Category Archives: Reading

Posts about books

The Cost of Honesty 

Photo by Gretchen E.K. Engel

The answer is not much. Today I accidentally shoplifted or almost did. Thankfully my husband noticed while loading the car.

How it went down. We did the usual post-church Walmart run. I picked up two plastic storage drawer units and had the cashier scan it from the cart because they were awkward. I’d picked up a few random items too including a pair of silver hoop earrings.

I didn’t even think about them until my husband picked up the drawers and noticed the earrings. I scanned the receipt and they weren’t listed. I did the right thing and immediately went back inside explaining to the greeter on my way in.

Did I have to do this? The answer is, “absolutely” but there were a lot of good excuses for letting just driving away. Walmart is huge, they won’t miss $2.88. Yes, but it adds up. They don’t treat their employees well. That $2.88 goes towards salaries and benefits. Every little bit counts.

While there doesn’t need to be benefits for doing the right thing, I’m glad I had the chance to make that choice.

What is a time you made a decision to do the right thing no matter how small?


I Have Found Me A (Second) Home

Summer has come. There are so many signs where I live. The temperatures hit in the 70s and 80s. We sleep with our windows open. I change out my boots for Converse All-Stars and flip-flops. And we welcome the influx of “summer visitors”. There’s a marked increase in traffic. We have festivals and a farmer’s market. Our church grows so much between May and October that we switch from the sanctuary to the gym and add chairs.

These summer visitors have second homes and now so do I. I don’t mean a physical dwelling but a new blogging home. When I told my fellow Scriblerians about this, one asked if that meant I was dropping them. NO. NO. NO. was my reply! I prayerfully considered this opportunity and whether or not I could add a weekly blog post. And the answer was yes.

So I will continue posting every third Thursday on The Scriblerians. Check out my June 4th post on the literary device called a McGuffin. But now I’ll be a weekly contributor to the New Authors’ Fellowship. It’s a blog dedicated to speculative fiction fans with a Christian worldview.

Of course, something has to give. At this point, it will be this site. I want to keep this site active for special interviews and reviews as well as pointing people to my weekly blog posts. So this “residence” will become a campsite for me to drop links to where I’ll be that week.

Save the Best for Last

Next to speculative fiction and young adult, historical novels are my favorite genre, especially Gilded Age and WWII. Dawn Crandall writes romantic historical suspense novels. Her Everstone Chronicles center around a wealthy New England family. Her first novel, The Hesitant Heiress, is the story of Amaryllis Brigham and her second, The Bound Heart, is the story of Meredyth Summercourt. Both of these stories center around the social life of Gilded Age Boston. Her third novel, The Captive Impostor takes place in the mountains of Maine.


While each novel is a stand alone, I recommend reading all three books in order.

The Bound Heart ends in a murder that puts Estelle Everstone in danger. The Captive Impostor picks up where The Bound Heart ends. To protect her safety, Estelle is posing as Ella Stoneburner, a lady’s companion at Everston, a hotel in the mountains of Maine hotel owned by Estelle’s family. Of all her family’s properties, Estelle loves Everston the best. It also holds a special place in the heart of Dexter Blakeley, the hotel’s manager.

While I loved both The Hesitant Heiress and The Bound Heart, The Captive Impostor is my favorite. None of Dawn’s stories are predictable but there are added twists in The Captive Impostor. Not only is Estelle living under an assumed identity that may or may not be a good enough disguise, I was sure she would renew her engagement to her ex-fiance. To my surprise, Dexter Blakeley enters the story. Oh and is he ever a swoon-worthy hero (she does her men justice).

As an outsider, Estelle is brought face-to-face with her past and uncovers family secrets that threaten the friendship she’s built with Dexter. To me, an requirement for a good novel is a cast of well-developed characters. Dawn does not disappoint. “Ella’s” companion and Dexter’s family are three-dimensional characters as well as cameo appearances by familiar names of those who have read the first two installments of the Everstone Chronicles.

Dawn Crandall

Dawn Crandall

You can find Dawn at:

Twitter (@dawnwritesfirst)

Winner’s choice of The Everstone Chronicles at Anna Weaver Hurtt’s blog {ends 4/21}

RSVP for The Captive Imposter FaceBook Party with Author Dawn Crandall! April 24th! Lots of Prizes!

I read these three in order, but there have been other series I read out of order. In general, I prefer reading a series in order.

When an author writes a series that can be read as stand alone novels, do you still read them in order?


I’m going on vacation this week. Knowing that I borrow most of the titles of my blog posts from song titles, you’re probably picturing me on a sandy beach in front of blue-green ocean. Nope. My destination isn’t the fictional Caribbean Island but the real-life location (at least in the metaphorical sense). I’m spending the week back in my hometown; not Kokomo but it is a mid-sized Indiana city.

Honestly, I’m looking forward to spending the week in the Midwest even if it’s tornado season, and the forecast is in keeping with “April showers bring May flowers”. I’m going back to spend the week with my parents, visit my 90-year-old grandpa, and see other family and friends. Besides visiting, I plan on writing and relaxing. I’m truly taking a vacation.

I love to travel. I’m equally happy camping in Yellowstone, lying on a sandy beach, riding rollercoasters at an amusement park, or sightseeing in a major city. Put me on a plane, train, boat, or in a car and I’ll go about anywhere.

My favorite childhood vacation was going to my aunt and uncle’s wedding then driving to California when I was 9 (almost 10). My favorite adult vacation was going to France, Switzerland, and Germany. The best day of my life was probably July 4, 2004. We spent it on the French Rivera: beautiful beach, relaxing day, and amazing food.

My dream vacation would be to go to the Holy Lands and do a tour that followed one of the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys. I also want to go to Australia and would love to hike in South America.

While I love activity packed days and seeing new places, there’s a lot to be said for no itinerary and familiarity. I’d make a comment about “no place like home” but it’s tornado season…

What was your favorite vacation? What is your dream vacation?

I (Don’t) Want Your Sex

I’m not even close to being an uptight prude, but really I could do without graphic sex scenes in books. And no, I’m not talking about 50 shades of erotica. I’m talking about otherwise good books with too many gory details.

I’ve been married for over fifteen years and have two biological children, so I’m hardly a veiled virgin. I’m fine with sex scenes if they serve a purpose even if they’re not within the confines of what I consider moral. However, it doesn’t mean I want a recap of sex education with or without anatomical slang.

What are my boundaries? Like I mentioned, sometimes things need to happen. Not long ago I read a Christian novel where an unmarried believer had a sexual encounter outside of marriage. I had one of those “oh no they didn’t” moments, but it was so perfect. It was a well-played plot twist that showed how God can redeem sin. While there was no question of what transpired between these two, it wasn’t described in graphic detail. Edgy in inspirational circles but tame by most people’s standards.

On the other end of my spectrum is the Song of Fire and Ice series (the books that the HBO series “Game of Thrones” is based upon). I’m a huge fan, but the author can make me blush. I would say his scenes are the absolute edge of my tolerance and sometimes cross over to cringe-worthy in description. I’ve been listening to this series on audiobook, which makes it more noticeable since I would skim from the words “untied his breeches” to “retrieved his small clothes” (these aren’t direct quotes, but you get the picture). Listening you don’t have that luxury. Although the 15-second forward feature can be well-employed here.

One book that had me muttering, “TMI” was The Time Traveler’s Wife. I’m a sucker for any book related to time travel, but that’s a blog post unto itself. I just finished listening to the audiobook version. The story had so many things that I loved about it: The idea that Henry’s time travels are a genetic condition. The non-linear storyline. Clare is not much older than me, so I related to her timeline. In one scene, Clare and Henry attend a Violent Femmes concert about the time I was listening to them in my dorm room.

That said, while I like rock and roll, I could do without so much sex and drugs. Especially the former. When the characters describe their experience in so much detail, that I feel the need to wash my hands, it’s too much.

I appreciate when an author can bring you into a scene. That’s great when you want to know what the hero thinks about a piece of music or the sensation of time travel. But when it’s a play-by-play of what happens between the sheets, I’m fine with glossing over what happens from “unzipped my pants” to “put my shirt back on” (again not direct quotes).

What about you? Is it a line in the sand? Do you only read “clean”? Or is it that “I know it when I read it” feeling?

Stuck in the Middle with You

Clowns and jokers–OH MY! Between measles outbreaks, the Super Bowl, and yoga pants, there’s been a lot of fodder to feed the wackos the past few weeks. There are some seriously cray-cray websites out there.

One site cast Katy Perry as a figure straight from Revelation. This site has some other predictions that could only have been pulled from a cracked pot. Personally, I thought this was one of the better half-time shows although there was one song I hoped wouldn’t be included. I understand those who thought the performance wasn’t appropriate, but that would have been the time to turn off the TV, or if they were at a party to get a snack and distract the children. On a side note, I was pleased the commercials were more family friendly than most years. They’re harder to avoid. The thing is reading through this particular site, I could tell this group would have been scandalized by a family act from Branson. You know what Taylor Swift says about haters.

Then there was the measles outbreak. This is the only issue where I actually took a side on social media. I’m strongly pro-vaccine but also pro-parental choice. That post was fun to watch, and in the end I think sanity prevailed, but not before I was “enlightened” by some comments linking to websites that rivaled snake oil medicines in scientific research.

I didn’t even “go there” when it came to the yoga pants kerfluffle. I mean yoga pants for crying out loud. I’m not a male, but I can’t imagine yoga pants being sexy. Yes they’re tight and probably should only be worn to and from the gym (or in lieu of pajamas for last-minute grocery trips, see below). Men stumble by lusting over women’s figures. Trading yoga pants for khakis or a skirt won’t solve that problem. Maybe all attractive women should wear choir robes. Personally, I think that’s what the uber-modesty crowd wants. And I often wonder if the real motive behind this stance is envy for women who are in shape.

However, I’d rather see a woman in yoga pants than anyone over eight in pajamas. That’s my rant. Unless it’s ten p.m. in a fastfood restaurant, and you’re a teenager/college student traveling in a large group (sports team, church group, leadership training), you have no business showing up in public in pajamas. I’ve seen young women, dads, old ladies in their jammies in everywhere from the grocery store to restaurants. Get dressed people.

Last week, I almost broke my “no pajamas in public” rule. I’d worked a really long day, it was after ten, and I was sure that I’d left my phone and wallet on the counter when I got dinner. Thank goodness the world (or at least a Tempe Taco Bell) were spared the horror of seeing me in plaid flannel pants and a long-sleeved T-shirt.

You can tell it’s cold, snowy and miserable. People are bored and frozen with nothing better to do than blog.

My Funny Valentine

Laguna the Leopard

Laguna the Leopard

I’m not a romantic, and the trappings of Valentine’s Day are not a big deal to me. I’m in it for the long haul. A box of chocolates, a dozen roses, or a fancy dinner are not something I expect on February 14. First, I’m picky. If you want to attribute one quote to me it’s, “When it comes to friends and chocolate, I prefer quality over quantity.” So that red heart box at Walgreen’s. Yeah. No thanks. However, the half-priced York peppermint patty hearts we snagged after church. Score!

As for flowers, I’m not a huge fan. There are a couple of exceptions. My husband used to randomly bring home a mixed bouquet from this flower shop on the way home from work. I loved the spontaneity and that he hand-selected the flowers. Of course, anything my kids pick out of the yard is worthy of my table.

And the special Valentine’s Day dinners, we’ve only done that once and the kids tagged along. Before kids, we got entertainment books and picked a place that would take coupons (often not good on February 14), so we’d go out on a different night and call it good. For the past few years, we’ve lived in a small town where I telework. I’m OSHA HAZWOPER certified and since we’ve moved, the annual training has been the week of Valentine’s Day, so often it’s one of the few nights of the year we’re apart from each other.

A couple of years ago, we went out for a special Valentine’s Day dinner, and the kids came with us. It was a lot of fun but more because we rarely go out for steak dinners. Last year was just as special. We have a favorite local restaurant that’s similar to Chipotle only much better and we’ve gotten to know the owners. I was late driving home and didn’t feel like fixing dinner. My hero stopped by, and the owners hooked me up with their last order of chipotle cream shrimp. For less than $10, my husband gave me a romantic dinner of a different type.

Typically we exchange a small gift. In the past, it’s been Aveda tea for him and Nespresso pods for me. This year, I had an inexpensive request. A stuffed animal I’d seen at a local store. That’s how Laguna the leopard joined our family.

What is your idea of a romantic gift?


This blog post is shameless self-promotion at its best. My short story, “Detention” was released in the Out of the Storm anthology. The book is a collection of stories that placed in the ACFW Writers on the Storm contest and is published by HopeSprings Books with all proceeds going to the ACFW Scholarship fund. You may have noticed my tagline is “A Different Kind of GEKE: From steam punk elves to the dystopia of high school. “Detention” is a take on the Cinderella story that features steam punk Elves, and the heroine’s school is rather dystopian. If you’re a fan of steam punk and/or fairy tale retellings, you’ll love “Detention”. You’re not? There are eleven other stories in this collection. That’s what is cool about this anthology, there is something for everyone. Never read Amish, western, romance, or speculative fiction. Pick up this book and read stories in genres you’d never try otherwise.

I read the entire collection. I liked some better than others, but all were solid and well-written. Here’s the list of stories in the order they appear with my brief description.

Contemporary category:

1st place: “Squall Line” by Jim Hamlett (Contemporary) – The story of a flight instructor and his student.
2nd place: “Dorothy’s Carol” by Terrie Todd (Women’s Fiction) – Two very different women are thrown together by circumstance.
3rd place: “A Rumspringa Storm” by Steve Hooley (Amish) – An Amish woman learns God’s purpose for her life.
4th place: “Tempest Tossed” by Annette O’Hare (Women’s Fiction) – A young woman makes peace with her family obligation.

Speculative category (Fantasy / SciFi):

1st place: “The Grumpy Chronicles” by Susan Lyttek (Fantasy) – Like “Detention” this story involves Elves, wicked stepmothers, and a famous fairy tale princess. Except this time it’s about seven Elves mistaken for Dwarves; and one is not happy about this mix up.
2nd place: “The Great Storm” by Karla Rose (SciFi)  – A young girl and her family seek shelter from a storm of invading enemies.
3rd place: “Oddman” by Carla Hoch (SciFi) – A man of mixed race is not fully accepted in his community, but may be the only one who can save it.
4th place: “Aperture” by Linda Kozar (SciFi) – A mysterious girl and her teddy bear show up looking for the previous owners of the home.

Other Genres category:

1st place: “Just West of Clovis” by Ralph D. James (Western) – A witty story about a man who finds a foot in a boot connected to a man who is very much alive.
2nd place: “Husband Hunting” by Crystal L. Barnes (Western) – A man steals a woman’s wedding dress and tries to make off with her heart too.
3rd place: “Detention” by Gretchen Engel (YA / Fantasy) – When her visa is denied, a young woman seeks another way home.
4th place: “Fire in a Storm” by Angela K. Couch (Historical) – Set in 1930s USSR, a man is conflicted between doing his duty and what is right.

I hope or more of these stories appeals to you. If it does, then pick up this book and read them all. You won’t be disappointed, and you’re helping support a great cause.

What genres do you like? Which genres are ones you don’t normally read? Which story appeals to you most?

OutOfTheStormFB (1)


Lady in Red

It’s February and I’m going to take a break from my usual posts for a public service announcement. If there’s any illness I truly fear, it’s having a stroke at a young age or even in my old age. While I haven’t lost any sleep over it, statistically and genetically speaking, it’s the most likely health concern to happen to me. If you’re a woman, it’s true for you as well. More women die from heart disease than all forms of cancer combined. (Go Red for Women) But if you’re a male the numbers are similar. According to the CDC, in 2013 the leading cause of death (male and female) was heart disease (596.6K) with cancer coming in second with nearly as many deaths (576.7K) but what also needs to be counted is the other 128.9K deaths from strokes.

Friday, February 6, is Wear Red Day. But it’s not just about wearing a red dress any more than wearing a pink or teal or any other colored ribbon will eliminate cancer. For heart disease, it’s a lot about awareness and making lifestyle changes. Eat right, exercise, and manage stress.

When you see pictures of me running a half marathon or writing about running and exercise realize that I’m not doing this to rock a bikini in July. For one, there’s a muffin top sitting on my six-pack (not to mention stretch marks). But the second reason is that I know what genetics tell me. I’m going to die from a heart attack or stroke. Fortunately, longevity is in my genes but that’s not the only factor. It’s been proven that a healthy diet, exercise, and stress management reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. That is why I eat well (even if I’m splurging on pizza and jalapeno poppers as I write this and kind of watch the Super Bowl), exercise, and manage my stress.

I make a concerted effort to enjoy family time, read a lot, run, write. These things are all fun and relaxing. I don’t let myself overcommit (most of the time). I don’t hold grudges. I avoid drama. Even if I’m like my grandmother and live to be one hundred, life is too short to be stressed out.

You don’t like healthful foods? I bet you do. Find what you like. Try something you used to hate. Fix it in a different but healthful way. It’s amazing what a few herbs can do to vegetable. Oven roasting or grilling caramelize the natural sugars in vegetables. Steamed ones are crisp and bright. Most veggies can be eaten raw.

You don’t like to exercise? I be there’s something you like. And everything is more fun with a friend. Rather than coffee or lunch meet to walk, bike, bowl, or take an exercise class. Start slow and build up your endurance. Do you have little ones? Exercise with them. They need 60 minutes of activity each day. Why not join them?
We’re a month into the new year. Did you make a resolution? This is me cheerleading. “Keep going! You can do it!” Did you fall off the wagon? Guess what? You can start over. Confession time. Mid-January I got the flu and haven’t exercised since. But I’ll be back out there doing situps, pushups, and running.

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

OK. I totally admit it. I’m a sucker (bloodsucker?) for vampire novels. I admit that I’m a Twilight fan. Not the crazy stay-up-all-night for the premier fangirl, but I liked the books a lot, especially when I first read them. I read them more for Edward and the Cullen family than for Bella. But my issue with heroines is for a different post.

But it’s not just the sparkly undead. I’m a fan of the original too. No, not “The Originals” although I have been known to watch “The Vampire Diaries”. I’m referring to Bram Stoker’s dark tale.

Last year I was introduced to the Amish variety and more recently a redeemed one. One of my favorite books of 2014 is a title that’s been getting both good and dubious press including a nod from Jimmy Fallon. Kerry Nietz’s very good take on a genre mashup never seen before Amish Vampires in Space. Or AViS if you sit at the cool table. The cool table being the one where we wear ironic t-shirts and Converse All-Stars (see last week’s post for that reference). In AViS, the vampires are the evil creatures of myth where the only good vampire is a dead vampire.

I just finished another fantastic vampire novel. It too is a Christian title, and another excellent read. But it takes a different tack. Vampires are evil but are they any more sinful than your garden variety mortal human? That’s the premise of Ben Wolf’s Blood for Blood. What I loved about it was the double layer Raven’s story told. On the surface, it’s part-horror, part-western suspense with bandits, marshals, and a vampire. Why would a revival preacher put his family at risk by taking in someone who has to kill to survive?

But it goes so much deeper. Substitute the word “vampire” for anything from “homosexual” or “prostitute” to “murderer” or “thief”, and you see why this man is so generous to Raven who he sees as redeemable even if Raven believes he’s souless and damned for all eternity. Ben spells out the difference between the “immortal” life of a vampire with that of the “eternal” life of the saved. He makes a case that will forever cement the idea that there can be such a thing as a Christian vampire. And I’m quite thankful for that.

But I’m even more thankful with how Ben handles Raven’s struggles between his redeemed self and his vampire nature. He still fights bloodlust. Garlic, daylight, flowing water, and holy objects are still off limits. Raven retains his strength and resistance to death, but is he still “immortal” as well as “eternal”? The transformation of Raven after his conversion is a beautiful reminder that we may have been baptized into a new life but that is only the beginning. Like Bunyan’s Christian and our own lives, belief is only passing through the wicket gate. We still have a long road of following Christ. And it’s not easy.

The Simmering Mind

Stories that Sever the Shadows

| writing & rhythm |

solving world problems, one cup of tea at a time.

Amy Brock McNew ~Author~

Fantastical tales of love & war

Venturing to Other Worlds

The Official Website of Angie Brashear

Lisa Gefrides


Chris Martin Writes

Sowing seeds for the Kingdom

A Christian Worldview of Fiction

A look at fiction and other bits of culture through the lens of the Bible

Holly Michael's Writing Straight

Connecting and Inspiring Along Life's Crooked Lines by Author Holly Michael

Freedom in Theology

Scribblings on God and the Bible

Sister Chat

Encouragement for you...from Him

God Loves Kids Bible Stories

Bible and missionary stories in family friendly language

Beth Steury

Saving sex for marriage cheerleader, YA Author, Christ-follower

Our Mutual Friends

Liz & Jaz do classics

Bird Face Wendy

Things relevant to reading, writing, publishing or marketing teen fiction.

Karen deBlieck

tracking truth one book at a time


It's Fiction...for Heaven's Sake.

A.J. Cattapan

Stories with Heart & Hope

Rejoice Evermore

The official website of Will Ramirez

%d bloggers like this: