Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Vineyard by Michael Hurley TLC Blog Tour

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Dory Delano, Charlotte Harris, and Turner Graham have been drifting through life since their days as roommates at Smith College, ten years ago. Dory is resisting taking the reins of her family's legacy and fortune even as she relishes the fabulous lifestyle it affords her in the fashionable seaside resort of Martha's Vineyard. She invites her old friends to join her for a summer on the Vineyard in hopes of rediscovering the innocence of old days and healing new wounds. But hidden in their midst and unknown to all but a few, a reclusive--some say dangerous--fisherman wanders alone, fueling wild speculation about his purpose and his past. None of these women can imagine the events their encounter with the fisherman will set in motion, the shadow he will cast over their destinies, or the transformation that awaits the world they know.

My thoughts:
After a slightly slow start, this book sucked me in and kept me wondering what was going to happen next.  Charlotte Harris shows up at Dory's Martha Vineyard home planning to end her own life to spend purgatory with her unbaptized daughter.  I had a rough time with the depth of her depressions and despondency at the beginning of the novel.  Getting to know these women, who are getting reacquainted after their separate lives for the past ten years, you feel like you are there on the island with them.  No one is quite how they seem and the past is never totally in the past, but what is really important always seems to come through.

These women are straining against what is expected of them, the sacrifices they feel they need or must make to achieve their goals and the idea of faith.  Each of them has had a different experience with the church and faith, Charlotte believes in the church teaching so forcefully that she is willing to make many sacrifices to make sure her daughter's soul will be able to ascend to heaven while Turner has very little faith in things she can't see and touch and is looking for something to believe in without even knowing it.

These women are drawn together and become closer during their summer, after Charlotte tells her how the fisherman saw her savior when she had reached rock bottom.  Turner writes about the incident on her blog and all of a sudden a spark is lit. When he also intercedes on Dory's behalf and Turner again records it something is set in motion that cannot be stopped and the pace just picks up.

It is hard to write about the book without revealing where the story is going, but it is so satisfying as it goes along that I would hate to rob anyone of the surprises.  This book kept me up late for the past two nights because I got into it so deeply that I forgot to pay attention to the time.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780976127567
  • Publisher: Ragbagger Press
  • Publication date: 11/25/2014
  • Pages: 384

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Where Treetops Glisten by Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman and Sarah Sundin Litfuse Blog Tour

Book Description:

The crunch of newly fallen snow, the weight of wartime.

Siblings forging new paths and finding love in three stories, filled with the wonder of Christmas.

Turn back the clock to a different time, listen to Bing Crosby sing of sleigh bells in the snow, as the realities of America's involvement in the Second World War change the lives of the Turner family in Lafayette, Indiana. 

In Cara Putman's White Christmas, Abigail Turner is holding down the Home Front as a college student and a part-time employee at a one-of-a-kind candy shop. Loss of a beau to the war has Abigail skittish about romantic entanglements---until a hard-working young man with a serious problem needs her help. 

Abigail's brother Pete is a fighter pilot hero returned from the European Theater in Sarah Sundin's I'll Be Home for Christmas, trying to recapture the hope and peace his time at war has eroded. But when he encounters a precocious little girl in need of Pete's friendship, can he convince her widowed mother that he's no longer the bully she once knew? 

In Tricia Goyer's Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Meredith Turner, "Merry" to those who know her best, is using her skills as a combat nurse on the frontline in the Netherlands. Halfway around the world from home, Merry never expects to face her deepest betrayal head on, but that's precisely what God has in mind to redeem her broken heart. 

The Turner family believes in God's providence during such a tumultuous time. Can they absorb the miracle of Christ's birth and His plan for a future?

Purchase a copy: http://ow.ly/BwVP9

About the authors: 

TRICIA GOYER is a prolific author of nearly forty books, includingChasing Mona Lisa, and a speaker and blogger. 

CARA PUTMAN is the author of twenty books including Shadowed by Grace. She is the winner of the 2008 Carol Award for historical fiction. 

SARAH SUNDIN is the critically-acclaimed author of the Wings of the Nightingale series, the Wings of Glory series, and the forthcoming Waves of Freedom novels.

My thoughts:

I love interconnected stories and Christmas.  Having the two together in one book is a special treat.  I liked the short introduction story, especially with the way it introduced the grandmother and her desire to have traditions upheld, even during a time of war.

Set during WWII, three siblings have different experiences with loss and love, but they all rely on their faith to lead them during the hardest times.  Along with the elements of faith there were those of humor and family.  Who can imagine Christmas with all three of those things to bring people together and to remember what is truly important in life.

