Tag Archives: Pamela Binnings Ewen

Top Ten Tuesday — Favorites from The Early Years

12 Sep

I have been blogging for almost 8 years now. And while hopefully I have improved (I cringe at some of my early reviews), one thing remains the same. I have read and am continuing to read great Christian fiction. The folks at The Broke And The Bookish are challenging bloggers to come up with lists of favorites from the early years of our blogs. What a great theme! I still think about all the books on my list. They really made an impact. If you haven’t read them, I encourage you to take a closer look. They really are special.

Nine Favorites from The Early Years of By The Book

 

 

Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry

Billy Allman is a hillbilly genius. People in Dogwood, West Virginia, say he was born with a second helping of brains and a gift for playing the mandolin but was cut short on social skills. Though he’d gladly give you the shirt off his back, they were right. Billy longs to use his life as an ode to God, a lyrical, beautiful bluegrass song played with a finely tuned heart. So with spare parts from a lifetime of collecting, he builds a radio station in his own home. People in town laugh. But Billy carries a brutal secret that keeps him from significance and purpose. Things always seem to go wrong for him.

However small his life seems, from a different perspective Billy’s song reaches far beyond the hills and hollers he calls home. Malachi is an angel sent to observe Billy. Though it is not his dream assignment, Malachi follows the man and begins to see the bigger picture of how each painful step Billy takes is a note added to a beautiful symphony that will forever change the lives of those who hear it.

City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell

Will Kiehn is seemingly destined for life as a humble farmer in the Midwest when, having felt a call from God, he travels to the vast North China Plain in the early twentieth-century. There he is surprised by love and weds a strong and determined fellow missionary, Katherine. They soon find themselves witnesses to the crumbling of a more than two-thousand-year-old dynasty that plunges the country into decades of civil war. As the couple works to improve the lives of the people of Kuang P’ing Ch’eng― City of Tranquil Light, a place they come to love―and face incredible hardship, will their faith and relationship be enough to sustain them?

Told through Will and Katherine’s alternating viewpoints―and inspired by the lives of the author’s maternal grandparents ― City of Tranquil Light is a tender and elegiac portrait of a young marriage set against the backdrop of the shifting face of a beautiful but torn nation.

Dancing on Glass by Pamela Binnings Ewen

In the steamy city of New Orleans in 1974, Amalise Catoir sees Phillip Sharp as a charming, magnetic artist, unlike any man she has known. A young lawyer herself, raised in a small town and on the brink of a career with a large firm, she is strong and successful, yet sometimes too trusting and whimsical. Ama’s rash decision to marry Phillip proves to be a mistake as he becomes overly possessive, drawing his wife away from family, friends, and her faith. His insidious, dangerous behavior becomes her dark, inescapable secret.

For Time And Eternity by Allison Pittman

All Camilla Deardon knows of the Mormons camping nearby is the songs she hears floating on the breeze. Then she meets one of them―a young man named Nathan Fox. Never did she imagine he would be so handsome, so charming, especially after Mama and Papa’s warnings to stay away. Though she knows she should obey her parents, Camilla can’t refuse her heart. But even Nathan’s promises cannot prepare her for what she will face in Utah.

 

The Miracle of Mercy Land by River Jordan

Mercy Land has made some unexpected choices for a young woman in the 1930s. The sheltered daughter of a traveling preacher, she chooses to leave her rural community to move to nearby Bay City on the warm, gulf-waters of southern Alabama. There she finds a job at the local paper and spends seven years making herself indispensible to old Doc Philips, the publisher and editor. Then she gets a frantic call at dawn—it’s the biggest news story of her life, and she can’t print a word of it.
           
Doc has come into possession of a curious book that maps the lives of everyone in Bay City—decisions they’ve made in the past, and how those choices affect the future. Mercy and Doc are consumed by the mystery locked between the pages — Doc because he hopes to right a very old wrong, and Mercy because she wants to fulfill the book’s strange purpose. But when a mystery from Mercy’s past arrives by train, she begins to understand that she will have to make choices that will deeply affect everyone she loves — forever.

The Rhythm of Secrets by Patti Lacy

Sheila Franklin has lived three separate lives. Now a conservative pastor’s wife in Chicago, she is skilled at hiding secrets–a talent birthed during childhood romps through the music-filled streets of New Orleans. But when the son she bore at the age of eighteen comes back looking for answers and desperate for help, her greatest secret–and greatest regret — is revealed.

