Thursday, June 27, 2013

THE SILVER STAR (JEANNETTE WALLS)

 
Story Description:
Scribner|June 11, 2013|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-4516-6150-7
The Silver Star, Jeannette Walls has written a heartbreaking and redemptive novel about an intrepid girl who challenges the injustice of the adult world – a triumph of imagination and storytelling. 
It is 1970 in a small town in California.  “Bean” Holladay is twelve and her sister, Liz, is fifteen when their artistic mother, Charlotte, a woman who “found something wrong with every place she ever lived,” takes off to find herself, leaving the girls enough money to last a month or two.  When Bean returns from school one day and see a police car outside the house, she and Liz decide to take the bus to Virginia, where their Uncle Tinsley lives in the decaying mansion that’s been in Charlotte’s family for generations. 
An impetuous optimist, Bean soon discovers who her father was, and hears many stories about why their mother left Virginia in the first place.  Because money is tight, Liz and Bean start babysitting and doing office work for Jerry Maddox, a foreman of the mill in town – a big man who bullies his workers, his tenants, his children, and his wife.  Bean adores her whip-smart older sister – inventor of word games, reader of Edgar Allan Poe, nonconformist.  But when school starts in the fall, it’s Bean who easily adjusts and makes friends, and Liz who becomes increasingly withdrawn.  And then something happens to Liz. 
Jeannette Walls, supremely alert to abuse of adult power, has written a deeply moving novel about triumph over adversity and about people who find a way to love each other and the world, despite its flaws and injustices. 
My Review:
Twelve-year-old, Bean and fifteen-year-old, Liz live in Lost Lake, a little town in the Colorado Desert of Southern California where they’ve lived for the past four months.  Their mother, Charlotte had been gone now for four days off in Los Angeles auditioning for a job as a back-up singer.  The girls were used to being on their own as their mother often was away, her career took up a sizable amount of her time.  Liz being the older of the two girls was in charge but Bean didn’t mind one bit as she was the type of girl who didn’t want to be babied. 
When their mother was away, all they ever ate was chicken pot pies.  Bean didn’t mind because she loved the difference between the crusty crust on the outside and the warm goopy filling on the inside.  And, Liz said if you had a glass of milk with one then you were getting all four food groups – meat, vegetables, grain, and dairy. 
Their mother finally arrived home telling the girl she met a man named, Mark Parker who told her she never got any jobs as a back-up singer because her voice was so distinctive that she was upstaging the stars.  At age thirty-six she had never yet had a gig or made a recording, but Mark said he was going to “jump-start” her career.  Since she’d never had a job, they lived on her inheritance but they were on a tight budget as the money was running low.  However, it didn’t take long for, Bean to figure out that her mother way lying.  She had made up the whole Mark Parker scenario and when Bean confronted her, Charlotte began yelling and spewing all sorts of hurtful comments, including telling, Bean that she was sorry she’d ever had her, that she was a mistake.  She then picked up her purse and sped away in her car. 
The girls had been waiting for, Charlotte to return but she didn’t, instead they received a letter in the mail containing two-hundred dollars and a note telling them she needed “space” for herself.  After two weeks money was running short so Liz did some babysitting and Bean delivered a newspaper.  They continued to buy their chicken pot pies. 
Liz and Bean began to worry about CPS or some other agency getting involved and putting them in foster care.  Charlotte had originally come from a small town in Virginia called, Byler where her father had owned a cotton mill.  Their Mom’s brother, Uncle Tinsley still lived in Byler in a big old house called, Mayfield. 
One day, Bean arrived home from school to find cop cars outside the house and a cop looking through the window.  She turned around and ran all the way to Liz’s high school and waited for her to come out.  Liz decided they had better head to Virginia right away.  She always carried their money in the lining of her shoe so the two girls ran off to the bus depot and bought two cross-country tickets.  They were on their way and on the adventure of their lives. 
 The Silver Star, pulled me in from the very first page and I didn’t quit until I’d turned the last.  It was a fast-paced, easy to read story that kept my attention through every single word.  I read the book in one sitting as I just couldn’t put it down.  The only negative I have about this book is that it ended way too abruptly.  I was reading along, turned the page to read more but there wasn’t anymore, it was the end of the story.  I felt as though the book didn’t end properly.  Other than that, I would highly recommend this book to anyone, Jeannette Walls certainly has a very creative imagination and writes an entertaining novel. 
 



Wednesday, June 26, 2013

SMALL TOWN GIRL: A NOVEL (ANN H. GABHART)

 

 
Story Description:
Revelll Publishing|June, 2013|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-8007-2184-8
How long can two people stand on the brink of love without plunging in headfirst? 
In the autumn of 1941, rumors of war whisper through Rosey Corner.  The town practically vibrates with apprehension, as if it is holding its breath.  But for Kate Merritt, it seems life is letting out a prolonged sigh.  As Kate watches her sister marry the man Kate has loved since she was fifteen, her heart is silently breaking.  And even the attentions of Jay Tanner, the handsome best man, can’t draw her interest. 
Then suddenly, Pearl Harbor changes everything and Kate finds herself drawn to Jay in surprising ways.  Could she truly be in love with him?  And if he enlists, will she ever see him again? 
In her gentle and textured style, Ann H. Gabhart tells a timeless story of love, sacrifice and longing that will grip your heart and stir your spirit.  Fans of Gabhart’s Angel Sister will love seeing Kate Merritt all grown-up, as well as other characters they have come to love. 
My Review:
This was a beautiful story.  I felt so sorry for Jay Tanner.  He had no family and felt like such a worthless human being.  He had come to Rosey Corner to be best man at his friend, Mike’s wedding.  Mike was a preacher and for a long time tried to  get Jay interested in hearing God’s word and attending church but he hadn’t been very successful. 
Kate Merritt had loved Mike since she was a young girl but today she would stand and watch her sister, Evie marry the man she always dreamed of marrying.  At the time, Kate was dating Carl but he didn’t love him although he loved her dearly and wanted to marry her.  Most people referred to him as the “hayseed.”
Jay Tanner took an immediate liking to Kate and soon they were dating but when an accident occurred that left Jay smelling like a distillery, Kate thought he been drinking and was drunk when in fact he wasn’t.  After going through years of her own father’s drinking she wasn’t prepared to date or marry a man who a drinker and slammed the door in Jay’s face before giving him a chance to explain.  She walked away from the relationship leaving poor Jay feeling even more worthless as a human being and believing he could never do anything right. 
Then the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the war was on.  Jay left Rosey Corner without saying good-bye to anyone as he felt he had no one left to say good-bye too and enlisted in the army.  Now he was stationed in Georgia training as a paratrooper.
Kate was still at home in Rosey Corner feeling sad and lonely and missing Jay very much.  She kept questioning herself but not giving Jay a chance to explain himself the night he was drunk.  After many discussions with her sisters, her Mom and her Dad, she decided to drive three states away and surprise Jay with a visit, hoping beyond hope that he would forgive her and allow them to start over.
Does she even find Jay when she arrives or has his ship already sailed?  When she finally does locate him, will he take her back or is he too disgusted and feeling too worthless to take a second chance? 
Small Town Girl  was a wonderful story and my heart just bled for Jay.  I wanted to wrap my arms around the poor guy and tell him that I cared about him and would write to him when he went into the army.  Ann H. Gabhart always pens a phenomenal story!
 
“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. 
Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing  Group.”
 

 



Monday, June 24, 2013

ANGELS IN THE FIRE (DANN STADLER)

 
Story Description:
Bethany House|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-7642-1114-0
ONE HORRIFIC CRASH.
ONE IMPOSSIBLE RESCUE.
TWO LIVES FOREVER CHANGED.
There was no way Dann and Tracey Stadler could avoid the drunk driver speeding toward them.  Moments later, with Tracey trapped in their burning car, a lone figure walked out of the nearby woods and saved her from certain death.  Seconds later, he was gone.  But the disappearance of this stranger was not the end of God’s tangible intervention in their lives. 
As the Stadler’s struggled through grueling recoveries and heartbreaking setbacks – even years after that fateful crash – the miracles and divine encounters continued.  For the first time, the Stadlers share these incredible moments, offering an inspiring testimony to anyone enduring heartache and loss. 
If you are facing hard times – if you need assurance that God still ministers through His angels today – let this true story provide the hope and encouragement you need. 
My Review:
I think the above description does a very good job of describing this wonderful true story.  I will, however add that I marvel at the utter strength and courage that both Tracey and Dann showed in the face of such adversity.  The injuries they both sustained should have killed them both and the fact that they both survived is a true testament to the miracles that God provides today.  Through utter faith and prayer, God intervened in the lives of Tracey and Dann through his angels and gave them the fortitude to face the most grueling test of their lives. 
Angels in the Fire was a quick read and one I just couldn’t put down.  Please don’t miss this one. 
I would like to thank Graf Martin for sending me this copy.
 


THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY: A NOVEL (KATJA MILLAY)

 
Story Description:
Atria Books|June 4, 2013|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-1-4767-3094-3
I live in a world without magic or miracles.  A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you.  A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck.  I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk. 
Two and a half years after an unspeakable tragedy left her a shadow of the girl she once was, Nastya Kashnikov moves to a new town determined to keep her dark past hidden and hold everyone at a distance.  But her plans only last so long before she finds herself inexplicably drawn to the one person as isolated as herself, Josh Bennett. 
Josh’s story is no secret.  Every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen-years-old, there is no one left.  When you name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.  Everyone except Nastya who won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life.  But as the undeniable pull between them intensifies, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding – or if he even wants to. 
The Sea of Tranquility is a rich, intense, and brilliantly imagined story about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the miracle of second chances. 
My Review:
The Sea of Tranquility was a riveting, intense, powerful, and well-written story.
Nastya Kashnikov was once a beautiful piano player until an unspeakable crime happened to her and changed her forever.  She became very withdrawn, quiet, and extremely fragile.  She dressed in black and far out clothing and kept to herself at school knowing that she was talked about.  She had her parent’s home where the crime had taken place and moved to another town to live with her aunt to give her time to think and sort out her life.  She liked living with her aunt as she worked nights and Nastya attended school during the day so they were like ships passing in the night which gave Nastya time alone to herself. 
Nastya loved to run, and run she did for miles and miles and miles.  She could think clearly and clear her head when she ran.  One night while running she passed by Josh Bennett’s home and his garage door was open and he was inside working.  Nastya knew of Josh from school.  She decided to stop and entered the garage but didn’t say anything.  Josh just let her be and allowed her to stay and watch while he built the furniture he was making. 
Josh lived alone now as every single person in his family had passed away.  His mother, his father, and his grandparents.  He had tons of money but no one knew that about him.  He attended school then came home and built beautiful pieces of furniture in his garage.  Josh was as lonely as Nastya was fragile.
Nastya began to make visiting Josh in his garage a nightly thing and little by little they became friends and began to talk, however Nastya never revealed to Josh what had happened to her but he knew “something” terrible had occurred but never asked her about it.  He figured if she wanted him to know she’d tell him and he himself wasn’t sure he even wanted to know. 
The story centers on their relationship and how each of them comes to some realizations that yet again changes them both.  It was the most powerful story I’ve read in a long time and would highly recommend it to anyone.  I would also recommend it for book clubs as there are a lot of topics that could be discussed from this novel.  I’m keeping this one in my permanent collection.  I won’t forget The Sea of Tranquility for a long time. 
 


Monday, June 17, 2013

THE MARLOWE PAPERS: A NOVEL IN VERSE (ROS BARBER)

 
 
Story Description:
 
Hodder|May 7, 2013|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 9781444737394
You’re the author of the greatest plays of all time.  But nobody knows. 
And if it gets out, you’re dead.  On May 30, 1593, a celebrated young playwright was killed in a tavern brawl in London.  That, at least, was the official version.  Now Christopher Marlowe reveals the truth: that his “death” was an elaborate ruse to avoid a conviction of heresy, that he was spirited across the English Channel to live on in lonely exile; that he continue to write plays and poetry, hiding behind the name of a colorless man from Stratford – on William Shakespeare.
With the grip of a thriller and the emotional force of a sonnet, this remarkable novel in verse gives voice to a man who was brilliant, passionate, and mercurial.  A cobbler’s son who counted nobles among his friends, a spy in the Queen’s service, a fickle lover and a declared religious skeptic,  Christopher Marlowe always courted trouble.  Memoir, love letter, confession, and settling of accounts, “The Marlowe Papers” brings Christopher Marlowe and his era to vivid life. 
My Review:
As we know, on May 30, 1593, a celebrated young playwright was killed in a tavern brawl in London.  That was the “official” version of the story, however.  The “real truth” is that Christopher Marlowe’s death was an elaborate ruse to avoid his being hanged for heresy.  He was then taken across the channel to live a long, lonely exile, all the while longing for his true love and pining for the damp streets of London.  He continued to write plays and poetry hiding behind the name of a colorless man from Stratford named William Shakespeare. 
Although I loved the entire story, I was a bit put out by it being written in verse.  I understand the reasons for penning the book in this way but think I would have found it more enjoyable had it not been written in verse.  I’m not at all saying the book was unreadable, I just felt very uncomfortable with this style of writing.  I am going to give it a second read to see if I can come to accept it more the second time around. 
Thank you to Hachette UK Canada for sending me the book which I won in their contest. 
 


