Monday, October 20, 2014

Review: The Brickmaker's Bride by Judith Miller

Title: The Brickmaker's Bride
Series: Refined by Love #1
Author: Judith Miller
Publication Date: October 7th, 2014
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
Pages: 352
ISBN: 0764212559
Source: ARC from Publisher

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Bestselling Author Judith Miller Debuts Historical Series Set in West Virginia

Yearning for a fresh start, Ewan McKay travels with his aunt and uncle from northern Scotland to West Virginia, promising to trade his skills in the clay business for financial assistance from his uncle Hugh. Hugh purchases a brickmaking operation from a Civil War widow and her daughter, but it's Ewan who gets the business up and running again. Ewan seeks help from Laura, the former owner's daughter, and he feels a connection with her, but she's being courted by another man---a lawyer with far more social clout and money than Ewan. Besides, Ewan has resolved he'll focus on making the brickmaking operation enough of a success that he can become a partner in the business and be able to afford to bring his sisters over from Scotland.

But when Hugh signs a bad business deal, all Ewan's hard work may come to naught. As his plans begin to crumble, Laura reveals something surprising. She and her mother may have a way to save the brickworks, and in turn Ewan may have another shot at winning Laura's heart.

Judith Miller is an award-winning author whose avid research and love for history are reflected in her bestselling novels. 

When time permits, Judy enjoys traveling, visiting historical settings, and scrapbooking the photographs from her travel expeditions. She makes her home in Topeka, Kansas.

      A seasoned writer, Judith Miller has written a charming novel that incorporates the affects of the Civil War in West Virginia. She is skilled with her character development and is easy to read in text and content. This is one of those books you may pick up to read at a trip to the park, or an afternoon when nothing else is scheduled for the day.

It is very common in these types of books for the romance to seem sudden or simply impulsive. However, Miller does an exceptional job taking the time to allow the characters to naturally and realistically develop so the work is brought to a higher level of quality.

Integrating history seems to be no hitch for Miller. If you are interested in historical romances, this is a good book that has smooth transitions and some things to learn. As the title states, there is a "brick maker" involved and learning about this process and where it came from is actually very interesting.

I liked this book. It was enjoyable to read and I will definitely keep it on my shelf. It's a very interesting plot, I guess I just wouldn't say it's the absolute strongest plot. However, it is about what's expected from this caliber. I would recommend it.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Guest Post: Sentimental Journey by Barbara Bretton

Title: Sentimental Journey
Series: The Home Front #1
Author: Barbara Bretton
Cover Artist: Tammy Seidick
Publication Date: October 15th, 2014
Publisher: Free Spirit Press
Genre: Historical Romance
Pages: 347
ISBN: 9781940665078

Synopsis (from Author): Before they became The Greatest Generation, they were young men and women in love . . . 

It's June 1943. From New York to California, families gather to send their sons and husbands, friends and lovers off to war. The attack on Pearl Harbor seems a long time ago as America begins to understand that their boys won't be home any time soon.
In Forest Hills, New York City, twenty-year-old Catherine Wilson knows all about waiting. She's been in love with boy-next-door Doug Weaver since childhood, and if the war hadn't started when it did, she would be married and maybe starting a family, not sitting at the window of her girlhood bedroom, waiting for her life to begin.
But then a telegram from the War Department arrives, shattering her dreams of a life like the one her mother treasures.
Weeks drift into months as she struggles to find her way. An exchange of letters with Johnny Danza, a young soldier in her father's platoon, starts off as a patriotic gesture, but soon becomes a long-distance friendship that grows more important to her with every day that passes. 
The last thing Catherine expects is to open her front door on Christmas Eve to find Johnny lying unconscious on the Wilsons' welcome mat with a heart filled with new dreams that are hers for the taking.
"This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny."
--Franklin Delano Roosevelt


A full-fledged Baby Boomer, Barbara Bretton grew up in New York City during the Post-World War II 1950s with the music of the Big Bands as the soundtrack to her childhood. Her father and grandfather served in the navy during the war. Her uncles served in the army. None of them shared their stories. 
But her mother, who had enjoyed a brief stint as Rosie the Riveter, brought the era to life with tales of the Home Front that were better than any fairy tale. It wasn’t until much later that Barbara learned the rest of the story about the fiancĂ© who had been lost in the war, sending her mother down a different path that ultimately led to a second chance at love . . . and to the daughter who would one day tell a little part of that story.

