Woe! It’s Wednesday: Heaven

There’s a sentiment I sometimes hear about growing older and about death and dying. It goes something like this:

The closer I get to heaven and the more people I love who are there, the dearer heaven becomes.

I’ve certainly found this to be true in my own life, and I’ve shared many stories here about those who’ve gone ahead.

Another great saint made her way into eternity recently. She was the mother of dear friends and I know, as much as they will and do miss her, they are glad she has joined her husband and her Lord.

I’ve been reading about heaven and as I learn more about this very real place, the dearer it becomes.

This quote from C.S. Lewis brought tears to my eyes (no surprise to anyone who knows me well!):

… And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page; now at least they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read; which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before. ~C.S. Lewis

I’m glad, too, that Lois and so many others have finally begun their Chapter One.

Book Talk Tuesday: Austen Takes the South

Today’s review is actually a two-fer. A friend mentioned in passing that she’d downloaded a book she loved and she knew I’d love it to. Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits by Mary Jane Hathaway. When someone says they thought of me while reading, I’ve got to check it out. I’m glad I did.

Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits is to Pride and Prejudice what Fifty Shades of Grey is to Twilight. Without the porn and with a Christian worldview. I loved Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits. (And, honest confession coming: I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey.)

P,P & CG is delightful. I loved the beginning scene when the prejudiced heroine meets the proud hero. I enjoyed the nods to Austen in the story and the chapter epigraphs. It’s wholesome and clean without being preachy.

Shelby Roswell is a professor at a small southern college. Her recent book was savaged in a review by Ransom Fielding. Guess who’s taken a guest post teaching at Shelby’s school for the term?

Yep. Sparks fly when Shelby and Ransom meet and we’re off for a fun, light read. Of course, one of them is prideful, the other prejudiced. Just like in the original, I’m not entirely certain who is which because both make unwarranted judgments and assumptions about the other.

I listened to the first half of the book on my Kindle while I was driving so I thought the non sequiturs stemmed from me not hearing the electronic voice correctly. Then I read the rest of the book with my own eyes.

Oh dear. My apologies to the nice Kindle voice who did the best she could. The edition I downloaded in early September was riddled with typos and grammatical errors and continuity issues. There were no cheese grits in the story. A character was introduced as David Bishop but a few pages later became David Whitcomb. Normally that type of thing forces me to close the book so it’s a testament to Hathaway’s story that I didn’t give up and continued to enjoy her novel.
I recommend this book but with the caution that you must have a high tolerance for editorial mistakes.

Because of those issues with P,P & CG, I opened Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili–Slaw Dogs with excitement tempered with trepidation. I’m pleased that the typos were much fewer and I had only one quibble with a continuity thing (more of an emotional logic issue). And the chili-slaw dogs made an early appearance so I could quit searching for them.

Caroline Ashley gave up a promising career in journalism to return home to Thorny Hollow and take care of her mother. Brooks Elliott is her close friend and cousin-in-law. Sort of. I think.

Anyway, they’ve been the best of friends and each is the other’s emotional support as they deal with family and home issues.

When a good looking newcomer makes advances toward Caroline, Brooks tries to warn her about him and about Caroline’s plans for the young woman she’s mentoring. Caroline ignores him and dives headlong into the mess. After all, Brooks has secrets from her: he’s seeing the lovely Lauren. Or so Caroline thinks. When Caroline and Brooks finally admit their true feelings for each other, the ending is swift and satisfying.

Both books are fun to read. I recommend them, especially to readers who love Austen and the South.

Woe! It’s Wednesday: Lessons from Laundry

Life is like laundry.

  • It happens when you’re not looking.
  • It festers if you don’t deal with it.
  • Just like whites and darks, some things do better if they’re kept separate. Like showering and eating ice-cream.
  • It goes better when you handle it intentionally.
  • Items left in the dark washer begin to smell until they’re brought to the light and aired.

Time to go sort through some stuff!

Book Talk Tuesday: Return to Fool’s Gold

I’m researching an idea for a series based in a small town. I’ve posted reviews of this year’s releases Fool’s Gold releases (Just One Kiss, Two of a Kind, Three Little Words) from Susan Mallery, so I went back and read the previous three and a couple of novellas.

