Saturday, July 31, 2010

Review: Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz

Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3340-7

About the book:

Morrow Little is haunted by the memory of the day her family was torn apart by raiding Shawnee warriors. Now that she is nearly a grown woman and her father is ailing, she must make difficult choices about the future. Several men – ranging from the undesired to the unthinkable – vie for her attentions, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to a forbidden love that both terrifies and intrigues her. Can she betray the memory of her lost loved ones – and garner suspicion from her friends – by pursuing a life with him? Or should she seal her own misery by marrying a man she doesn’t love?


For thirteen years, Morrow Little has been haunted by the day Shawnee raiders shattered her world, killing her mother and sister and kidnapping her brother Jess. Morrow and her preacher father live caught between the grief of loss and the hope that one day Jess would return home. After two years learning to be a lady under her Philadelphia aunt’s tutelage, Morrow returns to her beloved Kentucke home to discover much has changed. Her father’s health is failing, and she finds herself the bewildered recipient of much unwanted male attention and romantic speculation among fellow settlers. Two men offer Morrow a life of safety and tradition, even privilege. But the attentions of a third – a forbidden, dangerous love – both terrify and intrigue her. In order to follow her heart, Morrow must face the fears and prejudices that have held her captive for most of her life. Only in releasing the past will Morrow be able to embrace her future and tap into the strength she never knew she possessed, to carve an abundant life from the wilderness.

Frantz’s first novel, The Frontiersman’s Daughter, was a stunning debut, saturated with the author’s love of Kentucky history and eloquently bringing to life the special breed of men and women who first sought to tame the land. With Courting Morrow Little, Frantz again vividly brings to life 18th century Kentucky in all of its danger and wild beauty. From the first pages where unfathomable tragedy visits Morrow’s young life, I was captivated by her story. Morrow is a heroine I could relate to on so many levels, particularly in her battle with fear. My heart sang for Morrow has she learned to release the burdens of fear and unforgiveness, acting in faith in the face of fear and learning the glorious reality that God’s provision is sufficient. Morrow is a character to cherish – fully realized, she leaps living and breathing from the page. And her romance – well, with Morrow’s story Frantz has simply outdone herself in this department and created one of the most memorable, swoon-worthy heroes ever. Morrow’s journey to love is heartrendingly beautiful, and the relationship forged through heartbreak and trial will stay with you long after you finish the novel’s final pages.

Laura Frantz’s writing possesses a lyrical quality that fully immerses you into the world of the novel, bringing Morrow, her acquaintances, and their world to breathtaking, colorful life. The frontier is as much a force to be reckoned with as the villains of the piece, as it pushes, pulls, and refines Frantz’s creations. On one level, Courting Morrow Little is a very intimate, very personal human drama. On another level, it is a meaty historical epic, as Frantz sets Morrow’s story against the backdrop of Revolutionary War conflict on the frontier. British, Americans, Indians, and settlers were pitted against each other by turns, and Frantz does not shy away from showing the dangerous toll of this conflict. Frantz’s latest offering is a story worth savoring and revisiting. Part coming-of-age story, part war story, and part romance, Frantz weaves together the threads of Morrow’s life with the pen of a master wordsmith, gifting readers with characters and a romance that will steal your heart. An exquisite offering, I look forward to Laura Frantz’s next book!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Chuck in review

Hat tip to my friend Lori for bringing this video to my attention. I think it's got to be one of the best and cleverest recap videos I've ever seen.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dark In the City of Light by Paul Robertson

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Dark In The City Of Light
Bethany House (July 1, 2010)

Paul Robertson


Paul Robertson is a computer programming consultant, part-time high-school math and science teacher, and the author of The Heir. He is also a former Christian bookstore owner (for 15 years), who lives with his family in Blacksburg, Virginia.


What Evil Haunts the Shadows of 1870s Paris?

Baron Ferdinand Harsanyi — After his wife's mysterious death, this Austrian attaché holds control over mines whose coveted ore could turn the tide of war.

Therese Harsanyi — Swept up in new romance and the spectacle of Paris, the Baron's daughter is blind to the dangers stalking her family and the city she loves.

Rudolph Harsanyi — Unsure whom to trust, the Baron's son's grief over his mother's death twists into growing anger and a desire to break free.

As France and Prussia plunge toward war, one family is caught in a web of deceit, political intrigue, and murder that threatens to tear them apart.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Dark In The City Of Light, go HERE.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Nightshade by Ronie Kendig

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Barbour Books (July 1, 2010)

Ronie Kendig


Ronie has been married since 1990 to a man who can easily be defined in classic terms as a hero. She has four beautiful children. Her eldest daughter is 16 this year, her second daughter will be 13, and her twin boys are 10. After having four children, she finally finished her degree in December 2006. She now has a B.S. in Psychology through Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. Getting her degree is a huge triumph for both her and her family--they survived!!

