Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mistletoe and Murder

I read a lot of Christmas books this year. I didn't like them very much. I think because most of them were the anthologies and were shorter and didn't allow the characters to develop as much. They weren't bad, but it was like having just candy or fluff ~ it tastes okay for a while, but you crave meat and potatoes pretty soon. A person just needs real food.

I won this book in a contest on Craftie Ladies of Suspense. The author, Florence Case, recently passed away. I didn't know her, but I understand she was a mentor and inspiration for many. I just wanted to take a minute to just give tribute to her and thank the other wonderful authors who help other writers through their site.

Now ~ for the book. The back cover reads:

One minute, probation officer Mallory Larsen is handing out hand-knitted Christmas gifts. The next, there's a gun at her head- and a bomb exploding. Fellow probation officer Shamus Burke saves her life, and she'll be sure to thank him for it... once she gets his assistance again. A girl's life depends on Mallory, and no one but Shamus can help her do what needs to be done. As the threats against Mallory escalate, she shows Shamus she won't back down on saving anyone- including him. But now someone's dead set on stopping them both from ever celebrating Christmas together.

My take ~

There are really three aspects I looked at with this book: 1. The mystery & suspense 2. The characters & basic writing 3. The romance.

The mystery and suspense was well done. There were surprises and twists throughout the story you didn't expect. Just when you think you know she pulls something else on you. That was a lot of fun and I though it was masterfully done.

The characters were good as well. Even with the norm of the bad boy and the good girl ~ they had their quirks and surprises. The writing was good and the pacing was nice. All the secondary characters were done well too. I had no trouble picturing anything.

The one area I felt a little let down in was romance. He was certainly a handsome hero and she was a strong leading lady - but I didn't really sense a strong connection or bond between them. It was almost as if they could have been partners and he would have rescued and protected anyone. I know that isn't true in my mind... I just didn't feel that "zing" between them. Then again it might be me not feeling well ~ because everything else about the book was really good.

I did enjoy the book and wouldn't hesitate to look for other books by the same author.

How about you? What were your favorite Christmas reads?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Romance Reading Challenge

This is the second year of the Romance Reading Challenge, but my first year participating. Although this year it will be a little different with more options for those die hard lovers of Romance novels. This challenge includes all sub genres of Romance i.e. paranormal, young adult, historical etc. So this should give you plenty of options.

Challenge Guidelines:
1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.
--Non-Bloggers: Include your information in the comment section.

2. There are four levels:

-- Curious – Read 3 Romance Fiction novels.

-- Fascinated – Read 6 Romance Fiction novels.

-- Addicted – Read 12 Romance Fiction novels.

-- Obsessed – Read 20 Romance Fiction novels.

3. Any book format counts.

4. You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you.

5. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010.

6. When you sign up under Mr. Linky, put the direct link to the post about the Romance Reading Challenge. Include the URL so that other participants can find join in and read your reviews and post.

I am planning on keeping track of all my books for 2010, romance and otherwise, on my new Shelfari. I'm going to dump all the old books and all new books starting with the ones that count as of the 1st. That way everyone can tell what I've read that year. It may contain re-reads, because I do re-read books, but most of them will be new. I look forward to this new year! :o)

You can follow the link to enter the challenge by clicking on the linked picture on the side of my blog. By the way, I chose the obsessed level of the challenge. :o) Have fun!

What's your favorite genre?

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. I'm sorry I didn't wish you one in advance. I haven't been online very much and I have to confess ~ I never got my cards mailed to my friends and family either.

Normally I keep this to either books I've read or writing, but it has been a hard couple of weeks ~ and I share so much with you all that I've come to think of you as friends. It always makes me feel better to share with friends, so I hope you won't mind if I share for a minute.

My oldest son was in a car accident the day before Christmas. He's okay, but he destroyed a sign and so the police gave him a case number. He didn't get any more information than that - but my husband believes that is just like a ticket and he'll be fined - plus our insurance will go up (because he's covered on our policy). Plus the driver's door is dented in and the window is shattered.

My husband leaves this coming weekend for training for a new job. He was laid off last year. His new job isn't making enough to make ends meet so he has been interviewing. He took one of them that has "potential" for making more money - but no salary, benefits... nothing. They consider you a contractor so you have to do your own taxes. We won't make anything the month of January because you don't get paid until a month after you work - and that will be a small check because he will be at training for a week of the month and then still learning... Plus we have to purchase a new phone & fax line for the house and pay for his hotel and travel expenses to the training.

I also broken my toe and I think several other bones in my foot. It hurt so bad I collapsed on the floor and cried. Not a lot makes me cry. My foot is bruised up above my toes in this half moon shape - and it hurts to walk - plus one of the toes. I taped them and that helped a little.

I'm also not sleeping again. I think it's the flu or a cold. My son has it - and my hubby has had a touch too. When I get sick it makes the fibro act up. I've missed church the last two Sundays and I am all messed up with my sleep schedule. The weather doesn't help at all. I laughed at our weather report tonight. The man said it had warmed up to 28 degrees. Isn't that insane? Just the idea that we think 28 is warm shows how cold it has been. I don't think warm and 28 should be in the same sentence, but when temps have been single digits or even below zero - I'll take 28.

Now that I've had my pity party, I actually had a very nice Christmas. I read tons of so-so Christmas themed books and other books as well. I even made time to work on my writing some. I hope you're all staying warm and that you enjoyed your time off.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Lady Trent Mystery Series

A Lady Trent Mystery Series is written by Gilbert Morris and is centered around the main characters of Viscountess Serafina Trent and Dylan Tremayne. I love the covers for these books, especially the second book, A Conspiracy of Ravens.

Lady Serafina is nobility and doesn't fit the mold very well. She works with her father to do autopsies to find out the cause of death, plus various experiments with him and on her own. She is a widow and many suspect her in his death. She is fiercely protective of her son, David, and generally the backbone of her family. She has a scientific mind and refuses to indulge in anything that she cannot observe or prove. This goes to such an extreme that she doesn't even read fiction and discourages her son from imagination and other wastes of time.

Dylan Tremayne is an actor. In the world of social classes, his would be rated just above robbers and thieves. He is also a strong Christian. He doesn't just attend church, every conversation is peppered with references to God and he seems to rely on and treat God as a friend and guide for life. This baffles and frustrates Lady Serafina. His criminal background can get him in to places and people nobody else can. He is more handsome than any man has a right to be and yet doesn't seem to be aware of it and wants nothing to do with all his female fans.

How do these two opposites even come together? In the first book Lady Serafina's brother finds himself accused of murdering one of the actresses in the theater production. Dylan knew both her brother and the actress. He volunteers his assistance and she realizes she can't prove her brother's innocence without him. They actually end up working well as a team, and he also provides a good role model for her son.

As the two solve mysteries, they get a reputation and are called on to do more work. The whole time you can see the clash between their belief systems, social classes, and prejudices of the people surrounding them. There are funny, tense, and romantic moments. The subplots of the secondary characters are interesting and well done.

Now I have to admit a bit of a con for a "mystery" series. There were surprises and plot twists I hadn't expected, but I was able to guess the killer in the first two books. I guessed the 3rd as well, but the author was able to talk me into doubting of my guess with a red herring. That didn't ruin my enjoyment because the whole idea of how they discovered them and the interplay between the characters was really good.

I also think these series where the characters evolve and grow over a much longer time gives a much more... deeper look into their hearts and minds. I think it allows them to make more realistic changes. In the end, the characters Mr. Morris created were very impressive because they were not stereotypical in the least. The way the related to each other didn't even fall into totally expected norms.

I have a question for you. A friend of mine told me when she reads books she always reads the end to see how it will all work out before she finishes the book. I was shocked. I never read the end first. I asked someone else and they said they do it too. Is that pretty common? Do you read the end of your books before you get there to see how it all turns out? Why do you do that (if you do)? Why not (if you don't)?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Circle of Friends Award

My friend, Susan Holloway, @ Journeys of Love...Inspired by Faith has given me The Circle of Friends Award! The rules are that I am supposed to share 5 things that I love to do and then pass the award on to five other blogs. Here we go:

5 Things I Love To Do

  1. Read ~ I know, big surprise right? Would it surprise you to know that I have a database for books and it has over 3,000 in it right now?
  2. Write ~ This is kind of a love/hate relationship for me. It's more accurate to say I "have" to write. It's like something is in me that must come out.
  3. Computer ~ I left it at just "computer" because I like to do all kinds of things on the computer. I love to research ideas and information, curriculum for homeschool, books, articles... Plus I go to boards, blogs, websites and I play games on my computer too.
  4. Make Jewelry ~ I haven't been doing it very long and it is still a hobby of mine. I don't do it often because my hands will hurt from the fibro, and since I'm writing now, most of my good "finger time" goes to writing, but I love all the different kinds of beads and gemstones. I especially like natural gemstones because they are all different and like little works of art. So like God to do that. I don't wear much jewelry - but I do enjoy making it. The necklace in my new pic is one I made. It is Tourmaline ~ and all the different colors mean it can go with lots of different things. That necklace is long too. I can wear it knotted or doubled... It's very pretty and one of my favorite things I've made (and one of the first).
  5. I volunteer at my church. ~ This includes everything from teaching my kiddos (K-2nd grades ~ which I've done for... at least 7 years now. I also maintain a board for our deployed soldiers and send them cards. I do skits and monologues too. I clean up, set up for potlucks, just help out any which way I can.

