Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Corruptible: A Ray Quinn Mystery by Mark Mynheir: Book Review

ISBN: 978-1-60142-074-9
This is not typically the genre book I normally seek out - it is more of a "man's book."   I do enjoy a good mystery, though, so that aspect grabbed me at the start.  And yet, from the get-go, the author, Mark Mynheir, cloaks the Protagonist, Private Investigator Ray Quinn, with  crisp dialogue that marks him as a former policeman, narcotics and homicide cop, and member of the elite group of defenders of society.  They live in a world vastly different from law abiding citizens.  They rub shoulders with baser elements of society and speak a lingo that is man-ish, cop-ish, and definitely geared for this type of story line.  I loved the colorful phrases. And could Ray Quinn turn a phrase with play on words and events! His wit just keeps coming out.

PI Ray Quinn owns The Night Watchman Detective Service.  He is now a PI because in the previous book he was badly wounded and now has a permanent limp necessitating the use of a cane and his "friend" Jim Beam (whiskey). 

Ray Quinn is not a Christian.  But his very good friend Pam is and she is praying.  Ray struggles with God and faith and alcoholism. 

The story line takes Ray Quinn to the world of big finance to track down some stolen client data.   Leads to murder.  Does some bashing drug dealing motorcycle gang thugs. 

An enjoyable read that even "Southern ladies" can get into.  I would recommend it for a good, clean read for anyone 16 and older who enjoys a good detective story.  It is an intense story and the plot twists and turns and will keep the reader on his/her toes.  Ray Quinn struggles with his alcoholism and with what awaits him after death.  His secretary, Pam, witnesses to him of God and Christianity in a believable manner.  The Corruptible is well written and the characters are very well developed and likeable or deserving of hate. 

Sometimes the first casualty...is the truth.
Ray Quinn is a tough, quick-witted former-detective-turned-PI hired to find a corporate security officer who’s made off with confidential client information. Or so he’s told. When Ray finds the officer dead in a motel he begins to wonder who the good guys really are—and at what price his soul can be bought.(from publisher's website)

Mark Mynheir
About the Author:  Mark Mynheir is the author of the Christy Award nominated The Night Watchman, the first Ray Quinn mystery. He has worked undercover as a narcotics agent, as a SWAT team member, and now investigates violent crimes as a detective with the Criminal Investigations Unit in central Florida, where he lives with his wife and three children. 
If you rank this review in the blue box below, you are AUTOMATICALLY entered in a drawing to win your own copy of the book from the publisher!
DISCLOSURE:  I was provided a complimentary copy of The Corruptible by the publisher, Multnomah, in order to render my review.  I was under no obligation to provide a positive review.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Never Look Back by Kathy Herman: Book Review

Ivy Griffith has been in prison because she covered up the death of a high school classmate ten years ago.  Having gained control over her drug habit and having paid her debt to society for her crime, she wants to begin afresh.

In her heart beats that of a loving mother of her seven-year-old son, Montana, and Ivy wants to keep him safe from her past and give him a safe future.  But Montana needs and wants a male influence in his life and that influence presents himself in the form of Rue Kessler.

Is Rue just what Ivy and Montana need and what she's been praying for, or is he going to bring further trouble into their lives?  After all, Rue's history is not all that stellar.

Author, Kathy Herman, brings to the pages characters with real troubles and real life situations and reveals their very real struggles.  The characters discover the depth of God's forgiveness for themselves and others.  They discover the beauty of second chances.

A good read and a good array of characters and plot.  I really like Montana.  A little boy with a big heart - one to cherish as his mother, Ivy, does.

DISCLOSURE:  I borrowed this book from the local public library.  All opinions expressed here are my own.

Not too Small At All - A Mouse Tale by Stephanie Z. Townsend: Book Review

Don't you just absolutely love to pick up a beautiful children's book?  I do.  I especially like them when they share God's love, His creation, His beauty in a way that a little child can understand.

Not Too Small At All - A Mouse Tale is just that sort of book.  The pages of this delightful book are beautifully illustrated by Bill Looney with soft watercolor whimsical pictures that show gentleness and beauty at the same time.  The story is that of Noah and the flood. Grandpa mouse is telling a bedtime story from his own experience - that as one of the two mice aboard the Ark at the time of the flood.