This degree has also given her a fabulous perspective on her characters and how to not only make them deeper, stronger, but to make them realistic and know how they'll respond to each situation. Her debut novel, Dead Reckoning released March 2010 from Abingdon Press. And her Discarded Heroes series begins in July from Barbour with the first book entitled Nightshade.


After a tour of duty in a war-torn country, embattled former Navy SEAL Max Jacobs finds himself discarded and alienated from those he loves as he struggles with war-related PTSD. His wife, Sydney, files a restraining order against him and a petition for divorce. Max is devastated.

Then a mysterious a man appears. He says he's organizing a group that recycles veterans like Max. It's a deep-six group known as Nightshade. With the chance to find purpose in life once again, Max is unable to resist the call of duty and signs on.

The team handles everything with precision and lethal skill...until they're called upon to rescue a missionary family from a rebel-infested jungle and avoid a reporter hunting their identities.

Will Max yield his anger and pride to a force greater than

If you would like to read the first chapter of Nightshade, go HERE.

Watch the trailer:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

One of the best Doctor Who moments EVER.

The "Vincent & the Doctor" episode from the fifth season of Doctor Who was not only a great vehicle for Matt Smith's Doctor, but quite simply one of the best Doctor episodes EVER. The ending - seen below - brought me to tears. Thanks to my friend Ruth for transcribing the following quote:
He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ECSTATIC beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world -- no one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind that ...strange, who roamed the fields of Provence was not only the world’s greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.

Neal and Peter dance!

A little White Collar-related hilarity, courtesy of Matt Bomer and Tim DeKay at Comic-Con:

Oh how I wish I could've seen that live... :)

Hercule Poirot concludes tomorrow...

Tomorrow on Masterpiece Mystery, this season of Hercule Poirot concludes with an adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel, Appointment with Death. Here's a bit about the story:

Don't miss this season's final new episode of Hercule Poirot, Sunday, July 25, 2010, on MASTERPIECE MYSTERY. In Appointment with Death, an archaeological dig is the scene of a murder in the Middle East, leading Poirot to unearth a tragic tale of twisted family secrets. The cast of suspects includes co-stars Tim Curry and Elizabeth McGovern.
In addition to the presence of David Suchet, Tim Curry, and Elizabeth McGovern (loved her in The Scarlet Pimpernel opposite Richard E. Grant!), this production also features Christina Cole, Tom Riley, Christian McKay, and JOHN HANNAH! I love JH. :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Review: Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon

Touching the Clouds (Alaskan Skies #1)
By: Bonnie Leon
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3359-9

About the book:

Kate Evans is an adventurous and independent young woman with a pioneering spirit. When she leaves her home in Washington State to follow her dream of being an Alaskan bush pilot, she knows it will be an uphill battle. But she never expected it to be quite like this. As the lone woman in a man’s world, she finds that contending with people’s expectations is almost as treacherous as navigating the wild arctic storms.
When she crosses paths with a mysterious man living alone in the forbidding wilderness, she faces a new challenge. Can Kate break through the walls he has put up around his heart? And will fear keep her from realizing her dreams?

Book 1 in the Alaskan Skies series, Touching the Clouds will draw you in with raw emotion and suspense, all against the stunning backdrop of the Alaskan wilds.


Kate Evans is an unconventional woman living in a most unusual time. With the country in the middle of the Great Depression, she longs to make a living doing what she loves most – flying, a most uncommon profession for a woman. Running from painful memories and seeking to make her mark on the world, Kate leaves her parents’ farm in Washington State and takes off for Alaska with the goal of making a living as a bush pilot. When she arrives in Alaska, making her dream a reality proves to be more difficult than she’d imagined. From coping with the prejudices of those who question her piloting ability because she is a woman, to surviving Alaska’s ever-changing, dangerous nature, Kate fights to prove herself at every turn. As two romantic possibilities emerge, Kate has to decide if she can conquer her past fears in order to fully embrace life in her adopted home.

Touching the Clouds represents two first-time experiences for me. It’s my first time to read a Bonnie Leon novel, and it is the first time I’ve come across a novel with this unique setting and time period. If you’re interested in Alaskan history, there is an abundance of historical fiction available set during the 1800s, but this is the first I’ve come across set during the 1930s – and I really do love reading about this time period. The Depression and the challenges that faced people during this time, coupled with a unique profession like Kate’s, make for fascinating reading. When reading about Kate’s struggles to establish herself as a pilot, I kept remembering the 1939 Cary Grant/Jean Arthur film, Only Angels Have Wings, about a band of mail pilots in South America. While the settings couldn’t be more different, Leon does an excellent job capturing the feel of a rough-and-tumble flying operation, similar to Grant’s outfit in the film. The challenges and unexpected situations pilots face, as well as the camaraderie that can develop among individuals bound by their love of such dangerous work, is well developed throughout the course of the novel.

The best way I can think to describe Clouds is that it reads like a “slice of life” story. The biggest obstacle faced by the main characters are their own internal fears and struggles – and sometimes that’s just the way life is, working through issues with victory to be found in getting through each day. That is Kate’s story. I do there had been more relationship development in this book – the romantic element, while barely there, felt really rushed at the end of the book – but perhaps there is more to come in future novels. The strength of this story is Leon’s research. The flying sequences really shine, and Kate’s wildly varied adventures as she learns the ropes of being a bush pilot – from assisting in a birth to wilderness survival – are my favorite parts of the book. Leon subtly weaves the theme of relinquishing fear and living in faith through the lives of her characters, who are very real, broken people in need of restoration. Well-drawn characters and an endlessly fascinating setting make Touching the Clouds shine – I look forward to the sequel!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Stars in the Night by Cara Putman

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Stars In The Night
Summerside Press (July 1, 2010)

Cara Putman


A Word From Cara:

I graduated from high school at sixteen, college at 20, and completed my law degree when I was 27.

My writing journey started in 2005 when I decided to write my first novel. Now I have eleven books published with more on the way.

People say I've accomplished a lot and that I must have life by the proverbial tail. Hardly! I grew up as a home schooled kid when home schoolers were misunderstood and oddities.

I struggle with balancing my writing and law career, plus being a good mom and wife.

I often fear people won't like my books.

I've walked through the deep pain of miscarriage.

Really, I'm just like you – I don't have it all together and have gone through tough times. But in His strength, I've discovered a strength I never knew I had. A strength I want you to discover, too.

In the end I'm just an ordinary mom who has seen God do some wonderful things as I've been obedient to step into the calling He's led me into.

Stars in the Night Background

Stars in the Night was an idea that had begun to percolate in my mind. I’d written two World War II series and was actively looking for my next setting. My husband, a huge World War II history buff, and I were kicking ideas around, and I’d decided Hollywood was probably the next place for me. I’d gone to the library and gotten a stack of research books when I got the call. An editor I knew but had never worked with wanted to know if I might be interested in a new line they were starting. As we talked, I got so excited. And then she emailed me their guidelines, which listed that Hollywood was a location they were interested in setting books.

Only God could have known ahead of time. But because I followed His prompting I was ready to run with an idea. Stars in the Night is the result.


Hollywood 1942. When attorney Audra Schaeffer's sister disappears, Audra flies to Hollywood to find her.

Any day Audra might have been flattered by the friendly overtures of Robert Garfield, a real-life movie star. But on the flight from Indianapolis to Hollywood, Audra can think of little else than finding her missing sister. When Audra arrives in the city of glitz and glamour, and stars, and learns her rising starlet sister has been murdered, all thoughts of romance fly away.

Determined to bring the killer to justice, Audra takes a job with the second Hollywood Victory Caravan.

Together with Robert Garfield and other stars, she crisscrosses the southern United States in a campaign to sell war bonds. When two other women are found dead on the train, Audra knows the deaths are tied to that of her sister.

Could the killer be the man with whom she's falling in love?

If you'd like to read an excerpt of Chapter 1 of Stars In The Night, go HERE.

Contest: Lots of opportunities to win and great prizes, and the grand prize contains some of Cara's favorite classic movies as well as all of her WWII novels: Launch Contest!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sherlock trailer!

Hat tip to Charleybrown for posting the trailer to the Steven Moffat-helmed modern-day Sherlock, which is supposed to air on Masterpiece Mystery later this year (dates not yet announced, to my knowledge). Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as Watson, this trailer has me VERY excited for the show now. :)


This may be one of my shorter movie reviews, because honestly I’m still sort of processing this movie. I saw Inception Friday night, and I really, really enjoyed it. I’m a big fan of director Christopher Nolan’s last couple of films (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Prestige), so I will admit to being predisposed towards wanting to be impressed with his newest effort. Inception is a beautifully constructed, thought-provoking sci-fi caper flick with some mind-blowing special effects. While I was predisposed to liking this movie, for me it delivered on every level and honestly surpassed my expectations.

