Tag Archives: general fiction

Book Review: Steal Away Home

21 Feb

Owen Cross grew up with two loves: one a game, the other a girl. One of his loves ruined him. Now he’s counting on the other to save him.

Owen Cross’s father is a hard man, proud in his brokenness, who wants nothing more than for Owen to succeed where he failed. With his innate talents and his father’s firm hand guiding him, Owen goes to college with dreams of the major leagues—and an emptiness full of a girl named Micky Dullahan.

Owen loved Micky from the first time they met on the hill between their two worlds: his middle-class home and her troubled Shantytown. Years later he leaves her for the dugouts and the autographs, but their days together follow him. When he finally returns home, he discovers that even peace comes at a cost. And that the hardest things to say are to the ones we love the most.

From bestselling author Billy Coffey comes a haunting story of small-town love, blinding ambition, and the risk of giving it all for one last chance.

Billy Coffey and his wife, Joanne, live with their two children in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. A product of his small-town locale, Billy counts as assets his rural authenticity, unwavering sense of purpose, and insatiable curiosity — all of which tend to make his front porch a comfortably crowded place.

 

My Impressions:

Billy Coffey sucked me into Steal Away Home with his description of baseball and small town romance. I found myself immersed in the life of Camden, Virginia and what I thought was a coming-of-age tale. But like all of Coffey’s books, this one has a twist, a bit of magic, and a message that made me stop and ponder. Steal Away Home is a book to be savored and is definitely a recommended read.

Steal Away Home is told from the first person perspective of former high school baseball star Owen Cross. The book’s framework is wonderfully creative, as it shifts from the action of a major league baseball game to recollections of his life. Each chapter is an inning of the game and a look back at what formed Owen’s life. Owen’s life was ordained by his father, and no one had doubts that he would one day be a major league player. But one night of mystery and wonder changes that forever.

Characterization is strong in Steal Away Home. Owen’s narrative allows the reader to know first hand his hopes, dreams, and motivations, but also gives a clear picture of the other characters. Owen’s pure Virginia mountain cadence is a joy to read and adds greatly to the reading experience. As I said, the story itself takes over the reader’s imagination — first with its small-town charm and promise of young love between Owen and Micky Dullahan, and then with an abrupt spiritual journey for the characters. There is a definite supernatural element in this book, but with different effects. It sets Micky free and paralyzes Owen with fear. A number of parallels can be drawn between Camden and the message Micky brings to both the shanties and the townspeople and the ministry of Christ. But as one character puts it, Micky is not Christ come back to life. But she does ask the same question — what do you love? This is the question the reader ponders for himself as well.

Steal Away Home is a complex novel in characterization, structure, and message and would make a good choice for a book club. It is not a book to be hurried through, so make sure you have ample time to pause and think. Another winner from Coffey, it gets a highly recommended rating from me.

Highly Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Thomas Nelson and TLC Book Tours for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

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Top Ten Tuesday — The Neglected TBR Pile

6 Feb

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme should be titled the Shame Pile, at least for me. Bloggers were charged to search their shelves (and other places hoarders collectors stash their books) for the books that have been waiting the longest to be read. Oh dear! I have to close my ears as I walk past the shelves that fill the rooms of my house because the books whisper, whine, and sometimes shout Pick Me! I’d like to say that the books I chose this week have been on my shelves the longest, but the task was so overwhelming that I settled for random selections. I had such high hopes when I bought these books (and the other fifty gazillion that await). I just knew I would love them because I had loved their sisters and brothers — the books written and read by their fabulous authors. And I am sure I will love them . . . someday. *sigh*  As I lovingly returned them to their places of honor, I promised that one day, they too would join the ranks of the read.

To find out what books other bloggers have waiting, please visit the Artsy Reader Girl.

Top 10 Neglected Books from My TBR Mountain

The Beach House by Sally John

Hope Springs by Lynne Hinton

June Bug by Chris Fabry

Leaving Yesterday by Kathryn Cushman

‘Mater Biscuit by Julie Cannon

The Passion of Mary Margaret by Lisa Samson

River’s End by Melody Carlson

Ruby’s Slippers by Leanna Ellis

Sandpiper Drift by Vanessa Del Fabbro

White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner

What book do you have on your shelf that needs to be read?

First Line Friday — Missing Isaac

12 Jan

This week, First Line Friday is featuring Diversity. Books featuring characters of color, civil rights, or Martin Luther King, Jr. are being shared by other bloggers. Over the years my book club has read books that involve the fragile state of race relations in the United States. Sometimes difficult to read, many times challenging to our mindsets, these books have created thought-provoking discussions. Be sure to check out The Color of Justice by Ace Collins, A Time to Stand by Robert Whitlow, and Snapshot by Lis Wiehl.

This week I am featuring By The Book’s February selection, Missing Isaac by Valerie Fraser Luesse. Set in the American South in the 1960s, I anticipate that this one will be another great read. Please leave a comment with your first line and then head over to Hoarding Books to check out what other bloggers are sharing.

 

 

There was another South in the 1960s, one far removed from the marches and bombings and turmoil in the streets that were broadcast on the evening news. It was a place of inner turmoil, where ordinary people struggled to right themselves on a social landscape that was dramatically shifting beneath their feet. This is the world of Valerie Fraser Luesse’s stunning debut, Missing Isaac.

It is 1965 when black field hand Isaac Reynolds goes missing from the tiny, unassuming town of Glory, Alabama. The townspeople’s reactions range from concern to indifference, but one boy will stop at nothing to find out what happened to his unlikely friend. White, wealthy, and fatherless, young Pete McLean has nothing to gain and everything to lose in his relentless search for Isaac. In the process, he will discover much more than he bargained for. Before it’s all over, Pete — and the people he loves most — will have to blur the hard lines of race, class, and religion. And what they discover about themselves may change some of them forever.

Valerie Fraser Luesse is an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently a senior travel editor. Her work has been anthologized in the audio collection Southern Voices and in A Glimpse of Heaven, an essay collection featuring works by C. S. Lewis, Randy Alcorn, John Wesley, and others. As a freelance writer and editor, she was the lead writer for Southern Living 50 Years: A Celebration of People, Places, and Culture. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse has published major pieces on the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana’s Acadian Prairie, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana won the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society. Luesse earned her bachelor’s degree in English at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, and her master’s degree in English at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She grew up in Harpersville, Alabama, a rural community in Shelby County, and now lives in Birmingham.

 

Book Review: Stars in The Grass

21 Dec

Nine-year-old Abby McAndrews has just experienced her greatest loss, and in its wake, her family is unraveling with guilt, grief, and anger. Her father, Reverend McAndrews, cannot return to the pulpit because he has more questions than answers. Her older brother Matt’s actions speak louder than the words he needs to confess, as he acts out in dangerous ways. Her mother tries to hold her grieving family together, but when Abby’s dad refuses to move on, the family is at a crossroads.
 
Stars in the Grass, set in a small Midwestern town in 1970, is an uplifting novel that explores a family’s relationships and resiliency. Abby’s heartbreaking remembrances are balanced by humor and nostalgia as her family struggles with — and ultimately celebrates — life after loss.

 

Ann Marie Stewart grew up in Seattle, Washington and is a die-hard UW Husky (and Wolverine) after earning a Masters in Film/Television from University of Michigan. She originated AMG’s Preparing My Heart series, write the column “Ann’s Lovin’ Ewe” for The Country Register and blog for Mentoring Moments. Her first novel, Stars in the Grass released February 2017.

When not writing, She is waving her arms directing musicals, teaching middle schoolers, or watching UVA Basketball or Madam Secretary. In her free time she hangs out with her husband, raising two lovely daughters and a whole flock of fuzzy sheep on Skye Moor Farm, in Virginia — where unscripted drama provides plenty of entertaining material.

 

My Impressions:

Ann Marie Stewart’s novel, Stars in The Grass, won the 2017 Christy Award for Debut Novel, and after reading it I can understand just what wowed the judges. Moving, insightful, and full of heart and heartache, this novel grabbed my imagination from the beginning. I would not characterized it as an easy read by any means, but would call it a must-read. A grieving family is the at the center with all facing a new reality with differing responses. The journey is painful, but with a whisper of hope that touched this reader. Stars in The Grass is very highly recommended.

The year is 1970 and nine year old Abby McAndrews is faced with days of love and fun with her family. That is until the unthinkable happens, leaving a gaping hole in their hearts. Abby, brother Matt, dad John, and mom Renee return to their home and begin the process of getting over what occurred. But there is no getting over a broken heart or lost dreams or a shattered family. And the grief they experience prevents them from going back or moving forward.

Stars in The Grass is told in Abby’s first person perspective. I really identified with this character for a number of reasons — I am exactly one year older than her since we share the same birthday — so her life and times were mine. But it is her response to the loss of her brother that resonated with me. The losses I have experienced in my life — death of a child, loss of parents, and sudden death of my brother-in-law — were met with the same reaction as Abby. Fear. The fear of what the next day or moment could bring because life had become uncontrollable and uncertain. Stewart’s realistic portrayal of Abby and the other characters’ responses to death are so realistic that I felt the bitterness, the guilt, the anger, the fear, and the hopelessness of each. But in the end they and we can know that grief can be accompanied by hope. Was it easy for the McAndrews family (or for us)? No. But the assurance of a God who brings light even in the darkest of pits can get us through.

Easter came in the midst of the family’s grieving and Abby found the following:

My Easter was about being lost and found. It was about a Comforter. About hope and life, and the birth of a Church, and resurrecting dreams even when nobody quite knew how. But we were together and we were talking. And something about that felt — for now — almost good enough. (p. 245)

As I stated, Stars in The Grass is not an easy read, nor is it a quick one. This book is meant to be read in an unhurried manner, allowing for breaks for emotion and thought. It is an award winner for a reason. It is beautifully written with realistic and complex characters, and a subject matter that will make you think. If this is what a debut looks like, then I am eager to read more from Stewart.

Very Highly Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

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

 

Top 10 Tuesday — Dear Santa, I Want Books!

19 Dec

Welcome to the Top 10 Tuesday before Christmas. The theme today is books bloggers want Santa to bring. I have always been a fan of books as gifts. And if you don’t know which book to get me, a gift card so I can pick my own is always the next best choice! 😉

For the books other bloggers have on their wishlists, head over to The Broke And The Bookish.

 

I always have a long wishlist of books — book club books, new releases, old releases I missed . . . . You get the picture! The following are the books that are headed to the top of my TBR list.

Top 10 Books I Want from Santa

Beneath The Surface by Lynn Blackburn

Formula of Deception by Carrie Stuart Parks

The House on Foster Hill by Jamie Jo Wright

If I Live by Terri Blackstock

The Love Letter by Rachel Hauck

The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

Portrait of Vengeance by Carrie Stuart Parks

Send Down The Rain by Charles Martin

The View from Rainshadow Bay by Colleen Coble

Where Hope Begins by Catherine West

 

What books do you want from Santa?

First Line Friday — Stars in The Grass by Ann Marie Stewart

3 Nov

Welcome to First Line Friday. It’s easy to participate — grab the closest book and comment with the first line on the first page. Then when you are done, head over to Hoarding Books to find out what other bloggers are sharing.

This week I am sharing Ann Marie Stewart‘s book Stars in The Grass. Ann’s book has been nominated for The Christy Award — First Novel! Winners of this prestigious award will be announced on November 7th.

 

Nine-year-old Abby McAndrews has just experienced her greatest loss, and in its wake, her family is unraveling with guilt, grief, and anger. Her father, Reverend McAndrews, cannot return to the pulpit because he has more questions than answers. Her older brother Matt’s actions speak louder than the words he needs to confess, as he acts out in dangerous ways. Her mother tries to hold her grieving family together, but when Abby’s dad refuses to move on, the family is at a crossroads.
 
Stars in the Grass, set in a small Midwestern town in 1970, is an uplifting novel that explores a family’s relationships and resiliency. Abby’s heartbreaking remembrances are balanced by humor and nostalgia as her family struggles with — and ultimately celebrates — life after loss.

 

Ann Marie Stewart — I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing stories, putting on plays, or belting songs. Ever since grade school when my dad substituted me in for his turn at the Toastmaster podium and I held a captive audience with my speech, I’ve loved making people laugh and cry.

I grew up in Seattle, Washington and am a die-hard UW Husky (and Wolverine) after earning a Masters in Film/Television from University of Michigan. I originated AMG’s Preparing My Heart series, write the column “Ann’s Lovin’ Ewe” for The Country Register and blog for Mentoring Moments. My first novel, Stars in the Grass came out February 2017.

When I’m not writing, I’m waving my arms directing musicals, teaching middle schoolers, or watching UVA Basketball or Madam Secretary. In my free time I hang out with my husband, raising two lovely daughters and a whole flock of fuzzy sheep on Skye Moor Farm, in Virginia — where unscripted drama provides plenty of entertaining material.

 

Your turn!

What’s your first line?

August Book Club Selections

3 Aug

Here are the books my two book clubs will be reading this month. Have you read them? What did you think?

 

51ycWviNHOL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_Pearl in The Sand by Tessa Afshar. Can a Canaanite harlot who has made her livelihood by looking desirable to men make a fitting wife for one of the leaders of Israel? Shockingly, the Bible’s answer is yes.

Pearl in the Sand tells Rahab’s untold story. Rahab lives in a wall; her house is built into the defensive walls of the City of Jericho. Other walls surround her as well–walls of fear, rejection, and unworthiness.

A woman with a wrecked past; a man of success, of faith…of pride. A marriage only God would conceive! Through the heartaches of a stormy relationship, Rahab and Salmone learn the true source of one another’s worth and find healing in God.

 

51dfH32zyfL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer is close to “aging out” out of the foster care system. A community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping Molly out of juvie and worse…

As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly learns that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.

Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life—answers that will ultimately free them both.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.