Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Special Christmas Gift

On my way to work last week, I heard a warm story about a special Christmas gift.
To make a long story short, a wife who never knew what to get her husband for Christmas donated some items to a group of inner-city children who had very little. She wrote it in the form of a letter and put it on their Christmas tree. The gift lit up her husband just as much as the lights illuminated the tree.
"Adoration of the Shepherds" by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622 (Wikipedia)
This story made me examine my own gift giving and receiving. Most of us are able to buy whatever we want --within reason--throughout the year. That's why we scramble around like crazy people trying to get the perfect gift for friends and family.

Wouldn't giving to those really in need be much more meaningful to us--and to Jesus? Isn't He the ultimate gift to us all? What more do we need than a savior?

Next year, I may just adopt this new gift-giving approach. And ask for the same gift for myself.

Merry Christmas!

"And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh." - Matthew 2:11

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Walk with Jane Austen Book Review

Rating: 4 out of 5
Since I am a Jane Austen fan, a friend loaned me her copy of A Walk with Jane Austen, which she carried while touring the U.K. After reading the back of the book synopsis, I was intrigued but didn't really know what to expect between the pages. I rarely read nonfiction but since Jane Austen was the main topic, I was drawn to it.
A Walk with Jane Austen not only follows the places Jane lived and visited, but also explores the characters and locations where her stories take place. During this journey Lori Smith tells her own personal tale of physical and emotional challenges that she experiences and her faith in God.

I found her honesty at revealing her own personal struggles to be comforting to those of us with similar conflicts. Many times throughout this book I could feel her pain and identified with the inner feelings she revealed. She articulately formed some of my own thoughts--thoughts I have never been able to put into words. One in particular stood out. I underlined the part that I feel applies to me.
When Jane wrote 'Emma,' she told her family that she was creating "a heroine whom no one but myself will much like." I think she was wrong. Fanny Price in 'Mansfield Park' is the one I have a hard time loving, with all her timidity and fear. She always seems to feel that she really shouldn't be in the room, that she is unworthy of notice, that she is not worth talking to. Perhaps I don't like Fanny because in some ways I share her weaknesses. I have more humor and strength, yet I manage so often to be queen of the socially awkward moment. 
Lori Smith has many other thought provoking moments to share in this book. This travelogue of sorts is not about finding a husband--as another reviewer stated--it is about relationships, faith, and emotional and physical healing. Her descriptions about people and places are enchanting and enlightening. There is plenty of humor--from Jane's life--as well as in Lori's travel throughout England. She gives insight into Jane's life that had never occurred to me.
I found A Walk with Jane Austen to be a delightful and inspiring read. I highly recommend it. To learn more about his book, click here. To learn more about the author, visit her website here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Don't Let Fear Stop Your Dreams

A fellow writer recently told me that she didn't worry about whether anyone disliked her writing or not. She merely feels compelled to write--so she does it. While I have felt compelled to write since I was a child, my feelings about others liking or disliking my work stopped me in my tracks. My feelings that I didn't have anything worthwhile to say/write and that no one really wanted to hear/read it, kept me from pursuing this craft publicly.

My writing partner Morgan Tarpley
Then God brought a very good friend into my life. We met by what I assumed at the time was happenstance. It wasn't--it was God at work. That was five years ago. Since then, she has been an encouragement to me and we have pursued writing careers over and above what we do for a living. She is a newspaper journalist and I am a thirty-plus year travel consultant currently working in the Genealogy Department of my local library.

The most recent positive reinforcement to push me further into my new writing career was the acceptance of a travel article with photo, in International Living Magazine's Members Only Communique. In addition to my wonderful friend's encouragement, advice, and technical support, it was a tremendous boost to have a professional publication actually pay me for my work.

I said all that to say this--don't let anyone deter you from following your dream. While my family has always been supportive of me, they never pushed me out of my comfort zone. Some of us need that extra shove. In 2007 my son was determined to go far, far away to college. While I was not too keen on the idea, I never tried to deter him from his dream. I gently reminded him of the consequences of making such a move--about 1,500 miles from home! 