Sunday, June 9, 2013

THE HOUSE AT THE END OF HOPE STREET (MEENA VAN PRAAG)


Story Description:

Pamela Dorman Books|April 9, 2013|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-670-78463-9

A magical debut novel about an enchanted house that offers refuge to women in their time of need. 

Distraught that her academic career has stalled, Alba is walking through her hometown of Cambridge, England, when she finds herself in front of a house she’s never seen before, 11 Hope Street.  A beautiful older woman named Peggy greets her and invites her to stay, on the house’s usual conditions: she has ninety-nine nights to turn her life around.  With nothing left to lose, Alba takes a chance and moves in. 

She soon discovers that this is no ordinary house.  Past residents have included Virginia Woolf and Dorothy Parker, who, after receiving the assistance they needed, hung around to help newcomers literally, in talking portraits on the wall.  As she escapes into this new world, Alba begins a journey that will heal her wounds and maybe even save her life. 

Filled with colourful and unforgettable cast of literary figures, The House at the End of Hope Street is a charming, whimsical novel of hope and feminine wisdom that is sure to appeal to fans of Jasper Fforde and especially Sarah Addison Allen. 

My Review:

A magical book, an enchanted house, a cast of characters who previously lived there but remain on the walls in photographs to be talked to whenever the desire strikes you.  Florence Nightingale, Agatha Christie and Sylvia Plath to name a few.  This whimsical house lives and breathes, the walls moving in and out like a heartbeat, the lampshades bowing to get a closer look at you.  The mysterious and magical 82-year-old Peggy who runs 11 Hope Street is a kind and wise woman. 

Fans of Sarah Addison Allen will love this novel.  I put it in the same category as Allen’s novel and the book Night Circus.  A beautifully written, happy, magical story that is a very rare treat!  A book you won’t want to see end.  Alba, Carmen, Greer, Stella and Peggy are characters I won’t soon forget.   They are all there for different reasons and the house knows exactly what each woman needs.   

I lived at 11 Hope Street from the time I read the first chapter.  I couldn’t have forced myself to leave even if I had wanted to.  I loved the happiness, the love, the caring and the warmth the house enveloped me in.  The house knows what you need.  You may think you need one thing but the house won’t give it to you unless you really do need it.  It’s the house that decides and does and provides you with what you truly and sincerely need in your life. 

I will be keeping this as part of my permanent collection and am going to read it again before I  put it away on my shelf for a while, that’s how much I enjoyed this book and I know you will too.  I highly, highly recommend this book for everyone.  If I could rate it at a one thousand, I would!  For a debut novel, this is an unbelievable story, a story you’ll absolutely fall in love with.

 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

THE WISHING TREE (MARYBETH WHALEN)


Story Description:

Zondervan|May 24, 2013|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-310-33488-0

In The Wishing Tree, Ivy Marshall, a savvy, determined woman, finds out her husband has cheated on her on the same day her sister’s perfect boyfriend proposes on national television.  When Ivy’s mother asks her to return to her family’s beach home to plan her sister’s upcoming wedding, she decides to use the excuse to escape from the pain of her circumstances.  When her return to Sunset Beach, North Carolina, brings her face to face with her former fiancĂ©, old feelings rise to the surface and she wonders if there is a future for them.  However, her husband has started tweeting his apology to her and doesn’t want to give up on their marriage.  As she helps prepare the wishing tree for her sister’s wedding, she must examine her own wishes for the future and decide what love should be. 

My Review:

Ivy Marshall worked for her father, Simon in one of his commercial real estate offices.  He was on the phone telling Ivy that he was going to have to close their Asheville office, the very one she’s worked in for four years.  Great, now she was going to be without a job.  However, she really wasn’t all that surprised because she’d just told her husband, Elliot last night during dinner.  The good thing was that it would take about two months to close the office down so they’d have time to wrap up recent projects and give employees time to find other jobs.  The bad thing was that she and Elliot wouldn’t be able to keep their house without her income. 

