How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Country of the Pointed Firs

Hello, Blog! You are not forgotten! I have a number of excuses I could display for my neglect – writing, editing, reading, travel, wrist pain, general busyness; in short, life – but I only mention them to show you that I do have legitimate excuses and I haven’t ignored you just because I’m tired of you.

Ahem. Now that I have my excuses out of the way, on to the substance of my post. I’ve wanted to write about the literature I’ve been reading during the past few months. You’ve no doubt noticed that I’ve been posting book reviews on recently published books, but I’ve also been reading older works. 
Goodreads

One of my favorites is The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Short Fiction by Sarah Orne Jewett. Have you heard of Sarah Orne Jewett? She was an American who wrote short stories and essays in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She’s well known as one of the best authors of “local color” writing, a popular genre during those decades in America. Local color works describe the way of life in distinctive rural regions where few readers have visited. She mentored Willa Cather and encouraged her to write her poignant fiction about the Midwest (such as My Antonia and O! Pioneers).

Jewett grew up in southern Maine, an area of beautiful scenery, quaint customs, and quirky people. As she developed her writing craft, she realized she could write popular short stories about that locale. I read the fifteen that were included in this book, my favorite being the longest, The Country of the Pointed Firs.

I file these stories under my “cozy” reads. They remind me of Cranford (by Elizabeth Gaskell) with their peaceful pace, their focus on characters and their stories, and their lingering descriptions of comfy homes and lovely landscapes. But they are uniquely American as they portray the difficult life that these farmers and seafarers cut from the wilderness of land and sea.

The Country of the Pointed Firs plus four short stories tell about Dunnet Landing, a fictional town on the Maine seacoast, as viewed from an outsider narrator who grows to love the place and its folk. This lady is never named; she’s a professional writer who travels there for the summer to work but finds herself hard-pressed to do so when she’s tempted by sunny weather, meadow picnics, island excursions, boat rides, and, above all, fascinating company.

She becomes intimate friends with Mrs. Almira Todd, that lady’s brother, William Blackett, and their mother, Mrs. Blackett. All three are kind, genuine people, well past middle age and full of earthy wisdom. Here’s a taste:


“[Mrs. Blackett] was a delightful little person herself, with bright eyes and an affectionate air of expectation like a child on a holiday. You felt as if Mrs. Blackett were an old and dear friend before you let go her cordial hand.”


Her children are opposites of each other: Mrs. Todd is a talkative herbalist, and William is a silent fisherman. The Blacketts live on a small island (which I really wish I could visit) that reminds me of the bits of Maine that I was blessed to see last year.

Photo Taken by Me

“A long time before we landed at Green Island we could see the small white house, standing high like a beacon, where Mrs. Todd was born and where her mother lived, on a green slope above the water, with dark spruce woods still higher . . . . The house was just before us now, on a green level that looked as if a huge hand had scooped it out of the long green field we had been ascending. A little way above, the dark spruce woods began to climb the top of the hill and cover the seaward slopes of the island. There was just room for the small farm and the forest; we looked down at the fish-house and its rough sheds, and the weirs stretching far out into the water. As we looked upward, the tops of the firs came sharp against the blue sky. There was a great stretch of rough pasture-land round the shoulder of the island to the eastward, and here were all the thick-scattered gray rocks that kept their places, and the gray backs of many sheep that forever wandered and fed on the thin sweet pasturage that fringed the ledges and made soft hollows and strips of green turf like growing velvet. I could see the rich green of bayberry bushes here and there, where the rocks made room. The air was very sweet; one could not help wishing to be a citizen of such a complete and tiny continent and home of fisherfolk.

“The house was broad and clean, with a roof that looked heavy on its low walls. It was one of the houses that seem firm-rooted in the ground, as if they were two-thirds below the surface, like icebergs. The front door stood hospitably open in expectation of company, and an orderly vine grew at each side; but our path led to the kitchen door at the house-end, and there grew a mass of gay flowers and greenery, as if they had been swept together by some diligent garden broom into a tangled heap . . .”



Photo Taken by Me
Sounds like an idyllic escape, doesn’t it? If you’re looking for a short, summery, warm-hearted read this winter that ferries you into the good old days, I highly recommend The Country of the Pointed Firs. If you’re enthralled as I was, check out Jewett’s other short stories, too!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

There Was Always Laughter Blog Tour


Today I'm very happy to be taking part in the blog tour of a homeschooling memoir by one of my favorite authors, Sarah Holman. Make you sure you read all the way to the end to find my review and the exclusive eBook giveaway!


