Book Talk Tuesday: Currently Reading


I’m in the middle of several books and am reading them randomly, depending on the mood I’m in. Some of them I’ve mentioned before.

cover  Fantasy in Death by J.D. Robb. I’m just barely into it, but already can hardly put it down. Lt. Eve Dallas is investigating the murder of a video game mogul. I’m more than a little in love with her husband.


The Red Suit Diaries: Stories from a professional Santa. I downloaded it to my Kindle just before Christmas, but I’m still enjoying Mr. Butchart’s tales and how he’s able to make applications to the other eleven months of the year.

The Red Suit Diaries: A Real-Life Santa on Hopes, Dreams, and Childlike Faith    


Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer is a free download from her website. It’s the Twilight story told from Edward’s point of view. I finally get what he sees in Bella.

I’m also still reading Ten People Every Christian Should Know by Warren Wiersbe. I’m in the last chapter. I wish I better remembered the details of these saints’ lives. I’m blessed as I read, but later haven’t been able to recall much.


Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

Previously: Sarah Jane arrives in LA, eager for a new start. She finds a paper in her bag with Jesse’s phone number and wonders if her future is to be found in her past.


Chapter 17

An hour later I sat on the queen-size bed in my room-for-one-for-one-night-please and stared at my phone. I had three missed calls from Anna, two from Nathan, one from Jake and four from blocked numbers. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who those might be.

I’d left a letter, I thought, resentment at their intrusion into my new life after only a few hours pecking at the base of my neck. The more rational part of my brain scolded that a scribbled Bye on Anna’s message chalk board by the phone could hardly be called a note much less a letter.

I keyed in a text to Nathan. I’m fine. Just needed to get away for a bit. Will keep in touch. I pressed Send, then resumed my staring. I mean my thinking.

To call Jesse or not to call. To try and find Rachael or not. To look for a job … That was the thought that gave me pause. Was this trip simply a one-time instance of Sarah Jane standing up for herself and would I go running back to Rosedale and my safe life? If I did, I’d never be able to resist Anna’s inexorable will again. That alone resolved my inner steel.

I may end up back at the farm, in my garage apartment, but it would be because I wanted to and I freely chose that life. I couldn’t let anyone else dictate to me anymore what I should do.

So I was staying. Then back to questions one and two. Call Jesse? Find Rachael?

My phone buzzed, making me jump. A return text from Nathan. No worries. Love you.

I smiled. Nathan was my favorite brother for a reason.

Okay, time to do something, even if it was wrong.

I threw on my workout clothes and headed for the gym.

Thirty minutes later I returned to my room and this time I only had two missed calls on my phone.

One from Anna and one from an unfamiliar number. I also had a voice mail.

May as well get it over with. I pressed the buttons and listened as a familiar voice ignited a storm of emotions.

“Sarah Jane, it’s Jesse. I was sorry to hear about your dad. Rachael is really upset, too. She said she was going up for the funeral. I probably should have called to tell you, but … well, it’s not like we’re friends anymore. You made that clear. So … anyway, I’m sorry about your dad. Bye.”

I deleted the message but I couldn’t delete his voice or the feelings surging through me.

It had been Rachael at the church this afternoon. I could have seen my sister, hugged her, but I’d raced away, too upset and too selfish to think clearly.

No, that wasn’t true. Everyone grieves differently and if Rachael’s grief drove her back to her family and Anna’s drove her to unmerciful bossing, was it so wrong that mine drove me to solitude at any cost? It didn’t mean that I loved Dad or the rest of the family any less. Did it?

I plucked at a loose thread on the bedspread. I’d heard horror stories about how filthy hotel linens, especially bed coverings are. And the carpets.

I pulled off my shoes and socks and walked to the bathroom for a shower. I rubbed my bare feet on the carpet. Defiance was a new emotion for me.

I liked it.



Book Talk Tuesday: Finger Lickin’ Fifteen

Somehow, I missed this one and had to back track from Sizzling Sixteen  which I read a few months ago.