Lately, Ivy and Elliot haven’t communicated much, mostly about what food items needed to be replenished or what bills needed to be paid.  She wasn’t worried about telling him she was losing her job as that fell under the category of “business” and that’s the only thing they seemed to talk about – nothing personal. 

Margot, Ivy’s mother called just as she was leaving the office.  After the day she’d had she just wanted to go home and take a hot bath.  Her emotions were just a tad unstable, but now Margot was adding to her already emotionally charged psyche by telling her that her sister, Shea was going to be proposed to on national television tomorrow.  Margot want Ivy to come home for the weekend to congratulate her sister in person but that’s the last thing Ivy felt like doing.  Since tomorrow was Valentine’s Day she could just tell her mother she didn’t want to leave Elliot alone on Valentine’s Day weekend.  The last time Ivy had spoken to Shea was three months ago, their relationship was somewhat strained so Ivy wasn’t all that excited about her sister’s engagement because she was going to have the wedding she never had – at Sunset Beach. 

The following day didn’t pan out so well for Ivy either.  After having to sit through the nationally televised proposal to her sister, she also found out that Elliot had cheated on her!  What else could go wrong in this poor woman’s life?  Ivy wasn’t in the mood for talking with Elliot and thought about what she could do.  Then it dawn on her, she would go home to Sunset Beach, North Carolina and help finish up planning Shea’s wedding.  Although it was already May and the wedding was set for mid-June, there would still be lots to do.  She could also help her Aunt Leah out in her shop – Seaside Bakery.  And, by going home and helping with the wedding, she wouldn’t have to tell her family about her and Elliot’s crumbling marriage.  They all new she was out of a job and had the time to help.  She might even be able to see he ex-fiance , Michael and who knows what might strike up with him. 

Ivy drove home and went immediately to her bedroom and retrieved the suitcase.  As she was packing she heard Elliot come into the room but Ivy so not wanted to talk to him.  Of course he apologized for his transgression and said he still wanted to make it work but Ivy said nothing.  When he asked where she was going she only replied: “home.”  Elliot carried her suitcase to the car and Ivy drove off without a good-bye. 

Seeing Shea for the first time was a tad awkward, but like the two adults they are now they were amicable toward each other.   Margot immediately pulled out her wedding binder that she’d made and decided the three of them needed to divvy up the remaining items on the list.  Ivy has been put in charge of The Wishing Tree which involves mailing out tags to each wedding guest to write down ‘wishes’ for the newly married couple.  Then Ivy is to ensure that all those wishes get hung on the tree for the Bride and Groom to read later.  It’s been a tradition in their family for a long time.  But as Ivy helps ready the tree for Shea’s wedding she must look deep within herself at her own future and what she believes true love should be.  Can she reconcile with what Elliot has done?  Is she too wrapped up in thinking about her ex, Michael?  Or, will she decide true love is loving herself first and remain on her own? 

The Wishing Tree is definitely a book about forgiveness.  It’s also a beautifully written story of love, loss, betrayal, hope, grace, and finding one’s way back from the brink.  You can’t allow bitterness and situations already washed under the bridge to affect the here and now or your future.  Everyone deserves forgiveness and true grace.  We’re not perfect people but when it comes from a place of faith and a deep understanding of your true heart’s desire, then you need to accept what is. 

Marybeth Whalen has penned a most gorgeous read.  The Wishing Tree gracefully unravels how tradition, culture and sense of place affect the human heart.  Well-done!

 

Monday, June 3, 2013

THE SILENCE OF BONAVENTURE ARROW (RITA LEGANSKI)


Story Description:

HarperCollins Publishers|February 15, 2013|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-06-211376-4

Conceived in love and possibility, Bonaventure Arrow didn’t make a peep when he was born, and the doctor nearly took him for dead.  No one knows that Bonaventure’s silence is filled with resonance – a miraculous gift of rarified hearing that encompasses the Universe of Every Single Sound.  Growing up in the big house on Christopher Street in Bayou Cymbaline, Bonaventure can hear flowers grow, a thousand shades of blue, and the miniature tempests that rage inside raindrops.  He can also hear the gentle voice of his father, William Arrow, shot dead before Bonaventure was born by a mysterious stranger known only as the Wanderer. 