 About the Book:


What do you get when you mix two parents who grew up in the city, six kids who have always lived in the country, and add homeschooling? You get a whole lot of laughter!
Homeschool graduate and author Sarah Holman shares stories about her family that range from thought-provoking to side-splitting. She shares both hilarious mistakes and heartbreaking moments in her family. In this collection of stories, she endeavors to capture some of the answers to the questions people have often asked her about growing up in a conservative homeschool family as well as some of the wisdom she has gleaned along the way. Sarah invites you to open up this scrapbook of memories. She hopes that you come away encouraged, inspired…and laughing.

This book officially launches on November 24, so pre-order your eBook copy today for only $2.99!



About the Author:
Sarah Holman is a not so typical mid-twenties girl: A homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings. If there is anything adventuresome about her life, it is because she serves a God with a destiny bigger than anything she could have imagined. You can find out more about her at her website www.thedestinyofone.com.


My Review:

I always feel a special delight in reading real homeschool stories. I enjoy finding the similarities in my growing-up years, and it’s certainly fun to read about something you can relate to. So I was eager for Sarah Holman’s memoir, particularly since I know her wonderful family in person.

This book was lovely! From the very beginning, some of the chapter titles had me chuckling: “It Was All Michael’s Fault”; “And That’s Why You Don’t Let Sarah in Sunday School”; “The Rubber Duck War.” Although I’ve met all the Holmans, many of these stories were new to me, so it was great to become better acquainted. They have so much godly wisdom, good advice, and authentic love, it’s inspiring. But that’s not to say that the members of this family aren’t down-to-earth with fully human personalities, quirks, and struggles like the rest of us. That’s what makes this book such a delightful read.

As Sarah says in the beginning, it’s not a book that will have you laughing on every page, but there are plenty of moments that will make you smile or chuckle, not to mention leave you feeling thoughtful, sober, or encouraged. I really like how each sibling has a chapter just about them. My favorite story was probably the one about when the Holmans became an unsuspecting Texas attraction in Washington, DC. You can’t make that stuff up!

In addition to the lighthearted or serious family stories, I appreciated how Sarah explains her convictions with grace and clarity. It really feels like you’re sitting down with her and talking about life. That’s what I value most about this book: it reaches out to conservative Christian families and lets us know we’re not alone.
Giveaway:

November 16
Reachel – What stories are you going to include, Sarah?
J. Grace Pennington – An interview
Esther Filbrun – A review
Tarissa Graves – A review
November 17
Leona Ruth – A review
Chloe – A review
November 18
Kaylee – A review
Alexa - A Thanksgiving Story
November 19
Liv K. Fisher – Short Girl Jokes
Kelsey Bryant – A review

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Christmas Comes Early Blog Tour



Christmas tour 


Today, we're celebrating the release of not one, not four, but eight new Christmas books! All written by Rebekah A. Morris. I'll be spotlighting one of her books/short stories today and you can find out more about the others as you follow the tour.

About the Book

 

Christmas Smiles

This was Lana’s second Christmas without her parents, who had died in an accident, and she was sure it would bering nothing but tears, because she and her aunt couldn’t seem to get along. When a frightening experience occurs, Lana, her cousin, and her aunt and uncle find unexpected cause for smiles.

About the Author

Rebekah A. Morris is a homeschool graduate, an enthusiastic freelance author and a passionate writing teacher. Her books include, among others, Home Fires of the Great War, The Unexpected Request, Gift from the Storm, and her bestselling Triple Creek Ranch series. Some of her favorite pastimes, when she isn't’ writing, include reading and coming up with dramatic and original things to do. The Show-Me state is where she calls home. 

Excerpt and My Review 

Life was certainly a mess. It wasn’t anything like she had read in storybooks. ~ Christmas Smiles


Christmas Smiles” is a heartwarming modern-day tale of family and belonging. All the characters are realistic, but I thought Laina, the main character, to be especially well done. I just wanted to hug and comfort this twelve-year-old girl who’s dealing with the loss of her parents, feeling unwanted and unloved in the home of her uncle. All is not as it seems, however, as a little mystery develops around an unexpected scare—which, of course, increased my reasons for reading this story almost in one sitting. When all I wanted was for the family to be happy together, a twist made it end even better than I was hoping.

