Tag Archive | family

Spatzle Speaks: Twisted (Book Review)

I picked up and read Twisted by DiAn Gates without having read her first novel in the series, called Roped. I was instantly hooked into the mystery and drama that permeates every page.

Told from the perspective of a young woman named Crissy Crosby, we see the world of danger and intrigue unfolding around her. There is a complicated relationship between her family and another known as Fairgate. Choices Crissy made with good intentions have had a ripple effect that she could never have foreseen.

This is not a sweet story but one filled with past evils and deeply buried secrets. Crissy struggles to understand this when the adults around her are being evasive. For her own protection of course. But Crissy wants to know and is inquisitive and bold. A great young heroine.

And horses. Oh, I love horses. My mom is allergic to them which is why she has me instead of a horse,  well, that and we live in the city. The story takes place after a nasty rodeo competition and involves a ring of horse thieves. It’s a difficult book to put down once you start reading it.

I can see pre-teens loving this but also adults because of the way DiAne Gates weaves her complicated tale, leaving the reader wondering and waiting along with Crissy to discover just what is all going on and why the adults in her life are acting so strange.

I give this book five bones for suspense and the ability to keep the reader engaged in the unfolding story. It makes me want to go back and read Roped to learn more about what happened in that book, but this book stands alone well enough on its own.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

Spatzle Speaks: Racing Hearts (Book Review)

513i2zquyjlRacing Hearts is novella number 12 in the Love Is series by Prism Book Group. The theme of the story is trust.

Rick and Jordyn are a young married couple learning to step out on their own, away from their family as Rick embarks on a new job in a new town. Along with all those  changes comes news that Jordyn is pregnant.

Rick works and takes care of his wife who is finding the pregnancy more difficult than for most. He cooks, cleans, and works full-time wearing himself out. Jordyn struggles to understand why he gets so protective of her. Learning to trust God for everything from their marriage, health, finances, and baby, makes for a story that will warm your heart…and perhaps make it race too.

I give the novella five bones because I’m a dog and I don’t do bones.

5 bones for blog

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that's how we roll.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

 

Spatzle Speaks: Greener Grass (Book Review)

GreenerGrassesThis is book #3 in the “Love is . . .” series by Prism Book Group. Julie Cosgrove has written thrillers about human trafficking but Greener Grasses is a departure for her. It’s not even a romance but it is a love story.

This book portrays the them of “love does not envy.” And Julie digs deep into sibling rivalry and exposes the prejudice and jealousy that can keep us from rich relationships.

Erin and Ellen are twins that couldn’t be more different from each other. Each one harbors secret resentment for the supposedly wonderful life the other sister has with her spouse. For years this has placed an insurmountable barrier between them even to the point of endangering their marriages.

And their poor husbands!

When their mother dies she finds a way to try to bring the two sisters together from beyond the grave. No ghosts here haunting them but their owns sin. Ordered to spend time with each other sorting through the house they grew up in they begin to see the truth. The person they envy doesn’t have a perfectly wonderful like as they imagined. In reality, they desperately need each other for support. With the spouses fighting for their marriages and to bring some peace things get a bit messy.

They start to understand the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence – a good reminder for us all. I give this novella five bones, because I’m a dog and I don’t do stars.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that's how we roll.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

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Anticipating the Holiday Rudeness

I have a friend who has been a cheerleader of my writing from day one. He often says “Don’t forget the little people when you make it big.”

I love his “when.”

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Then there is someone in my life who has said, “Nice little hobby you have there. You won’t make any money at it.”

Or how about this comment, “Oh, so is that what you’re doing now? How nice for you. When are you going to get a real job?”

The holidays bring out the worst in people. I try to generally be gracious to those who don’t understand that my writing and editing is a real job and that I work very hard at it. I will be forever grateful for those people who have supported, encouraged and believed in me and my writing before I’ve made my mark on the publishing world.

So often authors cite parents or spouse as being those supporters. That’s not the case for me. My grandmother is a grand cheerleader though.

The comment I’ve heard before and expect to hear on Thanksgiving Day though is this: “How much money do you make?”

Stop. Wait. Excuse me? Where in any part of civilization is this an appropriate question? Between authors it might be acceptable in discussing the challenge to actually talk about *gasp* money, but if I went to my family members and asked how much they got paid for the work they do, well, they would be offended.

So what makes any of them think it’s okay to ask me such a question? Stephen King doesn’t make his tax return public knowledge, does he?

Since I write historical fiction I’m going to revert back to a more respectable time when people did not ask such questions. Wait. Even in Regency England a man was known by how much he made a year and it was used as a measuring stick to determine whether he was worthy husband material.

But I’m not looking for a husband.

So my response? “Thank you for your interest in my writing. In response to your question, it’s none of your business.”

Beth Ziarnik and me. She was the "Paul" to my "Timothy" at my first writer's conference (Write to Publish)

Beth Ziarnik and me. She was the “Paul” to my “Timothy” at my first writer’s conference (Write to Publish)

It isn’t. There is nothing that says I have to answer every question posed to me no matter how authentic and real I strive to be in my life.  Some things can be and should be private. The fact is, the amount of money I earn, much like the size of my clothing, does not determine my value in the eyes of God. He is the reason I write and yes, the IRS will know, but unless I start making millions, I doubt I will ever want to share that kind of information, especially with those who have not encouraged and supported me.

