Thursday, December 19, 2013

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


16TH CENTURY COTTAGE IN WILTSHIRE

Hope you all have had a great summer and fall. Mine was memorable on many levels--the reason I've been AWOL these past months. My first distraction was a two week trip to the UK, the second was my early retirement from a job with terrible hours (sometimes seven days in a row, and weekends). My husband felt God's prompting that it was time for us to rely on Him more and take a leap of faith. I have included a photo of one of the cottages I stayed in as well as a link to the owner's site in case you are interested in renting it. http://www.thebluecottage.co.uk/

This new found freedom will allow me to have more time to devote to writing, my home based travel business, organizing my house, many hobbies, and working on a new ministry at church. I will be alternating highlights from my trip, book reviews, and other topics beginning in January 2014.

Let's not forget why we have Christmas. Happy birthday, Jesus!

Have a Merry Christmas and God bless.

Carole

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Murder at Rosamund's Gate Book Review


A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate

by Susanna Calkins


3 out of 5

Historical Fiction


Susanna Calkins A Murder at Rosamund's GateSeventeenth-century English chambermaid, Lucy Campion, works for the local magistrate and his family.

Between chamber pots, polishing, and many other household chores she tries to solve the murder of her friend and fellow servant. Suspicious of someone in the household, she follows clues and tries to be discreet in her search.

Becoming a very determined young woman takes her into gypsy camps, Newgate prison, the most detestable streets of London, and many other places she would never have ventured. Her conviction to find her friend's killer leads her into dangerous situations.

The historical aspects of Susanna Calkins debut novel is well researched and captivating.

A Murder at Rosamund's Gate tells an interesting tale of the role of a servant girl in London's society, among the plague and the great fire. Her elements of romance are well balanced with the historical. I look forward to Susanna Calkins next novel.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Firebird Book Review


The Firebird

by Susanna Kearsley
 

5 out of 5

Historical Fiction


Nicola Marter is an art/antiques dealer in London where she works for Sebastian, the owner of Galerie St.-Crois, specializing in Russian art and artefacts. Little does he know of Nicola's psychometry gift.

Touching a carved bird owned by a would-be client, Nicola 'sees' an exchange between two women from another century. The client is desperate to prove the value of the firebird so she may live out a life long dream of travel before she dies -- something Nicola discovers by touching a scarf the woman accidentally left in the gallery. She had sacrifically given her life to the care of others and never had a life of her own, which is soon to end.

Nicola reconnects with an old friend, Rob (from the Shadowy Horses), who's talent is much stronger than hers. She travels to Scotland to ask for his help in proving the worth of the carved bird--a gift from Empress Catherine of Russia to Anna Moray (The Winter Sea).

Rob and Nicola go to Russia seeking evidence of the origins of the firebird and find far more than what they were searching for.

Susanna Kearsley's talent of weaving past and present into an amazing and entertaining story keeps you compelled to turn each page wanting more.

With The Firebird she has gone far beyond my expectations. For those who have not read The Winter Sea or The Shadowy Horses, please pause and read them before you read The Firebird. You will more fully enjoy The Firebird due to the way these previous novels were expertly woven into the story.

Susanna Kearsley cannot write the next novel fast enough for me!

For more about Keasley’s novels, visit her website at http://www.susannakearsley.com/.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Glastonbury Book Review


 

4 out of 5

Historical Fiction


It was a sanctuary from the world—and a silent witness to it all

As the legacy of faith passed from generation to generation, each era of believers found refuge in Glastonbury. In its story you will experience the faith that gave Joseph of Arimathea and his family courage to claim new land for Christ. Relive the persecution of St. George and St. Patrick during their captivity under the Roman Empire.

Ride along with King Arthur on his historic adventures and discover the spiritual fortitude that enabled him to become the greatest leader of his time. Witness the rekindling of Christianity with St. Augustine of Canterbury. Be inspired by the faith of the remnant in the midst of the Dark Ages.

Watch the upheaval under the rule of Henry VIII that led to the Reformation. And as Christianity triumphs over the darkest moments of its history, you may even find your own spiritual roots.

An epic novel of the history of the faith.

Glastonbury is very long but well worth the time. I loved the way Crow wove 1,500 years of Christian and British history into a fictional novel about Glastonbury. It makes me long to travel there and see the places myself!

