Book Talk Tuesday


Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Water for elephants.jpg

I loved it. I loved the details about a Depression-era circus train. I loved Jacob, both as a young man and a cranky old man.

Now, I have to make time to go see the movie before it’s gone.

As I was reading, I was already supposing what the changes were from book to screenplay. I’m pretty sure I know some of them and I’m eager to see if I’m right.


Woe! It’s Wednesday

Well, if I’m writing this and you’re reading it, I guess the world didn’t end Saturday.

It amazes me that since the Bible is so clear and specifically addresses the fact that no one can or will know the date and time of Christ’s return, that someone is so arrogant as to think they can figure it out.

Believers on Facebook and various writer forums and loops were divided whether Harold Camping is damaging Christian testimony and evangelism or whether he can be disregarded as just crazy.

Author Randy Ingermanson said it nicely. He gave me permission to quote him:

The most flaming atheist in the world has DNA that is 99.9%
identical to the DNA of Harold Camping.  Whereas the theology of most Christians is probably only about 80% identical to that of Harold Camping.
This means that there's a 20% difference theologically between Camping and most Christians, but there is only .1% difference genetically between Camping and the atheist.

Randy Ingermanson went on to say that there’s no reason Christians should be ashamed of Camping or try to make excuses for him, since most of us are so far removed, theologically, from him.

I agree.

What do you think?


Today, I’m praying for Josh, Yelena’s daughter, and the tornado victims in the mid-West.

Last book: I’m in the middle of The Violet Flash, as I mentioned yesterday. And I’m also in the middle of Water for Elephants. I’m trying to finish it so I can go see the movie before it leaves the theatres.

Last movie: Centurion.  Lot’s of blood, gore, and violence. It’s a Gladiator-wannabe.



Book Talk Tuesday

Oh. My. Goodness.

I’m reading an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of a book to write a review of for a certain website, so I’m not really free to say much about it until after the “official” review is posted.

I’ll just say a few things.

The title: The Violet Flash

The author: Mike Mason

Genre: It’s labeled Juvenile Fiction, but…

My succinct opinion: Go get it now!!

It’s a wonderful book. Especially if you love:

  • Madeleine L’Engle
  • Edward Edgar
  • Ripping good stories

Oh, and check back later on Authors Choice Reviews for my full review.


Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

I missed a week already. This is a totally different fiction exercise for me. For several reasons. I'm writing it completely seat of the pants. I writing it a chapter a week. I'm writing about Mennonites and I'm not completely familiar with their strictures and traditions. I know plenty of Mennonite Brethren people and they're completely normal, maybe just a tad more conservative than I. I may have to do some more research on the Mennonites and the Amish to find just the right order for my characters. I want them conservative, but I also want them out in the world a bit, not completely closed off. Anyway, back to Sarah Jane and The Bandbox Hat.

Chapter Two

Jesse Hofer.

"Sarah Jane?" He took a step closer.

I turned to run but for some reason my legs refused to obey my brain. So I faced the inevitable and formed my mouth into a smile. "Is that really you, Jesse? How long has it been? Six years? Seven? What are you doing back in town. I thought you were a stockbroker in L.A. now. Or is it an investment banker? I know your mom told me, but I can't remem-"

He gripped my elbow, cutting off the stream of babbling I couldn't seem to control.

"I'm visiting my folks for a few days. How are you?" His brown eyes were intent and seemed to pierce me to the bottom of my crepe-soled loafers.

I took an involuntary step back, breaking his grip. "Fine. Great. Enjoy your visit." I turned again and this time my legs and feet carried me across the street. I ducked into the drugstore and sank onto the red leather stool at the old-fashioned soda fountain.

"Coffee, Sarah Jane?"

The quavering voice finally pierced my fog and I looked into Mrs. Caldwell's rheumy blue eyes and nodded. "Is there any cherry pie left?" One look and a few words with Jesse and I immediately felt seventeen again and running for comfort food? "Nevermind, yes, just coffee."

Mrs. Caldwell tottered to the stainless steel machine and pushed a few buttons. In less time than it took to correct a spelling test, she set the paper cup of caffeine on the counter. "I heard Jesse was back in town for a visit," she said.

"Why didn't anyone tell me?" I sipped cautiously since Mrs. C was known for coffee both strong and hot.

"Didn't know you'd care." She returned to the gleaming monster wiped off the steam spout. “Jesse’s been gone five years. Thought you’d moved on.”

“You’d think so, wouldn’t you?” I mumbled. “And it’s been seven years, just FYI.”

“What’s that?” Mrs. Caldwell leaned over the counter, one hand cupped behind her ear.

“Thanks for the coffee.” I fished a few bills out of my wallet and left them.

Rosedale was a wide spot in the road between the Sierra Nevada mountain range and the California coast and we knew how to get the tourists and travelers to stop for more than gas and the restroom. A quaint and attractive old town with the drugstore soda fountain. A courthouse park with a carousel and picnic tables. A movie theater that showed family features on Friday nights. A farmer’s market on Wednesday evenings May through October.

Speaking of … I glanced over at Enns Dry Goods but couldn’t see if Jesse and the blonde were still inside.

It couldn’t be helped. I’d have to pass in front of the store. If I stayed on my side of the street, I may be able to make it past without seeing Jesse again. I ducked my head and headed to the park. Nathan would be there, setting up the family booth of early peaches and plums at the farmer’s market. If anyone knew what was going on, it would be my brother the gossip.

I’d stayed after school a bit to lay out supplies for tomorrow’s art project for my second graders. That combined with my stop to moon over those stiletto heels, and it was now after five. If I hurried, I may be able to catch Nathan before the after-work crowds came looking for their organic produce. I hurried past the booths crowded with green lettuce and bell peppers and dimpled oranges, lemons, and limes. A few merchants waved as I dodged jog strollers and dogs leashed to their owners.

“Nathan!” I finally slipped between the dropped tailgate of the farm pickup and the folding table. “Guess what?”

“I’m glad you’re here, Sarah Jane. Can you go get the plastic bags out of the back seat?” Nathan barely glanced over his shoulder as he helped Carlene Bowers pick through a lug box of early Gold Dust peaches.

“I’m making fruit pizza for the potluck Friday,” she said. “So they need to be firm but really flavorful.”

“All Richter Family Farms fruit are the best of their kind.”

“They sure are.” Carlene looked Nathan up and down.

My brother, never the swiftest at getting innuendo, flushed and glanced at me. “The bags, Sarah Jane?”

I dropped the satchel of papers I still had to correct and fished around in the back seat until I found the roll of plain white bags we gave to customers who’d forgotten their own containers.

“Hi, Carlene,” I said, handing Nathan a bag.

“Sarah Jane.” She nodded at me but her smile faded. “Thanks, Nathan. I’ll save you a piece of the fruit pizza. Will you be at the potluck?”

“Aye.” He turned to help another customer, a man wheeling a bicycle with one hand and carrying a canvas tote in the other.

Carlene disappeared into the crowd and I tried to catch Nathan’s attention but the biker wanted to discuss the worthiness of our peaches for freezer jam.

I sighed and returned to the pickup. After shoving my satchel into the back street I fumbled for my apron. After dropping the strap over my head, I adjusted the whole thing until Richter Family Farms was emblazoned across my chest, then wrapped the long waist straps around and tied them in front.

I said a prayer that Jesse and his blonde didn’t decide to come pick up some local fruit to take home back to their loft apartment in Los Angeles or San Francisco or Chicago or wherever Jesse had ended up after leaving me and my heart behind here in the middle of California’s breadbasket.

“We have a deal, right, God?” I whispered. “I stay and help and you keep Jesse away. Just like you did seven years ago.”

My heart faltered as I realized the truth of those words.

I stayed.

Jesse left.

End of story.

I truly believed that it was over. I had left the past behind and moved on. Until I heard his voice saying my name and I looked into his cocoa-brown eyes.


Woe! It's Wednesday

I had to search through several months of back posts and I was surprised and a little dismayed to see how really cranky I come off in some of these rants. I'm a pretty even-tempered person, easy-going, not too demanding. But maybe it's because I get to rant and rave online regularly.
There is something very freeing about being able to write one's thoughts and feelings and send them out into the blogosphere, not knowing if anyone will ever read it.
I've tried hard not to attack anyone personally, and I often change details if I'm afraid someone will recognize themselves. Actually, I'm more afraid that the wrong person will think I'm writing about them and be offended when it was really about someone and something else entirely different.
I've also tried not to write anything that I wasn't willing to say to someone's face. Or at least to their voicemail.
I'm a work in progress, much like the rest of the world.
Sometimes I mess up. Sometimes I don't.
I hope I do more of the latter than the former.
About all of life though, not just blogging.


Book Talk Tuesday

Note to self: Be sure and tag all your posts. I just had to go back through about 18 months of blog posts to see if I'd talked about Alexander McCall Smith's books. I can't find a post about them, but I also can't believe I've been doing Book Talk Tuesday for this long and haven't mentioned them.

Mr. Smith is a very prolific Scottish writer. He has several series but his most popular is The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, set in Botswana.
Product Details

Precious Ramotswe is a traditionally built woman who is also a private detective. Precious reminds me a bit of Miss Marple who claimed that human nature is much the same everywhere and it didn't matter if she rarely left her village of St. Mary Mead to see the world; the world came to her.
Precious is also an astute observer of human nature and many of her cases are solved by either asking the right questions or listening to the wrong answers.
The mysteries are not suspenseful thrillers with the fate of the world hanging on the outcome. The thing is, to the woman who need to know if the man claiming to be her long-last father really is, and to the family looking for their son who disappeared while helping dig wells with a relief agency, the case is just as important as stopping an atomic bomb is to James Bond.
Mr. Smith has several other series. I've enjoyed The Sunday Philosophy Club but none of the others have the charm of Precious; her secretary Grace Makutsi with her unheard of 97% score from the Botswana Secretarial College; Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, the mechanic who becomes much more to Precious.
HBO filmed a mini-series and they did an outstanding job capturing the essence of the characters and the beauty of Botswana. It's obvious Smith loves the land and it's infected his characters as well.


Wednesday Addendum

Security may be over-rated. Just a tad.
Several months ago, people all over Facebook were abuzz about making sure that your FB page was safe and the first step was to look at the address of your page and make sure it started with https:// not just http:// 
So I did.
Sure enough, I didn't havet the s. So I dutifully did the steps to make my page more secure. And that's when it all fell apart.
I hadn't been hacked with the previous settings. I didn't have any problems at all. But once I added the s, all of a sudden my blog and twitter posts stopped appearing on my Facebook page. It's been months and I still don't have it fixed. Tweets are now back, but I can't seem to get twitterfeed or Blogger or anything else to post to Facebook when I have new blog posts.
I've tweaked. I've massaged. I've re-inputted info.
I'm hoping this one does it. We'll see...

Woe! It’s Wednesday

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about masks.


The masks we put on so others will think of us a certain way. And the masks we occasionally lift a bit, allowing them to see the real us. Or the real me, as the case may be.

I have some masks. But I’m continually trying to make them either lighter or more transparent, if I can’t rip it off entirely.

Sure, I’d like everyone to think of me as highly accomplished, successful at whatever I do, living in a clean house with up to date furnishings and decorated just so, with children and grandchildren who always behave just as I want them to, with an adoring husband who showers me with chocolate and diamonds, with a spiritual life so disciplined that I can’t leave the house before spending two hours in deep study and prayer, with a string of best-sellers, with—

Yeah. Enough of that.

The truth.

I rarely clean behind the toilet. Only when company’s coming. My home is furnished mostly with hand-me-downs and inherited furniture. Two pieces in the whole house are things I picked out to suit my taste. My children are independent thinkers who state their own opinions and live their own lives. Sometimes they consult me, but quite often they don’t. My grandchildren – well, they are perfect. Most of the time. Okay, they’re perfectly adorable. And that’s the truth.

My husband and I do love each other, till death us do part, but we also bicker and disagree about some pretty important issues. Like where is the proper place for dirty socks: the hamper or the bedroom floor.

I’m faithful in Bible Study, but sometimes, yes, a whole week goes by and I discover I haven’t even looked at God’s word. This mask is particularly hard to leave off. I want to point out that I’m still memorizing Scripture and doing daily devotional reading. But that’s the urge to stay behind the mask talking.

I’ve tried living behind the mask and it’s exhausting to maintain the fa├žade.

So, yes, I live out loud.

Drop by and you’re liable to find breakfast dishes still in the sink at dinner time. My desk is usually so cluttered I’m the only one who can find anything on it.

When I get frustrated and wish that I lived in a cleaner home or had a nicer office, or could convince someone that tattoos may be pretty now but one day she’ll be sorry, when I’m arguing with my husband about who has more clutter, then I remind myself that it’s not the appearance that’s important.

It’s what is in the heart.

I heard a quote recently: People see what you do; God sees why you do it.

Life’s too short to keep wearing the mask.


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Book Talk Tuesday


It’s Tuesday, so it must be time to write about what I’m reading.

Fade to Blue by Julie Carobini                          A Shore Thing by Julie Carobini

Fade to Blue by Julie Carobini is the latest in her Otter Bay series. Otter Bay is a fictional city with a strong resemblance to Morro Bay, California. All of the Otter Bay novels are charming stories with real life characters facing real life problems.

In Fade to Blue, Suz Mitchell has moved across the country with her small son. She’s living with her brother and trying to put her life back together after a divorce. She gets a job as an art restorer at the famed Hearst Castle. Life goes on.

Until Suz runs into her first love Seth who is also working at the castle. Then her ex-husband calls, brimming with plans to reunite his family. Meaning Suz and their son.

Suz restores artwork and she senses her soul is in need of some restoration work as well. But instead of becoming clearer as the old layers of seeing and perceiving are being wiped away, her life continues to need the Master’s touch.

Julie’s books are always chock full of their sandy locations and Fade to Blue is no exception. You can hear the waves roll in and the gulls cry as you read.

I really love the Otter Bay novels and Julie has crafted another perfect summer beach read. I’ll grab my towel and flip-flops and see you on the shore.

Highly recommended!

Disclosure : I received an Advanced Reading Copy of this book for free. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Fiction Friday

We're winging this one. I'm writing completely on the seat of my pants. I have no idea where this story is going. Join me for the ride. Let me know if you have a suggestion or idea. I'm open to anything.

The Bandbox Hat
Chapter One

What's a girl in a bonnet to do when she's faced with the most beautiful pair of stiletto pumps ever created?
I stared through the window of Enns' Dry Goods, questions tumbling through my mind like grain falling into the silo.

1) Where did Emma Enns find this pair of black heels?
2) Did her father know she'd ordered them and they were currently displayed in his window, in front of God and everyone in Rosedale?
3) How much were they and if I skipped lunch for a couple of weeks, could I afford them?

Some of the answers I could supply.

1) Not from the store's usual suppliers.
2) Not very likely.
3) Only one way to find out.

I pushed through the heavy glass door, the metal bar hot against my hand.

"Sarah Jane. Hi." Emma's cheery voice greeted me from behind the checkout counter near the entrance.

I hurried to my friend. "I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the front window."

Her eyes sparkled with mischief and daring. "Father let me add some inventory to try and attract more tourists. So it won't be just zwieback and snoods."

"But will a tourist buy a pair of shoes in a Mennonite dry goods store?" For some reason, my practical nature chose that moment to show itself. "Craft items, maybe specialty foods. But they can buy the shoes at their own mall."

"Shhh!" Emma leaned across the counter. "I have a plan to keep the shoes. Or sell them to a good friend."

"Ah." Comprehension dawned as quickly as my hopes were dashed. "I'm sure I can't afford them. And your father made it clear that I abused his layaway policy and from now on it's cash and carry only for Sarah Jane Richter."

"I'll do my best to keep them for you while you save up," Emma said. "How's work?"

"Fine. It's home and family life that's driving me crazy."

"I'd give anything if my brother would build a garage apartment for me, instead of sharing with my twelve-year old sister. I'm ten years older."

"Yes, but you and Josef will be married in just a few months and you'll have your own home. I have no fiance' and, even worse according to my family, no prospects."

"You know that's not true. Benjamin and Aaron and David would all be glad to court you if you gave them any encouragement at all."

Her words were true, but the despair they triggered in my heart couldn't be shared. No one believed me that I was in no hurry to marry and bear children. I have twenty-six first graders to care for and make sure they are clothed and fed. And make sure they can read by the time the state mandated testing happens.

"I have to go." I moved to the exit and sketched a wave goodbye. Out on the warm concrete sidewalk I paused to draw in a breath of fresh air. Spring in Rosedale is glorious. And fleeting. In another two weeks, we'd be dashing from air conditioned cars to air conditioned homes. At least some of us would. My new garage apartment would have only a celing fan to keep the oppressive summer at bay. But since I'd be living there alone, there was no one to care or be shocked if I wanted to sit on the couch in my underwear. Or take a shower in the middle of the day, just to cool off.

"Oh, my, look!" The soft voice came from behind me.

I glanced over my shoulder. Emma's plan was working. A couple in vacation clothes, shorts and tee shirts had paused in front of the window display. The woman was tall and slender, with blonde hair pulled into a sleek pony tail. She pointed at ... I followed her finger. My shoes!

"I think I'll try them on," she said, and headed for the door.

The man followed more slowly. He looked around the street and his gaze met mine.

My heart twitched, almost like it had been in suspended animation and had received an electric shock to restart it.

He froze, too.

"Sarah Jane." His voice hadn't changed at all. Still deep, yet soft.



Woe! It’s Wednesday

We gave up.

We took Jake to the pound last week.

He’s incorrigible.

He was doing better. Obeying, mostly.

I turned my back for thirty seconds and he darted into the street and bit a neighbor going for a walk.

We took him in the next day. He’s in a 10 day lockdown for rabies quarantine.

I feel badly.

But I know, intellectually, that we gave him every chance. Lots more chances than many people would have given him.

My heart aches for his future.

But I can’t risk the well-being of our family and neighbors on the hopes that he’ll grow out of his stubbornness. But his behavior in the last few weeks escalated.

It was the right thing to do.

I still miss his sweet face with his pink nose, checking to see what I’m reading and who I’m talking to. I miss his tall lanky legs as we walk down the street. I miss him.




Book Talk Tuesday

I’m almost done with Possession by Rene Gutteridge.

Loving it!

Fast paced, suspenseful, twists and turns.

Highly recommended, if you enjoy suspense.


Vance Graegan is a Maryland police officer, still haunted by the D.C. sniper. He and his wife Lindy and son Connor decide to move across the country to California and get a fresh start. They never imagined it would be a nightmare. The moving company holds their possessions for ransom and their new lives are in turmoil.