This atmospheric short story set on a snowy farm at Christmastime will inspire you to cherish the family around you.



Tour Schedule


November 13
Bookish Orchestrations – Introductory Post
Read Another Page – Book Spotlight from the author
Kaylee's Kind of Writes – Book Spotlight
Resting Life – Review and Excerpt
Perry Elisabeth – Excerpt
Rachel Rossano's Words – Book Spotlight and Excerpt

November 14
Read Another Page – Book Spotlight from the author
Odelia's Blog – Author Interview and Book spotlight
Bryce’s Creative Writing Corner – Author Interview, Review, and Excerpt
Counting Your Blessings One by One – Review and Excerpt
Perpetual Indie Perspective – Book Spotlight

November 15
Read Another Page – Book Spotlight from the author
Whimsical Writings for His Glory – Author, Review, and Excerpt
Maidens for Modesty – Author Interview and Review
The Destiny of One – Book Spotlight
Rebekah Ashleigh – Book Spotlight
Stephany's BLOG Snippets – Book Spotlight and Excerpt

November 16
Read Another Page – Book Spotlight from the author
Laurel's Leaves – Author Interview
Stories by Firefly – Review
Claire Banschbach – Author Interview
Kelsey's Notebook – Review and Excerpt
Jaye L. Knight – Book Spotlight and Excerpt

November 17
Read Another Page – Book Spotlight from the author
Ruffles and Grace – Book Spotlight
With a Joyful Noise – Book Spotlight
Bookish Orchestrations – Closing Post

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Book Review: The Coronation

If last week was the Vintage Jane Austen Blog Tour week, I should call this one Book Review week. I’ll be featuring and reviewing three published works by indie authors. On Thursday, I’ll be featuring Rebekah A. Morris, and on Sunday, Sarah Holman, but today belongs to The Coronation by Livy Jarmusch. I participated in Livy’s blog tour in July, but didn’t finish and review the book until this month. (To my chagrin!)

 
 Find on Amazon and Goodreads.

Prince Addison is only several weeks away from inheriting the Kingdom of Tarsurella. The entire Palace is ablaze with excitement, as the Royal Family prepares for the event of a lifetime. Despite the exciting event which is near at hand, Addison and his younger siblings (all seven of them!) must carry on with their daily activities.

Addison’s sisters, Princesses Bridget, Chasity, and Hope, have their struggles with being iconic European starlets of a modern day monarchy. The teen heiresses grace magazine covers, smile for photoshoots, and gracefully glide through important interviews–until a certain American popstar arrives on the scene. Kennetic Energy, the wildly popular band from the United States, is chosen to play at Addison’s Coronation. David Carter, the band’s handsome lead singer, fumbles through awkward moments with Princess Hope–in front of the cameras. When an embarrassing rumor sparks that Princess Hope is dating the young fellow, she is determined to get the band fired from their Royal gig.

Meanwhile, Princess Chasity is dealing with her own fragile affairs of the heart. Her new security guard, Hanson Fletcher, is completely captivating, yet entirely frustrating. She attempts to keep the entrance of her heart firmly protected, while following the wisdom of Proverbs 4:23. But can she be successful in guarding her heart, from her security guard?


On to the review:

I really enjoyed The Coronation. It took me a while to read, but that’s because it was on my laptop—I would have zipped through it in print. Despite its length, it reads quickly. Although it isn’t my normal kind of book, I think it has real value for teenage girls who are learning how to give their hearts completely to God and who are struggling with crushes and relationships. The three teenage princesses, Bridget, Chasity, and Hope, each have different affairs of the heart they must face, and I was pleased with how they ended up handling them. This wasn’t the only spiritual issue the characters faced, but guarding your heart is a major theme.

The Characters:
The Coronation has a big cast of characters, which is difficult for any writer to handle. Though some of them could have been better defined or developed, the fact that I hardly got any of them mixed up says a lot for how well Miss Jarmusch crafted them. They almost all felt like real people. A few supporting characters seemed superfluous, but all eight children in the royal family were important. I appreciated the character profiles at the beginning of the book! The “head hopping”—looking in at different people’s thoughts—didn’t bother me much because I like books in third person omniscient; I get to know more characters that way. (Though for a more streamlined story, many of those characters’ points of view could have been dispensed with.)

