March Book Club Selections

2 Mar

I am excited about the selections By The Book and Page Turners made for our monthly discussions – The Deepest Waters by Dan Walsh and Watching The Tree Limbs by Mary DeMuth. Both were published a few years back so you may have already read them. If so, what did you think? And if you haven’t, then join us in reading them. We would love to hear your thoughts.

8462629What began as a fairy tale honeymoon in 1857 for John and Laura Foster aboard the steamship SS Vandervere becomes a nightmare when a hurricane causes their ship to sink into the murky depths of the Atlantic. Laura finds herself with the other women and children aboard a sailing ship while John and a hundred other men drift on the open sea on anything they could grab as the Vandervere went down. Suspecting her John is gone but still daring to hope for a miracle, Laura must face the possibility of life alone — and meeting her new in-laws without their son if she ever reaches New York.

Readers will be holding their breath as they sail through this emotional and honest story of hope, faith, and love in the face of uncertainty. Talented author Dan Walsh skillfully tells an epic story through an intimate focus on two lost lovers. Inspired by real events, this moving novel will capture the hearts of all who dive into its pages.

1113100Watching the tree limbs keeps resilient nine-year-old Mara Weatherall from the pain of General’s daily attacks–attacks he warns her to keep secret, or else. In the small world of 1979 Burl, Texas, all Mara really has are the tree limbs, a lumbering Aunt Elma, her boyfriend Officer Gus, the bully General, and her new best friend Camilla who rhymes maddening snatches of truth. Mara needs to escape General’s advances and find out who her real parents are before those who would want to destroy her succeed. Will she recognize redemption through Zady the Jesus-loving housekeeper, Denim the clandestine town prophet, or Mr. Winningham her new guardian whose quiet rage masks even deeper secrets?

Book Review: Miranda Warning

27 Feb

mirandawarning_fc_smallChild of the Appalachian mountains, Tess Spencer has experienced more than her share of heartache. The Glock-wielding, knife-carrying housewife knows how to survive whatever life throws at her. But when an anonymous warning note shows up in her best friend Miranda’s mailbox — a note written in a dead woman’s handwriting — Tess quickly discovers that ghosts are alive and well in Buckneck, West Virginia. Hot on a cold trail, she must use limited clues and her keen insight into human nature to unmask the killer…or the next victim might be Tess herself. Tinged with the supernatural and overshadowed by the mountains’ lush, protective presence, this twisting psychological mystery is the first in A Murder in the Mountains series.

Chapter Samples

artsy-outside1Heather Day Gilbert writes character-driven novels that go beyond the vows, capturing the triumphs and heartaches unique to married couples. A graduate of Bob Jones University, she’s been married to her sweet Yankee husband for over sixteen years. After ten years of homeschooling and six years of writing, she really doesn’t have many hobbies. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, she believes that bittersweet, generational stories are in her blood.

 

My Impressions:

I had already heard a lot of good buzz about Miranda Warning when Heather Day Gilbert contacted me about a possible review. She actually offered copies of two of her novels. My review of God’s Daughter is HERE. The two books could not be more dissimilar — a tale about a 10th century Viking woman and a Southern Gothic mystery set in the mountains of West Virginia. Both are excellent and books I will not hesitate to recommend.

In Miranda Warning, secrets long hidden and lives filled with ghosts make this mystery more than a simple whodunit. Told from the first person perspective of two women, the reader is able to get glimpses of emotions, motivations and actions. And one of the narrators may be unreliable. I loved that. Tess Spenser is a woman with baggage from a childhood with an absent father and a drug-dealing mother. Her phobias and insecurities are lovingly soothed by the big family she has become a part of. Miranda, a woman who was there for Tess in times of need, is her best friend. Miranda now confined to a wheelchair and living in an upscale assisted living center receives a warning about her relationship with an old friend. Tess takes on the investigation, and her intuition and determination make her a formidable character.

