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Summer Reading: A Heart Most Worthy

A Heart Most Worthy NovelI’ve heard so much about historical author, Siri Mitchell, but had never read any of her novels until this week and was completely delighted. The novel I just read was called, A Heart Most Worthy.

It is the story of three young Italian ladies who all work for Madame Fortier’s gown shop in downtown Boston. The year is 1918…near the end of both World War I and the Great Italian Emigration, as well as the year that ushered in the Spanish influenza that infected 500 million people world-wide. For those who love history, this story has a rich backdrop to the lives of these three ladies.

Julietta is a headstrong girl who pursues a man with a mysterious past. Annamaria, always so compliant and eager to serve her parents and siblings, falls for a man from the wrong family. Luciana, must keep her true identity a secret in order to save her life. Each of these girls long for a happily, ever after…but will they find it?

What was interesting about the novel was its point of view. Currently, authors are encouraged to write a story from a first person or a third person limited point of view. In the former perspective, the reader follows only one character throughout the entire novel. In the latter, the reader may follow several characters, but only experience the story from one character’s perspective per scene. In both points of view, the author can’t interject, provide unknown information or address the reader.

However, at the prompting of her editors at Bethany House, Mitchell was encouraged to use an ominous point of view. This really made the book feel like a classic nineteenth century novel. I found that I enjoyed it very much. It added to the charm and the uniqueness of the novel. I’m not sure just any author could pull it off so well and I applaud Mitchell for taking a risk.

If you haven’t already picked up this book, I highly recommend it. I look forward to reading more from Siri Mitchell in the future.

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

What have you been reading this summer?

Book Review: Ellie Sweet novels for young adults

This week, we’re writing about bedtime stories. I don’t have children, but I did recently read some books for young adults/teens. And I thoroughly enjoyed them!

The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet is a funny, engaging book about a frustrated teen writer. Ellie Sweet is being ignored by the girls she thought were her best friends and she has a crush on a boy who thinks her name is Kelly.

She escapes through her keyboard to a medieval Italian court, where she is Lady Gabriella being wooed by a handsome prince.

Ellie was a delightful, honest girl who had to navigate the tricky waters of high school. As an adult, I could relate to her, but the story also had a humor and lightness to it that captured the fun of  being a teenager. (Unlike much young adult fiction that gets so loaded down with issues that it becomes almost inappropriate for young readers.) I confess to developing a crush on Chase, Ellie’s new friend, and stayed up way past my bedtime to finish the book.

In the sequel, The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet, the new author sees her book in print – and her friends recognize their role. It becomes even more difficult for Ellie to figure out where she fits in when her older brother starts dating her former best friend. And things with boys are never easy.

Real-life author Stephanie Morrill lives in Overland Park, Kan., and encourages fresh voices through her blog GoTeenWriters. I’d recommend her Ellie Sweet books as bedtime stories for readers age 12 on up who can relate to someone who finds herself in an embarrassing situation.

The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet is just 99 cents on Kindle. Click the cover to go to the Amazon page.

Susie-3994-EditPS 72Happy reading!
~ Susan

Review: The Widow of Larkspur Inn

It’s been an unusually cold winter with record snowfalls here in Southern Ontario. According to what I’m reading on my Facebook newsfeed, many of you are experiencing the same. A perfect season to stay inside and curl up with some good books.
The Widow of Larkspur Inn

I just saw another review for this novel which instantly reminded me of how much I enjoyed The Widow of Larkspur Inn by Lawana Blackwell. This is the first book of four in The Greshem Chronicles.

The story is centered on Julia Hollis who discovers her late husband gambled away the family fortune. All she is left with is a rundown coaching inn located in the quaint English village of Gresham. She takes her three children and one loyal housemaid, Fiona, to the lodge with hopes to find a way to support her family. As a woman used to city life, wealth and privilege, there are many challenges along the way to learning how to run a lodging house. Not to mention, being an outsider in a small village.

Julia’s adventures bring many delightful characters into her life. Some charming and others…well, not so much. Then along comes Andrew Phelps, Gresham’s new vicar and widowed father of two. You’ll have to read the story to find out how it ends.

What I particularly enjoyed was how well all the characters were developed. The plot was not rushed so there was lots of time to get acquainted with Julia, Fiona, the lodgers, and the villagers . With three more books in the series, you become really engaged with the residents of Gresham.

As an added bonus, The Widow of Larkspur Inn, is free on Kindle in both Canada and the United States.

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

What was the last series you read?

Snapshots from 2013 ACFW Conference

acfw13monumentI just returned from the 2013 ACFW Conference in Indianapolis. It was a great time to meet with others in the industry. I believe there was about 600 in attendance. The keynote speaker, Robin Jones Gunn, shared two encouraging talks. (If you know any teenage girls, you might want to look into her Christy Miller series.)

Here are a few pictures from the event! Check out my other blog post at Stitches Thru Time to view some of the great costumes worn at the all new Genre Night!

This me at Genre Night (hence the gloves) with Frank Peretti who received a Lifetime Achievement Award during the conference. My son is a big fan of his children's videos. This is Frank making a "Mr. Henry" face!

This is me at Genre Night (hence the gloves) with Frank Peretti who received a Lifetime Achievement Award during the conference. My son is a big fan of his children’s videos. Frank is making a “Mr. Henry” face for my son!

Shown above is a picture of a few of us from the "Beyond the Border" zone. We had people from Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Canada, Bermuda, and Japan.

Shown above is a picture of a few of us from the “Beyond the Border” zone. We had people from Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Canada, Bermuda, and Japan.

Although I live in Canada, I am actually closer to the writers in the Great Lakes Chapter (Michigan) than I am to other writers in the Beyond the Borders Zone. I love living in a border city next to Detroit! Shown above are a few writers from Michigan.

Although I live in Canada, I am actually closer to the writers in the Great Lakes Chapter (Michigan) than I am to other writers in the Beyond the Borders Zone. I love living in a border city next to Detroit! Shown above are a few writers from Michigan. (And Peggy, the camera caught you!)

Susie Mires and me taking a few of the sights in downtown Indianapolis.

Susie Mires and me taking in a few of the sights in downtown Indianapolis.

Who knows if I’ll be back at the next ACFW conference in St. Louis, but enjoyed my time this year!

– Cherie

Summer Reading Book Review: Bees In the Butterfly Garden

With school year starting for some and about to start for the rest, it seems like summer is coming to an end…even if you don’t have kids! But the Autumn Solstice is not officially until September 22nd this year, so we technically have a good month of summer left (unless you are from Australia and you are looking ahead to Spring!).

Bees In The Butterfly GardenA fun summer read is a historical romance—Bees In The Butterfly Garden by Maureen Lang. The heroine, Meg Davenport, was raised to be a perfect lady in an exclusive boarding school. The only thing she lacked was the love of a family. When Meg discovers her late father John, whom she hardly knew, was one of the Gilded Age’s most talented thieves, she is determined to be part of his world.

Her father’s former partner in crime, Ian Maguire, knows that John tried to keep his daughter from following in his footsteps. Ian attempts to dissuade her from seeking this sort of life. Meg eventually convinces him that she could help him pull off his greatest heist yet.

Both Meg and Ian seek to create a legacy, but by doing so they risk losing everything.

The history geek in me enjoyed learning about the underworld during one of America’s most prosperous times. The story moved along quickly with twists in the plots that kept you glued to the book. The overall theme of redemption was well played out.

If you like Maureen Lang’s novels or you simply enjoy historical romances, you might want to check out my review of On Sparrow Hill.

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

What have you read this summer?

9 things that show up a lot in Christian fiction

As an avid reader of Christian fiction, I’ve noticed certain things tend to show up in these novels. Here’s a list of the top 9 things you’ll find:

1. Pies. This is especially — but not exclusively — prevalent in historical fiction. The Anonymous Bride is a delightful romance that hinged on a pie contest.

2. Bonnets. Particularly of the Amish variety – but also  Mennonite and prairie types.

3. Cowboys. I have no problem with this.
Author Christine Lynxwiler even made fun of the trend in her fabulous contemporary novel Along Came A Cowboy.

4. Single Ministers. In real life, single ministers over the age of 24 are few and far between, but you can’t throw a hymnal in Christian fiction without hitting a handsome, young (yet spiritually mature) preacher who needs a wife.

5. Coffee Shops. I once heard coffee described as “Christian crack.” Sounds about right.

6. Widows/Widowers. You’ll find more grieving widows on the shelves of the church library than in the senior adult Bible study. Waiting for Summer’s Return is about a widow and it’s free on Kindle right now.

7. On a related note: orphans.

8. Strong Women. In a typical romance, the woman will be sitting around waiting for a man to come rescue her and faint with relief when he shows up and takes care of her problems.
In Christian fiction, by contrast, the recently widowed but still beautiful Amish woman probably already has the bad guys tied up in the barn and two pies cooling in the window before the hero rides on to the scene. Then she faints from surprise and the single minister has the privilege of rescuing her.

9. My Issues. It’s happened so often now that I’m no longer surprised that the heroine in the book I’m reading is dealing with the exact same thing I’m facing. When a make-believe character finds the strength to persevere and trust in God, it gives me hope to do the same.

Last week I read Just Jane, a novel based on the life of Jane Austen. I found it so encouraging because…. Well, I guess I like to think Jane Austen and I have a lot in common. 🙂
Susie-4028-EditPS 72

All of these and more are reasons why I thoroughly enjoy reading Christian fiction, even in light of some good-natured fun.

~ Susan Mires

 Your turn: What have you noticed showing up in your favorite novels?