Finger Lickin' Fifteen paperback cover


Stephanie Plum is back and is busy tracking down bail jumpers and escaping firebombs and exploding cars. In this one, she gets to help out Ranger in his business. Joe and Stephanie are currently off in their on/off relationship, giving her the chance to dream a little about Ranger. The bail skippers are as weird/harmless/lethal as ever. There’s usually one of each and this time is no exception.

Lula and Grandma Mazur are so over the top now that they are simply caricatures of themselves. Ranger and Joe are as enticing as ever. The language can be pretty salty for sensitive ears and minds. There’s no sex in this one, overt or behind closed doors.

I’m pretty excited about the One For the Money movie that opens this week. I enjoy all the Stephanie Plum books. I just can’t read them back to back.

This must be the week for series reading. I’m currently into U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton and I can hardly put it down. She gets better and better with each book. Seems impossible, but it’s true. Check back next week.


Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat


Previously: Sarah Jane runs home from her father’s funeral and packs her clothes and leaves town.




Chapter 16


Three hours later, I gripped the steering wheel and pulled a deep breath. The Los Angeles basin stretched before me. Scrubby brown hills still surrounded the freeway, but Interstate 5 snaked down and ahead. As far as I could see were roads and buildings and billboards, then more of the same.


I gave my head a shake and accelerated. Best pay attention. Traffic flowed around me on both sides. I’d been to LA several times, but always as a passenger. Well, if I was going to make a new start and a new life, learning to drive in LA was the logical first step.

After a quick glance over my shoulder, I changed lanes and prepared to follow one arm of the tangled octopus in front of me.

In another half hour my heart was thumping and drowning out the radio. Cars still darted around me, exiting and entering the freeway. I seemed to be going either too slow or too fast for the others, garnering honks and glares. I’d missed a sign and was inadvertently on a freeway called 134 and apparently about to enter the city of Glendale. I’d already been through half a dozen other towns. I thought this area was all Los Angeles but I was wrong.

An exit loomed and I made a sudden decision to take it, earning one last honk. One right turn and I was on a charming street with storefronts and trees and bricks and cars parked in front of shops. A familiar green circle logo at the end of the block caught my eye and when I reached Starbucks, there was a parking spot right in front. Who says parking in LA is a hassle?

I strode into the coffee shop and in ten minutes I had a cup of strong, black coffee just the way I like it and a local newspaper. One good thing about living at home for years was that I had a healthy savings account. Even though I took off with no real plan, I knew I had funds that would give me a place to stay.

I turned the newspaper pages, scanning articles about the economy and the current scandals in the sports and political worlds.

The barista pointed across the street when I asked about a hotel. The place looked nice, really nice, but I decided for my first night on my new life I should splurge. Tomorrow I’d move to a more reasonable place while I looked for an apartment and a job.


As quickly as panic rose in my throat, it subsided again. There were only a few weeks left of school and I had enough sick leave accrued to cover that. I fished in my messenger bag for my phone. Pain sliced my finger and I snatched my hand out of the pocket. A paper cut oozed blood on the pad of my index finger. I pressed a napkin against it before pulling out the papers and setting them on the table.

Roseanna Lopez’s book report on The Violet Flash. A memory teased my brain. I’d been grading this when I got the call from Anna to come home. Dad was being rushed to the hospital and I’d ignored the summons because I thought Anna was crying Wolf! again.

Grief welled up and threatened to spill down my cheeks. I blotted my eyes and crumpled up the napkin.

I’d send the report to Roseanna. She’d done a good job on it and she deserved to know. I started to stuff the pages into my bag when I spied the numbers written on the back of the last page. A phone number. Jesse’s. The rest of that afternoon flooded back. I’d called the Hofer house to get Rachael’s number from Jesse but he’d left. His mom gave me his number instead.

I stared at the digits. Did my new start actually mean going back to my past?


Talking Books on a Thursday: MacArthur’s Moments of Truth


  I’ve been looking for a daily devotional for this year and when the opportunity rose to review this new book from John MacArthur, I snapped it up. I’m glad I did.

Arranged into short daily readings, the book is grouped into monthly themes. January is for Beginnings. February is Love. September is Work. The devotions are taken from other John MacArthur books, but even if you’ve read the source material, having something distilled into one page makes it more memorable and portable, easier to chew on during the day as God brings the reading back to your mind.

Some that I’ve recalled during my day recently:

  • “But the children of a sinful generation are powerfully affected by the consequences of the sins of a society.”
  • “A weak and constantly accusing conscience is a spiritual liability, not a strength.”  -- I love this whole reading on April 27th titled A Weak Conscience.
  • “Whenever you elevate good deeds over sound doctrine and true worship, you ruin the works too.”

Just because the readings are fairly short, don’t assume they’re shallow as well. They’re not. Many of them are downright challenging. MacArthur tackles subjects like Sanctification and Justification and God’s Sovereignty.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is looking for a devotional book that will challenge as well as encourage them in their daily walk.


-- I received a free copy of Moments of Truth from Thomas Nelson Publishers, in return for an impartial review. We both held up our end of the bargain.


Woe! It’s Wednesday: Me First!


I’ve told my husband that 2012 is the year of ME. He’s … somewhat supportive. A bit more after I clarified exactly what I meant.



I’ve been writing for about twelve years now. I’ve been writing full time from home for about seven years. When I worked, I thought my job was the reason I couldn’t get my novel done and submitted.

When I quit work, I lost that rationale.

Then, it was because of his job. Yes, he works crazy hours and shifts. Yes, his days off are different every week. True, I never know when he’ll be home or at work. Truly, it changes almost daily. So the randomness of our schedule was blamed for awhile.

Then family stuff started cropping up. Grandchildren need play time with Grammy. Parents and in-laws and other family need our time and attention. I said one of the reasons I quit working outside the home was to be more available for family and friends.  Another “reason” to not get novel number three done.

Recently, I’ve gotten more freelance jobs and work-for-hire projects. I always say a paying assignment has to come before my own spec work.

But this year, 2012, I’ve decided is the year I write more and the year I submit more.

Sometimes it will mean I can’t go to coffee or lunch or drop everything to do something for someone else. I have to put myself first.

This is such a foreign concept to me. I’ve made a career out of dropping whatever I was doing when I was “needed.” I’m rethinking what that “need” looks like, as well as evaluating if it’s more important than what I’m working on.

Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t.

I’m praying for discernment and self-discipline.

Sometimes the discernment is easy:

Stay home and work or go to a movie? Work.

Sometimes it’s not quite as easy: Stay home and work or go to lunch with the family? I chose family and I’m pretty sure that was the right choice. It meant I had to work until 8:30 last night to meet my goals for the day, but it was worth it.

So far, 2012 is looking to be a very productive year.

What are your goals for 2012?


Book Talk Tuesday: Let’s Go To The Movies


I’m in the middle of several books, including two that I’m dissecting and highlighting. I’m getting lots of reading and work done, but I haven’t finished reading a book in over a week now.

So, today I thought I’d talk about movies.

I have a rule that I (usually) follow: If a movie is based on book, read the book first, then prepare to be disappointed.

Sometimes I don’t realize a movie is based on a book. Sometimes, if a movie offer is spur of the moment, I haven’t gotten to the book yet.

The Hunger GamesI saw a trailer recently for The Hunger Games and I was really intrigued. I’ve heard about the books of course, and figured I’d get to them eventually, but the movie looks really good. I’ll likely move the book higher on my list to get around to.

My husband and I both read Water for Elephants and enjoyed it a lot. The movie was good, but there just wasn’t room for the depth of emotion that the book managed to evoke.  

Product Details


One of the best recent movies that was based on a book: The Help. Kathryn Stockett - Book InformationKathryn Stockett - Book InformationKathryn Stockett - Book Information


They had to change some details for the sake of time but I thought they did a great job getting the important stuff into the movie. The characters were good, although (it’s probably just me), I felt Skeeter made the poorest transition to the screen. Minnie and Abileen, Hillie and Elizabeth, and especially Celia were spot on.

I’m also looking forward to One For the Money based on the first Stephanie Plum book by Janet Evanovich. I’m not sure about Katherine Heigl as Stephanie, but I’m willing to give her a chance. One for the Money Poster I thought Sandra Bullock could have done Stephanie in her sleep, but no one consulted me about the casting.

What’s your favorite movie that’s based on a book?


Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

Previously: Sarah Jane leaves her father’s funeral reception. She thinks she sees her long-lost sister Rachael arriving, but Sarah Jane doesn’t go back to see if it’s really Rachael. Instead, Sarah Jane returns to the cemetery and reflects on all the people in her life she’s lost. Rachael. Jesse. Her mom and dad. Then what her future might be in Rosedale. She leaves the graveyard and heads home.


Chapter 15


The house was still empty when I barreled through the back door and into the kitchen. An urgency gripped me and my heart raced two steps ahead of my body on the stairs to my room.

The clothes from my closet were dumped on my bed. I pulled out the dresser drawers and tipped out their contents to join the growing mound of khaki, taupe, cream, and white fabrics.

I sank onto the rocking chair in my bay window and stared at the garments.


Funny-strange, not funny ha-ha.

I loved watching Stacy and Clinton on What Not to Wear. I could recite the rules for dressing well in my sleep. But I noticed that my own wardrobe was nearly colorless. I wore khaki slacks or skirts to school. My tops were all monochromatic tones of beige or cream.

Just like my life.

I’d been coasting through life. Content to let people I loved leave me behind in the brown dust of Rosedale.

I stood. No more coasting for Sarah Jane Richter.

Once I retrieved my suitcase from under the bed, I shoveled my clothes in, then tossed my toiletries on top.

The rolling bag made satisfactory bumps on my calves as I tugged it down the stairs behind me.

The phone rang, drowning out the thumping of my heart.

Who would be calling here? Everyone we knew was still at the church, eating potato salad and cold cut sandwiches.

It rang again.

I stared at it.


I snatched it up. “Hello?”

“Sarah Jane, where are you?” Of course, Anna wondering why I wasn’t at her beck and call, wiping up spilled punch, setting out platters of deviled eggs, and smiling and thanking people for coming and slipping some twenty dollar bills into Pastor’s hand.

“Obviously I’m at home, since you called me.” I tried to smother the waspish tone to my voice, but it crept out and I knew Anna heard it.

“We need you here, Sarah Jane. Your brothers need you. April needs you.” She must have sensed how close I was to exploding because her voice gentled to a non-Anna tone. Only I knew it was calculated to get me back there and pouring iced tea in 3.5 minutes.

“Tell them I love them, but I—”

“What? That you’re drowning in self-pity, with no regard for what they’re going through? Jake has just lost his father. He’s the head of the family now. Can you for minute forget about yourself and think about all the pressure he’s under? The pressure we’re under?” So much for the gentle Anna. The true one was back and I took comfort in knowing there was no longer a need for me to tolerate her condescension.

I hung up then stared at the kitchen.

What next?

My stomach growled, giving me a clue.

My cell phone sang from my purse, still on the dinette table where I’d dropped it earlier. I ignored it and looked for something to eat.

Inside the fridge I found platters of lunch meats and some macaroni salad, dropped off by solicitous church ladies so the family wouldn’t have to think about dinner. There was also a lasagna and tamale casserole in aluminum pans. Those Mennonite women, always thinking ahead so the mourners wouldn’t have to concern themselves with returning dishes or trying to remember who got the white Corningware or who the Anchor Hocking glass casserole belonged to.

I made two sandwiches and grabbed the lasagna.

It took two trips to load my suitcase and provisions into the car.

My cell phone had been ringing every three minutes while I fixed my moveable feast.

Once I was in the driver’s seat, I turned off the phone and stared down the drive, gripping the steering wheel.

Was this how Rachael felt, all those years ago?

Scared. Excited. Uncertain. But also sure I had to leave.

I could stay and move into the apartment over the garage. Jake had been promising to build it for three years and I was still a “guest” in the main house.

I could stay and continue to teach second grade until my class was composed of this year’s student’s children. I’d could be a multi-generational teacher.

I could stay and wonder what would have happened if I’d followed Jesse to college.

I could stay and wonder what kind of life I would have had if I hadn’t stayed to take care of Mom.

Or I could go and live my life and find out for myself.


Woe! It’s Wednesday: The Winter of Our Discontent



I live in an area that gets foggy. Not San Francisco fog. Central Valley Tule fog that hovers above the ground, blocking the sun from reaching the earth. Sometimes for a few hours. Sometimes for days. Weeks even.


The fog starts in November, continuing sporadically until about March. Something about damp ground, sunshine during the day, then the fog appears. It’s often patchy. I’ve left my house in the sunshine, driven five miles only to be greeted with a wall of white. And the opposite is equally likely. If you’ve gone days with no sun, you can drive a half hour into the mountains to get above it, or a couple of hours west to the coast. It’s not like we’re held captive by the fog.

Someone commented to me recently that they were hating being here in the gray damp.

I know there are real maladies such as Seasonal Affective Disorder, that afflict people who need sunlight and vitamin D and they feel depressed. Those symptoms usually take several weeks to accumulate.

But, I don’t want to be the kind of person whose outlook is dependent on my circumstances. The kind of person who believes:

  • If only the sun is out, I can smile.
  • If only the sun is out, I can sing.
  • If only the sun is out, I can be happy.
  • If only the sun is out, I can write.
  • If only the sun is out, I can go for a walk.

I’m blessed to be able to do those things no matter what the weather. I can choose to live in the gray or I can take the sunshine with me.

Sure, sometimes I get tired of the mist and drab. But I don’t have to let it dictate if I’m going to have a good day. Bad things happen on bright days, just like good things happen on dark days.

I want to live as if the sun is out today.


Book Talk Tuesday: For Time and Eternity & Forsaking All Others




Forsaking All Others by Allison Pittman is a sequel to her earlier novel, For Time and Eternity. I thought I previously reviewed For Time and Eternity here but if I did, I can’t find it. It’s likely I decided not to review it “publicly” out of deference to some LDS friends and family.

However, I am a reader and a writer and enough of a grownup to know how to separate out personal feelings about religion and faith when I talk about a book.

So, I best start with For Time and Eternity.



Camilla Deardon is intrigued with the Mormons encamped near her family farm in Iowa. Charming Nathan Fox begins to accompany Camilla on her walk to school, against her father’s strict orders. Raised by sincere but emotionally distant parents, Camilla is attracted to the joy and fellowship evident in the Saints’ camp and she soon agrees to join them and to marry Nathan and continue on their journey to Zion. They have two daughters. Life is good for the Fox family, until two events: the loss of their infant son and Nathan decides to take a second wife. Camilla remembers her early Bible teaching and determines that she must leave her now adulterous marriage. She gets lost in a snow storm and is … Yep, that’s the cliffhanger ending.


ForsakingAllOthers_3D1Forsaking All Others picks up immediately. Camilla Fox is rescued by the U.S. Army. She is torn between returning to her beloved Nathan or leaving him and the church.  If she leaves, does that mean leaving her daughters behind? How can she go back to her parents’ home when they have returned unopened every letter Camilla sent?


I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that it left me vaguely dissatisfied. I would have liked just a smidgen more of a promise of a ‘happily ever after.’

Pittman writes knowledgeably about LDS history, the early days in Utah, and the battles over polygamy, both in theology and as they were likely played out in the homes of sister wives.

I recommend both books. I’ve also read one other by Pittman, Stealing Home, set in the early days of professional baseball. I really enjoyed that one, as well.


Fiction Friday: THE BANDBOX HAT

Previously: Sarah Jane’s father died. At the funeral, she contemplates how God has abandoned her family in spite of all the good works they do. At the church luncheon afterwards, she decides to go home. On the way out of the parking lot, she passes an arriving Prius with a driver who looks like Sarah Jane’s long lost sister Rachael.


Chapter 14


I slammed on the brakes. The car stopped with a jerk and the seatbelt dug into the side of my neck.

My cheeks flamed and I felt heat rise from my gut. It totally figured. Rachael would come back for a funeral but she couldn’t be bothered to be a part of our lives. She turned her back on the gritty details of deciding on a casket.

Rachael took off when she had to decide between raising her son or living her own life. It shouldn’t surprise me that she couldn’t deal with her parents’ illnesses or deaths. My shoulders slumped against the vinyl seat.

I glanced behind me to see the blonde climb out of the Prius and start toward the hall. She didn’t look my way so I couldn’t see her face. I stared, willing her to turn her head. She wore dark jeans, a peasant-style blouse, and teetered on stiletto heels. She tugged the door open before disappearing from my sight.

Should I go back and see if it really was my prodigal sister returned for the funeral feast?


I jumped at the horn blare. A minivan wanted to get into the parking lot but I was blocking their way.

I waved and pulled away.

It probably wasn’t Rachael, anyway. Just my imagination playing more tricks on me. After all, I’d been seeing my sister all over town for years now.

Instead of heading home as I’d told Anna, I drove back to the cemetery. The asphalt drives meandered past green lawns and budding trees. From my car, I stared at the place where a crowd had been gathered just a few minutes ago.

Workers had already filled in the hole. A big brown stain marred the manicured fescue where Daddy’s shell had been planted.

My knuckles whitened as I gripped the steering wheel.

God, what are you doing?

Tears seeped from my lids and meandered down my face.

What should I do?

I dabbed away the dampness with a tissue and snorted a laugh. I was nearly twenty-seven years old. I was a teacher. I was single. I had the whole world in front of me. Why couldn’t I seem to leave Rosedale? Rachael had left without even a backwards glance. She left not just her hometown, but her son and her husband. Jesse left his family.

I stared into the sycamore tree that would shade Dad’s gravesite come summertime, not wanting to take that last thought to its logical conclusion.

Jesse left me.

After Rachael, Mom left. Now, Dad. I was left behind again, only this time, my only comfort was my brothers and Anna and April. Two of the boys were the strong, silent types, just like Dad. Nathan was my favorite, but given the way Carlene had clutched his arm, he might not be available to be my strong shoulder much longer. Jake’s first allegiance had to be Anna and April. Even though Anna drove me crazy, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Jake made a commitment to Anna when he married her and this family already had one member who bailed when things got rough. Jake wouldn’t be that kind of a flake.

I was more alone than I’d ever been. Everyone I’d ever loved had moved on, leaving me to clean up after them. Whether it was hurt feelings to soothe, or a messy shared bedroom, or a classroom of hooligans, I’d been cleaning up after someone for most of my life.

My jaw ached and I rubbed my chin as the thoughts and memories continued to flow over me.

Rachael climbing out the window and holding a finger to her lips as Dad called through the closed door. “You girls okay in there?”

“Just fine, Daddy. Good night!” I sang out in reply.

Rachael flashed me a thumbs up before slipping over the sill and out of sight.

Then Jesse. “I’ll be home in a couple of weeks,” he’d promised. It was months before he came back for a visit and then I heard about from Mrs. Grunwald next door. He never called. Not once.

Mom. Growing weaker until she could no longer get out of bed.

Dad. Strong and vital one day. Gone the next.

Who’d be next? Jake? Or someone else? My stomach clenched at the thought of what God had up His sleeve for me. He could take April in an accident. She rode the bus to school most days. No seatbelts. Crossing railroad tracks. She loved the swings out on the playground. And playing hopscotch. She could slip and fall and crack her head on the concrete, the way she skipped out to recess every day.

What would I do without my sweet niece? What would Anna and Jake do?

I turned the key in the ignition, jumping at the grinding noise it made since I’d never turned it off.

I jerked the gear shift and drove at least three miles an hour over the posted speed limit sign of ten MPH. As soon as I exited the cemetery, I turned toward home and pressed the gas pedal.