Bonaventure’s remarkable gift of listening promises salvation to the souls who love him: his beautiful young mother, Dancy haunted by the death of her husband; his Grand-mere Letice, plagued by grief and a long-buried guilt she locks away in a chapel; and his father, William, who’s roaming spirit must fix the wreckage of the past.  With the help of Trinidad Prefontaine, a Creole housekeeper endowed with her own special gifts, Bonaventure will find the key to long-buried mysteries and soothe a chorus of family secrets clamoring to be healed. 

My Review:

Well, this is the second time today I’ve posted a book that I didn’t like.  This one I tried to read many, many times, trying hard to convince myself that I was thoroughly enjoying the story.  But the sad truth was, I wasn’t, at all.  Just something about this story struck me as silly and uninteresting which came as a great disappointment to me as I’d heard so much hype about this novel.  People were raving about it, I had friends telling me about it, but sadly, I just didn’t like it at all.

Not much else to say on the matter I suppose.  I know a lot of people did enjoy it so that’s a plus.

 

 

A MIDWIFE'S TALE: A MYSTERY (SAM THOMAS)


Story Description:

St. Martin’s Press|January 8, 2013|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-250-01076-6

In the tradition of Arianna Franklin and C. J. Sansom comes Samuel Thomas’s remarkable debut, The Midwife’s Tale. 

It is 1644, and Parliament’s armies have risen against the King and laid siege to the city of York.  Even as the city suffers at the rebel’s hands, midwife Bridget Hodgson becomes embroiled in a different sort of rebellion.  One of Bridget’s friends, Esther Cooper, has been convicted of murdering her husband and sentenced to be burnt alive.  Convinced that her friend is innocent, Bridget sets out to find the real killer. 

Bridget joins forces with Martha Hawkins, a servant who’s far more skilled with a knife than any respectable woman ought to be.  To save Esther from the stake, they must dodge rebel artillery, confront a murderous figure from Martha’s past, and capture a brutal killer who will stop at nothing to cover his tracks.  The investigation takes Bridget and Martha from the homes of the city’s most powerful families to the alleyways of its poorest neighborhoods.  As they delve into the life of Esther’s murdered husband they discover that his ostentatious Puritanism hid a deeply sinister secret life, and that far too often tyranny and treason go hand in hand. 

My Review:

Okay, so I’ve had this book now for six months since it came out in January.  I have attempted to read it twice each month since that time and just cannot get into it at all.  I even selected different locations inside and outside the house to sit and read to see if it would somehow make a difference but it was all to no avail.

I don’t think it’s a bad book in any way it’s just not a book that I was interested in.  Hopefully, someone else out there might appreciate it more than I did. 

Sorry folks.

 

THE QUARRYMAN'S DAUGHTER (TRACIE PETERSON)


Story Description:

Baker Publishing Group|June 1, 2013|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-7642-0620-7

Emmalyne Knox and Tavin McLachlan were destined to be together…until the tragic deaths of Emmalyne’s youngest sisters.  Family tradition mandates that the youngest daughter should remain single to care for her parents in their old age, and now that daughter is Emmalyne.  Her father unyielding, Emmalyne surrenders to her duty, heartbroken.  Tavin leaves town, equally devastated. 

Years later, Emmalyne’s family moves, and she and Tavin meet again.  Their feelings for each other are as strong as ever, but their painful past and Emmalyne’s father still stand between them.  Soon both families are in the midst of the growing conflict rising between the workers at the granite quarry that Tavin’s father owns and operates.  When a series of near-fatal accidents occur, Tavin must figure out who is behind the attacks before someone gets killed. 

Bound by obligation, yet yearning for a future together, can Emmalyne and Tavin dare to dream that God could heal a decade-long wound and change the hearts of those who would stand in the way of true love? 

My Review:

It is April of 1886 and, Emmalyne Knox, seventeen-years-old and engaged to marry Tavin MacLachlan in just two months stood at the side of the two graves.  Her two younger sisters, Doreen aged fourteen and, Lorna aged ten had been killed in a tornado.  Along with the loss of her two sisters, was the loss of their family home.  The house was now nothing but a pile of wood. 

Her mother, Rowena and father, Luthias shook hands with other mourners who had come to pay their respects.  Her father’s anger was evident to everyone present.  Emmalyne’s younger brother, Angus just barely twelve-years-old stood with his family not knowing what to do.  Luthias was a harsh and angry man and Emmalyne had grown up fearing him.  She had never witnessed or received gentleness or kindness from her father, and she seriously doubted he was capable of either. 