Eager to right past wrongs, Sheila’s heart floods with memories of lyrical jazz music and a worn-out Bible. But when her husband learns of her shady history, Sheila is suddenly faced with an impossible decision: embrace the dream–and son–she abandoned against her will or give in to the demands of her safe but stifled life. As she struggles to reclaim both her son and her identity, Sheila soon realizes that God’s grace spans both seas and secrets and that He is all she really needs.

With dynamic writing that makes the reader feel the heartache of a teenage mother, struggle with the disillusionment of an abandoned boy, and revel in the idea of grace despite flaws, rising star Patti Lacy takes her fans on a journey they won’t want to end — and won’t soon forget.

A Thousand Sleepless Nights by Michael King

In the 1970s, escaping a home where he knew nothing but violence and hate, Jim Harding found work, and love, on the largest horse ranch in Virginia. The object of his affections, Nena St. Claire, is the daughter of the owner, a man who ruled his ranch with an iron fist and would do whatever it took to keep Nena and Jim apart.
 
Against the wishes of her family, Nena marries Jim, and after her father dies, she sacrifices everything — including her family — to keep the ranch alive. Now their three grown children have lives of their own and want nothing to do with Nena. She was never the mother they needed.
 
When cancer strikes and Nena is given a devastating diagnosis, can Jim reconcile the family before it is too late?

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

Charlotte owns a chic Birmingham bridal boutique. Dressing brides for their big day is her gift . . . and her passion. But with her own wedding day approaching, why can’t she find the perfect dress…or feel certain she should marry Tim?

Then Charlotte discovers a vintage dress in a battered trunk at an estate sale. It looks brand-new―shimmering with pearls and satin, hand-stitched and  timeless in its design. But where did it come from? Who wore it? Who welded the lock shut and tucked the dog tags in that little sachet? Who left it in the basement for a ten-year-old girl? And what about the mysterious man in the purple vest who insists the dress had been “redeemed.”

Charlotte’s search for the gown’s history―and its new bride―begins as a distraction from her sputtering love life. But it takes on a life of its own as she comes to know the women who have worn the dress. Emily from 1912. Mary Grace from 1939. Hillary from 1968. Each with her own story of promise, pain, and destiny. And each with something unique to share. For woven within the threads of the beautiful hundred-year-old gown is the truth about Charlotte’s heritage, the power of courage and faith, and the timeless beauty of finding true love.

Words by Ginny Yttrup

“I collect words. I keep them in a box in my mind. I’d like to keep them in a real box, something pretty, maybe a shoe box covered with flowered wrapping paper. Whenever I wanted, I’d open the box and pick up the papers, reading and feeling the words all at once. Then I could hide the box. But the words are safer in my mind. There, he can’t take them.”

Ten-year old Kaylee Wren doesn’t speak. Not since her drug-addled mother walked away, leaving her in a remote cabin nestled in the towering redwoods-in the care of a man who is as dangerous as he is evil. With silence her only refuge, Kaylee collects words she might never speak from the only memento her mother left behind: a dictionary.

Sierra Dawn is thirty-four, an artist, and alone. She has allowed the shame of her past to silence her present hopes and chooses to bury her pain by trying to control her circumstances. But on the twelfth anniversary of her daughter’s death, Sierra’s control begins to crumble as the God of her childhood woos her back to Himself.

Brought together by Divine design, Kaylee and Sierra will discover together the healing mercy of the Word — Jesus Christ.

 

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Top 10 Tuesday — Southern Settings

1 Nov

By book club loves a story set in an exotic locale, but we also love a book set in our own backyards — the Sunny South! I’ve compiled a list of books  (18 in fact!) with Southern settings that will be a hit with your book club; many were hits with mine and the others I don’t hesitate to recommend. I could have gone on and on — so many great books set in the South! You may also see I am kind of partial to books set in my home state of Georgia!

To find out what other books bloggers are recommending to book clubs, please visit The Broke And The Bookish Top 10 Tuesday.