Phenomenal job with this book. A must read, especially for Anglophiles like myself!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Merchant's Daughter Book Review



 
4 out of 5

Young Adult

An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice.

Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf's bailiff—a revolting man who has made unwelcome advances on Annabel in the past.

Believing that life in a nunnery is the best way to escape the escalation of the bailiff's vile behavior and to preserve the faith that sustains her, Annabel is surprised to discover a sense of security and joy in her encounters with Lord Ranulf. As Annabel struggles to confront her feelings, she is involved in a situation that could place Ranulf in grave danger.

Ranulf's future, and possibly his heart, may rest in her hands, and Annabel must decide whether to follow the plans she has cherished or the calling God has placed on her heart.

I know this is labeled as a YA novel, but I loved The Merchant's Daughter and I am far past teenage years.

It was hard to put down because I wanted to find out what happened to Annabel. This is a well done romance novel set in the 14th century. Melanie Dickerson did a great job!

Recommendation: I definitely also recommend Melanie’s latest release—The Fairest Beauty. I really enjoyed it. Read my review here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The House at Riverton Book Review





4 out of 5

Contemporary-Historical Fiction 

The House at Riverton is a stunning and very suspenseful debut by Kate Morton. It kept me wondering right up until the end. I love the way she intertwines the past and present in her novels.

The book alternates between the youth and elder years of Grace Bradley, who worked at Riverton House as a maid prior to World War I and became close to the distinguished Hartford family—particularly the two daughters, Hannah and Emmeline.
 
While in their service, Grace was swept up into the drama and trauma of their young lives as her own became intertwined with the Hartford family and Riverton forever.
 
In modern day, ninety-eight-year-old Grace is approached by a young film maker, who whisks her back to Riverton House and reawakens her past and these secrets she has guarded for decades.
 
Since I have read all of Morton’s other novels, I have to admit this is a great debut—though each release has gotten better (which I didn’t think was possible).

Recommendation: I recommend reading this one, but Morton's latest—The SecretKeeper—is quite fantastic and highly recommended. Read my review here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Rose Garden Book Review



 
5 out of 5

Contemporary-Historical Fiction


Susanna Kearsley's books just get better and better. The Rose Garden is a time travel book that is handled so well. It is a romance that spans present day and eighteenth century England. She has done her research, making one feel they have actually gone to the past.

The history of the first Jacobite Rebellion is told among the romantic theme of the novel, without interrupting or distracting the reader. It makes me want to 'find' a ley line! Just kidding!

The romantic side of this novel has an unusual twist, but it is very intriguing. I loved the ending! I don't want to tell more...you have to read this book.
 
Recommendation: Another fantastic novel from Kearsley is The Winter Sea. It’s a must read!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Orchid House Book Review




3 out of 5

Contemporary


In Orchid House, Julia travels to the Philippines after her grandfather's death to attend his funeral and finds the family estate, Hacienda Esperanza, “the plantation of hope."

Orchid House started out with promise. Cindy Martinusen is an excellent writer, but I much preferred “The Salt Garden.”
 
This story was riddled with folklore, legends, and a bit too much description at times. The 'accidental' finding of the infamous family orchid was a bit of a stretch and just a tad too coincidental.
 
Yet Martinusen's writing style can be very engaging. I will continue to pick up whatever she writes. This book did have suspense and romance, which is a nice combination.
 
Recommendation: I would recommend picking up “The Salt Garden” as a first choice read from Martinusen. I highly enjoyed it. Read my review of it here.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Unplugged for England

I hope everyone is having a happy spring so far. The flowers and foliage are so beautiful this time of year and not wonder it's my favorite!

This time of year always brings to mind the lovely rolling hills of parts of England and makes me dream of going there again.

This spring brings England to mind even more so because I am going there again with a group of friends and cannot wait to head that way! So I'll be going "unplugged" for a short time while I travel.  
When I return, I will post my most recent photos. I'll leave you with a few pictures of previous trips I have made there. So here's to rolling hills, castles and cottage, and of course—afternoon tea!

Have you been to England? Do you have an upcoming vacation planned? What is it? Please join the discussion below.

