Monday, January 31, 2011

Beautiful Home Libraries

I rarely post the same thing on my other blog as I do on this one, but the subject matter was a natural fit for this one too!

On my other blog, I participate in a meme called Life Made Lovely, and today my subject was lovely home libraries. Enjoy!

If you're a booklover like I am, you're probably drawn to bookcases and bookshelves as much as you are to actual books. (Which is one reason that I believe the Kindle will never eliminate physical books!)

And who among you, booklovers, haven't dreamed of having your own home library? Even a single room devoted completely to your books and your reading? Or at least a space or an area dedicated to your books.

I've come across some photographs of home reading areas that I believe are nothing short of lovely. Enjoy!


Friday, January 28, 2011

My Review of Lonestar Sanctuary, by Colleen Coble

Lonestar Sanctuary isn't a new book--in fact, it's the first in a series of at least three. However, I've read books by Colleen Coble before, and I knew she was a great storyteller. So when I saw this book at a discount price, I snapped it up.

My measure of a really enjoyable book is that I keep wanting to read it. If I pick up a book dutifully or grudgingly, as if it were a school assignment, forget it. A book has to keep calling my name, and this one did that.

Lonestar Sanctuary starts out with the immediate realization that the protagonist, Allie, is in grave danger. Someone is out to get her and her little daughter, Betsy, and she has no idea why.

Betsy hasn't spoken since she witnessed a recent tragedy, and Allie has heard that Bluebird Ranch, located in the Texas hill country, could help her little daughter. Coincidentally, it's also the place where Rick Bailey lives--her late husband's army buddy, the man her husband told her to find if she was ever in trouble.

There's a certain predictability to some aspects of the story--it's no surprise that Rick and Allie overcome their initial aversion to each other. However, the suspense heats up with every turned page. The characters are nuanced and real, and you really care what happens to them.

I enjoyed the book very much, especially since I'm originally from Texas and I love stories that are set there. I definitely want to get my hands on the other books in this series.

I'm participating in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books! Click the icon to find out more.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Book trailer for Liz Curtis Higgs' Mine is the Night

One of my very favorite authors is Liz Curtis Higgs. I've had the pleasure of interviewing her for radio several times, and she's just as amazing a woman as she is a writer.

Here is the trailer for her new book, Mine is the Night (no, I didn't voice this one!)

And by the way, I heartily recommend EVERYTHING Liz has written!

Monday, January 24, 2011

From the Archives: My review of Brandilyn Collins' Dark Pursuit

(Originally posted on my other blog, Notes in the Key of Life, October 2008)

Where has Brandilyn Collins been all my life?

Actually, she's been writing for quite some time, but reading Dark Pursuit was my first experience with reading one of her books--and believe me, I'll be back for more.

Dark Pursuit takes you on a harrowing roller-coaster ride of suspense, but you won't want to get off the ride until you read the last page. All the while, Collins weaves themes of redemption and grace throughout this riveting tale.

It's the story of Darell Brooke, a wildly successful suspense writer who has been suffering a deadly case of writer's block since being in an accident. Brooke is often mentally confused and finds it hard to focus on his writing, which leaves him frustrated and angry.

Back into his life comes his granddaughter, Kaitlan, who he forcibly ejected from his home years earlier when, as a teen-aged druggie, she stole from him to support her habit.

Kaitlan has kicked drugs and is drawn to God, but she's in trouble...literally. She's pregnant by a man she suspects of being a serial killer.

Almost against his will, Brooke is drawn to Kaitlan and her plight. He's genuinely concerned about Kaitlan's safety, but in her intriguing real-life story, he sees a way to jump-start the plot of the book he can't seem to flesh out. He agrees to help her if she'll follow his directions implicitly.

But given his frequent confusion, can Kaitlan trust her grandfather to implement a plan to catch the killer, without severely endangering her life?

Rarely have I read a book that propelled me forward so intensely. Warning: make sure you pick this up book up when you have plenty of time, because you'll have a really hard time setting it aside for any reason!

Brandilyn Collins is a writer with a remarkable gift for building suspense. At least one plot twist literally made me gasp out loud. But scary and surprising twists and turns aren't her only forte--she also creates nuanced, real characters that you come to care about.

If you love great suspense, I highly recommend this book.

Right now? Excuse me while I go find everything else Brandilyn Collins has written.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Julie Andrews' Home--a thoughtful, reflective memoir

As a child, I loved Julie Andrews.

I spent hours listening to the album soundtracks of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, memorizing the words to every song, and I had all the movie-related merchandise, from books to coloring books.

So when I saw a copy of Andrews' memoir, Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, in a bargain book bin at my local grocery store, I just had to pick it up.