Last year’s novella, Almost Summer, was charming and delightful. No sex! Which is a plus for me, since I skip Mallery’s steamy scenes. No skipping needed in the novellas. Halfway There was the other novella, a prelude to this summer’s books.

The novellas are the previews to the book trilogies, much like Pixar’s shorts before Toy Story or Monsters.

Summer Days, Summer Nights, and All Summer Long are the stories of the three Stryker men.

Summer Days

Rafe Stryker cannot believe he is back in Fool’s Gold. Growing up poor there, he couldn’t wait to get out of town and make his fortune. So how did he end up back on the ranch, sharing the house with his mother May, her business “partner” Heidi, and Heidi’s grandfather Glen?

Heidi grew up yearning for roots and a home without wheels. She bought the ranch and her goat herd. Her goat milk and handmade soap business is starting to take off. Just when she thought her dreams were coming true, she’s about to lose it all. Glen sold the ranch out from under her – even though it wasn’t his to sell. May understands Heidi’s love for the ranch and her plan is crazy enough that it just might work. If only Rafe wasn’t so determined to see his mother get what she has her heart set on: Heidi’s ranch and home.

Summer Nights

After Shane Stryker’s divorce, he’s ready to return to Fool’s Gold to raise his thoroughbreds. His ex-wife cheated and he’s happy to leave her in the past and concentrate on his new ranch and racehorse breeding business. Annabelle is nothing but a distraction he doesn’t need. Not to mention his newest acquisition, an Arabian named Khatar with a wicked reputation, has fallen for Annabelle and follows her around like a love-struck colt.

Annabelle has only two things in common with the stereotypical librarian: she loves books and she works in a library. She also likes hanging with her girlfriends in Fool’s Gold and she’s committed to raise enough money to buy a bookmobile. An upcoming town festival could put her over the top. If she can perform the complicated traditional dance for horse and maiden. She just needs to learn to ride a horse.

All Summer Long

Widowed Clay Stryker, the youngest of the Stryker men, retired from being a top male model – known for his underwear ads and being a movie butt double – has followed his brothers and mother and returned to Fool’s Gold. His plan to start a business gets off to a good start. Life is looking good. Then he meets Charlie. Life looks great.

Charlie was born Chantal Dixon to a world-famous ballerina. Unfortunately, Charlie took after her father in both height and grace. She and her mother haven’t really spoken in years and Charlie is okay with that. She enjoys her life in Fool’s Gold as a firefighter. There’s just one thing missing: a family. Charlie wants kids but a college trauma left her fearful of men and relationships. She knows you don’t need a man any more to have a family, but until she’s healed, she can’t be the kind of great and healthy mother she wants to be. So she asks her new friend Clay to help her relax, how to respond to a man, how to be healthy.

Neither Clay nor Charlie are prepared when their “just one friend helping another” relationship leads to real feelings.

I’m really enjoying the Fool’s Gold books. Susan Mallery is great at building her story world and making it real. The characters could be clichéd caricatures but she makes them human.

Again, a disclaimer: there’s graphic sex. Read at your own risk.

Woe! It’s Wednesday: A Hope Fulfilled

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12, NIV)


I used to quote the above verse to my husband regularly. He’s been full of plans for our home but slow to accomplish most of them. There’s lots of reasons why, but it’s been something God has used to teach me some lessons such as patience and contentment.

I yearn for order and cleanliness.

I married clutter. I live in the dusty country.

I struggle to tiptoe the line between contentment and apathy.

If I’m quiet, things aren’t done.

If I’m proactive, I nag.

None of those is beneficial to me, my home, or my family.

We don’t have the money to afford me the luxury of hiring someone to do every job. Stud Muffin is more than able to do any home maintenance or improvement project you can imagine. He’s an awesome carpenter, drywaller, tape and texturer, plumber, and electrician.

So, for twenty-plus years now, we’ve been in an odd dance of planning a home project, almost starting it (purchasing supplies even), but it often doesn’t quite get started.

This week, I’m about to see one of those long-deferred hopes finally fulfilled. 