Miranda Warning has complex plotting and various interwoven themes — motherhood, family, and abuse. The cast of characters includes the extended Spenser family, Miranda and her daughter and all those involved in the long ago mystery of Rose Campbell’s death. But I never felt overwhelmed by the number of people involved. They were naturally introduced and inserted into the action. The psychological nature of the mystery kept me guessing and pondering. The small town, mountain setting also advanced the plot and provided the necessary atmosphere for a story of ghosts and demons. Heather grabbed my attention from the first page and never let go until the final scene. Miranda Warning is just a great read! And I am happy to report that another book featuring Tess Spenser is in the works. I can’t wait to return to Buckneck, West Virginia! Tess, Thomas, Petey, Nikki Jo and Charlotte have earned a place in my heart, and I am looking forward to more great reading from Heather.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

Great for book clubs.

(Thanks to the author for a copy of this book. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this book, click HERE. It is currently $2.99 for Kindle!

Fun Things for Readers — Book Note Bookmarks

26 Feb

 

I read a lot of books and sometimes have trouble remembering key points about a book after I have moved on to the next great read. I find this especially problematic for book club reads, since I sometimes have to read our selections weeks before our discussions. So I googled reading journals and stumbled on Book Note Bookmarks. The folks at Levengers have great prepackaged bookmarks perfect for noting character’s names, plot devices, writing style, point of view and setting — really anything that you want to remember. They are ruled on both sides for people like me that take copious notes. Bookmarks are perfect for me. They are very portable and always available for note taking.

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I thought about ordering some of those nifty bookmarks, until I decided I can do the same thing with cardstock and my printer. So here are the bookmarks I came up with. I like to use colorful paper. Other members of my book club have asked for these too.

 

What do you think? I love them!

Book Review: The Patmos Deception

25 Feb

211393An Ancient Island Holds an Ancient Secret . . .

Nick Hennessy, a young Texas journalist yearning for his big break, finds himself in Europe–his assignment, to investigate the alarming disappearance of invaluable Grecian antiquities. Nick has the credentials–and cover ID–to unearth the truth. And he knows just the researcher to help him…

Carey Mathers, fresh from her studies in forensic archeology, has accepted a job with the prestigious Athens Institute for Antiquities–a dream come true, really, particularly when the Greek isle of Patmos, where the Apostle John received his vision of the Apocalypse, was a particular focus of her research.

Dimitri Rubinos, for whom the Greek islands represent his life, holds on by his fingernails to the family charter boat business. But his country’s economic chaos isn’t the only thing that has turned his world on its head.

 

Photo2Born and raised in North Carolina, Davis Bunn left for Europe at age twenty. There he first completed graduate studies in economics and finance, then began a business career that took him to over forty countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Davis came to faith at age 28, while living in Germany and running an international business advisory group. He started writing two weeks later. Since that moment, writing has remained both a passion and a calling.

Davis wrote for nine years and completed seven books before his first was accepted for publication. During that time, he continued to work full-time in his business career, travelling to two and sometimes three countries every week. His first published book, The Presence, was released in 1990 and became a national bestseller.

Honored with four Christy Awards for excellence in historical and suspense fiction, his bestsellers include The Great Divide, Winner Take All, The Meeting Place, The Warning, The Book of Hours, and The Quilt.

A sought-after speaker in the art of writing, Davis serves as Writer In Residence at Regent’s Park College, Oxford University.

 

My Impressions:

Davis Bunn is a master in taking the reader to exotic locales and putting them right in the middle of intrigue, danger and romance. In his latest romantic suspense novel, The Patmos Deception, he introduces the reader to three great characters, a puzzling mystery surrounding ancient Christian artifacts and international political and economic conspiracies. His deft handling of the subject matter and the romantic possibilities of his characters are added bonuses. This book is a great choice for those who want a page-turning and plot-twisting read.