Despite a few forays into relative raunchiness later in her career, one usually thinks of Julie Andrews as being a refined, genteel woman--a real lady. Her thoughtful, reflective memoir does little to dispel that characterization.

A troubled childhood

The book covers only the time from her early childhood until just before the making of Mary Poppins.

I knew that Julie Andrews was a child singing phenomenon in wartime England. I didn't know that her childhood was marked by her parents' divorce and the subsequent alcoholism of her mother and stepfather.

She had to assume the financial responsibility of her family at an early age, and her entire early life was filled with a yearning to be with her real father more--a man who, by all accounts, was as kind, loving and supportive as her stepfather was manipulative and troublesome.

Julie as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady

"That British strength"

Yet, Andrews doesn't really milk these hardships. She has the "Keep Calm and Carry On," keep-your-chin-up attitude for which wartime Brits were famous.

At one point, My Fair Lady director Moss Hart spent 48 grueling, intense hours working with Andrews to help her grasp the characterization of Eliza Doolittle. Andrews writes:

"Later I learned that at the end of that weekend, when Moss returned home, Kitty [his wife, Kitty Carlisle] asked him how I responded.

'Oh, she'll be fine,' Moss replied wearily. 'She has that terrible British strength that makes you wonder how they ever lost India.'"

With Richard Burton in Camelot

It ends too soon

Andrews' accounts of the productions of My Fair Lady and Camelot are fascinating for any lover of musical theater.

My only quibble with the book is that it ends too early--just as Andrews is poised on the brink of the superstardom brought by Mary Poppins. The memoir ends almost abruptly as Andrews, her then-husband Tony Walton, and their brand-new baby Emma are on their way to California for the making of the movie.

I don't know if Andrews plans to write another memoir about her later life--I hope so. I'd love to get, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story.

I'm participating today in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books. Click the icon to find out more!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Review of Lady in Waiting by Susan Meissner

A Manhattan antiques dealer with a troubled marriage stumbles upon a centuries-old ring that, coincidentally, has her name engraved in it: Jane.

The captivating story that results--actually, the parallel stories of the modern Jane, the pre-Elizabethan Jane, and Jane's friend and seamstress, Lucy--is a beautifully-written tale that emphasizes the importance and the impact of the choices that women make.

I had heard a lot of good things about Susan Meissner, but this is the first time I've read one of her books. I was impressed.

Her writing is lovely, thoughtful and descriptive. Her research and grasp of the era in which Lady Jane Grey and Lucy Day live is impeccable--right down to the detailed descriptions of the elaborate dresses the nobility wore in those days.

In fact, those portions of the book reminded me somewhat of books I've read by Phillippa Gregory, without the explicitness.

Yet, Meissner seems equally at home writing about a completely contemporary setting.

I closed the book feeling that I'd learned something--not only about history, but about life--and I was sorry to see it end. I'll definitely be reading more of Susan Meissner.

A portrait of Lady Jane Grey by an unknown artist, from

Note: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. (This did not influence my opinion of the book.)

Order Lady in Waiting, by Susan Meissner

Friday, January 14, 2011

Book Blogger Hop: What Genre Is Your Favorite?

I found this book blog hop through By the Book, but apparently it's hosted by Crazy For Books.

The question is short and sweet:

"Why do you read the genre that you do? What draws you to it?"

My answer:

Well, my favorite genre is fiction. I know there is a plethora of sub-genres under that heading, but I love too many of them to single out a sub-genre. I love mystery, suspense, romance, historical fiction, some fantasy, some sci-fi, some chick lit--too many to name!

Why am I drawn to it? I guess I would have to say, because of its ability to take you to a different place while you're sitting in your own experience a different life...and yet, in the best fiction, to be enriched by what you learn while reading, and even affirmed in your faith.

(My next best favorite is biography, probably for a lot of the same reasons, but also because I'm intensely curious and like to know all the details about a person's life. Chalk that up to years of being a news reporter? :D)

To participate in the Book Blogger Hop, just click on the icon!

Book Blogger Hop

Or please do let me know your favorite genre, and why,in my comments section!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

15 Books That Will Always Stick With Me

This was originally posted on my other blog, Notes in the Key of Life, on 1/11/10.

If you're a dedicated bookworm, as I am, then books are more than just pages full of words for you. As corny as it may sound, they can be friends. There are books that you will turn to again and again, simply because reading those very familiar passages are a pleasure and a comfort.

This topic was actually one of those quizzes you occasionally get on Facebook, but it made me stop and think about the books I love the most...the books I re-read time and again.

