Wednesday Wanderings: Yosemite Waters

We hope 2017 is the year the California drought ends. We’re off to a good start with some storms giving us water and snow.

Stud Muffin dashed up to Yosemite last week to check on conditions and how Wawona was doing with all the water.

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He took this at our favorite swimming hole in Wawona. It gets its name, Swinging Bridge, from the … well, from the swinging bridge that spans the river. This is the south fork of the Merced River in Yosemite on January 9, 2017.

The water roiling in the forefront covers the sandy beach where we park our gear. The torrent on the left is where we paddle around and swim and cool off in the summer.

This picture gives us hope!

 

Book Talk Tuesday on a Thursday

The last two to round out my Top Ten.

I thought long and hard about this.

These last two are by friends. And I can hardly bear to only put two friends on the list, so I may have to add a few more. I have so many amazing writer friends that I’m very afraid to start down the road of naming my faves, because I just know I’ll accidentally leave off someone.

But … here goes.

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FADING STARLIGHT by Kathryn Cushman. Katie’s been a best writing friend for a long time. And I couldn’t love this book more even if she was a complete stranger. The story is delicate and nuanced and perfectly presents both sides of a sticky moral issue. And the clothes sound fabulous! I love that dress and the window on the cover. Gorgeous!

 

A HERO TO HOLD by Sheri Humphreys is a great book. There’s just no getting around it, herofriend or not. I mean, I’ve always known HERO is special, but it was named one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2016. So I may be biased, but someone else who doesn’t know Sheri personally also loved it.

The hero is in a wheelchair, injured in the Crimean War. The heroine is a widow, pretty much shunned by society. Their chemistry ignites on the page and I guarantee that the reader forgets he’s not completely able-bodied.

Whew! That was harder than I thought.

And I had to leave off some really stellar books by friends and strangers. I also either read and enjoyed these books or I’m looking forward to reading them soon (disclaimer: I’m sure I left off someone whose book I loved or will love. Please know it was inadvertent):

 

BOOK TALK TUESDAY ON A WEDNESDAY: MORE OF THE TOP TEN

I’ve added a caveat for my list. I can’t include any authors I know well enough to call “friend.”

Because I know once I start naming some of my favorites, I’m afraid I’ll inadvertently leave off someone and I can’t bear the thought of missing someone or hurting their feelings. So this list has the ten best books by strangers, that I read in 2016. A few of the writers I would go so far as to call acquaintances, but we don’t have the kind of relationship that I could email and ask if we could stay with them when we’re passing through town. That’s what I mean by “knowing” them.

Now that that’s out of the way, back to the list.

In Mysteries:

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JD Robb, CALCULATED IN DEATH. All of Robb’s In Death books are fabulous, well-crafted, and shining examples of excellent mysteries. I love them all, but CALCULATED IN DEATH stood out for me this year. The plot was exceptionally well done.

 

Margaret Maron’s books are often in my To Be Read piles or on my Top Ten lists. Butmaron-dd DESIGNATED DAUGHTERS was stellar in many ways. The mystery is well set up and executed. The red herrings were done so skillfully that I continued second-guessing myself all the way through.

In Non-Fiction:

EMPTY MANSIONS by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell is an amazing empty_mansions_paperback_cover_smalllook at a little known person in American history. William Clark was a U.S. Senator from Montana, he made a fortune in silver and copper mining, hung out with the Astors and Vanderbilts and Carnegies. Built huge homes. Amassed a collection of fine art to rival a museum. EMPTY MANSIONS covers Clark’s life, but is focused more narrowly on Clark’s youngest daughter, Hughette, who lived as a virtual recluse but maintained three homes she never visited, one she never even set foot into. It’s fascinating.

 

PRESENT OVER PERFECT is Shauna Niequist’s newest. I loved COLD TANGERINES, POP-coverBITTERSWEET, and BREAD AND WINE. PRESENT OVER PERFECT is a wonderful story of Shauna’s journey from stressed and overloaded to a simpler life with a focus on what’s important: God and family. I feel like I’m probably just a skoosh too old to fully appreciate all she has to say. I’ve already lived the stressed life (kids, work, social stuff, church obligations, the house — although admittedly not at her level. I wasn’t speaking in arenas). So the lessons were less revelatory to me than they would be to a mom in her thirties. But it was a good reminder and did provoke some though about how to slow down and enjoy life a bit more.

That’s enough for today. The rest of the Top Ten will post tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Book Talk Tuesday: The Best of 2016

In 2016 I read 70 books. Most people I know think that’s a lot. But I have friends who Education concept. Bookshelf with books as like symbol.routinely read over a hundred, even up to two hundred. That’s four books a week. Every week. All year long.

My goal is 100 books each year. I usually make it to 90. but in 2016 I fell short. I barely managed one a week. And that’s including my daily Bible and devotional book reading.

So even though I fell short in my goal, I still want to talk a bit about some of the best books I read in 2016.

I’m currently writing at Starbucks and I left the list of what I read at home, so if I can remember it without the list, that’s the sign it wasn’t just good, it was great! And has lingered with my long after I closed the last page.

So, in no particular order, my top ten books I read in 2016.

First up, I think it’s a coincidence that two of the best were audio books, but these two were truly memorable. And couldn’t be more different.

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TIFFANY GIRL by Deanne Gist won the RITA in July in the Long Historical category and it is well deserved. I loved this book for how Gist could get a hero and heroine who who so different at the beginning of the story (different lives, different values, different families, different beliefs) and bring them together in a way that seemed completely natural and unforced.

5-stagesTHE FIVE STAGES OF FALLING IN LOVE by Rachel Higginson turned out to be a delightful and moving surprise. I had never heard of Higginson, but a trusted friend highly recommended this book and she was right. It’s about a young widow, raising her four kids alone. It begins about six months after her husband’s death. Since we lost a family member recently, I so related to the stages of grief the protagonist Liz traveled, as she fell  in (and fought) new love. I laughed out loud and sobbed, sometimes at the same time, as I listened to this.

Two of my very favorite writers both deserve their mentions on this list.

wmskies-coverWILD MONTANA SKIES is the kickoff book for Susan May Warren’s new Montana Rescue series, about a Search & Rescue group in … Montana, duh. This first book was gripping, tense, and full of surprises. It ended with a hint of mystery that will be resolved in upcoming books, but it didn’t feel like a deliberate you-have-to-buy-the-next-book-to-get-the-rest-of-the-story move. The story ended organically. Just not quite everything was resolved. As it is frequently not resolved in real life.

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It’s been almost a year since I read Kristan Higgins’s ANYTHING FOR YOU, but I still remember the angst of both the hero and heroine as their relationship seemed determined to head in a direction neither wanted. She wanted to keep things light, but he kept pressing for more. He wanted a real relationship and a real life with her, but she kept refusing his proposals. Higgins is the best at humor, at tenderness, and at closing the bedroom door at the right moment.

That’s my first four, in no particular order. Come back tomorrow for more!

Monday Musings: A New Year, A New Word

The last few years my “word of the year” has been an effort to make myself more sure, more confident, less … um … less me. I think I’m marginally better at being brave, at speaking up, at acting in spite of fear and doubts, I’m still fundamentally the same.

So, this year, instead of trying to convince myself I’m something I’m not (Brave, Fearless), I decided to return to something I used to be.

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Somewhere in the last few years, I’ve lost my whimsy.

Stud Muffin has always been the master of the unexpected fun. He could turn a boring drive into a game. Sometimes it was the usual road trip games, but often he added a twist. He would instigate water balloon fights while I hollered to keep my hair dry. He could sense when mutiny was near and deflect it with a detour, a sightseeing stop, or ice-cream.

Thanks to him, we have memories of freeze outs (driving in winter with the windows down. First one to beg for the heater on and window up lost), Taco Bell bags of food gifted by a stranger at a hotel pool, and pizza for dinner the night before vacation.

Not to say I was a complete downer. I planned those vacations, the beach trips, the camping excursions, the field trips. I drove to the beach, the museum, the aquarium. A lot of our family fun and memories wouldn’t have happened if not for my superb planning and organizational skills.

But I used to take more pleasure in the planning and the execution. It was my idea to drive into the hills to watch the meteor showers in August. My idea to go to a taping of The Price is Right and The Biggest Loser, I bought the tickets to the Raffi concert, the PBR, The Lion King.

We have a “neighbor” (in the country, we use that term loosely, since this one lives about three miles away) who makes an elaborate scene with lights on the small hillside next to their home every year. We’ve seen some dramatic scenes, including Yosemite’s Half Dome and an homage to Egypt, complete with Sphinx. One night last week it occurred to me that we hadn’t driven to see their display in a couple of years. It was a bit after eight o’clock. I opened my mouth to suggest we grab the car keys and make the five minute drive to see what they had this year.

Whimsy, right?

But … Stud Muffin already had on his slippers and flannel pants. The garage door was closed. We were snug. So I skipped it.

No whimsy.

And I regret it. So what if we were in slippers? Eight o’clock is not two am. A quick “late night” drive to see some beautiful lights could be just what we needed.

EV003000A few days later, on New Year’s Day, we saw a woman in a wheelchair with an American flag attached. She wore a Happy New Year hat and waved a streamer wand. She buzzed around in her electric chair, waving her streamers and wishing everyone a Happy New Year. She looked … odd. Even crazy. But fun! She was having a blast. Some people (you know who you are), rolled their eyes. But most smiled and waved and called out to her a Happy New Year greeting.

And I wished I had worn my hat with the lights, to sparkle some happiness back at her.

That’s whimsy.

This past weekend it rained. A lot. Stud Muffin took the grand-girls on a walk and they had a leaf race, sending a leaf of their choice racing down the gutter in the rainwater. Proving he still has whimsy.

Just what I want more of in 2017.

 

Book Talk Tuesday: HUNT THE DAWN

I’m thrilled to welcome my friend and Dreamweaver sister to Book Talk Tuesday for a preview of her new book, HUNT THE DAWN!

In celebration of her new book, Abbie is having a giveaway. Scroll down to enter and good luck!

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Hunt the Dawn by Abbie Roads

Series: Fatal Dreams #2
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publication Date: December 6, 2016

BUY NOW
Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Google | Indigo | BAM! | Indie Bound

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Out of darkness and danger
You can’t hide your secrets from Lathan Montgomery-he can read your darkest memories. And while his special abilities are invaluable in the FBI’s hunt for a serial killer, he has no way to avoid the pain that brings him. Until he is drawn to courageous, down-on-her-luck Evanee Brown and finds himself able to offer her something he’s never offered another human being: himself.
Dawns a unique and powerful love
Nightmares are nothing new to Evanee Brown. But once she meets Lathan, they plummet into the realm of the macabre. Murder victims are reaching from beyond the grave to give Evanee evidence that could help Lathan bring a terrifying killer to justice. Together, they could forge an indomitable partnership to thwart violence, abuse, and death-if they survive the forces that seek to tear them apart.

Continue reading “Book Talk Tuesday: HUNT THE DAWN”

Monday Musings: Don’t Be Safe. Be Good.

In the aftermath of last week’s election, a “movement” has gathered momentum on the Internet and Facebook. It’s the safety pin. It’s supposed to signify that the person wearing the pin is “safe,” to approach and talk to. I guess about anything that’s upsetting you, but is meant especially for the non-white non-heterosexual crowds.

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I can see why wearing the pin would be appealing.

But, please, don’t.

Just don’t.

 

 

Who would ever approach a stranger with the intention of baring their soul? Unless they were paying $125 an hour for the privilege?

No one.

No one, except a true bigot/racist/hate monger looking for a target for their hate.

Don’t be a target.

Being “safe” for someone means having a relationship with them. It means talking together, laughing and crying together, having coffee and sharing a blueberry scone together.

I’m reminded of the C.S. Lewis quote from THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE. Susan asked Mr. Beaver about Aslan the lion: “Is he–quite safe?” Mr. Beaver replied, “Safe? … ‘course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

I guarantee there are enough hurting people in your home, in your workplace, in your neighborhood, in your community. You don’t have to go looking for someone to be safe to or to be a listening ear.

Instead, look around you. Find someone hurting. Take them to coffee. Be in their life. Love them.

Don’t be safe.

Be good.