Archive | Reading RSS for this section

Malicious Mischief – Katy Railroad Mystery Book Review

Malicious Mischief is truly a delightful book. Set in Missouri on the Katy Railroad, it felt like taking a trip back in time. I could feel the rumble of the tracks, hear the train whistle and smell the smoke.

Author Lora Young is a member of the Kansas City West chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers. I have shared many delightful hours with Lora as we carpool to writers meetings. Since she let me read an early manuscript over a year ago, I have loved this story and am so glad she has published it. Isn’t the cover gorgeous?

The heroine of Malicious Mischief is Delia Eastman, who is caught between pursuing her own dreams and defending her father.

Rivalry between the steamships and the railroads turn their sleepy Missouri River town into powder keg. Increasingly violent vandalism on the railroad brings Delia face-to-face with Endy Webster, a handsome trainmaster whose investigation into the crimes leads him to the door of a prominent steamship owner—Delia’s father.
As Delia tries to clear her father’s name, she keeps tangling with Endy. Though he is intelligent and charming, she suspects Endy knows more than he’s telling. Delia reluctantly agrees to partner with him to solve the mystery.

The railroad rivalry provided a fascinating mystery. The romance, however, was what stole my heart. Their banter and the quirky twists of the cozy mystery made this very, very fun. I truly enjoyed this historical novel filled with interesting characters, detailed mystery and superb writing.

It’s available in paperback and Kindle. Click here to purchase Malicious Mischief on Amazon.

One of greatest joys of being a writer is making friends, like Lora and the other writers here at the Pages From Stages blog, as well as our dedicated readers. The other great thing is getting to read their works. Even though our blog here will be taking a bend in rail, I am excited to see what new writing will lie ahead.

Happy reading and God bless you,
~ Susan Mires

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?

Louis L’Amour inspires dreams

My brother Dave gave Dad a treasure trove this Christmas – a grocery sack filled with paperback Westerns.

The picture of Louis L'Amour on the back of every book in that sack.

The picture of Louis L’Amour on the back of every book in that sack.

Like flies around honey, we swarmed over those books, trading book reports and literary opinions. I helped myself to a few Louis L’Amour titles. As I read one, I realized why so much of my idle youth was spent dodging desperadoes and chasing gunslingers through the pages of a paperback. Man, that guy is a good storyteller! And he was a prolific writer. Last year, I re-read another classic I loved – Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey.

I picked up a very interesting piece of news at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Indianapolis last year. I met with an agent who told me Westerns were coming back in popularity. So there’s this idea in my head…

Susie-4022-EditPSThis week as bloggers we’re to answer the question, “When did you know you wanted to write?” Growing up in a family that goes through books by the sackful, I don’t think I can pin that down. But I can say I have a fresh itch to write a Western that Dad and Dave would enjoy reading. Maybe one Christmas, I’ll put that book in a paper sack and give it them.

~ Susan

Have you ever been given a book that inspired you?


Gone With the Wind; Yea or Nay?

gone with the windI’ve attended a major writer’s conference four times. I don’t think that a single conference has ended without several references to Margaret Mitchell’s classic Civil War romance, Gone With the Wind.

Each year I leave the conference thinking that I must, absolutely must, rent it before I attend another writer’s conference or even read another book on the craft.

And still I’ve never read it or seen it.

I think the deterrent is my sister-in-law’s reaction after she watched it. I’ll never forget her wrapped up in an afghan on my parents’ couch, bound and determined to watch this epic film to the very bitter end. And it was a bitter end. Oh, and was she mad! “What a waste of time,” she ranted, as Rhett Butler utter that famous last line…

I must admit that if I invest time into a movie or a book, I really want a happy ending. Sunshine, starbursts and an “I do” sealed with a kiss.

But given how esteemed the story is on so many different levels, I’m seriously considering either watching the movie or reading the book…or both.

What do you think? Have you read it/seen it? Should it be on my list to read in 2014?

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

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

Cows Become Plane Minded

While researching my current story, I’ve spent quite a few hours at a museum in the town my heroine is from looking at microfiche files of old newspapers. While this may sound dull and boring, nothing could be farther from the truth and the things I’ve found are proof that so many things really happen that a writer would never dream up! To me, these articles are golden nuggets because they add life and quirkiness to your story. The following is a small article I found on one of my trips.


Devour part of Airplane at Port

Not only Abilene folks but the cows of the vicinity are becoming air minded is the evidence presented by the experience at the municipal airport of the “Spirit of Service.” Harold McCrary, pilot, landed his plane at the airport Monday and placed a fence around it to protect it from invasion. But the port is also a pasture and the cows inhabiting it evidently wanted to see what the strange visitor was. Anyhow it was found this morning that they had in their in ordinate curiosity broken down the fence and gone on an inspection tour. Besides looking over the plane they made a meal off the wings. What this will do to the butter and cream is not certain but it may produce a most airy quality.

What it did to the plane was to damage it to the extent of $1000 and Mr. McCrary will patch it up and take it to Wichita tomorrow for permanent repairs. Then it goes to Jewell City to carry passengers for a few days.

Abilene probably cannot expect its airport to be over popular unless it insures visiting planes immunity from air-minded cows.

See what I mean? You’d never believe this if I made it up. I love the humor the author shows–the butter and cream being an airy quality? That’s priceless!

So someday, perhaps you’ll be reading my story and will come across a scene in which this happens. Then you’ll be able to say that you know the rest of the story!

Have a WONDERFUL weekend!



Believing God

I recently took advantage of several  free book offers from one of my favorite non-fiction authors–Beth Moore.  Because I often choose books by their titles…Believing God, was the first one I opted to read.  And WOW!!  I’ve not completely finished it…there are days I’ve needed to pitch my tent on one of the concepts. Five statements…five…that have challenged, rebuked, broken my heart, encouraged and blessed beyond anything I would have ever expected.

In a nutshell:

1. God is Who He says He is

2. God can do what He says He can do

3. I am who God says I am

4. I can do all things through Christ

5. God’s word is alive and active in me.

At first glance, which one of these statements would you find the  most difficult to believe?  

I challenge you to read this book, and BELIEVE GOD!! 


road 2 we like!

Fireside reading with Abraham Lincoln


Keeping warm by the “wood stove.” The candle adds aroma.

Wood heat can’t be beat, as far as I’m concerned.

Growing up on the farm, the wood stove was our only source of heat. The stove makes a natural place where we all still gravitate on a winter’s day. My mom cooked chili and ham and beans on the stove, simmering all day to reach a delicious aroma. The wood stove warmed us inside and out! 

My home has a gas furnace, which does have its advantages – it fires up automatically on a cold morning and no chainsaw required. But the furnace produces only a surface kind of heat compared to the deep-in-your-bones heat of a wood stove. A couple of years ago, I purchased my own “wood stove.” Just an electric heater with a fake flame, but it warms me up. This week, we’re sharing some reviews from our fireside reading.

Recently, I snuggled up in front of the fire (with my best reading buddy) with the fabulous book Lincoln’s Battle With God.

As I read – on my Kindle Fire, no less – about Lincoln sitting by the fireplace late at night after finishing his chores to read and pursue his studies, it seemed like a connection.

This book explored Abraham Lincoln’s journey from growing up in a strict religious household, to rejecting all religion as a young intellectual, then coming to grips with tragic loss and seeking God’s direction for the nation. It was a fascinating read from a research perspective. Author Stephen Mansfield has a light, contemporary voice that made for easy reading.

From a personal perspective, I found it very encouraging. To know that Abraham Lincoln, who played such a pivotal role in history, had doubts and questions makes feel more comfortable with my own. I especially like what Mansfield wrote on the final page: “We want conclusions rather than processes, and we want conversions rather than religious journeys.” The truth is that Lincoln’s faith took shape over a period of time. Susie-4028-EditPS 72

I also believe that a warm fire is good for the body and the soul – even if it is just an electric one.

Keep warm!


Book Review: Sex and the Single Christian Girl by Marian Jordan Ellis

A powerful book that provides real, honest help for Christian women – Marian Jordan Ellis has written an insightful guide.

Sex and the Single Christian Girl tackles the lies that have deceived many young women and torn their hearts to pieces. Ellis explains that her single years were like a war zone as she fought a relentless battle to protect her purity and her heart.

“In a culture where virgin is deemed a dirty word, it is rare that a young woman today would see her purity as worth fighting for,” she writes. To read those words – to have someone acknowlege the battle and the seeming futility of it – goes a long way to encourage weary warriors.

She provides practical advice on how to identify the enemy’s lies and to fight back. A welcome relief from advice about “how far is too far” and preparing for marriage, this book delves into the heart issues of why and when a young woman is susceptible, such as this: “One of the most vulnerable times of our life is when we are in pain. In our heartaches, sadness and unmet desires, Satan slithers in with his deceptions.”

Ellis draws from her own experiences of having grown up as a church girl, then being involved in hook ups and heartaches. She was saved and faced many long, lonely years of singleness and recently married. While this perspective allows for true-to-life encouragement, it falls short for, as Ellis calls us, “the ones who have waited.” Her advice is a one-paragraph warning to not be prideful because temptation can strike at any time.

Most of the book targets the temptation Christian women face of sleeping with their boyfriend before marriage. It’s probably the most honest, encouraging book on this specific issue that has been written. However, it is not a comprehensive guide for the other, complex issues a single woman faces as she wages one of the most important battles she will ever fight. As Ellis writes in the conclusion, “Purity is a lifelong pursuit without a finish line.”

I would recommend this book especially for twenty-somethings. It may also be appropriate for older teens. Women in their thirties and beyond will also find it helpful, though not the target audience.

I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for writing an honest review.

If I were a pioneer

Fun week here on Pages From Stages! We each must imagine we had to live in a different time period.

My choice is an easy one – I’d be an American pioneer.

Since childhood – when I tried to make my bedroom look like a log cabin and I sewed long skirts for my Barbie dolls – I’ve been captivated by the frontier spirit. I would love to be part of settling a wild land and growing the nation.

Several years ago I read the book Pioneer Women which is a compilation of letters that settlers wrote to family back home.

These letters detail hardships that I never imagined, but also the great pride these women had in their endeavor. It drove home the critical role women played on the frontier of the United States. I think early pioneers survived only because of the sheer determination of these ladies not to let their families starve or freeze to death.

Another thing about settlers that I admire is their sense of community. They all pulled together for barn raisings and threshings at harvest. And I love the clothes, especialy the gloves, but not so much the bonnets and corsets.

PS Small
Would I have had the stuff it takes to survive on the frontier? I’ll never know, but it is fun to imagine.