My favorite characters: Princess Hope – sweet, caring, and genuine. Vanessa Bennett – a young American woman passionate about helping the homeless. Clark – the head palace cook who’s helpful and heroic. Prince Addison – a mature young man and fantastic big brother. (However, I wished it was explained why he was taking over the kingdom at age 21 when his dad had so many good years left. It didn’t make much sense to me for someone who’s college-aged to succeed a seasoned ruler. No doubt there’s a tradition behind this.)

The Writing:
Ms. Jarmusch has a defined voice and writes with sincerity. The book has atmosphere. It reminds me of lighthearted teen rom-coms, especially those set in exotic places, only with Christian morals. She develops the world and customs of Tarsurella quite well; it truly felt like an Americanized little European country. I liked her vivid writing style. I read an advanced review copy, so I imagine that wherever I saw weak writing and editing, it was probably fixed in the published edition. Most of the teenage characters would, in their thoughts, gush over the people they were attracted to, which made me roll my eyes a few times because it sounded so close to silly romance novel fare, but actually, that’s just realistic. The most important point is they all learned they needed to control those thoughts.

The Plot:
For the most part, I thought the plot was quite good. Maybe it could have used some tightening, but I’m a fan of Dickens, so long, sometimes meandering plotlines and lots of characters don’t bother me. It was peacefully paced for the first two-thirds or so, then something big and disturbing happened at that point that changed everything. It ended well—not too fast or slow, with enough closure to be satisfying but enough openings to make you eager for the sequel. SPOILER ALERT: (Highlight it to read.) One thing that bothered me, however, was that the terrorist attack seemed portrayed a tad unrealistically. That sort of thing is not easy to depict. It seemed to stereotype Muslims/Middle Easterners because the only people from that religion and ethnicity in the book were the attackers. They were portrayed as flat villains with a lot of unnecessary “evil” descriptions. Also, I’m not sure a Muslim warlord would want to marry an infidel princess nowadays. However, I think the terrorist attack and the hacking was a brilliant plot twist. END OF SPOILER.

The Quotes:
I pulled out several favorite quotes, but if I included them all, this review would be twice as long; so I’ll only select three:

Don’t waste your time dating young paupers who don’t know how to properly cherish your heart,” she had told her. “Wait for the man that God has for you! Wait for a true Prince! He will cherish and love you for all of your days. Until then, be content to rest in your singlehood, and seek after God with all of your heart!” (p. 338) [I love the way she put this.]

They needed more time to get to know one another. As friends. Without the pressure of a possible romance.” (p.433) [Great philosophy, in my opinion!]

Choosing to worry about situations outside of our control quietly tells God that we do not trust Him as King and CEO of the Universe. Worry tells God that we’re agreeing with fear, rather than having faith.” (p. 177) [Yes, yes, yes! I wish I could remember this all the time.]

And there is my long review! In short, The Coronation carries a valuable message in a package that will be fun and relatable for most teen girls. If you’re not a fan of romance and you stay out of pop culture, this book might not be your cup of tea.

(I received this in exchange for my honest review. I was under no obligation to write a positive review.)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Presenting the Vintage Jane Austen Series



This week brings a blog event that all the authors of the Vintage Jane Austen series have been anticipating for ages, so you can imagine how thrilled I am to be spotlighting it today. I want to thank the entire Vintage Jane Austen team – Deborah, Hannah, Sarah H., Sarah S, Emily, and Rebekah for their support and for being such a lovely group of ladies to work with. I also want to thank all the bloggers, readers, and reviewers who have promoted our release and been so all-around encouraging! You are a true blessing!


What would it be like to see Elizabeth Bennet in 1930s clothes? What if Emma Woodhouse was the daughter of a car dealership owner? What if Marianne Dashwood was seeking to become a movie star in the golden age of film? The Vintage Jane Austen series explores the world of Jane Austen, set in 1930s America. Five authors took on Jane Austen’s five most popular novels and retold them set in the Depression era, remaining faithful to the original plots. As an extra bonus to the series, there is a collection of short stories that were inspired by Jane Austen. Which of these books do you most want to read?


Emmeline by Sarah Holman (Emma): The talk of stock market crashes and depression isn’t going to keep Emmeline Wellington down. Born to wealth and privilege, Emmeline wants nothing more than to help her new friend, Catarina, find a husband. Emmeline sets her sights on one of the town’s most eligible bachelors, but nothing seems to go right. Even her friend and neighbor Fredrick Knight seems to question her at every turn.



