Throwback Thursday: The Soldier’s Surprise Family

Happy Throwback Thursday, friends! Today we’re featuring The Soldier’s Surprise Family by Jolene Navarro.

About the Book

the soldier's surprise family 2Texas state trooper Garrett Kincaid is a lone wolf—until he becomes an instant father of two young children. The former solider never knew he had a son…or that his little boy has a baby sister with nowhere to go.

His landlady, lovely widow Anjelica Ortega-Garza, offers to help, and suddenly Garrett’s life is all about nap schedules and baby bottles and trying to make his traumatized son smile.

Falling for Anjelica isn’t part of the plan.

Yet even Garrett can’t deny that love has begun building a family of four right around him.

GOODREADS | AMAZON


About the Author

jolenenavarroJolene’s life, much like her stories, is filled with faith, family, laughter, and all of life’s wonderful messiness. A seventh generation Texan and PW bestselling author, Jolene Navarro knows that, as much as the world changes, people stay the same. Good and evil. Vow-keepers and heart breakers. Jolene married a vow-keeper who showed her that dancing in the rain never gets old. She uses her art degree to teach inner city kids about the world and they teach her about life.

Connect with Jolene: website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram



What makes you want to read The Soldier’s Surprise Family by Jolene Navarro?

Book Spotlight: Heaven’s Gift

Happy Monday!

We’re kicking off the week with a book spotlight of Dionne Grace’s book Heaven’s Gift.


About the Book

It was one night that changed their lives forever

When Samyra Jefferies is booked as the photographer for an upcoming wedding, the night ends up full of surprises when temptation shows up in the form of Joshua Anderson. And she is somewhat troubled to find that her faith is challenged when he focuses his attention on her.
But after one night of unbridled passion, Samyra decides a relationship with Joshua is something she will never entertain. Except…five months down the line, she has no choice but to consider this again.

“I’m pregnant with Joshua’s baby.”

Samyra’s declaration to a church filled with friends and family changes the course of Joshua’s life.
A confirmed bachelor who fought marriage and commitment now finds himself in a predicament that he sees no way of avoiding. And maybe, he just doesn’t want to.

Purchase


About the Author

Dionne Grace is a romantic at heart.  She loves reading books, which in her early teenage years enhanced her vivid imagination. She would often invent fascinating love stories to entertain her school friends involving famous pop stars.  She used to scribble notes on the back of school books while her teacher’s backs were turned! Her friends loved it, and remind her of it to this day! 

She loves to write and when she is not writing, she is reading and juggles this with her full-time job.   

She writes sweet romances, about couples in relationships who have a passion for each other.  Sometimes this passion leads them into situations where they lose themselves, taking them down a path which possibly they should not have gone down, or in contrast, through life’s experiences; they reject the love that is offered, not having the faith or forgiveness to trust it.  

 Her books are intentionally thought-provoking, and real life. A message about a discovery of how the scars of life can be healed, no matter how difficult this sometimes seems in this imperfect world. And ultimately, through God’s divine intervention he imparts a revelation of what his purpose was all along. 

 As you must have guessed, she has a love for God and everything spiritual; she hopes this shines through in her books.  

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest


Post by contributor Toni Shiloh

Throwback Thursday — The Angel Tree

Welcome to Throwback Thursday! Today I am sharing a middle-grade contemporary holiday novel with a mystery element which highlights friendship, community service, and kindness.

 

About the Book

A heartwarming Christmas mystery and friendship story! 

Every Christmas in the small town of Pine River, a tree appears in the town square–the Angel Tree. Some people tie wishes to the tree, while others make those wishes come true. Nobody’s ever known where the tree comes from, but the mystery has always been part of the tradition’s charm.

This year, however, four kids who have been helped–Lucy, Joe, Max, and Cami–are determined to solve the mystery and find out the true identity of the town’s guardian angel, so that Pine River can finally thank the person who brought the Angel Tree to their town.


This is a heartwarming Christmas mystery, full of friendship, discovery, and loads of holiday cheer!

‘PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY’ REVIEW:
“Full of the type of warmth and good cheer found in favorite holiday movies, author and PW reviewer Benedis-Grab’s lively tale spotlights the time-honored tradition—and can-do citizens—that make a small town great, even in the face of financial struggle. Nobody is certain who is behind the stately Angel Tree that appears in the Pine River town square each year, but everyone knows that when people tie notes containing their Christmas wishes to the tree, the wishes are granted. This year, middle-schoolers Cami, Max, Lucy, and Joe (all of whom have benefitted from the Angel Tree’s bounty) try to uncover the tree’s benefactor and thank him or her. As the kids puzzle through clues, they discover things that bring them closer to their families, neighbors, and each other—all in time for a satisfying, celebratory reveal. Ages 8–12.”

