Wednesday, December 6, 2017

I Survived doggie pics

Well, I made it for another year of National Novel Writing Month madness!  In case you don't know what that is, it's when novelists around the world attempt to write 50,000 words in only thirty days each November.  

Of course, I was nuts enough to adopt puppies the same month!  This definitely reduced my writing time.  But puppy cuddles are so therapeutic!  And just look at those faces.  Forgive me while I show off my dog family.  :)
This is Chester.  He loves to play with leaves and is going to be a big pup when he is grown!  The breeder says 60-75 pounds.  He's a standard size golden doodle, a "breed" I have been wanting for awhile now.  Don't you love those golden eyebrows?

This is Bernie.  It's hard to snap a picture of his face, since he prefers to eat the phone!  He has the cutest little white chin as though he dipped it in milk.  I didn't plan to pick another pup, but when I went to meet Chester and saw some of the other pups, he stole my heart.  He is a medium size Bernedoodle (Bernese mountain dog and poodle) and is very intelligent.  Yes, he is sitting in his toy box; he loves to knock the toys out and crawl in!

Mia is my senior rescue dog and the biggest cuddler you could imagine.  This is her pose of choice when I sit on my sofa to read or write!  She does hate to be away from people, so when I am home she is right there by my side.  She's been great with the puppies.

So, there is my November recap!  Stay tuned for some snippets of my writing progress, which will post tomorrow.

Book review: A Dangerous Legacy

Along with having one of the prettiest covers of the year, this one is one of my favorite Camden has ever written.  I gave it a rating of 4 out of 5 stars.  Here is what I said in my review on Goodreads:

I definitely enjoyed this tale of New York, reporters, Morse Code, and danger.  It came in the mail today, and I was glad to dive right in.  I intended to read a single chapter and get back to the other book I'm reading, but the story grabbed me from the beginning.  

Lucy is likable from the start, and it's easy to identify with her longing to find justice and to shake off her uncle's stalkers, who are content to spy on her life and keep her and her brother from realizing their full potential in life.  From there the story moves swiftly, as she encounters Sir Colin Beckwith and as he stumbles across her family's nasty history.  With Colin's eyes fresh on the family secrets, Lucy and Colin quickly realize that much more is going on in the family than she first imagined.  In other words, the Saratoga Drakes aren't scrupulous about crushing more than family, if others get in the way of their plans.

Before long, Colin is mixed into the issue, despite his being an unlikely ally.  After all, he's a reporter at heart, and the draw of a good story is hard to resist.

It fell just shy of five stars for me, but makes four (very good) easily.  It's Camden's best in years (since Beyond All Dreams, in my opinion)—well-researched, detailed history, and two lead characters with clear chemistry.  (Their banter is excellent.  Brings to mind classic movies like Desk Set and His Girl Friday...)

Things that helped shy away from an "excellent" rating: 
-An "oh my heavens" exclamation
-"Hear, hear" misspelled as "here, here" (pet peeve)
-Woman referred to as "hero" 1903, she'd be offended.  She's a heroine.
-Content.  Lucy entered a situation that requires a forced bathing (not something she was expecting ahead of time).  For me, it got a bit too far into her feelings as the two women scrubbed her down.  It's only a paragraph, but I'm intensely visual and didn't want to have that image.

It's also MUCH better edited than the last two releases, and the words flow with a lot more authenticity.  Definitely worth a read!

Thanks to the publisher for a free review copy.  A positive review is not required.

...This is the first book I got through Bethany House Publishing's blogger reviewer program.  I was so excited to have this copy come in the mail!  Be watching for more Bethany House new release reviews here in the near future.  