 
 
 
 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Daughter of Time Book Review

Daughter of Time
by Sarah Woodbury

3 out of 5
Historical Fiction
 
Daughter of Time: A Time Travel Romance (After Cilmeri, #0.5) Meg, a young widow from an abusive marriage, along with her small daughter are driving down the highway one day and they are transported through time into the Middle Ages. They are rescued by Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last Prince of Wales.
 
With Llywelyn as Meg's protector, their relationship develops and Meg has a chance to save Llywelyn from fate, due to her knowledge of the history of Wales. They learn to trust each other and hope to have a future together.
Sarah Woodbury's telling of life in the 13th century is intriguing. She tells how women are treated for that era, and how they are expected to behave ... something that Meg has great difficulty achieving.
 
Daughter of Time is a fun read. There were a couple of off-color remarks made, but overall, it was a clean read with tastefully done romantic scenes. I look forward to reading the sequels, Footsteps in Time and Prince of Time. I was so into this book, that I had to look up the actual history of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd to learn about his life in Wales.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Where Treasure Hides Book Review

 
4 out of 5
 
Historical Fiction


After being raised by her grandfather, now an adult, Alison Schuyler works in her family’s art gallery in the Netherlands. Unable to cope with the death of his wife, Alison's father travels the globe to forget. Alison struggles with what she believes is a curse for the Schuyler family and is determined to avoid the pain it causes. 

While in London, she meets Ian Devlin at Waterloo station just prior to WWII. Ian shows his compassion to a small boy and immediately Allison is drawn to the British Army captain. 

As the war moves in, Ian is on the battlefield while Alison works next to her father and friends with the Dutch Underground. They aid Jewish children and hide priceless art from Hitler's followers.

Where Treasure Hides is an historical novel with elements of love and faith. It is an easy book to get caught up in and reminds us of the presence of evil in the world and the extremes we will go in order to stop it. 

Alison and Ian's story is engaging and I had a hard time putting this book down at the end of a chapter. Johnnie is a marvelous storyteller and I look forward to reading more of her work. Find out more about this book here.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Welcome Spring!

 
 
In lieu of a regular blog post I am leaving with you today a welcome to spring. Wherever you are I hope you are getting a taste of a colorful spring with pleasant weather.
 


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ten Easy Steps to Preserving Herbs (Part Two)

Ten Easy Steps to Preserving Herbs (Part Two)

(Read last week’s Part One here.)

There are many ways to dry herbs, such as a dehydrator or on a drying screen. I choose the paper bag method because you don’t have to worry about dust getting on your clean herbs.

If you don’t grow your own herbs, you may purchase them at the supermarket or an herb farm.

If you have your own garden, simply cut them to the desired length then follow these steps:

    1. Wash herbs and dry well using paper towels or clean dishcloths.

    2. Separate herbs into bunches making sure they are not too crowded and tie together using sturdy rubber bands.

    3. Place herbs into paper bags with stems sticking out the top of the bag about two inches then secure bag around stems snugly using another rubber band.

    4. Hang bags by string or wire looped through one or two strands of rubber bands and place in a dark, cool place such as a pantry or closet. Be sure to hang stem end up.

    5. Check herbs for thorough drying in about three weeks. If a leaf crushed between     two fingers does not crumble easily, let dry a few more days and check again. If any moisture remains, the leaves will ferment in the glass jars you store them in.

    6. Once herbs are thoroughly dry and ready for processing, place wax paper on a counter or table and lay dried herbs on top of the paper. You may place another layer of wax paper over them and using the flat of your hands, crush the leaves gently making sure not to crush the stems into small pieces.

If you crush the stems too small, it will be difficult to pick each piece out. You may also hold a branch of herbs with one hand and with the other (clean, dry hands only!) squeeze the leaves and as they crumble they will fall to the paper for you to scoop them up later with a spatula or other kitchen utensil.

Another method to crush the herbs would be to separate into small twigs and put into a mortar and use the pestle to crush the leaves being careful not to crush the stems into tiny pieces.

    7. Organize your glass bottles and pour your herbs into them using a funnel if the mouths of the jars are too small. Make sure lids or corks are on tightly.

    8. Label each jar and decorate with colorful ribbon or string.

    9. Place a number of jars of your choosing in a pretty basket, flower pot or gift     bag for giving as gifts to family and friends.

    10. Experiment with different blends of herbs for your own personal touch.

People have been using herbs for thousands of years in medicine, cooking, fragrance and for decorative purposes. Some of the uses may have changed through the generations, but herbs will always be a part of our horticultural and culinary world.

Enjoy creating your own dried herb gifts and don’t forget to keep some for yourself and be sure to put a decorative tag on the gift container stating you made it yourself!

Are you interested in growing herbs? Do you have any tips to share as well?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ten Easy Steps to Preserving Herbs (Part One)

Walking through a local herb farm really gets me going in a creative way. Just the smell of the herbs and their aroma takes me to a different place. I have a small courtyard garden with mostly raised beds. This is where I grow all of my herbs, which is just outside my kitchen door and is easy access for fresh herbs while I’m cooking.

My passion is to grow herbs organically, which is not all that difficult. If you currently are not growing your own, hopefully this article will encourage you to try your hand at starting a small herb garden near your kitchen door.

Pick up a copy of a gardening book that specializes in herbs for growth in your region and you will see just how easy it is to grown your own.

For me, strolling through what once was a 16th century herb garden in England truly brought to life the fact of how long mankind has been using herbs for many purposes.

Even in biblical times herbs were mentioned for medicinal purposes.

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” - Genesis 1:29

Visiting a place like the English herb garden reinforced my love of herbs. In Elizabethan England (and for previous centuries), one of many uses of herbs was to strew them on the floor so that when walked on, they emitted their fresh aroma.

Drying and using in cooking is just one of many ways to utilize herbs today. You will need the following supplies:

    1. Scissors or garden shears

    2. Sturdy rubber bands

    3. Large brown paper bags

    4. Glass bottles of your choice for herb storage

    5. Decorative labels

    6. Ribbons or colorful string for decoration and string or wire for hanging herbs

    7. Paper towels or clean dishcloths

    8. Pestle and mortar (optional)

    9. Roll of wax paper

    10. Spatula

    11. Funnel

(Check back next week for the ten easy steps...)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The House at Old Vine Book Review

The House at Old Vine 
by Norah Lofts

4 out of 5

Historical Fiction

 
The House at Old VineThe House at Old Vine is the second in the 'House' series. (See my review of the first book, The Townhouse, here.) It is broken down into six parts, each telling the stories of the house's inhabitants through the decades from the end of the fifteenth century until the end of the seventeenth century.

Josiana Greenwood's story opens her story in 1496 in Suffolk, England. Josiana is cruelly treated by her grandparents. She is the result of an illicit affair with an unnamed man, and suffers along with her mother.


One day her mother rescues Josiana from an arranged marriage that would financially benefit her grandfather. She takes her to the priory at Clevely where she is taken in by the nuns and lives a quiet and peaceful life until she meets Walter, the love of her life. This is where her life changes drastically.

Part two picks up with Elizabeth Kentwoode telling her story and shows the love and devotion she has for her grandfather, until he makes a grave mistake one day by not defending her actions. Even though she is only a child, she never forgets what he does. Elizabeth's response to this turning point causes a sequence of events that alters her future in ways she cannot fathom.

The year 1620 begins part three with Barbara Hatton who becomes a Kentwoode by an arranged marriage which takes her to live in the Old Vine. Her marriage to handsome John Kentwoode has a fairytale-like beginning, but soon turns to disaster.

Antony Flowerdew's story envelops part four in 1645 as he tells of being a spy in the Rahabites organization. His journey takes him to Baildon and to the Old Vine and becomes involved in the inhabitants lives.

Part five is about Ethelreda Benedict and the most unusual way she eventually becomes a part of life at the Old Vine. She comes from an isolated swamp are where she has been raised by her father. Their lives are filled with superstition and pagan worship until she ends up in Baildon and learns a whole new way of life.

Oliver Stanton's story ends the book with part six. He is drawn to Baildon where he attended school as a boy at the Old Vine. He is destitute because of the hard and willful hand his father had over him, which he finally refused to live under any longer.


His father's marriage arrangement to a woman he does not love--forcing him to abandon the woman he is in love with--pushes him over the edge. He leaves home with nothing and seeks out his old teacher, Mr. Flowerdew. Life is hard, but fulfilling, until circumstances surrounding Ethelreda complicate his life.

My thoughts
 
I love the way Norah Lofts weaves her stories. At times, I grew weary of all the sadness and hardness of life revolving around these characters. Times in these centuries were hard, but so is life today. We have merely traded it for a different kind of hardship.

Overall, I have really enjoyed reading both of these novels. The third and final installment, The House at Sunset, covers from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. I look forward to see how Ms. Lofts ends her tale of all the inhabitants of the Old Vine. Her historical details of each era is fascinating and I have learned a great deal about life in those times.

The social, physical, and religious elements are so informative. It's amazing how these things progress from generation to generation, and she expresses it so seamlessly.

Recommendation: I would recommend checking out other Norah Lofts' works. You can find them here.

Have you read Norah Lofts? What did you think? Do you have any books in this genre to recommend to me?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Traveling through time - Author Interview with Deb Kinnard

Author Interview with Deb Kinnard  

Seasons in the Mist

Stranded in 1353 Cornwall, American graduate student Bethany Lindstrom knows she must find a way back to her own time or face a life of falsehoods and peril.

But with the stern overlord Sir Michael Veryan, she is swept into the intrigues of King Edward's court, which will test their mettle and their faith in God to the limits -- and forever bind their lives together

For more about this book, click here.

Where did the idea come from for Seasons in the Mist?

I first wrote this book in the early 80s, after I'd spent a week in Cornwall. I had all the time to ramble, inspect, dream that I wanted. I visited an area near Truro that had a tiny area with lumps of stone -- obviously it'd once been a building, but there was no clue what it had been.

My imagination made it a ruined chapel near a holy well. The book built itself around Michael and Bethany's visit to that well.

Have you visited any of the places you write about in this novel?

See above. I love Cornwall.

Tell us a little about Book Two in your series, Seasons of Reckoning.

RECKONING tells the story going forward, the same year in the present but three years on in the past (time travel has some funny rules).

Marcus Richards, Bethany's college professor and mentor, travels to England to find out what's become of Bethany. He deliberately uses the portal, believing she's traveled in time -- and then the fun begins.

In 2012, you began a new series called The Faith Box, with the first entitled Peaceweaver. You now have two more books in that series to be released this year. Will you tell us the basis of this series?

A shameless borrowing from a friend of mine who told me of a "bag o'religion" some of her buddies shared. The bag became a box -- a reliquary -- in my imagination, and the "Faith Box" series was born.

I wanted the first one, PEACEWEAVER, to tell the story of a young woman sold against her will into marriage, before the year 1000. The next two books, THE HEALING TREE and WHEN THE ROSES BLOOMED, tell the stories of the young women who inherit the Faith Box and the challenges of faith they face.

If you could choose actors to portray your main characters, who would they be?

I love Amanda Seyfried and several of my characters "look" like that. For the guys, they do always seem to look a little like Matthew McConaughey or the younger Alex Baldwin. I like the tall, boy next door types.

If you could travel back in time, what time period would you visit?

Fourteenth century like Beth, or perhaps another? Wow, that's tough. Probably 10th century -- the 14th is too dangerous, with all the famine and plague.

Of course, if you read Connie Willis you realize that every century is ranked a "10" for peril, warfare, and human beings being vicious toward one another, so maybe there's no way to choose.

If you could choose any location in the world as your writing spot, where would it be?

Cornwall. Definitely. The north coast, where the valleys snug in between the cliffs. I don't know if that house is still there, but there was a tiny B&B in a house once owned by Claude Rains, the movie actor. I'd live and write in that house near St Agnes.

Is coffee your preferred drink or do you care for a spot o’ tea?

Both, actually. Though don't bother talking to me before my first cup of whatever in the morning!

Thanks, Carole.

For more information about Deb and her books, visit her website at www.debkinnard.com.

To read my review of "Seasons in the Mist," click here.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Seasons in the Mist Book Review

Seasons in the Mist

by


Deborah Kinnard


4 out of 5


Genre: Historical Romance


Deborah Kinnard is now added to my favorite authors list. Seasons in the Mist is told through the eyes of Bethany Lindstrom, a twenty-first century graduate student of Medieval history. Her first trip to England is a dream come true. As the flight approaches London, her seatmate can't help but notice Beth's enthusiasm. She and Beth got to know one another on the long flight to London.

Sheila is returning to her home in Cornwall after a business trip to Chicago. When Beth's ground transporation is not there to meet her, she is panic-stricken. Sheila rescues her by asking if she would like to come home with her to Cornwall for a couple of days. Beth's decision is make when she learns that Sheila's family owns Mossock House--a medieval manor home that is widely known.

The morning after her first night at Mossock House, Beth rises early and decides to explore the ancient home. Her stroll takes her to one of the oldest parts where she encounters something that will transport her back to fourteenth century Cornwall.

Beth experiences all the good, and bad, that fourteenth century England has to offer. Including King Edward III's court. She meets Baron Michael Veryan and eventually falls for him. Lord Veryan's half brother, Cadwr, appears with ulterior motives that create more intrigue which weaves throughout the story.

The only person Beth holds dear in the future is her mother. Yet she longs to stay with her newfound friends--and her new love. What will she decide? And does she have a choice in the matter. This journey has drawn her back to faith in God. She confesses she has been absent in her faith and feels God calling out to her through this experience. What is it He is asking of her? And where does He want her?

Deborah Kinnard draws the reader into fourteenth century England in such a way that makes you feel your presence there. You experience the day to day chores, struggles, politics, and essence of life there. I also love the faith aspect she includes in the telling.

For more information about Deborah and her books, visit her website, http://www.debkinnard.com/.

"And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." - Luke 18:27

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Town House Book Review

The Town House
 

by

Norah Lofts


Rating: 4 out of 5

Genre: Historical Fiction


In the latter part of fourteenth century England, Martin Reed is a young man being trained by his father to be a smith. He is owned by the lord of a manor in Rede, Norfolk.

One day he rescues a frail young girl from a beating by her stepmother. He is immediately taken with her and vows to marry her. When going before the lord of the manor to ask for her hand in marriage, the lord sets his eyes on Kate and refuses their marriage request.

Martin, in a fit of anger, punches the lord in the face, is beaten to the point of death and left to die. His father does nothing to save him and leaves him for dead. Martin plans an escape from the manor leaving everyone to think him dead, taking Kate with him.

Their long and arduous journey to leave Norfolk and begin a new life together almost costs both their lives. They are aided by an old woman and end up in the town of Baildon in Suffolk. The law states that if they remain free for one year and one day, they will have their freedom.

Martin and Kate begin a life of poverty in the the town of Baildon where Martin changes his name to Walter. He and Kate struggle with earning a living and raising a family, plagued by hunger, unfair labor laws, and the power that the Abbey has over the town.

The story is told through the eyes of the main characters, alternating with pieces told in third person. The Town House is not a novel that focuses on the elite of fifteenth century England, but tells the daily struggles of the down-trodden, impoverished, and sadness of medieval times. It shows--to me--that there always has been and always will be cruelty, unfairness, and greed. Yet there is always hope and good people who dispense it with generosity.

Norah Lofts is a masterful storyteller. The Town House is the first in a trilogy with the second installment being The House at Old Vine, and the third, The House at Sunset.

If you like The Town House, you will probably like anything by Catherine Cookson aka Catherine Marchant.

"Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously." - 2 Corinthians 9:6

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Fairest Beauty Book Review

The Fairest Beauty
by

Melanie Dickerson

4 out of 5

Genre: Young Adult

I may not be a young adult, but I certainly enjoy Melanie Dickerson's retelling of the classic fairy tales. She has a unique way of forming the characters and storyline to bring out a Christian-themed tale with far more details.

The Fairest Beauty tells the story of Sophie, who is a maid at Hohendorf Castle. She is mistreated by the Duchess Ermengard for reasons beyond Sophie's comprehension. One day a stranger comes to the castle looking for Sophie.
 
Gabe is a young and dashing and Sophie doesn't trust him. Her experience with Lorencz, the Duchess's huntsman, has taught her that. From all the years of mistreatment, she has learned to trust only a few people--those in her closest circle--fellow servants like her.

Once the Duchess discovers that Gabe has come to take Sophie away, she determines to kill all those involved. With the help of an unlikely source, they are aided in escaping from the evil Duchess.
 
They spend days avoiding the Duchess's guards, wolves, and the dangers of the forest, where Gabe is injured trying to protect Sophie. Their difficult journey takes them to the Cottage of the Seven, where they have been told they may seek help and refuge.

Anyone who has heard the story of Snow White will pretty much figure out how the Fairest Beauty ends. Yet, with Melanie's touch, the journey is much different than the fairy tale. It's a very uplifting, encouraging tale of putting one's faith in God, to persevere. This is a great tale for women of all ages.

Don't forget to check out Melanie's two previous books, The Merchant's Daughter, and The Healer's Apprentice. Click them out at http://www.melaniedickerson.com/books.html

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

God's Reminder in Ice

In mid January there was a mild freeze in my area of northern Louisiana. As I walked to my car that morning, I glanced to my right and noticed something in my small birdbath. It was full of frozen water, but it appeared that a small object was perched on top of the ice. I approached the birdbath and looked down onto an almost perfectly heart-shaped piece of ice. It was about three and one-half inches wide.
The location of the birdbath was far enough from the roof of the house, or any other structure, where the ice could have fallen from. I was so amazed at this neatly formed thing, that I had to reach out and touch it. Removing my glove, I gently prodded it and found it to be frozen to the surface of the ice below, perched like it had been gingerly placed there.
 
Returning the glove to my hand, I began walking back to my car. Realizing I would never see such a thing again, I thought I needed to share a picture of this with others. I took a few shots with the camera on my phone. This time as I moved to my car, a thought struck me so quickly that I had to stop for a moment. I smiled and thanked Jesus for the thought He gave to me, "I just wanted you to remember that I love you."

So on this Valentine's Day Eve, I want you to remember that God loves you.

Happy Valentine's Day to all!

"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love." - John 15:9 

Has God given you a physical reminder of His love--like He did with Noah and the rainbow or the ice heart? 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Pargeters Book Review

Pargeters
by Norh Lofts

 
Rating: 4 out of 5
 
Genre: Historical Fiction
 
 
Pargeters: An Historical Novel of Seventeenth-Century England
Pargeters (I had to look up the pronunciation on that one) is an English manor house built in the 17th century. Adam Woodley, the pargeter (plasterer) who works on the house in a very personal and artistic way, catches the eye of the owner's daughter. This novel takes place during several generations of residents at Pargeters which begins in 17th century England. Times are difficult on so many levels, which includes the Civil War between Royalists and Roundheads.
 
The village is Baildon, in northern England where the daughter of Adam Woodley, Sarah Woodley-Mercer, struggles to hang onto her beloved Pargeters though women of that time held no rights. Forced into a loveless marriage in order to keep her home and care for those closest to her, she hangs onto hope. Her verbally cruel Puritan husband makes life miserable for everyone in his path.

A child is born from this hatefilled marriage which will ultimately change the future for all connected to Pargeters. Sarah maintains the responsibility for Pargeters and those under her care. Dealing with backbreaking day to day chores, a mean-spirited husband and his mother, and the needs of her aging grandfather all take their toll on her. To add a cherry on top, she often thinks of the one man she ever loved and wonders what happened to him. When he left to go to war (before she met her cruel husband), he said he would be back.
 
Although this story has plenty of dark moments, it proves that through perseverance you just keep on going. The characters have strong personalities and I had a hard time putting the book down. I was not totally pleased with the ending, but that's just me. It is a wonderful novel to read if you want to see how life was lived in that time period--the prejudice against women, the cruelties of certain denominations of faith, and the hardships endured. Norah Lofts weaves a masterful tale in her own unique voice. It's definitely worth a read.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mr. Darcy at 200

Pride and Prejudice

Mr Darcy is 200. January 28th marked the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice which sold 1,500 copies in England in 1813. To date, millions of copies have been sold. Several movie adaptations have been made of this historic novel. My favorite is the 1995 BBC production with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

You could probably go anywhere in the world and mention 'Mr. Darcy' and heads would turn. I may even have a slip of the tongue and say it myself if I ever say Colin Firth in person--the quintessential Mr. Darcy (in my humble opinion!). Although my dear friend would say it's Matthew Macfadyen. You be the judge.

I am sure Jane walked down this very lovely lane in Chawton.
This Christmas I was the happy recipient of a collector's set of all of Jane Austen's novels. They were from my husband--not a Jane Austen fan--but he did his homework. God bless him.

If you would like more information about the houses used in the movie adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, check out these incredible images at http://www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2013/01/pride-and-prejudice-movie-locations-uk-travel-photos-012813?MBID=twitter_#slide=1

The house at Chawton is where Jane spent the last eight years of her life before illness took her to Winchester, where she died. This is where she did most of her mature writing. I was so thrilled to visit it during my last trip to England.

http://www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk/

Chawton House Library once belonged to Jane's brother, Edward, and is a short walk from Jane Austen's home. It must have been a lovely place to have tea while pondering the words of her timeless novels.
http://www.chawtonhouse.org/

Have you had a brush with Jane Austen's world like I did at Chawton? Which film version of "Pride and Prejudice" is your favorite? And better yet, which Mr. Darcy?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Thankful or Spoiled Generations?

Recently I read that the baby boomer generation is the last connection to a generation of people who lived a more simple life with very little technology.

Somedays I wonder how we could function without all of our technology. Some days I wish we could go back to those simple times, but could we keep the washer and dryer?

Recently my mother gave to me my grandmother's scrub board. She was born in 1908, married in 1925 and probably purchased the scrub board that year. Or maybe it was a shower gift! Can you imagine spending an entire day--beginning at daylight--hand washing all of your laundry?

Then you had to hang them on the clothes line to dry, praying it didn't rain. Thank goodness most women did not work outside the home then--or they would have spent an entire day off killing themselves just doing the laundry.

My mother and her sisters have told me countless stories of the chores they had to do, as well as some of the inventive ways they tried to improve their looks. Coming from a rural farming community, they had very little extra money for unnecessary beauty aids. We now have curling irons that they would have been very envious of at the time.

One humorous story was a bright idea my mother had to curl her younger sister's hair. She took a wire coat hanger apart and heated it in their fireplace. She then took a long section of hair and proceeded to wrap it up to form a curl. When the hot metal met my aunt's hair, it burned right through it. She screamed, "You burnt my hair!" No one thought to try and cut the rest of her hair to even it up. I still have a school picture of my aunt with the lopsided hair when she was nine years old. My mother was the older and wiser teenage sister.

Needless to say, we could all learn a lesson from those times. We now have more conveniences than any other time in history and yet we seem to have less free time than any other time in history. What does that tell us? That we are never satisfied and that we are always trying to fill our lives with things we don't really need. Personally I would like to go back to simpler times. Times that my parents and grandparents had. Working full time outside the home and trying to run a household is not an easy task.

Do any of you feel the same way? Would you like to forfeit some of the conveniences to be able to be a stay at home wife/mother and live a less hectic life?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Blog Hop Tour Answers -- about my debut novel

One of my good friends and writing partner, Morgan Tarpley of "Pens on a World Map," asked me to participated in a blog hop tour. The questions are about the novel I wrote last year.
Also a friend and fellow blogger will be continuing this blog hop tour and answering these questions too for next week, so please check out her blog (information at this post's end). Thanks!
1) What is title of your working book?
Permelia Cottage
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
I think I was born an Anglophile! And I love English cottages--old English cottages. I would like to live in one for at least a month and tour the countryside. Sorry--I digress--the thought of being in a rural English cottage started thinking of storylines that could take place there. The plot just grew from that.

A lovely cottage I saw in England
3) What genre does your book fall under?
Christian Contemporary Fiction
4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
My lead characters would be played by Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Alexis Biedel and Jensen Ackles.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Can an old English cottage bring renewed faith and healing to several troubled hearts?  
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I met an agent at a writer's conference and my book proposal was requested. I sent it. Currently, I am waiting to hear back. Fingers crossed!
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About eight months to first draft.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I'm not exactly sure which books this one would compare too, but I can name other authors who write in this genre and whose themes are similar to mine.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I like to believe that God inspired me to write it. Most of my ancestors came from England and Scotland so the location idea came from my love of the country my family originated. The actual plot coming from life in general--the struggles we face and how we can overcome them if we focus on God.
10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Sometimes we struggle with forgiveness. If someone does something to us--either real or imagined on our part--we have difficulty forgiving them. I believe Permelia Cottage teaches that we can forgive, if we turn it over to God. Isn't that why Jesus came--the ultimate forgiveness?

Next week, January 23, please visit my blogging friend (below) for the next stop on this blog hop book tour!
Cindy Pye: Denim and Roses
Thanks for stopping by and reading!