Amazon



My Thoughts About This Book:

I saw this book on the fiction shelf in the children’s section of the local public library a couple of weeks after Christmas last year. Since I love to read holiday fiction and non-fiction year round, I grabbed it, checked it out, and took it home.

This is a heartwarming story about four diverse middle-schoolers who make it their common goal to discover who the beneficent organizer and underwriter of the town’s Angel Tree and annual charitable holiday acts is. The person’s identity has been a mystery for over three decades, and these children want to do something wonderful to celebrate this person’s generosity.

The group of four–five if you count Lucy’s guide dog, Valentine, who is helpful in discovering some important clues–is made up of Cami, an talented African-American musician who is being raised by her grandmother because she is an orphan; Lucy, a blind Chinese girl adopted by her American parents when she was a baby; Valentine, Lucy’s guide dog that is facing a serious health challenge of her own; Joe, the new kid in town who has a bad attitude and a secret; and Max, the class clown who has some serious family problems on his plate. Of note, Joe and Max are living in poverty due to familial circumstances; their relationship did not get off to a good start when Joe came to town.

Despite their differences, under the leadership of Cami the four of them work through their issues with each other and pull together to solve the mystery of the Angel Tree.

The story includes several instances where each character is facing an individual challenge. This was one of the things I liked the most about this book — it wasn’t a fairy tale with a happily ever after ending. The main characters dealt with realistic problems and obstacles on the pathway of life in order to improve their lives and the lives of their family members and the community. The group’s dynamics were also believable and enjoyable.

Oh, did I mention the cover? The magical Christmas tree with the silhouetted main characters on the cover perfectly portrays the inner beauty revealed throughout this story.

I look forward to reading more of this author’s work in the future.

Highly-recommended as a family, classroom, and youth group/church group read-aloud book.

I borrowed this book from the local public library.


About the Author

AUTHOR PHOTO

Daphne is the author of middle grade books Army Brats, (nominated for the Louisiana Reader’s Choice Award) Clementine for Christmas, The Chocolate Challenge and The Angel Tree (nominated for the Triple Crown Children’s Book Award), and the young adult books The Girl in the Wall (an ALA Quick Pick) and Alive and Well in Prague, New York (a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of 2008).  Her short stories have appeared in American Girl Magazine.  She earned an MFA at The New School and is an adjunct professor at The New School and McDaniel College, as well as a former high school history teacher. She lives in New York City with her husband, kids and cat, and is currently studying at to become a librarian.

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Throwback Thursday — Indian No More

Welcome to Throwback Thursday! Today I am sharing a middle-grade historical novel based on the life of the late Author Charlene Willing McManis, a member of the Umpqua Nation in Central Oregon.

 

About the Book

Winner of the 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Award for Best Middle-Grade Book!


Regina Petit’s family has always been Umpqua, and living on the Grand Ronde reservation is all ten-year-old Regina has ever known. Her biggest worry is that Sasquatch may actually exist out in the forest. But when the federal government signs a bill into law that says Regina’s tribe no longer exists, Regina becomes “Indian no more” overnight–even though she was given a number by the Bureau of Indian Affairs that counted her as Indian, even though she lives with her tribe and practices tribal customs, and even though her ancestors were Indian for countless generations.

With no good jobs available in Oregon, Regina’s father signs the family up for the Indian Relocation program and moves them to Los Angeles. Regina finds a whole new world in her neighborhood on 58th Place. She’s never met kids of other races, and they’ve never met a real Indian. For the first time in her life, Regina comes face to face with the viciousness of racism, personally and toward her new friends.

Meanwhile, her father believes that if he works hard, their family will be treated just like white Americans. But it’s not that easy. It’s 1957 during the Civil Rights Era. The family struggles without their tribal community and land. At least Regina has her grandmother, Chich, and her stories. At least they are all together.

In this moving middle-grade novel drawing upon Umpqua author Charlene Willing McManis’s own tribal history, Regina must find out: Who is Regina Petit? Is she Indian? Is she American? And will she and her family ever be okay?

Amazon



My Thoughts About This Book:

This moving story, based upon Author Charlene Willing McManis’s childhood, reminded me of how I felt after reading Author Lauren Wolk’s ‘Wolf Hollow’ and Author Kirby Larson’s ‘Dash’. These stories all remained on my mind for a long time after I finished reading them because they are so powerful . . .