There is always one book that’s very special to an author, one book or series that lives deep inside her heart.  SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY and STRANGER IN PARADISE, books 1 and 2 of the Home Front series, are Barbara’s. She hopes they’ll find a place in your heart too.
Six Don't-Miss World War II Movies

Being a writer is a wonderful thing. You can stay home in your pajamas all day, talk to your imaginary friends (officially known as “characters”) and, if you’re very lucky, get to watch wonderful old movies and call it research.

When I was writing SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY, I immersed myself in the 1940s. The music. The fashions. The books. The newspapers and magazines. And, of course, the movies.

Oh, those movies! Steeped in romance, rich with emotion, brimming with a sense of destiny that jumped off the screen and straight into your heart. I let myself sink into them until I totally forgot I was living in the age of computers and GPS systems and smartphones and fell backward through time to World War II America and a world on the brink.

Here’s my short list of Six Don’t-Miss World War II Movies:

  1. Casablanca – this really needs no explanation. It’s the perfect blend of love and romance, honor and courage, destiny and sacrifice. The ending isn’t the happily-ever-after one we long for, but it’s definitely the right one.
  2. Mrs. Miniver – Greer Garson as the courageous Englishwoman who faces a downed German paratrooper in her kitchen. Yes it’s sentimental and clearly crafted to serve as encouragement for war-weary Brits, but it makes me long for the past.
  3. Shining Through – this takes place during World War II but it was filmed in the early 1990s. If you can sit through this without shedding a tear – well, pass me the Kleenex, because I start crying just thinking about the scene in the nightclub . . . 
  4. Yanks – another movie not actually made during the war. Richard Gere in his prime. Courageous Brits. Cocky Yanks. Three romances for the price of one. How can you go wrong?
  5. Pearl Harbor – yes, the one with Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett. The one that everyone hated. I love it. What can I say?
  6. Hanover Street – I’m not a Harrison Ford fan, but I love this one. Again, it’s Yanks in Britain and all that entails. 

What are your favorites? I’m off to watch Shining Through for the 827th time!

Many thanks to Indigo Quill for inviting me to stop by. It’s been great fun. 

* * *

Monday, October 13, 2014

Review: The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford

Title: The Sea House
Author: Elisabeth Gifford
Publication Date: April 15th, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 320
ISBN: 1250043344
Source: ARC from Publisher

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Scotland, 1860.

Reverend Alexander Ferguson, naive and newly-ordained, takes up his new parish, a poor, isolated patch on the Hebridean island of Harris. His time on the island will irrevocably change the course of his life, but the white house on the edge of the dunes keeps its silence long after Alexander departs. It will be more than a century before the Sea House reluctantly gives up its secrets. Ruth and Michael buy the grand but dilapidated building and begin to turn it into a home for the family they hope to have. Their dreams are marred by a shocking discovery. The tiny bones of a baby are buried beneath the house; the child's fragile legs are fused together --- a mermaid child. Who buried the bones? And why? Ruth needs to solve the mystery of her new home --- but the answers to her questions may lie in her own past.

Based on a real nineteenth-century letter to The Times in which a Scottish clergyman claimed to have seen a mermaid, The Sea House is an epic, sweeping tale of loss and love, hope and redemption, and how we heal ourselves with the stories we tell.

Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. 

She is the author of The House of Hope: A Story of God's Love and Provision for the Abandoned Orphans of China and has written articles for The Times and the Independent and has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway College. 

She is married with three children. They live in Kingston on Thames but spend as much time as possible in the Hebrides.

      Elisabeth Gifford has emerged on the scene as a gifted new author who is on her way to master the art of storytelling. Not only does The Sea House possess a captivating cover, but Gifford writes with a flow so smooth and intrinsic that you'll have no choice but to resolve to wanting more.  Being a first novel, I was very impressed, and I hope to see more from Miss Gifford in the near future.