My office.

The lights are installed but not wired. The molding at the top of the bookcases isn’t in yet.

But I’m moving in and I’m thrilled!

Virginia Woolf said, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

I’m halfway there!

The Scripture above is really true. I’d given up hope of having a nice and orderly place to write in. But now, even in the moving-in process, I find myself energized to work and write and produce.

Care to share any of your deferred hopes with me?





Book Talk Tuesday: Christmas Mourning

I love Margaret Maron and I love Deborah Knott. Maron knows Deborah intimately and refuses to let her do anything in a book that would be out of character, even if it would serve the mystery that needs to be solved.

I’m thinking of an earlier book when Deborah went into an empty house alone. It’s the moment that usually makes me toss a book across the room. No sane person would do that.

Unless … a child is missing and she hears a child crying inside. Then, like Deborah, a sane person pulls up her courage, grabs her cell phone, and walks through the door.

Each Deborah Knott book also focuses on a current topic (land development, illegal immigration, migrant workers) and Maron weaves the issue into the story without soapboxing.

9780446555791.jpgIn Christmas Mourning, Deborah and Dwight are soon going to celebrate their one year anniversary. Dwight’s son Cal is now living with them and adjusting well.

There have been a rash of teenage driving accidents, leaving several teens dead or permanently injured. Maron addresses texting while driving, underage drinking, and drinking and driving.

Mallory Johnson is the latest teenager to die in an accident. Dwight is investigating the solo accident. Tests show Mallory had a bit of alcohol in her system when she died but everyone swears Mallory wasn’t a drinker. Her father had trained her not to swerve for an animal in the roadway. So what caused her to crash?

Deborah’s relationships with her nieces and nephews often play a part of the books and Christmas Mourning is full of the teenagers, running in and out of the house, baking cookies, wiring up lights. I’m always thankful that Maron includes a Knott family tree because it’s easy to lose track of the large family. And it shows that Deborah has brothers and kin that we’ve yet to meet, assuring me of some great books in the future.

The mystery is Christmas Mourning is well set up. The clues are there. I often figure out the culprit before the halfway point of most mysteries. In this one, I knew it was one of two people and I wasn’t completely sure which one was the killer until Maron revealed it at the end.

If you haven’t read any of Deborah Knott’s stories, I encourage you to start with Bootlegger’s Daughter. It’s the perfect setup for the whole series. And Christmas Mourning is a stellar entry.

Woe! It’s Wednesday: Gracey or Meany?

Another tidbit from the Beth Moore study I’m doing (Sacred Secrets):

People who have been deeply graced by God never withhold grace from other people, but people who don’t feel like they’ve been terribly graced are the meanest people on the planet.

This statement was first greeted with laughter then a pensive silence as women all over the room scribbled it in their notes.

I don’t know if I should be ashamed to admit it, but one person immediately flew to my mind. And I knew they had never been graced. They would claim they have been because they claim to know Christ as their Savior.

A friend of mine, a retired therapist, once told me, “When actions and words don’t match up, it’s the actions that count.”

Using that as my yardstick, I can see the truth of what Beth said.

Ungraced people may say the right things, but they are incapable of putting feet or action to their words. They may say they care for you, but until they show it tangibly, it’s empty rhetoric, clanging cymbals without love. And they’re just plain mean.

Oh God, I’ve been graced so, please don’t let me ever withhold grace from others. Let your mercy and grace and love flow through me. Show me how to grace someone who doesn’t feel graced.

I almost deleted those words above because I have a feeling I’ll soon be given an opportunity to do just that. I continue to pray I won’t fail; that when given the choice to forgive or hold to a hurt, that I’ll choose grace.

Romans 5:20: But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.

Enjoy this song: http://youtu.be/7x35TejEYns

Book Talk Tuesday: Taking a Breather

After reading four books in quick succession for review purposes, I took a few days off from reading. I did crossword puzzles, finished my grand-daughter’s knitted scarf, and played games on my phone. I discovered that when I did crossword puzzles all the time, I was better at them. I’ve struggled a bit with the hard ones I’ve attempted. I can still breeze through the easy ones, but not the *** puzzles anymore.

Which goes to prove, use it or lose it.

I’ve certainly continued to use my brain, but the part that was good at logic and trivia has atrophied a bit.

So, like any good over-achiever, I’ve added crossword puzzles to my daily mental regimen.

And I’m back to reading, but haven’t finished anything to review.

Actually, that’s not true. I do have one I can review but I want to read the next book in the series and review them as a pair, so look for a post in a few weeks about a fun Jane Austen update.

I’m in the middle of two fiction books just now, The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova, a writer whose prose is as crystal clear and beautiful and sharp as an icicle dangling from a tree branch. And Christmas Mourning by Margaret Maron. I’m usually all over Margaret’s newest releases and somehow this one slipped by me. But I can’t put it down, so it will likely be next week’s Book Talk Tuesday.

See you then!

PS: I’d love it if you’d click through to my entry at Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest and leave a comment!


Woe! It’s Wednesday: Authenticity

“The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is being insincere. That is why so much of social life is exhausting; one is wearing a mask. I have shed my mask.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh in Gift From the Sea.

I tweeted that quote a few months ago and people are still telling me how it touched them. One gal at church told me she’d had to stay home from church one week because she was too exhausted to put on her Sunday morning mask.

I’m in a Beth Moore Bible study right now and she made the following points.

We should be:

  • Authentic with all
  • Transparent with some
  • Intimate with few

I’ve been mulling over both observations in the last week and I’ve come to a few conclusions.

Authenticity takes practice. Transparency is hard. Intimacy is risky. But they all flow from taking off the mask.

Some of us have worn the mask so long, we’ve forgotten who we are without it.

In the last few years I’ve become more aware of some of my masks and am making an effort to drop them.

I’m still working but I think I’m making progress.

What about you? Do you think we wear masks?

Book Talk Tuesday: Christmas on 4th Street

From the beautiful “snowy” cover (the picture doesn’t do the cover justice – you have to see it!) to the delightful story inside, Susan Mallery’s Christmas on 4th Street is the perfect Christmas romance. It’s full of snowy evenings, hot chocolate, shared kisses, and even a Christmas miracle.

CHRISTMAS ON 4TH STREET, romance novel by bestselling author Susan MalleryWe return to Fool’s Gold, California for Noelle’s story. We met Noelle Perkins when she moved to town in Just One Kiss and opened a Christmas store. But we haven’t really gotten to know her until now.

Noelle has recovered from several of life’s hardest challenges: loss of loved ones, health issues, and abandonment and now is ready to fall in love and have her own happily ever after in Fool’s Gold. Too bad she’s attracted to Gabriel, the visiting doctor, because he’s made it clear he’s out of there ASAP. Not to mention he isn’t nearly as enamored of the town as she is.

Gabriel Boylan is Gideon’s brother (Gideon and Felicia fell in love in Two of a Kind). He’s come to visit for the holidays and to heal from an injury he received as an army doctor. His hand mends fine, but the same can’t be said of his war-weary psyche. He plans to grit his teeth and get through the family holiday then bolt back to – well, he’s not sure where, just not Fool’s Gold. A gorgeous and spunky blonde is not in his plans.

I’ve raved here already about the other Fool’s Gold books I’ve read. Christmas on 4th Street is just as good, if not better. The sex scenes are toned down, which is great for me because the only objection I’ve had to the other books is the graphic sex. This one is definitely gentler, as befits a Christmas story.

Now that I’ve read a few more Fool’s Gold books, I’ve noticed another trait that all the men share.

They run.

They feel they’re damaged or broken, too messed up to be a husband or boyfriend. So they bolt. Somewhere in their journey they wake up to the fact that they’ve left their one chance at happiness and love behind. They return, apologize, she forgives, and it’s a happy ending all around.

Gabriel follows the pattern.

It’s not a bad pattern. It’s just, for the first time, I found it predictable. And that very predictability made it a bit anticlimactic. I knew what was coming so I wasn’t engaged in his journey and was just turning pages to get to the happily ever after.

That teeny tiny criticism aside, I really loved this book and highly recommend it.


I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review. But I’ll be buying a few copies as gifts this year.