My son Daniel and I after his graduation from Boston University
Even when he called me the first week of college, homesickness strongly evident in his voice, I encouraged him to follow his dream. I told him to stick it out for one semester and then if he really wanted to come home, I would be more than happy to make it happen. Within a week he was making new friends and loving his new school life. I am so proud of him. He has since graduated and is settled into a wonderful job for over a year--in that same city--Boston. Far away from his Louisiana upbringing.

If your dream is a writing career, go for it! Don't think it will happen overnight. I walked into a writers conference in 2011 with my dear writing friend. We spent one year learning the industry--and it has been an experience. I didn't know I knew so little about something--other than brain surgery! I am still in the learning the process, but I have come a long way.
Currently, I am seeking representation for my completed manuscript, but I am not giving up. Perseverance is the first and foremost component of success. God is still revealing to me whether my writing is a calling by Him or a gift (or sacrifice) to Him. Either way, I feel it's something I should do.
Do you know someone that could use some encouragement to persevere? How have you encouraged others or been encouraged on your writing journey?

“Your love has given me great joy and encouragement...” – Philemon 1:7

“If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that
voice will be silenced.” - Vincent Van Gogh

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Cottage by the Sea Book Review

A Cottage by the Sea
By Ciji Ware

1 out of 5
Historical Romance

Blythe Stowe has been jilted by her famous movie director husband. After years of marriage—and their successful business relationship—Blythe’s marriage is over because of her husband’s infidelity with her younger sister. Following a bitter divorce settlement, she goes for a sabbatical to a picturesque cottage in Cornwall where her ancestors were thought to have lived before immigrating to America.

Blythe’s summer cottage by the sea is located on the property of Lucas Teague’s centuries old estate. During a visit to Lucas’s manor, a framed genealogy chart generates a strange sensation as Blythe touches it while thinking of the first Blythe in the eighteenth century. Instantly she finds herself in the past as the now long deceased Blythe. The story weaves back and forth, telling the tales of these two kinswomen and the struggles they experience.

When I read the book synopsis I was intrigued. I am all about British-based historical fiction, especially if there is a little romance thrown in and a cottage. Even the cover reached out to me. Thinking I may have found another Susanna Kearsley/Kate Morton-type book, I jumped on it without reading any reviews—big mistake. The cover art was the most attractive thing about this book.

I grew weary of the Wyoming rodeo slang vocabulary and the main character’s references to her grandmother’s wisdom-sayings. This could have been an enjoyable read but I had to skip over all the detailed sexual encounters of both ‘Blythes.’ And—of course—all the main characters were Hollywood perfect in appearance.

Ciji Ware is a talented author with her historical storytelling, but I will not read any of her other works mainly because of the many physically intimate scenes. I could even put up with all the overkill cowgirl references. Before picking up any of Ms. Ware’s books beware and read all the reviews first.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Boston Photo Walk Tour

While visiting my Boston University student son a few years ago, I decided to take a local tour. My hotel room had a recent issue of Where Magazine which listed a tour company called Photo Walks ( The owner, Saba Alhadi, was delightful. It turned out to be a slow day for her, so I was her only client. She gave me a personal tour of the Back Bay and photo lessons on how to take the best shots of the sights.
Courtyard fountain at Boston Public Library
It was such a wonderful tour, I booked the Beacon Hill tour for the following day. This time there were three of us touring together with Saba. We had an interesting and informative tour with photo lessons. We strolled through the cobbled streets, taking pictures of the gorgeous architecture and amazing gardens of Boston.
Statue at Boston Public Gardens
Saba is a patient, kind tour guide and gifted photographer. Next time I am in Boston, I will definitely book one of her tours.
Flowers at Boston Public Gardens

Reflection of Architecture during Photo Tour

Look closely to see Saba and me.
Lovely historic street in Boston.
Boston Public Library
Historic Architecture meets Modern.
Love these historic homes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Girl in the Glass Book Review

Rating: 3-1/2 out of 5

Genre: Historical Romance

"Sometimes the memories you make from a place you've longed to visit begin before you ever get there."