As I mentioned, at its core Inception is a heist movie glossed up with eye-popping special effects. The team of extraction specialists – dream thieves – are incredibly well-cast and work really, really well together on-screen. The team is led by Cobb, the troubled Extractor played by Leonardo DiCaprio. I really, really liked DiCaprio in this role – his character is brilliant, troubled, and unsettling. The Point Man is Arthur, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and I just have to say I didn’t realize until now how hot he is…just sayin’. *g* Arthur’s character was interesting – not quite in a position to be the “brains” of the operation, he’s brilliant at executing Cobb’s plans and extremely capable. Loved how Arthur pushed back when something didn’t “feel” right, but his loyalty to the team wouldn’t let him back out of the job. The Architect, Ariadne, is played by Ellen Page, and honestly given the rest of the cast I was concerned she’d be the weak link. However, she more than delivers in her role as Cobb’s conscience, I guess you could say, and provides an excellent counterpoint to Cobb’s character. My favorite team member was the Forger Eames, played by Tom Hardy of Wuthering Heights fame. His character was just fantastic and hilarious, and managed to steal every scene he was in.

Other notable casting includes Ken Watanabe as Saito, the Tourist, and I don’t think he’s ever been creepier to be quite honest. Marion Cotillard brilliantly plays the Shade, Mal – and I really, really don’t want to spoil her character. She’s by turn frightening and heartbreaking. There are also a couple of Nolan’s usual suspects making appearances. Michael Caine has a brief role as Miles, Cobb’s one-time teacher (and father? – a bit confused on that point). Cillian Murphy sadly loses his accent to play the Mark, businessman Robert Fischer, Jr. I would’ve loved more insight into his character, like how he developed his mental defenses against extraction, but one really can’t expect that in a caper flick I suppose.

The visuals of this movie are absolutely stunning throughout. Nolan and his team are definitely breaking new ground here – honestly I feel that way about the entire movie. I can’t remember offhand the last time I saw a film and left the theater feeling that I’d experienced something wholly original. The premise of Inception is extraordinarily disturbing, since Cobb & company specialize in infiltrating and stealing the very essence of what makes us individuals – our minds and thoughts. There are no heroes in this film, since by the end of the movie it is apparent that Cobb & company – especially Cobb – are caught in a vicious cycle of largely, if not entirely, of their own making. For me, the structure and the visuals of this film made it utterly absorbing. And one final comment:


The final scene of this movie just killed me. I mean in hindsight it makes perfect sense, but I was one of many people in the theater on Friday that let out a collective “no!!” By the end of the film, I was invested enough in the story and the characters, really in the world of the film, that I wanted everything I’d seen up to that point to be in the “real” timeline. I wanted Cobb to really achieve his dream. But like the entire movie, Nolan forces you to rethink what’s real and what’s a dream, and brilliantly constructs a dream on-screen to completely absorb viewers. Well played IMO. Thoughts? :)

Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Bethany House (July 1, 2010)


Anne Elisabeth Stengl


Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she enjoys her profession as an art teacher, giving private lessons from her personal studio, and teaching group classes at the Apex Learning Center. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. Heartless is her debut novel.


Princess Una of Parumvir has come of age and will soon be married. She dreams of a handsome and charming prince, but when the first suitor arrives, she finds him stodgy and boring. Prince Aethelbald from the mysterious land of Farthestshore has traveled far to prove his love--and also to bring hushed warnings of danger. A dragon is rumored to be approaching Parumvir.

Una, smitten instead with a more dashing prince, refuses Aethelbald's offer--and ignores his warnings. Soon the Dragon King himself is in Parumvir, and Una, in giving her heart away unwisely, finds herself in grave danger. When Una makes the wrong choice, catastrophe ensues for the princess and her family, and love, courage, and trust are needed when darkness engulfs the kingdom.

Only those courageous enough to risk everything have a hope of fighting off this advancing evil.

There are some delightful things and scenes: the Twelve-Year Market that appears in its own good time and sells fairy goods; a clever blind cat who is invariably underfoot and has, of course, a secret!

If you would like to read the first chapter of Heartless, go HERE.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Touching the Clouds - full review coming soon!

Kate Evans is an adventurous and independent young woman with a pioneering spirit. When she leaves her home in Washington State to follow her dream of being an Alaskan bush pilot, she knows it will be an uphill battle. But she never expected it to be quite like this. As the lone woman in a man's world, she finds that contending with people's expectations is almost as treacherous as navigating the wild arctic storms.

When she crosses paths with a mysterious man living alone in the forbidding wilderness, she faces a new challenge. Can Kate break through the walls he has put up around his hear? And will fear keep her from realizing her dreams?