‘Indian No More’ describes, in great detail, events in American history which I knew nothing about prior to picking up this book.

In 1954, President Eisenhower signed Public Law 588. “The law said the government didn’t need to provide for our education, health care, of anything else as promised in the treaties. The government declared us only Americans now instead of our own nation. We didn’t need a reservation anymore.” (page 20)

In 1956, Congress passed the Indian Relocation Act. “This removed many more Native people from their reservation homelands and relocated them to big cities like Chicago, Minneapolos, Denver, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The government promised moving costs, jobs, higher education, and housing.” (page 180)

The Petit family in the story moved to Los Angeles. They moved into a diverse neighborhood with black and Cuban families. I shed tears at the many ways in which these diverse groups were treated unfairly and unkindly in the community, in the schools, and in society, in general.

One of the uplifting scenes in the book that I could personally relate to was when Regina’s grandmother taught her to sew. They worked together from start to finish on remaking a man’s jacket into a jacket for one of the neighbor boys. Regina’s grandmother taught her how to draft patterns, cut out the fabric pieces, sew the garment together using their Singer sewing machine, and then handsew the finishing touches.

This brought back so many happy memories of my Grandma McCrary and I sewing together in the summer before I began sixth grade. Grandma shared all of her knowledge and expertise with me, but I know I enjoyed the love and time she shared with me even more.

The Back Matter is excellent — Definitions; Author’s Note; Photographs of the author’s family and significant locations mentioned in the book; Co-Author’s Note, Editor’s Note; and the text of an Umpqua story mentioned in the novel, ‘The Beaver and the Coyote’, are included.

There are so many layers to this book. There is the historical perspective of what the government did and effect it had upon these native peoples. There are the feelings of prejudice experienced by these diverse groups. Most importantly, since the story is told by an eight-year-old girl, we are given the insight of the magnitude of these two laws and the ensuing events they caused from the perspective of an innocent child.

I highly-recommend this book to children and adults. This book would make a great classroom or family read-aloud. Many events in the story will require open discussion about sensitive topics. There are a lot of emotions and issues to digest, but I felt richly-rewarded by having read this book.

I borrowed this book from the local public library.


About the Authors

— The late Charlene Willing McManis (1953-2018) was born in Portland, Oregon, and grew up in Los Angeles. She was of Umpqua tribal heritage and enrolled in the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. Charlene served in the U.S. Navy and later received her Bachelor’s degree in Native American Education. She lived with her family in Vermont and served on that state’s Commission on Native American Affairs. In 2016, Charlene received a mentorship with award-winning poet and author Margarita Engle through We Need Diverse Books. That manuscript became the novel Indian No More, which is based on her family’s experiences after their tribe was terminated in 1954. She passed away in 2018, knowing that her friend Traci Sorell would complete the revisions Charlene was unable to finish.

Traci Sorell writes poems as well as fiction and nonfiction works for children and teens featuring contemporary characters and compelling biographies—the type of books she sought out in her school and public libraries as a child.

Traci’s debut nonfiction picture book, We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, was awarded a 2019 Sibert Honor, a 2019 Boston Globe-Horn Book Picture Book Honor and a 2019 Orbis Picture Honor. Illustrated by Frané Lessac and published by Charlesbridge Publishing, it also received four starred reviews (Kirkus, School Library Journal, The Horn Book and Shelf Awareness). An audio book is available from Live Oak Media.

Her debut fiction picture book, At the Mountain’s Base, is illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre and published by Kokila/Penguin.

Traci is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She grew up in northeastern Oklahoma, where her tribe is located and her relatives still live. Find out more about Traci at www.tracisorell.com.

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Throwback Thursday — Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968

Welcome to Throwback Thursday! Today I am sharing a new-to-me historical picture book which documents events that rocked Memphis, Tennessee — and ultimately the world — in the winter and spring of 1968.

 

MEMPHIS, MARTIN--COVER

About the Book

This historical fiction picture book presents the story of nine-year-old Lorraine Jackson, who in 1968 witnessed the Memphis sanitation strike–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final stand for justice before his assassination–when her father, a sanitation worker, participated in the protest.

