Saturday, October 29, 2011

While We're Far Apart

Summary: In an unassuming apartment building in Brooklyn, New York, three lives intersect as the reality of war invades each aspect of their lives. Young Esther is heartbroken when her father decides to enlist in the army shortly after the death of her mother. Penny Goodrich has been in love with Eddie Shaffer for as long as she can remember; now that Eddie's wife is dead, Penny feels she has been given a second chance and offers to care for his children in the hope that he will finally notice her and marry her after the war. And elderly Mr. Mendel, the landlord, waits for the war to end to hear what has happened to his son trapped in war-torn Hungary. But during the long, endless wait for victory overseas, life on the home front will go from bad to worse. Yet these characters will find themselves growing and changing in ways they never expected--and ultimately discovering truths about God's love...even when He is silent.

My Take : What I love about Lynn Austin is that she makes history come alive in her books. I haven't always been the biggest fan of books set in this era -- simply because there was so much devastation and heartbreak - so much evil that I have a hard time reading them. This book manages to deal with the issues from perspectives that most of the books I've read haven't before. It's deep, thoughtful, complex, and  - in many ways - beautiful.

My first love in books is characters and these are some of the richest and most complex you will meet. Unlike most books with two developed characters, this one has a depth that makes you think she wrote about real people instead of made created people feel real. 

Penny is the obvious first choice. She is like the center of a wheel. All the other characters connect through her in one way or another. I loved her transformation in the book. She learns so much about herself, her family, values ... what's the difference between real love and a crush. We see her grow into her own skin over the course of the book. 

Mr. Mendel has been through so much loss and is going through a crisis of faith. As he helps with the children and Penny, he has to evaluate what he does and does not believe in as he faces even more obstacles and set backs. 

Esther is Eddie's daughter and she starts off angry and resenting everything and everybody. All she wants is her dad and life back to normal. She lost her mom in a car accident and fear is controlling her. She obsessively clips newspaper pics of the war. She's also having to deal with all the things a normal girl her age does. She's interested in a boy but isn't comfortable in everything he wants her to do ...

Peter is so traumatized that he isn't speaking. He has to write down or make hand gestures to communicate with his sister or Penny. The boys at school tease and abuse him. He loves to listen to baseball games on the radio. Peter doesn't like the boy Penny is hanging around, even though he stops the other boys from picking on him.

Eddie's mom is a hoarder who hasn't left her home in years. She lives right next door to Penny's parents. They talk down to Penny and call her names. They also discourage her from being around strangers. They say she's special and needs to be extra careful. 

This book deals with everything from the importance of family, forgiveness, the issue of prejudice, coming of age, mourning ... It is a wonderfully rich book that deals with relationships of all kinds in a respectful way. I really enjoyed it. I think seeing into the lives of people living during this time makes history about more than facts, figures, and even the horrific images we've come to associate with this particular war.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesdays

What could be better than fall colors? 
Fall colors reflected on the surface of the water so you get double the beauty.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Musings - Fibromyalgia

Fibro Is Real!

When I switched blogs and renamed this one "Through the Fog" I didn't really explain it to anyone. Some of you have stuck by me for a long time and you know that I have fibromyalgia (fibro). Others may not even know what that is.

From the Fibromyalgia Network site "Fibromyalgia produces widespread pain, disturbed sleep, and exhaustion from head to toe. Although the muscles hurt everywhere, they are not the only cause of your discomfort. Instead, the diffuse, body-wide symptoms are greatly magnified by malfunctions in the way the nervous system processes pain." I have a graphic on the side of my blog with many of the symptoms. It's a really fun disorder. ;o)

One of the worst problems for a writer is that you get what is called fibro fog. Sometimes we can't recall things we've known for years (names, places, trivia for games). Sometimes it makes it hard to concentrate - almost like you've been drugged or drinking but you're totally sober. I hate losing my words. It's like my best friends are disappearing. It doesn't happen all the time -- and even some bad days are worse than others -- but that is the symptom that makes me feel the worst. My body has had problems before. Fibromyalgia wants to steal my mind.

So I named this blog Through the Fog because I plan to make it through. I plan to write through the fog, live through the fog, read through the fog ... I'm not going to let it steal my mind.

I have one manuscript almost finished. I started doing the research for another one and then I was goaded into looking into a book about fibromyalgia. I'm in the planning stages of that one now. The fibro may slow me down, and it certainly makes me feel horrible, but it won't stop me. If you know someone who has fibromyalgia or another autoimmune disorder or chronic disease, please give them your support and prayers. It's hard on them and their families.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Doctor's Lady

Priscilla White knows she'll never be a wife or mother and feels God's call to the mission field in India. Dr. Eli Ernest is back from Oregon Country only long enough to raise awareness of missions to the natives before heading out West once more. But then Priscilla and Eli both receive news from the mission board: No longer will they send unmarried men and women into the field.
Left scrambling for options, the two realize the other might be the answer to their needs. Priscilla and Eli agree to a partnership, a marriage in name only that will allow them to follow God's leading into the mission field. But as they journey west, this decision will be tested by the hardships of the trip and by the unexpected turnings of their hearts.

My Take:  In short -- Jody Hedlund is another new author for me and this book took my breath away.

The basic things were very well done. She did her research and I felt like I was traveling with Priscilla and Eli as they went through the trials of reaching their new mission field. The author's notes at the end were fascinating as well. I also think the pacing was very good -- none of it seemed to lag or move too quickly. Although faith plays a part in their individual lives and the plot of the story, it doesn't feel like a sermon disguised as a novel either. That's an easy mistake to make. It's feels organic and natural instead of heavy-handed or something that was added in as an afterthought.

Still, the real fireworks for me were the depth of the characters she created. Both of them evolve and grow as individuals - not just in their relationship to each other. Don't be dismayed though, that delicious romantic tension was providing enough sparks to light a campfire or two ...  ;o)

The writing was great, the story was compelling, the characters were fascinating ... This book is going on the list I use to pick my favorites of the year. I want to thank Bethany House for providing my copy in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Aristocrat's Lady

For a few moments on a moonlit balcony, Nicole Beaumont was just a beautiful woman catching the eye of the handsome Lord Devlin—but she knew the illusion couldn't last. If the enigmatic aristocrat knew her secret, he'd realize that her disability left her unfit for love. So who could blame her for hiding the truth a little longer?
Devlin had never met a woman like Nicole. Her unique combination of innocence and wisdom left him utterly intrigued. Yet what was she hiding? For a man who did not trust easily, discovering her secret was devastating. Overcoming their pasts and forging a future would take faith, forgiveness and trust. And second chances could lead to new beginnings…

My Take:

I won this book in a contest on Lena Nelson Dooley's blog A Christian Writer's World. I was really excited because I love historical fiction and regencies in particular. There aren't a lot of them out there from a Christian perspective. Mary Moore is not just a new author to me, but this is her debut effort, and it is wonderful.

You know how I love characters and these were awesome!

Devlin is much more complicated than his reputation in society would have Nicole believe. This kind of reminds me of the movie Batman Begins because Bruce plays up the idea of being a partying, irresponsible, playboy when he really is fighting for justice. Devlin isn't a vigilante, but he isn't a playboy Lord with no interest in the lower classes either.

Nicole is determined to not be a burden on anyone. She didn't want to make this trip, but since she's here, she's determined not to allow anyone to pity or mollycoddle her. She convinces her family to keep her secret so they can have a "normal" trip. She didn't think it would make a difference anyway ...

Both of them have been hurt by people in the past. So, as the summary says, trust is a serious issue for them. The tension comes from how their secrets and determination not to get involved may cost them their future. Unlike many romances, there seems to be a real chance this one won't work out - and one of the secrets was an unusual one I haven't seen used this way before.

The dialogue was great and there was good romantic tension throughout. Thank you again to Lena Nelson Dooley and Mary Moore for holding the contest. This one goes on the list I use to choose favorites of the year. :o)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Baker's Wife

What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger, so why is Audrey weakening day by day?
It's been a tough year for Audrey's family. Her husband Geoff, a pastor, lost his job after a scandal rocked their congregation.
Audrey hasn't lost faith. She's held her family together. Their attempt to resurrect a failing bakery is an effort to heal the family wounds and restore their place in the community.
Late to the bakery one dim, foggy morning, Audrey turns into the intersection in front of the shop and strikes a vehicle that she can't see even after the collision settles. Emerging from her car into the fog, she discovers she's hit a motor scooter. There's no rider in sight. There's blood, though, so much that she slips in it, injuring her wrists.
The absence of the scooter driver is a mystery, especially to Sergeant Jack Mansfield, the detective and church member who drove Geoff from his pulpit. The scooter belongs to Jack's wife, Julie, a teacher at the local high school. She has vanished like morning fog.
Though there is no evidence to support Jack's growing suspicion that Audrey and Geoff were involved in Julie's disappearance, the detective is convinced of their guilt. Jack's ability to reason slips as the leads on his wife dry up.
When Jack takes the tiny bakery and its patrons hostage, Audrey must find Julie and unravel the secret of her own mysterious suffering before Jack comes undone.

My Take: Complex doesn't even begin to describe this book. I think this would be great for a discussion group because there is endless material --- from the plot twists, all the characters and their relationships to each other and reactions to their situations, and the spiritual applications of all the above ... I think the book could provide quite a lot of fodder for intelligent debate and discussion.

For the most part the character populated her world with some interesting and even mysterious characters. Some of them seemed to fall into the predictable stereotypes and I wished she had given them something to pull away from those patterns. For example, Jack's character as the over zealous and legalistic religious leader and cop made him even more obnoxious and abusive. It was hard to feel anything for him as a person.

I think the pacing might have felt faster than it was at times because there is a somewhat larger than normal cast of characters that feel so central to what's going on. Audrey, Geoff and their son, plus Jack, Julie (and to a lesser extent - their daughter), then Diane - are central to what's going on. Then there are other characters that feature prominently as well. It wasn't too many - but it's more than the two or three that I'm used to.

I liked most of the differences that made this book unique. If you love intelligent suspense novels with a lot going on in them. this may be a good book for you as well. I'm thankful to Thomas Nelson for providing me a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
My teasers come from a book I just started so I'm not sure what I think about it yet. It's called The Restorer and it's by Sharon Hinck. It's an older book, but it had an unusual premise.

    "Bringing home souvenirs now, Tristan?" mocked a voice from a distance.

   "Shut up and help me," said someone close to my ear.

This is from page 27.


Love on the Line

In 1904 Texas Ranger Luke Palmer arrives in Brenham, Texas, with one goal—to capture the gang of outlaws led by Frank Comer. Undercover as a telephone repairman, he uses his days on the range to search, not realizing there's another pair of eyes watching him.
Georgie Gail, switchboard operator and birder, heads out on a birding expedition, but instead of sighting a painted bunting, her opera glasses capture her telephone man, armed and far away from telephone lines. Palmer is forced to take this alluring troublemaker into his confidence and unwittingly puts her in harm's way. The closer he comes to the gang, the further she works her way into his heart—and into trouble. Soon it's more than just love that's on the line.

My Take: This is one of my "go-to" authors for romance. As usual, the research was amazing and the romance was not the peck on the last page. Their relationship wasn't entirely predictable though - and her story and characters were somewhat off the beaten path as well. I loved the twists and turns.

Luke has to keep secrets. His character has been chasing one criminal for a long time and could easily have become another Captain Ahab chasing his very own Moby Dick. His backstory makes him so much more interesting. It's hilarious when Georgie makes fun of his "real" self to him. I could picture that scene vividly in my mind --- always a sign of a great book.

Georgie has high standards and ideals. She is a feminist, loves to read, and values education. She has an obsession with birds and fights to stop their parts from being used on hats. This causes division within the town and much of the action in the latter part of the book.

This was a great read and reinforced why I keep pre-ordering all her books. :o)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday Musings - Special Pets

Sometimes I just watch her a while when she's sleeping like this. For those of you who don't know, that is my eighteen year old Siamese cat. Of all my cats, she's the smallest, oldest, and she still is undeniably the queen of the house. She doesn't let any of the other animals push her around.

She's always had what I like to call ... quirks. Her eyes are the brilliant blue Siamese are known for but they quiver - or shake ever so slightly back and forth sometimes. I thought there might be something serious wrong with her, but it turned out to be somewhat disconcerting, but not a health threat. She also sheds so much that we wonder how she has any hair left on her body. I promise I have brushed her and had piles of hair left that would nearly make another cat. Our long-haired cat with a double coat doesn't shed like she does. Later in life we believe she became a NASCAR fan because she started walking in circles. She'll circle around us, the dogs ... a nice spot in the living room. She doesn't do them all the time, but she does seem to like it.

My mom bred Siamese cats and I love them - and cats in general (I'm an animal person - but cats hold a special place in my heart). They can have a reputation for being somewhat aloof -- preferring one person or just the family to strangers however. Not this lady. She's a total love bug. She craves attention from anyone who will give it to her and would prefer cuddling to just about anything else. We once had company over and he stepped on her by accident. We checked her over and set her down and she jumped up in his lap!

My pets all add so much to my life. This little lady has been with me the longest though - and I'm starting to worry about how much more time I'll have with her. Those beautiful eyes aren't seeing as well as they used to. We have to give her drops twice a day to help fix that. Too bad there isn't a medicine to keep them with us always.

Do you have any special pets you'd like to share about?