Sunday, November 23, 2008

Playing Catch up...

Sometimes you can have the best of intentions and everything still goes wrong. Unless listening to Andrew Peterson counts as quality time with God, I've got nothing much to show for October and November. That isn't quite true. I've listened to a handful of sermons from Bethlehem Bible Church. And I've gone to my own church each Sunday. But time spent in prayer and Bible reading... not so much... not at all. It's easy to be discouraged. It's easy to beat myself up over it too. But that won't solve anything, will it? 

I've been thinking about this. How my first assumption, my first reaction is to just shrug everything off. To say that I should just wait for January. That on January 1rst I will suddenly wake up with discipline and patience and maturity. But twenty-something years of January 2nds tell me otherwise. There isn't one perfect day that I need to wait for to make a new life, a new start. Every day should be a day in its own right. I may mess up a lot. I may lack discipline. But putting everything onto another day, another week, another month, won't help me...or the long run. It is always easy to have excuses. 

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Book Review: Until We Reach Home

Austin, Lynn. 2008. Until We Reach Home. Bethany House.

Elin Carlson walked into the barn and everything changed.

Elin is the oldest of three sisters. Her younger sisters, Kirsten and Sofia, don't always appreciate their older sister looking out for them; her bossing them around. But since the death of their mother and father, Elin has taken this burden or responsibility upon her young shoulders. True, Uncle Sven and Aunt Karin came to "help" the Carlson family run the farm. But as Elin sees it, the two--especially Uncle Sven--have been far from helpful. In fact, she blames them for her brother, Nils, deciding to move away to Stockholm. Life on the family farm and in this small Swedish village is far from Elin.

Elin's dreams include finding a way to bring herself and her sisters to Chicago. And Uncle Lars and his wife seem to be providing the way for Elin's dreams to become a reality. But this journey--both physically, spiritually, and emotionally--will be troubling for all three girls in three very different ways.

Set in Sweden and the United States near the turn of the twentieth century, this family story has it all--love, loss, heartache, joy, sorrow, fear, hope, peace, and turmoil. The novel illustrates patience, perseverance, grace, compassion, and above all else hope and faith in the midst of uncertainty.

Lynn Austin is one of my favorite Christian authors. I tend to love, love, love her books. Until We Reach Home is no exception. I'd definitely recommend this one to fans of historical fiction or historical romance.

Online Reading Group Guide

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Book Review: A Bride Most Begrudging

A Bride Most Begrudging by DeeAnne Gist, 2005

Lady Constance Morrow is a woman who is kidnapped and taken to the American colonies as a "tobacco bride" along with a shipful of convicts that will become indentured servants. Purchased by Drew O'Connor, Constance's story is not at first believed. That she is a daughter of an Earl. That she was kidnapped. That she is a proper lady from a very wealthy family. But slowly and surely, Drew realizes that this English miss is indeed telling the truth. For one thing, she can't cook and she doesn't know how to clean. Another thing, she not only knows how to read and write...arithmetic is her favorite subject. (Granted a real English miss wouldn't be educated in math or other "unladylike" and "unnecessary" subjects.) When she was purchased, she was told that marriage was not a part of the bargain. He was interested only in someone watching out for his three year old sister and having someone cook and clean. Since Drew purchased Mary, another woman on the ship, as well. Lady Constance is spared some of those hardships. But soon after her arrival, the colonists or the council or some body of men meet and decide that Drew must either marry one of the women he has bought and brought into his household OR be banished from the Virginian colonies forever--after having one of his arms broken first. Not a hard choice to make really, marriage it is! But this marriage of convenience is slowly revealed to be just what both need. Can this husband and wife learn to love each other and learn to work together to survive the harsh realities of life? Or will stubborness and prejudice get in the way of true love and happily ever after?

I really loved this book!!!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Book Review: Deep In the Heart of Trouble

Gist, DeeAnne. 2008. Deep in the Heart of Trouble.

Set in Texas in the 1890s, Deep in the Heart of Trouble is the sequel to Courting Trouble (2007). In the first novel, we meet Essie Spreckelmeyer. We learn that she is known round town for three things: wearing crazy, elaborate hats, riding her bicycle and unseemly showing her ankles, and being an old maid or spinster. At the end of the first novel after having been bitterly disappointed by love, Essie comes to accept with grace and dignity her singleness. The second novel begins several years later--three or four years later, if memory serves. Essie is still as much trouble as she ever was. Playful and spunky and sassy and vibrant. Very take-charge.

I really can't describe how wonderfully delightful and enjoyable this novel is. It's just a joy to read. Essie is just a fun heroine. Our hero, Tony Bryant Morgan, is enjoyable as well. He's the disinherited son of a successful oil man. His older brother, his half-brother, inherited it all. His mother and younger sister, were well provided for as long as they abided by the rules set in place by the stepson/half brother. So Tony decides to make his way from Beaumont to Corsicana. Decides to start in on the oil business from the ground up. To get his hands dirty if you will. If Sullivan Oil will have him that is. Tony definitely NEVER thought he'd be working for a woman. Yet Essie is in charge of the fields. He'll have to find some way to deal with her, to get along with her, or else his career may be over before it gets a chance to start. If only she wasn't so attractive...even if she is wearing bloomers while she rides...

I loved this book. Loved the little details. Loved all the characters. Especially especially Mrs. Lockhart, a widow woman who takes a liking to Tony and wants to *help* him win the girl.

Light mystery and definite romance.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, November 3, 2008

Book Review: The Measure of a Lady

The Measure of A Lady by DeeAnne Gist, 2006.

I loved A Bride Most Begrudging. But let me tell you right now, I loved, loved, loved The Measure of a Lady. From its first sentence: This street is Impassible, Not Even Jackassable. (Which for those who are wondering is Rachel van Buren's first introduction to her new home, San Francisco. She's reading a sign on the muddy street.) Rachel and her brother and sister are in quite a mess. Their father died on the way to California. Now they are orphans. As the oldest, Rachel must find some way to survive in this gold-mining community. But can a woman "survive" and still be considered a lady at the end of the day. The first challenge she must face is a hard one: finding a place to stay. When hotels offer neither privacy or decency, what is a lady to do? (Especially since some "hotels" are brothels in disguise.) Luckily a 'hotel' owner--whose place is really more of a saloon/gambling hall--offers her the use of his shack--the shack rated to be "the best" in town. Not quite the accommodations she was hoping for but still...there is some potential there underneath the surface. Johnnie Parker and Rachel van Buren may not have gotten the best introduction, but soon the two become friends. Life in California sure is full of challenges, but Rachel soon comes to love it...for better or worse. If only she could find a way to protect her siblings....

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Book Review: Courting Trouble

Courting Trouble by DeeAnne Gist, 2007.

Esther Spreckelmeyer is known round town for three things: wearing crazy, elaborate hats, riding her bicycle and unseemly showing her ankles, and being an old maid or spinster. Essie, as her friends call her, is hoping to change all that. At least the old maid part. You see, Essie is thirty years old. She's giving up on God ever bringing the groom to her...and has decided that if she wants to walk down the aisle, she'll have to go out searching for a groom herself. When Plan A fails--preparing a delectable picnic basket for the box social auction--then it's on to Plan B. She gets out a pen and some paper. She lists every possible eligible man in town. She lists their points of merits and drawbacks. Still unable to decide, she decides to go with a more random selection process. Closing her eyes, she twirls her finger and points.

The first candidate? Mr. Crook. Mr. Hamilton Crook. A widower with a young baby girl, Mae. He runs one of the stores in town. So with her future groom all selected, she does what she must. She makes sure Mr. Crook notices her. She volunteers to be his help-mate at the store. Her help is unwanted, at least at first, but weeks later...Hamilton is beginning to appreciate her strengths and forgive her weakness. He still thinks her odd. He still thinks her hats are ugly. He still thinks she's bossy. But he can't deny what's right in front of his eyes: his store IS transformed. He is getting more business. And she is one great salesman. Incredible really. She could sell almost anything. But just when he is on the verge of speaking to her father, the unexpected happens...he's waiting to meet with her father, the town's judge, when he chances to see a slip of paper in a book. What he sees changes everything.

Essie is mortified to discover that Hamilton knows her secret. That he's seen the piece of paper listing his merits and drawbacks. Mortified. How can she ever face him again? But she needn't worry too much. Hamilton makes a hasty disappearance a day later only to return with a new wife.