Of course, we realize that the "conversation" is the author, Stephanie Z. Townsend's, way of bringing a young child into the real story of Noah and the Ark by featuring a tiny mouse who was "not too small at all" to do his part and be a part of the Ark's creatures.

The story is all about understanding "God's special plan" for his creatures in saving Noah's family and the creatures that He, the Creator, had placed on the Earth.  

I give this a 5-star rating and recommend it to anyone who wants to read a delightful book to a young child.

About the Author:  Stephanie Z. Townsend - This is her first book. She is a wife and mother of two children and former special event coordinator at the Answers in Genesis ministry.
About the Illustrator:  Bill Looney, to use the common vernacular, is a "natural" artist.  He illustrates many Master Books including The True Story of Noah's Ark. He attended the University of Texas at Arlington and Dallas Art Institute.
DISCLOSURE:  I received a complimentary review copy of Not Too Small At All: A Mouse Tale from New Leaf Publishing Group/Master Books in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to render a positive review.

Book Review: "The Ride of Her Life" by Lorna Seilstad

It is 1906 and summer is coming soon.  The trolly to Lake Manawa is waiting to take folks to the Lake to enjoy the water and the thrilling rides.  A brand new roller coaster is being built and it will surely draw the customers.

The lake has already drawn Lilly Hart and her six-year-old son, Levi. What kind of ride will Lilly take?
About the book:
The only man pragmatic Lilly Hart needs in her life is a six-year-old. Widowed for three years, Lilly has decided to leave the home of her intrusive in-laws to stand on her own. However, her in-laws find her new life as a cook at Lake Manawa utterly unsuitable for their grandson. When an argument ensues, a handsome stranger--who designs roller coasters, of all things--intercedes on her behalf. But Lilly is not about to get involved with any man, especially this cocky gentleman. Little does she know she is about to begin the ride of her life.

Filled with the sweet romance of summer, The Ride of Her Life will have you laughing out loud and sighing contentedly as you spend the summer of 1906 at Lake Manawa.

My thoughts:  This is a totally enjoyable read and each of the characters captures your attention and your heart.  I fell completely in love with Lilly's son, Levi, who is totally a snake and bug loving boy.  The scrapes episodes in which he is involved will win your heart.  His need for an adult male in his life since his father is dead is evidenced by his total rapture with  the handsome stranger who designed and is building the huge roller-coaster.

Lilly's deceased husband's parents are wealthy and they imperiously demand that they be in control of Levi's life and demand to be allowed to send him away to boarding school - to better prepare him for life as "their" grandson.  Lilly instead desires to raise Levi without interference from them.

Lilly must face her fears before she can begin to really face life.  She must learn to trust.  And she must learn to love again.

About the author: A history buff, antique collector, and freelance graphic designer, Lorna Seilstad is the author of Making Waves and A Great Catch. She draws her setting from her home state of Iowa. A former high school English and journalism teacher, she has won several online writing awards and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.

ISBN: 978-0-8007-3447-3  Release Date:  May 2012
“Available May 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”
I was provided a complimentary copy of The Ride of her Life  by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in order to render an honest review and under no obligation to give a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Laurie Calkhoven: Will at the Battle of Gettysburg 1863

Laurie Calkhoven writes for the young reader.  Chapter books that are full of accurate historical detail and that capture the attention and imagination of the young reader.  Her story telling is an experience will guide the young reader into a better understanding of the historical event.
My 8-year-old granddaughter's review of the books: 
I read three books by Laurie Calkhoven.  They were all about different wars.  In Will at the Battle of Gettysburg I really liked how he showed lots of courage.  This book was about the Civil War. The other two books were about the American Revolution and World War II.  Daniel in the book about the American Revolution was brave and risked his own life for our country.  In the book about World War II I learned that it was a scary time.

I don't know which book is my favorite.  I like all of them!  If other kids like me like intense books they will really like these.  I want to read more books by this author!  When it was quiet and I was all alone reading these books, I felt like I was there! 
My Thoughts:  There is war in the land and it is affecting every citizen - those the age to fight, those too old to fight, and those too young to fight.  Our main character is a 12-year-old boy, Will.  He wants so much to do his part as a drummer boy in the war serving for the Union.  His older brother is languishing in a Southern hospital as a prisoner and his father is off rendering medical care for the wounded that he as a doctor is so very much in need of providing.

Will sees the rebel troops as they approach his town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and then enter shooting and yelling the rebel yell.  He later sees the Union troops as they defend Gettysburg against the rebels.  He sees death.  War is getting a face and that face is personal, real, and sordid. 

He now knows the enemy.  However, in this he meets another young drummer boy who is a rebel.  Will takes him into his home and feeds and clothes the bedraggled boy.  Later, his good deed comes back to save him.

This is Laurie Calkhoven's second book in the Boys of Wartime series. Her account, though written for the young reader age 9-12, draws on firsthand accounts of one of the most famous and bloodiest Civil War battles and provides a good read with good, accurate history lessons.  She presents not only the struggle politically between the North and South over slavery, but also over the larger issue of States' Rights.

Calkhoven also provides material of benefit to students of history of any age:  a glossary, additional reading titles. a detailed "Time Line" of dates and facts, and a list of real historical characters in the book and what their role in history was.

Book 2: Will at the Battle of Gettysburg 1863 (Civil War)
Book 3: Michael at the Invasion of France 1943 (World War II)
DISCLOSURE:  I was provided a copy of Will at the Battle of Gettysburg 1863  by the author, Laurie Calkhoven in exchange for my honest review.  I was not required to render a positive review.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Kaydie by Penny Zeller (Book 2--Montana Skies): Book Review

Book 1 of the Montana Skies series by Penny Zeller, we met McKenzie, older sister of Kaydie.  McKenzie was living in Boston with her wealthy, privileged parents and on the fast track for an arranged marriage to an appropriate man.  However, she realizes her sister Kaydie is in dire straights and so McKenzie leaves Boston in search of Kaydie.

Book 2 in the Montana Skies series is about Kaydie and how her life goes from ruined and shattered to love, honor, and beauty.  View the trailer about Kaydie.....

My thoughts:  Kaydie found out the hard way that romance is not always what our hearts tell us.  Kaydie's story is Book 2 in the Montana Skies series by Penny Zeller.  In Book 1 of the series, McKenzie, Kaydie's sister, is searching for her sister who she knows is suffering at the hands of an abusive and dangerous husband.

Kaydie's husband exhibited no traits that would have given her or her family a clue of what would lay ahead for the dear Kaydie.  Beatings.  Starvation.  Destitution.

Kaydie does escape that life at the end of McKenzie's story and that is where Kaylie's story picks up in Book 2, Kaydie.  She is afraid of men.  She is expecting a child by her deceased, abusive husband.  But living with McKenzie and her husband on their ranch brings Kaydie face-to-face with loving, compassionate, caring people and brings her to the brink of romance.

Kaydie has come to faith in Christ and now needs to come to terms with trusting Christ to lead her in all aspects of her life. Her journey is sweet, tender, fearsome. 

This is a sweet, tender read of learning to live again and living in Christ.  It is one of learning to trust.  An enjoyable read that is well written.  A book I recommend.

Recently, Penny Zeller was guest blogger here on Chat With Vera and you can read her delightful post here:  The Humorous Life of a Writer

Penny is also offering a GIVEAWAY of a copy of any 1 of her Montana Skies novels.  Go here for details and to enter by leaving comments.

DISCLOSURE:  I was provided a complimentary copy of Kaylie by author, Penny Zeller in exhange for an honest review.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

"A Love Forbidden" by Kathleen Morgan: Book Review

A quick glimpse at the title of this book conjures up a torrid romance.  However, that is not the case in Kathleen Morgan's book, A Love Forbidden.

The story takes place around 1878-79 in Colorado and involves the Ute Indians, the Indian Agency, troubles of a half-breed Indian, and a single white woman, Shiloh Wainwright, who simply wants to help educate the children of the Ute tribes.  She accepts a position teaching the Ute children and settles in the White River Indian Agency in Northwestern Colorado.  There she discovers a long-lost childhood friend.  Embittered half-breed Jesse who had once worked on Shiloh's father's ranch.  In the past they had held a strong friendship, but Jesse had left the ranch under seriously disturbing circumstances.

Shiloh is now caught in the seething tensions of territorial conflict between the U.S. Government - enforced by an unyielding Agency official, and the Ute Indians who do not wish to change their way of life and settle down in the restrictive area of the reservation.  Not only is an Indian war brewing, a conflict of hearts and civilizations is brewing between Shiloh and Jesse.

My thoughts:  Ms. Morgan deals fairly with the history of the U.S. Government's dealings with the Ute Indians presenting both sides without taking sides.  She shows the firm and the tender emotions of each - the Indians and the white settlers.  She shows mercy in the hearts of each peoples.  She also shows the determination of each to do as they believe is right.  She delivers the strong adherence to one's spiritual beliefs in spite of what others might think or do or say.  Ms. Morgan shows us, too, how forgiveness is bound up in the healing power of God's love.  Forgiveness of others and forgiveness of ourselves.

I liked the characters and found them believable and well developed by Ms. Morgan.  The story line was interesting (enough to get me to Google some information online) and held quite well to the truth of history.

Ute Chief Ouray, a real Indian
who is mentioned in the book
Of interest:  The Ute Indians settled in Colorado prior to the time of Christ.  The State of Utah is named for the Utes.  There is some interesting information on the Ute and their history at the following link.  http://www.southern-ute.nsn.us/history.

ISBN: 978-0-8007-1971-5  Publisher:  Revell
“Available May 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell,
a division of Baker Publishing Group.”
I was provided a complimentary review copy of A Love Forbidden in order to render an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own and I was not required to write a favorable review.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Candle Star by Michelle Isenhoff: Book Review

As I began to read, The Candle Star by Michelle Isenhoff, I was again enthralled by her magnificent talent as a wordsmith.  She has a real talent for stringing together words in beautiful patterns that capture the mind and reveal the essence of the story.

My thoughts on The Candle StarThis is a historical novel set immediately prior to the Civil War in the United States.  Emily is a true Southern Belle accustomed to the luxuries of wealthy plantation life as the daughter of the house.  She does, however, have a very independent streak and is not at all agreeable to the typical selection of a gentleman for her to marry, settle down with, and have a family.  She wants to paint, and she wants to choose her own life.

Her parents ship her North to her uncle, and she begins to learn what life is all about outside the setting of the plantation.  School - in a classroom and not with a tutor. House work.  Mucking out the horse stable.

Emily soon learns that in Michigan there is a difference in that not only is it extremely cold with snow and ice, it is totally different socially.  She meets Malachi, a young free black boy who also goes to school.  She has to work along side of Julia, a free black kitchen maid, in the kitchen cooking and cleaning.

Emily learns about bounty hunters and suffering, escaping slaves.  The Underground Railroad is carrying cargo and the hunters are seeking to disrupt it's traffic.

Author Information:  "I write for kids.  In my books, you can expect adventure and substance, but I'll always respect the innocence of our children."  Michelle Isenhoff's website

I previously reviewed The Color of Freedom by Michelle Isenhoff here on Chat With Vera.  Please read my review of this excellent book, too.

Michelle Isenhoff provided a complimentary copy of The Candle Star in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Eleanor the Hippo Learns to Tell the Truth by Andy McGuire: Book Review

I have in my hands a delightful book for children ages 3 - 8.  Beautifully illustrated with whimsical, yet realistic, animals in soft, non-threatening colors.  Eleanor the Hippo Learns to Tell the Truth is about a young hippo "girl" who has a real problem telling tall tales about other animals, and about the truth and how not telling the truth hurts.

Written in loosely structured rhyme, it quickly captures the attention of the young child.  The rhyming nature of the story helps a child to learn words easily and helps to imprint the story more firmly into their young minds. Example:

It's fine to have a conversation
Full of honest information,
But sadly what she'd sometimes do
Is tell a tale that wasn't true. 

So off she went on trembly knees
Working through some strategies,
Eleanor is a gossip and she exaggerates.  She tells tall tales that she makes up about others.  In other words she has trouble with telling the truth.  So one time she tells a lie and it backfires and she learns her lesson.

Valuable lessons can be learned by the young child as they learn that Eleanor has to overcome the trouble of her tall tale telling tongue.  I recommend this lovely book for school and preschool libraries, homes with young children, and church libraries.

About the author / illustrator:  Andy McGuire is a writer, illustrator, and editor. He started drawing animals and people at a very young age and in elementary school would charge fifty cents to do portraits of his classmates. Since then his prices have gone up, but not much. Andy lives in Minnesota with his wife, Becky, and their two children, Charlie and Jane.

ISBN:  9780736926652 
  Harvest House Publishers
I was given a copy of Eleanor the Hippo Learns to Tell the Truth by Harvest House Publishers in exchange for my honest review and opinion.

Monday, May 14, 2012

"The Humorous Life of a Writer" by Penny Zeller & Giveaway of one of her books (CLOSED)

I am honored to have the Penny Zeller, author, as guest blogger today.

