Archive for January, 2010

Last year Christine Thackeray had her first two books published. One was a serious, collaborative non-fiction work entitled C.S. Lewis: Latter-day Truths in Narnia,” co-written with her sister, Dr. Marianna Richardson.

The other, published by CFI and still available in some stores, kicked off her fictional series of Visiting Teaching Adventures. The Crayon Messages: A Visiting Teaching Adventure recounts the story of how a woman turns the worst visiting teaching route ever into one of her greatest blessings.

Her next V.T. adventure,  Lipstick Wars, should come out this summer. In it, a young mother has the kind of toddler who tends to wander, and one day, her escaping son leads her to the door of a reclusive artist. Together, the two women make miracles happen.

But if you can’t wait until summer, keep a lookout for Thackeray’s special Mother’s Day gift book, Could You Be An Angel Today? (coming out this spring.) According to the author, “It’s a fun story about a typical Mom who has an angel come to her asking for a day off. The woman agrees to take on the angel’s responsibilities for one day and through that experience realizes that anyone can be an angel – even her.”

Author Christine ThackerayAs if two books a year weren’t enough, the author recently moved, now homeschools her kids, and deals with a husband who is home full time (I know what that’s like, Christine…don’t worry, if you set some clear parameters and give him a few months to settle down, soon he’ll stop bothering you too much).

If you want to learn more about Christine and her writing, check out her website and her blog.

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Having recently read Marsha Ward’s The Man From Shenandoah, and coming away thoroughly impressed (see my earlier review here), I expected a similar immersion in the world of the wild west in her second and third volumes, which continue the tale of the uprooted Owen brothers. I wasn’t disappointed, although I must say that I can easily see her continuing this series, should she so choose.

While her first volume focused on the family, in general, and one brother, Carl, in particular, both Ride to Raton and Trail of Storms turn our attention to the other (and, for me, much more interesting) brother, James. His path in life after the Civil War brings obstacle after obstacle. First, he has to leave the woman he loves back in the Shenandoah Valley, when his family strikes out for the west. So, he adjusts and learns to love another–the one chosen by his father. Unfortunately, she has eyes for his brother, Carl, who ends up with her by the end of The Man From Shenandoah. Another lady lost.

In fact, Ride to Raton begins with his brother’s wedding, a celebration so painful for James that he strikes out on his own immediately without even saying goodbye to his mother. Unsure what to do now with his life, he heads toward a possible future in mining, but circumstances cause him to cross paths with a young Mexican woman, Amparo. Gradually, he falls in love with this quiet, beguiling beauty, only to face tragedy yet again.

Trail of Storms brings James full circle and then beyond…to a new source of peace and comfort in his life. To be honest, my interest in this concluding volume didn’t really pick up until James entered the scene again. But taken all together, the three volume series is well-written and authentic, and Ride to Raton and Trail of Storms, in particular, piqued my interest for the ways in which the author shed light on the racial divide between whites and Mexicans back in those days in a part of the country where Mexicans had long been dominant.

My only remaining question: Will there be more of the Owen Family in the future? I certainly hope so. If you want to purchase any, or all, of the series, go to Marsha Ward’s website here.

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Fancy some fantasy? You might want to check out Anna del C. Dye’s The Silent Warrior Trilogy, available in paperback or ebook form directly from her website, or from Amazon.com or Barnes&Noble.com.

Author Anna del C. Dye

In book one, The Elf and the Princess, a bitter struggle of succession between brothers has left the kingdom of Menarm devastated and divided. Half of the people remain with the conquering brother, Fenil, while the other half follow the defeated brother, Renil, to the north to set up a new kingdom. Adren, the last princess of Menarm, finds herself alone in a world dominated by men. In her quest to battle her enemies and keep alive her last hope for happiness, she finds unlikely allies in a powerful prince and a defiant mercenary, only to be overcome by an ancient elf.

Trouble in the Elf City continues the tale three years later, after Adren has settled comfortably into her new life as wife to the elf, Dellin, in the kingdom of Lothia. But a mysterious enemy shatters their peace, an enemy the elves appear powerless to fight. Will Adren witness the destruction of yet another kingdom and find herself, yet again, all alone in the world? Or can the Silent Warrior come to her rescue and save them all?

Finally, in book three, Elfs in a Conquered Realm, Adren, together with King Paletin, set forth with a team led by the young strategist, Zyrthal, to find the hidden treasures of Menarm. Set upon by ruthless mercenaries who want the kingdom’s riches for themselves, the captured team is rescued by the Silent Warrior. But now he has begun to battle demons of his own and has grown unsure of his abilities as Adren’s champion. The shadows in his heart are only magnified by the disappearance of the two half-elf princes from the dead kingdom.

Front Street Reviews has praised Dye’s works as “fluid and flawless,” adding in their review of the third book, “it should come as no surprise that one will find this story as fulfilling as the first two in the trilogy. Her talent for writing fantasy will leave her name forever entrenched in our memories as we hope to read more of her stories long into the future.”

I encourage you to go to her website to learn more about these works and Anna, herself. Even better, check out Tina Scott’s interview with the author here.

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I am fortunate in that I’ve never had to worry about medications or treatments for my son, regardless of his Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis. But I know that, were such a need to arise, I would want to have all options available to me. Many parents are not so lucky.

Author Margaret Turley

Now, Margaret Turley has written a novel, Save the Child, that explores the complex health care issues that can sometimes frustrate parents in their care for an ailing child.

In her story, Nancy Johnson is a vivacious 37-year-old married mother of three, whose daughter, Sharon, is diagnosed with leukemia. In Nancy’s mind, chemotherapy is out of the question because she views it as a poisonous killer. When she fights the system in order to pursue alternative health care for her daughter, Child Protective Service intervenes and removes Sharon from the Johnson home.

The resulting turmoil throws the family into conflict. The mother’s fixation on the one daughter only causes another to act out further in rebellion. In the meantime, disagreements grow between her and her husband, who is working part-time while attending law school.

Due to be published by March, Save the Child is a must-read for anyone concerned about parents rights in our society.

For a lengthy interview with the author, I recommend Tina Scott’s blog here. For more information on the author and her other upcoming works, check out her website here.

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“Ache” is a strange word. To begin with, it looks strange, and I’m certain any foreigner struggling to learn English would mispronounce it at the first try. But, after finishing Liz Adair’s novel, Counting the Cost, it was the word which seemed to sum it up the best.

On one hand, “ache” connotes a continuous kind of pain, whether it’s the literal sort you might feel in a part of your body, or the figurative type associated with heartbreak, sadness, or compassion. Yet “ache” can also refer to a feeling of intense desire for something or someone.

By the time I reached the end of her story of a tragic romance set  in Depression-era New Mexico, I had felt all those kinds of aches, but in a sweet and soulful way. Through the pages of her novel, her main characters slowly took on very real forms and they ached in very real ways. They ached for each other, and they ached because of each other.

And it surprised me. When it comes to fiction written by present-     day authors, I never go in for romance because, generally, they aren’t real enough or compelling enough for me. There has only been one other book I’ve read in the past several years that left me with a similar kind of sweet ache. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. And I only read that one because of the glowing reviews (which, I might add, were well deserved).

Like Frazier, Adair exhibits both a grasp of her landscape and the skills to describe it in phrases that both envelop and illuminate the reader. And Counting the Cost, like Cold Mountain, pairs two cultural opposites–a rural, rustic male with a refined, sophisticated lady. In one story, the divide is bridged, but the circumstances of war get in the way…in the other, well…I’ll leave it to readers to discover for themselves how Heck and Ruth deal with their differences. In both cases, however, there is an overpowering verisimilitude, thanks to the authors’ detailed descriptions.

While I have not yet read any of her other works, it is clear that Adair is a very gifted writer. A third of the way into her story, I had already begun to feel that cocoon that only the best kind of literary writing evokes. It’s a sense of being enclosed in the beauty of literature…words that caress and carry you into other places. She didn’t hit it in every chapter, but there were enough such moments that I almost didn’t want to reach the end of the story.

One example stands out. I’m not sure if Heck’s work on helping in the birth of a calf was something the author, herself, had once witnessed, or if she relied on an account given by one of her uncles. In any case, that is one scene that will stay with me for a very long time. It put me right there behind him, helping me to pull along with him. More than that, it seemed symbolic of the struggles in the story.

I know Counting the Cost is up for a Whitney Award this year and I urge all the voters to take a good, long look at this novel before casting their ballot. My vote is pretty much locked in.

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Rachel Rager’s By Love or By Sea hardly qualifies as historical fiction, since it’s set in a fictional country. Still, she ended up having to do a lot of research (after all, the story deals with piracy in the 1800’s). Research she hadn’t counted on when she first embarked on writing this romantic tale:

Rachel Rager

“I was writing my second story and was in the shower one day when I came up with the idea for By Love or By Sea…I wrote down some notes and when I was done with the one I was working on, I began By Love or By Sea. It wasn’t until I was part-way done that I decided to use piracy. Of course, then I sat in front of the computer every day for an entire month trying to figure out a way to solve the problem I’d created! A lot of research came into play!”

Almost five years after typing the opening line, her book was published by Cedar Fort and she held the first physical copy in her hands. Quite impressive for someone who still really sees her writing as more of a hobby than a vocation! As Rachel puts it, “I always thought writing was a job, but to me it’s my release…my escape.”

By Love or By Sea is a tale of childhood love lost and then recovered. Alice Lind Frank never forgot the boy she loved when she was just six years old, even after he was lost at sea. Now a young woman, Alice has found happiness in living and working with her grandparents, and in the affections of Clarence Hielott, the wealthy shipyard owner who intends to make Alice his bride.

When a ragged sailor appears in town, Alice is reminded of the young boy who once

"By Love or By Sea"

held her heart. Upon learning that the sailor is in fact her childhood love, Caleb, she finds herself falling for him again.

But Clarence refuses to let this ghost from the past destroy his plans for the future. He exposes the secrets of Caleb’s past, and Alice realizes that the boy she once knew is now a man with a dark history. Soon Caleb and Clarence are locked in a fierce competition for Alice’s heart.

Can Alice overcome her fears and surrender her heart to Caleb once more? And what will she do about Clarence?

Action, adventure, and most of all, romance, make By love or By Sea a thrilling and emotional love story you won’t soon forget.

You can learn more about the story and its author on her website and blog.

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