Meg Pomeroy's longing to visit her grandmother's homeland has been brewing in her mind since childhood. A painting of her grandmother as a child in Florence, Italy fed that desire. After her grandmother's death, the promise of a trip to Florence is made to Meg by her father, who tosses a promise around like a nuisance--much like the broken marriage he had with Meg's mother.

Meg's life as an editor of travel books, ironically, does not include much travel. Florence entices Meg to come to her, and she has always felt that call. But she longs for her father to be the one to take her there, share the experience, and make memories.

A spur of the moment visit by her father changes Meg's life in a profound way--a way she never dreamed of. Her father's brief visit to her San Diego cottage prompts him to apologize for the mess he has made in his life and not being there for her. Shortly after his visit, Meg receives a package with an airline ticket to Florence to travel that same evening--with an open-ended return.

Her father then disappears, leaving Meg's stepmother and taking some of her money. His insistence on her being on that flight led Meg to assume he would meet her in Florence, compelling her to take the flight. Her trip brought her face to face with two clients she has gotten to know through skyping, e-mails, and phone calls. Lorenzo and Renata DiSantis are a brother and sister team who create travel books. Their neighbor, Sophia Borelli, is a tour guide who is writing an unusual travel memoir of Florence's sights. She believes she is a descendant of Nora Orsini of the Medici family and that Nora speaks to her through the masterpieces scattered throughout her beloved Florence.

While Meg reads Sophia's memoirs, explores Florence, and grieves her father's absence, she develops friendships and questions her own future as well as uncovering a dark secret.

The Girl in the Glass is filled with hope and forgiveness, if we seek it. Although I would like to have seen stronger inspirational and Christian references, since few were mentioned, I found this book to be uplifting and engaging.

Recommendation: If you like "The Girl in the Glass," check out The Salt Garden by Cindy Martinusen (Coloma).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Secret Keeper Book Review

Rating: 5 out of 5
Genre: Historical Romance

Kate Morton never disappoints me! Her style of writing immediately draws me in and I am let down when I have to turn that final page. Kate always has a great twist to the end of her novels. Always something one doesn't expect. I was sad when I was forced to close the book.

At the age of sixteen, Laurel witnesses a life-altering event at the home she has grown up in--Greenacres farm. She carries this throughout her life, never speaking of it to anyone. Laurel leaves home to fulfill her life's dream of being an actress. She becomes a famous thespian which makes her recognizable wherever she goes in her native England. Returning home to her ailing widowed mother for her ninetiety birthday, Greenacres conjures up all of the old memories of that fatefilled day in the early 1960's. Clues begin to emerge.
Laurel is driven to investigate her mother, Dorothy's past, especially now that her life is nearing the end. Dorothy's rambles about the past include World War II. She speaks of friends that Laurel has never heard of. Determined to know what led to the event she witnessed the summer of her sixteenth year, Laurel starts digging into the glimpses of the past.
The Secret Keeper travels alternately from past to present, telling the stories of Laurel, Dorothy and Vivien. The history of war-torn London during WWII is riveting and gives you a sense of what the citizens of this amazing city went through. Laurel's life growing up on Greenacres with a loving family is felt with each description Kate Morton portrays.

Ever the faithful boyfriend, Jimmy Metcalf follows Dorothy throughout London's chaos with bombs dropping around them. Vivien is a woman of wealth who is married to Henry, a well-known author, years her senior. Through Kate Morton's special talent of writing, she weaves these lives together so masterfully, you simply cannot stop reading until you know how it plays out.

Recommendation: Anything by Kate Morton. My favorite of hers is The Forgotten Garden. Susanna Kearsley is another favorite author of mine. Her book, The Winter Sea, is a fantastic plunge into history and its secrets as well.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

East Texas Christian Writers Conference

 On October 26 and 27, I attended the East Texas Christian Writers Conference in Marshall, Texas. This being the second time I have attended, I basically knew what to expect. Since my first time one year ago, I have learned a great deal about the publishing industry. I went into it totally green around the gills and full of a lot of misinformation. I invited some new friends to attend this time and they were more than pleased with the conference.
Even if you have not started a writing project--it may be better if you have not--please attend this conference if you are interested in writing at all. The workshops are diverse in subject matter and will give you a great base to get started. The instructors are friendly, encouraging and knowledgable about their area of expertise.

