The Gold Standard (Book Review)

The Gold StandardI’m not sure where you live but It’s been unseasonably cool for this time of year in Wisconsin. Normally this is the season of air-conditioning, long swims at the pool and mosquitoes. It’s early August as I write this review and  I’m wearing a sweatshirt.  It’s the perfect weather for snuggling up with a cozy mystery and that’s exactly what author Lisa Lickel delivers in her book of The Gold Standard.

Set in a small town in northern Wisconsin, Judy Winters is forced to deal with the aftermath of her Aunt’s suspicious death. She inherits a farmhouse with the promise of hidden gold on land sought after by a militant tree-hugger group.  Not knowing who to trust, she seeks to use her unusual talent for  being able to tell when people are lying.  Judy struggles to evaluate the colorful cast of characters that made up her Aunt’s life. With a pushy boyfriend as well as an attractive neighbor, named Hart,  who just so happens to help out around the farm, and a crazy cat with an unerrant propensity to preserve Judy.

This story earns it’s designation as cozy. There’s a mystery and some suspense but not over the top anxiety producing. The romance is well-paced and at times I couldn’t help but smile at some of their interactions.  I would love to share more but I don’t want to give any spoilers!  Let’s just say there’s poison, a diary, hidden secrets, a bomb shelter, cows, and more than one romance blooming in the shadow of attempted murder. There is a gently placed faith line to the story as well to encourage the reader and ground the actions of the main characters.

This is the first in a series of books and I reviewed book number two, The Map Quilt.  (You can read the Map quilt Review here: Regardless of the order in which you read these novels, they stand alone just fine.  (the third is The Newspaper Code and I look forward to reading that one too and see what adventures Judy and Hart have next).

So on a chilly summer day, go visit northern Wisconsin with Lisa and her cast of characters and be charmed and entertained. Everyone needs a smile on their face and Lisa will help put it there.

For Love of Eli (Book Review)

for love of eliLoree Lough’s book, For Love of Eli is part of a series of books being released this year by Abingdon in the Quilts of Love series.

With the idea that “every quilt has a story,” Loree has woven a sweet contemporary romance. Eli was only a few years old when he lost his parents and went to live with his widowed aunt, Taylor, who owns a bed and breakfast. One day while in the attic she comes across the start of a quilt from her own mother and decides that it would be a good thing for Eli to have  a memory quilt made up of fabric from people who have been important in his life. She undertakes this task in secret so it will be a surprise.

Eli also has an uncle on his mother’s side who thought he would get custody of the young boy and loree loughresents that flighty Taylor instead was awarded that. Reece is a pediatrician. Who better to raise a boy? Taylor sees the importance of Reece in Eli’s life and gives him weekends to spend with the boy.

The frequent interactions as they both try to be parents to the orphaned young man bring them closer than either were ready for. Tragedy strikes again and they have to pull together out of their love for Eli to help him, and each other, through the challenges that come. Challenges that force them to let go of resentments, seek forgiveness and finally live in love. Like a beautiful quilt that Eli receives that highlights the colors and love in his life.

I love this tale of brokenness and healing, resentments forgiven and love found. Lore Lough has had a long career of writing romances and she has spanned many genres to do so. Loree never took the easy way around difficult and painful circumstances in her fiction and the deep questions of faith were real and dealt with an organic way making them a natural part of the story. Thanks Loree for another satisfying romance!

Writer Wednesday: Shellie Neumeier


I knew Shellie Neumeier many years before she became a writer (we used to attend church together when our kids were knee-high to  grasshoppers). I had been a writing buddy with her husband Russ, when we would do NaNoWriMo together. One year Shellie joined us on that wild, wacky journey and the rest is history. Within months she had a publishing contract. She was the first writer I ever connected with to meet  for tea and talk about writing and life. She encouraged me and connected me to other writers she had met and that was a huge blessing.  Then she abandoned us Wisconsin authors and took off for the wilds of Cincinnati to be with her hubby, Russ, her children and a a few really big skinny dogs. I hope you’ll love my friend Shellie as much as I do! 

When did you decided that you would be an author? Was it something you fell into, felt called to… ?

