Thursday, August 30, 2012

Generation on a Tightrope

About the Book:
An understanding of today’s undergraduate college students is vital to the effectiveness of our nation’s colleges and universities. As Generation on a Tightrope clearly reveals, today’s students need a very different education than the undergraduates who came before them: an education for the 21st Century, which colleges and universities are so far ill-equipped to offer and which will require major changes of them to provide. Examining college student expectations, aspirations, academics, attitudes, values, beliefs, social life, and politics, this book paints an accurate portrait of today’s students. Timely and comprehensive, this volume offers educators, researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and employers guidance and a much-needed grasp of the forces shaping the experiences of current undergraduates. The book: 
  • Is based on completely new research of 5,000 college students and student affairs practitioners from 270 diverse college campuses
  • Explores the similarities and differences between today’s generation of students and previous generations
My Comments:
As the parent of a daughter who is getting ready to head off to college in another year, I found this book very interesting if a bit repetitive.  It talks about helicopter parents, students glued to cell  phones, and hooking up.  It discusses how college students are not as involved in college life as their predecessors -- or in the political life of the community.  It discusses drug and alcohol use, church attendance, club membership and social relationships. It looks at how college students today use technology and media.  I think most parents of college-aged students would find the book interesting, though I don't agree with all the conclusions drawn.  Grade: B.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  

Addendum:  After I wrote the review of this book, and before it published, I got a first-hand example to go with the review.  My daughter is a high school senior and is taking a dual enrollment class at the University of New Orleans.  Monday she went out there and got her ID and a map.  She located where her class was going to be.  Tuesday she went to the classroom (a large auditorium) and asked someone if that was the class.  The person to whom she spoke said that (course no) was there; she had asked by class name.  She called me in tears, she needed to know if that course number was the for course she took.  Google quickly told me it was and that afternoon we had a talk about how UNO really wanted her to succeed out there, that they'd like nothing better than to convince her that she doesn't want to go off to school, but wants to stay right there next year, but that she needed to ask for help when she needed it.  I also told her there was a reason that the only thing that happened in the first class was that the instructor handed out the syllabus.  I guess my daughter isn't all that unlike other kids her age.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Here We Go Again

That wasn't the title I had in mind for this post.  When I got the digital galleys of the books below, I imagined a post with some "then" and "now" photos (you can see some "then" here, here, here, here, here  and here) however, I spent this weekend with my sick father (prayers for him appreciated) and though I got off work early today due to the approach of Tropical Storm/Hurricane Isaac, I figured taking pictures in strange neighborhoods would be likely to get me arrested today.  Yes, seven years to the day after Hurricane Katrina hit, we in New Orleans are getting ready for Isaac, which, while it does not appear to be another Katrina, has shut the town down for the next few days.

So what about Katrina books?  Well I read two I want to share with you.

About the Book:
As floodwaters drained in the weeks following Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans residents came to a difficult realization. Their city was about to undertake the largest disaster recovery in American history, yet they faced a profound leadership vacuum: members of every tier of government, from the municipal to the federal level, had fallen down on the job. We Shall Not Be Moved tells the absorbing story of the community leaders who stepped into this void to rebuild the city they loved. 

From a Vietnamese Catholic priest who immediately knows when two of his six thousand parishioners go missing to a single mother from the Lower Ninth Ward who instructs the likes of Jimmy Carter and Brad Pitt, these intrepid local organizers show that a city’s fate rests on the backs of its citizens. On their watch, New Orleans neighborhoods become small governments. These leaders organize their neighbors to ward off demolition threats, write comprehensive recovery plans, found community schools, open volunteer centers, raise funds to rebuild fire stations and libraries, and convince tens of thousands of skeptical residents to return home. Focusing on recovery efforts in five New Orleans neighborhoods—Broadmoor, Hollygrove, Lakeview, the Lower Ninth Ward, and Village de l’Est—Tom Wooten presents vivid narratives through the eyes and voices of residents rebuilding their homes, telling a story of resilience as entertaining as it is instructive. 

The unprecedented community mobilization underway in New Orleans is a silver lining of Hurricane Katrina’s legacy. By shedding light on this rebirth, We Shall Not Be Moved shows how residents, remarkably, turned a profound national failure into a story of hope.