Forensic archeologist Carey Mathers is pursuing her dream job, but when she arrives in Greece it seems that her dreams have turned to nightmares. Out of a job, she is soon contacted by childhood friend and journalist Nick Hennessy who is on the trail of a BIG story. Nick makes Carey an offer she cannot refuse — assist him in investigating the thefts of religious artifacts. Their inquiries lead them across the Greek islands, to the Turkish coast and back again, centering on the legendary island of Patmos. They soon meet tourist boat captain Dimitri Rubinos, but can they trust him with their lives. And can Carey trust either man with her heart?

I loved the setting of The Patmos Deception. I knew next to nothing about Greece before reading this book. Bunn not only provides beautiful descriptions, but also insight into the political and economic struggles of the country. The characters are easy to like, and I never could decide which man I wanted Carey to end up with. The plot is fast-paced and keeps the reader on his toes. The action and the pages flew by. There are a couple of loose threads left to tie up and this bodes well for more adventures with Carey, Nick and Dimitri.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Bethany House for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this book, click HERE.

Top 10 Tuesday — Favorite Heroines

24 Feb

Thanks to The Broke And The Bookish for hosting Top Ten Tuesday. To find out which female characters other bloggers love, click HERE.

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The following are the Top 10 Favorite Female Characters that made the biggest impression on my reading life. The list is in order of appearance in my life.

1) Eloise (Eloise series by Kay Thompson) — Eloise lived at the Plaza in Paris. How cool is that. She had free run and got into the most amazing adventures. That was my 8-10 year old take on this classic children’s book by Kay Thompson.

2) Nancy Drew (Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene) — Nancy introduced me to chapter books and my life-long love of mystery fiction. Another independent and smart young woman, Nancy also drove cool cars and dressed in the latest fashions.

3) Katherine Mary O’Fallon Flannigan aka Mrs. Mike  (Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman)  — In junior high school I read voraciously from the school library’s shelves. I knew I had hit pay dirt when I found a copy of Mrs. Mike. Kathy leaves her safe home in Boston and travels to the wilds of northern Canada for her health. The dry, pure air was supposed to improve her lung capacity. What she found was true love with a Mountie! Her life among the indigenous population and the trappers who made this wilderness home was fascinating to a Southern city girl.

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4) The 2nd Mrs. DeWinter (Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier) — She is never given a first name in the novel, but I admired the pluck and determination of the young woman in Rebecca. I also loved how her character grew stronger throughout the novel.

5) Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte) — I loved this novel and the main character it is named after. Jane is a fascinating character who stood on principle even when it cost her the love of her life.

6) Rebecca of York (Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott) — No not the title character in Daphne du Maurier’s novel, but the young Jewish woman that must face down the Templar Knight in Ivanhoe. She may be overshadowed by the fair-haired Rowena, but I felt her character was the strongest in this classic novel.

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7) Elizabeth Bennet (Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen) — Elizabeth introduced me to the wonders of Austen. I loved her wit. And she did get the dreamy Fitzwilliam Darcy too.

8) Anne Elliot (Persuasion by Jane Austen) — Anne is my favorite female character of all time. A bit of a late bloomer, she comes into her own in this novel. Plus she gets Captain Wentworth!

9) Jane Fairfax (Emma by Jane Austen) — She is not the title character, but Jane is much more interesting than Emma Woodhouse. She triumphs over a limited childhood and a negative bank balance.

10) Angel (Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers) — Angel escapes a life of prostitution only to return to it again and again. This story shows how powerful God’s love and redemption are.

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Who are your favorite heroines?

Children’s Corner: A Father’s Love (I Can Read!/Adventure Bible)

23 Feb

732404A Father’s Love is a level two I Can Read! based on the NIV Adventure Bible. In it, young readers learn about how great a father’s love can be for his child. At this read-alone level, newly independent readers follow a young man who decides to go out on his own, with his inheritance. He wastes his money and makes bad choices but eventually realizes that home and family are more important than anything. When he goes home to make amends, his father welcomes his son home with open arms and joy.

Written for the newly independent reader, vocabulary and content is at a more advanced reading level, making this series appropriate for children almost ready for their first chapter books.

This I Can Read! series of Bible stories makes use of the unique features found in the NIV Adventure Bible such as “People in Bible Times” and “Words to Treasure”.

Content aligns with the Common Core Standards for informational reading.

My Impressions:

I wish when my children were learning to read, we had had books like this. A Father’s Love is not only an excellent tool to reinforce reading skills, but also a great complement for teaching what God’s love looks like. With its detailed illustrations and vocabulary that encourages and challenges, it is a book kids with love to read on their own.

Recommended.

Audience: children ages 6-10.

(Thanks to Zonderkidz for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

This Book Is Making Me Hungry + Review — The Cherry Cola Book Club

20 Feb

The Cherry Cola Book Club by Ashton Lee was Page Turners’ selection for February. Sad to say only one of our members liked it. The book had the feel of a cozy mystery — really quirky characters and a small town setting — but alas, no mystery was to be had. The author instead endeavored to create women’s fiction involving a book club dedicated to saving the local library. Great premise; poor execution. The characters came off as caricatures and the plot strained believability. And nothing seemed to happen. One bright spot was the inclusion of food — lots of it. The characters ate more than they discussed books! One of the recipes included in the book is for Cherry Cola Chocolate Cake. Yum! So here is the recipe and a little about the book. It is the first in a series, but sadly, we will not be reading subsequent books.

13613777Set in a small town in Mississippi, The Cherry Cola Book Club is the touching and sometimes hilarious story of a young, upbeat librarian who has been given an ultimatum to increase the library’s circulation dramatically — or risk having to close its doors.

Maura doesn’t just start a book club; she gets involved in unique and unexpected ways with her library patrons. She entertains and advises them, she has potluck dinners, and life in the town begins to imitate art. The patrons begin to relate their own lives to the work of writers like Margaret Mitchell and Harper Lee. In moving and personal ways, Maura helps them deal with such subjects as long-lost love and a brush with death, offering advice on nearly everything — including romance. No topic is off limits. Along the way, Maura raises the profile of the library — but will it be enough?

10259841_510797262379055_5560824650821427051_nAshton Lee was born in historic Natchez, Mississippi, into a large, extended Southern family which gave him much fodder for his fiction later in life. His father, who wrote under the pen name of R. Keene Lee right after WWII, was an editor and writer in New York of what is now called pulp fiction. As a result, Ashton inherited a love of reading and writing early on and did all the things aspiring authors are supposed to do, including majoring in English when he attended The University of the South, affectionately known as Sewanee. While there, he studied Creative Writing under Andrew Lytle, then editor of the Sewanee Review, and a member of the Southern Agrarians in the 1920s.

Ashton lives in Oxford, MS, enjoying the amenities of a university town that many writers have called home. Readers can like Ashton Lee at: facebook.com/ashtonlee.net.

62f26471-0c6d-4218-bf20-90991cda3e64Cherry Cola Chocolate Cake (courtesy of Betty Crocker)

Ingredients

1 jar (10 oz) maraschino cherries, drained, 1/4 cup liquid reserved
1 box Betty Crocker™ SuperMoist™ devil’s food cake mix
1 cup cherry cola carbonated beverage
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 container Betty Crocker™ Whipped vanilla frosting
1 cup marshmallow creme
24 maraschino cherries with stems, well drained, if desired

Directions
Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). Spray bottom only of 13×9-inch pan with baking spray with flour. Chop cherries; set aside.

In large bowl, beat cake mix, cola beverage, oil, eggs and 1/4 cup reserved cherry liquid with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, then on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in chopped cherries. Pour into pan.

Bake 34 to 42 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

In small bowl, mix frosting and marshmallow creme until smooth. Frost cake. Top each piece with 2 cherries with stems. Store loosely covered.

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