I almost didn't include the Bible, because it's more than a's a living thing. But it does take first place.

There may be a few I've left out, but these sprang immediately to mind. What are yours?

1. The Holy Bible

2. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

3. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

4. Through Gates of Splendor, by Elisabeth Elliot

5. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis

6. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

7. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

8. The Red Knights of Hy Brasil, by Christine Savery--This was a childhood favorite when I was a missionary kid in Beirut, Lebanon. I had lost it, but a few years ago I found a copy online, and yes, I do read it again occasionally. I also give this book at least partial credit for my lifelong obsession with Ireland, and desire to go there. I blogged here about finding the book after many years.

9. Not My Will, by Francena H. Arnold

10. Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers

11. The Atonement Child, by Francine Rivers

13. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

14. The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom

15. Auntie Robbo, by Anne Scott Moncrieff--Another childhood favorite that I've found and bought again online. I blogged about it here.

Honorably mention goes to the books of Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt, which I read again when I find them at the library. I particularly love Stewart's The Moon-Spinners and Nine Coaches Waiting.

What books will always stick with you? Let me know in my comments section!

Photo credit

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Let's talk about book trailers!

A few years ago, I noticed that book trailers were popping up on the internet. I thought the idea was one whose time had definitely come. After all, movies were promoted through movie trailers...why shouldn't books be promoted with book trailers?

When book trailers first started appearing, they didn't have voice narration. Being a voice-over artist by trade, I immediately thought: Book trailers should have voice-overs!

I thought this brilliant idea was original, but apparently some other creative types had thought of it before I did.

I now have several book trailers on my resume, and I have to say I really enjoy voicing them.

As a voice-over artist who passionately loves to read, it makes me happy that I can use my voice talent to promote a worthy book.

Below are a couple of book trailers I've voiced for Trailer to the Stars, followed by a couple of audio book reviews I've recorded on my own. Hope you'll enjoy them!

My audio book reviews:

--On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, by Andrew Peterson

--Embrace Me, by Lisa Samson

To find out more about my voice-over work, go here.

Please also check out my podcast page here.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Flashback: My Review of Mary DeMuth's Daisy Chain

NOTE: I originally posted this review on my other blog on June 3, 2009. Since then, Mary DeMuth has completed the Defiance, Texas trilogy, with A Slow Burn (which I have also read), and Life in Defiance, which is on my to-read list!

In what has been a very hectic past several weeks for me, Daisy Chain by Mary DeMuth has been languishing in a "to-read" stack on my nightstand/bookcase. I'm so glad I gave in to it during a rare lull last evening and read the entire book in one sitting.

Daisy Chain has that rare combination that makes for a wonderfully compelling novel: a poignant sweetness, a strong sense of place, characters that are vividly drawn and multi-dimensional, and an intriguing mystery that, alas, doesn't get solved at the end of this book. (I'm guessing we have to wait for book 2 or even 3 in this trilogy before we get to that resolution.)

It's also a coming-of-age story for the main character, 14-year-old Jed. Just as he's feeling the beginning stirrings of first love, the object of his affection--his best friend and tomboy companion, the vibrant and remarkable Daisy-- vanishes completely.

To make matters worse, Jed blames himself. He was the last person to see her after refusing to walk her home one night.

"Your family isn't normal," Daisy once told Jed, and boy, was she right. His preacher father is abusive and cruel; his mother is miserable and depressed. His little sister, Sissy, is smart and sweet, but he has to defend her from bullies who cruelly make fun of her lisp.

(In many ways, Jed and Sissy's relationship reminds me of other literary brother-sister duos, like the one in To Kill a Mockingbird.)

Yet there is so much beauty in this novel, it outshines the depressing and even tragic situations. In the midst of his angst over Daisy's disappearance and the ongoing battles with his father, Jed meets wonderful people who really reflect the love of Christ, and through them he learns about that love's ability to triumph over even the worst circumstances.

Mary DeMuth's writing is clean and spare, but lovely and evocative. She writes about spiritual matters in a way that's genuine and touching, never overly-sentimental or preachy.

I loved this book, and can't wait to read the next one in the Defiance Texas Trilogy.

Originally posted June 3, 2009

NOTE: Mary DeMuth is a wonderful writer of both fiction and nonfiction books, as well as being a speaker and mentor. Check out her excellent website.

I'm participating today in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I Heart the Brontes

The parsonage where Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte lived and died

Since I was a very young girl, and read Jane Eyre as a missionary kid in Beirut, Lebanon, I've been in love with the Brontes.

This cover of Jane Eyre is actually a portrait of Charlotte Bronte

Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte (along with their younger brother Branwell, who never achieved the success his sisters did), lived a quiet, uneventful, isolated life with their clergyman father in a parsonage in Haworth, England.

Never having experienced much of life outside the parsonage, it's always been a mystery to Bronte-lovers how they could have come up with so much drama, pathos and passion in their writings. (By passion, I mean raw emotion. Their books stay within most of the rigors of their Victorian era, although they were often criticized at the time for having too much feeling, or not the "right kind" of feeling.)

Interesting, the sisters initially submitted their books under male pseudonyms: Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. Who knows if the books would have ever reached publication if they hadn't done so?

Jane Eyre is the grandmother of all Gothic romances. A reader can't help but be drawn into Jane's world and feel her raw emotion in every page. And, big spoiler for you here, but a happy ending. A happy, albeit less than fairy-tale, ending. There's no question about it, Jane Eyre is my favorite novel of all time.

After reading Jane Eyre, of course I had to read Wuthering Heights, written by Charlotte Bronte's sister Emily Bronte.

If critics of their era didn't like Charlotte's emotion and passion, they were in for an even bigger jolt with Emily's.

This from Wikipedia:

Early reviews of Wuthering Heights were mixed in their assessment. Whilst most critics recognised the power and imagination of the novel, many found the story unlikeable and ambiguous...H. F. Chorley of the Athenaeum said that it was a "disagreeable story" and that the 'Bells' (Brontës) "seem to affect painful and exceptional subjects". The Atlas review called it a "strange, inartistic story", but commented that every chapter seems to contain a "sort of rugged power". It supported the second point made in the Athenaeum, suggesting that the general effect of the novel was "inexpressibly painful", but adding that all of its subjects were either "utterly hateful or thoroughly contemptible".

Wuthering Heights is one of the most intense novels ever. The central characters, Heathcliff and Catherine, really are not very likable, especially Heathcliff. And yet the reader is compellingly drawn into their intense love for each other.

Heathcliff is the prototype of the bad boy that nevertheless holds an attraction. As a young girl, I had a bit of a crush on Heathcliff--interestingly though, having recently re-read the book as an adult and knowing more about abusive men, I think he's pretty awful.

Wuthering Heights IS a great read, of the greatest ever, so I recommend it to any fiction lover.

I think I've only read one book by Anne Bronte--The Tenant of Wildfell Hall--and although she will forever take lesser billing than her sisters as a writer, I did enjoy the book.

Villette is my second favorite Charlotte Bronte book. Although it doesn't measure up to Jane Eyre (for me, anyway), it's still a terrific read that I've gone back to several times.

I've read several biographies of Charlotte Bronte and the Brontes as a family, but one of the most fascinating is Daphne DuMaurier's The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte.

Besides chronicling the life of a brilliant young man whose genius and promise were eradicated by alcoholism and drug addiction, the book provides compelling insight into the family life of these extraordinarily gifted siblings.

Above, the room in the Bronte parsonage where the sisters did their writing. This from an excellent blog called The Brontes:

This is the room in Haworth Parsonage, variously known as the dining room, the drawing room or the parlour, in which the Brontë sisters used to write and discuss their work with each other. When the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte’s friend and future biographer, first visited in September 1853, she was struck by its exquisite cleanliness and neatness. In contrast to the “bleak cold colours” of the Yorkshire moors outside, “the room looked the perfection of warmth, snugness and comfort, crimson predominating in the furniture”.

If you haven't yet discovered the Brontes, and you are a lover of fiction, I heartily recommend them to you.

If you are a Bronte fan, which book is your favorite, and why? Let me know in my comments section!

Image credits: All images in this post are re-blogged from The Brontes, a must-see site if you're a Bronte fan.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What Other Book Bloggers are Blogging About

In the interest of spreading a little link love around...

--Fleur Fisher (who lives in Cornwall, England!) is reviewing The Hand that First Held Mine, by Maggie O'Farrell.

--The Ink Slinger is reviewing the musical soundtrack of Gladiator, one of my favorite movies of all time.

--Author Tamera Alexander is sharing thoughts as she reads through the One-Year Bible--also a favorite of mine.

--Author Robin Lee Hatcher is excited about one of her earlier books now returning to print.

--Carrie of Reading to Know is caught up with all things Anne of Green Gables as she posts about a Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge.

--Sherry of Semicolon is reviewing Murder Your Darlings by J. J. Murphy.

--Donovan of Where Pen Meets Paper is reviewing Nigel Farndale's The Blasphemer.

This is just a smattering of what's going on about the book-loving blogosphere.

If you have a book blog you'd like me to check out, please let me know!

photo credits: photo 1

photo 2


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