My Comments:
I liked We Shall Not Be Moved.  Of course, as a New Orleans resident I recognized many of the places described.  I remember the grandiose plans put forth by the government commissions and I remember thinking they'd never fly--and I was right.  This is a book about what actually happened, about the people who were leaders, not politicians and about how neighborhoods came back.  I found it highly readable and not very political.  It didn't whine about how things should have been but told how things were.  Grade:  B+

About the Book:
After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans became ground zero for the reinvention of the American city, with urban planners, movie stars, anarchists, and politicians all advancing their competing visions of recovery. In this wash of reform, residents and volunteers from across the country struggled to build the foundations of a new New Orleans.For over five years, author Daniel Wolff has documented an amazing cross section of the city in upheaval: a born-again preacher with a ministry of ex-addicts, a former Black Panther organizing for a new cause, a single mother, "broke as a joke" in a FEMA trailer. The Fight for Home chronicles their battle to survive not just the floods, but the corruption that continues and the base-level emergency of poverty and neglect.From ruin to limbo to triumphant return, Wolff offers an intimate look at the lives of everyday American heroes. A s these lives play out against the ruined local landscape and an emerging national recession, The Fight for Home becomes a story of resilience and hope.

My Comments:
I found this book to be liberal whining.  Those horrible rich folks live where it is high, the poor live where it floods and folks who didn't have insurance were worse off than folks who did.  I didn't finish it.  

Monday, August 27, 2012

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor

About the Book:
One rain-slicked night, six-year-old Holly lost the only parent she knew, her beloved mother Victoria. And since that night, she has never again spoken a word.

The last thing Mark Nolan needs is a six-year-old girl in his life. But he soon realizes that he will do everything he can to make her life whole again. His sister’s will gives him the instructions: There’s no other choice but you. Just start by loving her. The rest will follow.

Maggie Collins doesn’t dare believe in love again, after losing her husband of one year. But she does believe in the magic of imagination. As the owner of a toy shop, she lives what she loves. And when she meets Holly Nolan, she sees a little girl in desperate need of a little magic.

Three lonely people. Three lives at the crossroads. Three people who are about to discover that Christmas is the time of year when anything is possible, and when wishes have a way of finding the path home…

My Comments:
So, Holly ends up in an institution, Mark becomes a playboy and Maggie adopts 32 cats to live in her toy shop since she has vowed never to speak to a man again in her life....of course not, it's a romance novel, how do you think it turns out?  Actually this was more predictable than most, and like many Christmas romances, it was short--just over 200 pages and they were a very easy 200 pages to read.  Though many Lisa Kleypas novels are quite steamy, this one has only one intimate scene and while we are in the room with them, the descriptions are more flowery than anatomical.  

Mark has two brothers and I look forward to reading about them in their books as soon as my library is able to get them to me.  I got this one from the library as well. Grade:  B.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

It's Monday: What Are You Reading

Here is what I reviewed this week:

You can see what other folks are reading over at Book Journey.

Review: Return to Willow Lake

About the Book:
Sonnet Romano’s life is almost perfect. She has the ideal career, the ideal boyfriend, and has just been offered a prestigious fellowship. There’s nothing more a woman wants – except maybe a baby…sister? When Sonnet finds out her mother is unexpectedly expecting, and that the pregnancy is high-risk, she puts everything on hold – the job, the fellowship, the boyfriend – and heads home to Avalon. Once her mom is out of danger, Sonnet intends to pick up her life where she left off. But when her mother receives a devastating diagnosis, Sonnet must decide what really matters in life, even of that means staying in Avalon and taking a job that forces her to work alongside her biggest, and maybe her sweetest, mistake – award-winning filmmaker Zach Alger. So Sonnet embarks on a summer of laughter and tears, of old dreams and new possibilities, and of finding the home of her heart. At once heartbreaking and uplifting, Return to Willow Lake plumbs the deepest corners of the human heart, exploring the bonds of family, the perils and rewards of love, and the true meaning of home. Profoundly emotional and resonant, this is Susan Wiggs at her finest.

My Comments:
What do you get when you combine the friend who is a guy with a reality tv show and a sperm donor father who is trying to manipulate you life?  In this case, you get a charming romantic novel that explores what parenting and love are all about.  Sonnet seems to have it all--the glamorous  New York City job, the handsome boyfriend, the good friend who is male, and finally, her father in her life.  Over a short period of time she gives up the job and the boyfriend and seems to lose the friend.  She is afraid of losing her mother, and finds out that her father isn't what she thought.  Working on a reality tv show with a famous star and some poor children from New York City gives her yet more food for thought.

I really liked Zach.  He seemed so comfortable in his own skin, so grown-up, so caring.  Sonnet was the opposite, always striving toward something, always trying to please others.  I liked the idea that there are those under our noses who need help and it doesn't take moving mountains to make a difference in people's lives.  

The book included pre-marital intimate scenes but they weren't terribly graphic.

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B.  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival

Hello, and welcome to Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. We are a group of Catholic bloggers who gather weekly to share our best posts with each other. To participate, go to your blog and create a post titled Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. In it, discuss and link to your posts for the week--whether they deal with theology, Catholic living or cute Catholic kids. I'm mostly a book blogger so my posts are generally book reviews, some Catholic, some not. Make sure that post links back here. Once you publish it, come back here and leave a link below.

We also have a yahoogroup; signing up for it will get you one weekly reminder to post.  Click here to sign up.

Only two reviews this week;  one of a children's book and the other a short novella in the Last Chance series.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Princess and the Peas and the Carrots

About the Book:
As her parents learn to how manage their daughter's persnickety ways, a little girl also comes to understand the royal reason that she is so fussy.

This princess-y, picky-particular girl will strike a strong chord of recognition. Every kid has some version of "I can't eat those peas because they're touching the carrots!" Right?

My Comments:
This book combines the traditional story of The Princess and the Pea with a modern story of a picky little girl.  My eight year old enjoyed it and as she is the intended audience I'd say that's a good review.
I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via Edelweiss Galleys.  Grade B.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Last Chance Bride

About the Book
Dear Reader,

My boy Stone has always been the quiet one in the family, but now he's got the whole town talking. He and his long-time sweetheart Sharon are crazy about each other, but suddenly they can't see eye-to-eye on their future. Sharon thought they were going to go to college, then get married. But Stone had other plans--plans he didn't share with anyone.

So it looks like our resident matchmaker Miriam is going to be wrong for the first time ever. She swears Sharon and Stone are true soul mates. Well, I think between the broken promises and Sharon's meddling mother, these two kids are going to need a miracle to make it down the aisle. . .

There's Arlene-I just need to finish her trim and then I can head over to the Watermelon Festival. Be sure to stop back by the Cut 'n' Curl for hot rollers, free coffee-and the best gossip in town.

See you real soon,

Ruby Rhodes

My Comments:
The other Last Chance books tell us that Stone loved Sharon and has never gotten over  her.  We've heard they wed with her wearing her Watermelon Queen dress.  This short e-book is Stone and Sharon's story. It takes place over about a month the summer after they graduated from high school.  Like the other books in the series,it mentions church attendance and  prayer.  Also like the other books in the series it mentions in a relatively positive way, intimate activities most Christian faiths consider  immoral.  However,  this book has no intimate scenes.  I think  those who have enjoyed this series will enjoy Stone and Sharon's story, and everyone should realize this is not a full-length book.  Grade: B.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival

Hello, and welcome to Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. We are a group of Catholic bloggers who gather weekly to share our best posts with each other. To participate, go to your blog and create a post titled Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. In it, discuss and link to your posts for the week--whether they deal with theology, Catholic living or cute Catholic kids. I'm mostly a book blogger so my posts are generally book reviews, some Catholic, some not. Make sure that post links back here. Once you publish it, come back here and leave a link below.

We also have a yahoogroup; signing up for it will get you one weekly reminder to post.  Click here to sign up.

I actually read a Catholic book this week.  Future Church looks at where the author believes the Church will go in the next 100 years.  Food Family Style is a cookbook I reviewed.  Grandma Helen's Praline Wafers is a recipe from that book.  Angel of the Cove is about a turn-of-the-century (20th) midwife.  Sweet Magnolia Cookbook features southern cooking.  The Choice is a pro-life novel I think many of you would like.

Review: The Future Church

About the Book:
What will the Catholic Church be like in 100 years? Will there be a woman pope? Will dioceses throughout the United States and the rest of the world go bankrupt from years of scandal? In THE FUTURE CHURCH, John L. Allen puts forth the ten trends he believes will transform the Church into the twenty-second century. From the influence of Catholics in Africa, Asia, and Latin America on doctrine and practices to the impact of multinational organizations on local and ethical standards, Allen delves into the impact of globalization on the Roman Catholic Church and argues that it must rethink fundamental issues, policies, and ways of doing business. Allen shows that over the next century, the Church will have to respond to changes within the institution itself and in the world as a whole whether it is contending with biotechnical advances—including cloning and genetic enhancement—the aging Catholic population, or expanding the roles of the laity.

My Comments:
This book is over 450 pages of densely written small type.  While it makes generous use of  section headers and numbering schemes, the fact remains that reading this book takes work.  

The ten trends which Allen explores are the titles of the chapters:  A World Church, Evangelical Catholicism, Islam, The New Demography, Expanding Lay Roles, The Biotech Revolution, Globalization, Ecology, Multipolarism and Pentecostalism.  Allen claims the trends about which he chose to write were 1) global, 2) of significant impact at the level of the Catholic grassroots 3) potentially able to influence Catholicism in terms of its institutional resources and structures, 4)   able to provide a context by which to understand a variety of issues in the Church, 5) predictive in nature, and 6) not ideologically driven.  He gives this list to explain why many of what we consider "hot button" issues were not included. In short, Allen was looking at the future of the Church in the 21st Century, and he sees little evidence that the Church will ordain women, abandon the hierarchy or significantly change its teachings on sexual ethics in that time frame--so, while Catholics may continue to discuss those topics, they aren't "trends" because they don't meet his criteria.  

After describing each of his ten trends, Allen talks about what each trend means and the probable,  possible, and long-shot consequences of that trend.  For example, regarding the trend of expanding lay roles, Allen opines that the near certain consequences are: 1)conflicts over the control of ministries not directly controlled by bishops (like the conflicts over EWTN), 2) a fear of feminization, 3) protecting the priesthood, and 4) a more sacramental model of the priesthood.  Probable consequences are battles over bureaucracy and a democratization of Catholic conversation.  Possible consequences are an evangelical edge (basically described as a situation in which Catholic lay ministry is not just seen as a second-best alternative to ministry by a priest), parish strikes (or more precisely strikes by parish employees),and "a less purple ecclesiology "(meaning less clergy-centered).  Long shot consequences include lay cardinals, a female head of a decision-making office at the Vatican and a holier world.  

In short, this long book is an interesting look at where the Church may be headed in the future. Grade:  B.

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via the Blogging for Books program.  

Grandma Helen's Praline Wafers

After baking

Grandma Helen's Praline Wafers

10-12 whole graham crackers
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 325.  Line a rimmed 11x15 cookie sheet with foil, and cover in a single layer of graham crackers.  In a saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and butter, stirring to combine.  Bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes, until caramelized.  Remove from heat and stir in pecan pieces.  Pour mixture over graham crackers and bake for seven minutes. Let cool and break into squares.  Let cool, and break into squares.  Store in an airtight container.  Best eaten within 1-2 days.  You can add 1 cup coconut, drizzle with  chocolate, or use almonds in place of pecans.

My Note:
When I saw the note about drizzling with chocolate, I though of sprinkling with chocolate chips.  These ended up tasting a lot like Heath bars.   Yum!

Almost as sweet as she is!

 The publisher graciously allowed me to reprint this recipe from

Thursday, August 16, 2012

First Wildcard: Angel of the Cove

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Sandra Robbins and her husband live in the small college town in Tennessee where she grew up. They count their four children and five grandchildren as the greatest blessings in their lives. Her published books include stories in historical romance and romantic suspense. When not writing or spending time with her family, Sandra enjoys reading, collecting flow blue china, and playing the piano.

Visit the author's website.


Anna Prentiss wants to be a nurse, but first she has to spend a summer in Cades Cove apprenticing to the local midwife. Anna is determined to prove herself…but she never expected to fall in love with the Cove. Has God’s plan for Anna changed? Or is she just starting to hear Him clearly?

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736948848
ISBN-13: 978-0736948845


Mountain air was supposed to be cool. At least that’s what she’d always heard. 

Anna Prentiss couldn’t be sure because she’d never been this far into the mountains before. But if truth be told, they still had a fair piece to go before they reached the hills that rolled off into the distance.

The narrow dirt road that led them closer to those hills twisted and bumped its way along. The June heat had dried out the winter mud in this part of Tennessee and produced a dust that threatened to choke her, roiling up and around the buggy. Anna covered her mouth with the lace handkerchief her mother had tucked in her dress pocket and sneezed. The smudge left on the cloth made her wonder what her face must look like. 

She glanced at Uncle Charles, her father’s brother, who sat beside her on the leather seat of the buggy. Perspiration had cut meandering, dusty trails down his cheeks, but he didn’t appear to notice. His attention was focused on trying to avoid the holes that dotted the road. 

She wiped at her face once more before stuffing the handkerchief back in her pocket. It really didn’t matter what she looked like. There was no one to see her. The only living creatures she’d seen all day were some white-tailed deer that had run across the road in front of them and a fox that had peered at her from his dusky hiding place beside the road. In front of them trees lined the long roadway that twisted and turned like a lazy snake slithering deeper into the mountain wilderness. She’d come a long way from the farm in Strawberry Plains. 

A twinge of homesickness washed over her. She closed her eyes and gritted her teeth. The uneasy feeling lingered a moment, but with a determination she’d only recently acquired, she banished thoughts of those she’d left behind to the spot in her heart where her grief lay buried. 

Just then the buggy hit a hole, and Anna grabbed the seat to keep from bouncing onto the floorboard. Uncle Charles flicked the reins across the horse’s back and glanced at her, his spectacles resting on the bridge of his nose. Wispy gray hair stuck out from underneath a black hat. 

“Hold on. These roads can be a little rough. We had a hard winter up here.”

Anna nodded, straightening herself on the buggy seat and studying her uncle’s profile. How many times had he ridden this way to take care of the mountain people he loved? He looked every bit the country doctor. His smooth hands, so unlike her father’s work-roughened ones, gripped the reins tighter as he grinned at her. 

The corner of his mouth curled downward when he smiled, just as her father’s had always done. That was the only similarity she’d ever seen in them, though. Uncle Charles used to say he got the brains and Poppa got the brawn. When she was a little girl, she wondered what he meant. But she knew no matter what it implied, the two brothers shared a bond like few she’d ever seen. And they were the only ones who’d ever encouraged her to follow her dream of becoming a nurse. 

Anna took a deep breath and inhaled the heavy, sweet smell that drifted from the forests on either side of the road. She turned to Uncle Charles. “I’ve been noticing those white flowers that look like shrubs growing along the road. What are they?”

“Those are our mountain rhododendron,” said Uncle Charles. “There are also pink and purple ones. Sometimes in the summer you can stand on a ridge and look across the mountains at the rhododendrons blooming, and it looks like somebody took a paintbrush and colored the world. It’s a mighty beautiful sight.” 

Anna swiveled in her seat again and looked at Uncle Charles. “Thank you for working out this trip for me.”

A grin tugged at his mouth. “How many times would you say you’ve thanked me today?”

“Not enough yet.” 

A sudden breeze ruffled the straw hat her mother had given her, and Anna grabbed the wide brim. After a moment she released it and pulled the handkerchief from her pocket again. Grasping it with both hands, she twisted the cloth until it stretched taut between her fingers. “I hope I don’t disappoint Mrs. Lawson.”

He didn’t take his eyes off the road but shrugged. “I wouldn’t worry about that. She’s been delivering babies in Cades Cove for a long time, and she’s glad to have an extra pair of hands. It’ll be good experience before you leave for nursing school in the fall.”

The old anger rose in Anna’s throat. “Only if Robert agrees.” She spit out the barbed words as if they pierced the inside of her mouth. “Why does he have to be so selfish?” She clenched her fists tight together. Ever since their father’s death Robert had assumed the role as head of the family, and he took his responsibilities seriously. Too seriously, if you asked Anna. He never missed an opportunity to tell her how their father wasn’t around anymore to cater to her every whim. The first time he’d said that she felt as if he’d shattered her heart. The pieces had never mended as far as her relationship with him was concerned. But if things went as planned, she would soon be free of his authority.

“I don’t want you to be angry with your brother, Anna. You may not understand his reasons, but he’s trying his best to be the head of your family. He’s still young and has a lot to learn, but he loves you and wants what’s best for you.” 

Anna crossed her arms and scowled. “All he wants is for me to stay on the farm and marry somebody he thinks will make a good husband.” Anna shook her head. “Well, that’s not what I want. Poppa promised me I’d be able to go. Robert has no right to keep that money hostage.” 

“I know. Your father would have been so proud to know you’ve been accepted.” Uncle Charles’s shoulders drooped with the sigh that drifted from his mouth. “Try to see it from his perspective. You’ve led a sheltered life on the farm, and Robert feels like you aren’t ready for what you’ll see and have to deal with in a big hospital in New York. You think you’ll be able to assist injured and dying people, but it’s different when you’re right there with somebody’s life in your hands. If you find you can’t do it, then Robert is out the money for your tuition, not to mention travel and living expenses.” He cocked a bushy eyebrow at Anna. “And he doesn’t need to be wasting money that can be put to good use on the farm.”

“I know. He’s told me often enough.” Anna smoothed out her skirt and straightened in her seat. “I’m just thankful you came up with a plan that Robert agreed to. Spending the summer with Mrs. Lawson ought to prove I have the grit to handle New York.”

“Remember you’ll need a good report from Granny Lawson.” 

Anna smiled. “You don’t have to worry about that. I’m going to listen to her and do everything she tells me, no matter how distasteful I think the task is.” She clenched her fists in her lap. “When I board that train for New York in the fall, it will all be worth it.”

Uncle Charles shook his head and chuckled. “I’ll leave New York and all its hustle and bustle to you. I prefer to spend my time right here in these mountains.”

Anna let her gaze rove over the trees on either side of the road. “Still, maybe you’ll come visit me someday. I can show off the maternity ward!”