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Top Books with Southern Settings

Cozy Mystery Series

Murder on A Girl’s Night Out by Anne George (Alabama)

Them Bones by Carolyn Haines (Mississippi)

Who Invited The Dead Man by Patricia Sprinkle (Georgia)

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Historical 

Lighthouse by Eugenia Price (Georgia)

A Respectable Actress by Dorothy Love (Georgia)

The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot (Georgia)

The Swan House by Elizabeth Musser (Georgia)

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Romance

Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Beth Vogt (Florida)

Her One And Only by Becky Wade (Texas)

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck (Alabama)

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Romantic Suspense

Dangerous Passage by Lisa Harris (Georgia)

Midnight on The Mississippi by Mary Ellis (Louisiana/Mississippi)

Shadows of The Past by Patricia Bradley (Mississippi/Tennessee)

Vendetta by Lisa Harris (Tennessee)

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Women’s Fiction

Dancing on Glass by Pamela Binnings Ewen (Louisiana)

The Pirate Queen by Patricia Hickman (North Carolina)

Secrets over Sweet Tea by Denise Hildreth Jones (Tennessee)

The Things Left Unspoken by Eva Marie Everson (Georgia)

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What’s your favorite setting?

 

Book Review: Chasing The Wind

29 Dec

464313_w185At 8:47 A.M. on Wednesday, October 12, 1977, new-to-town businessman Bingham Murdock flew his small plane into New Orleans, banking it in such a way that a ray of sunshine shot through the city at light speed.

Amalise Catoir saw the flash from her sixteenth floor law office window. Finally feeling alive after the death of her abusive husband, she imagined seeing the plane was a fate for her eyes only; a special connection between the unknown giver and she, the recipient of light.But someone else saw it, a six-year-old Cambodian refugee in foster care for whom a sudden burst of brightness reminds him of artillery fire.

Destined to cross paths with the man and the child, Amalise doesn’t yet know the deeper spiritual lesson she will learn: that we are responsible not only for the things we do, but also for the things that we don’t.

Pamela_Binnings Ewen_medPamela Binnings Ewen practiced law for twenty-five years before she followed in the authorial footsteps of relatives such as James Lee Burke (The Glass Rainbow) and Andre Dubus III (The House of Sand and Fog). Chasing the Wind is her fourth novel. Ewen lives in Louisiana.

My Impressions:

Chasing The Wind is the sequel to Dancing on Glass (see my review HERE). And while it is not necessary to have read the first book to enjoy the second, I recommend that you do. Pamela Binnings Ewen’s writing is so good, you do not want to miss the pleasure. Chasing The Wind again centers on Amalise Catoir, a female, second year attorney in the male dominated occupation of the 1970s. The book takes place in New Orleans and the flavor of the city shines through and is itself a character of sorts. Other intriguing characters are Bingham Murdoch, the investor that has Amalise’s law firm working on one of its biggest projects of the year and Luke, an orphan from southeast Asia. Mystery surrounds both of these characters and touches the story in big ways.

Mystery and magic are the highlights of Chasing The Wind. While not a suspense novel, Ewen’s writing creates a tension that had me in knots trying to work out the same problems Amalise faced —  ethics and confidentiality versus morals and justice. And while not an overtly religious novel, Chasing The Wind is definitely a book about faith and God’s sovereignty. Ewen also makes you care about her characters, and her writing is excellent. This book is so good it made my best of 2012 list!

I highly recommend Chasing The Wind. So get both books and schedule a great reading experience.

Highly Recommended.

(I received a copy of Chasing The Wind from NetGalley. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: Dancing On Glass

5 Nov

In the steamy city of New Orleans in 1974, Amalise Catoir meets Phillip Sharp, a charming, magnetic artist, unlike any man she has known.

A young lawyer herself, raised in a small town and on the brink of a career with a large firm, she is strong and successful, yet sometimes too trusting and whimsical. Ama’s rash decision to marry Phillip proves to be a mistake as he becomes overly possessive, drawing his wife away from family, friends, and her faith.

His insidious, dangerous behavior becomes her dark, inescapable secret. In this lawyer’s unraveling world, can grace survive Ama’s fatal choice? What would you do when prayers seem to go unanswered, faith has slipped away, evil stalks, and you feel yourself forever dancing on shattered glass?