My penchant for power tools coupled with my knack for accidents inspired my husband’s campaign to get me writing. I guess that happens when a stay-at-home mom watches her children grow and finds herself with far too much free time. Of course a good sprinkle of literary frustration doesn’t hurt. You know the old rant, “why aren’t there any good books for my kids to read,” bit. Of course there’s tons of great fiction for young adults and tweens already available, but it’s fun to see if I can add to the growing list.

What’s with greyhounds?

Dasher and Mary

Dasher and Mary

Sweetest, lazy beasts ever. What’s not to love? J

What’s your pet peeve?

In writing, pesky passive verbs drive me nuts. They pop up in my writing everywhere. Nasty beasts! In life, those commercials that make you roll your eyes, they’re so silly. Of course those are the ones they play over and over and over during your favorite show, right? Ugh.



What has been your most difficult challenge as an author?

The hardest part of writing for me is creating great sentences that don’t always start with “he” or “she.” I have a nasty habit of starting everything with the same drab structure. I spend several days editing those silly things until they sound more interesting.  Regarding the hardest industry issue, I’d have to go with the ever-present feeling of failure. As an author, I’m constantly battling other’s opinions, judgments, interpretations of my work and it’s hard not to internalize random comments. It’s hard not to believe the bad stuff. Easier to dismiss the good…weird, isn’t it?

How do you process rejections and/or negative reviews?

The first few minutes after I read negative feedback, I fuss, wine whine, and sometimes cry. The next day (time is soooo important in this process) I reread the feedback and use what I can and discard what I can’t. It’s a fine balance, but well worth the work. I mean, I’m not the ultimate audience for my writing. Others gotta love it. There’s value in others’ opinions.

What do you feel is the best success so far in your writing career?

Building the life-long friendships among other writers. Authors are a special breed. Unique, creative, and so amazing. I’m truly blessed to have met so many wonderful people through the writer’s journey!

What would be your top three pieces of advice to newer, up and coming authors?

Hmm. One piece of advice…I’d have to say it was to persevere. This career choice isn’t one for the faint of heart or for the person who needs much encouragement. It can be painful (like when you first open the freshly critiqued manuscript and see all the red mess) and discouraging (like when rejections far outnumber any acceptances), but it can be filled with tremendous fulfillment as you close the word doc to your finished piece and know you’ve done your best. For that brief moment your story is the best thing ever written and will become a best-seller. You just know it. You may even go to bed that night, dreaming of the awards it will win.

Then you wake up the next morning, grab a cup of tea, and reopen the doc file. In the light of day, your commas are askew, your characters flat and wimpy, and your middle saggy. You want to stop. I want to stop.

That’s when I listen to that little voice that once told me to keep going. Just finish it. Or in her words, “Aren’t you done yet, Mommy?”

As a Christian author, what would you like your legacy to be?

I like to think there’s always good inside, whether that’s my books, my characters, my life…it’s just a matter of searching deep enough to find it. I hope and pray that’s what my readers discover as they read my stories. Despite the darkness, the struggles, the wickedness life may hold, somewhere there’s hope, there’s light. But to find it, you have to persevere, forgive, be flexible, be patient.

What is your current work in process?

I’m on a bit of a sabbatical right now. We have a wedding, college, graduation, and so much more flying at us in the next year. I’m not completely finished with my author’s journey, but I’m writing for fun when I can—which isn’t nearly as often as it used to be. Someday… J

Other works:


A Summer in Oakville, co-written with Lisa Lickel. Releasing this August in Large Print

The Wishing Ring (Adventures of Ally and Cory Series, book 1)

The Kings Seal, (Adventures of Ally and Cory Series, book 2)

Grudges Not Included





Against the Tide (Book Review)

against the tide camdenElizabeth Camden’s latest book, Against the Tide is billed as Historical Fiction. As a sub-genre it is a romantic suspense as well and a hard book to put down once you start reading it.

Lydia Pallas is an unlikely heroine. Orphaned at age nine with very little understanding of English she grows up in an orphanage but  is quick to learn languages. Once out on her own she craves stability and security and finds a position translating for the Navy.  While serving in this position and in desperate need of money to save the only home she’s ever felt was her safe place to be, she meets the enigmatic Alexander “Bane” Banebridge who hires her for translation work that seems like foolishness. Desperate for the money, she engages in the work but along the way falls in love with the man.

