Brides – Mary Reichert is the best sharpshooter in the country.  Her job with Brookstone Wild West Extravaganza fits her perfectly, but she can not rest until she is able to bring her brother’s murder to justice.  Will she be able to move past the injustice or will the handsome journalist, with secrets of his own, be able to help her.   Historical romance  

More than Words Can Say – Karen Witemeyer – Abigail Kemp needs a man.  Well no in the way you think, she just needs a man’s name on her Bakery’s deed. She needs a man she can control and the silent lumberman who comes in every morning does not fit that bill. But he might have to do. Historical Romance

Murder in the City of Liberty – Rachel McMillan – # 2 A Van Buren and Deluca Mystery – Errol Parker, well know baseball player, is Hamish and Reggie’s latest case. What others think of a just pranks, Errol thinks they are hate crimes. Hamish and Reggie find themselves deep in the escalating crimes and not sure they can figure out who the criminal is. Historical/Mystery

The Line Between – Tosca Lee – Wynter is thrown out of the cult into a world she was taught was evil.  With a deadly disease ravaging the nation, Wynter might hold the answer to the cure.  As she races to get the cure in the right hand, can she stay ahead of those that want to kill her, but also the disease itself. – Thriller

Becoming Us – Robin Jones Gunn – Haven Makers Series #1 – Fans of Christy Miller and Sierra Jenson will want to once again join them as they are now wives and mothers.  Their ministry is reaching out to young moms who are struggling and Emily Winslow is their newest target. – Contemporary –

Summer Reading List – Part II

Dear Readers,

Beaching reading is a pleasure I wish I could take advantage of more often. There is something so peaceful about the sound of waves, the smell of the lake and a good book. It should be required of all at least 3 or 4 times a year.

Here is part 2 of the summer reading list.

Happy Reading,

The Seamstress – Allison Pittman – Two little orphan girls are taken in by Gagnon.  They come of age during the French Revolution.  Rene and Laurette take two very different paths.  Each one of their own choosing, but neither ends up where they expect to.  Well done, with rich characters – Historical

Whose Waves These Are – Amanda Dykes – Debut novel – A delightful split time novel sent on the rugged coast of New England.  Annie Bliss returns to the place of one her favorite summers when GrandBob needs her help.  She once again finds love, hope and understanding in the one place that offered it free of charge. Contemporary

A Reluctant Bride – Jody Hedlund – #1 the Bride Ships – Based on the stories of the Bride ships to the new world. Mercy doesn’t feel like she has much of a future, until given a chance to take a ship to British Columbia. A chance at a new life and a way to help her family – Historical

All Manner of Things – Susie Finkbeiner – A small town, a family in turmoil and the Vietnam war. All play an important role in a lovely tale of home and what that means to us all.  Susie writes characters that you feel you can join on a front porch for a glass of lemonade and a chat.

The Curse of Misty Wayfair – Jaime Jo Wright – A good creepy ghost story best read while sitting around a campfire at night, preferably at without a moon for light.  Heidi rushed home after getting a troubling letter from her mother.  There she is greeted by threats that she needs to leave town.  Is the ghost of Misty Wayfair warning her to leave town? Mystery

Romanov – Nadine Brandes – Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov has one chance at her family’s survival.  Get a spell out of town and to the wilds of Siberia.  But she is being hunted and her chance of escaping is Zash who doesn’t act like any other Bolshevik she knows. Fantasy/History

The Secret of Paper and Ink – Lindsay Harrel – Sophia needs time away to regroup after her abusive fiancé dies.  She decides to take time to live in Cornwall England and work at a local bookstore.  What starts as a summer job becomes so much more.  Besides which one of us has not dreamed of living in England and working at a bookstore. Contemporary

On a Summer Tide – Suzanne Woods Fisher – Camden’s life is forced to slow down when her father surprisingly buys an island off the coast of Maine. Cam and her 2 sisters head to the island to find out if their father has lost his mind. What Cam finds is a lot different than what she thought she would.  Contemporary

Stratagem – Robin Caroll – When Grayson’s ex wife is murder while taking part in the ‘team building’ game he designed, he is the number one suspect.  Will he be able to find the real killer before they strike again? Mystery

Summer Reading list

Dear Readers,

My favorite time of year to read is summer. Outside, either in the sun or if it is to hot or raining, under a shelter of some sort. I can read while laying in my hammock for hours. A slight breeze and I am good.

Where is one of your favorite summer reading place?

I am releasing over the next 3 Fridays, my recommended summer reading list. They are not in any particular order, enjoy them all, enjoy only a couple, but make this a summer of reading.

Happy Reading,

Summer Reading 2019

The MedallionCathy Gohlke – Based on true stories from Poland during WWII. Sophie wants to help in the resistance, but doesn’t know what to do.  When an opportunity opens up, she is in for more than she bargained.  Historical

Summer by the Tides – Denise Hunter – Maddy returns to the family summer home on the beaches of North Carolina.  Along with her two sisters that she has not seen in years. Will they be able to find their way back to each other?  – Contemporary

Code of Valor – Lynette Eason – Brady is finally taking a much needed vacation.  His plans are interrupted when he rescues a woman from her killer.  Emily is grateful to be rescued, but she knows the killer is going to try again – Romantic suspense – Fiction Reader Summit 2019 author

Wooing Cadie McCaffery – Bethany Turner – Light, fun and with meaning.  Cadie has decided that Will is not interested in marriage. After dating 4 years, she is ready to give up on their relationship and is ready to break up – on the same day as he is going to propose. Contemporary

The Printed Letter Bookshop – Katherine Reay – Madeline inherits her aunt’s bookshop.  Fond memories are stirred, but she always wondered about why her father and aunt became estranged. She goes looking for the answers and finds so much more in a beautiful little bookshop that is the heart of the community. – Contemporary

Of Fire and Lions – Mesu Andrews – A beautifully written story of Daniel and the family that loved him. How do you love a man that is ready to give up his life because an earthly king tells him to do something his heavenly King says is wrong – Biblical

The Number of Love – Rosanne M. White – # 1 The Code-breakers – Set during WWI, the code-breakers are winning the war for England.  Margot is one of the best and loves her job, but when she experiences a sudden loss, she finds that her job might not be enough. – Historical

Almost Home – Valerie Fraser Luesse – Set at the end of Depression and beginning of WWII, Almost Home is a gentle story of what family really means.  Sometimes it doesn’t mean blood relatives, sometimes it is about love, faith and support. – Historical – FRS 2019 author