Thursday, February 04, 2016

Review: The Queen's Fool

Philippa Gregory

The Queen’s Fool

By Philippa Gregory
Harper Collins, February 2004

About the Book

A young woman caught in the rivalry between Queen Mary and her half sister, Elizabeth, must find her true destiny amid treason, poisonous rivalries, loss of faith, and unrequited love.

It is winter, 1553. Pursued by the Inquisition, Hannah Green, a fourteen-year-old Jewish girl, is forced to flee Spain with her father. But Hannah is no ordinary refugee. Her gift of “Sight,” the ability to foresee the future, is priceless in the troubled times of the Tudor court. Hannah is adopted by the glamorous Robert Dudley, the charismatic son of King Edward’s protector, who brings her to court as a “holy fool” for Queen Mary and, ultimately, Queen Elizabeth. Hired as a fool but working as a spy; promised in wedlock but in love with her master; endangered by the laws against heresy, treason, and witchcraft, Hannah must choose between the safe life of a commoner and the dangerous intrigues of the royal family that are inextricably bound up in her own yearnings and desires.

Teeming with vibrant period detail and peopled by characters seamlessly woven into the sweeping tapestry of history, The Queen’s Fool is another rich and emotionally resonant gem from this wonderful storyteller.

My Review

I have read a number of Philippa’s novels and have enjoyed them all. This one starts out with a semi-steamy scene, but then the rest of the book is rated PG. There is intrigue and suspense and the typical divided loyalties of a kingdom that is confused regarding what it believes. I enjoy stories that contrast Mary Tudor with Elizabeth Tudor, and I felt like this was a fair portrayal, with Elizabeth shown as a bit less noble and more flirtatious and devious than I have read in other books. Queen Mary was just pitiful and so emotionally distraught toward the end. I kind of felt sad for her but at the same time her marriage to the Spanish prince just caused more chaos in the kingdom. She would have been a better queen without him and the encouragement to persecute and burn Protestants.

I enjoyed the story told through the eyes of the “fool” who was more like a spy and seer than what I imagined a fool would be like. She had conflicts on so many levels. I did enjoy watching her grow into a young woman and mature through the hardships she endured. I loved the subplot with her and her intended, Daniel. He was a very patient man and at the same time I wasn’t sure whether they would end up together or not. I won’t post a spoiler, though. She’s a fictional character among real historical figures, so the outcome was completely up to the author. I think Philippa resolved things well and tied up the loose ends. It was a busy month for me or I would have finished the book much sooner.

Michelle Szymanoski
Michelle Sutton author, Healing Hearts

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Book Review: Wilted Dandelions

From Amazon: 

The Second Great Awakening has stirred a young woman’s soul. High-spirited Rachael Rothburn is eager to leave her luxurious life in Buffalo, New York, to share the gospel with Native Americans in the Oregon Territory. But the missionary alliance requires their missionaries to be married and Rachael has no husband or suitors. When Dr. Jonathan Wheaton, another missionary hopeful, learns about the restriction, he is desperate to find a wife. He offers Rachael a marriage of convenience and she agrees. After a hasty wedding the pair sets off for the west knowing little about each other. Together they battle raging rivers, hostile Indians, sickness, treacherous mountain trails, and more. But as the seeds of love begin to grow, Jonathan’s jealousy and pride threaten to be an even greater danger than anything they find in the west. Can they overcome the challenges and discover a true and lasting love?

My Review:
Wilted Dandelions, by Catherine Ulrich Brakefield, is not just another historical Christian romance, but also an adventure. Rachael Rothburn, the daughter of a US senator in New York desires more than anything to take the good news of Jesus Christ to the Umatilla tribe of Oregon territory. Fired up by a revival meeting, all the determined Rachael needs is a husband, to be allowed to join the mission.

She is charmed by Dr. Jonathan Wheaton, but barely hopes he would marry her, let alone ever love her. To her surprise, he asks her father for her hand.

When these two stubborn people embark on a marriage of convenience and take a dangerous journey west, they must learn to rely on Jesus Christ and each other, but jealousies and doubts sometimes get in the way.

While Rachael and Jonathan are people of immense faith in Christ, they are also genuinely flawed characters, who make mistakes like any believer. The dangers they face along the trail, even threats of human trafficking, are plenty and realistic. They will keep you turning the pages to see how each situation resolves.

Wilted Dandelions is a story that exemplifies the importance of the Biblical values of trust, honesty, and sacrificial love in a marriage. You will cheer for Rachael and Jonathan to overcome their shortcomings and hope they will learn from their mistakes.

Brakefield paints a picture of westward travel in the 1830s with a rich, poetic palette of historical detail. The author’s equestrian knowledge shows through as she details the care of horses, their strength, and resiliency on this perilous journey.

If you’re looking for a well-written, high-tension Christian romance and adventure set against the backdrop of America’s Second Great Awakening, then this book is for you.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Cozy up with a new book in February!

Love is in the air for Valentine’s Day, but this month brings a lot more than romance to the bookstore shelves. We might all be partial to historical fiction here at PASTimes, but there are lots of other good choices for February, too. Here’s a rundown from authors who are part of American Christian Fiction Writers – including several from authors we’ve interviewed on PASTimes before. More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Amish Romance:
Joshua’s Mission by Vannetta Chapman — Joshua Kline travels from his farm in Oklahoma to offer aid to an Englisch town on the gulf coast of Texas after a category 4 hurricane has ravaged the area. He brings his brother with him, hoping to keep Alton from another brush with the law. Joshua is pleasantly surprised when he hears that Becca Troyer, the bishop’s granddaughter, plans on joining their team. What will Joshua find when he arrives in Texas? A budding romance? A call from God? And a possible healing of his relationship with Alton? (Amish Romance from Harvest House Publishers)

An Amish Market: Four Novellas by Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller, Kelly Irvin, and Vannetta Chapman — All the color and variety of a quaint Amish shop in a charming collection of novellas by four of your favorite authors. Love Birds: Ellie Lapp takes a liking to Lloyd’s beautifully carved wooden birds, not to mention the young man himself, when she convinces him to sell his creations in the gift shop where she works. A Bid for Love: Every week, confirmed bachelor Ezra buys Hannah Lynne’s home-churned butter at the local market, barely glancing her way. But when Ezra bids an exorbitant amount to win the quilt she had her heart set on, Hannah Lynne can’t stop wondering if he is finally in the market for love. Sweeter Than Honey: Shattering a jar of pickled beets in Bee County’s Combination Store was embarrassing enough without Isabella’s receiving a frosty reaction from the handsome store manager, Will Glick. When she learns Will’s heart is in pieces, Isabella wants to be the one to repair it and renew his faith in love. Love in Store: Stella Schrock and new employee David Stoltzfus, a recent widower, have to work together to solve the mystery of strange events happening at the Old Amish Mill. In the process they may find God has more in store than they imagined. (Amish Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])

The Prophetess: Deborah’s Story by Jill Eileen Smith — Outspoken and fearless, Deborah has faith in God but struggles to see the potential her own life holds. As an Israelite woman, she’ll marry, have a family, and seek to teach her children about Adonai – and those tasks seem to be more than enough to occupy her time. But God has another plan for her. Israel has been under the near constant terror of Canaan’s armies for twenty years, and now God has called Deborah to deliver her people from this oppression. Will her family understand? Will her people even believe God’s calling on her life? And can the menace of Canaan be stopped? (Biblical from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Samantha Sanderson Without a Trace by Robin Caroll — Sam Sanderson dreams of becoming an award-winning journalist like her mother, so she’s always looking for articles to publish in her middle-school paper, where she secretly hopes to become chief editor. When Sam’s friend Tam Lee goes missing, all clues seem to point to something sinister in Sam’s opinion. Should she trust law enforcement’s opinion that Tam’s a run-away or follow her heart and poke around for more clues? (Children’s from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])

Hope Girl by Wendy Dunham — With the discovery of her birth father, 12-year-old River has to decide if she should continue living with Gram, who has been her family for the past ten years, or with her father, who she’s over-the-moon to have just met but knows little about. And when River is diagnosed with a condition that could impact her future, she feels overwhelmed and bewildered. That’s when River asks God for help and decides to trust him with her dreams. (Children’s from Harvest House Publishers)

Contemporary Romance:
Island Hope by Kimberly Rose Johnson — Metal sculptor Hope Michaels gave up on art and buried herself in an electrical contracting job on Wildflower Island when her creativity was zapped by another. She never imagines her best friend and employer, Piper, would turn matchmaker. When a lonely widower is promoted to manager of the Wildflower Resort, his new responsibilities complicate his relationship with his teenage daughter. Seeking advice from a feisty-but-sweet newcomer, he never expects things to only get more complicated. (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

Renovating the Richardsons by Virginia Smith — In the small town of Goose Creek, Kentucky, Millie Richardson is renovating a drafty Victorian house into a B&B while her husband, Al, busily writes checks for the renovations. Also, the new vet, Susan, has finally found acceptance from the town – not to mention a hunky new boyfriend, Justin. But things never stay quiet for long in Goose Creek. (General from Harvest House Publishers)

Historical Romance:
The Love Is Patient Romance Collection by Janet Lee Barton, Frances Devine, Lena Nelson Dooley, Vickie McDonough, Darlene Franklin, Jill Stengl, Connie Stevens, and Erica Vetsch — Enjoy the slow dance through the courtship of nine historical couples in the American west, including the territories of Arizona and Wyoming. Just at a time in life when they have nearly given up on finding love, romance enters their lives. But will it be true love, and will it be worth the wait? Find out in this delightful collection written by eight bestselling authors of inspirational romances. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

A Sweet Misfortune by Maggie Brendan — Rachel Matthews isn’t one to rely on others to take care of her. Destitute and alone, she still wants to make her own way and her own money – even if she’s forced into the life of a dance hall girl. Horrified by her circumstances, Rachel’s brother sends a friend – the widely admired cattle baron John McIntyre – to rescue her, then sets off to earn enough money to buy back the family ranch. But when months pass without her brother’s return, Rachel isn’t sure she can take one more day in John McIntyre’s home – especially once she discovers that he’s the one who holds the deed to her family’s ranch. (Historical Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

A Spy’s Devotion by Melanie Dickerson — Langdon returns home to heal from a battlefield injury — and to fulfill a dying soldier’s last wish by delivering his coded diary. At a ball hosted by the powerful Whilhelm family, Langdon meets their beautiful and intelligent ward, Julia Grey. Honoring propriety, he keeps his distance — until the diary is stolen and all clues lead to Julia’s guardian. As Langdon traces an evil plot that could be the nation’s undoing, he grows ever more intrigued by the lovely young woman. And when Julia realizes that England – and the man she is falling in love with – need her help, she finds herself caught in the fray. (Historical Romance from Waterfall Press, an imprint of Amazon Publishing)

The Express Rider’s Lady by Stacy Henrie — Delsie Radford’s father may have kept her and her sister apart, but Delsie refuses to miss her sister’s wedding – even with only 18 days to get there. And she’s found the perfect escort in Pony Express rider Myles Patton. Myles can’t believe it when a pretty socialite hires him to take her cross-country through dangerous territory. He’s sure she’ll give up soon, but the longer they ride together, the more Myles notices the toughness and kindness beneath Delsie’s refined exterior. And though they may be worlds apart…they might just be perfect for each other. (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Texan’s Engagement Agreement by Noelle Marchand — It’s been five years since Adelaide Harper broke Chris Johansen’s heart and their long-distance engagement. But when she steps off a train in Peppin, Texas, and strolls back into Chris’s life, he can’t help but panic. To avoid his parents’ plan to arrange a marriage for him, he’s let his family believe he and Adelaide are still engaged. Adelaide is facing her own troubles with a matchmaking mama and a parade of aggravating suitors. So pretending to let Chris court her could help them both. Surely after five years, there’s no need to worry their time together could reignite a long-buried love…is there? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Northern Light by Annette O’Hare — The Yankees took her fiancés life, but when a wounded Union soldier washes ashore, needing her help, will she learn to love again or will hate cost him his life? (Historical Romance from White Rose Publishing (Pelican)

Romantic Suspense:
Rocky Mountain Pursuit by Mary Alford — Everyone believes agent Jase Bradford is dead – everyone but Reyna Peterson. Only he can protect her now that someone wants the information her CIA husband died to secure. As the one member of their spy team not killed, Jase must remain in the shadows. Yet when Reyna leads the enemy right to his mountain refuge and blows his cover, Jase risks his life for hers. As his best friend’s beautiful widow scales the walls around his heart, whether out of loyalty or love, he makes it his duty to secure her safety. But when their pursuers trap them in the snowy Colorado mountains, will it become his final mission? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired (Harlequin))

Always Watching by Lynette Eason — The bodyguards of Elite Guardians Agency have more than just skill and prowess in common – they’re also all women. When it becomes clear that popular psychiatrist and radio personality Wade Savage has a stalker, his father secretly hires Elite Guardians in order to protect his son. But when Wade’s bodyguard is attacked and nearly killed, agency owner Olivia Edwards must step in and fill the gap. Olivia’s skills are about to be tested to the limit as Wade’s stalker moves from leaving innocent gifts at his door to threatening those closest to him. Olivia has the feeling that she’s next on the list. And to complicate things even further, she realizes that her heart may be in as much danger as her client. (Romantic Suspense from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Navy SEAL Security by Liz Johnson — Wounded navy SEAL Luke Dunham’s only goal is returning to active duty…until he rescues his physical therapist from a lethal attack. Now he’ll risk everything – even his recovery – to keep Mandy Berg’s attacker at bay. Mandy’s been burned before when she trusted the wrong man. And she knows better than to develop feelings for one of her patients. Yet how can she help falling for a man who does not hesitate to put his strength, his skill and his very life in harm’s way to keep her safe? Relying on anyone feels dangerous…but turning away Luke’s protection could be deadly. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Pandora’s Deed by Monica Mynk — Savannah Barrett fled her home to escape childhood bullies, and planned to stay away for good. Geoff Spencer, her former tormentor, cleaned up his life, stopped bullying, and found Christ. When she inherits his farm, she returns to claim the property and face her dreadful past, never expecting to claim his heart. But the property transfer unearths a mystery that some would prefer to stay buried and plants Savannah in the path of a psychopath who’d rather dispose of her rather than expose the past. (Romantic Suspense from Mantle Rock Publishing)

Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey — Griffin McCray is a park ranger at Gettysburg, having left life as a SWAT-team sniper when a case went bad. The job is mostly quiet until the day he captures two relic hunters uncovering skeletal remains near Little Round Top. Forensic anthropologist Finley Scott determines that the body is modern–a young social justice lawyer missing since spring–and all evidence points to the work of an expert sniper. When one of Griffin’s former friends takes over the case, past and present collide. Griffin soon realizes he’ll need to confront some of the darkest days of his life if he – and those he cares about – are going to escape a downward spiral of murder that crosses continents. (Romantic Suspense from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

The Last Apostle by Dennis Brooke — What if John, the last living apostle of Jesus Christ, was still alive and well… and living in Seattle? In A.D. 100, John is restored to the body of his youth and sent on a mission with a warning: to never reveal his true identity. Fast-forward to modern day Seattle, where both friends and foes are on the verge of discovering who he truly is – an event that will trigger the end times. (Speculative from Made for Grace)

Far and Near by Amanda G. Stevens — Marcus, Lee, Austin, and Violet are starting over in Texas. But the Constabulary isn’t ready to relinquish their worst offenders, legal jurisdiction or not. They’ve sent in undercover agents, and Marcus is the assigned target of one who has personal reasons to bring him back dead or alive. Marcus and Lee are ready to be whole again, to secure a home here – together. But wholeness and home might not mean what they thought. Stopping the Constabulary hunters will require more than Marcus knows how to give, and God is about to use him again in a way he doesn’t expect. (Speculative from David C. Cook)

Voice in the Wilderness by H. L. Wegley — As catastrophes drive the U.S. into martial law, all eyes are on America, waiting to see what emerges. Network specialist KC Banning discovers President Hannan’s tyrannical plans and is branded a terrorist, sending her fleeing the Beltway to find her childhood soulmate and protector, Brock Daniels. Brock, a writer and man of faith, gives CPR to a dying nation through his blog, which is read by military members still loyal to the Constitution. But starting a grassroots insurgency while reconciling KC’s and Brock’s broken relationship proves difficult. When Hannan sends Special Forces to kill Brock and KC, starting a war in the Central Oregon desert, reconciliation, like staying alive, might be impossible. (Thriller/Suspense, Independently Published using Trinity Press International)

What sounds good to you? I know several will be added to my to-read list! Let us know what you think about these or if you’ve heard of another new release that the rest of us might enjoy.

Happy reading!

 ~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~

Leigh DeLozier is a corporate writer by day, devotional writer and aspiring novelist by night. She blogs about historical things, thankfulness and Scripture in everyday life. When she's not lost in a book or buried under another pile of laundry, you can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

This Week in History 1/31 - 2/6

This Week in History

January 31:
  • Civil War: Congress passes 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery in America (1865)
  • Civil War: First black Civil War regiment, SC Volunteers, mustered into US army (1863)
  • Civil War: General Robert E. Lee named Commander-in-Chief of Confederate Armies (1865)
  • 3 missionaries in Columbia were kidnapped by armed guerillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia known as FARC who demanded a ransom for their return and latter killed them (1993)
  • After the Milwaukee Bridge War, Juneautown and Kilbourntown unified as the City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (1846)
  • The United States orders all Native Americans to move into reservations (1876)
  • Strongest instrumentally recorded earthquake, Colombia, 8.6 Richter (1906)
  • Civil War: State of Louisiana takes over US Mint at New Orleans (1861)
  • Gail Borden announces invention of condensed milk (1851)
  • John Mott, founder of Student Volunteer Mission and author of The Evangelization of the World in This Generation, died at 89 years old (1955)
  • Astronomer Alvan Graham Clark makes first observation of Sirius B, first known white dwarf star, while testing his new telescope (1862)
  • WW2: Private Eddie Slovik becomes the first American soldier since the Civil War to be executed for desertion and the only one who suffered such a fate during World War II (1945)
February 1:
  • Martin Luther King Jr. & 700 demonstrators arrested in Selma, Alabama (1965)
  • American missionaries Charles and Lettie Cowman, founders of the Oriental Missions Society, sailed for Japan (1901)
  • Supreme Court convenes for first time (1790)
  • Harriet Tubman is first black woman honored on a US postage stamp (1978)
  • Thomas Edison completes worlds first movie studio in West Orange, New Jersey (1893)
  • WW2: Fascists Voluntary Militia forms in Italy under Benito Mussolini (1923)
  • 4 students stage first civil rights sit-in in Greensboro North Carolina at Woolworth's (1960)
  • Heavy blizzard in New England claims 100 lives (1977)
  • Oxford English Dictionary debuts (1884)
  • Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returns to Iran after 15 years in exile (1979)
  • Diana, Princess of Wales visits New York City (1989)
February 2:
  • Radio Shack officially begins creating TRS-80 computer (1977)
  • Female Army Nurse Corps established as a permanent organization (1901)
  • Dogsleds reach Nome with emergency diphtheria serum after 1000-km (1925)
  • WW2: 2 days after becoming chancellor, Adolf Hitler dissolves the Reichstag-Parliament (1933)
  • WW2: Geneva disarmament conference begins with 60 countries (1932)
  • Giovanni da Plano Carpini set out for the heart of Mongol Asia to deliver the Gospel to Genghis Khan (1246)
  • The first formal church youth organization, The Christian Endeavor, was established (1881)
  • Ethyl gasoline first marketed, Dayton, Ohio (1923)
  • WW2: LA Times urges security measures against Japanese-Americans (1942)
  • Frank Sinatra's singing debut in Indianapolis with Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (1940)
  • B.B. King's 3 O’Clock Blues hits #1 on the US Billboard's R&B hit parade to become his first national hit (1952)
  • WW2: Allied troops first set foot on Japanese territory (1944)
  • A British ship rescued marooned sailor Juan Fernandez from the Chilean island where he had been for 5 years inspiring the world's first true narrative novel, Robinson Crusoe.(1709)
  • Samuel Clemens first uses the pen name Mark Twain in a Virginia City newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise (1863)
* Reprinted from Word Sharpeners with permission.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Review: The Lake House

By Kate Morton
Atria Books, October 2015

About the Book

Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure. One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone . . . yet more present than ever.

My Review

In 1933 Cornwall, the Edevane family lives in a gorgeous, secluded country estate called Loannath (“Lake House”) surrounded by gardens, a wood, and a lake. Three daughters and an 11-month old son, Theo, live a seemingly idyllic life there with their parents. There is the precocious dreamer, Alice, who grows up to become a detective novel writer. Oldest Deborah is the city girl who goes on to marry a politician, and youngest girl Clemmie is the tomboy who is reluctant to grow up. Grandmother Dashiell and Mr. Llewelyn also live at the home with the children’s parents Eleanor and Anthony. But not all is as it seems and beneath the peaceful facade are several burning secrets—ones that are carefully hidden from the children’s eyes. These secrets snowball when one summer, Theo disappears, never to be seen again.

In 2003, detective Sadie Sparrow is forced to take leave from her job in London after she crosses a line to speak to a journalist about a case she feels was mishandled by her colleagues. Staying with her grandfather Bertie in Cornwall, Sadie stumbles across Loannath, now deserted and crumbling. The family left the house after Theo’s disappearance, and the house is something of a time capsule, waiting for someone to uncover the family’s secrets. Sadie jumps in, contacting the reclusive Alice, now an 86-year-old established novelist who isn’t keen to reopen the case. Sadie is running from her own demons, however, and she can’t stop until she uncovers what really happened to Baby Theo seventy years before.

This is a book you want to read when you want to indulge in rich prose, deep characters, and a gothic feel. This is a book that isn’t in a hurry, and is somewhat repetitive as it replays events from various perspectives. If you’re like me and often feel impatient, think of it as a day-long feast. Intricate is a vast understatement. The sheer number of layers in this novel is mind-blowing, so you’ll want plenty of time to soak it all in. Every single person is hiding a dark secret from their past, many more than one. The complexity is masterful. There is no other way to describe it. You visit the heads of every single character in the novel, including 11-month-old Theo.

One of my favorite twists was something involving the grandmother that is surprising, sneaky, and deliciously wicked all at once. My advice, never turn your back on Granny! What can I say? I have a weakness for women over 90 who take matters into their own hands.

I enjoyed this book immensely. It sucks you into another world and immerses you in the characters incredibly well. I did have two (small) complaints, though. The first is that all this character immersion means that you will most likely (as I did) figure out the mystery long before Sadie does, simply because you become privy to information she doesn’t have. So it takes a long, long while for Sadie to put the pieces together, though it is fun to watch her figure it out when you already know what happened. My other complaint is more significant. The plot is twisted, and fascinating, and messy—just as life is. The conclusion is the opposite—tidy, quick, and convenient—so it’s rather a letdown after that big a journey. I think the solution deserved to be as convoluted as the plot was.

So perhaps save this one for a holiday or long vacation when you can soak in its leisurely pace, haunting attributes, and tortured characters.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Childhood Books and a Vacation

By Michelle Ule

 Several years ago my husband and I spent a day in Concord, Massachusetts.

We made the obligatory visit to the Revolutionary War Freedom Trail, but when we drove past
Orchard House, I made my husband stop.

 I remembered the house from books I'd read as a child.

 I reread Little Women many times while growing up and so we took a tour of the Alcott's home.

 I enjoyed the tour, but what I remembered was not Jo and Meg and Amy and Beth so much as scenes from another novel I loved as girl:  The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton.

 I was in the hometown of Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Thoreau, not to mention other Transcendentalists, but I flashed to the book that helped me understand them in a girl's limited way.

The Diamond in the Window is a magical story of the Hall siblings who are wafted back to historical scenes in Concord, Massachusetts they'd only learned about in school. Here's a short description:
"In The Diamond in the Window, Eleanor and Edward discover a boarded up room in their attic - and with it, a family mystery. Their Uncle Ned and Aunt Nora disappeared, years ago, from that attic room, and a few days later, so did a houseguest. While investigating the disappearances, they find a poem written on the stained glass window of the attic, which leads them to adventure and treasure."
During the tour of the Alcott's Orchard House, I saw a rag doll much loved by the Alcott sisters. 

Orchard House
But I also remembered Eleanor being turned into the doll so she could experience how the Alcott sisters loved it.

Similarly, Ralph Waldo Emerson is an august bust on a pillar in the children's hall and Henry Thoreau?

Eleanor and Edward became mice to watch the hermit living at Walden Pond write his pearls of wisdom!

 Langton filled her story with allusions to the Transcendentalist ideals. Among other things,Wikipedia explains:
"Transcendentalists believed that society and its institutions—particularly organized religion and political parties—ultimately corrupted the purity of the individual."
That theme runs through this children's book in a marvelous way I only saw as an adult.

My husband laughed at my excitement seeing these places. I fairly danced with joy at the sites--both for their own history but also from remembering a fine book written in 1961 that opened my mind and heart to a different ideas and a lovely New England town.

 Concord's Barrow Bookstore owner shared my enthusiasm for Langton, and told a few stories of the author's presence in town.

 Maybe only a child can become an ardent fan because of a book, but from excitement and pleasure, a lifelong fascination can grow.

 I'd go back to Concord anytime!

 Have you ever visited the scenes of a well-loved childhood book?


Louisa May, Emerson, Thoreau and a Diamond in the Window. Click to Tweet 

 A book from childhood excites a vacation. Click to Tweet 

 Michelle Ule is the author of five historical novellas and a Navy SEAL novel. She writes about
"Finding God's Fingersprints in Everyday Life," twice a week at her

This Week in History 1/24 - 1/30

This Week in History

January 24:

  • Winston Churchill dies (1965)
  • Boy Scout Movement begins (1908)
  • James Marshall discovers gold along the banks of Sutter’s Creek in California (1848)
  • First games played in baseball's American League (1901)
  • WW2: Shoichi Yokoi, a Japanese sergeant, was discovered who was unaware that World War II had ended (1972)
  • Lord Baltimore's representative Margaret Brent ejected from the Maryland Council after requesting right to vote (1648)
  • Civil War: Arsenal at Augusta, Georgia, seized by Confederacy (1861)
  • Connecticut colony organizes under Fundamental Orders (1639)
  • Eskimo Pie patented by Christian K Nelson of Iowa (1922)
  • Claudius succeeds his nephew Caligula as Roman Emperor after his assassination by Praetorian Guards (41 AD)
  • Irene Ferrel, missionary in the Congo, was martyred by Marxist Jeunesse while awaiting air support to rescue her. Her fellow missionary, Ruth Hege, was wounded but survived. (1964)
  • Jackie Robinson is 1st African American elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame (1962)
  • Edward Wigglesworth, a Unitarian, was commissioned to the Thomas Hollis chair as divinity professor, a move that moved Harvard toward liberalism (1722)
  • 28 refugees escape from East to West Germany (1962)
  • 24th Amendment to US Constitution goes into effect declaring states voting rights could not be denied due to failure to pay taxes (1964)
  • Rubber heel patented by Humphrey O'Sullivan (1899)
  • Lehman Caves National Monument established (1922)
  • Aztec Ruins National Monument, NM established (1923)
  • Reverend Barbara C. Harris was confirmed as the first female bishop in the Anglican Church (1989)
  • Alfred Hitchcock releases his first film as director - The Pleasure Garden (1927)
  • The United States Department of Homeland Security officially begins operation (2003)
January 25:
  • Russia declared a republic of Soviets (1918)
  • World's largest diamond found in South Africa (1905)
  • First Winter Olympics (1925)
  • Revolutionary War: Americans drag cannon up hill to fight British at Gun Hill Road in the Bronx (1775)
  • American naval expedition under Charles Wilkes first to identify Antarctica as a new continent (1840)
  • Congress determines presidential election between Hayes-Tilden (1877)
  • 52 Americans held hostage by Iran for 444 days arrived back in US (1981)
  • Nellie Bly beats Phileas Fogg's time around world by 80 days by making it in 72 days (1890)
  • Florence Tim-Oi Lee of Macao was ordained a priest in Kwangtung Province, China, the first ever ordained female Anglican clergyperson (1944)
  • WW2: Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie arrested in Bolivia (1983)
January 26:
  • The first General Assembly of the Church of God, the oldest Pentecostal denomination, convened (1906)
  • Civil War: Louisiana secedes from the Union (1861)
  • Civil War: Massachusetts Governor receives permission from Secretary of War to raise a militia organization for men of African descent known as the 54th Massachusetts Regiment (1863)
  • WW2: Nazi Germany & Poland sign 10-year non-aggression treaty (1934)
  • Executive Order 9981 ending racial segregation in US Armed Forces signed (1948)
  • Condoleezza Rice is sworn in as U.S. Secretary of State, becoming the first African American woman to hold the post (2005)
  • Civil War: Lincoln issues General War Order #1 calling for a Union offensive, General George McClellan ignores order (1862)
  • Isaac Newton receives Jean Bernoulli's 6 month time-limit problem, solves problem before going to bed that same night (1697)
  • Congress passes an act calling for a US Capitol library (1837)
  • Benjamin Franklin expresses unhappiness over eagle as America's symbol, he wanted a turkey (1784)
  • Spanish explorer Vicente Yanez Pinzon (1500)
  • Civil War: Virginia rejoins US (1870)
  • Tennessee enacts the first prohibition law in the United States (1838)
  • Congress passes an act calling for a US Capitol library (1802)
  • President Bill Clinton says "I want to say one thing to the American people; I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky" (1998)
  • Cleveland's Terminal Tower opens (1930)
January 27:
  • U.S. Congress approves Indian Territory in what is present-day Oklahoma clearing the way for forced relocation of the Eastern Indians on the Trail of Tears (1825)
  • Thomas Edison patents electric incandescent lamp (1880)
  • Astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chafee die in Apollo 1 launch pad fire (1967)
  • 14 spies hanged in Baghdad (1969)
  • 9 Jews publicly executed in Damascus, Syria (1969)
  • National Geographic Society organizes (1888)
  • Tarzan of the Apes, first Tarzan film, premieres at Broadway Theater (1918)
  • British monk Pelagius was excommunicated for teaching the heresy that man is essentially good (417 AD)
January 28:
  • US Coast Guard created from Life Saving & Revenue Cutter services (1915)
  • Challenger explodes (1986)
  • WW2: Japanese forces attack Shanghai (1932)
  • Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" is published (1813)
  • The first locomotive runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean on the Panama Railway (1855)
  • Work begins on the Eiffel Tower in Paris (1887)
  • In a snowstorm at Fort Keogh, Montana, the world's largest snowflakes are reported, being 15 inches wide and 8 inches thick (1887)
  • The Lego company patented their design of Lego bricks, still compatible with bricks produced today (1958)
  • American Pro Football Association renamed "National Football League (1922)
  • By Edict of Orleans French persecution of Huguenots is suspended (1561)
  • Beverly Hills, California is incorporated (1914)
  • London's Pall Mall is first street lit by gaslight (1807)
  • Carnegie Institute founded in Washington, D.C. (1902)
January 29:
  • Stephen Merritt, pastor and supporter of missionaries who taught Samuel Morris, an African convert who came to America to learn from Merritt, died (1917)
  • In a surprising announcement, John Hancock resigns as Governor of Massachusetts, allegedly due to his failing health (1785)
  • Revolutionary War: King George III died after a long bout with mental illness after losing the American Revolution (1820)
  • The Congregational Holiness Church was formally organized, following a split the previous year with the Pentecostal Holiness Church (1921)
  • Kansas admitted to the Union as the 34th state (1861)
  • Edgar Allen Poe's Raven first published (1845)
  • Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty released (1959)
  • Walt Disney starts work as an artist with KC Slide Company for $40 a week (1920)
  • John Beckley of Virginia appointed first Librarian of Congress (1802)
January 30:
  • Bathilde, a Christian slave who rose to become queen and regent of France and worked to end slavery in France, died (680 AD)
  • Martin Luther King Jr.s home bombed (1956)
  • King Charles I of England was beheaded after 5 years of civil war (1645)
  • WW2: Hitler proclamation on German unified states (1934)
  • Burned US Library of Congress reestablished with Thomas Jefferson's 6500 volumes (1815)
  • Revolutionary War: Boston preacher Jonathan Mayhew delivered a sermon entitled, Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission which attacked both the divine right of kings and ecclesiastical absolutism and called for the repeal of the Stamp Act which contributed the the Stamp Act rebellion (1750)
  • Mahatma Gandhi assassinated by Nathuram Godse (1948)
  • Richard Lawrence misfires at President Andrew Jackson in Washington, D.C. in 1st attempted assassination of a US President (1835)
  • Bell chimes invented (1487)
* Reprinted from Word Sharpeners with permission. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Review: The Adventuress