 

 

Pamela Ewen practiced law for 25 years, and recently retired as a partner from the law firm of Baker Botts in Houston, Texas. She is an experienced public speaker, including numerous radio and television interviews, and as a guest speaker for book clubs, reading groups, retreats, churches of all denominations, literary festivals, universities, and many other organizations.

She serves on the board of directors of the Tennessee Williams Festival in New Orleans, and is also co-founder of the Northshore Literary Society in the Greater New Orleans Metro area north of Lake Pontchartrain. Recently she was honored with the 2009 Literary Artist of the Year Award by the St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana Arts Council.

My Impressions:

Dancing On Glass is a powerful story of a young woman caught in a web of deceit and manipulation as spun by the handsome and charismatic artist, Phillip Sharp.  Amalise Catoir is a 2nd year law student determined to make it in the male dominated field of the 1970s.  She is smart and fiercely independent, yet has a definite soft spot for the defenseless and wounded.  Phillip is very insightful yet deeply troubled and soon sees Amalise’s vulnerability.  Praying upon her sensitivity and nurturing personality, Phillip makes his way into her life.  Soon he has distanced Amalise from her family, friends and faith and has set himself up as the center of her world.

Pamela Ewen’s novel describes the way a sociopath can get past the common sense defenses that one has and manipulate others to suit their own desires. Amalise’s life soon becomes a balancing act.  She has to keep Phillip happy while working and studying.  When those things take up too much of her time, she soon learns that she is caught without any way of escape.

Dancing On Glass is set in New Orleans during the mid-1970s.  The city comes alive in Ewen’s writing.  And the era of women breaking into male dominated fields helps to set the stage for the struggles Amalise faces.  This novel is a wonderful work of psychological suspense.   Like Amalise’s friends and family, I wanted to warn her of the dangers just around the corner.  I look forward to Ewen’s next book that takes up where this one left off.

Highly Recommended.

(I received a copy of Dancing On Glass from B&H Publishers in return for a review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

Julie at My Only Vice is hosting the Christian Fiction Book Club this month.  Check out her blog for discussion on Dancing On Glass.

I could not find any discussion questions for this book, so here are some of my own thoughts:

1.  Amalise is dedicated to The Plan — her and her mother’s desire for her to become a lawyer.  How does this shape her decision to leave Phillip?

Amalise does not  swerve from her goal of finishing law school, passing the bar and securing a position with a New Orleans law firm.  In this she is focused, not allowing anything, even Phillip to deter her.  She compartmentalizes that part of her life apart from her marriage.  I think without her career, she never would have broken free of Phillip.  She was able to maintain an identity apart from Phillip that allowed her to finally see through his lies and deception.

2.  At one point in their marriage, Phillip becomes physical in his abuse.  Why does Amalise put up with it?

Too often women endure physical abuse because they believe the lie that their husband/boyfriend is not really that abusive person.  Something else has caused the abuse — alcohol/drugs, their own actions.  Amalise blamed Phillip’s drinking and his childhood wounds.  But we are all responsible for our own actions despite our circumstances.  The character of Jude is a good counterpoint to Phillip.  Jude is the product of an abusive childhood with an alcoholic father.  Yet Jude takes responsibility for the life he creates.

3.  Amalise asks God to bless her marriage, even though she knows she entered into it without prayer and God’s wisdom?  Can God bless our actions when they go against His will?

God can take our mistakes and make something beautiful from them.  But I am not sure we can be truly blessed outside of His will.  As Amalise found out, our own free will is what causes so much hurt  (even to the innocent) in the world.

Here is a glimpse of Pamela Binnings Ewen’s next book — 

Chasing The Wind — coming August 2012.  8:47 A.M. on Wednesday, October 12, 1977, new-to-town businessman Bingham Murdock flew his small plane into New Orleans, banking it in such a way that a ray of sunshine shot through the city at light speed.

Amalise Catoir saw the flash from her sixteenth floor law office window. Finally feeling alive after the death of her abusive husband, she imagined seeing the plane was a fate for her eyes only; a special connection between the unknown giver and she, the recipient of light.

But someone else saw it, a six-year-old Cambodian refugee in foster care for whom a sudden burst of brightness reminds him of artillery fire.

Destined to cross paths with the man and the child, Amalise doesn’t yet know the deeper spiritual lesson she will learn: that we are responsible not only for the things we do, but also for the things that we don’t.