Bane is on a mission to rid the world of opium. Having been held captive and eventually apprenticed to a master shipper of this substance he is now free on a new path of redemption after meeting Jesus. He needs Lydia’s help but can he survive the emotional connection he feels for her? Can he win his war without losing the woman he loves on the way?

Lydia has her own battles to face that could ruin any chance of a relationship with Bane but she steps out of her comfort zone to take on a risky task to not only save someone else but hopefully a future with the man she loves.  Will she survive her many challenges and will Bane still be there to love her when it’s all over? Will she understand the grace that God gives to those who seek Him?

This book was hard to put down and a riveting read to see the prevalence of opium being fed to the general population in the late 1800’s in the United States.  Reformation of this wrong was slow and painstaking and fought by people with great courage. This book is a worthy read and far more exciting than the front cover would indicate.

A Most Peculiar Circumstance (Book Review)

peculiar circumstanceI love stories that have a bit of wit in them. Jen Turano is one of those exceptionally talented authors who can put her characters in the most ridiculous circumstances and you more than willingly suspend belief in reality to enjoy the ride she takes you on. And what a ride A Most Peculiar Circumstance is!

This is book two in a series of four books set in America in the late 1800’s.

Miss Arabella Beck is a woman on a mission. She is an advocate for women’s rights and has a heart dedicated to improving the lot of those of her gender. She falls into some trouble in one of her attempts to resolve an issue and is rescued by Mr. Theodore Wilder who is as conservative as they come about the place of a woman in the home. As a private investigator though he is duty bound to return Miss Beckett to the bosom of her loving family. Little do either of them know that the sparks that fly from the beginning are only the start of a whimsical romance filled with danger and adventure.

Jen Turano makes her quirky characters lovable and weaves faith in seamlessly. She take the reader on a journey and isn’t afraid to deal with the real issue of that day (and even now) of human trafficking. Not the kind of topic that lends itself to this style but Jen pulls it off with a light touch that doesn’t leave you feeling depressed at all about the ongoing problems with that in our world.

If you love light-hearted stories with deep truths embedded in them, then this historical romance is a great book to read. It will leave you smiling at various points and don’t we all need reasons to do that sometimes?

Journey to Lekhipani

scan0001It wasn’t until I was an adult that I had a chance to read my Grandfather’s memories of WWII. I am pleased to present Journey to Lekhipani, my grandfather’s memoir. He didn’t see front line battles but he told stories that made me feel like I knew what it was like to be on a Troop Ship, and walk the filthy streets of Burma and try to sleep in the jungles of India. It’s not a long memoir but it was his.

I remember my Grandfather as being a laid back guy who didn’t mind hunting for ping pong balls for his grandchildren. He took me driving when I had my temps and tried to talk my dad into buying his car for me. I wasn’t too aware of his first battle with cancer but his last was hard to watch. I have fond memories of having him and Grandma over to dinner and climbing the lighthouse in our town and visiting the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) airshow together. I’m glad I made the effort to be friends with my grandparents before he died.

Journey to Lekhipani

He’s been gone too long now. He never saw me get married and my children never knew him. The final chapter of the book was read at my wedding which was special. He was just a really special guy.

I asked my Grandmother if I could type up the journey and self-publish it and she gave permission. I love her to pieces! I did this mostly for family, but also because it’s a different view of that time period. So, here it is, Grandpa, I hope you would be proud and I wish you had written more over the years. You had a gift with words. Now the world can enjoy that as well.

Life on God’s “D” List

This was originally published in 2010…

Many years ago, a dear friend had emailed me about being depressed. Today, here in Wisconsin it is dark and stormy. Many of us go through storms of life that do leave us feeling: dark, down, depressed, defeated, deflated, discouraged, disabled. I shot the below “D” list to my friend then and ironically she has shot it back to me over the years and I have saved it because sometimes we all need some encouragement. So if you are in a dark place, if life is tough and the “D” words (kind of like Kathy Griffith’s “Life on the ‘D’ List”) have got you down – then take a look at life through GOD’s ‘D’ list instead:

Delightful – He lights up our lives!

Delectable & Delicious – Savor the sweetness of God!

Daring and Dangerous – Isn’t He just? And sometimes He calls us to be as well.

Dancing – In the arms of God! More fun than Dancing with the Stars!

Darling – That’s how He sees You!

Determined – To overcome Satan, we have that power through His Holy Spirit!

Demanding -We have a right to come before His throne with our requests!

Daddy – We can call Him this! Abba, Father!

Daughter – That’s who you are to Him! – If you are a woman.  Sorry guys – you’ll have to wait for an “S” list!

Delirious – How we should be in love with Him!

Discipline -He does this because He loves us!

Deep – How the Bible describes His love for us!

Done – Our salvation in Christ.  What a relief!

Wise, Foolish, Evil

Happy April Fool’s Day. I’m praying you have a good sense of humor and that you don’t engaged in any mean-spirited pranks.

Dr. Henry Cloud has a great LPV – Low Production Video – on his Facebook page and I wanted to share it with you because it does a great job, in little time, showing the differences in behavior of people who are wise, foolish or evil.

I hope we can aim for the wise category in the way we behave and treat others. We will all be fools occasionally but beware the evil ones. This information is also found in his book Necessary Endings.




Meow Mayhem (Book Review)

meow mayhem coverI just finished Lisa Lickel’s cozy mystery/romance Meow Mayhem, this morning and still basking in the glow of the sweetness of it. The small town of Apple Grove is dying and it’s mayor, Donald Conklin recruits fellow Egyptian Mau owners, Amanda McTeague Preston and Truesdale Thomson to move their businesses to the town, with incentives, to help stimulate growth.

Egyptian Mau’s are a specific breed of cat, with spots instead of stripes. Valuable and pedigreed.

True liked the idea of moving because he wanted to get to know Amanda. Amanda moved so she could start life afresh after being jilted by her fiancé.

But life, and romance, never runs smooth. When the mayor is found dead, and possibly murdered the town spreads rumors and fights against the new businesses. Amanda and True wonder if this is where they are meant to be, but they believed the mayor’s vision for the town and want to honor him. So they stay and try to uncover the mystery.

This book is unusual as it is written entirely in the first person from only Amanda’s point of view. I’ll admit that this is not my favorite type of POV to read and because of that, not the story, it took awhile for me to really get immersed in the mystery. Partly because Amanda keeps sticking her nose impulsively into trouble and I got frustrated with that!

The mystery is well crafted though and with all the clues and problems that occur in the town there was no certainty of how things would resolve – or if they even would. Would Donald’s murderer be uncovered? What’s up with the chocolate (I even suspected that they might be poisoned and part of an evil plot to undo Amanda)?

mau catAnd those cats. I’m not a cat person and even went to look online to get a better feel for what this breed looked like. I loved the way Lisa Lickel gave each of the three cats in the story distinct personalities and how she beautifully highlighted the unique relationship a pet owner has with the pet they have come to love like family.

I’m allergic to cats and didn’t sneeze once during this book. It was an enjoyable read and “cozy,” although towards the end I did start dreaming and wondering what was next when I would go to bed! Always the sign of a good book when it keeps you thinking about it even when you are sleeping.

Thanks Lisa for this light, cozy mystery and for not making it too easy to solve. You tied it up nicely and even had room for a little bit of surprise at the end. Well done!

To Win Her Heart (Book Review)

I’ve become a fan of Karen Witmeyer so when I had a chance to nab another free Kindle download of hers, I jumped. To Win Her Heart didTo Win Her Heart not disappoint.

Now, let’s just be clear. This is fiction. FICTION. Not real, let’s pretend and have some fun doing it. Karen does a good job of pairing two unlikely souls, a wealthy but jilted young woman and a blacksmith with a violent and criminal past. They bond over their love of books, but their budding romance is not without challenges. Between their differences in social background, wealth and secrets, there also lies someone who is out to destroy Levi to eliminate competition for Eden. The town Sherriff turns out to be a bit of a bully.

The coolest part of this story is Levi, along with his less exalted roots and his foray into fighting, landing him in prison, has another strike against him, he has a speech impediment. Karen does a masterful job of accommodating for this in giving Levi a love of literature and an unusual ability to use words that avoid the “s” sound. Perhaps this is not as significant a problem for someone who just enjoys a good book, but as a writer myself, I found myself in awe of her willingness to tackle that kind of task and the effort is enjoyable as no one would expect a man of his background to use the kinds of words he does, and she makes it believable.

Now, if you don’t like historical, western, romantic fiction – then pass this one buy. But if you have read any of Karen’s other works, I encourage you to give this one a go. I enjoyed the time spent in those pages.