Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Book Review: From a Distance by Tamera Alexander

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& Amazon | Kindle
From A Distance by Tamera Alexander
Timber Ridge Reflections, Book 1
Bethany House, 01 June 2008

What happens when the realization of a dream isn't what you imagined... and the secret you've spent a lifetime guarding is finally laid bare?
Determined to become one of the country's premier newspaper photographers, Elizabeth Westbrook travels to the Colorado Territory to capture the grandeur of the mountains surrounding the remote town of Timber Ridge. She hopes, too, that the cool, dry air of Colorado, and its renowned hot springs, will cure the mysterious illness that threatens her career, and her life.

Daniel Ranslett, a former Confederate sharpshooter, is a man shackled by his past, and he'll do anything to protect his land, and his solitude. When an outspoken Yankee photographer captures an image that appears key to solving a murder, putting herself in danger, Daniel is called upon to repay a debt. He's a man of his word, but repaying that debt could bring secrets from his past to light.

Forced on a perilous journey together, Daniel and Elizabeth's lives intertwine in ways neither could have imagined when first they met . . . from a distance. 

This is my first Tamera Alexander book and I loved it. She effortlessly weaves the majestic Rocky Mountains of Colorado bringing them to life through the eyes of her beautifully drawn characters. After reading the first few chapters, I cam to a solid conclusion. Tamera Alexander does the two things I really want in books and she does them well - more than well - she does them beautifully. 

Tamera has well drawn and interesting characters - Daniel and Elizabeth as well as all the others are infused with life giving traits that make them real. I don't like all the characters, or even all of what Elizabeth and Daniel do at times, but they are real. 

The second thing I love is the inclusion of the setting. So many books I have read lately seem to pay less attention to the setting of the story. To me if an author is taking the trouble to set their story somewhere interesting, beautiful etc they need to take the time to show their readers this place. This is what Tamera Alexander does. The Rocky Mountains felt real to me, as if I was there right next to her characters watching the same scene.

The pace of the book was slow but engaging at the same time. Elizabeth and Daniel are strong characters who are driven by expectations and past experiences which leads them to clash a fair bit. Elizabeth is fairly like able and the spiritual growth she goes through is honest and believable (she really needed to do some spiritual growing). Daniel is a man battling his past in the war and his desire to preserve the land God created out here in the Rockies. It is a pleasure to watch these two grow closer together and to God.

I truly enjoyed this book and was very glad that my sister had given me The Timber Ridge Trilogy for Christmas 2011. I read all 3 books in four days!

Tamera you have won yourself a new fan!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Morning Musings: My first Country Music Festival

So I've been waiting and waiting for months to head out to The Hunter Valley and see Tim McGraw and Faith Hill plus a whole host of other artists playing at CMC Rocks the Hunter 2012. Now this event is a 3 day one, but since I hate camping and am the mother of a 21 month being there for 3 days was never going to happen. I was totally OK with that by the way. I bought tickets for the final day with Tim and Faith being the headlining acts of the whole event.

The day was either always hot, cloudy and spitting down rain (sometimes all three at once!). My best friend (who doesn't really like country music but does like Faith Hill) came with me in lieu of my other friend who does love country but could no longer make it. So we tramped through the mud that I nearly got the car  bogged in and dragged our tarp and picnic blanket to a nice spot not too far from the stage. 

So the music began and well to be honest nothing special happened until much later in the afternoon. Being my first festival I now know to arrive half way through the day. The music is better and there are still good spots to sit. The things we learn on first outings!

By the time Tim and Faith went on stage we were more than ready. And I must say they did not disappoint! The picture below shows them on stage together. In the end it was a long trip home filled with mud and rain and we were exhausted but it was a great show and I'd go again next year!

Picture taken from official CMC Rocks the Hunter website:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book Review: Just Between You and Me by Jenny B. Jones

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Fishpond AU 
& Amazon | Kindle
Just Between You and Me by Jenny B. Jones

The only thing scarier than living on the edge is stepping off it.

Maggie Montgomery lives a life of adventure. Her job as a cinematographer takes her from one exotic locale to the next. When Maggie's not working, she loves to rappel off cliffs or go skydiving. Nothing frightens her.

Nothing, that is, except Ivy, Texas, where a family emergency pulls her back home to a town full of bad memories, painful secrets, and people Maggie left far behind . . . for a reason.

Forced to stay longer than she intended, Maggie finds her family a complete mess, including the niece her sister has abandoned. Ten-year-old Riley is struggling in school and out of control at home. The only person who can really handle the pint-sized troublemaker is Conner, the local vet and Ivy's most eligible bachelor. But Conner and Maggie keep butting heads--he's suspicious of her and, well, she doesn't rely on anyone but herself.

To save one little girl--and herself--can Maggie let go of her fears and just trust God?

I picked up this book because I liked the cover and the  blurb sounded good. I've never read Jenny B Jones before and I'm so glad that I did. I laughed so hard in this book so many times! That hasn't happened to me in a long time with a book. I even cried a few times. The witty dialogue and the internal monologue of Maggie is simply hilarious yet underneath this is a heartfelt and serious book.

Maggie is funny, wild and running from the past. She comes across as real - someone you might have known in high school. Conner - the local vet, ex-nerd and former recipient of Maggie's wild pranks is there to push Maggie to the place she needs to be - stepping off the edge into trust, faith and hope.

Maggie's difficult (to say the least) niece, Riley jumps off the page with life. She is believable as a troubled kid whose just looking for a firm foundation and someone to love her.

At many points this book did not shy away from the hard subjects, but Jenny B. Jones used humour to take the edge off the tension without taking away from the difficult circumstances.

I loved Maggie and Conner! They are an awesome witty couple and their romance is just right.

I loved, loved this book. Many re-reads are in it's future! Grab it if you are after a funny, real people moving closer to God in their own ways read. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Morning Musings: The Britannica-less Library

Did you hear the news last week?

Britannica has announced that they will no longer be printing their 32-volume Encyclopaedia.  The 2010 edition was the last, after 244 years of printing.

Okay.  So I guess half of you are thinking, "What? I didn't know they were still printing them."

To be honest, I had wondered myself over the last couple of years.  I often thought about checking, but always forgot.

About sixteen years ago, my parents bought a set of Britannica's.  This was a huge investment for our family - it wasn't something we could easily afford.  My mum and dad entered into a three year payment plan in order to buy it.  They did it for my sister and me - for our education.  They did it because they wanted the best resource of information available to us.  They did it because they believed we could achieve great things.

As much as I love printed books, and I still lean towards the hardcopy over the ebook when it comes to fiction, I am totally behind the complete shift to digital media for encyclopaedic information.  It just makes far more sense.  Sheer volume of information being one thing.  The ability to update the online database instantly.  The richness of embedded audio and video, and the convenience of jumping to other relevant information in the blink of an eye.

Then there's the price.  The current set of Britannica volumes - the last set available - retails for $1749 (AUD).  You can get a subscription to the Britannica online database for $6 (AUD) per month, or the DVD version for $79.95 (AUD).  It's not even comparable. (By the way, sixteen years ago we paid closer to $3000 for our set!)

And yet, if there wasn't already a set of Britannica's sitting on my mum's bookshelf, I'd be scrambling to buy one of these last print editions.


For starters, I always intended on buying a set for myself when I was all grown up and had a home of my own.  I love books.  I love the look of them on bookshelves.  My dream is to have a library in my home with wall-to-wall books.  And in my mind, no bookshelf is complete without a row or two of those sleek black, thick volume books.  It adds sophistication to a library.  A set of Britannica's says that this household is serious about education and quality information.

It's a joy to pick up a volume and open it in my hands.  The musty smell of the leather, the rustle of the delicately thin pages ... it makes me think of seriously educated people, sitting at large - computer-less - desks, or in dark coloured oversized armchairs.  It makes me think of purer, simpler times.

It makes me think of my dad.  How many times did we find him leafing through a volume in search of information due to something he heard in the news, or in search of an answer to a question one of his inquisitive daughters asked.

It's an end of an era, that's for sure.  It just makes me a little sad because it feels like the end of an era in my life as well.  I'm sure my children in a few short years are going to stare at those volumes on their grandmother's shelf and ask, "What are they for?" And when I explain, they will scrunch up their noses and say, "But why, when we have the internet?"

So, if you've always dreamt of a set of Britannica's adorning your shelf, now's the time to grab it.   I wonder if there's any possibility of a big enough backlash about the discontinuation to spark another print? Maybe not, if they're already reducing the price to sell-out existing stock.

Has anyone been holding onto a dream of owning a set of Britannica's? Or has anyone bought a set recently? We'd love to hear your thoughts on the passing of this iconic symbol of education and knowledge.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book Review: Mr Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange

Available @
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& Amazon
Mr Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange
Sourcebooks Landmark April 2007

 Monday 9th September
"I left London today and met Bingley at Netherfield Park. I had forgotten what good company he is; always ready to be pleased and always cheerful. After my difficult summer, it is good to be with him again. ..."

The only place Darcy could share his innermost feelings was in the private pages of his diary...

Torn between his sense of duty to his family name and his growing passion for Elizabeth Bennet, all he can do is struggle not to fall in love. 

I was told that this book was a diverting, amusing, pleasurable read. I was a little dubious as I has forayed a little into sequels and retelling's of Pride and Prejudice. Some of them were so woefully told that I never bothered to get past the first chapter. This book surprised me quiet nicely.

I really enjoyed reading about the events of Pride and Prejudice. I had always longed for Austen to give us more from Darcy's point of view. This book satisfied that longing. It took me a chapter or two to get into it, but once that was over I was racing through the book, eager to see how it ends (truly funny as I know exactly how it ends).

Grange does a very good job of bringing us into Darcy's inner thoughts. I enjoyed the way she showed us his relationship with his sister Georgiana, his friendship with Bingley. I was so amused by Mrs Philips and Mrs Bennet's behaviour towards him once he and Lizzie were acknowledged in their engagement.

I found it hard to believe though that a man would record all these events in such detail, right down to entire conversations. However, I know that it was needed for the book and I simply enjoyed proceedings too much to let it really affect my feelings on this book.

A lovely read!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday Morning Musings: Settled in...mostly

Most of you might know that at the beginning of February that my husband and I moved house. Along with our 19 month little girl and our white fluffy dog. It was a hectic time leading up to the move and afterwards. Within 2 weeks we'd had most of our stuff unpacked and I felt like we had settled in enough to get into a routine.

What I didn't encounter was the fact that all of us still felt unsettled and rushed. No matter how I tried I couldn't seem to feel like life was slowing down to a manageable pace. My husband felt the same way and I'm sure my daughter did. I know my dog did.

Even though we'd settled in enough with most things unpacked and I knew where all the important stuff was for daily living, why then did feel like life was speeding up rather than slowing down? We'd moved the hard stuff was out of the way right?

My husband and I sat down and discussed this very issue as we both felt just pushed to the limit. During our discussion it came out that we hadn't formed a routine within the new house. You see I was expecting to pick up our old routine and plop it into the new house. This doesn't work. You'd think I'd know that having a toddler in the house right? No routine ever stays the same for long!

So over the past two weeks, we've slowed our social engagements down, made some plans for fixing wardrobes in order to finish the unpacking and just tried to stop the old routine and let another new one naturally develop.

So many times I try and force my will onto a situation and more often then not I get it wrong. When all I needed to do at the time was just sit and let things be for a while. The world will not fall apart if I don't have a routine.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Book Review: A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman

Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon | Kindle
A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman

Refusing to settle for anything less than a romantic relationship that pleases God, Faith O'Connor steels her heart against her desire for the roguish Collin McGuire. But when Collin tries to win her sister Charity's hand, Faith isn't sure she can handle the jealousy she feels. To further complicate matters, Faith finds herself the object of Collin's affections, even as he is courting her sister. The Great War is raging overseas, and a smaller war is brewing in the O'Connor household. Full of passion, romance, rivalry, and betrayal, A Passion Most Pure will captivate readers from the first page. Book 1 of the Daughters of Boston series.

Julie Lessman is a drama queen.

Er ... let me rephrase that.  Julie is the queen of drama.  Seriously.  Truly!

A Passion Most Pure was Julie's debut novel, the first in a 3 book series - Daughters of Boston.  I had already read the two books of her follow on series, Winds of Change, both of which I loved.  So I asked Jess to get me the three Daughters of Boston books for Christmas because I was very eager to read the earlier stories of the O'Connor family.

Most of this year I've been doing research reading, so I hadn't allowed myself to sit back and indulge in my Christmas present.  But after many YA novels and parenting books, I was desperate for a break.  Within two pages of A Passion Most Pure, I sighed and thought, "This is just what I needed!"

A Passion Most Pure centres on the oldest O'Connor girl, Faith.  Her number one passion is for God.  But that doesn't mean her passion stops there, and she struggles with the candle she's held for Collin McGuire since she was a little girl, and the rivalry and jealousy with her younger, prettier sister, Charity.  

Now, I already knew who Faith ultimately ended up with since I've read the later books.  But let me tell you, this did not subtract from my enjoyment of this book.  Not at all! 

The constant wondering of "HOW????" it would all come out kept me perched on the edge of my seat (or bed) the entire book.  The drama, passion and turmoil kept me rivetted with every turn of a page.  So many times my jaw was hitting the floor with Charity's antics.  At other times I was weak in the knees from the charm and passion from the men involved in pursuit of the sisters.  Even the love between Faith's parents made my heart skip a beat.  Mind you, if I were Faith and Charity's parents, I would have a serious headache with all the to-ing and fro-ing of their love lives!

Julie has intertwined God's love into the story so thoroughly and naturally.  I came away from this book challenged to hold on to God's decrees and promises, even though at times it may seem like it's all backfiring.  I wish I had read this when I was younger.  Perhaps it would have inspired me to hold out for a man with a passion for God.

I am dying to know how Charity's love life transpires, and if I weren't currently undertaking Speedbo, I would have dived straight into the next book, A Passion Redeemed.  As it is, I can see Charity over on my bookshelf, daring me to pick it up.  But no, she will have to wait.  I think ;)

The bottom line is, if you're looking for something gutsy with drama, passion, excitement and romance - and all in the light of God's love - you can't go past A Passion Most Pure.

Book Review: The Accidental Bride by Denise Hunter

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& Amazon | Kindle
The Accidental Bride by Denise Hunter
Shay Brandenberger is a survivor. She's lived through a crazy childhood, a failed marriage, and single parenthood-with her confidence intact. But not for long. Because when Shay participates in her town's Founder's Day wedding re-enactment, she finds herself face-to-face with the one man who takes her breath away and leaves her weak in the knees: Travis McCoy.
Travis is back in town after years way on the rodeo circuit. His one regret in life is breaking Shay's heart when they were high-school sweethearts. He's determined to get it right this time. So when their Founder's Day "marriage" is accidentally made official, Travis seizes the day. Can Shay put aside her pride to let Travis help her, or will their accidental marriage be dissolved before it can begin?
This is the second instalment from Denise Hunter in her Big Sky Series. I must say that I enjoyed this much better than A Cowboy’s Touch. For me this book felt more well rounded in almost every way. I love how Denise conveyed so well the history between Travis and Shay. I knew from their interactions to their unspoken words that they had known each other for years. In a couple of cases all these two needed to do was make eye contact and a full conversation would happen.
Getting to know Travis and Shay was a real treat. Their chemistry just bounces off the page. She’s stubborn with a fiery temper and he’s confident enough to not let Shay push him around. They make for an engaging and amusing couple. Denise’s trademark romance is all over this book. No one writes good old fashioned romance the way she does. A lingering gaze to a kiss that shouldn’t have to end, Denise is my go to author for romance and she does not disappoint!
Something that I have longed for more of in more of Denise Hunter’s books finally happened! I was so happy to discover that this book contained more descriptions of the surrounding environment. What was missing in A Cowboy’s Touch – the sprawling Montana mountains and the “big sky” – came life in this book. I really felt this time that I was in Montana looking at the mountains and seeing that big sky go on for what seems like forever. 

A great read and I'm looking forward to the next installment of the Big Sky Series. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Seekerville Speedbo: I'm up for the Challenge!

The month of March is Speedbo over at Seekerville - a wonderfully informative and useful blog run by a bunch of great authors (including Julie Lessman, Mary Conneally) targeted to people like me who are trying to write and publish books.  

What is Speedbo? It's a month dedicated to writing, with the aim of writing a book in a month.

I need a push in order to get my writing down, so I've joined Speedbo.  I'm not actually aiming to write a whole book in a month, but I've set myself a target of writing 20 000 words.  That works out at approximately 1000 words a day, five days a week.  That gives me some leeway for the usual interruptions of sickness, teething and other chaos that happens when you're mothering two tiny tots. 

I've got a counter placed on the top of our blog so you can see how I'm tracking over the month.  So far I'm very pleased with the progress I'm making!

Is anyone else participating in Speedbo this year?

Happy writing!