Tapenum's Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy in Pilgrim Times by Kate Waters, Russell Kendall (Photographer), Russ Kendall (Illustrator)

Tapenum's Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy in Pilgrim Times

About the book from Barnes and Noble:
Written by Carolyn Phelan
"Waters and Kendall, who showed the lives of Pilgrim children in "Sarah Morton's Day" 1989 and "Samuel Eaton's Day" 1993, offer a useful companion book, a study of a Wampanoag Indian boy in the 1620s. Clear, full-color photographs, taken at the Plimoth Plantation historical site in Massachusetts, make this an unusually vivid visual presentation of Native American life. In the fictionalized story, young Tapenum, disappointed that he has not yet been chosen to become a warrior, hunts for food, shoots a rabbit for his mother, and goes fishing with a companion. Later he befriends a wise man, who teaches him about making arrows and learning patience. The story seems a bit purposeful at times in its inclusion of information, but it does a good job of dramatizing what life might have been like for the Wampanoags, who are often studied in elementary school because of their connection with the Pilgrims."

My thoughts:
I have used "Samuel Eaton's Day" in the classroom for years, but was pleased to discover this book as well as Sarah Morton's Day when I went to the library recently.  I used this book with a cub scout group to meet some electives about Native Americans.  I loved that the children got to see what the clothing looked like, what a typical day was like and the jobs and chores the children had during that time period.  The pictures really helped to make it all more real for them and to raise their understanding.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780590202374
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/28/1996
  • Pages: 40

Friday, November 14, 2014

Peggy: A Brave Chicken on a Big Adventure by Anna Walker

Peggy: A Brave Chicken on a Big Adventure

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

Peggy the hen is contented with her quiet existence and daily routine. When a powerful gust of wind sweeps her up and deposits her in the midst of a busy city, she explores her new surroundings, makes new friends, and cleverly figures out how to get home—with a newly kindled appetite for adventure. Evocative full-color paintings follow Peggy’s journey, offering comical details that reward repeated viewing. This reassuring tale and its unruffled heroine invites discussions of exploration, safety, and resourcefulness

My thoughts:
I loved seeing the city through Peggy's eyes, it was new and wondrous and full of things to explore and people to meet.  The illustrations were very nicely done and the pages had a really nice feel, not too glossy, not too matte just right.  For children, the world can be this way, so many new things to see and explore and people to meet, but at the same time all that newness can be overwhelming, so this is a reassuring book.  Keep your head and don't panic, enjoy the experience, but know that your safe home is still there, waiting for you and you can always find your way back.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780544259003
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 3/4/2014
  • Pages: 32

Meet the Author

Author and illustrator Anna Walker has won numerous children’s book design and writing awards, including several accolades for Peggy, in her native Australia. The artwork and stories she’s created in her Melbourne studio have reached young readers worldwide. Visit her website at www.annawalker.com.au.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Landline by Rainbow Rowell


Overview from Barnes and Noble:

New York Times Best Seller! An Indie Next Pick!
From New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell, comes a hilarious, heart-wrenching take on love, marriage, and magic phones.
Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply—but that almost seems beside the point now.
Maybe that was always beside the point.
Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her—Neal is always a little upset with Georgie—but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go without her.
When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.
That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts. . . .
Is that what she’s supposed to do?
Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?
My thoughts:
Life is always a balancing act and in a marriage things are not always equal.  When Neal and Georgie had their children it was Neal who decided to stay home with them because Georgie was following her screen writing dream and he couldn't seem to find his dream path or job.  This worked for them, but somehow Georgie started to feel on the outside of her family because her girls went to Neal whenever they needed something because he was there.  Her writing career was plugging along, and right before Christmas a great opportunity came up, but it meant working through Christmas and she just couldn't go to Omaha and write with her team.  Being alone throws Georgie for a loop.
I loved the landline phone from the past that lets her talk to Neal, but it the past, because this separation is so much like the one they had right before the Christmas that Neal proposed to her, but she never knew why he came back and what changed his mind about their problems and issues.  Why he didn't go back to his high school girlfriend next door but chose to deal with all their issues instead.  She can't reach her current Neal on his cell phone, her battery keeps dying and every time she calls the girls or his mother answer and he is no where to be found, but on the landline she gets him almost every time, but not now him but then him.
What would you say to someone from your past?  Would you admit that things were going to be hard?  That at times you wanted to quit and he wanted to quit and you wonder if things would be better if you just did quit.  Would you risk not having the you your are now and the kids you have now if you could take away some of the stress and fights and problems.  Would you still want to have it all knowing what you know now?  Is there a different way to have a life or was this the best one, even with the bad parts, because there were so many good? 
 I loved being inside Georgie's head as she wrestled with all the issues and emotions from the show, from the separation that might be just for Christmas or might be for good, and with what she should be telling past Neal about the future.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250049377
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 7/8/2014
  • Pages: 320

Meet the Author

Rainbow Rowell
RAINBOW ROWELL lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband and two sons. She's also the author of FangirlEleanor & Park, and Attachments.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford Litfuse Blog Tour

About the book: 

Scotland, 1860.
Reverend Alexander Ferguson, naive and newly-ordained, takes up his new parish, a poor, isolated patch on the Hebridean island of Harris. His time on the island will irrevocably change the course of his life, but the white house on the edge of the dunes keeps its silence long after Alexander departs. It will be more than a century before the Sea House reluctantly gives up its secrets. Ruth and Michael buy the grand but dilapidated building and begin to turn it into a home for the family they hope to have. Their dreams are marred by a shocking discovery. The tiny bones of a baby are buried beneath the house; the child's fragile legs are fused together --- a mermaid child. Who buried the bones? And why? Ruth needs to solve the mystery of her new home --- but the answers to her questions may lie in her own past.
Based on a real nineteenth-century letter to The Times in which a Scottish clergyman claimed to have seen a mermaid, The Sea House is an epic, sweeping tale of loss and love, hope and redemption, and how we heal ourselves with the stories we tell.

Purchase a copy: http://amzn.to/ZSbs53
Landing page:
My thoughts:  I was intrigued by the idea of a mermaid baby having her remains buried under a house where a reverend lived.  From the discovery of the bones Ruth begins to delve into the history of the house she and her husband are working hard to make a home and business, while trying to ignore her own history and unhappy childhood.  The chapters alternate between Ruth in her present, during the 1990's to Alexander and his rescued housemaid Moira in the 1860's.  At the same time, Ruth also looks back at her own years growing up and how she got through growing up an orphan.
Scotland has intrigued me for years and I love stories set there, but I don't often get a chance to read ones set in the islands.  Seeing what life was like and how the poor were relocated and forced to board ships to Canada reminded me of the forced relocation of other groups of people, like the Native Americans, because someone with more money and power wanted the better land. 
Many people have obstacles in their path to happiness, some huge and external and some huge and internal, and many of these characters had to overcome bleak circumstances.  Seeing how some made it and others didn't really makes it apparent that attitude and a willingness to look for answers are both needed.
I loved the stories about mermaids and  Selkies and the possible explanation for what people were seeing when they believed they were seeing the two. 
About the Author: 

Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. She is the author of The House of Hope: A Story of God's Love and Provision for the Abandoned Orphans of China and has written articles for The Times and the Independent and has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway College. She is married with three children. They live in Kingston on Thames but spend as much time as possible in the Hebrides.

Find Elisabeth online: website, Facebook

Friday, October 10, 2014

Magnificent Tales: Treasury of Bible Stories by Kelly Pulley Litfuse Blog Tour

Treasury of Bible Stories

Magnificent Tales: Treasury of Bible Stories || Magnificent Tale Collection (David C. Cook, September 2014)
Children ages 4-8 will be delighted by these rhyming Bible stories pairing spiritual truths with playful illustrations.
Featuring lyrical stories full of lighthearted moments, this colorful collection of Magnificent Tales is perfect for reading out loud. As families read these stories night after night, they will make memories together while learning about the Bible.
Learn more and purchase a copy at Kelly’s website.

Landing Page: http://litfusegroup.com/author/kpulley

My thoughts:
I really enjoyed sharing this book with my children.  Each story is told in words and phrases that are easy for children to understand and to relate to.  Pulley takes some of the stories that don't make sense to young listeners and adds the right amount of description and illustrations to bring it to life for them.  My son looks forward to sitting down at night to read and talk about a story or two.  I love that they are on the short side as it gives us a chance to discuss what we read afterwards and leaves a logical break before beginning the next story.

Kelly Pulley works from his middle Tennessee home writing and illustrating children's picture books, most recently "Ten Unusual Features of Lulu McDunn" and "The Cycling Wangdoos." He is best known for illustrating dozens of books in the Beginner's Bible series, including "The Beginner's Bible" (over 1.25 million copies sold).