The Sea House is a haunting tale that intertwines lore and verity to where the two are no longer decipherable. Readers will enjoy the mystery and chilling nature of the premise, and become enchanted with this story. It pulled me in quickly. I love the style of writing and the smooth transitions. Not to mention, it's always exciting to read a book from a different country because the linguistics are so different and fresh compared to what I'm used to. I find myself looking up meanings to words and learning something new. Then I can go and look cool in front of my friends. Just kidding...kind of. :)

The book is a dual-time narrative that takes place on the Hebrides Islands of Scotland where the young married couple, Ruth and Michael, are renovating an old sea house. Ruth is struggling to break free free the chains of emotional damage from the past as the two try to build a home together. In the process, they discover old bones of a baby who seemed to have been born with its legs fused a mermaid. Thus begins the story of Alexander Ferguson, who was a newly appointed vicar in the 1800's with a scientific background. 

There were many things I liked about this book. The tone of it was enchanting and interesting. I honestly wasn't expecting so much mystery to be weaved into the plot, but I loved every bit of it. If I had one thing to pick out that was weak, it would be the present-day characters. I liked them, but I felt more attached to Alexander and Moira than I did Ruth and Michael. However, this being the author's first novel and being a dual-narrative at that is still impressive and I applaud Gifford for a successful start.

This is definitely a great read!

E.Gifford, The Sea House Giveaway

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 19th. Winner will be announced October 20th at Elisabeth's Blog.

Watch the trailer:

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Character Interview: The Mason Jar by James Russell Lingerfelt

Title: The Mason Jar
Author: Jason Russell Lingerfelt
Publication Date: September 9th, 2014
Publisher: William and Keats Publishing
Genre: Romance
Pages: 266
ISBN: 9780984476633

Synopsis (from Author): What if your old college roommate called, raving about a book someone sent her, calling it the most beautiful book she’s ever read? “But,” she said, “it’s about you.” The author is your college ex. 

In The Mason Jar, Clayton Fincannon is a Tennessee farm boy raised at the feet of his grandfather. He and his grandfather leave letters for each other in a Mason jar on his grandfather’s desk; letters of counsel and affirmation. When Clayton attends college in Southern California, he meets and falls in love with a dark, debutante, named Savannah. However, when an unmentioned past resurrects in her life and she leaves, Clayton is left with unanswered questions.

Clayton goes on to serve as a missionary in Africa, while he and his grandfather continue their tradition of writing letters. When Clayton returns home five years later to bury his grandfather, he searches for answers pertaining to the loss of the young woman he once loved. Little does Clayton know, the answers await him in the broken Mason jar.

A story about a girl who vanished, a former love who wrote a book about her and a reunion they never imagined.

Written for the bruised and broken, The Mason Jar is an inspirational epic, romance, tragedy which brings hope to people who have experienced disappointment in life due to separation from loved ones. With a redemptive ending and written in the fresh, romantic tones of Nicholas Sparks, The Mason Jar interweaves the imagery of Thoreau with the adventures and climatic family struggles common to Dances with Wolves, A River Runs Through It and Legends of the Fall.


 James Russell Lingerfelt writes inspirational, romantic realism. Raised on a cattle ranch in a north Alabama town of 750 people, he was an average student in high school but excelled in literature, gravitating toward the writings of Thoreau, Emerson, and Longfellow. He also played point guard on the varsity basketball team and served in the student government.

Lingerfelt serves on the board of directors for LifeBread and taught two years as a visiting professor in Ancient Judaic Studies at Lipscomb University ('07-'09). In May 2010, after returning from overseas, Lingerfelt resigned from teaching and his PhD program in Cross-Cultural Studies at Fuller in Pasadena to pursue a career in writing and film production. He spent five years writing his first novel, The Mason Jar, an inspirational epic – romance. He self-published and released it in December 2011 after being rejected by eight literary agents. Through world of mouth, The Mason Jar sold over 10,000 copies during its first two years.   

HarperCollins offered Lingerfelt $40,000 plus 20% royalties for The Mason Jar and a sequel novel, but Lingerfelt refused since he couldn't keep the film rights. Best-selling romance author Diana Bold said she was "blown away" by The Mason Jar. Award-winning children's book author Nicole Weaver stated in a review, "Lingerfelt's book reads like one, long, beautiful poem." And author Lee Wilson called Lingerfelt the intersection of Nicholas Sparks and CS Lewis.