In February 1968, two African American sanitation workers were killed by unsafe equipment in Memphis, Tennessee. Outraged at the city’s refusal to recognize a labor union that would fight for higher pay and safer working conditions, sanitation workers went on strike. The strike lasted two months, during which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was called to help with the protests. While his presence was greatly inspiring to the community, this unfortunately would be his last stand for justice. He was assassinated in his Memphis hotel the day after delivering his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” sermon in Mason Temple Church. Inspired by the memories of a teacher who participated in the strike as a child, author Alice Faye Duncan reveals the story of the Memphis sanitation strike from the perspective of a young girl with a riveting combination of poetry and prose.

Amazon



My Thoughts About This Book:

I was thrilled when I saw this title come up in our library’s online catalog. Late last year we watched an American Experience show on PBS about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s visit to Memphis in April, 1968. I learned so much from the documentary, and I was anxious to read this book to see how this tragic event was handled in a book written for children.

The main character, nine-year-old Lorraine Jackson, is based upon a teacher in Memphis who participated in the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike with her parents when she was a child.

The conflict began in January, 1968, when two black sanitation workers were killed by a malfunctioning packer blade on an old and poorly-maintained garbage truck. Echol Cole and Robert Walker worked with Lorraine’s father.

$1.70 per hour — this was the average pay of a Memphis sanitation worker. The workers formed a labor union with the hope of gaining better pay, better treatment on the job, and improved safety. Memphis’s mayor, Henry Loeb, would not grant a pay increase, and he refused to acknowledge the workers’ labor union.

Beginning on February 12, 1968, and lasting for sixty-five days, 1,300 men went on strike. They marched to City Hall carrying signs. The workers and their families sacrificed greatly during this strike. A group of preachers in Memphis organized and used church donations to help the striking workers pay their bills. “The NAACP organized boycotts to support the strike.” (page 9)

The workers attended rallies each night. They sang freedom songs and listened to preachers. “The mayor railed NO! to every labor request, and my daddy kept right on marching.” (page 11)

The excitement described by the narrator, nine-year-old Lorraine, when it was announced that Martin Luther King, Jr., would be traveling to Memphis in March to try to assist in the sanitation workers’ cause was palpable. When Dr. King arrived on March 18th, he preached, and then made a plan to march with the workers on March 22nd. Except the march didn’t happen that day because an unusual amount of sixteen inches of snow fell in Memphis.

The march was rescheduled for March 28th on Beale Street. Six thousand women, men, and children attended. Unfortunately, instead of a peaceful march, some militant individuals created a riot. In response, Mayor Loeb called in four thousand National Guard troops and set a 7:00PM curfew. 

Dr. King left Memphis, but he promised to return . . .  Dr. King did return to the city on April 3rd. He spoke to the sanitation workers with passion that evening. The next day, Dr. King was assassinated by James Earl Ray on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.

The final chapters of the book are about Mrs. Coretta Scott King and the termination of the Memphis Sanitation Strike on April 16, 1968. The book includes several poems.

Back Matter includes a detailed ‘Memphis Sanitation Strike–1968–Timeline’, information about the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, Sources, and Source Notes. 

Words cannot express the profound affect this book had on me. Its poignant retelling of this part of our nation’s history is powerful. The author’s well-chosen words are fully-supported by the illustrator’s beautiful paintings.

Highly-recommended to teachers, librarians, and families. This book will open up important discussions about civil rights, respect, tolerance, perseverance, and determination. 



Alice-Faye-Duncan-333x500
Alice Faye Duncan

About the Author

On the author’s website you will find information about her books along with a set of lesson plans designed for several of her books.

Bonus Content:

Here is a link to a movie of ‘Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop’ made by the Memphis Public Library:  https://youtu.be/MrbGrqynB_g

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R. GREGORY CHRISTIER. Gregory Christie

About the Illustrator

Gregory Christie received a Caldecott Honor for his illustrations in Freedom in Congo Square, written by Carole Boston Weatherford. He is a three-time recipient of The New York Times’s 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books of the Year Award, a six-time recipient of the Coretta Scott King Honor Award in Illustration, and a winner of the Boston Globe­–Horn Book Award, the NAACP’s Image Award, and the Once Upon a World Children’s Book Award from the Museum of Tolerance. Visit Mr. Christie’s website at Gas-Art.com.


 

Throwback Thursday — Code Word Courage

Welcome to Throwback Thursday! Today I am sharing one of my favorite WWII historical fiction novels by Author Kirby Larson. This exceptional book features the Navajo Code Talker program of WWII and diverse characters from the Navajo Nation and Mexico.

 

CODE WORD COURAGE

About the Book

Billie has lived with her great-aunt ever since her mom passed away and her dad left. Billie’s big brother, Leo, is about to leave, too, for the warfront. But first, she gets one more weekend with him at the ranch.

Billie’s surprised when Leo brings home a fellow Marine from boot camp, Denny. She has so much to ask Leo — about losing her best friend and trying to find their father — but Denny, who is Navajo, or Diné, comes with something special: a gorgeous, but injured, stray dog. As Billie cares for the dog, whom they name Bear, she and Bear grow deeply attached to each other.
 
Soon enough, it’s time for Leo and Denny, a Navajo Code Talker, to ship out. Billie does her part for the war effort, but she worries whether Leo and Denny will make it home, whether she’ll find a new friend, and if her father will ever come back. Can Bear help Billie — and Denny — find what’s most important?
 
A powerful tale about unsung heroism on the WWII battlefield and the home front.

Amazon



My Thoughts About This Book:

I was drawn to this book by a review I read. This book has three elements I always look for in middle-grade books before I begin reading them:  Historical fiction–this one is set during World War II. Diverse characters–this one features Navajo and Mexican characters portrayed positively and in important roles.Animals as inspirational supporting characters–this one has a dog.  

The other component I look for as I am reading the book are the feelings of empathy and compassion and the maturing of a character through lessons learned. These elements can only be garnered by a skilled author. 

This book possesses all of these traits. 

What sets this story apart from others is Kirby Larson’s awesome writing style. She seems to flawlessly place the right words on the page at just the right tempo and in just the right order. Her setting and characters are well-developed. Her novel is obviously well-researched from my reading of non-fiction about this time period.

I particularly liked the way the main character, Billie, reached beyond her lonely, mournful life to touch others through her kindness and friendship. In particular, she forges a friendship with a boy from Mexico whose father works on Billie’s great-aunt’s ranch. Tito is wise beyond his years, in my opinion, when it comes to his emotional intelligence regarding being bullied by the so-called popular kids in school.

Another exceptional aspect of this book is the World War II depiction of military life and the battle scenes the author so carefully researched.  Billie’s close relationship with her older brother, Leo, is admirable. 

Finally, the inclusion of Denny, a Navajo friend of Leo’s, and the abandoned dog he brought home to Billie’s house enrich the plot ten-fold. The tribute to the ‘Navajo Code Talker’ program in WWII and the courageous men who participated in this ground-breaking mission was intriguing.

I believe this is a story that should not be missed by middle-grade readers. It would also make a worthwhile read-aloud in class or during a family’s reading time. So many great life lessons are taught in its pages.

Highly recommended to middle-grade readers, fans of historical and military fiction, fans of animal-centered fiction, and fans of literature which includes diverse populations as strong characters.

I borrowed this book from the Children’s Section of the local public library.

Below is a link to the Goodreads page listing all four installments in the ‘Dogs of World War II’ series by this author with links to their book blurbs.

LINK TO ‘DOGS OF WORLD WAR II’ SERIES ON GOODREADS


Kirby Larson

About the Author

Kirby Larson went from history-phobe to history fanatic while writing the 2007 Newbery Honor Book, HATTIE BIG SKY. Her passion for historical fiction is reflected in titles such as THE FENCES BETWEEN US, THE FRIENDSHIP DOLL, as well as the sequel to HATTIE BIG SKY, HATTIE EVER AFTER, and her two latest titles, DUKE–which was nominated for 5 state Young Reader Choice awards as well as being a finalist for the Washington State Book Award– and DASH–which has garnered two starred reviews, a NAPPA Gold Award and a Capitol Choices nomination.

In 2006, Kirby began a collaboration with her good friend Mary Nethery resulting in two award-winning nonfiction picture books: TWO BOBBIES: A TRUE STORY OF HURRICANE KATRINA, FRIENDSHIP AND SURVIVAL, and NUBS: THE TRUE STORY OF A MUTT, A MARINE AND A MIRACLE.

Kirby lives in Kenmore, Washington with her husband, Neil, and Winston the Wonder Dog. When she’s not reading or writing Kirby enjoys beach combing, bird watching, and traveling. She owns a tiara and is not afraid to use it.

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Book Spotlight: Time to Need

Happy Wednesday, Friends!

Today I’m sharing a book spotlight on Dionne Grace’s  Time to Need. Looks like a great one to add to your TBR pile!

Happy reading!


About the Book

Fabien is offering Diane a future filled with love, but with her past, will she ever trust again?