But Hamilton isn't the only bachelor in town. And taking Hamilton's parting words to heart--that a man likes to do the chasing--she begins to look elsewhere. The big problem Essie faces is that her impulsive, trusting, naive heart sees what it wants to see. There is danger and temptation lurking around the corner...and if she isn't careful...she could get hurt.

This novel spans a year, a year where Essie learns some important life lessons...the most important being that trusting God to provide what you need may just be best after all.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Book Review: Courting Emma

MacLaren, Sharlene. 2008. Courting Emma.

Courting Emma is the third book in the Little Hickman Creek series. (The first two are Loving Liza Jane and Sarah, My Beloved.) Each book in the series features a new heroine. Liza Jane was a school teacher. Sarah was a mail order bride. And Emma--featured in both Loving Liza Jane and Sarah, My Beloved--runs the town's boarding house. She's known for being a bit grumpy, a bit moody. But my mom and I both agreed while reading the other two that Emma needed a book of her own. She was screaming to be the heroine of her own book. So we were both ecstatic to see that Courting Emma was on the way!

If Emma has issues, she has just cause certainly. Her father--who raised her alone after her mother's death--was an alcoholic. Is an alcoholic. Known prominently as the town drunk. Emma worked hard to separate herself from her father, from her upbringing. Worked hard to make herself respectable. When our story opens, we see this immediately. It's the fourth of July and once again her father is being a drunk and causing a scene in front of everyone. Emma has to "fetch" him away and try to save face. It is embarrassing to hear everyone talk, everyone whisper about what a hopeless disgrace her father is.

The knight in shining armor? Jonathan Atkins. (Another character that deserved his own book.) A man who grew up in this community, gone away to school, and returned as preacher. He wishes that he could help Emma out. He wishes that Emma would open her heart to him and to the gospel.

Courting Emma is a story of grace, of forgiveness, of broken hearts healing. It is a novel all about second chances. A novel that proves it's never too late.

I highly recommend this series. All three books are enjoyable. I loved them all.

Book Review: Sarah, My Beloved

Sarah, My Beloved by Sharlene MacLaren, 2007 (October).

Sarah, My Beloved is the second book in the Little Hickman Creek Series by Sharlene MacLaren. Sarah, first introduced in Loving Liza Jane as the mail order bride who arrived a bit too late to win her prospective husband's heart, is living in the town's boarding house. Sarah feels convinced that God has brought her to Little Hickman. And that He has great plans for her there. Enter Rocky Callahan. (He was also introduced in Loving Liza Jane as the grieving man whose bitterness has turned him away from God.) Rocky is the new caretaker of his niece, Rachel, and nephew, Seth. When Sarah sees these three 'lost' souls that need lovingkindness, she opens her heart to a family in crisis. And when Rocky blurts out a proposal of marriage, Sarah, after some consideration, agrees. She is eager to show these children some love and tenderness. And she hopes to melt Rocky's bitterness away as well. But this marriage "in name only" soon becomes a place where love blooms and blossoms. But this path to true love won't be easy for either of them.

I enjoyed Loving Liza Jane. But I really enjoyed Sarah, My Beloved. I am looking forward to the third book in the series, Courting Emma, which will be released in Spring 2008.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Loving Liza

Loving Liza Jane by Sharlene MacLaren, 2007.

Loving Liza Jane is an enjoyable historical fiction novel set in Kentucky in 1895. Liza Jane is a newly-licensed school teacher who comes to Kentucky because she feels led by God to start a new adventure in life. So she says goodbye to her aunt and uncle and goes to face her future. There are many things she has to adjust to...but within a matter of days...Liza Jane has fallen in love with the place...and the people of Little Hickman Creek. Now it probably won't come as a shock to anyone that Liza Jane will meet some interesting suitors who try to win her heart. And it probably won't surprise anyone that she falls for a widower with two kids--one of whom is her favorite student in the class. But despite the fact that the book has predictable moments, it never ceases to be enjoyable. In fact, as a reader I enjoy predictable books a good bit of the time. You know what you're getting. Loving Liza Jane is a mix of Christy by Catherine Marshall and the Elizabeth series by Janette Oke.

This is the first novel in a new series--Little Hickman Creek Series. I think they will all be quite good. Why? Because the characters are so enjoyable. There really is a community cast. I'm halfway through the second in the series, Sarah my Beloved, and I'm already wishing I had a third.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible