Book Talk Tuesday: A Pair of Shorties

I did quite a bit of reading last week and finished two books that had been recommended as short and quick but enriching reads. They were that.

First, I read The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson.

The first half of the book is a parable about a Nobody with a Big Dream. He decides to leave Familiar to pursue the dream. Along the way, he has to leave Comfort Zone and get past Border Bullies and Giants.

The rest of the book is Wilkinson’s teaching about each point of the story.

One item really poked at my complacence. When talking about three common traps we fall into as we pursue our dream, he mentioned being too passive and saying it’s “all in God’s timing anyway.”


I’ve said those words. Even believed them.

But 2012 is the year of ME and I’ve been actively pursuing my dream so I was able to pull out the stinger without too much trouble.

The second book I read was A Place Called Blessing by John Trent.

This was also a parable about a young man named Josh who experienced heart break and rejection until he met a man at work and the man’s mother. Josh turned from an angry loner into a healed and whole man, thanks to his friends and their choices to bless Josh instead of let him be alone and miserable.

Both books are very good and I recommend them.

I have a few more shorties still on my nightstand. Check back next week to see if I’ve finished.

What are some of your favorite “short” reads?


Woe! It’s Wednesday: Stupid People


I don’t mean that all people are stupid.

I’m one of them.

Maybe a word better than stupid is naïve. Or perhaps undiscerning.

I’m shocked at how smart, sensible, well-educated people can open their homes and their lives to evil people.

I’m thinking of the young woman who married a man with a known problem with anger management and sexual addictions. She thought he’d “changed.” Her family supported her marriage. The husband is now fired from his job, outed as a serial adulterer, and refuses to get help.

I’m thinking of the father I know, whose son is in prison because he tried to help a sociopath. Both the son and the father believed the evil man when he asked for a ride. EM killed someone and the son is now in prison as an accessory.

I’m thinking of young people who fall in “love,” get married, divorce, then repeat the pattern. I know one young man who married the same woman twice before figuring out that his intended partner wasn’t serious about marriage. Kids get married, have kids, then wonder what happened. They think it’ll be fun, that life will be so good when they’re in charge of what they do. The irony is that we’re never in charge of our own lives.

I’m thinking of the parents who let their underage adult son drink himself into oblivion every weekend but help him get his car out of the tow yard and give him a front porch to puke off of every Sunday morning.

I don’t like the word stupid, but it does seem to fit better than naïve or undiscerning.

Situations like those make me want to shake some lapels and say “Wake up and smell the applewood-smoked bacon!”


Book Talk Tuesday: Saint Ben


At the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, I’ve heard an agent recommend this book. After this year’s conference, I requested it from the library.

It is wonderful.Saint Ben

Saint Ben by John Fischer is a sweet and simple story of two boys who become best friends in 1958 Pasadena, California. Both are sons of pastors at a local church. Ben’s father is the senior pastor, Jonathan’s is the music pastor.

The boys play together, building towns for their small cars, and performing physics experiments. A series of pranks wakes up the church during the summer.

Ben is especially fascinated with the fate of the newly introduced Edsel automobile.

On the surface, Saint Ben is just a pleasant snapshot of another time and place.

It’s so much more.

Ben is not the typical pastor’s son. He questions not just God’s love and mercy, but His very existence. He never settles for the easy platitudes that are often spouted to children as a panacea for their very real concerns and questions.

The ending is powerful. I sobbed. I know, not a surprise to anyone who knows me, but this book will change you. If it doesn’t, you’re already dead and are walking around to save funeral costs.

John Fischer grew up in Pasadena. We lived in Pasadena for several years and he got the city exactly right. Although I didn’t live there in 1958-59, many of the details haven’t changed. Especially how the city welcomes the new year with the annual Tournament of Roses Parade.

When we lived there, we attended the same church as Fischer’s parents. I believe he grew up in that church. I could see bits of his parents in his characters in Saint Ben. I think my familiarity with these elements certainly added to my enjoyment of the book, but they aren’t prerequisites.

Read this book. I love it and I’m sure you will too.


Woe! It’s Wednesday: Celebrate!

Chocolate, No Nuts is on hiatus this week to celebrate Amber’s graduation!

Check back on Tuesday the 22nd for a review of an amazing book.

I’ll give you some clues:

  • It’s not a new release
  • The author is a musician and writer
  • It’s set in a real southern California city that I’m well acquainted with

In the next few weeks, I’m moving my blog to a new site:


Stay tuned for more changes and announcements!


Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat


The Bandbox Hat

Previously: Linda offers a Premiere Edition bracelet to Sarah Jane and asks her to stay on the show. Sarah Jane agrees. She and her new friend Cassie each received a bracelet. The cocktail party continues as Linda and Austin talk to girls and decide who will stay and who will leave. Sarah Jane and Cassie meet Amanda, a beautiful but stand-offish woman who commandeers Austin’s time and attention at her first opportunity.

Chapter Twenty-Six

The rest of the evening passed in a fog. Cassie and I stayed in the kitchen and ate chips and veggies. After a couple hours, Liam and his minions assembled us in the living room and we had a replay of the bracelet ceremony.

When the dust settled, there were twenty women still in the house. Harrison told us to get a good night’s sleep and he’d see us tomorrow. Austin grinned. Linda met my gaze and smiled. Then they all disappeared and the rest of us wandered upstairs to find our rooms, cameras and boom mics following our every move.

The next morning the refrigerator had been stocked with yogurt and fresh fruit. I made a smoothie and had taken my first slurp when buzzing from the others drew me into the living room.

Amanda stood in front of the fireplace with a thick envelope. “It says Life’s a Beach.

Oohs and aahs echoed around the room. I took another draw on the straw in my drink. The girls were scattered around the room in various stages of dress. And undress. Cassie skipped down the stairs in workout clothes. She caught my gaze and froze on the bottom step.

Amanda tore into the envelope and pulled out a card. The envelope wafted to the floor as she cleared her throat. “Amanda—” she paused for a squeal and indrawn breath, “—Cassie, Tiff, Sarah Jane, and Hayley please join Mom and me for a day at the beach.”


All eyes turned from Amanda to me. Gazes also turned from curious at the noise to baleful as they realized I had a small group date.

A redhead in a green tank top and short shorts stood and strode out of the room. The others drifted away too until Cassie, Amanda, and I were left with two others, presumably Tiff and Hayley. Tiff was tiny, like a gymnast, with dark hair and a perky pug nose. Her lips were thinned into a pout. Hayley wore her sandy hair pulled into a loose swinging pony tail. She was the only one of us dressed and ready to go out.

“How long do we have to get ready?” Hayley asked Liam.

My brow furrowed because she looked perfect. Strappy wedged sandals, ruffley dress with spaghetti straps. Perfect makeup. Perfect everything really.

“Be down here in thirty minutes. Dress casual. You’ll be at Malibu.”

Amanda, Tiff, and Hayley bounded up the stairs.

Cassie glanced at the clock over the fireplace. “I can get in ten minutes on the treadmill. See you back here.” She disappeared down the other staircase, presumably to the workout room.

I followed the others upstairs.

Twenty-eight minutes later I was back in the living room.

Liam stood with his tablet computer. A few cameras with their operators hovered.

“Where are the others? I thought I was late.” I had finally settled on a pair of shorts and a scoop neck T over my basic bathing suit. What took me so long was coaxing my hair to curl under and frame my face. Even as I curled and sprayed, I knew it was a lost cause. We were going to the beach. My head would be a giant frizz ball ten minutes after stepping on the sand.

Liam stood at the foot of the stairs. “Let’s go, ladies. Amanda, Cassie, Tiff, Hayley, the limo’s pulling out!” he bellowed. He turned back to me. “Gets ‘em every time.” He winked but sure enough, twelve seconds later Cassie appeared followed by the other three. Amanda was the last one. Hayley looked exactly as she had when she’d fretted about how much time.

Liam herded us outside and into the waiting Hummer limo.

Amanda, Tiff, and Hayley spread across the back seat, leaving the side seats for Cassie and me.

“Lucky I don’t get carsick.” Cassie leaned toward me, murmuring as she adjusted her skirt.

The limo took us out of the neighborhood and onto the freeway. The three girls all stared either straight ahead or out their windows. No one made a sound.

“This should be fun. I haven’t been to the beach since I moved to LA,” I said.

Cassie and I chatted easily about our hometowns and what surprised us about living in southern California. She hadn’t expected all the sunshine, which seemed weird to me. She thought it was crazy that LA was actually a better quality than the Central Valley’s and Rosedale’s.

After forever we finally pulled into a parking lot. We had to wait some more for the cameras to get in position before we clambered out. Well, I clambered out. The others swung their legs through the door and stood in one graceful motion.

“Hi everyone!” Austin ran up to our huddle, and everyone drew a breath. He wore board shorts and a ball cap but nothing else. He had a volleyball tucked under one arm. “Who wants to play?”

“I do!” Cassie and I spoke at the same time.

Amanda and Tiff exchanged glances before adding their agreement.

“I think I’ll keep your mom company, Austin, if that’s okay.” Hayley waved at Linda who sat on a blanket midway between the parking lot and the water.

“That’s great,” Austin said. “Let’s go.”

We trekked across the asphalt to the sand. The volleyball net had been strung up a few yards away from Linda. I slipped off my sandals and jogged to the blanket.

“Hi, Linda. Can I leave these here?” I dropped them on the sand next to Linda.

“Of course.” She smiled. “They’ll be safe with us, won’t they, Hayley?”

A frown crossed Hayley’s face, so quick and smooth I might have missed it.

“Thanks.” I waved at the blanket pair and made my way to the volleyball court.

“Since we have an uneven number, I think I’ll sit this one out,” Tiff was saying. “I’ll play the winner though.”

“Austin and I will take on you two,” Amanda said, slipping her arm through Austin’s and around his waist.

I might have imagined his flinch.

In just a few minutes, Cassie and I had found our rhythm and were ahead, 6-3. Cassie was serving and I was covering the net.

“Just a minute,” Amanda called. She jiggled on the other side of the net. “I have sand in my suit.” She jumped up and down.

Austin watched.

She wiggled and ran a finger around the top of her bathing suit bra.

He laughed.

She leaned over and shook out her hair.

“Service!” Cassie called, tossing the ball up.

“I’m not—”




Book Talk Tuesday: Somebody to Love

I used some birthday money and treated myself to several books.

I know: why did I buy more books when I have 103 in my To Be Read Kindle file and about 40 more stacked in my office.

The short answer: I wanted them.

The longer answer: They were by authors I love and I really, really wanted them.

I did make myself finish a couple others (like last week’s Wild by Cheryl Strayed) that were already in the queue.

Yesterday I read one of the new arrivals, Kristan Higgins’s latest, Somebody to Love.

I enjoy Kristan’s books for their humor and real characters.

Somebody to Love is no exception. And, in a new direction for the author, this book includes characters and a setting from previous books.

Parker Welles, Lucy’s rich best friend from The Next Best Thing, has just found out that her father raided her trust fund and has been indicted for insider trading by the SEC. She’s left with nothing except a house she inherited from a distant aunt.

Parker travels to Gideon’s Cove, Maine, home to Maggie Beaumont and Malone from Catch of the Day. While in Gideon’s Cove, Parker works to get the decrepit shack ready to go back on the market. Her father’s sycophant lawyer arrives to help.

All romance readers know how the story ends. The fun is in the getting there. Somebody to Love includes all the Kristan Higgins trademarks: quirky family members, a loveable dog, a to-die-for hero, and a spunky protagonist.

Lessons are learned, relationships are healed and a good time is had by all.

I loved it and highly recommend it!



Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat


The Bandbox Hat


Previously: Sarah Jane arrives at the Date My Son mansion where she meets Austin and his mother, Linda. Sarah Jane is rescued from the other women by another contestant named Cassie. Sarah Jane tries to find Liam to quit the show but it begins when Austin and his mother each give a Premiere Edition charm bracelet. At the end of the show, the woman with the most charms wins the chance to date Austin. Austin gives his bracelet to Cassie. Linda is about to announce her choice for her first bracelet. Her eyes lock with Sarah Jane’s who is trying to hide behind the couch and a redhead with a short poufy dress.

Chapter Twenty-Five

Linda’s gaze never wavered from mine. “My Premiere bracelet is for the woman who felt completely unpretentious and natural. Sarah Jane.”

My knees buckled and I would have fallen if Cassie hadn’t tugged my arm up and then propelled me around the couch.

I stumbled and turned to glare at her but she just grinned and made forward movements with her hands, shoving empty air ahead. I twisted forward again to wave at Linda and demur.

A camera with a blinking red light blocked my view of both Linda and Austin. I had to bob and weave to see them, waiting patiently at the front of the room.

Finally, I stood in front of Linda who held a bracelet of delicate silver links with one charm dangling from it. A rosebud.

“Sarah Jane, I hope you’ll wear this bracelet and agree to stay so Austin and I can get to know you better.” Linda’s eyebrows rose as she smiled, a question in her eyes.

I glanced over my shoulder to see a broad grin on Cassie’s face. Another girl shifted slightly, blocking my view of Cassie. This girl was tall and slim as a corn stalk, with hair the color of corn silk and eyes the same green as young corn leaves, when the stalks are growing daily and pouring sugar to the kernels. This girl’s expression was far from sweet though. She stared at me with a singeing intensity and I turned back to Linda and Austin just to get away from the heat in her gaze.

“I … I’d be happy to accept this bracelet.” The words sounded rehearsed but they popped out of my mouth like a miniature golf clown spitting out white balls.

Linda fastened the clip and hugged me. “I’m so looking forward to our next chat,” she whispered in my ear.

Austin hugged me as well, a proper and chaste hug with only our shoulders touching.

Oddly, it was that hug that I found most appealing about him. It told me his mother raised him right. I could see my brothers doing the same thing to a girl they’d just met but were expected to show some affection and warmth to.

Harrison stepped to Austin’s side. “We’ll continue with the cocktail party. At the end, the rest of the Premiere Edition bracelets will be offered to the women Austin and Linda hope to get to know better.”

The camera operators backed away from Harrison. As soon as a path cleared, girls swarmed in and vied to reach Austin first. The cool as corn girl didn’t seem to move any faster than anyone else, but she reached his side before the others.

“Austin,” she cooed. “Can I steal you away for just a minute? Then I’ll let everyone else have their turn.”

He smiled and tucked her hand in the crook of his elbow. “Let’s go sit by the pool.”

A palpable atmosphere of frustration and thwarted hopes pulsed throughout the room. The also-rans glommed onto Linda as their consolation prize.

Cassie and I watched and soon found ourselves alone in the kitchen again.

We leaned against the counter. “I can’t believe it,” I said. “I was going to quit. How did this happen?”

Liam walked in, his tablet computer apparently welded to his hand. “You made an impression, just like I told’ya you would.”

I shook my head. “I am so unprepared for this. What made me think I could go on a dating show? I’m from Rosedale,” I said, as if my hometown was responsible for my naiveté.

“I’m from Wyoming,” Cassie said. “There’s no way Rosedale is more rural than Brockton City.”

“You’re both doing great,” Liam said, before leaving.

He’d barely disappeared into the dusk outside when the corn girl entered.

She appraised Cassie and me, her cool green eyes sweeping over us and finding our casual clothes too tacky for words.

“I’m Sarah Jane,” I said, sticking out my hand. I mostly wanted to know her name so I could stop thinking of her as corn girl.

“Amanda,” she said. She accepted my hand but hers was limp as a wet newspaper. “Pleased to meet you.” She took her hand back and immediately left. I think I only imagined her wiping it on the front of her gown.

Cassie grinned. “I think we better buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”


Book Talk Tuesday: Wild

I’ve read several recent reviews of Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I thought it sounded good and added it to my mental list of books to read some day. Since we all know the actual Mount To-Be-Read is vast, I’ve begun a virtual Mt. TBR and Wild went into that stack.

Then this weekend, out-of-town friends came to visit and one of them had just finished Wild. He loaned it to me.

I figured it was meant to be and I started it right away, even ahead of other books that arrived the same day from Amazon that I’d been looking forward to reading. I also paused my current book in progress to read Wild.

I love it.

Strayed’s memoir is a beautiful and harsh tale of her 1995 hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, the trail that runs from Mexico to Canada, through California, Oregon, and Washington.

Interwoven with the narrative of her hike are tales of what drove her to backpack alone through the unforgiving wilderness: the loss of her mother when Strayed was 22, the marriage Strayed destroyed in her grief, and the demons she wrestled with through it all. Each section, whether hike or propellant, is a polished bead that make this tale a beautiful linked chain.

There is some rough language. Strayed uses the words to convey the depth of her anguish.

I’m about 3/4s of the way through. She’s about to leave California behind for Oregon. I’m as eager to continue this literary journey with her as she likely was to complete the actual hike.

I highly recommend it!