Now for the 5 blogs to pass it on to:

  • Lori @ Some of My Favorite Things Thank you for being one of the first people to befriend me in this blogging world and showing me the "ropes" on so many things.
  • Julane @ Inspiration From the Commonplace You were willing to step out in faith and become a critique partner to the least experienced writer on the planet with some strange ideas about writing. You also stood by me and became my friend. Thank you.
  • Renee @ Black 'n Gold Girl's Book Spot You rolled out the welcome mat right away and have been so nice ever since. You have an awesome sense of humor, great taste (in books and cars), :o) and I'm really glad we met.
  • Angie @ Never a Dull Moment You are always ready with an encouraging comment, a good suggestion, a wonderful picture of your cats... lol Just being you is enough. I have really enjoyed getting to know you.
Now this is the hard part ~ only one more and yet so many others have been good friends to me.

  • Deborah @ Butterfly Journey You have been very supportive of my writing, encouraged me continually, and understood things about me that nobody without chronic illness can. I pray for you and your daughter and I wish you all the best with your writing.
Thank you to all my friends and followers. Have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Jane Austen!

You don't have to read my blog for very long before you realize that I am a great fan of regency novels and of Jane Austen... Pride and Prejudice in particular. I was going to add another review today, but since it is her birthday, and I think she is like hot cocoa on a cold winter's day ~ you're stuck with a bit of a tribute post. :o)

Jane Austen didn't write steamy kisses and sex scenes, but her stories were filled with "witty" conversation that made you laugh, palpable tension that sometimes had you willing one or another character to just come out with it and say what they were really feeling, and certainly her characters became flesh and blood. They live on in movies and several "sequels" and adaptations that are varying degrees of successful, depending upon your taste and point of view.

I think it's wonderful to think her stories live so many years later, and she is a household name, despite the fact she had trouble getting them published when she was alive and the ones she did publish, were originally published "by an author." I wonder if she's pleased at all the attention and how her stories have been re-worked. Perhaps she isn't paying attention at all. lol

My favorite original Austen work is Pride and Prejudice. I also loved the A&E mini-series done with Colin Firth.
However I also love several of her other books and adaptations. I don't think I could list them all... lol Nobody would finish reading the blog. {wink} Some of the highlights of the newer books (since all of Austen's books are known), were:

  • The Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy by Pamela Aiden ~ It's been a while since I read these, and if I'm remembering correctly, I liked 1 & 3 better than 2 because she took a bunny trail I would have preferred she didn't and I didn't think it was necessary for the story ~ but they are great stories that basically tell the Pride & Prejudice Tale from his point of view. A lot is added and Darcy's character is fleshed out quite a bit, without changing him into another person. I liked them quite a lot.
  • The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James ~ Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could find her diary or letters? This book is written in a fun way, as a story. What I really liked is that unlike a lot of historical novels that have to explain things the reader wouldn't know (or just don't tell us at all) the information is at the bottom of the page. So you can read the story through and not miss the action or pacing of the story and then read the info at the bottom and educate yourself and get more meaning from the section and re-read if needed. Or you can skip the footnotes if you want. It's totally up to you. The book makes sense without them ~ it just gives more info on customs, fashions, etc.
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale ~ This is a short little book that packs an emotional punch. A young woman who can't seem to find a healthy relationship (each chapter highlights one of her failures by number and a brief description), and is obsessed with the Colin Firth version of Darcy. lol I can relate! In any case, her relative dies and gives her a trip to Austenland, where actors play parts and everything is regency England. She could have Darcy ~ but can she cure herself of her obsession? This story was fabulously funny, real and surprising.
  • Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler ~ Can you imagine waking up in someone else's body and it being in another time? Instead of her Los Angeles apartment, Courtney wakes up in Regency England and isn't herself. She has someone else's memories, body and even abilities. If she can't convince anyone of the truth how can she get home? What can she do in the meantime? This book was wonderful! The writing was fabulous, the characters believable and I even was able to forget the whole idea of the switching lives/bodies and just enjoy the story. She pulled the wool all the way over my eyes. The great chemistry and relationships between the characters is just one of the reasons this book also made my top 10 list.
I started with a movie and I'll end with one. This isn't an Oscar winner, but it was fun and had great wit and characters.
After all, part of the purpose of this whole thing is to have fun. This was a "fun" movie and I have to admit, I sure like the idea of Elizabeth coming to visit me, and then I could go meet Mr. Darcy...

Do you have a favorite Austen book? What is your favorite remake or sequel of her work?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

English Doesn't Make Sense!

My son yelled from the kitchen table, "English just doesn't make sense! It doesn't even follow it's own rules and lots of words can be confused with others."

"What's confusing you?" I asked.

"Nothing. Just think about it... bow can be a bow on a present or a bow tie or it can be pronounced like ow and then it means to bend over."

"You forgot that it can also mean part of a musical instrument."

He smacked his forehead and groaned as only a teenager can. "Why do I have to learn this stuff?"

"It's good for your character." I laughed.

He didn't think it was funny. It's true that English is one of the most difficult languages to master. I think it's because we're a melting pot of so many other languages. Context is key when deciding which "bow" is the correct one. I think that might be a good lesson to apply to a lot of things. If we take Bible verses out of context their meanings no longer make sense and they can be used in ways that aren't true to the rest of Scripture. If we try and listen to what people say in context to their situation and personality, maybe we'd be able to have less misunderstandings.

Do you have words you regularly mix up when reading? Do you like to play word games or do they frustrate you?

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I just finished watching Alice, SyFy's latest remake of Alice in Wonderland. It's the second time I watched it. Being a writer and loving classic books, I was prepared NOT to like it. However, I already let you know that I liked it very much ~ because I watched it twice ~ and I would watch it again. :o)

What was it that captivated me so much about this particular version? The classic weaved a world beyond our imagination and filled it with characters that were memorable. They were not like anyone we knew and each individual unique even in their world. That's what I saw in this version as well. The characters weren't confined to their roles in the book however. It was fun spotting who was who from the original book, but as Hatter tells Alice, "Does this look like a children's story to you?"

Indeed, much is different in Wonderland, and it makes the story relevant to viewers today in so many ways. Another time Hatter takes Alice to a hidden library where people are trying to survive away from the Queen's "suits" and system of emotional highs. She asks why all this (the books and people) is hidden away and why the Queen would want to destroy it. Hatter explains that wisdom is her greatest threat. She controls people through quick fixes. That's pretty deep thinking from a "children's" story.

The mini-series also delves into truths such as do the ends justify the means... and it has great romance as well. The characters are multi-dimensional and deal with strengths and weaknesses. They grow and change over the course of the show. I thought it was a lot of fun to watch. Our family had a lot of fun conversation about the show.

I don't know how many more times it will run on TV, or if it will. But if you are at all interested, I suggest checking it out.

Friday, December 11, 2009

My Top 10 for 2009

It's the end of the year, or nearly so, and people have started to reflect on what they have accomplished. They write those letters to their friends and relatives to stick inside Christmas cards ~ explaining all that has happened over the past year... They wonder what the new year will bring. This has been a tough time for many, so hopes and dreams may center on jobs and making it financially. I know many who struggle with health issues.

Those of us who read and write for the bulk of our time often reflect upon the books in our lives. Which ones touched us the most? Which were utter disappointments? What are we really looking forward to be released in the coming year? I've already seen some people post their list of favorites. Who am I to break with tradition? In alphabetical order, here are the books I most enjoyed reading this past year (notice that some were published in previous years, I just read them this year):

  1. Tamera Alexander's Fountain Creek Chronicles Series
  2. Christina Berry's A Familiar Stranger
  3. Diana Gabaldon's Outlander
  4. Shannon Hale's Austenland
  5. Julie Lessman's Daughters of Boston series
  6. Jane Orcutt's All the Tea in China
  7. Catherine Palmer's The Bachelor's Bargain
  8. Golden Keyes Parson's Darkness to Light Series
  9. Tracie Peterson's Brides of Gallatin County Series
  10. Laurie Viera Rigler's Confession of a Jane Austen Addict
You can find reviews for most of these books on my blog. I just want to thank the authors for making it so difficult to pick only ten that I cheated (just a little) and picked quite a few series instead of just single books. I also want to thank you for coming by here, reading and taking a moment to comment. I know how busy everyone is.

How about you? Do you have a top ten list for 2009 yet? Or do you just have a few favorite books you'd like to share? I'm always up for suggestions on another good book. :o)

The Brides of Gallatin County

Titles: A Promise to Believe In, A Love to Last Forever, & A Dream to Call My Own
Author: Tracie Peterson

The first thing you notice about these books are their covers. All of them are works of art, pure and simple. They are gorgeous. I think a lot about the characters are reflected in them as well, at least the way they start off their particular story. The first book centers primarily on Gwen. She feels cursed and lets that isolate her and almost drive her away from everyone she loves. She's even tempted to leave her sisters in an effort to protect them. All because someone told her she was, and then when bad things happened, she imagined herself the cause. Her trust in God and belief that He was in control was threatened by a fortune teller and her circumstances. So often we lose sight of what we know to be true because of what is going on around us. I thought the way the author dealt with this situation was so honest and it's one of the things many Christians struggle with.