Has anyone else read Elizabeth Camden's work?  Do you have a favorite of her books?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Book review: Many Sparrows

About a month ago, I got my hands on a copy of Lori Benton’s newest book, Many Sparrows, through the Blogging for Books program.  I was so excited to come home after a long day at work and find the package on the doorstep!  I opened it up and dove right in, then read it all at once.  Too bad I was too busy to post here right away, but here’s a picture of the cover and a copy of my review from Goodreads:

This sucked me right in, from the shocking and absorbing first page all the way to the meaningful, excellent ending!  I found it on my doorstep when I got home at about 5:30, and I finished it at about 12:30 am.  I simply couldn't put it down!

I felt for Clare, so much.  She's already breaking, with her husband's insistence on dragging his family deeper into Indian territory as tenuous peace crumbles, and as she is weeks away from giving birth.  Is it any wonder that she shatters when her husband doesn't return, her son vanishes, and she goes into labor in the midst of trying to find her son?  She tries so hard to be strong, but underneath her drive of pushing herself to find her boy is a deeply broken heart.

Then there was Jeremiah Ring, caught between two cultures, longing to have his Cherokee friends and family understand and accept God's love.  His adopted brothers are true brothers to him in the best sense of the word; how can he turn his back and join in the fight against them?  Yet how could he dream of fighting against Viriginians?  His adopted sister has turned her back on God after tragedy, and he hopes and prays for her return to faith.

The Christian message in this book is so strong.  I loved the point that was made that Rain Crow (the sister) participating in ceremonial dances was an indication that she was trusting the gods of the Indians rather than the Almighty.  (As much as I'd have liked to dislike/view her as a villain because of an action she takes in the story, I loved Rain Crow anyway and wanted her heart to change.)  It's got more in it than forgiveness...there's also trust and learning to wait on God for the right timing.

There's just so much to love about the beautiful, atmospheric writing, and the talent that takes you right to the scene.  Loved it!

Content: 18+ for frank talk of nursing and Indian habits and a dramatic birth scene.

Thanks to the publisher for a free review copy.  A favorable review was not required.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Book Review: The Road to Paradise

This week I have another book to share.  This one is a pretty unique tale: a story about park rangers in 1927 at Mount Rainer.  If you like the outdoors, this is a must-read!  The second book in the series is already on my list.

Here's my review:

4.5 stars
A delightful story about a young woman and a man from vastly different backgrounds.  Margie was gently raised among the best of society; Ford grew up in the wilderness.  When Margie wants to escape society and become a forest ranger, exercising her favorite pursuits as a naturalist, she joins Ford's staff.  He feels the need to look after her, since she's their first woman on staff and has a habit, annoying to him, of looking at nature with awe and wonder and joy rather than with respect of its meaner sides.

I think what I liked best about Margie was her pluck and her faith.  She might not like what she comes across at times, and she might feel like giving up, but she doesn't melt into a puddle and stop going.  She's the sort of person I would like to meet in real life.

Ford was struggling with the grief of losing his father recently, and he had loads of emotional baggage to work through.  Only problem is, he's running away from God as well, so he has no reliable way to find comfort and closure after the accident that took his father's life.  He's a strong man, a good ranger, and a gentleman—but he's not at peace with the world.

Favorite side characters were Luke and Mrs. Brown!  And the antagonist proves himself worthy of the role.

I received a free review copy from the Blogging for Books program.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Book review: Jane of Austin

In May, I signed up for Blogging for Books!  I get books in the mail for review purposes and give an online review in exchange.  For my first one, I signed up for "Jane of Austin" by Hillary Manson Lodge, a new-to-me author.

About the book:
“Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience - or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.” ― Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Just a few years after their father’s business scandal shatters their lives, Jane and Celia Woodward find themselves forced out of their San Francisco tea shop. The last thing Jane wants is to leave their beloved shop on Valencia Street, but when Celia insists on a move to Austin, Texas, the sisters pack up their kid sister Margot and Jane’s tea plants, determined to start over yet again.

But life in Austin isn’t all sweet tea and breakfast tacos. Their unusual living situation is challenging and unspoken words begin to fester between Jane and Celia. When Jane meets and falls for up-and-coming musician Sean Willis, the chasm grows deeper.

While Sean seems to charm everyone in his path, one person is immune – retired Marine Captain Callum Beckett. Callum never meant to leave the military, but the twin losses of his father and his left leg have returned him to the place he least expected—Texas. 

In this modern spin on the Austen classic, Sense and Sensibility, the Woodward sisters must contend with new ingredients in unfamiliar kitchens, a dash of heartbreak, and the fragile hope that maybe home isn't so far away.

2.5 stars
I read the first chapter online and expected to love it.  I'm nuts about hot teas, and loved the whole tea-shop aspect.  However, in the end, it fell flat.  It's published by a Christian publisher, but not billed as such in the summary; thus, the sole reference to faith is that one character wishes to go to seminary and start a church plant; the MC, Jane, doesn't even ask if the dashing man who comes to their rescue is a believer or not, which obviously should be one of the first things a Christian girl should ask a man who asks her out.

I liked the sister parts, though after the fun of the trip, the plot itself seemed to lose focus.  I expected it to be more concerned with the tea shop part, but it wasn't.  The recipes were also a fun part, though the tip about "not using boiling water" doesn't apply to black tea...for teas like Assam, you want to bring it just to the boil and then use the water.  Also, her "tea farm" of tea plants was unrealistic; she has enough plants to fill the back of a pickup truck bed, which might be enough to supply one tea drinker's moderate habit, but definitely nowhere near enough to support an online business or a tea shop.

What dropped it below three stars for me was two instances of potty humor and one gay reference ("their clientele in CA was women and gay men") a gal in a tea-shop-attending family with regular guys, it's quite insulting to think that the only guys who use tea rooms are gay.  I actually know a young military man who takes his buddies to tea shop outings because they discovered the best sweets are there.  I don't know if I was more offended by a gay reference by a Christian writer, or by the stereotype about men.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for my free review copy.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Featured book: The Sound of Emeralds

One year ago, "The Sound of Emeralds" was published.  I'd read "The Sound of Diamonds," the first book in the trilogy, a few weeks previously, and looked forward to finishing the story of Gwyneth and Dirk.  I didn't expect it would take me this long to finish reading the three, but my reading habits are notoriously moody and disorganized, and even when I love characters, I have been known to leave them in the midst of their trials for far too long while getting sidetracked on a different genre.

In this case, it was distinctly my loss.  My choice to pick up a bit of lighter fare instead of facing the deep, heartfelt troubles that Gwyneth and Dirk did in book two was the comfortable choice at the moment, but in no way do I have an excuse for letting the book sit longer once the comfort reading was out of the way.  However, it definitely played out well in the end, because in March I blazed through "The Sound of Silver" and  dove straight into "The Sound of Emeralds" without even pausing for another book in between.  Two benefits: getting to count this book in a March titles challenge, and having the story fresh in my mind just in time for the April anniversary blog tour.  

I really appreciated the view of marriage in this book.  Though it isn't all thorns or flowers, it's a balance of both.  Most newlyweds have nowhere near this amount of trouble to face, but the emotions of love and pain were so well balanced.  Wow.  I know very well that I wouldn't be brave enough to throw quite this many hurdles at characters I loved, though Rachelle pulls it off so well!  

I also truly loved the Christian message in the book.  What does it mean to trust in Jesus alone for salvation?  Where did that leave her Catholic friends?  Many people just show the conversion moment and not the struggles afterward to find out what this Christian life really means, and I appreciated that message in this book.

Well, friends!  Rachelle is hosting a giveaway on her blog for the trilogy, so if you live in the US be sure to head over and enter the drawing.  Also visit her page to read the other stops along the way for this super-exciting birthday blog tour!

And, before I go...Happy Resurrection Day to all of you!

Monday, February 6, 2017

What I'm writing: February

Synopsis for "Taylor's Story" (working title)
Copyright 2017, Hannah Gridley

Thus far I haven't shared any of my writing projects on this blog.  I loved this idea so much that I simply couldn't pass it up; it's a companion story to another book I'm working on, a contemporary fiction piece tentatively called "Ellie" (obviously needing some good titles, here...) and also connected to a romantic comedy featuring Ellie's sister and the sister's husband (yes, there's a story there!) and one featuring Stephanie, a member of David Grayson's team as featured in this synopsis.

My biggest reservation is that this group of stories is so diverse in genre.  It's a challenge trying to tie an action/spy story in properly with Ellie's story as a suburban housewife, and the other two shorter romantic comedies.  At first I fought it and tried to stick only with Ellie, but the other characters were clamoring for their own time in the spotlight and a trifling little thing like genre wasn't going to keep them from telling their stories.  And when story is speaking during NaNoWriMo, you have no moment to ignore it, so I've written sizable chunks of these stories already.

For those of you who can't read my scribble (this was written in haste during the announcements portion of a work conference), here's the typed version:

Taylor Martin loses all his buddies in a helicopter crash while on a training mission.  Because of international circumstances, he cannot contact his family or return home.  How's a man to find a future after he's been shut out of his past?

David Grayson, an international top-secret agent for America, is seeking to reconcile his Christian beliefs with his tasks in intelligence work.  At the same time, as he seeks to lead his team safely in growing danger, he realizes the reality of a threat from within--and the whole team faces certain death if he can't uncover and defeat it.

(Copyright 2017 by Hannah Gridley)

So...what do you think?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Ahoy 2017!

My resolutions...

Well, sweet readers, I have made several resolutions this year, and I intend to do my level best to keep them.

1. Last year I failed at my intention on reading the Bible every day.  I won't say how badly, but it was bad.  To keep myself inspired, I bought a new Bible, so all my markings will be fresh.  Ivory pages and references and large print...very nice.  While Christmas shopping, I found this 365-day devotional journal.  It has quotes, poems, or scriptures for each day, along with space to write whatever I please.

For example, here is a part of a quote from yesterday..."How could I be anything but quite happy if I believed always that all the past is forgiven, and all the present furnished with power, and all the future bright with hope?"—James Smetham

Now that gave me a whole different perspective about New Years.  I've heard an incredible amount of complaining about 2016, as though it was an apocalyptic disaster for all involved.  While it was tough in some respects, it wasn't my worst year ever.  First thought: I am a sinful human bought with the blood of God Himself.  He told me in the Bible that the world is a place of sin, but that He was sending His Holy Spirit as a Comforter while He went to prepare a place for us in Heaven with Him.  Now, He never promised us a perfect earthly life, never promised rest or riches or earthly honor.  He did promise to draw us closer to Himself.

Who am I to complain when I have to re-evaluate my way of life, when everything breaks, when my back hurts and my hands drop things and my phone loses its signal?  These things were never intended to last forever.  Each day I need to be reminded of that, and I hope I do not lose sight of that as often this year as I did last.

2. Reading 200 books this year.  Last year I aced this...except, I bought more.  My TBR is ready to slide and and bury me.  (Ah, yes, I know there are worse ways to go...).  This year, I want a healthy balance.  99% of my reading last year was fiction.  This year, I have decided to read at least one nonfiction book per month.  

3. Paying down debt.  Most of this was car repairs.  I got rid of the main culprit, which had no excuse to be gulping so many dollars at its age, only to have the "new" one I got, which caused me absolutely zero trouble and has 4WD for wet or icy roads, actually develop mold in the back floorboard.  Yowza.  Almost 3K to remediate.

4. Giving more.  Yes, I mean dollars.  Americans as a whole are giving less to charitable, and especially are bad at giving tithes to their home churches.  I have no right to complain if I am not doing it myself.

5. Not neglecting my blog!  I'm setting a goal of posting at least once a month, if not more often.

Have you set any resolutions this year?