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Just Like Going Home

Renee Ann Smith —  September 7, 2014 — 22 Comments
I'm fourth down on the right: the small blonde child facing the camera

I’m fourth down on the right: the small blonde child facing the camera

 My childhood was marked by large family gatherings, like the Thanksgiving in this photo

I grew up in the same small town as the families of my dad’s three brothers & my mom’s two siblings. My cousins walked the halls of my school with me, and I seemed to stumble over at least one relative every place I went. At one point, of the twenty or so homes on our street & extension, about seven of them housed relatives—granted some were distant.

The presence of my extended family left me with a strong feeling of being loved and watched over, of being part of something good.

Some of my best memories involve family dinners—my four siblings, I, and my parents sitting around the table during those few short years when we were all home and healthy and happy How quickly the time has flown since those days under my parents’ roof.

I enjoyed my childhood, but I truly did not realize what a rare treasure it was until I began teaching. I teach high school English at a small-town Christian school, and I calculated that in our tiny community of 80 kids, 20% of them come from fractured homes &traumatic pasts. Unlike me, their childhoods include abuse, foster care, a parent in prison or on drugs, death of a parent, being raised by grandparents, no father, never met their father, or unhappily married parents who divorced. So they are highly entertained when I share stories from my growing up years!

I enjoy going home again in my mind. I think that’s why I’m drawn to books about large, chaotic, loving families facing life together even after they’re adults. I call it my Walton’s Syndrome.

The latest book to provide my Walton’s Syndrome fix is Deborah Raney’s charming story Home to Chicory Lane.

Chicory Lane is where Audrey & Grant Whitman raised their five kids. Now that those kids are grown, they’ve invested a large part of Grant’s retirement and much sweat equity into transforming their home into a bed & breakfast. The book begins as they’re ready to jump into the new world of innkeeping. However, little do they expect their first—nonpaying!—guest to be married daughter Landyn, who has run back home after a fight with her husband. Though shocked that the newlyweds have run into trouble after just six months, Landyn’s family rallies around her and her husband Chase in a beautiful way.

Because that’s life in the Whitman family—parents, adult kids, and grandkids, supporting each other through tough times with grace, humor & prayer. And then, as Grant says, “Learning to enjoy the lull between catastrophes.”

What I liked best . . .

  • The gentle flow of the story—perfect for a crisp fall day & a cup of tea!
  • The whole idea of running a bed & breakfast (My Lorelai Gilmore Syndrome!)
  • Getting to know the Whitmans & their adult kids (They’ll be featured in more books to come!)
  • Going along for the ride as Audrey & Grant learn to handle scheduling and preparing and unruly guests (even young beauty queens)
  • Seeing their daughter Landyn grow & change as she puts her life back together
  • Speculating on the future relationship between Link & Bree

My favorite quotes . . .

deborah raney quote“We’re just imperfect people trying to follow a perfect God. We try to be obedient to all we know of Him. And we have to trust that He’ll take care of the rest.”

Deborah Raney quote“The more we see Him work in our lives, the easier it will be to trust Him.”

What you should do next . . .

You can grab a copy of Home to Chicory Lane at this link. ***Thanks to Deborah Raney & Litfuse PR for providing a copy for me to review.

Deborah RaneyAbout the author: DEBORAH RANEY’s first novel, A VOW TO CHERISH, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title. Her books have since won the RITA Award, ACFW Carol Award, HOLT Medallion, National Readers’ Choice Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. HOME TO CHICORY LANE released in August from Abingdon Press Fiction. Deb and her husband, Ken Raney, enjoy life in Kansas. They have four children and five small grandchildren, who all live much too far away.

You can connect with Deborah . . .

At her website

On her Facebook page

On Twitter

So glad you stopped by to soak in some nostalgia today. Blessings, friends!

***I’ll Tweet your post! I enjoy tweeting the posts and/or graphics of my visitors. If you’re on Twitter, I’ll follow you—if I’m not already. Let me know in the comments how to find you in the Tweet-world!

***Photo Backstory: I made the quote graphics with images from my account at RGB Stock Photos & tweaked them with PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. Continue Reading…

In Perfect Time

Renee Ann Smith —  August 19, 2014 — 4 Comments

Sarah Sundin’s novels always remind me why we call the men & women of World War II,
“The Greatest Generation.”

Her most recent book, In Perfect Time, tells the story of flight nurse Kay Jobson and C-47 pilot Roger Cooper, who work together in Italy and southern France to evacuate the wounded and deliver paratroopers and supplies. They are hard-working, courageous, and quick-thinking. In their down-time, Roger entertains the local kids by playing the drums on any available surface, dreams of auditioning for a Glen Miller type big band, and stays far away from girls. And beautiful, high-spirited Kay, who can’t seem to break through Roger’s quiet reserve, appreciates him from afar.

Of course, we readers can see that Roger and Kay would be perfect for each other, but these characters have personal issues to work through before they can become a real team. Both Kay and Roger are damaged by families who did not cherish them—and even deemed them worthless. After years of being told they would never measure up, they are haunted by their parents’ hateful words.

Kay and Roger help each other wage powerful inner battles to overcome the negative messages of their youth and see themselves as God sees them. Their personal struggles and growth—set against the backdrop of the fierce fighting around them—make this a riveting, romantic story.

What I liked best . . .

  • How Sarah brings the World War II settings to life
  • The great dynamic between Roger & Kay
  • Roger’s marked up old Bible
  • Catching up with Georgie and Mellie (from previous books in this series)
  • A beautiful scene where an old hymn works truth & healing in Kay’s heart
  • The action—an especially harrowing capture
  • The USO war bonds tour
  • The Nightingale Sisters
  • The sweetly satisfying ending
  • How much my students love these books, as well!

My favorite quotes . . .

Sarah Sundin In Perfect Time“I think the heartbeat itself is a drum message from God. With every beat, He sends His message. His life, His love. His life, His love.”
~Lt. Roger Cooper, In Perfect Time by Sarah Sundin~

In Perfect Time Sarah Sundin

“Something warm and light stirred in her soul. Her earthly father scorned her, but her heavenly Father—oh, what He had done for her. He loved her, forgave her sins, and gave her gifts too numerous to count.”
~Lt. Kay Cooper, In Perfect Time by Sarah Sundin~

What you should do next . . .

BUY THE BOOK: Take “A Sentimental Journey” today! All you have to do is follow this link to purchase In Perfect Time for yourself. ***Thanks to Litfuse and Sarah Sundin for providing a copy for me to review.

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY: Click on the graphic below to enter Sarah Sundin’s contest to win a Kindle HDX!

Sarah Sundin Litfuse Kindle contest

READ: Follow this link to check out Sarah Sundin’s previous novels.

WATCH: Follow this link to check out some great World War II movies.

So has this put you “In the Mood” to re-visit the heroes & heroines of the Greatest Generation through books or movies?
Then my job here is done!

Thanks for stopping by today. Blessings, friends!

***Photo Backstory: I made these graphics with photos from my account at RGB Stock Photos. Of course, PicMonkey is my tool of choice for tweaking the pic & adding the quote!

Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. (Follow this link for more Free Graphics.) Continue Reading…

cara putman Shadowed by GraceSince I’m enthralled with the World War II time period, I knew I’d appreciate Cara Putman’s latest novel, Shadowed by Grace.

The book tells the story of Rachel Justice, a newspaper photographer who takes an assignment in Italy, dangerously close to the front lines. She’s assigned to Lieutenant Scott Lindstrom of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Division. Those are the guys who traveled around Europe to recover stolen art. This works out perfectly for Rachel, because she has a hidden agenda.

Her mother is dying of tuberculosis, and Rachel wants to find her long-lost father before that happens—the father who also happens to be an artist. All Rachel has to go on is the sketch book he left behind and the hunch that her mother met him while an art student in Italy. Traveling with one of the Monuments Men gives her the opportunity to search for him. But the more she sees of war-torn Europe, the more she realizes she’ll need a miracle to ever locate him.

This story of a unique chapter in WWII history combined with Rachel’s personal journey is important, sweet, and satisfying. Thanks so much to Cara Putman for feeding my hunger for 1940’s drama! This book inspired me to queue up some of my favorite movie classics—Since You Went Away and The Best Years of Our Lives—to make the pleasure last a little longer.

What I liked best . . .

  • The World War II time period—clothes, slang, locations, all of it!
  • A war story from the perspective of the Monuments Men
  • Seeing Rachel’s heart touched by the lives she encounters
  • A photographer’s take on the action
  • The personal mystery that drives the story

Who would enjoy this story . . .

  • Fans of Sarah Sundin
  • Folks who plan to see the George Clooney/Matt Damon movie Monuments Men
  • History buffs
  • Romance loving teens on up

Love this quote from when Rachel sees her 1st war photo in print . . .

cara putman shadowed by grace 2a

 What should you do next?

You can purchase your copy of Shadowed by Grace at this link. ***Thanks to Litfuse and Cara Putman for providing a copy for me to review.

Take advantage of a Kindle sale! Purchase another Cara Putman World War II ebook for 99 cents at this link.

Enter a GIVEAWAY: Check out Cara’s Past & Present Giveaway: you chance to win in an antique AFGRA camera, a new Polaroid Instant Camera, and movie passes to the George Clooney and Matt Damon The Monuments Men movie. Enter through this giveaway link or by clicking on the image below.

shadowed by grace giveaway cara putman

cara putman shadowed by grace 77About the Author: In Cara’s words: “Shadowed by Grace is my 17th novel and a story of my heart. In addition to writing, I am an attorney, lecturer at a Big Ten university, active in women’s ministry, and all around crazy woman. Crazy about God, my husband and my kids. I graduated with honors from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Go Huskers!) and George Mason Law School. Because I had a few spare moments, I am now in Purdue University’s MBA program!”

You can connect with Cara at her website, on her Facebook page, and on Twitter.

**I created my quote graphic with a free image from rgbstock photos and the magic of PicMonkey. Continue Reading…

The star of Lorena McCourtney’s Dying to Read is literature’s newest amateur sleuth, Cate Kinkaid. Actually, Cate’s an assistant—not a full-fledged detective. She sees herself as either “an overage Nancy Drew, underage Jessica Fletcher, or clueless Stephanie Plum.”  Clueless because at the age of 29, all she has to show for her life is a “dead-end job situation, a bad haircut, a bank balance that looks like a ten-year-old’s piggy-bank savings, and a fizzled romantic relationship.”

Cate concludes, “If God had a plan for her life, it was as invisible to her as the calories in a plate of brownies.”

No wonder Cate’s so eager to succeed at her job in Uncle Joe’s detective agency. Her first assignment seems simple enough: verify the whereabouts of a young woman named Willow Bishop. But when Cate shows up at Willow’s last-known address, her task is complicated by the eccentric ladies of the Whodunit Club, a deaf cat named Octavia, and the dead body she finds on the stairs.

Klutzy, well-meaning Cate, embarks on an adventure of self-discovery as she attempts to solve the murder mystery—to which Willow holds the key. And when Cate eventually locates Willow, she discovers that Willow is her double. They share the same red hair, same blue eyes, and some of the same struggles. Maybe that’s why Cate feels compelled to prove Willow innocent and save her from herself.

Hayley Mills, That Darn Cat

For me, this story had the feel of a lighthearted old movie. I thoroughly enjoyed picturing some wholesome girl-next-door actress like Sandra Dee or Hayley Mills playing out Cate Kinkaid’s zany antics. And the ever-faithful Mitch, who stays in the background until needed to rescue Cate, would be played by . . . I’m not sure? Dean Jones? Any ideas out there?

If you’re looking for a charming story with many humorous scenes—plus a few poignant ones—grab this book today. You can purchase your copy at this link.  ***Thanks to Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, for providing a copy of Dying to Read for me to review.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Another of Lorena McCourtney’s books is FREE right now!! Follow this link to load Invisible (Ivy Malone Mystery Series Book 1) into your Kindle.

About the author: Lorena McCourtney is a long-time resident of Southern Oregon and enjoys using Oregon settings in her books. She wrote numerous short stories for children before moving on to romances and now to mysteries, often with a bit of humor. She won the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Mystery Book of the Year and twice won the Daphne Du Maurier Award of Excellence.

My obsession with crime solvers started early. At age ten, I was hooked on Trixie Belden. Eventually I moved on to other amateur sleuths—Nancy Drew, Vickie Barr (stewardess), Cherry Ames (nurse). Then I discovered the professionals. By age fifteen, I was the only girl I knew reading police procedurals and detective novels. A host of broody, conflicted, not-happy-unless-I’m-working crime solvers became my book heroes.

So I was predisposed to love Raleigh Harmon, the focus of five books by Sibella Giorello.

Raleigh is an FBI Special Agent, who tends to take risks, defy procedure, and operate outside the bounds of protocol. In this most recent adventure, she’s investigating Mob activities at a Seattle race track. And since she’s been in trouble one time too many, she has to close this case by end of race season or her career is over.

Raleigh is a tough-on-the-outside professional. But she can’t stop her heart from breaking for the people in her life. Whether it’s her mentally-broken institutionalized mother, the quirky clients she has promised to protect, or the good man who wants to marry her—but suspects she doesn’t love him enough to settle down.

Raleigh is also a forensic geologist. She solves her cases by interpreting evidence found in the Earth. I love this because it shapes my favorite metaphor for understanding folks like Raleigh.

Raleigh is a believer, and I picture her faith as a tender green shoot fighting for purchase in rocky soil. Just when you think the job stresses, personal betrayals, and inner turmoil have piled up enough to choke it out, a bud appears. And before you know it, that once-fragile faith is in full bloom.

If you’ve never tried this genre before, you should. You and Raleigh have things in common. Oh, you may not be trained to go up against the Mob or consider a Glock a girl’s best friend. But I bet you’ve been misunderstood by the people you love. Or failed in front of your peers. Or floundered under a heartache so heavy that no one can bear the load but God. If so, then you can relate to what Raleigh learns in this story . . .

“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end. Because I am God, your personal God. I paid a huge price for you. That’s how much you mean to me!” ~from Isaiah 43, The Message~

Other reasons you’ll enjoy this book: Two great secondary characters.

  • First, eighty-four-year-old Eleanor Anderson, the spunky race horse owner, who delivers quotes from various playwrights like they were “philosophical bombs” and has a soft spot for Raleigh.
  • Second, Raleigh’s irrepressible case agent Jack Stephanson. Here’s a description of Jack: “His body had the sculpted musculature of an anatomy chart, and his chiseled face framed bright eyes that could shift from green to blue and back again.” He was “basically a Ken doll with a concealed gun permit.” And somehow Jack is the one who anticipates what Raleigh needs and is always there to pick her up when she falls . . . Sounds promising, right?

You can purchase the book at this link. ***Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy for me to review.

About the author: Sibella Giorello grew up in the mountains of Alaska admiring the beauty and nature that surrounded her. She majored in geology at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts hoping to learn more about the landscape she loved back home. From there Sibella followed a winding path, much like the motorcycle ride she took across the country, which led to her true love, journalism.

In Virginia, Sibella became a features writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It was there she also met her husband and would hear Jesus whispering her name at a tent revival.

Sibella started writing about Raleigh Harmon as a way to keep her love of story-telling alive while staying at home with her young sons. As a journalist and author, her stories have won state and national awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. The Stones Cry Out, the first Raleigh Harmon novel, won a Christy award for debut novel in 2008. Sibella now lives in Washington state with her husband and sons.

You can connect with Sibella at her website.

Or follow Sibella’s Facebook page.

Continue reading to enter the GIVEAWAY: Continue Reading…