Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Line by Line - by Jennifer Delamere - A Bethany House book review


Bethany House book reviews, historic fiction, telegraph operators, London


The year is 1881 and Alice McNeil is ready to leave her position at London’s Central Telegraph Office in search of a position with private company. With seven years’ experience and dreams of living somewhere other than a boarding house, Alice expects that her skills plus her determination will land her a job with a promising future.

The world of the telegraph has always fascinated me. How can someone have the skill to not only memorize the dots, dashes, and pauses needed to send a message in morse code, but understand it deeply enough to receive a message in code? Line by Line is a work of Historic Fiction by Jennifer Delamere focuses on an interesting point in London’s history approximately 20 years after the completion of the Transatlantic telegraph cable.

Alice gains a step forward in her career when she is hired by Henley and Company, an importer of wheat and cotton. There she soon meets Douglas Shaw, Mr. Henley’s second in command who travels the world gaining the contracts for their imports. Mr. Shaw sees the benefit of having Alice, who is an excellent telegraph operator, learn more about the business overall, and Alice begins to see new possibilities for her future. The problem is, even though sparks begin to fly, Alice is prepared to be a spinster because she thinks it will allow her freedom to live as she wants, and Douglas has his sights set on a young society lady, Miss Rolland, he has yet to meet. 

When Douglas and his friends find an etiquette book for ladies at a local bookstore, they read a few sections and laugh. Unbeknownst to Douglas, Alice is also in the bookstore and overhears their conversation. She isn’t out to catch a man, she just wants to read the book and laugh at its suggestions… or maybe find one or two to help her with a difficult co-worker, Archie Clapper. So she purchases The Spinster’s Guide to Love and Romance and takes it home.

I enjoyed the banter between characters, the history lessons on the ins and outs of detailed telegraph work, and the everyday look at life in London, England in the 1880’s. A fun read, Line by Line is the first book of a new series from Delamere: Love Along the Wires. I look forward to her future books to see whether they will follow Alice’s friends Rose and Emma, or Douglas’s friends Stuart Carson and Hal Halverson. 


I received an electronic ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Graphic credit: Arlene @ Modern Vintage


Sunday, August 2, 2020

Write into the Hard Things




Write into the hard things. That is one of many insightful things that Leslie Leyland Fields imparted to us during her online writing class in April, May and June. Write into them, and then let God redeem them. It may not happen overnight, it may not even happen this side of eternity, but it is GOD who redeems us and our brokenness and uses it for His glory. 

Leslie taught these lessons from her newest book: Your Story Matters. It was a really good class. It is an even better book. There are a lot of hard (read to understand as: difficult) things in each of our lives. And there are good things as well. Sometimes the same instance is both hard and good.

At the end of May, our daughters and I were in a car accident. Someone else ran a red light, and hit us while we were turning. This has been a really, really long nine weeks. The girls' injuries are healed, mine are not. This is my hard thing right now. I want God to redeem it, to use it for His glory, and my good. So I am choosing to overcome the listlessness and apathy that come at the end of each hard day, and write. I write a lot, then none, then a little more, it is sporadic. Today I am sharing from early on, just a handful of days after the accident.


Week one, part one


Here I lie, flat on my back like a corpse in a morgue, except I'm not dead.

I know I'm supposed to be thankful, rather I am supposed to give thanks in all circumstances, but truthfully, it is hard to give thanks when you're consumed by pain. It must be around 2 a.m., I'm afraid to try to turn over and reach for my phone to confirm this hypothesis. I've been a wake for a while now. I took more Tylenol already, cranked back up the temperature on the heating pad I'm lying on, and yet, the pain continues.

How could one little car wreck cause so much pain? Will I be stuck feeling this way forever? I surely hope not. I feel awful. At least it wasn't worse- I'm not in the hospital in traction - I'll give thanks for that. I don't think my husband believes I'm badly injured. He is used to me being able to do whatever needs done. I know I don't look injured, but Oh! how I feel it!

So here I lie in the dark in the middle of the night and think and pray. At least when I'm praying for others I can block out most of the pain. Oh wait. Who was I praying for? It's okay, I'll start again. The pain in my neck has made it difficult to hold my concentration these past few days since the accident. It has also made my right elbow and outside two fingers either tingle or go numb often.


to be continued...





Monday, July 27, 2020

A Bride of Convenience by Jody Hedlund - A Bethany House book review


Jody Hedlund, Bride ships, historic fiction, 1863 Vancouver Island


Jody Hedlund has a gift for weaving fictional characters into real historical events in a way that makes a reader want to read more. Her latest novel, A Bride of Convenience, is no exception. This well written book is set on and around Vancouver Island, British Columbia in 1863.

Abraham Merivale, known to locals as Pastor Abe is serving the Church of England during a five year stint as a missionary in the British Colonies. He spends most of his time in the mining camps outside of Vancouver, but comes down to check in with his Bishop and get supplies several times a year. He loves his job, the miners he serves, and the rugged mountains. What he doesn’t love are the Bishop’s ideas about how he should be re-creating the Church of England in the wilderness. Abe is more concerned with the state of men’s hearts than whether or not a new church building gets completed this year.

Zoe Hart has recently arrived in Vancouver upon one of the Bride Ships that left England, sailed around South America, and has brought dozens of former millworkers, all women, to this rugged land. She isn’t sure she wants to marry, unless it helps her find her twin brother who ran away from home after being falsely accused of setting a mill on fire. 

Zoe has a huge heart for others, and soon finds herself taking over the care of a native baby, Violet, whose mother died and whose English-born father has failed at mining due to his alcoholism. But she cannot keep the baby in the Marine barracks where the other bride-ship women are staying. The baby cries, and the women are looking for husbands, not outside responsibilities. While none of the women will be forced to wed, many are hopping to find either a husband of a job and leave the barracks as soon as possible. They do not understand Zoe's desire to take on baby that night prevent finding a husband, or a job.

Zoe is hurting from the loss of her friend who dies shortly after they arrive. Now she really needs the help of others, but isn’t sure whom to trust. Through an unusual turn of events, Pastor Abe finds himself suddenly without a fiancĂ© back home. He is reeling. Zoe is determined to find someone to help her find her brother. Local Dexter Dawson says he will take her if she marries him, but should she trust him? What about Pastor Abe?

Want to know what happens next? Pick up a copy at your local bookstore or online. It is also available as an E-book.

I found the storyline compelling. To think that literally hundreds of women arrived on a handful of bride ships, trusting that there would be something better than their lives in England when they arrived in Vancouver. What challenges and trials must they have faced back home to board a ship knowing they would very likely never return? Not only were they sailing half-way around the world, they were doing it through the same oceans that were filled with the warships of the American Civil War. 

One part I always appreciate about Hedlund’s series is that she includes some historical information at the end of each story. This helps the reader walk away with a deeper understanding of what parts of the story were history, and what were fiction. She often references the historic texts she used while researching as well.

If you are a fan of Jennifer Delamere, Elizabeth Camden, or Jocelyn Green you are sure to enjoy this third book in Hedlund’s The Bride Ships series. I give it 4.5 out of five stars.


I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Will you or won't you homeschool this year?

*affiliate links are used in this post*


I am not going to lie - you have a HUGE decision ahead of you in the next couple of weeks. What are you going to choose for your children's education for this semester? There is so much uncertainty out there about if in-person classes will happen at local schools, will parents be able to continue e-learning and still keep their jobs, and how will you balance it all?

There are choices, but there is also help! If you want to try homeschooling your children this fall, I'm going to cheer you on, point you to helpful resources, and try to answer as many of your questions as I can. If you choose e-learning - I'm going to cheer you on and support you as best as I can. If you send your children to class - I'm going to cheer you on, pray for their health and safety, and try to hold you up as you balance all those deadlines. Whichever option you choose: I support you!

I know homeschooling is not for everyone. It was tough, but we found it worth the effort. I worked anywhere from 15-35 hours outside of the home the entire 16 years we homeschooled our girls. And by saying "we homeschooled" I'm, really saying "I homeschooled" while Kurt went to work 40 or more hours a week to make sure we could pay the bills, and then made sure no one burned the house down while I slept on the weekends. ;)




If you are considering homeschooling, or wondering if e-learning will be enough, I encourage you to check out your options. There are full curriculums in a box you can purchase, or you can use an online resource like SchoolhouseTeachers.com that offers either full curriculum or single subject choices all for one price per family. If you love printed books, look to purchase as many of them as possible as used copies to save you some money. Many (most) homeschooling families sell their curriculum at a significant discount once they are finished with it. We always preferred printed math books, so I would budget to purchase them, then sell the teacher's books and DVD's to other homeschoolers once both girls were finished. A savings to the new owners, and a little cash to put towards the next year's books for us - a win-win! We used SchoolhouseTeachers to fill in the gaps between our printed resources, but I know many families use it exclusively.

Want to know more about how we homeschooled? There are dozens of posts here in the blog archives that you can read. Lots about field trips, many about different curriculum we used over the years, quite a few about being different than everybody else - and how that is perfectly okay, and most importantly, some timely posts about God's faithfulness to help us through both the good and bad times. God gave you those precious children for a reason - it is important that you find out why that is!

If you ARE considering homeschooling, but not quite sure where to start with curriculum, I suggest a family membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com. If you are certain you're going to homeschool, you can get their once-a-year Shark sale special of $179 for two years for the entire family. That works out to less than $8/month for two full years of curriculum for all grades. Use coupon code: SHARK20 - this offer is non-refundable. 

If you're still sitting on the fence about homeschooling, why not try the quarterly payment of $49.97 for all grades, or only $37.97 for PreK-8th grade? One of the best features of SchoolhouseTeachers is that it has helps for parents, streaming videos and world book access for families, and a truly helpful "Start Here" section.

Not sure homeschooling is really legal? It is - in ALL 50 states and Washington, D.C. You can do a quick web search for the requirements for your specific state in less than five minutes. That gives you a great perspective on what will be needed both to get started, and to follow through with homeschooling. 



And because I know your next question might be this one: what do I need to buy? I want to point you back to this ever popular post of ours about school supply lists for homeschoolers

Check it out, ask questions, and know I'll stand by you whatever educational option you choose for your children for this fall!






Monday, July 20, 2020

At Love's Command by Karen Witemeyer - a Bethany House book review



Karen Witemeyer, historic fiction, wild west, Christian romance

Karen Witemeyer's latest book, At Love's Command, is a historical romance set in Texas in 1893. Since my family took a trip out west when I was in 8th grade, I've always enjoyed reading about the landscape and people of the western half of the United States. 

One of the things I have come to appreciate about Witemeyer's books over other authors in this genre is her inclusion of the hardest parts of western life. Not just the tough landscape, but the tough questions that people faced back then and are facing again today: Whose land is this? Are we better or worse with law enforcement, what are the challenges of seeking justice in a rugged and often unforgiving landscape? Must our future life (and happiness) be dictated by our past mistakes, or does forgiveness really change us?

At Love's Command focuses on Dr. Josephine Burkett, and a retired calvary officer, Matthew Hanger. Though these are fictional characters, the challenges and choices they face come right from the pages of history. Calvary life after the Civil War ended was challenging, and many soldiers then, as today, face a certain amount of PTSD as well as self doubt. Being a female doctor in what was considered a man's profession was an almost unsurmountable obstacle, yet, some women trudged through the bias and misunderstanding and forged the way for others. 

Dr "Joe" and Matthew face challenges from within and without. Josephine is worried for her younger brother Charlie, who cannot seems to accept their father's direction and insistence he work for a living, instead of relying upon Dad to provide him with funds. She also wonders if part of Charlie's waywardness could be attributed to her leaving home and striking out for a new place to begin her medical practice, instead of trying to begin nearer to home. Texas is a big state, even with the use of trains it takes time to get home and back.

Matthew and his group of Horsemen: Jonah Brooks, Luke Davenport - commonly called 'Preach', and Mark Wallace have decided to leave the calvary behind and work as guns for hire. Not in a traditional mercenary fashion, but in trying to use their refined skills to search out justice for the oppressed and a fair ending to disputes and cattle rustling. When Mark gets shot while on an assignment, the nearest town with help is a wide spot on the trail with a single Doctor: Dr Joe. Sparks of a different kind fly when Matthew, who is used to being in charge, must defer to Josephine's directions, and her rules.

The only good thing about reaching the end of this book is knowing that it is book one in the series, and more will follow! I read it twice. I found the characters well-developed, unique, and achingly human. I look forward to the second book in the Hanger's Horseman series. If you enjoy reading about less-than-perfect people as they learn about God's love and forgiveness, this one is sure to entertain and inspire you. You too will become friends with Dr Joe and the Horsemen, and will look forward to their further adventures.



I received a digital ARC of At Love's Command in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

P.S. Big thanks to Arlene for creating the graphic for this post.


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

A Gilded Lady by Elizabeth Camden - A Bethany House review


Bethany House Publishers, Christian Fiction



Caroline Delacroix is a princess of Washington society. She knows all the right people and understands the ins and outs of social calls, elegant dinners, and how to not offend society matrons. Her skills are about to be put to the ultimate test as the personal secretary to Mrs. Ida McKinley, the reclusive wife of President William McKinley. It is the end of July, 1900, and King Umberto of Italy has just been assassinated. Caroline must help the First Lady navigate the correct protocols while paying her respects to the Italian Ambassador’s wife. Thankfully Caroline knows Italian, and puts an appropriate, if not 100% truthful, spin on the First Lady’s words.

Nathaniel Trask has been working for the US Treasury Department tracking down counterfeiters and solving other crimes. Under his supervisor, John Wilkie head of the Secret Service, Nathaniel has just wrapped up an investigation in Boston when the news of King Umberto’s assassination hits. Against his wishes, Trask is assigned to the White House, in hopes that an actual plan for the President’s safety can be developed before similar threats arise in the US.

Fans of Elizabeth Camden’s The Spice King will enjoy returning to the Delacroix family and the mystery that surrounds them in A Gilded Lady. Caroline is a free-spirited lady who wants to DO something more than just choose a husband and settle down. Her twin, Luke, is languishing in a Cuban prison, charged with treason. Caroline knows that something just is not right about Luke's arrest, but cannot figure out how to help her brother. Their older brother Gray is balancing the day to day operations of the family’s  spice import business with a need to free Luke from prison.

As Nathaniel and Caroline are forced to work together, sparks fly - but not always the romantic kind. Caroline looks for the fun in life, and admits to having a few bad habits. Nathaniel is straight laced, focused, and does not have time for nonsense like flowers and tea parties. In order for each of them to do their jobs well, they have to learn to work through their own pasts, and accept help from each other. Caroline must learn to appreciate the hard work of others, even if it feels like a wet blanket on the plans she is making to help Mrs. McKinley entertain Washington Society. The lessons Nathaniel has to learn are even harder: forgiveness, trust, and hope.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Gilded Lady. Since The Spice King was one of my favorite books from 2019, I had been eagerly awaiting book 2 in Camden’s Hope and Glory series. A Gilded Lady is thought-provoking, interesting, and filled with plot twists. Definitely a great book. Along the way I found myself searching the web to learn more about President and Mrs. McKinley, their transcontinental tour, and American life in 1901.

If you are a fan of Lynn Austin, Jennifer Delamere, Tamera Alexander or Jocelyn Green you will enjoy meeting the characters of Elizabeth Camden’s books. Their real-ness, faults, and small victories will both challenge and encourage you, while the well written storyline will keep you entertained. Just don’t start this book in the evening - you’ll have trouble putting it down and heading off to sleep!



I received an advance reader copy of A Gilded Lady from Bethany House Publishers. No other compensation was provided. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Emotions

Our emotions are tricky things aren't they? One minute we're up, happy, moving forward, and then something happens and we're sad, stopped, leaning over the chasm of depression and wondering if we will fall in. Have you been on that roller coaster recently? I surely have.

While it is possible to shut ourselves off from our emotional responses, build walls and keep other people at arm's length, that is NOT healthy. We need the ups and downs of our emotions to feel alive. We need the hope of turning our emotional burdens over to God to give us a way forward when we are feeling overwhelmed. 

Life isn't easy. Life is not always joy, rainbows, and unicorns. But life is precious, and we only have one chance to live it. I don't have all the answers to your struggles, but I know the God who does. I don't have all the answers to my own struggles, but Jesus promised that when I come to Him He will take my burdens and give me rest. He offers that same rest to you.

Whether you are laughing or crying, raging at the world or hiding under a blanket, God still sees you. He still offers His love and peace. He is holding out rest for your weary soul. Accept His gift.

I'll be praying for you.