Sunday, April 26, 2009

Book Review - Beyond This Moment

I recently finished reading this book; thought I'd share the review I wrote...

Review - Beyond This Moment,
Timber Ridge Reflections Book 2
Author – Tamera Alexander
Publisher – Bethany House
Genre – Christian Historical Fiction

Everyone needs a fresh start sometimes, and Dr. Molly Whitcomb is no exception. Molly’s new beginning includes a move west with a job as a schoolteacher in Colorado Territory in 1876. She is not the average schoolmarm, Molly is a woman of many talents, a Professor of Romance Languages, and has more than one secret hiding in her heart.

Sheriff James McPherson has a secret or two of his own, and finds himself intrigued with Timber Ridge’s newest citizen. He is a keen judge of character, and while Molly’s behavior and manner with others seems above reproach, something just doesn’t seem right.

Molly must overcome several obstacles to win the approval of some of the residents, but she appears to do so with flying colors. As friendships between Molly and McPherson, his family, and other residents blossom, things get more complicated. Dr. Whitcomb’s conscience and rekindled faith is a force to be reckoned with. Molly unwittingly jeopardizes McPherson’s reputation and future as sheriff.

Will Molly be forced to leave Timber Ridge? Will her past forever haunt her? Tamera Alexander weaves a rich tale of a woman facing choices and consequences, redemption, and new beginnings. Anyone who enjoys historical fiction will enjoy Molly’s story in this picturesque setting. I was hooked from the beginning and had trouble putting it down, but was sorry when the story was over. I hope Ms. Alexander continues this series – I for one, will be sure to read it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires

Review – I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires
Author Cathy Gohlke
Genre – Historical Fiction
Age – YA- Adult
Notes – 2009 Christy Award Nominee
Publisher – Moody Press

Robert Glover faces more choices in this sequel to William Henry is a Fine Name. This time, we join Robert near his eighteenth birthday at his home in Maryland. The Civil War rages on, and Robert’s father Charles is away, working for the Union making maps. Robert’s mother Caroline has decided to stay on her father’s plantation in North Carolina. Despite his desire to fight for the Union, Robert promised his father that he would not enlist until he turns eighteen.

Emily, Robert’s cousin, asks him to visit her father, an officer in the Confederate army. Uncle Albert is being held as a prisoner of war at Fort Delaware. Robert agrees, due in part to family obligation, but mostly because he loves Emily. After he visits Albert, Robert plans to go help his mother, who he has not seen in four years.

Robert involuntarily gets caught in a prison escape plan, derailing his plans to travel to North Carolina. He is abducted, left for dead, and faces charges as a spy, challenging his integrity, his endurance, and his faith. Robert’s adventures include new friends, a persistent enemy, and even a friend from his past travels on the Underground Railroad.

This book is a roller coaster reading adventure packed with action and intrigue. We see Robert mature and find his place in life while coning to terms with family secrets. I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires is a wonderful story that gives the reader thoughtful insight into days gone by. Robert’s story brings history to life, and it would serve as a great teaching tool for this era. If you liked William Henry is a Fine Name, you are sure to enjoy Cathy Gohlke’s satisfying conclusion to Robert’s story. Pick up a copy; you won’t be disappointed.

Parental Note: I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires contains subject matter pertaining to the realities of war and post Civil War slavery. Depending on the ages and maturity levels of your children, you may wish to preview this book before allowing your children to read it or using it as a read aloud. I recommend this as independent reading for mature preteens and up.

Review by Karen Lange. Karen homeschooled her three children K-12. She is a freelance writer, homeschool consultant, and creator of the Homeschool Online Creative Writing Co-op for teens. Visit her websites at or Review copyright 2009, used with permission.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

William Henry is a Fine Name

I recently had the opportunity to review author Cathy Gohlke's book, William Henry is a Fine Name. Thought you might like to read the review below. Pick up a copy and read it. You won't regret it! :)

Review – William Henry is a Fine Name
Author Cathy Gohlke

Genre – Historical Fiction
Age – YA- Adult
Notes – 2007 Christy Award
Publisher – Moody Press

Set in Maryland prior to the Civil War, this coming of age tale of thirteen-year-old Robert Glover is packed with action, adventure, laughter, and tears. We join Robert and his family at their home in Elkton, Maryland, where his father, Charles, works as overseer on a Quaker farm. Mr. Heath, Charles’ employer, freed his slaves, and now pays them to work the land alongside Charles and Robert. Robert’s mother Caroline hails from a prominent slave holding family in North Carolina, and loyalties are challenged when The Underground Railroad is nearly discovered in Robert’s area.

Many secrets are revealed the summer Robert turns thirteen, including the fact that Mr. Heath and Robert’s father work with The Underground Railroad. William Henry, son of freed slaves that work for Mr. Heath, is Robert’s best friend. Robert and William Henry grew up together, but until that summer, William Henry has a better idea than Robert of why skin color matters.

Robert also meets his North Carolina relatives that year, which further clarifies his growing convictions concerning slavery. Will Robert step up and fill the shoes his Grandfather wants him to fill as sole heir of the North Carolina family plantation? Or will Robert join his father in the Underground Railroad?

Cathy Gohlke paints an inspiring and realistic portrait of life just prior to the Civil War. Robert’s story serves to richly illuminate the past while entertaining the reader. The book’s informative and entertaining value will appeal to ages 12-100. It would also be a wonderful teaching tool for those studying American history. This book is a marvelous testimony to the genre of historical fiction. In my opinion, this book is a winner!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Call Yourself a Writer

The best advice I ever had and followed came years ago from a friend. It was a sentence comprised of four simple words. Call yourself a writer.

Call myself a writer? Really? Am I allowed to do that? Isn’t there some kind of writers’ police that checks for credentials and experience? Aren’t you supposed to make money to be able to call yourself a writer?

I always liked to write – wrote stuff for school, and even had an English Literature teacher tell me that I wrote well. As life moved past my teens though, I didn’t pursue it, unless you count grocery lists and letters to Grandma. The next thing I knew I was married, had kids, and was doing the swimming lessons and hockey mom thing. As my kids got older, I had a renewed desire to write, so I took courses from the Institute for Children’s Literature, joined a writer’s group, and attended some writing conferences.

Taking these steps to becoming a writer seemed logical. But calling myself a writer? Wouldn’t that be a little over the top? I hadn’t written anything that really had been published, other than our local homeschool group newsletter. Okay, and I wrote some homeschool lessons for my kids – but those were just for us. How about customer letters for my husband’s contracting business? No, that wouldn’t count either; I can’t call myself a writer until I wrote something for money. Or, can I?

This advice-giving friend was a writer. A real one, not a pretend one like me. She wrote articles, columns, and books. She’d been writing for years, and even had taken the same writing courses that I had. Hmm, well, maybe there is something to this advice after all. Doubt continued to whisper in my ear...“What experience do you have? You haven’t made any money yet! How could you be a writer? Don’t be silly; it would be much safer to say that you want to be a writer someday.”

Still, my friend’s words rang in my head. Call yourself a writer. She often emphasized the point that if you felt called to write, there was a reason. Well, okay, I do feel called to write, so maybe she’s right. I decided to give it a try. The words squeaked out when the first opportunity arose. Those around me probably didn’t even hear it. That was okay; I think I needed to hear myself say it more than anyone else did.

The next time I said it, it came out more easily.
“What do you do?” Someone asked.
“I am a writer.” Aha! I said it. In a regular, non-squeaky voice, too.
“So what do you write?”
Okay, wasn’t prepared for that question. I stumbled through the answer, mentioning something about writing for a state homeschool network’s newsletter and curriculum guides. They didn’t need to know that I volunteered and didn’t get paid, right?

From then on, I called myself a writer. The more I said it out loud, the more I became convinced, that yes, I was a writer. And why not, I loved to write. I was in the process of seeking markets for stories and articles, and writing my own booklet for homeschoolers. Indeed, I was fully justified in calling myself a writer.

My husband and kids picked up the ball and ran with it. They called me a writer too. (I didn’t even ask them to.) My sister, a graphic designer for a publishing company, gave her editor my name as a potential writer when it looked like one of their regulars was unavailable. They never called me, but that’s okay. I was still a writer.

The advice from this friend will be cherished always. Those words have inspired and encouraged me greatly over the years. I am glad I had the courage and motivation to follow through and take the savvy words to heart.

Once I started calling myself a writer, I never looked back. It matters not that I haven’t made the best seller list yet, nor does it matter that I haven’t made enough to retire on. What matters is that I believe I am a writer. Writing is what I am called to do and I will continue to succeed. I have things to share that no one else can. And so do you. Call yourself a writer.