Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Top Ten Favorite
Books on the Craft of Writing
To commemorate NaNoWriMo, I decided to list my favorite writing books. I participated in the National Novel Writing Month once . . . once. Yes, I completed my novel, but I can say with all honesty, getting as much outlining and characterization done ahead of time can make all the difference. Here’s a list of books I thought might help.

A Novel Idea Best Advice on Writing Inspirational Fiction by Jerry B. Jenkins, Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, and a host of other well known authors: This is the only craft book I read in 2014, but boy is it great. These authors collaborate to bring the reader articles on writing. The Fundamentals of Fiction section contains advice on writing plot, characters, and point of view. Section two is all about Developing Your Craft; section three is specifically geared toward Writing Christian Fiction and section four deals with Networking and Marketing. There is so much information in this book, it’s a must read for any aspiring Inspirational writer.

Break into Fiction by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love: I had the joy of attending an all-day workshop presented by Mary Buckham. I consider her an inspiring teacher, so it’s no surprise that I found her book thought-provoking. I love how this book asks questions at the end of each section and gives space to answer those questions. It really makes the reader think about what they’re writing. It’s great for helping Pansters like me actually do a bit of plotting.

The Complete Writers Guide to Heroes and Heroines by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever, and Sue Viders: If you need help with characterization this book will be an immense help. It breaks down characters into archetypes and describes what each type would be like. I like how this book uses characters from movies to demonstrate the traits in various character types.     

Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.and E.B. White: This isn’t the biggest writing book on the block, but it’s packed with information on grammar and punctuation. These things are not my strong suit so referencing this book is a must for me.

Eleven Senses- Who Knew? by Marilyn Kelly: Like a sensory thesaurus for things like heat and sound, this is a book I refer to time and again. Within these pages is the most exhaustive list of colors I have found anywhere, as well as a multitude of synonyms for words like walk, said, and turn. It also includes words associated with temperature, balance and time. It’s an awesome resource for writers who need a “fresh” word to describe something in their manuscripts.       

Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript by Cynthia Laufenberg: This book gives examples of what to do, and what not to do when presenting your manuscript to an agent and editor. It also gives sample cover letters, query letters, and book proposals for everything from screenplays, to children’s picture books, to poetry. This book is a must for the submission process.   

[Romance-ology 101] Writing Romantic Tension for the Inspirational and Sweet Markets by Julie Lessman: If you’re someone who blushes as the mere hint of anything erotic, this book will help. I especially like the section on Appropriate “Bleep” Words for Inspirational Romance. There are lists of Mild Derogatory Names and Mild Expressions which I’ve referenced countless times. I also learned how to create passion between characters without being too graphic or tasteless.

 On Writing by Stephen King: Okay, I haven’t finished this one, but given King’s talent as a writer it’s at the top of my list of books to complete. I do love his rags to riches story and find it very inspiring. There are several examples of his writing, complete with edits, which I find helpful.

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass: This is a very in-depth book for writers. There are whole chapters designated to Plot Techniques and Advanced Plot Structures. What I like is the workbook with various writing exercises, that accompanies Writing the Breakout Novel. This gives authors the opportunity to really think, and plot out, their book.

Writing the Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin: One of the first craft books I read, it deals with exactly what I write, Christian romance. The chapters are very insightful, and give helpful advice, on weaving elements of faith into a romantic novel. The chapter on Point-of-View really helped me as a beginner.

Are you planning on participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Do you have any craft of writing books that are helpful to you? What makes them beneficial to you as a writer?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Top Ten Favorite Children’s Classics
To commemorate kids everywhere going back to school, I thought I’d blog on my favorite children’s classic books, and why they are my favorites. It wasn’t easy narrowing it down to ten. I could have easily listed twenty.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White: I think this story illustrates what it means to be a true friend, which is a great lesson for kids and adults alike. I still get teary-eyed when I see the movie.

Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobel: I can remember being a kid and having these books read to me. I always enjoyed trying to solve the mysteries of this young and amateur, yet highly intelligent sleuth.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein: I didn’t discover this heartwarming classic until someone gave it to me when my oldest son was born. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read it to my kids. A story of sacrificial love that still makes me cry when I read it.

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss: I remember reading this when I was a small child, and then reading it to my kids years later. I love the whole underlying message of being brave enough to try something new, even if it’s scary.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown: This is another classic I didn’t discover until adulthood when I read it to my kids. A sweet simple story for young children, my kids never got tired of hearing it.

Heidi by Joanna Johanna Spyri: I read this as a kid and loved it. Then I saw the movie with Shirley Temple and read it again. Like Heidi, this country girl would prefer the outdoor mountain air to the big city living, any day.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell: I skimmed through this one as a kid, but appreciated it more when I reread it as an adult. It’s a great story of adventure and survival that I really enjoyed.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder: I can’t say enough good things about this series. They are some of my all time favorite children’s classics. I can’t count the number of times I read them as a kid and as an adult. They’re historically educational, and teach good morals, too.

Thumbelina by Hans Christian Andersen: I really like fairy tales by this author, and Thumbelina is no exception. I love the free-spirited, sense of adventure this character has.

Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne: My kids had both books and movies of Winnie the Pooh. It was one of their favorites, and mine. The characters are adorable.

I could have easily listed additional books; there are so many great ones out there. I think it’s important to read to your kids and instill in them the love of good books. I believe reading is a positive attribute that will take them far in life.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Top Ten Favorite Dear America Books

I love this series of books. Not only do they give a spotlight a specific time in history but they offer lessons in geography, too. Told from a child’s perspective, they give honest and moving portrayals to very important milestones in our nation’s history. Here are my favorites in alphabetical order.

Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie; The Oregon Trail Diary of Hattie Campbell: This book described in detail the dangers of traversing the Oregon Trail. I nearly cried when several beloved characters perished. It also offered simple lessons in loss and forgiveness.

A Journey to the New World; The Diary of Patience Remember Whipple: This book made me realize how hard it was founding this country. The work seemed never-ending, and the sacrifices made by everyone, including children, tugged at my heartstrings.

A Picture of Freedom; The Diary of Clotee a Slave Girl: The character in this book was brave beyond description. Not only was she a slave girl who knew how to read and write, but she kept a diary and took great risks to write in it.

The Great Railroad Race; The Diary of Libby West: I learned something when I read this book. One, that Hell on Wheels was a real community that traveled behind the railroad camp. I guess working, and traveling, on the early railroads was dangerous business.

One Eye Laughing, The Other Weeping; The Diary of Julie Weiss; The first half of this book took place in Vienna Austria. I hadn’t seen that in other Dear America books. The last half is set in New York City. I really felt the danger this character was in while living in Europe while Hitler reigned. Although I rejoiced to see her escape Hitler’s clutches, at that point, her heartbreak wasn’t over.  

Survival of the Storm; The Dust Bowl Diary of Grace Edwards: This book gave me the clearest picture I had of what it was like to live in the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. People in that area, during that time, had a very real and justified fear of the terrible storms. Still, they found ways to survive, like eating jack rabbits for dinner, and wearing clothing made from donated material.     

Voyage on the Great Titanic; The Diary of Margaret Ann Brady: The character in the book made me feel like I was actually on board the Titanic. She described in detail the Grand Staircase, right down to the mahogany steps and the intricate carvings of the hand-made clock.   

When Will This Cruel War Be Over; The Civil War Diary of Emma Simpson: There is a gritty honesty on the pages of this book regarding how hard it was for the women left behind while their men were off fighting the Civil War. The suffering they endured was heart wrenching.

Where Have All the Flowers Gone; The Diary of Molly MacKenzie Flaherty: I loved how this book was set in the 1960’s. I haven’t seen too many that are. The character Molly is honest in her feelings regarding the Vietnam War. I thought it was very mature of her to understand both sides of the debate.
The Winter of Red Snow; The Revolutionary War Diary of Abigail Ann Stewart: I learned just how much the surrounding communities helped the soldiers during those cold hard winters during the Revolutionary War. The sacrifices they made, the great loss of life, made me appreciate the freedoms we have today.

Join me next month when I post my favorites in children’s literature.     

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Top Ten Favorite Classics in Literature
            I must admit, I had a hard time coming up with this list. I discovered that I haven’t read a lot of classics aimed at adults. I’ve tried reading some, but just couldn’t seem to get into the story. Perhaps it’s due to my lack of patience. I do tend lose interest relatively quickly.
However, I’ve read a bunch of children’s classics, and thus placed them on the list accordingly. Without further adieu, here’s my Top Ten Favorites in Classic Literature.

Centennial by James A. Michener
This heavy book centers around the making of a town called, aptly, Centennial. With a keen interest in westerns, I had to include this one. The first section didn’t get my attention until the story progressed to the year 1795. A man called Pasquinel, a Scotsman named McKeag and an Indian lady, Clay Basket scratch out a living. Later, a wagon train comes through with Levi Zent. When Levi loses his wife and their baby, I nearly put the book down for good, but sighed and picked it up again. Next part of the story centers around a cattle drive. That’s my favorite part.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
I love this children’s classic about true friendship. Fern stood up for Wilbur, even before he knew she existed. Then Charlotte stood up for him, and used creative methods to save him. Templeton the Rat really cracked me up. He had such wit. The story teaches us about loss, grief, and moving on. I think we can all relate to losing somebody we love, and I believe everyone should have at least one friend like Charlotte. Call me a romantic sap, but I think the world would be a much better place if we were all willing to make such sacrifices for others.
Heidi by Johanna Spyri
I read this as a child and really enjoyed it. I thought Heidi had a lot of spunk and rooted for her to be reunited with her Grandfather the moment her Auntie took her away. I must say, though, that I felt for Clara, and was glad when she learned to walk. She’d have probably never done so without the encouragement of Heidi, so some good did come of the situation. I for one would prefer the green rolling hills of the Swiss Alps with farm animals and lots of fresh air, as opposed to the stuffy big city. I guess that’s the country girl in me.
The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
This is a series of books that accurately depicts pioneer life, chronicling the life of Laura Ingalls and her family. In these books she describes the joys and hardships of growing up on the American frontier. Her family faces crop failures, hard winters, and the tragic loss of her sister Mary’s sight. But they also find contentment in working together during the hard times and realized the dream of Mary going off to college. And in no difficulty did their faith ever waiver. I’ve always found that extremely inspiring. It’s no wonder I can’t count the number of times I’ve read these books, but then again, I do have a passion for stories set in 1800’s America.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
I love this classic dealing with the March sisters. I never had sisters so naturally, I latch on to any story that encompasses a plethora of female siblings. I loved everything about them, from their names to what they became in life. When I read this as a kid, I thought Jo was crazy for turning down Teddy’s proposal, but as I got older I saw the wisdom in it. Even though Jo and I are/were both writers, I think the gentle and tender Beth is who I relate to the most. Meg and Amy found their happiness which made for a satisfying ending.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
This is a classic I read in one sitting. It’s a well written story about friends, and sticking together in the midst of real tribulation. It deals with two hard working men in the Great Depression, when hard manual labor meant something. The mentally handicapped Lenny loved things that were soft but didn’t know his own strength. George was the epitome of a faithful friend. Often times, Lenny got them into a mess of trouble, unintentionally of course, due to his lack of understanding. In spite of all this, George truly cared for Lenny, and would do anything to protect him. The ending was sad, but I think that brings realism to the story. 
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
A classic love story, filled with drama and passion. I liked Mercutio, I consider him a loyal friend to Romeo. Every time I see the movie, I can’t help but imagine scenario’s that might have saved the ill-fated couple. I think if any one little thing could have gone in their favor, they might still be alive. But there rests the crux of the issue, had they not died, would their parents ever have buried the proverbial hatchet? In spite of the tragic ending, I’m still a romance writer and had to include some romance somewhere on the list.
Thumbelina by Hans Christian Andersen
This is such a cute fairy tale, yes, another by Hans Christian Andersen. I admire Thumbelina’s lust for adventure. Although, I’m of a quiet nature, I long to see the world, experience new things and live life to the fullest. One character that helped her along the way was a butterfly, and we all know how partial I am to those creatures. Let’s not forget that Thumbelina found romance in the end, after she had matured dramatically. It doesn’t get much better than that, at least for most romance novelists.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This one is my favorite classic for several reasons. Not only is it set in American history, but it deals with issues near and dear to my heart. Fighting racial discrimination and standing up for justice, even if it means standing alone or facing danger. Scout has to be one of the spunkiest and wisest kids I’ve ever read about. Jem, Scout’s older brother, did a good job of protecting his little sister and Dill had a sense of adventure I can relate to. I admire and respect the character of Atticus Finch. His integrity and devotion to justice inspire me. This is a masterpiece worthy of reading over and again. To this day I cry when I read it.
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
This is an honest and gritty coming of age tale that kept me turning pages. Billy Coleman’s biggest dream was to acquire dogs of his own. His tenaciously worked hard for the money to get Old Dan and Little Ann, and took great care of them. Admirable qualities in my opinion. The animal lover in me sobbed at the ending, but I still loved the book.

Okay, that’s it, but I’m reading Sense and Sensibility now, so that could change with time. Feel free to comment below and tell me about your favorite classic in literature.    




Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Top Ten Favorite Books by Ann Rule


I was saving this blog post for the month of October, when Ann celebrates her birthday, but having learned of the challenges she’s facing, I changed my mind and decided to post it now, to show my support for this very great lady.

I first read Ann back in the 1980’s. Small Sacrifices was my first venture into her books. I had the absolute joy of meeting her at a Northwest Women’s show, years ago, where she signed a few books for me. They are some of my most treasured possessions today. Here is a list of some of my favorites by this talented author.

A Fever in the Heart: This one took place in Yakima and was so full of twists and turns, I couldn’t put it down. It deeply saddened, and angered me, that a man as kind as Morris Blankenbaker could be betrayed, and then killed by someone who claimed to be his friend.

…And Never Let Her Go: I found this book intriguing. It boggles my mind how someone could have so much going for them, and still perpetuate such heinous acts of violence. How heartbreaking for the family of his victim, Ann Marie Fahey.

A Rose For Her Grave: I believe this is the second book by Ann that I read. Like the first, it had me on the edge of my seat and turning pages as fast as I could read them. The killer’s cold and deceptive behavior both shocked and frightened me. My heart aches for the children he left motherless.

Dead by Sunset: This one made me cringe at how close the killer came to getting away with murder. The fact that he would do harm to innocent people to cover his crimes shows just how cold and calculating he is.

The Green River Killer: I am so glad they finally caught the man who committed these terrible crimes. I have tremendous respect for the detectives never gave up. My heart breaks for the families of the victims, there were so many of them.

The I-5 Killer: This one was a little bit hard to read. I remember it so vividly. The composite sketches all were all over the news. I was relieved when they caught the killer. Surprisingly, he had the potential to become someone great had he not succumbed to his deviant behavior.  

Ann Rule’s Omnibus: This one is precious to me. It’s an anthology of cases from her first three crime files books combined into one hard cover. It was also out of print. I emailed Ann to see where I might get a copy. She sent me a signed copy, free of charge. If that doesn’t show what a kind and generous woman she is, I don’t know what does.

Small Sacrifices: The first Ann Rule book I ever took the time to read. I couldn’t put it down. What a tragic story, I really felt for those kids. I was shocked that a mother could do that kind of thing to her own children.   

Smoke, Mirror’s, and Murder: I really like this one because Ann shows just how easy it is to get tangled up with a violent partner. She goes on to tell how to get away from someone who is abusive. The whole premise of the book seems to be a voice for abused women. I can’t help but respect her for being that voice.   

The Stranger Beside Me: This is probably Ann’s most famous book. I’ve read it several times over. It makes me wonder how some people can do such horrible things. How can some people be such chameleons? Ann seemed to be close with this notorious killer, and that must have made it terribly difficult for her to write it.

There you have it, my favorites from this gifted writer. I love how Ann writes with such compassion and empathy for the victims.  That’s probably why she’s one of my favorite authors. Join me next month when I post my favorite classics in literature.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Top Ten Favorite

Historical Heartsong Presents


I began reading Heartsong Presents well over a decade ago, and it breaks my heart that they’ve been discontinued. I enjoy the sweet simplicity of these stories. They’re free of profanity, graphic violence and sexual overtones, which is why I love them.

These books deal with a wide variety of social issues and, at the same time, incorporate an uplifting Christian message. Reading about different time periods, various locations, and a wide variety of occupations really holds my interest.

I can’t say enough great things about this series. Here are ten favorites, in the historical genre.


AS THE RIVER DRIFTS AWAY, by Diane T. Ashley and Aaron McCarver: This book demonstrated that no matter how mismatched a couple can be, God can work miracles and heal the deepest of wounds. Heartwarming, inspiring and set during the Civil War, I loved it.  

THE COLUMNS OF COTTONWOOD, by Sandra Robbins: This book dealt with the Reconstruction Period following the Civil War. Savannah Carmichael wanted nothing more than to hang on to her family’s plantation. She had to work hard and learn to compromise, which made me root for her all the more.      

ELIZA, by Mildred Colvin: The heroine Eliza is determined to keep what’s left of her family together. I really admired her for that. She did a lot of growing as a character and I rooted for her along the way, until she got her happily ever after.

THE GLASSBLOWER, by Laurie Alice Eakes: So often I learn things about myself by relating with the hero and/or heroine. In this book I related to a secondary character, the father of the heroine, Meg. Meg’s father loved her very much, but his overbearing ways made life difficult for her. Seeing the mistakes this character made has inspired me to be more patient with my kids. Also, reading about the occupation of glassblowing was interesting.       

HEART’S HERITAGE, by Ramona K. Cecil: A pregnant woman in peril is one sure way to get me turning the pages of a book. Annie Martin was one tough cookie for homesteading, while recently widowed, and pregnant. When Indians kidnapped her, Brock Martin came to the rescue. Suspenseful yet heartwarming, a great story.

THE HONORABLE HEIR, by Laurie Alice Eakes: In this book I learned about a location I hadn’t heard of before, Tuxedo Park, New York. This suspenseful who-dunnit had me turning pages to find out what happened to the Bisterne jewels. I just knew it couldn’t be Catherine, the heroine. It had a surprising yet satisfying ending.  

IN SEARCH OF A MEMORY, by Pamela Griffin: A fantastic book set during the Great Depression. When the heroine Angel, was emotionally mistreated by her family I really felt for her. A happily ever after seemed near impossible with Roland since his family was a bunch of gangsters, but it happened. This book taught me a lot about carnival life in that era, too.   

RAMSHACKLE ROSE, by Cathy Marie Hake: I loved how the character Rose was so different from what most women were in 1897. She embraced her uniqueness and didn’t try to fold herself into a stereo-typical mold. I thought that showed great strength for a character.   

PROMISE OF TIME, by S. Dionne Moore: This one piqued my interest because the heroine, Ellie Lester, worked on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. Then, the hero, Theodore comes to visit. Sparks flew, but with time love grew, and proved to be stronger than bitterness.

OZARK SWEETHEARTS, by Helen Gray: One of the reason’s I liked this book is because it was set during the Great Depression. It also dealt with bootlegging, two issues that, from what I’ve seen, aren’t often written about. It was different, which made for an enjoyable read.


Join me next month when I list another ten of my favorite books.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Top Ten Favorite Civil War Books  

In honor of the Sesquicentennial of the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, here are some favorites of mine, about, and set, during the Civil War. Pictured above is my hardcover collection of the North and South trilogy, and a 1967 hardcover copy of Gone with the Wind.

A BLUE AND GRAY CHRISTMAS by Lauralee Bliss, Vickie McDonough, Tamela Hancock Murray and Carrie Turansky: This book is actually four novellas in one anthology. The characters are both Union and Confederates who are forced to deal with each other in strenuous circumstances. I liked that the hero’s weren’t all soldiers for one side or the other, and most of the characters didn’t have stereo-typical view points.

GIDEON’S CALL by Peter Leavell: Winner of the 2012 Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers guild Operation First Novel. Chronicles the events of Gideon’s Band, a program created to help train and educate former slaves. Historical accurate, emotionally intense, a delightful read. I especially loved the character Tad, a former slave child filled with abundance of gumption and spunk.    

GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell: A wonderful sweeping drama set during the war the romantic narrative draws in the reader in. Much as I love the romance between Rhett and Scarlett, I didn’t like that it glossed over the inhumanity of slavery and portrayed the Yankee’s as a mass of heathens. Still, the book is very descriptive, and brimming with emotion. 

GREAT GAMBLES OF THE CIVIL WAR by Phillip Katcher: A great non-fiction book that gives accurate historical details and looks at famous battles from both sides. I was surprised at how much thought Sherman put into planning his infamous March to the Sea. It was interesting to read about lesser known skirmishes such as the Battle of Port Gibson which took place right before the siege at Vicksburg. What this book lacks in romance, it makes up for with a plethora of statistics and detailed maps of battles and towns.   

THE KILLER ANGELS by Micheal Sharra: This is part of a three book series with parts one and three written by Michael Shaara’s son Jeff. The book gives a realistic look at the Battle of Gettysburg. Told from a soldier’s point of view, it describes the day to day routines of those living in an army camp. Although this book isn’t dripping with romance, there are still plenty dramatic story lines and characters.       

LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott: This book is about the four March sisters and their mother, whom they call Marme. The March sister’s father is away fighting in the Civil War. It gives an accurate account of how the war became part of the everyday lives of women of the North and how hard it was for the families left behind. A classic I read as a young teenager and reread many times since.

SAVANNAH, A GIFT FOR MR. LINCOLN by John Jakes: I loved this book, historically accurate it details the lives of Savannah’s common residents and how they coped with the invasion of Sherman’s Army. It didn’t paint the all Yankee’s in such dreadful light which I think is accurate.  

ROOTS by Alex Haley: Another wonderful sweeping drama with characters that come alive on the pages. Told from the point of view of the slaves, and drawn from Haley’s family history this book makes the reader care for the characters. Rich with emotion and poignancy, this book is an inspiration to read. I was a teenager when I first picked up this book that inspired a television mini-series, and I was captivated.       

THE NORTH AND SOUTH TRILOGY by John Jakes: The three books in this series are NORTH AND SOUTH, set during the antebellum era, LOVE AND WAR, which takes place during the war itself, and HEAVEN AND HELL set during Reconstruction.

I love the characters. The Main’s are rice plantation owners from South Carolina and the Hazzard family owns an iron foundry in Pennsylvania. Beginning with Orry and George’s friendship, this book paints a vivid narrative of the families as they become friends, and eventually fall in love and marry. Not to say everyone gets along well, especially during the four years of the war. There are moments of great tension and strife, even amongst Orry and George, but they find a way to stay connected and remain close until the last page in turned and the reader is reaching for the tissue box.

The historical accuracy is so great I learned more than just 1800’s vocabulary and ways of life. I learned what motivated those who fought and died in the war, about the thoughts and attitudes of those who lived at that time. The books so captivated me, I paid a good sum of money for the DVD set. This series comes highly recommended by me to anyone who has a hunger for knowledge about the Civil War.

 WALKING TO COLD MOUNTAIN by Carl Zebrowski: Inspired by the novel, Cold Mountain this non-fiction coffee table book takes a close look at real people who lived during the Civil War. Filled with pictures of actual photographs, maps, and interesting quotes of those famous in that day and age, this book is a great resource for those wanting to learn more about everyday life in the early 1860’s. 

I’ve also included a list of Civil War books I really want to read, but haven’t had the chance yet: ASHES IN THE WIND by Kathleen Woodiwiss, NO GREATER GLORY by Cindy Nord, and THE CIVIL WAR, A NARRATIVE written by famous historian, Shelby Foote.    

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Top Ten Favorite Books by John Grisham

John Grisham is one of my favorite authors so I decided to compile a list of my favorite books that he’s written. In alphabetical order, here you go.
A PAINTED HOUSE: This book isn’t a legal thriller. Told from a child’s perspective, and set during cotton picking season in Arkansas, a young Luke Chandler deals with growing up poor and coming of age. I think it’s a little slower-paced than the usual action packed, edge-of-your-seat kind of story that Grisham is famous for, and a refreshing change of pace.
A TIME TO KILL: Complex issues wind their way through the narrative and forces the spotlight on how gray, as opposed to black and white, justice can be. Grisham puts the reader in the shoes of a man whose ten-year-old daughter is brutally beaten, repeatedly raped, and thrown off a bridge to die. It also takes the reader on a journey with Jake Brigance, a lawyer determined to find justice in spite of the chaos surrounding the case. This book made me think, and re-examine my morals and values.  
BLEACHERS: This book is all about football. How could I not like it? The main character, Neely Crenshaw, is a star quarterback in high school with some grievances against his old coach, Eddie Rake. Old secrets come to light years later as Coach Rake is dying. I wasn’t impressed with Mr. Rake. His mistakes make me question the methods purportedly used by some athletic coaches, but the book is fantastic.
THE BROKER: This is one of the first Grisham books I read. Part of it is set in Italy, a country I’m aching to see. Joel Backman, after spending years in Federal prison, is given a pardon and whisked away to Northern Italy where he’s given a new identity. Joel tries to resume a normal life. It almost sounds like a dream vacation were it not for the people out to kill him. Lots of action, drama and suspense, a very worthwhile read.
THE CLIENT: This book really pulled my heartstrings as a mother. A young Mark Sway is forced to listen to the confession of a lawyer who works for the mafia. Then the lawyer committed suicide in front of the boy. The FBI wants Mark to testify against the mafia. The mafia wants him dead. Mark Sway is one tough kid who gave them all a run for their money, including his lawyer Regina Love. I cheered as Mark managed to get justice for himself, and his family.     
 THE CONFESSION: This book “changed” the way I view capital punishment. Career criminal, Travis Boyette, has an inoperable brain tumor, and he’s also got a horrible secret. He wanders into the church office of minister, Keith Schroeder, and confesses to a horrendous crime. But how can that be? The cops arrested Donte Drum for the crime, and they swear they’ve got the right man. Is Boyette lying? I wasn’t sure.
I sobbed as I turned page after page, hoping, praying the victims would get justice. The ending wasn’t the happily ever after I thought it would be. If you’re looking for a sappy sweet ending where a heroic lawyer rides into court on a white horse with compelling evidence that sets the innocent free, this book is not for you. I threw it across the room, and cried. Yet, this book is one of my favorite’s because of how it moved me.
THE FIRM: This is Grisham’s second book, and it’s every bit as fascinating as his first. Mitch McDeere is hired at the law firm of Bendini, Lambert and Locke, a company that heaps lavish perks upon its new employee’s, but they’re hiding a terrible fact. Many of their clients are in the mafia. Mitch finds this out. Then the FBI tracks down Mitch, and asks him to testify against the crooked lawyers in the firm. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. Lots of heart pounding suspense, a great book.       
THE PELICAN BRIEF: This one deals with a fight to save an endangered species of pelicans, and I’m a sucker for endangered animals. It begins with the murders of two Supreme Court justices and kept me on the edge of my seat. The suspense was palpable and I couldn’t wait to find out who-done-it! Darby Shaw has it right, but her struggle to bring the truth to light endangers not just her, but everyone around her. The book has more twists and turns than a Bavarian pretzel. It also has a surprising and satisfying ending.     
THE STREET LAWYER: I love how this book deals with the plight of the homeless. Michael Brock has it all, a nice boat house, expensive car, a cushy job at the law firm of Drake and Sweeney. He’s about to make partner. Things change dramatically when a homeless person enters the law office with a shot gun and fires away. It appears the vagrant went on a random rampage, but the law firm has secrets. Michael discovers those secrets and realizes the indigent man had reason to target them. One of my favorites by Grisham, I’ve read it at least four times, and it still makes me cry.  
THE TESTAMENT: The main character, a lawyer named Nate O’Riley searches for a woman named Rachel Lane, heiress to a large fortune. She’s also a missionary, deep in the jungles of Brazil, where phones and computers are non-existent. Time is of the essence as scores of people are lined up to claim the fortune if Rachel can’t be found. I love the elements of faith in this book. The happy ending brought me to tears.
            Have you read any John Grisham books? If so, what are your favorites?
            Next month I’ll post a list of my favorite books set during the Civil War, in honor of the 150th Anniversary of Lee surrendering at Appomattox Courthouse.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Top Ten Favorite Love Finds You books

Top Ten Favorite

Love Finds You romance novels

            With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, I decided to make a list of my top ten favorite romance novels in the Love Finds You series. There are so many things I love about this series, I could rave about them all day, but for the sake of this blog I’ll shorten it up.

            I love how the novels are based on actual places in the United States. Some towns are no longer in operation, but were once thriving communities. Other locations have grown into bustling cities. Reading about the geography of some famous, and some not so famous, places is something I haven’t experienced in other romance novels. It is a refreshing angle, something different.

            The historical aspect of these books is interesting. They don’t just focus on the American West. They include a variety time periods of history from pre-colonial America to post WWII. They’re packed with historical tidbits of everyday life. I’m thrilled every time I learned a new vocabulary word, a new style, or a fad from days gone by.

I could go on, but I want to share my favorites, so here goes, in alphabetical order.   

Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland by Roseanna M. White: Set in 1783, this book walks the reader through the days after the Revolutionary War. I love how it deals with emotions of the Colonists and how they deal with their new-found freedom. And I learned what a mobcap was when I read this one.    

Love Finds You in the City at Christmas by Ruth Logan Herne and Anna Schmidt: The first novella is set in New York City, in 1947. What piqued my interest was the heroine who rang a bell for the Salvation Army. I did that a job for a few years when my kids were little. The second novella is a contemporary and begins with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I thought this book was a nice blend of two Christmas traditions.    

Love Finds You in Deadwood, South Dakota by Tracy Cross: This book begins in 1879 with a pregnant widow in peril. Penned with authentic detail regarding the Old West, it’s filled with danger, drama and some surprising twists that kept me turning pages.

Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana by Melanie Dobson: Set in 1850, during the tumultuous days preceding the Civil War. This is the first book in this series, and by the end of chapter 1, I was hooked. The faith elements were subtle but still there. This is the best book about the Underground Railroad, I’ve read, or ever expect to read. Throw in a newborn baby in grave danger--I couldn’t put it down.   

Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie, Montana by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss: Beginning in 1889, this book deals with a topic I didn’t know much about, the Orphan Train, and it’s set in a tiny community I’d never heard of before. It gave a detailed account of what life on the prairie was like, along with a happy ending. 

Love Finds You in Maiden, North Carolina by Tamela Hancock Murray: Written by my fabulous agent, and taking place in the 1920’s, I really wanted to read this one. I loved it. I learned so much about the fashions and culture in the Roaring 20’s. I walked around the house saying “The bee’s knees” for weeks after I turned the last page.  

Love Finds You in Poetry, Texas by Janice Hanna: Opening in 1904, the whole theme in this book is poetry. The businesses in this story have poetic names and many famous poets are quoted throughout. The humor in this novel had me chuckling page after page.     

Love Finds You in Revenge, Ohio by Lisa Harris: This story takes place in 1884, and I haven’t come across many romance novels taking place in Ohio. Woven into the story are things like ostrich farming and the Alaska Gold Rush. Lots of surprises in this book. 

Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss: This one takes place in 1943, and in my state. How could I not want to read it? The story immersed me in life during WWII, with things like scrap metal drives, shortages of rubber and other mainstream products. I’ve lived my whole life just south of Seattle, and I’d never heard of this community. Learning about it was an interesting adventure.

Love Finds You in Wildrose, North Dakota by Tracy Bateman: Not too many romance novels take place in North Dakota, or in 1913, as this book does. The neighborly camaraderie is this story is heartwarming. The surprise ending left me shedding a few tears, but over-all, a fantastic read.

I’m heartbroken that this amazing series has been discontinued. I wanted to read a historical set in every state, and some set during the Vietnam War era. Sigh, perhaps after awhile.

I’ve just noticed something. Nine out of the ten books listed have a pregnancy, a newborn, or both in the plot. And with the exception of one novella, all are historical. There are plenty of contemporary titles in this series, but I haven’t gotten to them yet. Give me time, J Have you read many Love Finds You books? If so, what's your favorite?

Join me next month when I post my ten favorite books by John Grisham.



Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Top Ten Favorite

Memoirs and Biographies


In putting together this list I’ve noticed something about the biographies I like to read. The books which intrigue me the most are not always about famous celebrities. I enjoy stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things under the most difficult of circumstances. Those are the ones that really inspire me. Without further adieu, here are my favorites in alphabetical order.


A Deeper Shade of Grace by Bernadette Keaggy: Written by the wife of Christian musician Phil Keaggy, this book deals with the challenges they faced in becoming a family. After losing five children to stillbirth, neonatal death, and miscarriage, the couple took the time to deepen their relationship with Christ and each other. They were, eventually, blessed with children, but what a journey. Their courage, faith, and trust in God had me weeping as I turned pages.


Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt: Set during The Great Depression, and taking place primarily in Ireland, this book deals with the struggles of growing up poor. My heart ached for the children who always seemed to be cold and hungry. Yet, their resiliency really moved me. I laughed and cried as these kids rose above poverty and adversity to lead truly amazing lives.


Argo by Antonio Mendez and Matt Baglio: I remember the Iranian Hostage Crisis, so after watching the movie, I “had” to get this book. The suspense was palpable, and I learned a new word; exfiltration. It took a lot of preparation to smuggle the “houseguests” out of Iran, and it was dangerous business. The teamwork demonstrated by everyone involved was heartwarming to say the least.       


The Burning Bed by Faith McNulty: This book was tough to read but it taught me a lot about the social issue of battered women, and the criminal justice system that isn’t always black and white. While I’m saddened at violence against women, I’m glad this story helped change attitudes and opened the public’s eyes to the plight of women stuck in abusive relationships.   


The Coal Miners Daughter by Loretta Lynn and George Vescey: This is the first biography I can remember reading. I picked it up shortly after the movie came out in 1980. I love the Cinderella, rags-to-riches story of overcoming obstacles and making something of your life. Although the movie made it look somewhat easy, Loretta worked hard to get where she is today.   


Dead Man Walking by Sister Helen Prejean: In this story, a humble, Catholic nun taught me how to have empathy for death row inmates. Sister Helen works closely with those on death row and she made me aware of the realities of the death penalty. This book really made me think, and reconsider some of my preconceived notions regarding criminals.


The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill: I love this book. It’s the story of two spinster ladies, and their elderly father, who hid and protected Jews in WWII Europe. They were caught and sent to a concentration camp, but still prayed for the very Nazi’s who beat and tortured them. Corrie teaches me the true meaning of compassion and forgiveness. The unwavering faith of this remarkable family teaches me something new about the true meaning of Christianity every time I read it.      


Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody with William Hoffer: A remarkable story of courage and bravery. Although I did enjoy learning about a different culture, it broke my heart to see how Betty and her daughter were treated. Still, she refused to leave Iran without her child. She chose to flee the situation with her daughter. They endured great hardship to escape.


Seven from Heaven by Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey with Gregg and Deborah Lewis: This book makes me hug my kids. Bobbi and Kenny faced frightening challenges in carrying seven babies but overcame those odds and remained true to their faith. Bobbi loved her unborn children enough to put her life on the line for them. A mother’s love is strong but carrying seven babies at once is still a tough ordeal.  


Soul Surfer by Bethany Hamilton: I am amazed at Bethany’s determination to keep surfing after a shark attack. She demonstrates undeniable courage and has not lost sight of her faith through her ordeal. Bethany has adapted to the loss of her arm and she doesn’t seem to be bitter about it. This is an inspiring story of loss and acceptance that had me reaching for the tissues.


Although most of the people in these books will say they were just doing what had to be done, their courageous experiences are sure something to talk about.


Coming in February 2015, in honor of Valentine’s Day, my Top Ten Favorite romance titles in the Love Finds You series by Summerside Press. By the way, I “love” this series and it breaks my heart that it’s been discontinued.