He flicked the reins across the horse’s back. “I’ve read a lot about that ward. First one in the country. You’ll be fortunate to work there. But don’t forget you may see a lot of babies born this summer while you’re at Granny’s cabin. And there’s not a better place in the world to learn about nursing. She can teach you things you would never learn at Bellevue. Listen to her and do what she says and you’ll be fine.”

Anna nodded. “I will.” Her hat slipped to the side, and she reached up and straightened it. “I really can’t thank you enough, Uncle Charles. Everything’s coming together just the way I planned it, and nothing—not even Robert—is going to stand in my way.”

Uncle Charles sucked in his breath and directed a frown at her. “Nothing? We can only follow the plan God has for us, Anna.”

She settled back on the seat and cast her eyes over the hazy hills in front of them. “But that is God’s plan for me.”

“And how do you know?”

“Because it’s what I’ve dreamed about all my life. God’s never tried to change my mind.”

“Maybe you’ve never listened to Him.” Uncle Charles stared at her a moment. “Like I said, pay attention to what Granny says. She’ll teach you how God uses those He’s chosen to take care of the sick. It isn’t all done with medicine, Anna. A lot of my medical successes—and Granny’s as well—have come about after a lot of prayer.”

The buggy hit another bump, and Anna bounced straight up. As far as she could see, the rippling Smoky Mountains stretched out toward the horizon. A plume of wispy fog hung over the valleys. A strange world awaited her out there. 

Mrs. Johnson, the owner of the inn where they’d stayed in Pigeon Forge last night, had taken great pleasure in warning her of what she might face in Cades Cove this summer. Anna clasped her hands in her lap and glanced at Uncle Charles. “Mrs. Johnson said the folks who live in Cades Cove don’t take to strangers.”

Uncle Charles nodded. “That doesn’t surprise me. What else did she say?”

Anna took a deep breath and brushed at the new layer of dust on her skirt. “Oh, not much. Just that everybody knows it’s a closed society in the Cove, but it doesn’t matter because no sensible person would want to live there anyway. She called the people there a strange lot.”

Uncle Charles cocked an eyebrow and chuckled. “Is that right? I hope you didn’t believe her. I know every family in the Cove, and some of them are my good friends.” He hesitated a moment. “Of course you’re going to find some who cause problems—just like you would anywhere else.”

“Like the moonshiners?”

He turned to stare at her with wide eyes. “What did Mrs. Johnson tell you about moonshiners?”

“She said all the men were moonshiners. Are they?”

Uncle Charles threw back his head and laughed as if he’d just heard the funniest joke of his life. After a few seconds he shook his head. “Nothing could be further from the truth. There may be a few who give the Cove people a bad reputation, but most of the men work too hard to waste their time on such nonsense.” He reached over and patted her hand. “I wouldn’t leave you in a place where you weren’t safe. Mrs. Johnson may run a good inn, but she’s the worst gossip in these mountains.”

Anna heaved a sigh of relief. “I guess I’m just a little nervous. I want everybody to like me.”

“They will. Just be yourself and they’ll all love you.”

Uncle Charles meant well, but doubt still lingered in her mind. Would the people of the Cove accept a stranger into their small community? And if they didn’t, what good could she possibly do in this place?

She had to succeed. Her future depended on it. She squared her shoulders. There was no turning back. 

As the day wore on, they found themselves deeper in the hills. As they did, a slow awakening began to dawn in the deepest corner of her soul. She’d never seen anything as beautiful as the lush growth that covered the vast mountain range. The air now grew cooler, just as she’d expected it to be, and the sweet smell of mountain laurel mingled with the rhododendrons. As her uncle’s horse, Toby, plodded along the rocky trail that grew steeper with each step, she saw the world through new eyes and stared in awe at the wonders of nature unfolding before her.

For the last hour she’d sat silent and watched the shallow river that flowed beside the road. The water bubbled over rocks like huge stepping-stones scattered across its bed, and the rippling sound had a lulling effect. She wished they could stop so she could pull off her shoes and wade in the cold mountain stream, but there was no time for such fun today. She turned her attention back to the steep hillside on the other side of the road.

“It’s beautiful here.”

Uncle Charles glanced at her. “We’re just about to Wear’s Valley. When we get there, we’ll be close to Cades Cove.”

Anna wondered if Uncle Charles was tired of her questions about the Cove. She hoped not. She settled in her seat and said, “Tell me more about Cades Cove, Uncle Charles.”

He pushed his hat back on his head and stared straight ahead. “Well, if you’ve noticed, we’ve been following that stream as the road’s climbed. Pretty soon now we’re gonna reach a place where we turn away from it and head into a flat valley right in the middle of the mountains. That’s Cades Cove. It’s almost like God just took His giant hand and tucked a little piece of heaven right down in the Smokies. The land’s fertile—not so many rocks you can’t farm—and completely surrounded by mountains. You’re gonna love it when you see it, Anna.” 

“How many people live there?”

He pursed his lips and squinted into the distance. “I’d say there are about two hundred fifty scattered throughout the Cove nowadays. Some left for town life—better work there, you know—but they’ll never find a place that’s as beautiful as these mountains.” 

“How far is it from Mrs. Lawson’s house to where you live?”

He thought for a moment. “It’s not that far as the crow flies, but it takes me almost three hours going around these roads.”

A lump formed in her throat. Now that they were closer, she didn’t want him to leave. She scooted a little closer to him on the bench of the buggy. “Will you stay at Mrs. Lawson’s tonight?”

He shook his head. “No, I’ll have enough daylight left to get home. But don’t worry, I’ll come to the Cove from time to time to check on you. Granny does a good job of taking care of the folks there, but she knows when it’s serious enough to send for me.”

Anna clasped her hands in her lap to keep him from seeing them tremble. The time had come to begin the test. She couldn’t fail. She squared her shoulders and lifted her chin. She dredged up all the determination she could muster. No, she wouldn’t fail.

“How long before we get there, Uncle Charles?”

“Not much longer. The entrance is up ahead.”

My Comments:
Angel of the Cove is old-fashioned Christian fiction.  The characters pray regularly and we go to church with them.  The main problem keeping the couple apart is resolved when they bow to the will of God, and we are with them during the conversion process.  

Those familiar with the area around Smokey Mountain National Park, which is where Cades Cove is today, will recognize the names of local towns and areas.  

Based on what was said about the fashions worn, I'd say the book is set in the  late 1900's.  Anna is spending the summer helping a granny midwife and I enjoyed reading about the techniques and herbal remedies she used.  One thing that was mentioned was the "hook" she used to dismember babies who were caught in the birth canal.  Granny's reasoning was that it was better to lose one patient than two.  I'm kind of surprised that a Christian novel didn't explore this reasoning more.  However, the thought of having to use it horrified Anna.  

Grade:  B-

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Short Review: The Sweet Magnolias Cookbook

About the Book:
Fill your home with the freshly baked scent of luscious apple pie, the sizzle of peachy grilled chicken or the beckoning aroma of juicy roast lamb, all brought to life in this charming collection of recipes.

New York Times bestselling author Sherryl Woods invites you into the world of Serenity, South Carolina, where good food and good friends await. Based on her beloved Sweet Magnolias series, this gorgeous cookbook is full of Southern classics and heartwarming stories of friendship and fun. Join Dana Sue Sullivan, a popular character and Southern cook herself, as she shares her favorite down-home recipes as well as secrets, stories and small-town gossip from the world of the Sweet Magnolias!

Whether you're making flaky, buttery, too-good-to-be-true biscuits, or spicy seafood gumbo, the 150 recipes found in these pages will bring your family and friends together to celebrate the comforts of home.

From legendary margarita nights to indulgent Sunday brunches to heartening holiday meals, every recipe in this book is sure to infuse your life and your kitchen with the warmth of the South and the comfort of good food.

My Comments:
Fans of Sherry Woods' Sweet Magnolias series know that much of the action takes place in places where food is served; whether in Sullivan's restaurant or around someone's table.  Using characters from the series as "owners" of the recipes, this book gives  you all sorts of goodies from breakfast to dessert (remember Erick is famous for his desserts).  Though there is a definite Southern and Low Country accent to the food, I think most people will be able to find something they like in this book.

As I only have a temporary galley I am not making any of the recipes and cannot tell you how well they work.  I will tell you that the book is attractive and contains some photographs, but it does not contain photos of all (or even most) of the recipes.

Monday, August 13, 2012

It's Monday: What Are You Reading

This has been a busy reading/blogging week for me:

What's up next?

Blog Tour and Review: The Choice

About the Book:

One young woman. Two very different roads. The choice will change everything.

Even as a pregnant, unwed teen in 1974, Sandy Lincoln wanted to do the right thing. But when an ageless woman approached her in a convenience store with a mysterious prophecy and a warning, doing the right thing became even more unclear. She made the best choice she could . . . and has lived with the consequences.

More than thirty years later, a pregnant teen has come into her life, and Sandy’s long-ago decision has come back to haunt her. The stakes rise quickly, leaving Sandy with split seconds to choose once more. But will her choice decision bring life . . . or death?

My Comments:

This book was a fast easy engaging read with a strong pro-life message.  In some ways it was just a little to neatly tied up at the end--too many coincidences all coming together at the same time and place.  Those who are pro-life will admire Sandy; those who are pro-choice will probably feel they have been unfairly portrayed as being more pro-abortion than pro-choice since part of what happens is a school counselor trying to persuade/force a student to have an abortion.  

The book is Christian fiction--the characters pray and go to church and we hear snippets from sermons.  

There were a few details that didn't quite ring true.  As noted above, the story begins in 1974 and involves a birth--and that birth involved an epidural.  Maybe my mom, who had her last baby in 1971, just missed that era but I know she never had one, and was highly impressed with the way it worked for me.  Also, when they visited the nursery, the book mentioned that the babies were on their sides.  I know for a fact that babies in those days were put on their tummies to sleep, to keep them from choking on spit-up.  Finally, although Whitlow is a practicing attorney, he talks about judge shopping in Federal Court.  While I don't have any trouble believing that happens at state courthouses, particularly small ones, the Federal Courts with which I'm familiar make judge shopping difficult to impossible.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available.  I was not obligated to write a positive review.  Grade:  B.  

Meet Robert: Whitlow:

Robert Whitlow is the best-selling author of legal novels set in the South and winner of the prestigious Christy Award for Contemporary Fiction. A Furman University graduate, Whitlow received his J.D. with honors from the University of Georgia School of Law where he served on the staff of the Georgia Law Review. A practicing attorney, Whitlow and his wife, Kathy, have four children. They make their home in North Carolina.

For more about Robert and his other books, visit his website.  .

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My Review: Within Reach

About the Book:
Being a single dad was never on Michael Young's agenda. Yet with the sudden loss of his wife, that's exactly the role he has. On his best days, he thinks he can handle it. On his worst… Luckily, family friend Angie Bartlett has his back, easily stepping in to help out.

Lately, though, something has changed.

Michael is noticing exactly how gorgeous Angie is, and how single she is. She's constantly in his thoughts and he feels an attraction he never expected. Does he dare disrupt the very good thing they have going? If they have a fling that goes nowhere, he stands to lose everything—including her. But if they make it work, he stands to gain everything!

My Comments:
I was disappointed in this book. I thought the premise was good--a man moving from being friends with his late wife's best friend to falling in love with her, but what I got was two people who genuinely liked each other falling in lust with each other.  They both felt guilt, like they were cheating on the late wife, but instead of talking about their relationship, instead of deciding they wanted to explore whether they were going to go further with it than friendship, they lusted after each other, had sex with each other and then, finally, decided that yes, they did love each other and should get married.  Too much  cart before the horse for me, and way too much detail in the sex scenes (I won't even call them love scenes because that's not what they were thinking).  Grade:  C.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.

Blog Tour: Food Family Style

About the Book:
In a time when the family meal is increasingly losing out to music lessons, sports practices, and the general busyness of life, it's time to rediscover the joys of cooking and eating together as a family. Time may be short and budgets may be tight, but these 365 mouthwatering recipes are sure to draw families into the kitchen and around the table day after day. From tasty breakfasts, soups, and salads to sumptuous main dishes and desserts, Food Family Style delivers just what readers' families ordered.

Throughout the book are symbols indicating recipes that double easily, freeze well, are gluten-free or vegetarian, can be made in a slow cooker, and more. And since there's more to mealtime than just the food, this innovative book also includes tips about how to involve kids in meal preparation, meaningful conversation starters, and simple ideas to bring warmth to your home.

My Comments:
This is one of those practical cookbooks catering to moms who have to put dinner on the table every night--dinner that kids will eat--as opposed to gourmet cooks.  Most of the recipes are things I've seen before in church cookbooks and the like but Leigh Oliver Vickery notes which ones freeze well, which are vegetarian and which are double well.  

As part of this review, I made three recipes.  The first was Fettuccine with Ham and Peas:
Making the Sauce

Mix the sauce and pasta

Plated and ready to eat

She likes it!
The second was Grandma Helen's Praline Wafers:
Before they go in the oven
Quality control
After baking

 The final recipe was East Fruit Cobbler, which I made with blueberries
First the Blueberries--I used frozen

Put the batter on top; sprinkle with sugar

After baking

Ready to Eat!
I made all of these yesterday and today.  None are left in my house; all were eaten.  Enough said--almost.  As part of this tour, I have permission to publish one recipe.  Leave a comment and let me know which of these three recipes you want me to share.  On August 17, I'll publish the recipe for which most people vote.

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available.  Grade B+.

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