Suit and Suitability by Kelsey Bryant (Sense and Sensibility): Canton, Ohio, 1935. Ellen and Marion Dashiell’s world crumbles when their father is sent to prison. Forced to relocate to a small town, what is left of their family faces a new reality where survival overshadows dreams. Sensible Ellen, struggling to hold the family together, is parted from the man she’s just learning to love, while headstrong Marion fears she will never be the actress she aspires to be. When a dashing hero enters the scene, things only grow more complicated. But could a third man hold the key to the restoration and happiness of the Dashiell family?


Bellevere House by Sarah Scheele (Mansfield Park): It's March, 1937 and Faye Powell couldn't be happier. After moving to live with her uncle, a wealthy banker, she's fallen into the swing of life with his exuberant children--including Ed. The one she'll never admit she's in love with. But she hadn't reckoned on the swanky Carters getting mixed up in that vow. Ed seems to be falling for charming, sweet Helene Carter. And when Faye's cousin BeBe trusts her with a secret about Horace Carter, Faye is in over her head. Will she betray the confidence BeBe's given her? Will she lose Ed to Helene? The days at Bellevere House are crowded with surprises and only time will tell how God plans to unravel Faye and Ed's hearts.


Perception by Emily Benedict (Persuasion): Upstate New York, 1930. Thirteen years ago, Abbey Evans was persuaded to break off her engagement to a penniless soldier headed to the front lines of the Great War. A daughter of one of America’s wealthiest families could never be allowed to marry so far beneath herself. But Black Tuesday changed everything. With her family's prominence now little more than a facade, Abbey faces the loss of her childhood home. As if that weren’t enough, the only man she ever loved has returned after making his fortune – and he wants nothing to do with the young woman he courted before the war. With the past forever out of reach, the time has come for Abbey decide her own fate, before it is too late…


Presumption and Partiality by Rebekah Jones (Pride and Prejudice): Coming soon: A retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice… set in 1930s Arizona.

Second Impressions: Jane Austen's stories have inspired writers for generations...in this collection they inspire fiction across the genres!
From the English Regency to the American 1950s, in Houston or a space freighter, fairytale land or a retirement center...Austen's timeless characters come to life again.


~*~


Visit these blogs during this week to find interviews, book reviews, and much more!



November 5

           Review of Emmeline - Once Upon the Ordinary

    Review of Bellevere House - Kaylee's Kind Of Writes

Series Spotlight - A Real Writer’s Life

Interview with Kelsey Bryant - Resting Life

Series Spotlight - Kelsey’s Notebook

November 6

    Interview with Sarah Holman - J. Grace Pennington

Review of Emmeline - Kaylee's Kind Of Writes

Mini-Reviews and interview with Sarah Scheele - Deborah O’Carroll

Interview with Rebekah Jones - Livy Lynn Blog

Review Suit and Suitability - Resting Life

November 7

    Interview with Kelsey Bryant - J.Grace Pennington

    Review of Perception - Kaylee's Kind Of Writes

Review and Interview of Perception - Purely by Faith Reviews

Review of Second Impressions - The Page Dreamer

Series Spotlight - Finding the True Fairytale


November 8

Interview and Review Suit and Suitability - Once Upon the Ordinary    

    Review of Suit and Suitability - Kaylee's Kind Of Writes

Review of Perception - A Brighter Destiny


November 9

    Series Spotlight - God’s Peculiar Treasure

           Review of Second Impressions and Suit and Suitability - Ordinary Girl, Extraordinary Father

Interview with Rebekah Jones - Kaylee's Kind Of Writes

Series Spotlight – Christian Bookshelf Reviews


November 10

    Review of Suit and Suitability - With a Joyful Noise

    Series Spotlight - Liv K. Fisher

Review of Second Impressions- Kaylee's Kind Of Writes

Review of Perception - She Hearts Fiction

Interview with Sarah Holman – Rebekah Ashleigh


November 11

    Series Spotlight - Reveries Reviews

    Review of Suit and Suitability - Faith Blum

Interview with Sarah Holman - Kaylee's Kind Of Writes

Interview with Hannah Scheele - Peculiar on Purpose

Review of Bellevere House - Seasons of Humility

~*~

As part of this special blogging event, we are giving away a $25 Amazon gift Card.

Enter to win below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway