December.15 Book Rec

This month’s book recommendation: Our Lady of the Lost and Found by Diane Schoemperlen. What better time of year to read a book reflecting on faith, our purpose and direction in life, and what it takes to recharge then keep going?

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Our Lady reads like memoir and narrative in one; the postmodern voice and wink at the beginning of the action further blurs the line of who exactly is talking to us (the author herself? the author’s character?). This just adds to the appeal for me, because the book is a journey of getting to know someone as a friend, and yourself better through that burgeoning friendship. The book and its characters in turn become the mirror for you as you read.

It’s witty and clever without being brittle, meditative and profound without platitudes, and filled facts without ever getting bogged down. (I learned more about Marian science, religious fervor, and history from this than some nonfiction books I’ve read!) It’s a book about women, by a woman, and all their glorious strengths and foibles–and that right there is something to celebrate.

Lastly, Our Lady is a book I read then recommended to my [Catholic] Granny. I knew she’d enjoy it for all the reasons I listed above, and she did. But our conversations about the book, and her feeling heartened I hasn’t lost all my faith (in whatever form) if I would read-like-recommend such a book, are what stays with me most.

Brew a pot of tea and enjoy!

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November.15 Book Rec

This month’s book recommendation: The Melting Heart by Claudia Jameson. I’m a shameless devotee of Harlequin’s original romance line, especially of a certain era. Jameson is part of that era. While I enjoy many of her books–her style and basic plot type–this one is a favorite for me.

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The Melting Heart hits a lot of my thematic happy places: plucky heroine, reclusive hero, enforced domesticity, emotional angst that isn’t contrived, and a love that’s earned after the imperfect leads learn one another, grow a mutual appreciation, and then fight to be together.

This is a comfort read for me. I’ve revisited it many times for company on a quiet day (quiet lonely, quiet content, quiet rain, quiet traveling…). It’s gentle, thoughtful, and rewarding. Just right for a quiet autumn day.

Brew a pot of tea and enjoy!

July.15 Book Rec

This month’s book recommendation: The National Parks: America’s Best Idea by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns. My reasons for choosing this book are many: It’s July, making it America’s birthday month; I love love love the documentary it is a companion to; Duncan and I both get misty-eyed thinking about new land being formed when lava meets the ocean; I always enjoy a great nonfiction read; it’s Dreamspinner Press’ American Dream #dreamer month, and I was thus inspired.

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Even if you haven’t seen the documentary — or maybe especially if you haven’t — this book has so much to offer. The photographs alone are worth a look. The narrative is rich in history about the Parks, but calls upon historical parallels happening in the United States as the Parks are formed, established, and become an institution. There’s far more than trivia about Yosemite to be gleaned, here. Duncan & Burns maintain the balance between factual detail and sensitive prose quite ably, making it an informative and absorbing read.

The National Parks will make you want to turn another page, and at the same time, make you want to bust outside and take a long walk. That’s the best of both worlds, really.

Brew a pot of tea and enjoy!

June.15 Book Rec

This month’s book recommendation: Taming The Beast by Amy J Fetzer. The beauty and the beast set-up is one of my favorite tropes, and this book does an excellent job with its modern take on the fable. A tortured, growly beast in his darkened castle. A sensitive yet practical beauty who disrupts his embittered isolation. And a sweet, not-too-precocious kid tossed into the mix for good measure.

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Beyond the easy-sell premise for me, I discovered a nicely fleshed out world with likable characters who each carry judged on appearance alone scars of their own. There’s a reason the heroine relates so well to the beast, and it isn’t simply a matter of instant attraction; this adds depth to the relationship and both leads, and makes their fit and happily ever after with one another all the more believable. There’s palpable physical heat between them as the plot develops, which adds great spice, but there’s also personal longing to be accepted and understood, which adds solidity to their arc.

With strong secondary characters and organic forces of conflict, Taming really comes together in a satisfying whole.

Brew a pot of tea and enjoy!

May.15 Book Rec

This month’s book recommendation: Red Tails In Love by Marie Winn. This book has so many elements I love–birding, hawks, New York City, Central Park, and lively nonfiction prose to tell you all about everything. The nesting hawk pair is as good a love story as any romance novel I might recommend, and perfect for when spring begins to heat up into summer.

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In the spring of 1992, a pair of red-tailed hawks built a nest on a high ledge of a building on New York City’s Fifth Avenue. Excitement rocked the world of Central Park’s devoted birdwatchers: never before had a red-tail been known to nest on a city building.

This book is quintessential New-York-Ism as much as the peccadilloes and quirks abounding in the birding world. It makes for an amusing, heady combination. It’s full of personality and information about everything the hawks’ nesting saga touches: from the hawks’ famous neighbors, to the avid birders watching their every swoop, to the bustle of the City below them. A world-within-a-world narrative as charming as the dashing Pale Male.

If you’re ever in Central Park go find the Bird Registry–it’s well worth your while!

Brew a pot of tea and enjoy!

April.15 Book Rec

This month’s book recommendation: Land of Dreams by Cheryl St John. A sprawling frontier western about finding love–and believing in it when it finds you. Puts me in the mind of the first spring day when the breeze is warm, and you know long days of sunshine and green and growth are finally here.

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I discovered Land of Dreams early in my romance novel reading career. While plenty of other titles have been read and redistributed, I’ve always held onto my copy of this book. It’s one I can’t ever quite part with; when I curl up with it for a reread, my impulse of keeping it is rewarded.

There’s a big story that takes place in big country here. There’s some intrigue, some action, and some wonderful sensuality, some great historical details, some great grit, and some great dailyness of the characters figuring out their places as dynamics change around them. But what I enjoy most are the two very real leads at its heart who work to make their happy ending true and deserved. I like who they are–individually and together–and love the life they forge, fight to keep, and eventually settle into.

Brew a pot of tea and enjoy!

March.15 Book Rec

This month’s book recommendation: Watership Down by Richard Adams. A great read for the advent of Spring, and simply a great book.

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Being read a chapter a night for bedtime was my introduction to this story. I was enchanted by the world created and thoroughly believing in these rabbits and their epic journey. It’s the first “adventure novel” I read, and primed me as eager to devour other classics in the genre. Also, a detail I find compelling and heartening as an author, Watership Down is another book in the grand tradition of having been rejected several times before a publisher took a chance on it (and thank goodness they did!).

I’ve reread Watership Down twice since those bedtime hours; in junior high for a book report, and as an adult after reaching for it on a whim on a rainy, quiet day. The story rewarded my loyalty and my enchantment returned with each read, even as I gleaned new insights about the rabbits and their tale.

I have named more than one stuffed animal and glimpsed rabbit hiding in the grass Fiver in my day. I became friends with a dog named Hazel who, upon inquiry, was confirmed it was for the stout heroine of this book. And for a long while, Bigwig was an endearment in my house.

This is a story about struggling to survive and overcoming great challenges. Maybe most of all it is a story about family–having and creating one.

Brew a pot of tea and enjoy!

February.15 Book Rec

This month’s book recommendation: The Promise of Happiness by Betty Neels. A perfect read for the month of Valentine’s Day, and a perfect read outright.

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I’ve said many times, and will gladly say many times more, how much I admire Betty Neels. She’s one of my life heroes and writing idols! I love her comfort-food novels, and I love that she found her authorial voice at 64 and wrote 134 books thereafter. Neels banged out several iterations on limited themes, and Happiness is one such at its best. A Cinderella story of ever-optimistic Becky Saunders, down on her luck and running away from home (and an evil stepmother and stepbrother!) who is rescued by a not quite charming prince, Tiele. Baron Tiele Raukema van den Eck, to be exact.

Becky is dismissed by Tiele as mousy and gauche. Becky finds Tiele remote and ungrateful. But as their lives continue to intersect, and Tiele provides the reluctant rudder to Becky’s at last opening sails, they are provoked into noticing one another and rethinking those initial impressions. The whole book is a charm and without a clang, and provides a replete and well earned happy sigh at the end.

Happiness was the first Betty book I read. Through dozens more, it has remained one of my favorites of hers, and of all romances. I fell in love with Betty while reading Happiness, and have held her close to my heart ever since. She shares her own passions and wish-fulfillment in her heroines’ tales, her writing straightforward and stout of spirit. I hope you find this book and fall in love with it–and wonderful Becky and her hot, hot Baron Tiele as they fall for each other–as well.

Brew a pot of tea and enjoy!