So, once again I am a bit behind on my reading (SHOCKING, I know *g*), but I wanted to be sure and get a post up about Touching the Clouds since it's making the rounds of many blogs this week. This book represents two "firsts" for me: I've never read a Bonnie Leon novel, and I've never come across a story with this unique setting and time period. There are plenty of novels out there set in Alaska during the 1800s, but this is the first I've encountered set during the 1930s - and I love a good Depression-era novel. The time period, the challenges that faced people, it all makes for fascinating reading. Couple that with a unique profession like Kate's, and I'm quite happy. :) This is an excellent read so far, and I look forward to bringing my full review to the blog soon!

Tomorrow on Masterpiece Mystery...

Masterpiece Mystery continues tomorrow with a new Hercule Poirot film, Third Girl. Here's some info about the story:
Distraught heiress Norma Restarick visits Hercule Poirot with an alarming story — she may have committed a murder. When Norma's childhood nanny is found dead, Poirot and his fiction-writer friend Ariadne Oliver are drawn into Norma's haunting past. But there is some very real danger in the present, and Poirot must devise a plot to lure a killer. Based on the novel by Agatha Christie, Third Girl stars David Suchet and Zoë Wanamaker.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Review: Perfectly Dateless by Kristin Billerbeck

Perfectly Dateless (A Universally Misunderstood Novel)
By: Kristin Billerbeck
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3439-8

About the book:

Daisy Crispin has 196 days to find the right date for the prom. There’s only one problem – her parents won’t let her date or even talk to a guy on the phone. Oh, and she’s totally invisible at school, wears lame homemade clothes, and possesses no social skills. Okay, so maybe there’s more than one problem.

Can she talk her parents into letting her go to the prom? Or will they succeed at their obvious attempts to completely ruin her life?

Perfectly Dateless is hilarious, shocking, and totally real. You’ll fall in love with Daisy’s sharp wit and resourcefulness as she navigates the world of boys, fashion, family, and friendship.


Daisy Crispin has spent most of her life invisible to the popular crowd. She’s extremely smart but has zero social skills, is forced to wear horribly unfashionable homemade clothes by her cheap parents, adnd isn’t allowed to even talk to boys. Her parents believe in courtship and have decided that she should go to Bible College and marry a preacher. When senior year arrives, Daisy decides this wallflower needs to shake things up and determines that she’ll have the perfect date for prom – the perfect picture, the perfect memory to redeem all the years she’s lost in social obscurity. But doing a complete social makeover comes with a price, and Daisy’s quest for the perfect date sets her on a journey with unexpected consequences, learning more about herself, her family, and what really matters than she ever expected.

Perfectly Dateless is a fast-paced, hilarious read. I really enjoyed Daisy’s character – she’s alternately sweet and sarcastic, but above all she comes across as very real and relatable. While for most of the novel her parents are the most extreme, cringe-worthy caricatures of Christian parents that I think I’ve ever read, Daisy’s exasperation with her parents’ “quirks” and good intentions is completely understandable, and is sure to bring back high school memories to anyone who ever remembers being frustrated with parental restrictions. My favorite aspect of the novel are Daisy’s journal entries, where she vents about everything from her parents to boys – Billerbeck nails the teenage angst perfectly. Between parents, boys, and best friend drama, Daisy is in for a roller coaster ride as she attempts change her life, not compromise her faith, and learn some surprising lessons about her perceptions versus reality.

My only qualm with this book is that there just wasn’t enough of it. At times events felt a little too rushed, particularly regarding Daisy’s work life and growing relationship with Max. The school year in Daisy’s world passes in quite literally a blur. However, that’s a minor issue compared to how much I enjoyed Daisy’s whirlwind life. Billerbeck has the snarky-but-likable teen voice down perfectly. Daisy’s faith is also integrated into the storyline extremely well – while I don’t know how much non-Christian YA readers would enjoy reading about Daisy’s life with her ultra-conservative, Christian parents, Billerbeck never crosses the line into preachiness. Daisy’s a great example of a character who’s culturally relevant (at least she wants to be) and a believer. Fresh, funny, and real Perfectly Dateless is hopefully just the first of many Universally Misunderstood Novels.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Review: Healer by Linda Windsor

Healer (The Brides of Alba #1)
By: Linda Windsor
Publisher: David C. Cook
ISBN: 978-1-4347-6478-2

About the book:

A prophecy launches this family saga of strife and superstition in Arthurian Scotland and of the healer whose love and faith are its only hope.

Her mother’s dying prophecy to the chieftain Tarlach O’Byrne sentenced Brenna of Gowrys to twenty years of hiding. Twenty years of being hunted – by the O’Byrnes, who fear the prophecy, and by her kinsmen, who expect her to lead them against their oppressors. But Brenna is a trained and gifted healer, not a warrior queen, so she lives alone in the wilderness with only her pet wolf for company. When she rescues a man badly wounded from ambush, she believes he may be the answer to her deep loneliness. Healing him comes as easy as loving him. But can their love overcome years of bitterness and greed…and bring peace and renewed faith to the shattered kingdom?


Joanna, a trained healer, chose to marry for love – and her fateful decision drives a wedge between two once-close foster brothers, leaders of the neighboring Gowrys and O’Byrne clans. When Tarlach O’Byrne’s obsession with Joanna turns violent, his bloody act sets in motion twenty years of bitter clan feuding, fed by Joanna’s dying promise – that her infant daughter would divide Tarlach’s house and usher in a peace beyond his comprehension. In the ensuing decades, Ronan, the O’Byrne heir, has grown weary of the self-destructive nature of his father’s obsession to kill the Gowrys heiress. When Ronan is attacked by a would-be assassin, the one woman he’s been reared to fear and hate nurses him back from the brink of death. Forced into a life of isolation, Joanna’s daughter Brenna carries the knowledge of her mother’s final words heavily on her shoulders – she’s a healer, not the savior the Gowrys clan desires or the wolf-woman monster the O’Byrnes fear. She longs to practice the healing arts and live her faith openly, and hopes the stranger she saves could be the answer to her heartfelt prayers. Bound by decades of fear, guilt, and bloody feuding, both Ronan and Brenna will find their faith and love tested as never before if they are to be the long-promised catalysts for peace between their warring families.

With Healer, Linda Windsor returns to what she does best in my eyes – shining a light into the Dark Ages and illuminating a fascinating period in time, the rich history and traditions of the early church. Windsor deftly weaves a vibrant tapestry of family jealousy, vengeance, forgiveness, and love during a turbulent time when pagan beliefs vied for prominence with the rise of the early church. In my view no one can spin a meaty, substantial tale set during the Dark Ages and fill it with enough passion and danger to keep you turning pages quite like Windsor. What makes Brenna and Ronan’s story even more compelling is that this time, Windsor crafts her story against the backdrop of the only historically documented Arthur, prince of Dalraida in sixth-century Scotland. I’ve always loved the stories and films of King Arthur and his knights, everything from the unabashed romanticism of Knights of the Round Table, to the gritty realism of King Arthur, to the magic and humor of Merlin. Reading about the historical Arthur and his attempts to unite the chieftains under his rule, his wise warrior-queen bride Gwenhyfar, and his advisor Merlin Emrys, a Christian druid and bishop in the Celtic Church, made for utterly absorbing reading. These characters, so familiar to fans of the legends, spring to life in a new and authentic way in the pages of Healer. I loved the authenticity, historical context, and epic feel these figures – the roots of many a beloved legend – lend to the storyline.

In addition to a liberal dose of history – including fascinating information regarding the fate of the Davidic line after the Jewish diaspora at the end of 2nd Kings – I also adore the love story Windsor spins within the pages of Healer. She excels at bringing passionate, wounded characters in search of healing to vibrant life. Brenna, and especially Ronan, are so fully realized so true to the time period, that I found it impossible not to be wholly immersed in their world. Windsor deftly illustrates the delicate push-and-pull between the Christian Celtic Church and the deeply entrenched pagan beliefs still so prevalent during this time period. When it was so easy for superstition to rule the day, the Christian practice of “nature magic” (i.e., the use of herbs and natural remedies to facilitate healing) to be misconstrued, feared, or in conflict with those who practiced spiritually dark arts. Healer is an epic tale of tragedy, love, and redemption set against the unforgettable, turbulent backdrop of early church history. This is Windsor doing what she does best, shedding light into some of history’s darkest eras, and illustrating with an unwavering confidence the transformative, life-changing capability of wild, sold-out faith. I can not wait to read Caden’s story in volume two – Thief releases Summer 2011.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tomorrow on Masterpiece Mystery...

Tomorrow on Masterpiece Mystery we get the premiere of Murder on the Orient Express. While this story may feel overly familiar since it's one of Agatha Christie's most famous (and often adapted tales), this is the first time David Suchet has played Hercule Poirot in this story. And since in my view Suchet IS Poirot, well, this is long overdue. Here's some info about the broadcast:
Hercule Poirot solves the greatest case of his career aboard the world's most glamorous train in Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, premiering Sunday, July 11, 2010, on MASTERPIECE MYSTERY! Star David Suchet is joined by a first-class rail car full of great actors, including Eileen Atkins, Barbara Hershey and Hugh Bonneville.
This is truly an all-star adaptation. In addition to Atkins, Hershey, and Bonneville, this version also features performances from Toby Jones, David Morrissey, and SAMUEL WEST! Excuse the excitement on the latter, but I've loved Sam West for years. :)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

More upcoming movies...

Or, July is nearly half over and these movies are almost here!

I'm a huge fan of director Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Prestige - so Inception is on my must-see list. It opens July 16th.

Initially I wasn't all that interested in seeing Salt, but I've seen the trailer so many times this summer, plus I guess I'm just in a spy flick sort of mood, that I think I'll try to see this one in theaters as well. It opens July 23rd.

And just to counteract all of the above action, I may try and end the month by seeing Charlie St. Cloud. This movie wasn't on my radar at all until I saw the trailer on Monday, and it made me cry. It opens July 30th. If I'm lucky I'll get the book read by then...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

David Suchet on the Orient Express

I know this is really late notice, but if you're interested check your local PBS listings for a Masterpiece special airing this evening - David Suchet on the Orient Express. Here's a bit about the show:
Celebrated actor David Suchet sets aside his alter ego Hercule Poirot to step aboard one of the world's most iconic trains in the documentary David Suchet on the Orient Express: A Masterpiece Special. From London, Suchet travels to Calais in northern France to board the Venice Simplon Orient Express, and begins his 2,000-mile journey through six countries, with a breathtaking stop in Venice on the way to Prague. The delightful Suchet revels in the artistry and beauty of the train, and explores its attraction for Agatha Christie, who used it as the setting for one of her most recognized novels. With the incisive inquisitiveness of Poirot, Suchet also traces the history of the Orient Express from its elegant beginnings to its tumultuous final days, and how its legacy has lived on. Come aboard for a charming and insightful view of the timeless Orient Express.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Review: The Homecoming by Dan Walsh

The Homecoming
By: Dan Walsh
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3389-6

About the book:

A reluctant war hero returns home and encounters a new chance at love.

No sooner has Shawn Collins returned home from the fighting in Europe than he is called upon to serve his country in another way – as a speaker on the war bond tour. While other men might jump at the chance to travel around the country with attractive Hollywood starlets, Shawn just wants to stay home with his son Patrick and his aging father, and grieve the loss of his wife in private.

When Shawn asks Katherine Townsend to be Patrick’s nanny while he’s on the road, he has no idea how this decision will impact his life. Could it be the key to his future happiness and the mending of his heart? Or will the war once again threaten his chances for a new start?

Dan Walsh does not disappoint in this tender story of family ties and the healing of a broken heart.


In The Homecoming, Shawn Collins is a newly-minted war hero, recalled home to grieve the sudden loss of his wife and to care for his young son, Patrick. Shawn is a man adrift, lacking focus and purpose since learning of his beloved wife’s death – an event that occurred while he was halfway across the world in a war zone, attempting to evade capture by the Germans after being shot down in enemy territory. Forced to face a life he’d never imagined living, Shawn battles coming to terms with the overwhelming changes life has thrown his way in the span of a few short weeks. The death of his wife, a near escape, reconciliation with his father, and the demands the Army continues to place on his time leave Shawn grappling with his grief and question his faith in the God who would allow such heartache to rain down in his life. From the glamour of an all-star war bond tour to life in London under the threat of German rocket attacks, Shawn must decide whether or not to accept God’s offered gift of second chances and new beginnings grown from the ashes of wartime heartbreak.

Dan Walsh’s debut novel, The Unfinished Gift, was a sweet story of forgiveness and reconciliation set in the American homefront during World War II. While stylistically Gift was not my usual read, I enjoyed Walsh’s nostalgic recreation of WWII homefront life and was curious to see the resolution of the Collins family story. Homecoming contains all the strengths of Walsh’s first book – the evocative, nostalgic sense of time and place, and an emphasis on faith and family - and improves on them. The book’s greatest strength is Shawn’s spiritual and emotional “homecoming” journey. Shawn’s character is well-drawn and the emotional roller-coaster he experiences throughout the novel is realistically portrayed, particularly in how he confronts questions of faith. I really enjoyed reading the sweet wartime romance Walsh creates in this novel. I love how he shares Shawn’s wartime experiences while still giving the story a unique homefront perspective, this time seen through the eyes of a soldier on a war bonds tour, witnessing the sacrifice of those left behind to support the troops. Sure to appeal to fans of Richard Paul Evans or Nicholas Sparks, The Homecoming blends wartime romance with a dash of faith and is a satisfying conclusion to the Collins family story of heartbreak and restoration. These stories would make wonderful TV movies – keeping my fingers crossed that they’re brought to life on-screen someday.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Knight and Day

When I first saw the trailer for the movie Knight and Day, it immediately went on my must-see list since it reminded me of several favorite movies and TV shows. The Knight and Day trailer recalls the globe-spanning adventure of a classic James Bond film, the humor and style of the Hepburn/Grant caper flick Charade, and the chemistry between Scarecrow and Mrs. King. Now, I've never been much of a Tom Cruise fan, but apparently I'm really mellowing on this issue here lately. It all started with Valkyrie, which I loved in spite of his horrid accent, and then I found out I didn't mind the three Mission: Impossible films at all, and then last week I watched The Last Samurai for the first time and I LOVED it. All this to say that apparently I'm living, breathing proof that people really can change. *wink*

Did I mention I've seen Knight and Day twice now? :)

This movie is sheer fun from start to finish, and as the leads I thought Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz were terrific in their respective roles. As you can probably surmise from my first paragraph, in many ways this is a throwback movie, mixing glitzy, globe-trotting adventure, a wildly non-sensical threat to world peace, and a healthy dose of romantic banter. Let me be clear here - the storyline of Knight is RIDICULOUS. That said, I loved every second of it. Knight and Day is best viewed if you will determine to leave the analytical side of your brain and home and simply commit to enjoy the ride. After all, to be really successful an action/comedy/romance hybrid like this really needs to be a little silly, no? :) This movie in many ways defines the idea of a popcorn flick for me. It's got a great tongue-in-cheek tone that can be seen in everything from the script, to the way a scene is shot, to the use of the score to complement the action on-screen. Loved it all.

I really loved how Tom Cruise almost seems to be parodying his past roles in order to bring spy Roy Miller to life. Roy is the most ridiculous, super-serious, amped-up version of a spy I think I've ever seen on-screen. Did I mention that he's also strangely enough the most considerate? Roy's "pep talks" (for lack of a better term) to June, Diaz's character, are some of my favorite moments in the film, and also the most hilarious. You don't expect a spy played by Tom Cruise to go all Dr. Phil on their companion in the middle of a firefight. It's funny and random and random, when done right, is one of my favorite things. :)

Cameron Diaz plays June, the all-American girl who gets caught up in Roy's insane spy world. She also happens to own a garage and loves rebuilding classic cars, and it's a testament to the world of the film that I bought that 100%, with no reservations. If any actress in Hollywood is going to sell being able to work on cars for a living, can you think of someone better than Cameron Diaz? Seriously, I think not. *wink* I really liked Diaz and Cruise's on-screen relationship - they seemed to be having a lot of fun play off each other, and I really enjoyed watching the development of their relationship. Thanks to the confidence Roy instills in her, June begins to develop her own set of spy skills, and shows a heckuvalot of moxie from start to finish.

Peter Sarsgaard gets plenty of screentime as Roy's nemesis Fitzgerald. This movie doesn't give Sarsgaard nearly the material to work with that we got to see in An Education, but that's not what's required, obviously. Sarsgaard fits the bill perfectly as the "company" man determined to bring Roy Miller to justice. Fitzgerald is no Blofeld, that's for sure, but Sarsgaard seems to be having fun playing the guy determined to acquire the movie's ridiculous Macguffin, a.k.a. a really hot battery. I kid you not. But I promise, just abandon yourself to the fun of watching Roy leave instructive post-it notes scattered around June's apartment, and you won't care that the movie racks up an insane body count over a battery.

I loved the look of this movie, and it's peppered with some great special effects action sequences. The trailer gives you a good view of the car chase scene, but it's a lot of fun watching it play out from start to finish. And I LOVED the craziness of having June stuck in this life-and-death race through Boston wearing a bridesmaid's dress and work boots. Grace and practicality rather defines June's character, I suppose! The motorcycle chase in the middle of the running of the bulls in Spain is also slickly produced and fun to watch. Oh, and while these scenes weren't action heavy, I loved how June turns the tables on Roy at the end of the movie, mirroring many of the lines and situations he'd played on her earlier. It was cute and really a nice way to cap off the movie.

I've also got to hand it to John Powell, as he created a fantastic score for Knight and Day. It's definitely not your typical loud action movie score. Sure, there are passages of music that fit that bill, but the best pieces of music are the unexpected ones, such as during the fight on the airplane at the beginning of the movie. The music during that action sequence is light, airy, and funny, and for lack of a better way to describe it since I'm getting tired, I'll say it sounds French. It's music you'd expect to hear in a bistro, or during a movie like Charade, or To Catch a Thief, or even An American in Paris. The unexpected juxtaposition of music and action is just part of this movie's charm.

Final verdict - Knight and Day equals great summer escapism. I can't wait for the DVD. :)

Happy 4th!

This video just seems wildly appropriate for Independence Day. Thanks to Kaye for finding it.

Note: I promise regular blogging will resume sooner rather than least that's the goal. I got all moved into the new place and decided Thursday that I needed to change out the living room & I'm in the middle of that as we speak. Oh the joys of moving...and indecision. :)