Judy Chrisite ( gave a workshop on having a better writing life. Lexie Smith ( taught a social media class that was really enlightening for me since I did not grow up with all the technology. Terry Burns (, an author and literary agent, expounded on the merits of creating an author's persona--for those of us who are a bit shy about speaking out in order to promote our work. There were many others to choose from as well.
Writers conferences can be a blow to your budget, but this one is quite affordable at less than $100 for a full day of classes. An additional fee is charged if you want to attend the pre-conference on Friday with a buffet dinner included with guest speakers. For further information see their website:
Attending the East Texas Christian Writers Conference is a blessing. Hope to see you there in 2013!

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Baby Between Them Book Review

"A Baby Between Them" Book Review 

A Baby Between Them

by Winnie Griggs
Rating: 3 out of 5

Genre: Historical Romance
This is a story of a young Irish girl who comes to America with her sisters. Finding an abandoned baby on the ship they traveled, is about to change Nora Murphy's life, as well as those around her. Nora holds down a housekeeping job for the local sheriff, Cameron Long, while she tries to raise this orphaned infant. Cam does not seem too enthralled with the child in the beginning, but is slowly drawn to her with Nora's help. His traumatic childhood holds him back in building relationships. A tragic moment brings them together and helps all to realize they must depend on God for guidance and healing.
This is a sweet story of perseverance, hard work, reliance on God, and a heart for helping those in need.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Gathering Storm Book Review

"A Gathering Storm" Book Review

by Rachel Hore

Rating: 4 out of 5
Genre: Historical Romance
A Gathering Storm by Rachel HoreOn her way to a brief holiday in Cornwall, Lucy Cardwell finds herself making a quick break from her new boyfriend. Lucy's participation in this holiday is halted as they are passing through an area which contains her father's childhood home,Carlyon Manor. The draw to visit Carlyon Manor is so strong that Lucy abruptly decides to stay in the nearby village rather than going on with her scheduled holiday plans. The recent loss of her troubled father, Tom, has her questioning some of his papers she found. He had been researching an uncle she never knew he'd had. While there, Lucy meets an old woman named Beatrice who tells her a story so intriguing she cannot stop listening. Beatrice tells of her childhood in the 1930s with the children of Carlyon Manor. Angelina Wincanton, Lucy's grandmother, was one of those children. During Beatrice's fifteenth year, she rescues Rafe Ashton from the sea. The weeks and months pass with Beatrice, Rafe, and the Wincanton children growing up togther. Then the war rages and all are affected, yet in different ways. Beatrice's story covers years of strife, courage and betrayal. During WWII their lives and friendships are strained. While some give their all for freedom and loved ones, others remain selfish and unyielding. Lucy finds the answers to what her father had been searching for, and also something of herself, while she listens to this story full of secrets and a past mingled with terror.

Rachel Hore's writing style is excellent. She weaves her stories in such a way that keeps you wanting to read on. My only beef with this is the sexual scenes and their descriptions. It just isn't necessary. Merely the impression of what is about to happen is enough. One doesn't need to be told, play-by-play, what they are doing. Sorry, Rachel, it just does not have to be a part of a good read. We all know it happens, we don't need to be told 'how.' Aside from this issue, A Gathering Storm is worth your time.
Recommendations: If you enjoy A Gathering Storm, try Rachel Hore's The Memory Garden.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

"The Splendour Falls" Book Review

The Splendour Falls
by Susanna Kearsley

Rating: 4 star out of 5
Genre: Historical Romance

Prompted by her cousin, Harry, Emily Braden travels to Chinon, France for a holiday. Since Harry is easily distracted with his exploring expeditions, Emily is not overly concerned that her unreliable cousin is not there to meet her when she arrives. She then settles into the Hotel de France where she meets several tourists of varying ages and cultures. Emily forms a few friendships with them while exploring the village of Chinon.
The Splendour FallsSusanna Kearsley weaves two pasts--World War II and the thirteenth century--with the present. Queen Isabelle, wife of King John of England, hides something of value--as well as Isabelle during WWII--in Chinon. Each treasure could be located among the remainder of the medieval chateau or in the labyrinth of ancient tunnels underneath the streets of Chinon. Secrets, lies and relationships are on the verge of being revealed--not all are what they seem.
My only disappointment with this novel is the brief time spent in thirteenth century Chinon. I wish Ms. Kearsley had gone back more often than she did because she handles this method so well. The Winter Sea (or Sophia's Secret) was written with equal time in the past and the present. This is my favorite Susanna Kearsley book with The Rose Garden being a very close second. She is a marvelous writer and I look forward to each and every book she produces.
The Splendour Falls is an excellent read--I had trouble putting it down. It's something I have grown to expect, and look forward to, with a Susanna Kearsley novel.

If you like Susanna Kearsley, check out my favorite novels of hers - The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Attention All Planners

     Attention all planners! Do you plan yourself into a hole sometimes? I know I do. When things don't go according to plan--I get agitated--mostly with myself. I map out each minute of my morning routine knowing that if I press the snooze button one time too many my plan goes up in smoke. Yet I do it regularly. That's just the tip of my iceberg-schedule.

     We are so careful to plan everything, forgetting that we need to consult God--even in the small things. After all, He's in control.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:33-34

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

New Writers Group

     The first meeting of our women's Christian writers group met on September 10, 2012. While we do not have a name yet, we are enthusiastic about what our goals are. Everything we write must be God-glorifying. Whether we are writing because we feel led by God, or whether we are writing as an offering to Him, we are eager to begin.
     This first meeting was to get to know one another, state what our individual goals are and to encourage one another on this journey. We discussed the upcoming ETBU Christian Writers Conference in Marshall, Texas on October 26-27. My writing group partners have never attended, but I was blessed to have attended for the first time last year. I had no idea what to expect, especially since it was so affordable. Not only were the classes amazing and inspirational, but everyone I met was encouraging and friendly.
     If any of you are available, checkout the ETBU website for details on the conference at -- you will certainly get a blessing if you attend.

Happy writing!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Lady of the English" Book Review

 Lady of the English
by Elizabeth Chadwick

Rating: 1 star out of 5
Genre: Historical Romance
Lady of the English centers on Matilda, daughter of Henry the I, and his wife Adeliza--Matilda's stepmother. Although close in age, Adeliza and Matilda are quite different. Yet, both have royal aspirations of their own. The book is written with much
detail of medieval life and the historical portions were vivid. Yet, I could not get into this book.

By the time I got to chapter six, I grew weary of the sex scenes. They just weren't necessary. I believe this could have been handled in a more subtle way. The historical detail was written in an interesting way, but that is where my curiosity stopped. Historical fiction is a passion of mine but this book did not engage me.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

"Death in Dahlonega" Book Review

Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Genre: Christian Mystery

Deborah Malone has a good plot and it really kept me guessing who the murderer was until the end! A very cute story--other than the murder itself of course!

Trixie Montgomery kills two birds with one stone. She has been given a writing assignment in a small Georgia town to cover God Rush Days, so she has her friend Dee Dee tag along to make it a girls weekend getaway.

The weekend turns ugly when Dee Dee is accused of murdering a prominent member of this scenic mountain town.

Deborah's style is similar to that of Christian Fiction author  Janice Thompson's The Wedding Caper.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

"The Girl in the Gatehouse" Book Review

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
Julie Klassen's style of writing pulls you into the story. Mariah Aubrey's life was turned upside down by a past she would like to forget, but cannot. This book teaches God's love and that He can, and will, forgive anything--even if we have trouble forgiving ourselves.
Being an Anglophile and a lover of all things Jane Austen, I highly recommend this book to readers, like myself, who cannot get enough of Mr. Darcy-like characters.
Klassen weaves this story by teaching the truth that our past can be put in the past, and that we can have a promising future if we hang onto God.


If you like Julie Klassen, check out her latest novel, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall or secular author Jane Alymer's Darcy's Story.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tea Time for Anglophiles

            A true Anglophile cannot survive without an occasional afternoon tea. If you are unfortunate and do not have a local tea room—or cannot make a flying trip to London for an authentic one—create your own experience.

            Make it a tea for one, or treat a small group of friends or family. You don’t have to purchase an expensive teapot, matching cups and saucers or fancy table linens. A trip to a couple of thrift shops should suffice. Locate a lovely square table cloth and use it at an angle over a color coordinated cloth, or a plain white one. Cups and saucers do not have to match. There is a pleasant charm to mismatched china and table linens. Top off your table scape with a loosely placed bunch of flowers in a vase or use a teapot for your flowers.

            Your food does not have to be elaborate nor homemade in order to create a special mood. Scones, muffins and dainty sandwiches to accompany a freshly brewed pot of Earl Grey will make a lovely British tea experience.

            Happy sipping!
A celebratory tea for my friend, Morgan

Friday, August 31, 2012

"The Salt Garden" Book Review

                     The Salt Garden                                
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Genre: Christian Fiction

Great book! Cindy Martinusen's style, her descriptions and flow of words made me want to keep reading and not put it down. The past is centered on the life of Josephine, through her diary telling of the tragic loss of her husband in a shipwreck and his ultimate betrayal.

Present day author, Sophia Fleming, lives a reclusive life and becomes fascinated by the century old shipwreck which happened near her coastal cottage. Claire is the young journalist whose return to her hometown brings her close to the lives of both women, one of the past, the other in the present.

All three women are strengthened by their faith in God, which sees them through difficult times. Cindy Martinusen's style is similar in tone and equally well written as secular authors Susanna Kearsley and Kate Morton.


If you like Cindy Martinusen (Coloma), check out Christian historical fiction author Susan Meissner's Lady in Waiting or secular author Rachel Hore's A Place of Secrets.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Christian Writers Group

As an employee at my local library, I meet many interesting people. Two of these people have frequented our genealogy department (which is the one I work in) a number of times. Recently, these ladies--mother and daughter--were visiting with me and somehow the conversation made its way to writing. One thing let to another and we found several things in common. Reading Jane Austen, of course! And the fact that we share the same faith and are sisters in Christ. Another being the love of writing and the desire to be a part of a Christian Writers Group. Since we could not find a local group, we are working to begin one of our own.
Online research has been helpful in this area, but if anyone has tips or ideas, please share--your imput is most welcome and appreciated.
Have a great day and God bless!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Teacup Journal

Welcome to The Teacup Journal! My name is Carole Lehr Johnson and I live in rural north Louisiana with my husband, Max, and our anti-social cat, Oliver. A veteran travel agent of 30 plus years, I am now head of genealogy at a local library. I recently completed my first novel manuscript and a few years ago, I published my first children’s book, “Pennie the Piglet.”

My only child, Daniel, lives in Boston, having graduated from Boston University. He now works for a Boston marketing firm. I have spent several trips to visit him and that historic city, including the Old North Church and the Isabella Gardner Museum.
My husband, Max, in rare Louisiana snow
My kitty, Oliver
My son, Daniel, as a student at Boston University
The Teacup Journal has developed from my love of writing and afternoon tea. Journals are a bit of an obsession of mine….well, buying them anyway. Anything British is also of great interest to me—a true Anglophile. A piping hot cup of tea, romantic thatched cottages and the rolling hills of the English countryside are only a few reasons for this fascination. I have been blessed to travel to England several times and God willing, I will return for many more.

I love a good spot o' tea and some tea cakes
Warwick Castle
A gorgeous thatched cottage in southern England
Besides writing, a few other hobbies of mine are gardening, sewing, reading, photography and painting. I am also actively involved in a local church and enjoy serving through our homeless ministry. I owe everything to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I hope you will embark on this blogging journey with me.

        God Bless,

        Carole Lehr Johnson

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” – Philippians 4:13

“For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

My Teacup Journal