A Silken Thread

290122: A Silken Thread A Silken Thread

By Kim Vogel Sawyer / WaterBrook

Choose this book next! Even if your to-be-read pile is a towering stack. You’ll be glad you spent time with Laurel, Willie, Quincy, the Rochester Family, and more. It’s a satisfying read with a detail rich plot.

Travel with Kim Vogel Sawyer to the fairgrounds of the 1895 Atlanta Exposition. Her account of this three month event is her starting point for telling a great story. Thirty years have passed since the end of the Civil War but racism and war memories pulse through the thoughts and actions of many characters. This story exposes how divisions based on skin color and economic standing perpetuate and inflict deep emotional injury. Hurtful remarks, jumping to the wrong conclusions, and more instances of social injustice are part of the narrative. The end proves what matters most. Good character, loyal friends, family, and faith.

The author demonstrates an expert ability to share a Christian message within a historical fiction novel. I never found it preachy or heavy handed. Just true words of wisdom shared from the heart. She even uses the title to remind us that God is always at work trying to draw us closer to Him. Sometimes it’s a fragile silken thread that he holds us by, but He is always there. More than one character speaks about the importance of seeking God’s direction when traveling on the path of life.

Even though this was a time when women were also denied many opportunities, most of the leading female characters possessed can-do attitudes who got back on their feet despite life altering setbacks. Miss Warner, Mama Millard, and Laurel are resilient and forward thinking characters.

Langdon Rochester takes the meaning of obnoxious to new heights. Throughout the book, you suspect he’ll come to a reckoning moment. This is just one of the storylines that keeps you reading to see how it’s going to turn out in the end. While you might anticipate some closing scenes, a good number will resolve in a surprising fashion. There is one major unanswered question that lingers at the end. Perhaps we can meet these vibrant characters in a sequel and discover the solution to this puzzle and more.

I recommend this book with enthusiasm. I reviewed an advanced readers’ copy from WaterBrook & Multnomah in exchange for my honest review. #ASilkenThread

QueenSpotting By Hilary Kearney

9781635860375_3DQueenSpotting by Hilary Kearney is like “Where’s Waldo?” of the insect class. It’s a must read for both experienced and beginning beekeepers. The queen spotting challenges range from easy to advanced. The answer key appears at the back. Interspersed throughout the educational visuals are Hilary’s accounts of apiary management and swarm catching. As a resident of Southern California, Hilary works year round managing her own hives, rescuing errant swarms, and educating others about honey bees. She launched her own business, Girl Next Door Honey, in 2012.

It’s a handsome book, readers will enjoy referring to over and over. Her enthusiasm bubbles up and spills over into her writing. Never stuffy or formal, you’ll chuckle when she uses the phrase “pollen pants” as a substitute for pollen baskets.

She clearly works at the master level of beekeeping. Her advice for building proficiency in queen spotting is helpful and accurate. At the book’s conclusion, you’ll likely want more from this beekeeper and entrepreneur. You can find more words of wisdom on Hilary’s Girl Next Door Honey website or popular social media accounts.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review of this publication. #QueenSpotting #NetGalley

Daughters of the Northern Shore

099120: Daughters of Northern Shores Daughters of Northern Shores

By Joanne Bischof / Thomas Nelson

The men are valiant and the women resilient. These are the lead characters in Daughters of the Northern Shore written by Joanne Bischof. It’s a plot that moves at a moderate pace at first, but finishes like a 50 yard dash. Initially you wonder how all the parts will weave together. We meet Northern European immigrants, a prodigal son, a deaf sibling, moonshiners, and a band of abusive and racist thugs. The action soon heats up to a feverish pitch. A strategy devised to end the thug’s tyranny is as good as any top-rated TV crime drama. Once it’s set to action, you’re right there with them in the smoke, confusion, and volley of ammunition. With the women safeguarded at a faraway location, you’ll root for the Norgaard Brothers and their allies, hoping they will emerge unscathed. No spoiler alert here. You’ll have to read the book to discover the outcome.

The post Civil War setting is unique and draws quite a story line out of an often overlooked consequence of sending thousands into battle during a time when sanitation and medical procedures were primitive.

Cora shares wisdom that soothes troubled souls. Eventually Haakon, the prodigal son, accepts the gift of forgiveness Cora describes and stops running from the consequences of his bad choices. At the conclusion, Haakon gains his heart’s desire.

There are no straw characters here. Tate Kennedy, the Doctor, Mrs. Sorrel, and Sibby are secondary characters with power. They unveil mysteries and take action when called upon. This book is a sequel to Sons of Blackbird Mountain. I did not read the first book, but this in no way hindered my interest in the sequel. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and appreciated the author’s remarkable word choice. I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange of my honest review.

Of Fire and Lions

291867: Of Fire and Lions Of Fire and Lions

By Mesu Andrews / WaterBrook

Mesu Andrews masterfully shares a great story with us. Characters come to life as if you’re going through their day with them. The dialogue flows easy and the family dynamics are so realistic. The scoundrels and evil doers say and do just enough to make them loathsome. Some readers don’t care for books filled with ancient Babylonian names. There is quite a roster of them in Of Fire and Lions, but don’t let it be an obstacle to this recent release. The character list at the opening is a great resource.

The starting point for this book is the Bible’s Book of Daniel. There are some gripping events that are accurately told in this historical fiction book. Three Jewish exiles survive a fiery furnace. Lions with insatiable appetites take no action, even though Daniel is sealed inside as easy prey. As you walk through these events with the characters you are drawn into an epic story that gives you new insight into the Babylonian Empire. Andrews’ research leaves no stone unturned.

Of the author’s three most recent releases, I have to say Miriam was my favorite. I read Isaiah’s Daughter and enjoyed it. Miriam was a Christie Award finalist two years ago, and Isaiah’s Daughter won the top award in historical fiction last year. This newest release, Of Fire and Lions, covers a lot of ground. Seventy years of captivity to be exact. A consistent, impressive story thread throughout the story is Daniel’s rock solid faith in his one true God. He remains steadfast despite being surrounded by a culture that is is hostile to his beliefs. This is captivating enough, but the transformation of some of the fictional characters is just as gripping.

In her author notes, Mesu Andrews writes that she hopes her fiction will drive readers to Scripture to delve deep on Daniel and the experience of the exiles. I know I turned to Ezra to look further into the historical record of Sheshbazzar and his role in the return to Jerusalem.

My goal was to finish this book by its release date. I was on track until I found myself savoring the book and not wanting it to end. This behavior is familiar to all readers who just don’t want to have to say goodbye to a good book. I received an ARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. #OfFireandLions #NetGalley

Between Two Shores

219085: Between Two Shores Between Two Shores

By Jocelyn Green / Bethany House

When you finish a Jocelyn Green book there’s a feeling of sweet satisfaction because reading one of her books is always time well spent. Her research is wonderful. Catherine Duval is the protagonist. She is the daughter of a Mohawk mother and French father. Her skills as a trader allow her to succeed as an entrepreneur. The label “HERstorical Fiction” would match with Between Two Shores. The female characters, Catherine, Bright Star, and Thankful show us a path to joy despite heartache and disappointment. Their emotional strength is remarkable. Between Two Shores immerses us in daily life on the St. Lawrence River during the French and Indian War of 1754 – 1763.

You’ll warm to the characters and walk with them through their trials. Each one has a gripping story to tell. The characters are courageous and deeply touched by the ravages of war.  This time period was a pivotal moment in the history of the North American continent. The emphasis on the multiculturalism of this area is fascinating. Green accurately portrays each community’s point of view and doesn’t shy away from covering the harsh realities of the times.

Initially I was a little slow to catch on to the back and forth motion of the beginning storyline since only 15 years separated the two points in time. Once I had this straightened out, it was full steam ahead. At the story’s close, I was researching trips to Old Quebec City and the Huron-Wendat Museums in this area.

Green’s word choice is so impressive. The sentences are inventive in construction. Her vivid descriptions convey the setting with originality. At a book’s close, I always look over my Kindle highlights. These highlighted sentences were beautiful to read even when extracted from their context.

I loved The Mark of the King, an earlier book by Jocelyn Green. I consider this newest release it’s equal.

I received an ARC’s digital edition of this book from Bethany House Publishers. This is my honest review in exchange for the digital copy.

Thoughts on Writing

“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.”

[The Guardian, 25 February 2010]” 
― Hilary Mantel

Each morning, I start my day by grading eggs. Jumbos, Extra Large, and Large… all cleaned, sorted, and nestled into their boxes. Typically while I work, I listen to classical music. It’s a pleasant way to start the day. I’m entirely focused on a task that can be accomplished. I love to leave the egg room with the empty baskets stacked and egg cartons full. Lately, instead of listening to my favorite string masterpieces, I hear only the annoying buzz-like static from the radio. Change was needed. I remembered my Audible  library. All the books had a theme. Words to inspire writers. The quote above was mentioned in the audiobook titled “The Successful Author Mindset” by Joanna Penn.

Now I’m listening not just in the egg room, but also back at home. During meal prep, it’s on. At clean-up, still listening. It’s peppered with many great quotes from successful writers and sound advise.

January taught me many lessons about patience and the nuances of managing  your work life as a creative. I had set a goal to go all in as a freelance writer. I’m fully aware of the sea change in publishing since I last earned a living as a writer.  Print was still king back then. I decided if I could do it before, I could do it again.  I was especially counting on freelancing to carry me through January.  One long, cold month.

As it so often happens, my plans took surprise twists and turns. One interview failed to get scheduled when I hoped, so the entire process was delayed two weeks. It tried my patience to wait. A significant hiccup happened in another larger project, that caused me to fret that the contract might not get approved at all. Another article submitted for a “fuzzy” deadline is still sitting in an editor’s inbox, waiting for feedback and acceptance.

I realized I can’t just decide on a goal and then make it so. The creative life rarely tracks on strict timetables. I can live with this for now since I’m still building and getting some momentum around my writing projects. I have found each chapter in “The Author’s Mindset” to be so refreshing.  You can learn more about this book and the author Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn or by listening to her podcast.  Whether you’re blogging, self-publishing, or just trying to expand your portfolio in the writing world, this is a great resource.


Thrive in Retirement

291829: Thrive in Retirement: Simple Secrets for Being Happy for the Rest of Your Life Thrive in Retirement: Simple Secrets for Being Happy for the Rest of Your Life

By Eric Thurman / WaterBrook

Pre-Order at ChristianBook.com until 2/16/2019

Mind your Three P’s in retirement, and you’ll thrive. That’s the message from Eric Thurman, author of the new release Thrive in Retirement. The three P’s are Purpose, Pleasure, and Peace. Thurman gives us a book that is excellent in both content and style. This is not a stuffy book, weighted down with statistics, charts, and graphs. From first to last, it’s studded with high interest anecdotes and quotes. The research referenced in Thurman’s book is current and well matched to his claims.

Thrive in Retirement is agreeable to read even though the subject matter might be hard for some people to think about. We would all love to hold back time if we could, but no such luck. As Thurman points out, this third season of life is new territory. A stage that can last decades. There’s no reason the years after full-time employment need to be viewed as a time of “slow decline”. Thurman maps out a route to success that will help people maintain a positive outlook, discover a good sense of purpose, and find peace.

His writing on maintaining good mental health is stand out content. Thurman points out that despite changing work conditions, individuals should stay connected in communities to enjoy good mental health.

When people think of retirement, financial considerations first come to mind. Thurman addresses this aspect of retirement and then goes so much further. Money is just one part of retirement. He encourages people to consider their status in five vital categories. These categories are mind, body, relationships, soul, and finances. Proactive effort in these five areas will yield positive outcomes and increase well being.

Thurman’s book is a self-help book with many take-away messages. Ironically one of the most memorable has to do with avoiding selfish thoughts and putting others first. He writes, “When we think of others,and give of our time and talents, we receive more than we give.” Altruism spares a mature adult from a host of evils like as isolation and feelings of being irrelevant.

I received a complimentary ARC of this book from Waterbrook in exchange for my honest review.