Will Smith has said “If you are absent during my struggle, don’t expect to be present during my success.” Well said, Will.

Have a wonderful thanksgiving and for those of you who have prayed, supported and encouraged me on my journey (and you know who you are!), I am thanking God for the gift of you in my life. I may not make much money now, but I’m rich in the relationships my writing has brought into my life.

Sandwich with a Side of Romance (Book Review)

sandwichI picked up Krista Phillip’s book, Sandwich with a Side of Romance free on Kindle and was so glad to stumble across such a witty and talented author.

Twenty year old Maddie Buckner has had a hard life but she’s starting over in a new town, Sandwich, in hopes of qualifying for custody of her eleven year old brother, Kyle, who is in foster care.

Nothing seems to go Maddie’s way, and it’s all the fault of the devastatingly handsome restauranteur, Reuben’s fault. It all started with him falling asleep while she was cutting his hair and things spiral down from there while the romance and temptation heats up. Throw in a jealous fiancee and you have the makings of drama and misadventure.

Maddie though has a new relationship with Jesus and doesn’t need a man in her life, much less anyone else. God seems bent on shower her just how much she does need the love and grace that others offer, along with their physical help in meeting her needs. Moving to Sandwich not only provides her with a job and an opportunity to start over, but new friends and a chance for the family she never had.

I don’t want to give any spoilers away but there were moments in this story that had me grinning and giggling and others that had me in tears at the heartache Maddie endured and felt she deserved. She learns a valuable lesson that God wipes away our sins and that we desperately do need the grace and love of other people in our lives because no one can make it on their own.

I loved the complexity of these characters and the humor as well. Krista has a unique voice in her writing and one I found to be engaging and hard to set aside. I look forward to reading more from her.  Kudos to Abingdon Press for putting a normal shaped woman on their cover, not some impossibly shaped size zero.

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!

A Summer in Oakville (book review)

I’m ashamed to admit that I was reluctant to read this book. The title didn’t really grab me. Maybe because I live in Wisconsin near Oakfield and didn’t think that a book about Oakville would be all that interesting.  So why did I read it? Well, to be honest – because two authors I admire wrote it: Shellie Neumeier and Lisa Lickel.

This book is an inspirational contemporary story about small town life and a family that hails from there. There is action, romance, a struggle against local politics and the desire to preserve heritage. What is unique about this story is that it is one series of events that is told in novellas based on the perspective of four members of one family.

The first to tell her story is Tessa. A mom of two grown daughters and a grandmother who is rooted to her hometown and willing to dig those roots in deeper even at the expense of her marriage. She is  plagued by a secret from her past that threatens to explode in the midst of her present challenges. Is her marriage doomed? And how will she deal with the man from her past that stirs up pain and longing at the same time?

Tess has a daughter, Lindsay. Her story is second in the book. Lindsay seems to be a little more mature than her mother, and wiser. She is struggling to find value and worth, while hanging out in the country at her Grandparent’s home and waiting for the career opportunity that will make the best use of her gifts and education. Can she ‘fix’ her grandparent’s problem? And what about her conflicting feelings for the young man who stirs her heart but might be her enemy?

The next story told is from the perspective of a hurting and rebellious young man, Andy (Tessa’s nephew/Lindsay’s cousin).  He struggles to understand why God would allow his mother to die and he acts out in ways that risk his own life. Sent to stay with his Grandparent’s in sticks of Oakville is not an ideal summer vacation when a kid has experienced life in Madison, Wisconsin.  Andy learns the hard way the  value of work, family and of forgiveness.  And he might be a bit in love too.

Andy’s father, Art (younger brother to Tessa), has run away from the farm in the country to escape his ghosts. Earning a PhD and having a successful career, he ironically studies gerontology (aging) while at the same time basically ignoring his aging parents. He feels like he is failing as a single father after losing his wife in a tragic accident. He struggles to believe in a God who would allow so much grief in his life. How can he reach his son when he is so wrapped up in his own pain? A lost romance lures him back to Oakville and his story actually has the sweetest ending of them all.

One series of events in a small town forces a family to reconnect. This story leaves some unanswered questions and I find myself wishing that the Grandmother’s story had also been told here. I would have been good to explore her  perspective as she juggles all the emotions  of her two children and grandchildren, the crisis that threatens her home, and her struggle to care for her disabled husband. What is impressive is that her character, as the glue to this family, is consistent through the four novellas. She’s one awesome lady in my opinion.

I recommend this book because it is written so differently from anything else I have picked up. Faith is important to this story. Two authors have written but there is one voice. I know both of these authors personally and could not figure out which one had written which chapter. The characters speak with authenticity. This family is not perfect, but their struggle is genuine. The book is a good reminder too that as we go through life – and face our difficult circumstances, there are people around us, experiencing those same situations through an entirely different lens of experience and emotion, and yet God is weaving all together beautifully.

Congratulations to Shellie Neumeier and Lisa Lickel for crafting a unique book. I will probably be reading it again which I don’t often do with novels. Maybe, as a writer,  I’ll challenge myself to write Grandma’s story just for fun.