Tasha Alexander


By Tasha Alexander
Minotaur Books, October 2015

About the Book

Emily and husband Colin have come to the French Riviera for what should be a joyous occasion—the engagement party of her lifelong friend Jeremy, Duke of Bainbridge, and Amity Wells, an American heiress. But the merrymaking is cut short with the shocking death of one of the party in an apparent suicide. Not convinced by the coroner’s verdict, Emily must employ all of her investigative skills to discover the truth and avert another tragedy.

My Review

Lady Emily and her husband Colin are in the south of France to celebrate a friend’s engagement when one of the party guests ends up dead in the guest of honor’s room. Suspicious of her friend’s fiancée but without solid evidence, Emily must piece together the evidence as someone is determined to paint her as the troublemaker. Amid tensions between nouveau riche Americans and the English aristocracy, Emily must sort out who killed the guest and if or when that person will strike again.

With her usual gift for painting a vivid picture of the locale, Ms. Alexander handles this book a bit differently than the previous ones in the series. Here we occasionally break away from Emily’s POV to get the POV of another guest at the party. It provides greater insight and background into motives than we’d otherwise get with the first person POV. Readers can decide whether or not they prefer to stick with Emily or gain other insights, but I thought the variety interesting. Cozy mysteries can sometimes feel a bit stale, and this livens up the story quite well.