Saturday, February 23, 2013

Courting Morrow Little (my review)

I feel I must write a disclaimer before I begin this review of Courting Morrow Little, by the lovely and talented Laura Frantz.  I am very blessed to also call her "friend." First, it is my favorite book. Really. It is. Even after reading it a million and a half times over. This review will withhold no good thing because of that. Secondly, Laura wrote a book about topics so dear to my heart that my review may at times feel like a memoir for myself (please pardon that). And, lastly, my emotions may get the best of me- the review may not be quite as complete as I wish, but this is my whole-hearted attempt to explain the depth of this novel and why I cherish Morrow's story.

When I was about five, I do believe I donned my first bonnet and pair of pantaloons. What followed was a million hours more of imagination through reading, watching Little House, and pretending with my best friend in a handmade tepee in my grandmother's backyard. I never let go of the passion in my heart. In fact, it grew, almost to where it would burst. The mystery of past eras, particularly one where the wilderness of Ohio and Kentucky remained and the native peoples still lived freely, captivated my interest constantly. I'd read, I'd write, I'd dream, and so forth. Follow the River was a favorite book in high school. Could you imagine the heartache of the pioneers as well as the American Indians as change pursued and drowned out a unique way of life? I tried to imagine, as my emotions could not let go of such thoughts.

As I got older, particularly my college years, I was able to wrestle those dreams and pursue a degree which allowed my dreams to still carry along and be revisited. I signed up all the anthropology courses I could, especially Native American classes- even American Indian Law! I continued to read those awe-inspiring works of historical fiction. My dad and I kept up our traditions of hikes in forests of the same, hundreds of years ago, as well as a fascinating, annual festival commemorating the 18th century.

I must confess, even at aged 22, when I married my husband, I often wished I had been born in a different time. Fast forward past the birth of three children and into my homeschooling years. This was the time when one's identity can be left in the dust. And, for a time, it had. Depression struck for years. But I kept on reading, reading, reading. Perhaps writing a bit. Trying to keep my own dreams balanced along with those of the precious little ones God entrusted to me now. As God timed it, I read Laura's second novel as I just did not know how to handle the dreams and hopes of my own heart, when I almost had nothing in me left to give to myself. I clearly recall, reading Morrow's story, on the Kindle app, first, and wanting to never, ever let it go from my fingers. I'd gained such STORY that I did not want to relinquish. I read it again that night. And again a few days later.

It's taking me...two years? Two years to figure out how to truly describe why this particular Frantz novel is one I'll forever treasure. Morrow Little- she is a woman who, almost embarrassingly I admit this, I would have loved to have been. She's a woman filled with hopes and dreams that I, as a woman in this modern "now," have experienced or desired to experience. Her story, in bits and in more detail, matched up with my own thoughts. For awhile, as a mother to three growing children, I thought that perhaps my dreams weren't as valuable, even tangible. After the first read of Courting Morrow Little, I realized then how it reflected much of my own intimate meanderings, and feathered into the nooks and crannies of my own hopes. Laura's carefully penned words burst open a door for me, unexpectedly, sweetly, and oh so faithfully.

God's tender nudging came through this book- to understand that He Himself put those creative notions in my brain, no matter how frustrating they can be at times, and IT WAS OKAY. I don't think we can understand all that has helped us through the years, but as my soul yearns for the past, it has given me peace and hope as well. And all those many hours I contemplated a life like Morrow's? Those dreams weren't wasted. It's part of who I am. It's part of what He created in me- and it will be used someday. Perhaps to encourage my own children in what they're passionate for. Perhaps to give them the courage to stand up for what they believe in. Perhaps to pursue their faith endlessly and madly in love with their Creator.

If I could break it down even further, it's the minute details: one friend being faithful, the variance of her twins, Red Shirt's gift of fabric, her wearing of that dress for her wedding, and her father's faithfulness to their God. It's the full circle Morrow comes to where, in the end, a part of her early life stands before her. It's the passion Morrow grows into even more into the journey God set before her- leaving all she'd known for the man she loves. I do not suppose I could read Morrow's story by anyone other than Laura herself. She's a perfecter of her craft. This story was HERS to tell. Just as God is softly calling me to mine, and you to yours.

Thank you, Laura, for the hours upon hours I know you spent making this book all that it is. Thank you for being faithful to your calling. God bless.

Friday, February 22, 2013

When the Heart Heals, a review

Courageous and unconventional, Rosemary Saxon served as a nurse during the Civil War, a service that has caused most women in town to regard her as unfeminine and downright vulgar. Although she would like to put her experiences as a nurse behind her, she must support herself. She takes a position with Dr. Elijah Stewart and a mutual attraction begins to develop. But when a sophisticated woman arrives in town claiming to be Elijah's fiancee, a heartbroken Rosemary decides to leave Noble Springs and start fresh. Can Elijah convince her of the mystery woman's deception before he loses her forever?
With tenderness and grace, Ann Shorey invites readers back to the town of Noble Springs, Missouri, for an engrossing story of love's tentative first steps and fragile future in the face of opposition. Readers will find in Rosemary a sympathetic but strong woman determined to thrive in a world that doesn't always understand.

A setting of post Civil War sets us up for a sweet story between the strong yet lovely Rosemary and the doctor she begins to work for, Elijah. I love how unique and intelligent Rosemary is- a definite match for her employer....perhaps! Of course, a twist or two comes about, changing the plans for Rosemary and Elijah, adding a bit of discomfort and the unknown. Prayers, thoughts, and verses rest on trust and forgiveness to infuse the storyline with the grace of God. A truly tender hearted story with excitement and gentle nudging toward The Lord!

Thank you to Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, for the complimentary review copy.

Picture Perfect, a review

Feisty wedding photographer Hannah McDermott has dealt with her share of difficult brides. But none can compare to the ultimate Bridezilla she's dealing with now. Still, she's trying desperately to impress Bella Neeley, Galveston Island's most sought-after wedding planner, so she can take the top spot in Bella's list of recommended photographers--a spot currently occupied by her arch-rival, Drew Kincaid. What she doesn't count on, however, is falling head over heels for the competition.
With her contagious humor and cast of quirky characters, Janice Thompson gives readers more of the bridal business drama they want in a brand-new series all about those long-suffering people who make beautiful weddings happen. Readers are desperately waiting for more of Bella and this new series brings her back in a big way, while introducing new characters fans will love. Fans will laugh out loud as they experience this breezy and entertaining novel from a great storyteller.

Again, I've gone beyond my usual realm of historical fiction with a story by Janice Thompson and found myself immersed in Hannah's story. This particular book was charming- I loved the premise. As a photographer myself, and one who does not wish to go completely professional, I just kept holding my breath seeing the business side of the story unravel, wanting the best for Hannah and hating to see how her dreams could perhaps be dashed. Her character was one I could relate too, with having similar thoughts as I pick up the camera and try to shoot those unique moments of people's lives.

I adored the Irish flavor of the book, and the endearing remembrance of Hannah's grandfather. I got a kick out of her father and his, um, storytelling, and one of the last scenes of the book- which I cannot elaborate about but it made me chuckle. It was sweet to see the love between Hannah's parents, too, and the development of her mother more into herself.

The romance between Drew and Hannah was written in perfectly- they are now one of my favorite couples in fiction. Unexpected but desired. Rivals but eventually friends....loved that part! This is a novel I'm definitely's an uplifting read for your heart and faith!

Thank you to Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, for the complimentary review copy.

The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow

Charlotte Farrow, maid in the wealthy Banning household on Chicago's opulent Prairie Avenue, has kept her baby boy a secret from her employers for nearly a year. But when the woman who has been caring for her son abruptly returns him, Charlotte must decide whether to come clean and face dismissal or keep her secret while the Bannings decide the child's fate. Can she face the truth of her own past and open her heart to a future of her own? Or will life's tragedies determine the future for her?
This compelling story set against the glittering backdrop of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition captures the tension between the wealthy class and the hardworking servants who made their lives comfortable. Author Olivia Newport expertly portays social classes while creating a story of courage, strength, and tender romance.

Oh, what a heart-wrenching I could not imagine I'd ever overcome. That is what you're thrown into as you read the second book in the Avenue of Dreams series by Olivia Newport. She's a brilliant writer, so engaging with setting, dialogue, and characters. Archie provided an interesting  respite for Charlotte. I had a love-hate relationship with Sarah....she was necessary but at times, like Charlotte did in the book, I did not want to speak to her for days. Lol. My heart tugged at the bittersweet moments, such as when Henry called Charlotte "mama" and Emmaline assumed it was for her. I truly could not imagine! Throughout the latter half of the book, this seemed more unstable then ever. In chapter 33, when Flora Banning began to talk to Charlotte about Henry, I held my breath, wanting her to spill her secret. I won't say anymore, but there are twists to enjoy in this lovely story of God's faithfulness!

Thank you to Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, for the complimentary review copy.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

You never know about this little guy...

Somedays he's Batman.

Or a super hero.

Then he throws in Darth Vader (yes...for some reason, he likes this Star Wars character. Should I be worried? LOL!)



Will David is my sweetling.

Full of cuddles, and smiles, and willing to give you as many hugs as you request.

And this mama asks for MANY.

He always gives.

I pray I can be as wonderful as he someday.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

All around us

There is nothing like it. Snow. Freshly fallen. Ever covering. Bringing that cold chill.

We have a lot of it these days....and it looks like it won't be stopping anytime soon! I'm already dreaming of spring and sitting on our steps watching buds and blossoms and children. Oh...I most certainly would rather post that sort of photo than this!

However, God has reasons for the snow. Maybe for us to continue our hunkering down and cozy evening habits, family filled moments indoors. This family of mine...we do love books and games and movies- perfect bonding time.

I'll try to turn my longings for clearer and warmer weather into sweet sighs of peace. Waiting. Hoping for good tidings for others. Praying for health of family and friends. Still waiting. Just being where He wants me to be...

Monday, February 4, 2013

Love in the Balance, a review

Handsome Cowboy or Debonair Tycoon.
How's a Girl to Choose?

Molly Lovelace dreams of a life without cares in Lockhart, Texas. She also dreams of handsome wrangler Bailey Garner, her ardent but inconsistent beau. The problem is, with Bailey's poor prospects, she just can't fit the two dreams together.

Then mysterious stranger Edward Pierrepont sweeps into town--and her life--and for the first time Molly wonders if she's met the man who can give her everything. But he won't be in Lockhart long and while it certainly seems like he talks about their glorious future together, she can't quite get Bailey out of her mind.

What's a girl to do with all these decisions when love is in the balance?

Regina Jennings has spun a tale of almost-star-crossed boy and girl. I so enjoyed Sixty Acres and A Bride and this new novel by Jennings is worthy of many reads as well. Molly and Bailey have many twists in their journey to a life together. It seemed to me almost a sorrowful tale in that that they semi-publicly declared their wrongs in their relationship. I admit I was a bit saddened at that and the stigma attached to them seemed so unnecessary. If only that had been dealt with more privately and less, well, shameful. I see where the storyline progressed with it and how in the end, Bailey's confession finally was presented. Love in the Balance has a well-guarded redemption storyline with whispers of forgiveness feathered into it. I'm glad Jennings told their tale- we all have had choices and various awkward and tempting turns on our path but the Lord prevails.

Thank you to NetGalley for the review copy in return for my honest review.