During a recent interview for my Montana Skies Historical Romance Series, I was reminded of a time earlier in my writing career when the interviewing process didn't run so smoothly...

When I first began my career as a writer, I started by writing magazine articles. By doing so, I was then able to stay home with my daughters and supplement our income, plus gain valuable work experience.

One afternoon several years ago, I was preparing to interview a prominent professional for a major magazine article. My daughters, Sunshine and Doodle, were toddlers then, and the concept of working from home as a writer was an adventure in itself. "Now girls, Mommy has a very important phone call to make. Can you sit nicely and quietly and watch Angelina Ballerina on the TV for a few minutes and after I'm finished, we'll go to the playground and Mommy will go down the slide and play on the swings with you."

My girls nodded and we made our routine pinky promise.  I then reached for my phone. Two minutes and I would be dialing my most important source. The entire phone interview wouldn't take longer than 20 minutes at the most, and knowing that Angelina Ballerina was my girls' favorite video, things should run quite smoothly...or so I thought.

A few minutes later, I was on the phone and writing down answers to my questions. The source was a pleasant man with so much knowledge that I could have written a dozen articles just based on his expertise alone. The phone connection was good, I was keeping up with what taking notes, and Sunshine and Doodle were sitting quietly watching Angelina Ballerina.

I glanced down to write an answer to one of my interview questions, when from out of nowhere, two-year-old Doodle sprang from the playroom,  her short stubby legs sashaying around in typical "polka" fashion. She danced in circles in the living room, giggling. It wasn't the dancing, giggling, or the joyful grin on her face that alarmed me. No, it was the loud and continous eeeeeee-aawwwww, eeeeeee-aawwwww sound of the toy accordian in her hand as she played what she called "bootiful music, Mama!"

I gasped. "No, no, sweetie," I mouthed.

Doodle smiled and continued her presentation of "How to Make Mommy Panic in One Easy Step."

"Mrs. Zeller?" My source asked, "Are you there? I am hearing some interference."

"Um, yes, sorry about that," I said. I wondered to myself how to tell my source that the interference was a child's accordian and still maintain my professionalism.

"I think we have a bad connection," my source said.

I nodded and thought to myself, well, he was about 2,500 miles away, so it could be a bad connection...

I love stories like this when my girls were several years younger. They add to the adventure of being a writer and create memories we all laugh about now.

A few years after I began writing magazine articles, God led me to begin writing books.  I am amazed at how He leads and how He prepares us for His will in our lives. I pray I make an impact for His Kingdom with every word that I write, and I am in continual prayer for His guidance regarding my current book projects.

 A few days ago, my little elementary-aged Doodle asked if I could interview her regarding her career. We hooked up the microphone to the computer, and just as she had seen me do numerous times for interviews for my books, Doodle slipped into the interviewee mode.  “Welcome to Zeller Family Radio,” I began. “I’m here today with my very special guest, Doodle Zeller.”

Doodle pretended to be an adult and I asked her questions about the career to which God had led her. “When I was just a kid,” she began. “I wanted to be a missionary to Haiti. Now I am and I’m excited to tell you all about it!”
About Penny Zeller - Bio: Penny Zeller is the author of several books and numerous magazine articles. She is also the author of the blog "A Day in the Life of a Wife, Mom, and Author" where she also provides weekly doses of inspiration and humor, along with movie reviews from a Christian worldview, and interviews with some of her favorite author friends.

Penny is an active volunteer in her community, devoting her time to assisting and nurturing women and children into a closer relationship with Christ. Her passion is to use the gift of the written word that God has given her to glorify Him and to benefit His kingdom.

Among other books, Penny is the author of McKenzie, Kaydie, and Hailee in her Montana Skies Historical Romance Series and 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference: Ideas and Activities for Serving Others.

When she's not writing, Penny enjoys spending time with her family and camping, hiking, canoeing, and playing volleyball.  While she is generally a health nut, Penny does have one small weakness: hot tamales (yes, the little red candy kind!)

Penny loves to hear from her readers at her website, www.pennyzeller.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pennyzellerbooks

GIVEAWAY:  Penny is offering one of Chat With Vera's readers their choice of either McKenzie, Kaydie, or Hailee in her Montana Skies Historical Romance Series.  You can see my review of McKenzie by clicking here.  I'll be reviewing the next in the series shortly, so watch for it!  Rules for the GIVEAWAY:  Begins May 14 ENDS May 31 @ 8:00 p.m. EDT.
  1. Mandatory entry:  Leave a comment (and do play nice) and tell us if you've ever read a Penny Zeller book or what you enjoyed most from her humorous life article (above).  We'll need your email address, too, and your First name.
  2. Extra entry:  Tweet this giveaway & review and use the hashtags @GG_Survey and also #Giveaway.  We'll need the Tweet URL & your email address, too.  (May do this once daily for extra entries.)
  3. Extra entry:  Share this on some form of social media and leave the link in a comment.  Don't forget that email address. (Each "share" can be a separate entry.)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning by Olivia Newport: Book Review & Interiew

Interview Questions for Olivia Newport

How did The Pursuit of Lucy Banning get started?Historical District until a friend of mine became a docent at the Glessner House Museum on Prairie Avenue. This house preserves the flavor of Chicago’s gilded age when the neighborhood was full of wealthy powerhouses of industry. As soon as my friend began his training, he saw the potential for the setting of a story. He is not a fiction write, but he knew my interests. It did not take us long to cook up story ideas about a daughter of a privileged family who engaged with the changing social climate of her time.

Your book is layered with historical detail. Tell us about your research process.
My docent friend, Stephen Reginald, is a history buff. He spits out the most interesting details sometimes, and before I know it, I am digging too. We both scoured the archives of the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times for headlines and language of the era. I looked for true events that serve as hooks in the stories. The Internet turns up all sorts of obscure books and historical accounts. One of my favorites was a first person travelogue written by someone who visited the world’s fair in 1893. Stephen’s work at the Glessner House Museum opened a portal into diaries and museum pieces that helped me faithfully recreate the story’s setting.

What impact did your research have on you personally?
One of the most fun research pieces I uncovered was a guide to caring for young children published in 1894. The prevailing expert advice was not to play with a baby before he or she was four months old, preferably six! I love giving a copy of this book to new mothers. On the other end of the spectrum was heartbreaking information about the desperate needs of orphans during that time period. We may think we have more sophisticated system for addressing certain social issues, but we have a long way to go.

How do you see yourself in Lucy Banning’s story?
I certainly have never been the daughter of a privileged family! However, Lucy Banning and I do share an infatuation with red velvet cake. More seriously, Lucy is looking for genuine meaning in her life, even if it means taking risks. I’d like to think I would do the same thing.

While you were writing the book, do you think it mattered that you grew up near Chicago?
Even as an adult, I’ve lived in the Chicago area for several stretches, and several siblings and their children live there. (Go Cubs!) When I was a child, visiting the Museum of Science and Industry was a wide-eyed experience for me. As a young mother, I took my kids there. I think of it as the Museum of Wonder and Curiosity. Then I discovered that the building itself was part of the 1893 world’s fair, the backdrop for my series. Little did I know I would grow up to write about events that took place in a building that held so much fascination for me.

Will we know what happens to Lucy Banning after the end of the book?
Charlotte Farrow is a secondary character in The Pursuit of Lucy Banning, and she will have her own full story next. The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow will release in January. After that comes Sarah Cummings, who is introduced during Charlotte’s story. Lucy Banning and her family appear in all three books. Even though the main characters will change, readers can follow the next several years of Lucy’s life.

Is any part of you sorry to be finished writing The Pursuit of Lucy Banning?
Yes! I’ve been living with Lucy for three years now. I feel I know her well. Lucy has a part in the two stories to follow, and these are still in the editorial pipeline so I’ll have opportunities to visit with her again over the next few months. Beyond that, I have a picture of what happened in her life and know that she found happiness and meaning. And that brings me pleasure.
When you’re working on a project, how do you keep the immensity of it from getting you down?
Writing a book does seen scary! I break things down. I don’t set out to write a novel. Rather, I set out to complete the next task that may become a part of the novel. The task may be working out a knot in the plot, or writing the next scene, or beefing up research. I focus on doing the next thing that needs doing.

How do you choose between ideas you’d like to write about?
That’s a great question, because I always have more ideas than time to write about them. I’ve had fun with the Avenue of Dreams series, which begins with The Pursuit of Lucy Banning, because I discovered a place I did not know about. That surprise factor launched my imagination. I’m sure I’ll be looking for the same experience in the future and be eager to pass it on to readers.

If you have a favorite Bible verse, what is it and why have you chosen it specifically?
The opening to the Gospel of John is one of my favorite passages. When I read it, the description of God's immense gift to us rolls over me like an ocean wave. John 1:14 says, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" I love the insight that we see God's glory--and that it changes everything for the way that we live. 
About the book:  This is a story of love, wealth & secrets as historic Chicago prepares for 1893 World’s Fair
Lucy Banning may live on the exclusive Prairie Avenue among Chicago's rich and famous, but her heart lies elsewhere. Expected to marry an up-and-coming banker from a respected family, Lucy fears she will be forced to abandon her charity work--and the classes she is secretly taking at the newly opened University of Chicago. When she meets an unconventional young architect who is working on plans for the upcoming 1893 World's Fair, Lucy imagines a life lived on her own terms. Can she break away from her family's expectations? And will she ever be loved for who she truly is?
Readers will love being swept away into a world of mansions, secrets, and romance as they follow Lucy through the streets of the Windy City during one of the most exciting times in the city's history. From opulent upper-class homes to the well-worn rooms of an orphanage, Olivia Newport breathes life and romance into the pages of history--and everyone is invited.
My Thoughts:  I found this to be an interesting story presenting the contrasts of privileged and poverty classes in the late 1890s in Chicago.  During this period in American history, women were usually cared for, sheltered¸ and protected but with no voting or business rights and privileges.  If not from privileged circumstances, life could be very hard.

We see in The Pursuit of Lucy Banning, the contrast between Lucy and Charlotte.  We also see that Lucy is a lady ahead of her time and who resorts to deceiving everyone in her family and acquaintance to pursue her dreams and ideas. 

Charlotte on the other hand is a lady of mystery and in great need.  She is a servant in the home of Lucy and her family.  Charlotte, too, has to resort to deceit to hide circumstances in her life that would prevent her employment to continue.

Daniel is the long-time family friend who is also the finance of Lucy.  We meet Will who is a talented architect and friend of Lucy's brother.  Do you sense the beginning of a romantic triangle?

Author, Olivia Newport, describes the extensive wardrobe of Lucy beautifully and gives a glimpse into the life of formal meals, parties, beautiful dresses, frequent changes of clothes during the day and evening depending on the activity, extensive settings of fine china, and dining of the privileged class.  She also lets us look into life in the orphanages of the time - an institution that served to provide shelter and sustenance for destitute children of the time. Contrasts.

I recommend this book as a good read with good visualization of the period in which it is set, fine character development, and a somewhat surprise ending to the plot.

“Available May 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”
ISBN: 978-0-8007-2038-4 Publisher:  Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group
I received a complimentary copy in order to provide an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.  I was not required to render a positive review.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tower of Babel, Pop-Up and Read Book Illustrated By: Jon Taylor (Book Review)

Languages of different peoples of the World are fascinating.  What seems to one person as simply gibberish or babbling is in fact sensible language to another person.  Now did you notice a word in that second sentence that might allude to the book we are reviewing here?  Look carefully.  Tower of _______..... so now you see it, don't you?

The reality of the Babel story is told in Tower of Babel, Pop-Up and Read Book which is designed for ages 8 and up.  It has one large pop-up in the front of the book that remains open while the book is being read.  This lends interest and excitement for the young reader and helps him to stay engaged facilitating the process of learning.

Beautifully illustrated in full color, the Biblical account of how the different peoples' languages came about how the confusion the "babel" created resulted in the spread of the peoples separating themselves from those who spoke differently.

An explanation of the actual worship towers built in ancient times is given and how the tower being built in the Biblical account was also a worship tower.

The pop-up feature of the book is nice and is designed to have the book lay flat on a surface with the pop-up remaining in the up position while the pages are turned while reading. 

I think children will learn from this beautiful book and it will prove to be a good addition to the home library.  Hardcover, 24 pages.

Publisher:  Master Books  ISBN-13: 9780890514870

I was provided a complimentary review copy of Tower of Babel, Pop-Up and Read Book in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.  I was not required to render a positive review.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Where Lilacs Still Bloom by Jane Kirkpatrick: Book Review

In Washington State, German immigrant Hulda Klager takes her love of flowers, her experience as a farmer's wife, and her limited education to become a bold, adventurous woman when such was absolutely not a normal occurrence. 

Without the knowledge and consent of her husband (and such was definitely the thing to do at that period of time), she took her observations of variants in hue and shape, texture and size to begin her experiments in the cultivation of bulbs, shrubs, and apple trees.  Her success in grafting apples to create an easier to peel and tastier apple resulted in a product that she loved - and so did her husband.  From that point on, he became a supporter of her endeavors.  At least as long as she got her household duties done, too.

Life was not without tragedy for her family.  Death, flood, sadness.  But Hulda was a woman of faith and trust in God.
"Beauty matters… it does. God gave us flowers for a reason. Flowers remind us to put away fear, to stop our rushing and running and worrying about this and that, and for a moment, have a piece of paradise right here on earth."
Where Lilacs Still Bloom is a biographical novel - that is it is closely based on the life of Hulda Klager and her work developing lilac varieties and her Woodland, Washington, garden.

Author Jane Kirkpatrick has written a gentle novel about a gentle lady who achieves much as a wife, mother, plant hybridization genius, friend and counselor.

Jane Kirkpatrick is a best-selling, award-winning author whose previous historical novels include All Together in One Place and Christy Award finalist A Tendering in the Storm. An international keynote speaker, she has earned regional and national recognition for her stories based on the lives of actual people, including the prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Hall of Fame. Jane is a Wisconsin native who since 1974 has lived in Eastern Oregon, where she and her husband, Jerry, ranch 160 rugged acres.

ISBN: 9781400074303  Release: 4.17.2012   Fiction - Historical
I received a complimentary copy of Where the Lilacs Still Bloom from Blogging for Books on behalf of the author and publisher in order to render a review and my honest opinion.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

"It's Bedtime for Little Monkeys" by Susie Lee Jin: Book Review

Isn't he adorable?
This is the 2nd "Little Monkeys" board book by Susie Lee Jin I have reviewed, and it speaks the language in words and pictures of the small child. It is always a pleasure to have in my hands a book that a little child will hold and love. When the impressionable mind and heart of a child latches onto a colorful, fist sized treasure that he can carry around with him as he toddles throughout his unfolding life, and when that treasure can engage him with simple yet cute pictures, then we are ready to see a mind and heart embark on a learning adventure.

"It's Bedtime for Little Monkeys," text and illustrations by Susie Lee Jin, is a small board book that takes the monkeys from "come in, it's bedtime" through "goodnight."  The young toddler will completely identify with the routine of bedtime. Though published by a Christian publishing house, there is no Scripture or Bible lesson involved in the book. They have bedtime prayers.

I can see little ones toddling through the house, clutching this cute little book in their chubby hands, and showing Mommy or Daddy that the monkeys brush their teeth, too.  And getting Mommy or Daddy to kiss the monkeys goodnight, too.

At roughly $5, you can afford to let you little one be a bit messy with this one and not worry if it gets tattered in the effort of learning. 
ISBN: 9780736928328  Publisher:  Harvest House
I was provided a complimentary copy of It's Bedtime for Little Monkeys by Harvest House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"Snuggles' Japanese Alps Adventure" by Tim Ostermeyer: Book Review

Prepare yourself for a charming adventure with a Japanese Snow Monkey as Snuggles leaves the higher elevations and travels with his parents to the hot springs.  The hot springs are a source of survival during the cold and snow period in the Japanese Alps.
"He has to go thru many obstacles on the trip, climbing mountains, climbing tree branches, jumping over rivers, etc."
Beautiful photography by Tim Ostermeyer of Ostermeyer Photography will hold you enthralled as you examine the minute detail of the monkeys and the beautiful scenery.  Tim has captured up close and real expressions of the "near human" faces of these creatures that God has so beautifully created.  Example:  Photos of Baby Snow Monkeys at 1 month (spring), 5 months (fall), 11 months (winter)
But this is not just a monkey adventure for the kids and a pretty picture book.  It is indeed a marvel of learning of God's plan and place for His creation.  There are 100 education facts in the book.  And you and your child will learn moral lessons as well.  There are 10 Bible verses and scientific evidence is provided for intelligent design.

Master Photographer Tim Ostermeyer has a whole collection of these fun adventure wildlife books that will surely delight you and your family. 

I was provided a complimentary copy of "Snuggles' Japanese Alps Adventure" by BookCrash on behalf of the author and publisher for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own and I was not required to render a positive review.
ISBN:  978-0-9794228-7-4