The second book focuses more on Beth. I thought it was kind of ironic because Beth is shown as one who devours romance novels and longs for the adventure she finds in the pages of her books. Sometimes she even envies the leading ladies their witty comebacks and ability to woo all the handsome young men. She then find herself caught between two men who want to court her. One she's known for years. He's trustworthy, helpful, handsome and wants to stay put ~ which is so important to her, but she doesn't know where he stands with God. The other is a fine-looking stranger who claims a relationship to God, but he's just passing through, loves to travel and won't be spending much time with her at all. He also has no qualms about kissing her despite her objections. How will she know who to choose?

The third book is centered on Lacy. Of the three girls, Lacy is the tomboy. I think that may be why shes facing us on the cover while the other two look down. All three harbor guilt about the past, but Lacy believes she can do no right and has always let her family down. After her father died, that guilt turned to anger. She has made it her personal mission to find his murderer, no matter the cost to her personal safety. Lacy can't forgive herself, so unlike her sisters she cannot move on from his death and even consider that it might be an accident. This also causes problems between her and the local deputy, who seems to always find fault with everything she does.

I loved this series. Unlike most books that start a story centered on one set of characters, finish their story and then move on to the next with the same setting and maybe a "walk on" by the characters from the old book, this one followed all of the main characters (with a few additions along the way) through all three books. You watch the Lacy's storyline progress from the first book until the very end. It doesn't just barely touch on her until the last book. I think it was a brilliant move by the author and really endeared you to the characters. I truly enjoyed learning more about the maturing love of Gwen & Beth in their marriages, and I thought Lacy's story was so much better for all the build-up getting to it. Her romance with her beau was out of this world intense. She also learned one of the most important lessons of all of them. For all her bluffing, she didn't love or forgive herself. She couldn't really love anyone else until she learned to do that.

In the middle of their personal struggles, there is plenty of action inherent to the setting. Cold Montana winters cause problems, a criminal element makes things not just unpleasant but dangerous for them, and then the railroad deciding where to come through will change their existence one way or the other. Lots of secondary characters make their own personal journeys and how everyone reacts to surprises is very human and realistic. These are not perfect caricatures of people. The people of Gallatin County lived and breathed thanks to Tracie Peterson.

I need to thank Lori at Some of My Favorite Things for Book Two, A Love to Last Forever. I won it on her blog. I bought the other two so I could have the whole series. If you haven't read these, I think they would make a great Christmas gift to yourself or another book lover.

What's the best series you've read lately?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Darkness to Light

In The Shadow of the Sun King and A Prisoner of Versailles are both written by Golden Keyes Parsons and occur during the period of time when it was dangerous to be a Protestant in France. The Edict of Nantes was supposed to protect them, but more and more the Dragoons are given free reign to destroy, pillage and kill. Children are rounded up and taken to good, Catholic schools to be educated in the proper faith.

The Clavell family is Huguenot and refuses to change their faith despite the growing danger. They believe their distance, lineage and ties to the court will continue to protect them until the dragoons show up at their estate, looking for their sons and burning their books. The royal court is beautiful and deadly. Madeleine Calvell knows this all too well. She grew up there, and had a special friendship with the king. Can that relationship save her family now or will her past with the king be their undoing?

It doesn't take much time on my blog to know I love this time period and these books were so delicious I devoured them. :o) lol The setting was magnificent, and none of the people were one dimensional. I almost expected the villain in this tale to be wholly black and cardboard because of the religious persecution going on ~ but people are just more complicated than that. The author obviously not only researched the history of the time period, but is a faithful student of human nature as well.

I bought both books at the same time and read them straight through. The romance and the adventure stories in this series are so wonderful that I suggest the same thing for other readers. I wouldn't want anyone biting fingernails while waiting for the next book to arrive. {wink} Or am I the only one who does that? lol

There is no cliffhanger at the end of the first book, just loose ends and a desire for more of the story and... well I won't give that part away. lol

These are a couple of the books I enjoyed in my feast. I apologize for my famine from posting new blogs. I've been trying to catch up on my writing, housework, and I haven't been sleeping well, which means I'm oversleeping/napping in the morning and have less time to do everything.

Let me ask you this ~ When you read a book, how much attention do you pay to who publishes it? Is it as important as the author/cover?