The MacLachlan family had been gracious enough to allow the Knox family to stay with them after the tornado.  After all, they were just about family anyway with Emmalyne and Tavin getting married.  Everyone was returning to their carriages as the grave diggers began throwing dirt atop the small caskets they had just lowered into the ground. 

Tavin spoke up to say he was going to walk Emmalyne back to his house when her father, Luthias interrupted and told him: “No, you won’t be doin that.”  He then proclaimed: “We’re movin to Minneapolis.”  Mrs. MacLaclan piped right up away and responded: “But surely nae until after the wedding…tis but a few weeks away.”  Luthias replied: “There will be no weddin.”  Emmalyne was stunned and Tavin asked: “What are you saying sir?”  Luthias said: “I’m sayin the weddin is off.  Emmalyne has a responsibility to her own family.  With her younger sisters dead and her older sisters married, it falls to her to remain and care for her mother and me.” 

Emmalyne had forgotten all about the TRADITION!  With her two youngest sisters dead, that now made HER the youngest daughter, and in the Knox family lineage that made her responsible to give up a life of her own to care for her aging parents.  It had been done that way for generations.  So, there definitely would be no wedding.  Emmalyne fought back tears and nausea as everything she planned fell to pieces in front of her.  The tornado had not only taken the lives of her sisters and destroyed their home; it had cost Emmalyne her future. 

Tavin tried to convince Emmalyne to elope that very night before her family left for Minneapolis in the morning, but Emmalyne said she just couldn’t go against her father’s word or the word of God.  Tavin was upset and angry and told her: “Your days will be long…and no doubt very lonely” and he stormed out of the room without another word.  Emmalyne cried and didn’t know what was worse, her father’s anger, God’s judgment, or Tavin’s wrath and disappointment.  Somewhere in the middle of all this were the shattered remains of her heart. 

It would be eleven years, in 1897 before Emmalyne would see Tavin again.  She was now twenty-eight-years-old yet her broken heart had never really healed, no matter the amount of time she spent in prayer or reading God’s word.  Misery and suffering were her only companions. 

Will Emmalyne and Tavin pick up where they left off, or has Tavin already moved on and married? 

The Quarryman’s Daughter was a beautiful love story and showed the power of prayer and if we put our faith in God, together we can move mountains. 

I would like to thank Baker House Publishing for sending me a copy of this book.  The opinions expressed above are purely my own and I received no remuneration for my review. 

 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A STEP OF FAITH - BOOK FOUR IN A SERIES OF FIVE (RICHARD PAUL EVANS)


Story Description:

Simon & Schuster|May 7, 2013|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-4516-2829-6

“Life is not lived in the long, downhill stretches of expressways, but in the obscure, perilous trails and back roads where we stumble and feel our way through the fog of our unknowing.  Life is not a run.  It is just one step of faith after another.” 

Alan Christoffersen lost his heart when his wife was killed in an accident almost one year ago.  He lost his trust when his business partner stole his advertising business.  He lost his home when the bank took his house.  So Alan decided to leave his painful memories behind and walk from Seattle to the farthest point on the map, Key West, but in St. Louis, he is forced to stop. 

Because his severe vertigo is diagnosed as the side effect of a brain tumor, Alan must go to Los Angeles for treatment.  He is surrounded by those who care most for him: his father, who is happy to have Alan back in his childhood home; Falene, who has been by his side through his most difficult times; and Nicole, who helped him recover from a mugging in Spokane.  One by one, Alan alienates them all, and he resumes his journey in angry loneliness.  The people he meets as he walks the dusty southern back roads has lessons to teach Alan about accepting love.  He just has to have faith that life can be worth living again – and that the woman he rejected will be willing to forgive him. 

My Review:

A Step of Faith is a beautiful treasure to behold.  The continuing story of Alan’s walk from Seattle to Key West, Florida is filled with beautiful imagery, historical facts, and wonderful people.  However, Alan finds himself in a couple of rather precarious and downright frightening situations in this fourth novel of the series. 

Alan, back in California for brain surgery, ends up alienating everyone who has rallied around him to support him during this terrible time.  He closes himself off and gives the impression he doesn’t care and everyone walks away thinking that is what he wants.  Alan has a lot to learn from the folks he meets on this particular part of his journey.  One of the two women is deeply in love with Alan and is disappointed and heartbroken over his behaviour and pens him a long letter.  I just hope she eventually forgives her because Alan needs her. 

I so didn’t want this book to end and when it did I was wishing it was May 2014 so I’d have the next installment.  Richard’s books are always so well-written that it’s literally impossible to pace yourself in order to make the book last longer.  Each time I pick up one of his novels I know I’m in for a rare treat. 

A Step of Faith is a marvelous story and a completely joyful read.  Thank you, Richard!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

SKETCHES (ERIC WALTERS)


Story Description:

Penguin Group Canada|April 3, 2007|Mass Market Paperbound|ISBN: 978-0-14-331254-3

Dana met Brent and Ashley when she first arrived in town, a scared runaway with nowhere to go.  The three of them are like family: they take care of each other; they share the money they beg, borrow, and steal; and they protect each other from the more ruthless street people they come upon.  Still, life is lived day-to-day.  It’s hard to think about tomorrow when you’ve got no money, no food, and no place to live.  And as for the past…well, that’s what they ran away from.  It’s what all of them – and especially Dana – are trying hard to forget. 

Eric Walter’s new novel is a gritty, gripping tale of street kids, an unblinking portrait of what it means to live on the streets and, more importantly, what it takes to find the way off. 

My Review:

Dana, Ashley, and Brent were panhandling for money near the subway station.  So far, Dana had $11.00; Ashley had $5.00; and Brent had less than $2.00.  The three of them were street kids and homeless.  Dana had only been on the streets for three weeks after running away from home.  Home for Dana was 30 miles away and she wouldn’t return there as long as her stepfather lived in the home.  Dana had gone to the bank machine to get $40.00 to buy some breakfast but when she returned later she couldn’t access her account.  Her stepfather had her card cut-off which ticked her to no end because she had $600.00 in babysitting money in her account and she couldn’t get at it.  She admitted that she didn’t see her stepfather pulling that stunt but then thought that was his way of gaining control. 

When she first met Ashley, Dana was a little afraid but once they chatted for a while she realized she was cool.  Then, Ashley introduced, Dana to, Brent and they became a family.  Protecting each other against everything on the rough and tumble streets.  Dana was pretty nervous at first wondering if she could trust them, but really what choice did she have.  It was more scary to be alone than to trust those two, so she swallowed her fear. 

The three of them ended up with enough money to rent a cheap motel for the night for $25.00 and still had $32.00 for breakfast and cigarettes.  Dana was so looking forward to sleeping in a bed and being able to have a shower so she could wash her hair it had been two weeks since she’d last washed it. 

While, Dana was showering she thought about her 10-year-old sister, Candice.  She missed her a lot.  She knew she would be confused by Dana’s running away and wishes she could have explained everything to her, but she couldn’t and she wouldn’t.  She couldn’t tell anyone.  Next thing she knew she was crying and the crying turned to sobbing.  Dana slid down the wall of the shower and sat on the wet bottom thinking about her sister, her mother, her friends, her school, and her room.  She missed every one of them.  Then she thought about her stepfather and the sobbing stopped and was replaced instead by rage and anger. 

Dana was under an over-pass spray painting some art on the grey concrete wall when a man in his 30’s approached her and told her he liked her artwork.  He had seen it from the train he was riding in across the way.  Dana was leery of this guy but after a conversation about Picasso and his art she let her guard down a bit.  The guy asked her how long it was going to take her to complete the piece she was working on as he wanted to return later to take some pictures of it.  Dana was stunned.  Before leaving, the man gave her his business card and told her his name was, Robert Erickson and he worked at a drop-in centre where they made art supplies available to street kids.  Robert told her it was a place where she could get things like paint and canvas, or clay and a potter’s wheel, so she could use her talent.  He told her to ask around on the street and she’d quickly learn that the place was legit.  With that said, Robert walked away.  The name of the drop-in centre was ‘Sketches.’

Sketches is where Dana eventually ends up and finds a lot more than she ever dreamed possible.  It became a home away from home and the people who worked there were incredibly helpful.  Who knows, maybe it was possible to get off the streets. 

Sketches is a wonderfully written novel and shows the hardships that kids go through when living on the streets.  There is always something to worry about; money, clean clothing; a place to sleep; and finding food.  Eric Walter’s will open a few eyes with this one and will hopefully prevent a few kids from leaving home for the streets and hopefully decided to go another route like through a guidance counsellor at school or a clergyperson for help.  Well-done!