In 2012, Lingerfelt finished an internship in Producing at the Emmy award winning production company Revolution Pictures in Nashville. Lingerfelt then wrote the screenplay for The Mason Jar, after reading over a dozen screenwriting books recommended by Hollywood executives. In December 2013, Lingerfelt was flown to Beverly Hills for table talks concerning the feature film.

Character: Clayton Fincannon, the protagonist in The Mason Jar

What is the most interesting thing about you? 

My parents and brother died when I was young, so my grandpa raised me on a Tennessee horse farm. For graduate school I studied at a private university on the west coast and served in humanitarian work abroad.


Full time writer, but an amateur. I’m also an amateur rancher. People ask me to come and speak to large groups about the future of humanitarian work. All that keeps me going fulltime, and I make a living at it all along the way.

What three words would you use to describe yourself? 

Passionate, lover of nature, lover of books

What do you do for fun? 

Read, write, and drink lots of coffee. I pretend I’m a great horse rancher when I’m home so that the old men in town don’t give me a hard time.

Share a favorite childhood memory: 

Playing with my parents and brother when they were still alive. Dad coached our basketball team, my mom loved to cuddle with me, and my brother and I use to play in the waterfall, creek, and woods behind my grandpa’s house. My parents and brother were killed in an automobile accident when I was 12.

What is your life motto or goal? 

Surround myself with my loved ones and pursue what I’m passionate about. That keeps me going in a world where so many of us want to quit. 

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? 

I wish I could be more like my friends, sometimes. A few of them are fantastic lawyers, doctors, and engineers. I know I could do that with an education in that field, but if I’m not free to create literature and be outside with the farm, I’d go crazy.

Favorite food: 

Grilled salmon or seared tuna. Being a horse rancher from Tennessee, you’d think I’d like steak, and I do, but I try to take it easy on red meat. I’ve eaten way too much of it in my past.

What is the most important thing to you? 

My loved ones and the freedom to read and write and try to make a living at it. That’s why I left everything to become a full time writer and farmer. It’s all I wanted to do.
Biggest pet peeve: 

When people I depend on are indecisive and unpredictable.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Throwback Thursday: The Adventures of Peter Cottontail and His Green Forest Friends by Thornton Burgess

Title: The Adventures of Peter Cottontail and His Green Forest Friends
Author: Thornton Burgess
Illustrator: Harrison Cady
Publication Date: March 19th, 2014
Publisher: Dover Publications
Genre: Children's, Classics
Pages: 368
ISBN13: 9780486492094
Source: ARC from Publisher

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
This deluxe edition presents three of the most popular books by a beloved storyteller. Thornton W. Burgess's timeless tales of woodland whimsy recount the exploits of Reddy Fox, Peter Cottontail, and Grandfather Frog. Featuring the original art by Harrison Cady, the stories offer young readers examples of friendship, honesty, forgiveness, and other virtues.


 Thornton Waldo Burgess, naturalist and conservationist, loved the beauty of nature and its living creature so much that he wrote about them for 50 years. By the time he retired, he had written more than 170 books and 15,000 stories for daily columns in newspapers.

Many of his outdoor observations in nature were used as plots for his stories. In his first book, Old Mother West Wind, published in 1910, the reader meets many of the characters found in later books and stories. These characters include Peter Rabbit, Jimmy Skunk, Sammy Jay, Bobby Raccoon, Joe Otter, Grandfather Frog, Billy Mink, Jerry Muskrat, Spotty the Turtle and of course, Old Mother West Wind and her Merry Little Breezes.

For the next fifty years, Burgess steadily wrote books that were published around the world in many languages, including Swedish, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Gaelic. Collaborating with him was his illustrator and friend, Harrison Cady of New York and Rockport, Massachusetts. Cady gave us the familiar form of Peter Rabbit and other animal characters that we recognize today.

     This new edition of Thornton W. Burgess' beloved tales is an unabridged republication of three books: The Adventures of Reddy Fox, The Adventures of Peter Cottontail, and The Adventures of Grandfather Frog. Originally published by Little, Brown, and Company in 1913-1915, these stories that have followed us through generations have been resurrected in a fresh compilation that you can read consecutively to your child or young class for maximum readability.

     Thornton W. Burgess was born native of Massachusetts and began writing children's books in 1910. Ever since he was young, Burgess had a deep appreciation for nature and the endless possibilities it offered. This is reflected in his work and is shared across generations. He brought both children and adults to nature through an array of stories, especially his most famous character, Peter Rabbit. His legacy and philosophies live on through the Thornton W. Burgess Society, who operates the Green Briar Nature Center, Thornton W. Burgess Museum in Sandwich, MA, and inspires environmental education through several other mediums. I would highly suggest checking it out.

     The Adventures of Peter Cottontail and His Green Forest Friends is the perfect book for any child's library. They will be entertained by the human-like critters and their many adventures. Any child will enjoy the many escapes into nature and the lives of Burgess' forest friends. The stories and chapters are short for the active reader, and there are plenty of pictures to help them visualize the stories and keep their attention. 

     One thing I love about this edition is that it includes all the original illustrations from Harrison Cady. They are very simple and clear so they are very easy on the young eye. There is also a list of the illustrations after the contents, so if you want to simply refer to the images, you have the opportunity to do that.

     I would definitely recommend this as a staple piece to any children's library. If I were to change one thing about it, I would say that it would be beneficial to add some kind of educational tool like questions about the characters or nature at the end. Other than that, I really enjoyed this book!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Throwback Thursday Review: Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Title: Charlotte's Web
Author: E.B. White
Illustrator: Garth Williams
Publication Date: July 3rd, 2014
Publisher: Puffin Classics
Genre: Children's, Classics
Pages: 184
ISBN13: 9780141354828
Awards: Newbery Honor (1953), George C. Stone Center for Children's Books Recognition of Merit Award (1970), Massachusetts Children's Book Award (1984), Laura Ingalls Wilder Award (1970)
Source: ARC from Publisher

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Some Pig

The tale of how a little girl named Fern, with the help of a friendly spider, saved her pig Wilbur from the usual fate of nice fat little pigs.

(From Puffin Books)

An affectionate pig named Wilbur befriends a spider named Charlotte, who lives in the rafters above his pen. In this story of friendship, hardship, and the passing on into time, White reminds readers to open their eyes to the wonder and miracle found in the simplest of things.

Elwyn Brooks White was a leading American essayist, author, humorist, poet and literary stylist and author of such beloved children's classics as Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan. He graduated from Cornell University in 1921 and, five or six years later, joined the staff of The New Yorker magazine. He authored over seventeen books of prose and poetry and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1973. 

White always said that he found writing difficult and bad for one's disposition.

Mr. White has won countless awards, including the 1971 National Medal for Literature and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, which commended him for making “a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.”
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     Puffin Books is releasing a series of 20 classics with new covers and extra goodies inside. The one I've had the opportunity to review for today is none other than the beloved tale of Charlotte's Web. Now I'll be honest, I've developed a slight fear of spiders since I was a kid, but a huge part of me still loves our eight-legged heroine from childhood.

In this book, you will find pages and pages enriched with the original illustrations by Garth Williams. Does that name sound familiar? If so, its probably because he is also the illustrator of a few other books you may have grown up reading, such as Stuart Little and Little House on the Prairie. With this edition, you have the joy of reliving the intricate sketches and designs from Charlotte's Web.

Puffin Books has added some neat features to this version: background information on the illustrator and author, including what inspired E.B. White to write Charlotte's Web, definitions of the words used to describe Wilbur in the web, and a quiz at the end adding an educational experience for the reader.

The galley I received wasn't quite formatted well for my kindle, so everything was a bit jumbled. I'm sure the final product is user-friendly, but mine, unfortunately, was not. However, all the things that I was able to pick out from the galley are all great things that enhance the reader's interaction with the story.

I'm really looking forward to the next set of books that Puffin will be putting out in this collection. The covers are definitely something to note as well. They've really amplified the illustrations we associate with childhood, making the old seem new again. I can't wait to see the rest!