Diane Tyler knows Fabien is everything a woman could ever want in a man.
If men weren’t off her agenda for the foreseeable future, he would be perfect. He’s her best friend’s brother, single—unlike two years ago—and has all the attributes that would have any woman swooning at his feet.

Despite her best efforts, convincing Fabien that they aren’t meant for one another has become more of a challenge than she bargained for, and just when she thinks she’s safe behind the wall she’s painstakingly built, Diane finds herself being pulled into something she believes she can’t have, leaving her desperately trying to hold on to the pieces of the barrier falling apart around her.

Fabien Reynolds thought his marriage would bring him everything he wanted—a wife, children, and the perfect home—until he discovered his wife wasn’t the woman he thought. Separated and on the brink of divorce, he finds himself surprisingly drawn to Diane, and it isn’t long before she captures his heart. Now divorced, he has unfinished business, and he isn’t one to shy away from a challenge.

Unfortunately for Fabien, his powers of persuasion don’t seem to be working: the teasing, mischievous woman he’s wanted for so long is no more. Still, despite the defences she tries to raise, he knows it’s love. He wants her in his life and is not going to let her push him away, even though he’s aware she’s hiding something.

Diane may have her secrets, but Fabien is looking forward to revealing every one of them.

Amazon | Goodreads


About the Author

Dionne Grace is a romantic at heart.  She loves reading books, which in her early teenage years enhanced her vivid imagination. She would often invent fascinating love stories to entertain her school friends involving famous pop stars.  She used to scribble notes on the back of school books while her teacher’s backs were turned! Her friends loved it, and remind her of it to this day!

She loves to write and when she is not writing, she is reading and juggles this with her full-time job.

She writes sweet romances, about couples in relationships who have a passion for each other.  Sometimes this passion leads them into situations where they lose themselves, taking them down a path which possibly they should not have gone down, or in contrast, through life’s experiences; they reject the love that is offered, not having the faith or forgiveness to trust it.

Her books are intentionally thought-provoking, and real life. A message about a discovery of how the scars of life can be healed, no matter how difficult this sometimes seems in this imperfect world. And ultimately, through God’s divine intervention he imparts a revelation of what his purpose was all along.

As you must have guessed, she has a love for God and everything spiritual; she hopes this shines through in her books.

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Post by contributor Toni Shiloh

Book Spotlight: The Melody of the Mulberries

Happy Wednesday!

Just thought I’d drop in with a book spotlight on Tonya Jewel Blessing’s The Melody of the Mulberries. Check out the excerpt below!


About the Book

This Appalachian Big Creek sequel is set in West Virginia, during the 1920s, where granny witches and spiritualism often show the path for wanderers to take, especially in matters of the heart. Emerald Ashby’s younger sister, Coral, determines to visit the family’s nemesis, Charlie, now stewing in prison.

When Mercy returns to the holler of Big Creek, she comes well-armed to re-enter Ernst’s life, but he has already found a new romantic attraction. No matter, Mercy has brought along her own spiritual tools and a special friend who guides her way around this inconvenience.

“Coral sat in contemplation under a mulberry tree. It was spring, and the fragrant female blossoms promised the mid-summer arrival of first white, then pink, then crimson, and finally deep purple berries. The white berries were hard and tart and enjoyed by the quail, wild turkeys, mocking birds, and blue jays. The blackish-purple berries were soft and sweet – perfect for pies and jams.

“When the berries turned white, Coral would thank the good Lord for providing food for the birds, and when the berries ripened she would thank the good Lord for the sweetness savored in her mouth and curse the birds for wanting more than their share.”

Where Emerald Ashby’s story leaves us in the last pages of The Whispering of the Willows, her pure and innocent sixteen-year-old sister Coral Ashby’s story begins. Like the changing mulberries, the Appalachian siblings Coral and Ernest Ashby, navigate their lives and love interests through the Spanish Flu epidemic, poverty, and various as sundry prejudices.

Accompanied by friends and foes, matters of the heart complicate life for Coral and Ernest. Relationships must be journeyed carefully.

Clean reading romance, a cozy mystery tucked in at the tails, and a fun, but realistic history of the people and cultures of the Appalachian trail make this story uplifting to many varied audiences.

Amazon | Goodreads


Excerpt

Charlie and Charley were coming to Big Creek. Charlie was a man. He had a spirit, soul, and body. He had grown up in the hills and been sent away because of the harm he had done to others. Coral had invited Charlie back to the holler. He wasn’t physically present, but, according to Emie, Coral might as well have sat him down at the table to enjoy Sunday family dinner.

The other Charley was an evil spirit. He was ancient and from a faraway land but traveled with others when invited. His ways were frightening and mysterious. He was best left alone, but, had also been invited to Appalachia. Mercy, a returning resident, considered him a friend.

He heard rustling in the school yard and spotted, next to the log where he and Rudy had sat earlier, a black bear and her two cubs. The female was larger than most. Ernest, trying to stay still and assess the situation, estimated her weight to be 300 pounds or more. She was blue black. The cubs, which were busy wrestling, were cinnamon colored.

Ernest grew concerned when the mama put her nose in the air and began to sniff loudly. The bear then slapped the ground with her large clawed paw and started to shake her head. In general, black bears were usually shy. Mostly when seeing a human, they grunted and bluffed aggression, but with cubs close-by Ernest was troubled. He knew not to run and to remain submissive in his posture.

His heart seemed to quit beating when he heard Lottie approaching. She had entered the back door of the schoolhouse. He could hear her brisk steps on the worn wooden floor. The mama bear began a slow approach and started to growl. He yelled a warning to Lottie, but within seconds the front door opened to the porch where he was standing. She had her bow and arrow in hand and was preparing to shoot.

“Where do I aim?”

“Upper chest, but wait,” Ernest cautioned. “She’s movin’ slow. I think she’s bluffing.”

True to his words, the bear turned tail and headed back to her cubs. Eruptive gas escaped from her backside which signaled her cubs that it was time to move on.

When the odor reached Charlotte, she began to gag. “What is that?”

Ernest couldn’t help but laugh. “Bear fog.”

When Charlotte joined in his laughter, it seemed natural and right to place his arm around her. She lowered her bow and snuggled next to him.

One of the older boys described the mystical Yahoo and another Dwayyo. Snarly Yow was also mentioned. Ernest did his best to expose the fear filled stories as Indian legends and wild imaginings of the early Appalachian settlers, but the learners couldn’t be dissuaded. Thoughts of giant hairy creatures; wolves that walked like humans and had fangs; and snarling monsters who appeared after dark had the students in a fearful state.

In order to redirect their attention, he thought about telling the story of Goldilocks and the three bears but remembered in one of the earlier versions of the fairy tale that Goldilocks was an old woman who ended up impaled on a steeple. He shuddered at the thought.

“Students start pushin’ the tables and chairs to the sides. I’m gonna teach you a rollick called the dancing bear.”

The supposed talking bird was medium-sized. It had a long-tail with green and blue plumage. Its neck was yellow, and its head was red. The bird looked at her, held its head upside down, and then when right-sided again spoke plainly, “Hot damn.” Then added in a husky voice, “Hello, beautiful lady.”

What kind of creature is this? Charlotte thought.

Next, the bird flew from its perch, landed on her shoulder, and started singing.

Every mornin’, every evenin’, ain’t we got fun? Not much money, oh, but honey, ain’t we got fun?

The granny witches in the holler believed that snakes visited in pairs, and if one snake was killed that the other would return for vengeance. Ernest knew it was nonsense. He wondered what the grannies would have to say if they knew that male snakes had two penises.

The sow’s teats were full. It was obvious that she was miserable. Ernest approached her cautiously. His hand was filled with grain and his voice filled with song.

Wake up and end the day thinking of you. Oh, why does it do this to me. Is it such bliss to be thinking of you. And when I fall asleep at night, it seems you just tiptoe into all my dreams. So, I think of no other one ever since I’ve begun thinking of you…

He knew that Rudy was trying his best not to laugh. Ernest also knew that some sows appreciated a good love song. When he was a boy, raising hogs with his father and brother, he had learned that a gentle touch and soft voice accomplished more than a hickory stick and harsh words.

The mama took the grain from his hand. Ernest began to rub the pig’s back. His hand traveled lower toward her side. The sow then laid down, and Ernest gently patted her belly.  As the piglets drew near, he placed them each on a teat. As he continued to sing his love song the mama relaxed, and her babies nosed and nursed.


About the Author

Tonya grew up in rural Ohio. She currently lives in South Africa with her husband of 35 years. Tonya decided to trust Jesus for the destination of her young soul at the age of four.  As a young adult, she worked for a well known television evangelist, and traveled with a Christian drama group throughout the Midwest.

Tonya attended Arapahoe Community College and Akron University, and has enjoyed a trusted position in formal and informal ministry settings and training opportunities. Tonya also worked as a children’s pastor, youth pastor, and women’s pastor. She served on staff at Praise Church in Littleton, Colorado for a number of years, and also worked as the Director of Women’s Ministries for Journey Church in Strasburg, Colorado. She has served on a number of ministry boards that support concerns for women.

Tonya and her husband operated Strong Cross Ranch Colorado for over eleven years, a place of respite for missionaries and ministers. They had the honor of hosting over 2,000 guests during that time frame. The Blessings relocated their ministry to South Africa in June of 2012. The ministry continues to serve and partner with local pastors and missionaries through a variety of creative and responsible means.  The Blessings oversee building projects, feeding programs, educational services, interventions, and church planting.

Tonya is a well-known national and international speaker, often serving women in areas of the world which cannot be publicized.  She writes articles and devotionals for missions’ magazines and women’s groups and is also a published author.  She is the author of two historical fiction books The Whispering of the Willows and The Melody of the Mulberries. Both novels are set in Big Creek, West Virginia, during the late 1920’s. Tonya has also co-authored a devotional called Soothing Rain – Living Water to Refresh Your Soul. All three of Tonya’s books have received literary awards.

Tonya enjoys speaking and sharing her life with women at retreats and events.  She thinks that women are amazing, and appreciates that the female gender is multifaceted yet fragile creations of God. In her personal life and as a speaker, Tonya believes that God’s Word is powerful, and needs to be read and written on her heart and on the hearts of women everywhere. For additional information, please review her author and ministry webpage: www.TonyaJewelBlessing.com

She was ordained in 2011 and is currently pursuing further pastoral and biblical studies.  For additional information regarding Strong Cross Ministries South Africa, please visit the ministry web page – www.strongcrossministries.org.


Post by contributor Toni Shiloh

First Line Friday: Second Chance Sweethearts

In case anyone else has lost track of what day it is…. it’s FRIDAY!! Which isn’t nearly as exciting as it used to be when we could actually weekend. But, such is life right now, and we hope you are staying healthy at home and practicing social distancing.

Do you know where we don’t have to practice social distancing? RIGHT HERE on the interwebs. And since it’s Friday, that means it’s time for First Line Friday, hosted by Hoarding Books.

Grab the book nearest to you and share the first line!

The book I’m featuring here today is Second Chance Sweethearts, a Christian contemporary romance title from Liwen Y. Ho!

Second Chance Sweethearts

and the first line is….


One line… one line. Please, let it be one line.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Two former high school sweethearts and one growing secret … will they choose to love above all else?

Missy Clark left small town life and her first love when she went away to college. Five years later, she returns to Sun Valley with a secret that’s sure to tarnish her reputation.

Nate Dawson never stopped loving Missy when she left home. Answered prayers have brought her back into his life, but the consequences she bears may destroy their second chance at love.

Can these sweethearts regain the innocence of the past and find hope and healing in the Lord for their future?

This book was previously published as part of the First Street Church Kindle World under the title of Love’s Choice. It is now available as a standalone story for your reading pleasure.

GOODREADS | AMAZON

Let me know the first line of the book closest to you & then head over to Hoarding Books to see who else is participating!

Book Spotlight: A Long Time Comin’

Happy Wednesday!

I’m sharing a book spotlight on Robin W. Pearson’s A Long Time Comin’. I’m also currently reading this so stay tuned for a future book review. 🙂


About the Book

To hear Beatrice Agnew tell it, she entered the world with her mouth tightly shut. Just because she finds out she’s dying doesn’t mean she can’t keep it that way. If any of her children have questions about their daddy and the choices she made after he abandoned them, they’d best take it up with Jesus. There’s no room in Granny B’s house for regrets or hand-holding. Or so she thinks.

Her granddaughter, Evelyn Lester, shows up on Beatrice’s doorstep anyway, burdened with her own secret baggage. Determined to help her Granny B mend fences with her far-flung brood, Evelyn turns her grandmother’s heart and home inside out. Evelyn’s meddling uncovers a tucked-away box of old letters, forcing the two women to wrestle with their past and present pain as they confront the truth Beatrice has worked a lifetime to hide.

Amazon | B&N | CBD | Goodreads


About the Author

Robin W. Pearson’s writing sprouts from her Southern roots, her faith, and the love of her sweet husband, seven children, and dog. In her twenty-five year editorial career, she’s corrected grammar up and down the East coast, and her debut novel, A Long Time Comin’, has earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Follow Robin’s adventures in faith, family, and homeschooling on her blog, “Mommy, Concentrated.”

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


Post by Toni Shiloh